Is Summer Lesson the PlayStation VR game we all want?
It seems like every PlayStation generation has a kooky, off-beat weird game for it. For instance, the PS1 had Tail of the Sun, the PS2 had Katamari Damacy, and the PS3 had Eye of Judgment. With the current PS4, we have Summer Lesson that requires a PlayStation VR too. It’s hard to describe Summer Lesson but saying that you play a tutor for a Japanese teenager for a week isn’t that far off.
The closest game I can think of that plays similar to Summer Lesson is a very, very old PC game called Princess Maker, where you raise a princess and teach her the skills she will need to survive in her own castle. Summer Lesson isn’t as dire as that but the core gameplay style is similar.
In Summer Lesson, you have a week to tutor a girl called Hikari Miyamoto so that she can pass her examinations – with the game broken into different sections per day. Lesson planning is done in the beginning, where you pick what subject to teach for the day. You can see what skills a subject will raise, making it easy to gauge what you want Hikari to improve on. However, with only a handful of subjects to choose from, there’s not much to choose from. You can also use conversation topic cards (which you get from successful lessons) and optional consumables, which will trigger special scenes after the day’s lessons are over. These items are mainly of the fan service variety. Literally. In one case, it triggers a scene in which you must fan Hikari from a heatwave.
Once you get to the lesson proper, it all boils down to choosing what option you think will give you the best results for the lesson. Each of the different lessons have different options, but there’s ALWAYS one that will give you the biggest stat increase, one that gives a medium boost and one that barely bumps the stats.
After the tutoring phase is over, you will get a chance to talk to Hikari, with the conversation card you used giving you access to specific conversation topics. Again, what you choose is up to you, though there’s no outright right or wrong answer this time around. Finally, if you do decide to use an optional consumable, you’ll trigger the special scene the consumable is used for at the end of the day, after everything else is done. As mentioned, these scenes depend on what is used but are mainly fan services for the player (and otakus).
Once the whole rigmarole is done, you are taken back to your café/home base, where you are presented with the day’s summary. After that, you repeat everything all over again until the week is done.
To say the game is repetitive is an understatement.
While the first playthrough is entertaining and fresh, repeated runs through the game will trigger the same scenes and dialogue all over again. With a gameplay time of just over an hour for a single play through (without skipping the dialogue), there’s very little longevity to the title. Even the replay value is questionable as other than the different endings and the unlockable costumes, there’s very little incentive to replay the game more than a few times.
There are also a few notable issues, especially if you’re not a native Japanese speaker and reader. Some Japanese texts (like the Calendar) remain not translated and the subtitles can sometimes show up late (then speed up to catch up to what’s being said) or not show up at all, which usually happens to the intro and outro scenes. No doubt these will be patched, but in the unlikely event that they aren’t, you have been warned. Luckily, the subtitled dialogue in Summer Lesson is much better than other Asian English translated titles, such as Gundam Breaker 3 or Super Robot Wars OG. It’s much more organic and natural, which makes it more enjoyable and believable.
For a VR title, Summer Lesson isn’t bad looking at all. The environments look good (although the Shrine background can use more work on the water and mountains sceneries) and are believable enough. However, the star of the show, Hikaru, looks a tad plastic, like a Barbie doll for the lack of a better description. While her face looks good, even when viewed up close, she looks otherwise plastic and waxy, especially in some scenes. There are clipping issues too with certain clothes, which detract even more from the realism.
With its short length, lack of gameplay and repetitive nature, Summer Lesson is nothing more than a VR curiosity. It is puzzling however, who the game is targeted at. There is, quite honestly, too little fan service for the otakus. There is also barely any gameplay for serious gamers to be interested in it. As it stands, Summer Lesson is something you try once and then forget all about it, a novelty game to show off the new PS VR headset.
Editors Note: At S$79.90, we wished Summer Lesson could have at least included more characters (like the blonde girl in the tech demo) in the game. As it is, we are confident there will be DLCs, paid or free, in the pipeline.