Natsu no Ame Review
OK! So after an extended absence I have returned to review Natsu no Ame. Amazing as it is that I have actually finished a new game, I was helped by the type of game Natsu no Ame is. To be perfectly honest While the game was certainly not the most amazing eroge I have ever played, there does not seem to be much to gripe about either. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent playing through this game, causing me to often have trouble putting it down for other important things… such as sleep.
The plot of Natsu no Ame revolves around Sousuke, a soccer loving idiot who spends his days practicing with his two friends, Takeda and Midori for the day when he is allowed to return to the soccer club he was forced to resign from. The story begins with Sousuke recalling a memory from his past where he pondered what qualifies as a first love, thinking about a young girl he teased almost to the point of tears as a child. Upon snapping back to the present Sousuke is made aware of a beautiful girl busy with her cellphone. After knocking her out of the way of on oncoming motorcycle he finds that he had also sent her cellphone into the river. Being the nice guy protagonist that he is Sousuke then goes into the river to find her cellphone, however when he gives up and she tries to help him out he ends up pulling her in as well. First impressions aside he then finds out she wanted to know where his school was as she had just transferred in. Undaunted by his earlier screwups Sousuke decides to be a man and instead takes her on a tour of the town before finally dropping her off at school. In the end it seems he managed a favorable impression afterall! Upon returning home he finds the very same girl in his home… where his mother informs him that she is his long lost half sister!
All characters now assembled and ready for battle, the story embarks with much of your typical choices and encounters, from peeping incidents, painful tsuns, and lets not forget those touching romantic moments that define a game. What I found to most clearly define Natsu no Ame was the use of cellphones as a story element. Rather than some form of cheap gimmick using cell phones as a means of communication and character development, the writers of Natsu no Ame made skillful use of the freedom a cell phone allows. I for one enjoyed the small yet influential and touching role that cell phones played throughout the story. While I would like to go into much greater detail on the subject and specially why and what made it such a notable element… I am afraid that would be far too much of a spoiler so read for yourself and find out what I mean.
As the title would suggest rain plays a noticable though surely not a central role throughout the course of the story. Making use of the common rain theme comes in the form of everything from your standard umbrella scenes to of course crying scenes all the way through to making use of vulnerability shown only during storms. Along with the obviously linear references, one may infer the use of summer rains as a metaphorical element paralleling the development of characters throughout the story.
Heroine routes in Natsu no Ame typically revolve around not only the protagonist developing a relationship with her, but also the impact it has on their lives, dreams, and the people who surround them. Sousuke’s main goal before and even during the events of the story is to rejoin the soccer club, heavily influencing how events play out with each girl and her own unique circumstances. Along with his own goals sometimes conflicting with his romantic interests, the relationships Sousuke has with other characters may change completely based on his choices. Similar events have completely different conclusions depending on who you choose which seems like an obvious conclusion. However what I found to be interesting was not necessarily that things worked out in a separate manner, but the methods the writers used to make the divergences clear. For example a character may notice someone missing in one route right away, and yet in another where they are not quite as close they notice a short time later making all the difference in the conclusion.
Unlike a few games I have been playing recently (Owarinaki) Natsu no Ame maintains a very good pace throughout the course of the story. Various situations feel neither rushed nor drag on till you die of old age, the time jumps are well placed and move the story along nicely. Pacing lets the reader progress at a speed suited to reading a story, all the important moments are hit upon and covered well. While monotonous scenes or days with no real relevance are safely skipped over allowing you to proceed with what matters.
A nice touch that I found in good taste being the epilogue narrations. Instead of a third party or main character perspective the epilogue switches to the heroine’s point of view, allowing her to narrate and summarize events and her feelings resulting from the story. After all there is no need to wonder about the protagonist anymore given you saw all of the events unfold from his perspective already.
I for one enjoyed the positive and forward thinking presented by the four endings. Instead of wrapping up the past events in a nutshell the conclusion to each story was more about thinking of the future and how life would unfold henceforth. Yes I am aware that many series have the quick jump to a few months to years in the future during the epilogue, giving you a quick glimpse into what happened after the story events concluded. The difference which I found appealing was the thoughts of the characters were projected towards the future and not reminiscing upon the past. Leaving a very clear image of their hopes, dreams, and even worries for their future lives. Allowing the reader to clearly view an extended stretch of time beyond the final conclusion achieved by the epilogue was a nice touch that I found particularly endearing.
If I have to point out a few of the flaws that the game suffers from I suppose it would come down to the structure. Aside from somewhat cliche obstacles for the characters to overcome, there is a feeling as though they attempted to make two obstacles per heroine. While certainly not a flaw that ruins the story itself, after finishing two routes I could make several safe assumptions about the remaining two. The real problem I have with this is that there are a few times routes could have been shorter or longer or perhaps written more intimately if they did not try so hard to stick to a set framework.
The usual lineup of character traits with their own little quirks and distinguishing features and pasts. While using some of the standard traits we are all accustomed to by now the characters in Natsu no Ame feel more fluid, natural, and real. That is to say while they embody certain traits for their personalities they not only retain the core traits throughout the story, but the changes they go through and their pasts feel more three dimensional than most characters.
Sousuke is the soccer otaku and hero of Natsu no Ame. He lives with his single mother and younger sister who lives at her boarding school most of the time. Hinako his childhood friend often comes to help take care of him in place of his mother by cooking dinner. Followed by Midori who considers herself his SHINYUUUUU, and his counterpart Takeda his life revolves around soccer, skipping class, and eating donuts. That is until Rikako comes along anyway. Throughout the game Sousuke’s dreams and goals change quite a bit depending on which heroine you go for, his personality however changes little. As is typical Sousuke is kind with a gentle side although he enjoys teasing people much more than the usual protagonist.
Rikako is Sousuke’s elder half sister who came to live with him after their father, whom she was living with died. On the surface Rikako is the elder half sister of Sousuke with a cold hearted, stubborn, willful, and socially awkward character. However as the story progresses and you have the opportunity to delve deeper into her personality and past, she becomes more of an insecure child dealing with a traumatizing past. Skilled at almost everything Rikako fills the perfect girl image with the few things she is unable to do at the start being learned swiftly and skillfully. Contrary to her strong, independent appearance Rikako desperately reaches out for someone to depend on despite the fear and insecurity this causes her. Rikako mostly keeps to herself unless she is dragged around, so other than a few incisive words she spares when Sousuke comes home she has little to say outside of her route.
Rikako is by far my favorite character. How can you not like when a strong girl who can do everything shows her weak side?
Midori is the ex manager and one of the two people who resigned in protest from the soccer club when Sousuke was suspended and Takeda quit. As a result she came to spend her days watching over the two practice along the riverbank. An energetic tomboy who often wishes she was born a boy so she could play with Sousuke and Takeda instead of watching over them. Usually treated as “One of the guys” by Sousuke, Midori is often teased by him, despite this teasing she never stops cheerfully supporting him from behind. Midori is the only person who befriends Rikako at the school, though at first it is a completely one sided friendship, Midori persistently and energetically breaks down Rikako’s defenses. Midori maintains a job at a donut shop which often becomes the setting for characters meeting each other by chance or just to chat among friends. A great friend, Midori gives her all to help support and further her friends romances, though never has much success. Unlike her overly energetic tomboy exterior Midori can be extremely cute and feminine when she wants to be.
Sousuke’s childhood friend, Hinako is a year older and often takes care of him by making dinner at his home. A natural airhead by all appearances Hinako is skillful at cooking and vice captain of the swimming club. Ever the gentle older sister she dotes on Sou-chan nonstop and would do anything to please him. Due to her nature as his elder sister she harbors a great insecurity about furthering their relationship all thanks to an event in the past.
Misa is a teacher at the local highschool and the advisor for the cooking club. A kind and gentle teacher she is prone to becoming flustered when embarrassed or caught off guard. Nene, the child she conceals comes as part of the package deal with Misa. Extremely cute and mature for her age Nene gets along quite well with Misa, although she tends to end up quite lonely when Misa is busy.
As an avid fan of Sousuke’s mother, she goes into complete fangirl mode whenever his mother is mentioned. This often involves screaming “Kyaaaa” as well as the typical fangirlish flailing.
An undeniably cute character, Misa’s voice is especially noteworthy as being well done and matching perfectly with her pouty, innocent, and shy demeanor.
The supporting cast in Natsu no Ame are better developed than the usual, with family environments feeling more faithfully rendered. Partly due to the rather shocking revelation that parents do, infact exist in this eroge. Furthermore not only do they exist but even actively influence events! This often leads to a more realistic consideration being involved in various situations the characters encounter, including H scenes.
Sousuke’s mother, she is a novelist who writes romance stories. Unkempt and demanding she leaves all household chores to her children… and well anyone else who happens to be there. Despite her uncaring attitude towards her children and their affairs, she strictly controls money to keep them in line. Fair and open minded her biggest flaw is her complete lack of interaction with her children, thus being completely in the dark about their lives.
The token imouto. Tomomi goes to a boarding school and rarely comes home, as a result has no local friends and at home tends to be shy and rely on her brother. Harboring an extreme initial dislike of Rikako due to her past and misconceptions relating to their father. A blunt speaker Tomomi is not afraid to say what is on her mind, often being extremely rude to people she does not like.
Sousuke’s friend who quit the soccer club at the same time in protest of the unfair treatment Sousuke received. The two had not talked much and even had a rivalry before leaving the club, however after leaving they became close friends due to their daily training. Takeda fills the role of a friend as well as rival for Sousuke and often helps push Sousuke along due to his more serious nature.
The daughter of Misa, Nene is mature for her age but still quite a child. Obedient and well mannered Nene often acts as the bridge between Sousuke and Misa.
The artwork in Natsu no Ame is among the best I have born witness to, period. Style wise the art suits me far more than most eroge which may lead to a bit of a bias. Even though I normally ignore a few minor issues here and there when considering artwork, there are no awkward poses, eye catching out of place scenery, or CG that fails to properly suit the scenario.
Rather than the usual harsh and vivid colors the soft blends and earthen tones of Natsu no Ame give an almost watercolor feel to the artwork and reflect the natural feel of the mood, setting, and characters quite well. Gentle shading gradients add to the feeling of a smooth and gradual change, highlighting the organic feel and softer lighting.
I also rather liked how the artwork changed style to suit the situation. In comical situations the art felt more like an ordinary CG with more clearly defined cell shades and brighter colors brought out by the harder lighting.
Sprites and backgrounds were pretty normal in general. Outdoors backgrounds were better at properly conveying the setting than the indoor backgrounds which tended to suffer from the sterile 3d rendered look that is quite common. Backgrounds in general suffer a bit from being rather simple, however they are not the focus of attention so they are within acceptable ranges for quality.
The one and only real problem I had with the artwork stems from the overuse of zoom on CGs. This was especially a problem with the H scene CGs though it was annoying in just about every CG. Often they would start zoomed in and make quite a nice effect as the image would pan around and change position before zooming out. This effect would have been a very nice touch that added to the effect of the quality CG had they used it more sparingly. When used immediately after seeing a full CG again loses focus on the whole by zooming in again and really loses the full impact of the CG. I feel that had they perhaps maybe zoomed out with a slow deliberate pace without zooming in and out, they could have had their fun with zoom and maintained the ability to fully appreciate the artwork.
Something else that bothered me a little bit was the lack of non HCG. I would have liked to have seen one or two more CG per route, especially given the overall high quality of the CG.
Voice actors did a superb job with Natsu no Ame. The characters voices naturally melded with their characters, the tone and inflection changes matched the moods perfectly. In fact I found myself listening to to the voices far more than usual simply to enjoy the full range of expression achieved by the voice actors. Normally I only listen to characters I like or when what I read appears to be something that would amuse me when voiced. Time and time again I found myself stopping to smell the flowers so to speak, which is very unlike me yet a pleasant change of pace.
To make a somewhat neutral stance I will mention the usual slurping sounds during certain H related scenes were not as profoundly annoying as usual. While definitely still present the impact was lessened greatly by toning down the perceived forces at work in creating such sound effects. A workable if not exactly pleasing compromise compared to the usual effects that lead me either to absurd hallucinations about what is causing that sound, or wishing I was born deaf so as to not further ruin scenes which really should be far more touching than they end up.
Background music on the other hand was uninspired and monotonous. Tracks were generally near completely identical to the background music I have heard in other games countless times. It is not as though the music itself is bad nor does it not fit the game or scene, just lacks any kind of unique or special sound. As a result it ends up with the music being almost completely ignored as though it were crickets chirping. The only times I made any kind of note of the music is when it changed to the type of background usually accompanied by closing narrations, which usually (Though not always) heralds the ending. Makes me wonder if eroge all share their standard background music. While certainly nothing special the bland background music does not take away from the game much either. Eroge tends to use the music simply as a non invasive way to help set a mood and in that respect the background does its job admirably if not stylishly.
Interface is pretty standard, nothing really stands out other than one key factor. The utter and complete lack of pink made me quite happy. After all pink is such a terrible color to use, why can’t everyone use nice sedate and calming blues? A game looks so much better with blue don’t you agree? As I am sure you can see nothing else stands out as good or bad about the basic gameplay interface, all around the standard stuff we are all used to.
There are a total of 99 saves which again is pretty standard. So far everything is completely usual.
And now comes the fun part that makes the interface at least a little bit unique. The Extra features menu is well done, simplistic and organized. Left side column allows you to select which heroine or all the sub characters together, while the individual folder icons separate the individual types of images. Starting with the left they are normal CG, HCG, H scenes, and the last and most interesting is a sprite viewer. I personally cannot recall any other game that let you view the sprites in the game itself. Normally you would have to extract the sprites to view the various changes. While this is certainly not a major groundbreaking feature, I did find it to be a nice touch that added to the overall feeling of polish to the game.
As you can see along the right hand side are all the background songs from the game, click to play. A simple and effective setup works best for these things, I really like that while they was nothing groundbreaking about the interface there was nothing at all to complain about either. Everything about it was implemented thoughtfully and precisely, which really shows in the final product.
Ah the scenes which put the ero in eroge. Natsu no Ame does quite well with the H scenes in a general sense, they feel quite composed and are often touching scenes which develop the characters relationships as you would expect. There are exactly three H scenes per heroine and they are all pretty good as H scenes go. Not too short and not too long, nor any borderline rape. A key factor that really helped the H scenes along was in the way they conveyed the feeling of decreasing distance between characters. Especially the initial H scenes contained a warm and loving touch, bringing a vibrant sense of reality to their attraction to each other.
The biggest problem I had with H scenes were how sudden they all were. As though a panther were pouncing on you from behind while walking in a forest alone at night the initial H scenes spring literally out of nowhere and sometimes nothing. While certainly not a big deal the only route that really had what I would consider an appropriate lead in and development for a initial H scene was Misa’s. Others develop into H a bit fast with the exception of Midori who comes out of nowhere with a random H scene. I feel the real problem with the sudden nature of the first H scenes may stem from the fact the writers forgot heroines are not psychic. We as the reader realize the protagonists feelings (especially since we chose them) but Sousuke never conveys his mind well to the other party prior to the first H scene. Really this problem stems from how there often does not appear to be adequate development of the characters relationships prior to the scenes. This ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I suppose you could say it was just too easy, thus defeating the purpose of building up the relationship.
Another less serious issue was that a few of the scenes seemed forced into the story for the sake of having three scenes per heroine. I cannot help but feel that there needed to be a bit more consciousness of the effect H scene placement has on the feeling of believability. Of course this is an exceedingly minor issue which only barely warrants mention as it has no impact on the quality of the game.
Natsu no Ame is a great game that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who enjoys eroge. While it may not win any awards for creativity, the game delivers a consistent and enjoyable experience with precious little to complain about.
I use a percentage based system to grade the various aspects of a game in a final section here. The breakdown will be that a 50% is dead neutral, completely apathy, no plus or minus. Below that is bad and above is good. The Overall score is simply a rating of the game in its entirety and is somewhat unrelated to the other scores. It may end up being better or worse than the sum of its parts.
- Overall: 90%
- Story: 82%
- Characters: 86%
- Art: 95%
- Sound: 80%
- Interface: 63%
- H: 78%
The Offical Cube website can be found here.
Walkthrough for the game can be found here.
Getchu link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=634925