Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 25.05.2017 4

Review for Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari on PlayStation 4

Has gaming finally reached the virtual reality dream of meeting a virtual girl? The prospect of interacting with a sophisticated artificial intelligence with some personality is a hope gamers have been waiting to see since Peter Molyneux conned everyone with his Milo demonstration. To implement simulation gameplay mechanics where users would have to "raise" - or in Summer Lesson's case, "teach" - a virtual character concepts and ideas is an extremely novel proposition that has been done before, but never in VR, and not to the level of visual fidelity Bandai Namco has illustrated with Hikari Miyamoto. At least, that would be the selling point if that is what Summer Lesson actually was... Class is in session. Prepare for a lesson in missed opportunities, failure and crushed dreams.

The short version of Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari is that it is a seated VR experience where a scripted 3D animation plays out and vague choices are made to result in an outcome. Users will not actually be interacting with Hikari in any real meaningful way, unlike any of the Sims titles or the Princess Maker games, which have gotten the idea right since the early 90s. With technology available today, it is sad to see all possibilities for interacting with a game character be whittled down to just two or three vague options. The enemy soldiers in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty have a much wider range of interactivity, and that was a title from 2001.

When Summer Lesson begins, there is an impressive wow-factor. The moment Hikari steps into her room it is clear that Bandai Namco did not spare any expense towards animation/mo-cap and attention to detail. While not particularly "realistic," Hikari has been rendered pretty much in a similar aesthetic as seen in Bandai Namco's Tekken; not quite 'anime,' but also not fully realistic - a comfortable middle ground to give her character and to avoid the uncanny valley.

Screenshot for Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari on PlayStation 4

When the Unreal Engine's physics engine isn't making her tie flip out like it is possessed by the ghost of Janet Reno, things usually look quite natural, such as the sway of Hikari's skirt and bounce of her ponytail. Once in a while, there is an example of clipping of various layers of 3D geometrics, but this is inevitable when dealing with such complex models and mo-cap. Sometimes Hikari likes to get really close, and while the effort to render her face is immaculate and flawless, she gets so close that she blocks out subtitles sometimes, which creates a really amusing and unintentionally awkward moment where users may reel back to read the dialogue, as poor Hikari just wants to get close. The attention to detail isn't limited to Hikari, either. Her entire bedroom is fully realized and is rife with minutia that forms her character and personality, like her fascination with sharks.

A typical playthrough of Summer Lesson will last about an hour. Hikari has only one week left before her summer break will end and it is up to the player to tutor her on various subjects so she can pass some exams. The game starts in a beachside cafe where the lesson plan is chosen, which amounts to simply choosing a stat to focus on and then picking some subjects to small-talk with Hikari. This is as far as the extent of the simulation goes.

Screenshot for Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari on PlayStation 4

Since the translation to English is very literal, a lot of things do not make sense and feels like it all may as well still be in Japanese, and the only course of action is to just pick the lowest stats to build up. Even when the small-talk/tutoring portions finally do come up, it all boils down to making a couple of vague choices that were sloppily translated into English, making every choice feel like guesswork.

When the week is over, the game ends, and users are treated to one of the multiple endings where Hikari either passes, fails, or just does mediocre, followed by being shunted back to the start screen. There are unlockable costumes for Hikari, which would suggest that Summer Lesson has pretty good replay value, but after that initial first run, the game's limitations are extremely felt, and the illusion of life Hikari had during that initial playthrough is shattered. It turns out Hikari is extremely limited. Expect to sit through the same exact conversations and go through the same motions as before, with little variation. Summer Lesson is closer to being a VR experience or movie than being a life-sim game.

Screenshot for Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari on PlayStation 4

There are a couple of mini-games in the Miyamoto Hikari edition, which also do not amount to much, and are extremely simple little motion control gimmicks that typically utilize the DualShock 4. Expect to have to apply itch cream on Hikari's neck or fan her from overheating. These mini-games were originally DLC for the initial Japanese release, and are consumable one-time use affairs that there is a finite amount of. It is not quite clear how to replenish these, but they might have to be bought from the Japanese PSN Store. Not that it matters much because it is unlikely that anyone will use these events more than once, and this edition comes with an ample amount in case anyone would want to introduce Hikari to friends or family.

The world's first VR life-sim has still not been made as of Summer Lesson's release. As it stands now, Hikari's lessons are pretty much just a tech demo that shows only possibilities, and is not actually the idea itself applied. The first time experiencing Summer Lesson is a wonderful moment that felt special because it seemed real... but it wasn't. It was all a hallow lie with no substance. As a tech demo, this is a pretty game thanks to the bright and sunny atmosphere. It is a shame that there is so little to do in Summer Lesson's world because it is a very inviting place and seems like paradise, even if it is a paradise lost.

Screenshot for Summer Lesson: Miyamoto Hikari on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

The only thing that makes Summer Lesson worthwhile is that first-time playthrough. The gorgeous setting and the fact that Hikari herself is just so cute and likeable is what holds this illusion together - definitely not the gameplay… if it can even be called that. This a game that is not recommended for importing, even despite the fact all menus are in English and all dialogue is subtitled, unless there is an interest in VR experiences, not games or life-sims. As a VR experience, it is okay; it does a fine job of creating the illusion of playing a life-sim, even if that illusion only lasts for an hour.

Developer

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

Man, that's a real shame.

i felt tricked

Uh oh...I've seen enough of these kind of things to know where it goes next with a little slip here and a 'oops' there.

Dragon0085 said:
Uh oh...I've seen enough of these kind of things to know where it goes next with a little slip here and a 'oops' there.

i wish this game had some elements of that because then it would have added some value.

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