Remembering what summer vacation is all about.
Summer Pockets is an all-ages Nakige from developer and artist Visual Arts/Key - a name well known for some of anime's idols such as Clannad or Angel Beats. Following in the same steps we once again get beautiful 1080p artworks, a gorgeous soundtrack, a deep and emotional story making the entire journey worthwhile and even minigames to round off the experience.
Graphical & Technical Quality
The visuals are stunning. From the main menu to the general scenery, details and effects shine everywhere and take you on a journey from the moment you start up the game for the first time. All of that is accompanied by an absolutely beautiful soundtrack and packed into a smooth running engine. While the character sprites themselfs aren't animated at all (no blinking eyes or mouth movement) the screenplay and camera movements make up for it.
And speaking of a game, Summer Pockets actually feels like a real game at times due to the two full fledged and some smaller minigames to play throughout the story and the insane amount of player choices. Even a date (as in time) system exists to tell you how much time has passed in the story and in the main part of it you can freely choose 2 events per day from the map. This gives you both the freedom to choose exactly what you want to do, but also limits you to only doing so much each playthrough.
Alongside these major features the rest of Summer Pockets' engine runs smooth too and offers some cool, modern features. Like a literal 1000 save slots which can have a custom description and be swapped around freely, a bunch of quick menus to access the most important features and even ingame achievements.
Auto mode's progression speed can be set based on dialogue's character count - a really great feature only very few VNs seem to implement - most animations and shortcuts can be turned off if wanted and a normal level of customization can easily be done.
On the other hand though, compared to other high-end VNs I know Summer Pockets is a bit simplistic when it comes to navigating through the story. You con only jump back to the previous choice or, via the backlog, to some designated points in the dialogue. For jumping forwards you have the usual auto and skip modes with their behaviour customization but that's it.
Making use of the 1000 save slots is highly recommended when aiming for quick achievement farming or route setup.
And on the actual downside, Summer Pockets seems to have a bug or two. E.g., for me the first start of the game threw me (without main menu whatsoever) directly into the story, only to then give me a font error because I obviously don't have the Japanese font installed and then crash on my first attempt to go to fullscreen mode.
While this has been a one-time only encounter, font issues are not.
If I remember correctly I had to change the font shortly after the beginning - which is an intended feature, offering you a not too small variety of fonts to choose from - because the sometimes used special characters in the text couldn't be properly displayed.
Furthermore the font regularly goes haywire. The letters become huge, bold and lose their spacing resulting in a hardly readable blob of text. Albeit annoying, this only happens in menus or overlays and is fixable by simply closing and opening said menu or overlay again.
The translation is solid enough, with only a few missing words or similar here and there. Sadly it doesn't include subtitles for the opening and ending movies or the songs with vocals but this could be fixed with unofficial fan patches.
Showcase of the two major minigames.
Story, Content & Runtime
What can you expect from Summer Pockets?
A tragic tale about a fateful summer vacation. One that might induce nostalgia from all the summers you had yourself, or sadness over those you didn't. Silly, happy everyday moments meeting deep lore head on.
Takahara Hairi, our protagonist, has been through a lot. His school's swim team's star not too long ago, a tragic incident took his pride, joy and the ability to even go into the water from him. Running away from the team he felt he left hanging and his life that went south after that as a whole, the boy who can't swim anymore goes to the island Torishirojima - as ironic as that is.
"For now, I am a wounded migratory bird who can't fly."
Initially invited over there by his aunt who requested help with sorting through the numerous remains of Hairi's late grandmother, he soon finds himself getting to know what little there is to see and how few people there are to meet on this small, secluded island, maybe finding new friends and new things to do amongst them.
With the calm distance to the hardships of life and the motivation of his distinct cast of potential new friends, maybe Hairi can once again learn what it means to live in happiness, enjoying what precious, limited time you have during summer and maybe, one day, face the sea he dreads so much once more.
Summer Pockets is a story about remembering how to enjoy summer, with all the drama, the silly fun and maybe even the romance it includes.
Or at least...
... this is what the game makes you believe.