Game Info:

A Summer With the Shiba Inu
Developed By: Quill Game Studios
Published By: Quill Game Studios (PC), Ratalaika Games
Released: August 23, 2019 (PC), June 26, 2020 (Console)
Available On: Linux, MacOS, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Visual Novel
ESRB Rating: Teen for Language
Number of Players: Singleplayer
Price: $9.99

Thank you Ratalaika Games for sending us this game to review!

A Summer With the Shiba Inu is a visual novel starring a Shiba Inu named Syd. After spending ten years of her life living in the land of Canine-da, she returns to Shiba Island in order to find her brother, Chun-wen, who has been missing since she left. With the help of a Labrador that made its way onto the island somehow, she hopes to uncover the mystery.

When every dog on the island was a pup, they were all forced to participate in a battling system called the ARInas, which would determine their ranking in society. Syd, being the winner, was given the fabled Feather of Truth, which allows her to alter reality as she wishes. Since many dogs are after the feather, there are a few times when she is forced into rematches, and where she relives the past experiences of the games. While these scenes force Syd to pause her investigations, they give deep insight into the nature of her character. The general setting is very reminiscent of a sci-fi world, as the characters are using holographic wristwatches for their primary communications, and they are tracked using a pendant that they have to wear around their neck at all times.

A Summer With the Shiba Inu

Strong Points: Engaging story; nice graphics; fitting music; high-quality sound effects; multiple endings
Weak Points: Only 12 save slots; can’t scroll up the history log very easily
Moral Warnings: Light cussing (p***, h*ll, d**n); tons of described violence; betrayal and/or lying is necessary to proceed in some situations; implied lesbian attractions at one point

The music for the game is quite fitting, and addresses the mood of each scenario accurately. There are occasional sound effects, but they usually consist of growls or whines made by the characters in order to express emotion. Whenever a pendant is broken in an ARIna match (which is how each character is eliminated), there is the sound of glass shattering. There are other miscellaneous sounds as well, all of which fit the use case and have a high enough quality to not be taken into question.

There are many different choices the player can make throughout the course of the story, whether it be simple responses to a conversation or a life-threatening situation. Each and every one, I’ve found, has an effect on the ending that is received. Occasionally, the time taken to make a choice will be measured and showed to the player onscreen. The choices that seem trivial have the same weight on the story as the ones that determine Syd’s survival. There are five endings, all of which vary greatly from each other. The advertising page for the game claims there are three main endings and ten less important ones, but I used a walkthrough to get all of the in-game trophies, and there were only five. The fact that they all go in such different directions is oddly satisfying, because the player isn’t quite sure what to expect.

The only things that majorly annoyed me were things in the user interface. For example, I noticed that there are only 12 save slots that the player can use, which was inconvenient for me because I needed a lot of save slots. I had to overwrite a save several times. The other thing I noticed was the fact that the history log doesn’t allow you to continuously scroll up. I had to repeatedly hit the up key on my Switch in order to scroll up more than one line.

A Summer With the Shiba Inu
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 63%
Violence - 2/10
Language – 7.5/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural – 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical – 7.5/10

At first glance, the character sprites and backgrounds appear to be photographs. As I continued gameplay, though, I began to notice little differences in the way the characters’ proportions were portrayed, and when looked at closely enough, they appeared to be rendered with painted strokes. The sprites and backgrounds, I deduced, are indeed painted, and not photos with effects added to them. The fact that I, an artist, could barely tell the difference makes the art astounding.

However, A Summer With the Shiba Inu isn’t really designed for children. Nothing is actually shown, but it has tons of violence, blood, and gore (all in a virtual realm) described in detail throughout the story. Occasionally, the protagonist needs to lie to proceed in some situations, or to betray another character in order to ensure self-preservation. At one point, it is implied that many of Syd’s past actions were done because of a lesbian attraction she was harboring for another character in a match. Light cussing is present throughout the game, in the form of the words suck, p***, h*ll, and d**n. All other cursewords, and any instances of using the Lord’s name in vain, are replaced with food equivalents, and His name is replaced with ‘Dog.’

When I initially started playing A Summer With the Shiba Inu, I was expecting a lighthearted comedy, but got something much deeper instead. I would highly recommend this game to anyone over the age of 13 who is looking for a serious story that is a little different from standard visual novels.

- Kittycathead

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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