Video Games

Summer Lesson TGS 2016 Preview – Notice me Senpai!


Bandai Namco’s Summer Lesson, from the folks behind the Tekken franchise, is one of the PlayStation VR’s launch titles (at least in Japan). The premise is fairly simple: you play the role of a private tutor who is hired to assist a high-school aged girl with her studies over summer. When we wrote about it in the past, the word “creepy” was used, and now that I’ve actually had a chance to play it, I think that’s a fair assessment.

I started the demo off sitting in a coffee shop in a small coastal Japanese town. My cellphone rings, and a Japanese lady hires me to tutor her daughter, Hikari, over summer vacation. This part of the game is fairly innocent, and actually quite cool. Looking around the coffee shop in VR is completely seamless, and the Unreal Engine 4 does its best to bring it to life. I can proudly say that this was one of the few VR experiences that didn’t make me feel motion sick, and is an outstanding showcase of the PlayStation VR’s capabilities.

But then it got real creepy real fast. In the next scene I was simply sitting in Hikari’s room. Waiting. She opens the door and is at first in such shock that she actually does a double-take, closing the door, opening it again, and cautiously approaching you and asking who you are. What’s most unsettling about this whole exchange is that you are completely still, and completely silent. I understand that a silent protagonist is used so players can inject their own personalities into the game, but it’s really just made me feel like some kind of stalker.

In the next scene, you’ll converse with Hikari about your plans for her lessons. The game uses no controller at this point, instead, you simply look at dialogue options to choose what to say, and nod or shake your head to agree or disagree with anything. If you have ever played a Japanese romance simulator, or a visual novel adventure game, Summer Lesson is kind of the VR version of that.

Again, I was really impressed with how real the simulation felt. I could look around Hikari’s room, and as she walked around me I could actually feel her presence. I imagine for people who don’t live in Japan that it would be a really cool “slice of life” type thing where you could take a first-person glimpse into another culture.

But then the creepiness creeps back in. When Hikari talks to you, her breasts are exactly at eye-level, and she puffs her chest out quite a bit. At one point she bends over right next to you to pick up a pencil, giving you clear view of her panties. It really made me feel uncomfortable having her so close to me, especially when you consider the assumption that this is a high-school aged girl and an adult tutor.

I loved, and hated, Summer Lesson. It was an amazing demonstration of the technology, it didn’t make me nauseous like most of the other PlayStation VR demos, and got me excited about VR. But the subject matter is just so unnerving, and from Bandai’s promised future content, it really makes it seem like the object of the game will be forming a romantic relationship with your student. If only they could use this tech to make the same kind of game, but within a different, more innocent scenario.

Summer Lesson will launch in Japan on October 13, alongside PlayStation VR. There’s no word on its English localization as of yet.

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