Adventure Anime Indie Review

Sumire – Review | Seize the Day

It is not often that I come across a game trailer that gives me goosebumps enough to make me immediately want to pick it up. Just from the trailer alone, with its shimmering visuals and moving vocals, I already anticipated Sumire to bring many feels.

Available in English and Japanese, Sumire is an indie casual narrative-driven adventure game developed by GameTomo and released for the PC and Nintendo Switch on 27 May 2021. A single playthrough takes around four hours to complete.

Content warnings for this game include mild blood, bullying, eerie images, mentions of infidelity, knives and violence, the presence of spider and snake side characters, strained relationships, and infrequent screen shakes.

Did the game eventually deliver an emotional experience? Read on to find out in this spoiler-free review of the PC version.

Gameplay Elements in Sumire’s Magical Journey

Sumire, sometimes nicknamed Sumi, is the protagonist of this story-rich game with the same name. Her story begins with a dream of her late grandmother telling her something important but Sumire cannot recall what it is once she wakes up. Feeling that the message holds the key to improving her current life, she yearns to see her grandmother again. Her wish soon summons forth a magical flower, known simply as Flower, who only has one day to live. Flower tells Sumire that in exchange for letting her meet her grandmother once more, she has to show him a wonderful day. Thus, for one day, Sumire embarks on a magical journey alongside the magical flower.

Sumire - Grandmother

Despite the absence of mouse support, navigating Sumire around the 2.5D world of Sumire is straightforward with the keyboard controls implemented. Clear tutorials regarding the set key binds (which cannot be changed) are included at the beginning of the game, though some functions are actually mapped to more keys than what is shown: for movement, apart from arrow keys, WASD can also be used; and for advancing dialogues, Spacebar can be used in addition to “C”, the default interaction key. The main frustration regarding movement is that some small items in the environment are immovable obstacles that will stop Sumire in her tracks whenever she walks or runs into them. At an area near the abandoned house, I did not see the small obstacle on the ground due to the foreground grass layer covering it and had initially thought Sumire got stuck for no reason.

The game mainly relies on exploration but is restricted to a defined manner that helps drive the largely linear story forward in the way it is planned. Exploration is also the primary method through which players can learn more about Sumire and her world. I especially appreciate the inclusion of short explanations for certain things specific to the Japanese culture, like the hokora and rotenburo. Optional side quests can be picked up via exploration, though certain quests have specific timeframes in which one can begin and then complete them by. Such timeframes do not pose much issue except for one case where the lack of a clear time indicator has caused me to fail a side quest. That particular quest has to be attended to “before lunch” and yet, nothing in the game hinted at when lunch begins. By the time I went through a series of mandatory plot events and thought lunchtime was still some time away since the sky looked as bright as before, I was told it was time for lunch and it was too late to do that side quest.

The next major element of the game is choices. Though untimed, choice points in Sumire typically allow players only one chance to make a response. While there are several parts of the plot that cannot be avoided and hence render a few choices inconsequential, choices made throughout the day in Sumire are generally consequential that ultimately determine Sumire’s accumulated karma. Coupled with the auto-save feature, every choice point that comes up therefore feels important and pretty conclusive. However, due to the “C” key being used for both dialogue advancement and choice selection, sometimes while trying to advance the texts quickly by rapidly pressing “C”, it is easy to end up selecting a choice by accident. Unless the Spacebar key bind is removed in a future patch, a viable workaround for now would be to use Spacebar for text advancement and “C” for choice confirmation.

On top of basic exploration and choice making, there are also treasure hunts and several other mini-games present. Coins are scattered all around and by gathering these coins, Sumire can use them for completing some quests (and Steam achievements), or for buying cosmetic items that would change her appearance or certain characters’ dialogues accordingly. One can choose to save up any unused coins for use in the next playthrough as well, which is a pretty witty meta-game design choice. A variety of mini-games ranging from reaction games to card and board games are woven in too, with many as part of the main story itself, and almost all provide the option to skip them over without penalty.

Sumire - Walking

Not counting the incentive from Steam achievements, Sumire is well set up for multiple replays. Dialogues, events, characters’ appearances, CGs, ending scenes, and even the Title Screen will change according to the choices made in a playthrough. I am totally astonished by the amount of attention paid to altering all those little cause-and-effect details. In spite of the predominantly linear storyline, these possible variations make subsequent playthroughs worth the time. Even on my fifth playthrough, I still managed to find something new. The only times I have found some mismatches in the cause-and-effect linkages are when Sumire wears a new hair accessory she bought herself but tells her friend “you gave it to me”, and when Sumire has zero coins on her but tells Flower “I’ve got some money”.

Sumire’s karma accumulated from her deeds throughout the day eventually determines which of the two broad endings will be shown. Although the low karma route can feel unappealing to go through as one has to constantly choose the not-so-good options, its unexpected ending gave me chills and its haunting music blew me away; if anything, the low karma ending has left a deeper impression on me than the neutral or high karma endings did, even when it does not supply much story information.

Something else that makes the game replay-friendly is its thoughtful display of clear prompts about the next objective if players let Sumire stand still for fifteen seconds. This feature, in addition to Sumire’s handy diary that lists all acquired main and side tasks, is useful for players who have forgotten where they had left the game previously.

Emotive, Dreamlike, Beautiful

To say that Sumire looks beautiful would be an understatement. Its visuals, particularly the captivating landscape art and sparkling visual effects, have transported me to a truly magical realm. Details of each major location are incredible; the tranquil cobblestone pathway leading from the Torii to the inner shrine, the ethereal and surreal dreamscapes, and the outdoor onsen surrounded by relaxing lush greenery are some gorgeous venues in the game. There used to be a rendering glitch with the window at the onsen but has since been patched in version 1.0.2.

The game’s soft color palette and watercolor blending style lend a dreamy mood to many scenes while sharp contrasts are cleverly applied to amplify the shininess of various objects, especially those laid against the night sky. Overall, the art is easy on the eyes and there is much care observed in combining colors and lighting to convey the intended atmosphere of a place.

True to the everyday aspect of the plot setting, nobody wears complicatedly designed clothes. Yet, there is much individual personality felt from their everyday outfits and hairstyles. I also love how every one of them, from the kids to the elderly, looks more or less their age.

Animations are smooth although Sumire’s running feels somewhat listless. Nevertheless, her lively facial expressions are full of emotion like most other characters.

User Interface (UI) design leans towards the minimal side, with most focus given to the dynamic Title Screen and Sumire’s diary menu. Loading screens tend to break the visual flow of moving from one location to another but I like how Flower is placed on those screens to indicate how far into the game one is currently at. Plenty of similarly helpful visual cues are built-in, making the game a genuinely low-stress casual experience: interactable items have a question mark icon popping up when Sumire gets close to them, important quest items will glimmer, and hidden treasure on the ground are marked by lines of sparkles. Sadly, for this text-reliant game, its default font and font size cannot be changed. Still, I personally find the text large enough for a comfortable read.

Sumire - Tree

 Music is another major highlight of Sumire. Painting vivid emotions and adding wonderful flavors to the game, the entire soundtrack is a delight to listen to. The use of Japanese musical instruments in some tracks, for example the sacred shrine theme, provides a unique air to a few encounters. Most tracks involve the acoustic guitar and the range of mood, from the hopeful morning music, to the lively little town theme, to the nostalgic bus ride tune; these all fit the different locations and scenes perfectly. In fact, I am so smitten with the music heard during the bus ride that I wish that segment would loop on forever so I can listen to the music for as long as I want until I press the “Esc” key to get off the bus manually.

Sound effects (SFX) are plentiful. Other than the UI and dialogue text SFX, everything else helps in building a believable and immersive soundscape for Sumire’s world. One impressive detail is the different footstep SFX used when Sumire walks or runs on different ground surfaces.

Characters: Growing Up and the Grown-ups

The world of Sumire revolves around the young protagonist, Sumire, and her relations with other people — her late grandmother, her parents, her (past) best friend, her new friends, her friends’ friends, her grandmother’s friends, and her crush. The little village she lives in is such a close-knit community that even the animal occupants, from the cat to the hare, know the humans around them. Most characters have their own stories and while the game does not go very in-depth for these backstories, it manages to tell enough for many characters to stay memorable. In particular, I enjoyed the story between the Teaman and his wife.

Some characters are memorable because of their stories and relations while some are because of their dialogues. The latter group applies mainly to the animal characters like the snake who never forgets to hiss and the crow whose intelligence is off the meta charts.

Sumire - Flower

All in all, characters are written with maturity and their behaviors and dialogues feel compatible with their presumed ages. Such realistic portrayal of young children among the company of adults allow me to not only follow the story comfortably but also to take its believable cast seriously. 

Themes, Messages, and Their Delivery

Several themes are present in Sumire. Apart from the showcase of Japanese culture and the main message that time is precious, there are topics about relationships and karma explored too. I am pleasantly surprised to find the game does not shy away from discussing unideal relationships, in particular about couples who are at stages where their busy lives lessened their time together or where they simply ran out of things to share with each other. It is refreshing to see these different states of human relationships being talked about, some of which are relatable or at least conceivable enough to reflect some of the questions and messages posed in the game onto one’s life.

The game’s karma system, on the other hand, is not as well thought out. It is presented as a black-and-white scale for morally good and bad actions, but not all choices are designed in a similarly black-and-white manner. A few choices, while clearly different from their obviously better counterparts, lie closer to the grey area within their given contexts, giving rise to questions as to why they have been equated to morally bad actions.

Perhaps because I am a game reviewer so this case stands out to me, but Sumire’s “Sorry, that was boring” reply when Bo asked what she thought of his game is probably one of the more politely phrased, albeit not saving any face for Bo, opinions if Sumire honestly thinks so about Bo’s game. Furthermore, there is no indication that Sumire said that to spite Bo and she immediately followed up with an offer — not an unsolicited dump — of detailed feedback. Understandably, Bo is upset upon receiving such blunt negative feedback but given that Sumire is trying to be honest, polite, and constructive in that private conversation, it can be difficult to understand why that choice is necessarily morally bad. Even if we agree that Sumire’s response is a social faux pas, labeling it as a malicious act is rather far-fetched. If Sumire was trolling with “that was trash!”, it would undoubtedly be clear-cut and more in line with the game’s karma system that judges Sumire as a good or bad person according to her accumulated karma.

Due to the questionable tagging of some grey choices as plain bad choices, the general “you reap what you sow” idea that the game expresses through its karma system gets kind of spoiled. Nevertheless, the message that “one always has the choice to do good in spite of any poor decisions made previously” is very much presented nicely and notably evident in the hare’s side quest.

Nuances may not have been clarified for all situations in Sumire, but clarifications that are present allow its messages to be appreciated more wholly. I love how the game encourages players to think about what they want to do in their lives and how they can plan each day to get closer to their life goals, but also constantly reminds them that life is more than mere lists of checkboxes and a day can still be wonderful even when they did not manage to complete everything they set out for that day. In other words, life is more a journey than a fixed result to achieve.


While there are some nuances left to be desired in view of the big themes it touches on, Sumire has nonetheless successfully told a thought-provoking, magical yet realistic growing-up story of a young girl living in a little Japanese village. The art is charming, its music is something to die for, and the game has enough compelling elements to make it worthy of more than one playthrough. But more importantly, it is a work that touches the heart.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch

Enjoy unique Indie games? How about checking out our review of Say No! More?

Many thanks go to GameTomo Team for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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