By Steve Baltimore / August 26th, 2019
|Title||The Song of Saya|
|Release Date||May 6th, 2019|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Horror, Romance|
|Age Rating||18+ or All Ages on Steam|
I had always been interested in reading Saya no Uta, which is alternatively known as The Song of Saya. This Lovecraftian horror visual novel is one of the most highly-regarded visual novels of all time. It was written and directed by Gen Urobuchi, who worked on anime series such as Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Psycho-Pass. When JAST recently announced they would be remastering the game using a new engine with updated art assets, I felt like this was the perfect time for me to take at look at this classic. Did I find another personal favorite in the visual novel genre, or a short and very over-hyped title? Let’s find out.
The Song of Saya follows a young man named Sakisaka Fuminori. He survived a horrible accident that took his parents from him, but he was left with severe injuries. The doctors did some experimental surgery on him order to save his life. However, the micromachines placed in his brain had an unintended site effect: he now saw the world as a hellish nightmare filled with the smell of decay. Everyone in the world looks like horrible creatures from another plane of existence. This applies to his friends as well. His best friend Tonoh Koji and Koji’s girlfriend Takahata Omi both try to help him cope with the world around him while having no idea of the horrors he sees. Omi tries to help her friend Tsukuba Yoh become closer to Fuminori since she has a crush on him.
Though this world is bleak and even his friends terrify him with their appearances, he has a chance encounter with a girl that changes his life. Her name is Saya and she is the only person who appears normal to him. He treasures her greatly. She is the only light he has in this nightmarish world, but soon the madness of his world will be felt by those outside of it as well.
I’m rarely left speechless at the end of a story, but this was certainly one of those times. Each of the three endings can be described as “Bad” depending on your point of view. The whole time I was reading this I felt like the entire story is a testament to how perception works. To Fuminori, things that appeared normal to everyone else seemed like something straight out of darkest dreams of a madman, while vile things to the average person would seem beautiful to him. I felt this was very unique way of storytelling and something not seen very often.
The story also does a great job of showing what’s going on from each character’s point of view. This very much applies to Koji and Fuminori’s doctor Tanbo Ryoko. The good doctor knows much about what is really going on with Fuminori, but keeps most of this to herself until the time is right. I don’t think most people would see her as a good person, but her motivations are made very clear as the tale unfolds. Koji has his own reasons for figuring out exactly what is going on with Fuminori, but that gets into spoiler territory so you will have to check out the game for that juicy information.
To say The Song of Saya is a disturbing read would be a great understatement. This is one of the best written visual novels I’ve ever read – huge props have to go to the localization team for that – but all of themes here are very dark. This game is not for the faint of heart by any means, but honestly that’s what makes it special. How many games can you say “this is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read, and yet at the same time it is something beautiful as well”? There is a reason this game is called a “Classic” in the visual novel community, and I can safely say it has stood the test of time.
The artwork found in this game is nothing short of a masterpiece in its own right. The character designs are all top notch and fit this world very well. Some of the backgrounds in the game look like real life locations. They aren’t photorealistic, but they are stylized in such a way that they give off an eerie feel even before you see them through Fuminori’s eyes. Showing the world from both perspectives really makes this entire story feel more immersive. The eroge CGs range from vanilla to some pretty brutal altercations. The Steam version has been edited to remove these scenes, but I think those users should get the patch over on JAST’s website. As disturbing as some of them are, they really drive home just how messed up Fuminori’s world is. The game has plenty of gore and outright frightening events outside of these scenes as well. If I haven’t driven this home yet, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.
The Song of Saya has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a visual novel. Some of the tracks are very haunting and abrasive, almost to the point they have a slight industrial sound. Other tracks are lighter and seem to be filled with hope. These tracks fit the scenes portrayed in the game very well. The ending theme that features vocals by Ito Kanako is one of the saddest yet somehow prettiest songs you will ever hear. Her voice is simply amazing and caps off an already stellar experience.
I had put off reading The Song of Saya for years and I can safely say I was missing out one the most thought-provoking and well-written visual novels of all time. This is one of the most gory and violent games out there, but none of this is done for shock value, it all has a point. I know some of the more extreme elements here such as cannibalism and rape will turn off many readers, but for those willing to take the plunge you will find something much deeper here. This is a very short visual novel clocking in at around 6 hours, but it is worth every penny of the $19.99 asking price. In fact I am very tempted to order the Limited Physical Edition over on JList for $24.99 + shipping just have to a physical copy and the amazing soundtrack. If you’ve not read this one and can get past its very disturbing aspects, you find a one of kind experience that will leave you with the question – how far would you go for love?
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
classichorrorJAST USAromanceThe Song of Saya