I can't believe the number of people who have been searching for a place to download the first official Suzumiya Haruhi game, "The Promise of Haruhi Suzumiya"over the past few days and arriving here. Well, sorry to disappoint but there's no downloads here. Otherwise I could really get into trouble with Wordpress. Maybe you can check your local "Tokyo Library" and you might find something.
On the other hand, for the really loyal Suzumiya fans, you can purchase the game from PlayAsia or YesAsia. Unfortunately, the Premium Box hasn't been up for pre-ordering for some reason even though it was released on the same day as the regular edition of the game. I guess it must be really have to get a hold of due to the show and light novels' popularity. It seems even Amazon JP is having problems getting stock until the end of this year.
So what's the game like so far? Well, the following review contains spoilers so beware.
When you first startup the game, you're greeted with the Anime show's opening "Bouken Desho Desho?" even though "Melancholy" isn't the subtitle of this visual novel game. Afterwards, you hear a random character reading out the title and you're ready to begin.
The story starts from the Anime show's epilogue where Kyon is standing around waiting for Haruhi on a bright summer Sunday. It was the second time for the SOS team's little patrol but for some reason the rest of the members had all disappeared. It's only been a few days since the pair had escaped the "closed space" they were trapped in.
Heading to the cafe, Haruhi doesn't look too pleased. Well, of course not. According to the rules of the SOS Brigade, the later comer has to treat. After Kyon orders his ice coffee and Haruhi her cafe latte, Haruhi rants on about her SOS Brigade, making sure they will put up a new rule so that all members must be present no matter whether they have the cold or got caught in a traffic accident.
As you play as Kyon who tries to tell Haruhi about the other SOS members' secret, Haruhi gets upset saying that it can't be true and rushes out the cafe leaving Kyon to pay. Kyon begins to think maybe this conversation was what caused that "incident". The incident that happened 5 months after talking in the cafe. It was the next day after the school festival and even though it should have been autumn time, it was hot as if it was still summer.
You're then ready to play the main game starting from episode one "The Promise of Haruhi Suzumiya I" which takes place on the day before the festival. The SOS Brigade have already been established and are already in the process of preparing their movie. Kyon wakes up in the meeting room after some overnight editing work apparently but something was odd. There's was a bit of a deja vu feeling going on...
Could this be the work of Haruhi again? Indeed it was. Kyon and the others are stuck in a closed space and are repeatedly going through the same day before the festival so that Haruhi can perfect their movie.
Moving around the school and speaking with characters, the SOS (Seamless Operation System) that features the Motion Portrait system kicks in. The idea is you go through a number of topics so that you can try and get along with the current character. Once you've talked about a few topics, the SOS mode will exit whether you fail or not. Successfully talking with them leaves you with the SOS Brigade emblem. You might be glad to know the subjects are random and you end up with the same subjects occasionally.
With the Motion Portrait technology running, you don't see the usual Tatchie (still portraits) changing from one picture to the other to show their current mood. They change between four different expressions and it happens in real time.
The seamless expression changing isn't as impressive as I thought it would be and neither are the "motion portraits". It pretty much resembles what you see with the demos shown on the official site. Their head sways lightly from side to side, they blink and their mouth opens and closes when they talk. It doesn't look very natural so it's not really that different from the traditional way visual novels are presented. You do see them looking away from you sometimes, though.
There have been some fun moments in the game so far. While Kyon was returning to his editing, he had decided to secretly peek at his folder full of secret Mikuru photos. Due to an unexpected visit, he leaves the room with it minimised under a web browser window. When he returns, Haruhi is there using it to browse the web to see if anyone mentioned their movie. Worried Haruhi would see the pictures, you're given a choice to either "Speak to her" or say, "Hey, a UFO!" I tried UFO and Kyon ended up being tricked by Haruhi. He thought Haruhi really created a UFO with her powers.
SHY is a little different from the usual visual novel games. In most visual novel games, the story progresses no matter if you make a "right" or "wrong" choice. Here you're stuck on a loop, repeating the same scenarios until you've gone through the key topics required for that chapter. It's very likely you'll end up getting stuck on chapter two without a guide and there's a total of seven to get through.
Fortunately, the game does a few things to help you out. Choices you made before are highlighted in green, it automatically quick saves before you need to make a choice and you can press the Start button to skip all the text you've already read/heard. Of course, the dialogue does change a little too but not that much. There are over fourteen different endings for the game including the bad endings.
Outside the main game, you've got your usual image gallery to unlock and view, a jukebox mode and also the option to replay all the mini games you've come across.
Mini games includes a game of poker and also the beach volleyball game where you must hit a button sequence that appears before the time runs out.
There's also a clock featuring Yuki Nagato that you can set your PSP vertically on the stand that comes with the Premium Box package. You can set an alarm and your birthday in so that Yuki speaks out an appropriate message. Pressing L makes her speak out the time followed by a phrase too such as, "Ohayou (Good morning)."
The overall presentation of "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yakusoku" is very good with some sharp clean Anime illustrations loyal to the show. However, the BGM doesn't loop very well. Often you'll hear pauses before the track starts from the beginning again. Other than that, the fully voiced dialogues recorded with the original Anime show cast are top-notch. Playing through the game once will take you a good several hours although the rest of the story branches shouldn't take as long afterwards.
I doubt there will be an English version any time in the future but I'm pretty certain there will be a fan translation patch available. In the meantime, maybe you'll enjoy mucking around with the Japanese version to see what it's like. Between this and the PS2 game, "Suzumiya Haruhi no Tomadoi", fans should have something to keep them busy until the second season of the show is ready to air.