Summer in Mara was a vibrant little adventure game following the trials and tribulations of a special little girl named Koa as she unraveled the mysteries of her lovely little world of Mara. She made lots of friends across the vast ocean and even thwarted the plans of the cruel alien race of Elits threatening all of Mara.
It makes sense that with all the deep lore Summer in Mara set in place that, aside from a sequel, the next sensible vehicle for more delectable details would come in the form of a visual novel. That’s where Stories of Mara comes into play. It’s Chibig’s answer to clamoring fans asking for more Mara. And the gorgeously drawn first episode, starring the fiery haired blacksmith Akaji, is what we’ll be talking about today.
Just like Summer in Mara, the artwork for Stories of Mara is exceptionally well done. Filled to the brim with a cast of colorful and diverse characters that even despite their flaws you find yourself loving anyway. There were plenty of different backgrounds and scene changes, each one a perfect representation of what you’d expect having played the origin game.
I really liked the small, special, one or two frame cutscenes that appeared once you got deeper into the story. Especially Saimi’s. I felt like hers really conveyed a fantastic sense of emotion that really added the right amount of gravity to the moment.
The soundtrack is the same as what you’d find in Summer of Mara and each character enters the scene with their own bit of music. Litio’s music was a bit overbearing, but that suits him perfectly and it honestly made me laugh when I thought about it.
Let me start off by saying that if you didn’t play Summer in Mara the story in general would be completely lost on you. That’s certainly not a fault of any kind, but definitely worth noting if you’re just intending to play this visual novel as it is. Luckily Chibig is offering the first episode for free on Steam so anyone is able to give it a play and see how they feel about it, or maybe it will encourage them to go and play Summer in Mara first before they dive into the story further.
Personally, I struggled a little bit when it came to the writing style and dialogue since there seemed to be a great deal of filler/off topic conversation. Also, if you cut the person off in order to get them back on task, it feels like that choice ultimately hurts your relationship with that character and you’re sent down a path to the neutral or bad endings. On the other hand, if you disagree with everyone who brushes off the main important topic of Koa, then you are also punished. I guess it felt like if you tried to make choices that felt true to the character of Akaji then it would push people away. That being said, I also found that some of the dialogue choices were barely different from one another, and the responses you received in return didn’t change much, if at all. Which made navigating the “right” and “wrong” choices difficult.
It’s my understanding that each episode will focus on one character in particular, from the Summer in Mara cast, while the others will just make appearances, so I was very excited to see that this one was featuring one of my favorite characters, Akaji the blacksmith. My hope was that we would get a more in-depth look into each of these featured characters, but unfortunately, at least with this episode, that didn’t seem to be the case. Aside from the main plot point of Koa being missing, I would’ve loved for the episode’s story to focus perhaps on something more intimate regarding Akaji or at least to learn more about her on a personal level.
While there is no gallery to unlock, at least not yet, there are twenty achievements on Steam that you can unlock. You’d have to play the game at least three times or more to get them all since there are three endings you can get based on your choices. That also means that even though the episode was relatively short there’s a decent amount of replayability, which is really nice.
One of my favorite extra parts to the game was that you got to make boat models for a lot of the quests. Although I wasn’t always sure I was making the right choices for the right character, I really had fun making each one and seeing how each boat turned out. Even my silly yellow paper boat model.
This was a fun little addition to the lore that Summer in Mara set in place, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next episode holds in store for the motley Mara crew. It’s a fairly short experience and free to boot so I’d absolutely say give it a try if you’re a fan of the original adventure game and looking for more of Koa’s shenanigans.
If you’re interested in checking out the first episode of Stories of Mara for yourself, you can find it on Steam free of charge.