Some months ago, I wanted to make my purchase from Japan Retro Direct worth the shipping cost when packages were expensive due to Covid. I searched the Dreamcast section of games and saw one that was just called “Snow” with two girls spinning as snow’s falling, and it just seems to whisper in your ears: “You’re gonna have a sad time.” It was in my cart and ready to go before I realized it.
I’m an absolute sucker for nakige, which are games designed to make you cry (naku = “to cry”, ge = short for “geemu/game”). Kanon’s a classic favorite of mine (tho I’ve only watched both animes for it so far), which suspiciously involves snow and sadness as well. Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna (I Am Setsuna) is another sad snow-filled game with one of my absolute favorite game OSTs that I overplay even now. Crystar is the game I’ll scream on rooftops about to the audience of no one else whose played it (another jaw-dropping, heart tearing OST here ; _;). ef – A Tale of Memories still makes me cry while thinking about it since I loved it to hell and back in high school. Narcissu–
You get the point, I like sad. This is up my alley so much. Let’s sad~
Before we begin, I want to shout out the recently revived translation effort for the game here! If this game seems up your alley as you read this, consider volunteering to help keep the project moving!
Some apologies ahead of time:
- I played this game on-and-off for a few months, so I’m a little fuzzy on the beginning of the game. I’m writing this blogpost after playing for 5-6 hours marathoning the 2nd half, so there will be a lot for the Sumino-specific story.
- Early on, I was taking pictures of the screen with my phone and using composite from the Dreamcast, so the photos aren’t the best. Now I have a RetroTINK Pro + S-Video -> capture card -> raspberry pi -> discord robot for super easy screenshots~
The game starts with the image of a shrine covered in snow. You’re told about a story from long ago, when dragons existed (wait wha-).
“Once there was a dragon princess who ruled the heavens.
One day, she fell in love with a boy from the surface.
The love between them was forbidden.
The dragon coated the ground in eternal snow, as if to break away from her lover.
Hundreds of years later, our story begins.
Feelings dulled to time will cross once again in the land where the snow buries only the truth.”
Alright, well that was–
At this point, I swore I hit some weird copy protection from playing a Japanese game on a US console. The game just screams at you, making your ears bleed. The camera pans up to see you’re lying on the ground, staring right at a girl’s panties. Classy start.
She does the usual routine of calling you a pervert over and over, then throws a bunch of snowballs at you. Except one of the snowballs has a large rock inside of it, and she smashes your head in.
You fucking died.
–is what the whole village thinks. After a while, you wake up in what appears to be a shrine while wearing a white funeral kimono. I believe they were about to light you on fire.
So of course since immolation is not on your to-do list, you sit up and tell them you’re fine.
Cue the screaming. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH K-KANATA CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD!! WAIT PRIEST, DON’T ABANDON ME HEEERREEEEEE!!!”
Finally you calm her down after pointing at your legs and convincing the girl that ghosts don’t walk. She’s so taken aback by your firm logic that she sighs in relief. It turns out she’s your cousin Tsugumi who asked you, Kanata, to come to this remote village to help with running her family’s inn. Apparently you were caught in a rockslide before the snowball incident, so that’s more likely what “killed” you.
Realizing that since you’re not dead and there’s no need to have a funeral anymore, she says you can eat the special occasion sushi she ordered to get some energy back. On the way to sushi, you find…
More screaming!! The little girl who (almost) murdered you sees you and screams “YOU’RE A GHOST!” together with her cat and runs away in absolute panic before we can explain anything. You try to chase after her, but she disappears too quickly.
Now we’re at the part of the game where all the heroines/routes are introduced. First, we run into Sumino and her mother Sayori.
As you’re running after the pink-haired kid, you realize it’s oddly cold. Someone drives past in a truck to offer you a lift, but then suddenly screams that the dead have risen and guns it down the road. You eventually run into Sumino who, to no one’s surprise, screams in terror until you can calm her down. She points out that you’re still wearing a funeral kimono and bandages, hence why you look like the walking dead. You fix that, then walk to her house to warm up.
You may notice the screaming trend here. Sumino convinces her mom that you’re alive since you have feet, which is for some reason the most firmly held belief in this village. You find out that Sumino is your childhood friend from when you lived in this village 10ish years ago (huh, Kanon called), but you don’t remember her very well. She’s disappointed, but hopes you’ll remember in time.
Conveniently, you remember her in your dreams as the girl whose jacket took the top award for cutest jacket that tries a little too hard. Just like in real life, you remember her dropping an anman bun, having it roll down the snowy road, then her crying over it. You tell her it’s just a bit dirty, tear off the dirty section, and tell her it’s still good. Just like you did earlier that day! Thankfully before long, you tell her you remember everything. Yay~.
In case you’re wondering, anman are steamed hot buns filled with sweet red bean paste. Yes. anman are important to the plot. No, I’m not kidding.
She has another childhood friend, Meiko, who doesn’t appear to have a route in this version. (There are several different versions of Snow, such as Snow Portable for the PSP that introduces a new character and might have a Meiko route, but since the game was originally in a 4:3 screen ratio, playing on a PSP cuts a lot of the pictures off. Then there’s the Android version, but that’s 18+ and I haven’t heard the best things about those scenes…)
She greets you with the nicest message of “Why the hell are you alive?” It turns out she’s the daughter of the town doctor, Seishiro. He pronounced you dead and she confirmed it, so to be fair she has either the right to be startled or to be sued for malpractice. She tells you that when Sumino found out you were hurt, she performed a “ohyakudo,” also known as a hundred times worship, where someone walks back and forth a hundred times before a shrine while offering a prayer each time. She mentions that it’s her best guess as to why you’re alive, and even if it’s not related, you should really thank Sumino for doing that for you.
Also if anything happens to Sumino, she will not hesitate to stab you~
She’s constantly messing with you and talking in strange voices, but throughout the game you get used to her. It even gets to the point where when you see each other, you both go “usu” as a somewhat grunt, gruff greeting between casual friends.
The general setup of the game is that your job is to hike all the way out to a waterfall in the middle of the snow, fill up two giant tanks of water, then lug it all the way back to the inn so they can cook with it. The inn’s gimmick is cooking with fresh spring water, so your job is to do the heavy man lifting. Your cousin pays you 200 yen a day with no remorse, but since you’re getting a room and delicious extravagant meals, you don’t really have much room to complain. You’ll run into a lot of the characters while you’re performing this job.
After Sumino’s cast, the next route you can pursue is the pink-haired girl. You run into her several times in the beginning, but it takes something like 3 attempts to chase her down and convince her you’re not a panty pervert ghost whose haunting her.
Eventually you convince her and she stops being mad. Her dialect makes her sound like an old country woman, despite being a small kid. You find out she’s scavenging for food and eating things like nuts off the ground.
Behold, the saddest cat possible~. You find out she’s waiting at the shrine for her parents to return, but you tell her to go home and eat proper food. After some reluctance, she does. You repeat this a few times before noticing that something’s up. She doesn’t seem to have a home to return to and her parents haven’t been seen in years. The sadness of the game peers around the corner at you, light glittering off the knife, before returning to the casual fun times~. You play with her a bit, giving her a ride on your shoulder and spinning like a father might before you realize you’re not on her route and proceed to ignore her for the rest of the game. Whoops.
Next we have green-haired screaming child, who assaults you one day when walking with Sumino. She screams that she sees evil and stops you from the lewd act of holding hands with Sumino. She’s trying to be a cool hero of justice, but then falls out of the tree. You protect Sumino from her giant icicle, to which this girl gets sad that you’re being mean to her, and that she just wanted to play. You tell her that she can’t do anything that’ll hurt people, so later she comes back and throws snowballs at you. You get mad again, asking why she’s bothering you, but she replies that she knows you from childhood and you finally came back! (wait, I thought we did this already). You inform her you don’t know her, but she promises to make you hers. On this route, we ignore her constantly. Once we’re on the Sumino route, she comes into our house late at night through the window, says something like “I see your heart is set on another, and that my dreams will never be fulfilled. I’ll never see you again, goodbye.” and then peaces from the plot forever. Huh.
Lastly is the strangest character so far. Based on my decisions, I only ever saw her once in the scene above. We were fetching water when we found her asleep, surrounded by animals. She wakes up, sees up, and sprints away like a panicked animal. We never see her again. That’s literally all I saw of her, so can’t say much. Animal spirit in a human body maybe? Dragon related? Who knows~.
After a surprisingly long opening, we made enough decision points to land on Sumino’s route. This game is *very* long-winded.
Spoiler warning!! ⚠️ We will be talking about the rest of the game in detail, so you might not want to read ahead if you plan on experiencing the game on your own in the future!
Suddenly one morning, your cousin who runs the inn says she’s giving you the inn. You’re given 2 options: “Okay, I”ll take it.” or “Give me sometime to think.” Being a rational person, I picked the later option. You run to Sumino’s house to ask for advice, then when you get home, you find the inn sold with a note that says “get out by tomorrow kthxbai!” AND THE GAME ENDS IN A BAD ENDING.
So, time travel back, we pick the option to agree and sign paperwork. We once again head over to Sumino’s for advice, then when we return, your cousin has left the game, never to be seen again. Seeing you panic over what to do, Sumino and her mom decide to help you run the inn. They also casually push the idea of Sumino living at the inn together with you as the inn mistress, which leaves just the two of you under the roof. You know what that means~
ALL NIGHT PILLOW FIGHTS!! (>’.’)>~!
She agrees to work at the inn with anman as her pay because, in her words, anman is the source of her life. Remember this o _o
So now starts the slowest part of the game. This is about where I dropped it for a long time since it’s everyday life with Sumino, her mom, and you trying to run the inn. It’s super adorable, but happy and slow. This game was originally an 18+ PC title, so I suspect this is where a lot of the sex scenes were, but all we get is slightly creepy behavior and dorkiness. So we’ll call this plot lull the Snow Hump Hump.
For this part of the story, Sumino’s on full adorable blast with the full range of 90s anime girl noises:
While at your mom’s store, Sumino shyly admits she wants a toy ring and dreams of getting married. When she’s not looking, you quietly buy the ring from her mom using the meager salary you got from carrying water, then surprise propose to her one night:
This route is just too adorable. In case it wasn’t obvious how she reacts…
…it’s by making her favorite anime girl noise “euuu euuuuuuuu” followed by happily accepting your proposal!
Your engaged couple life begins as you work at the inn with random events like:
And more weird ones:
Sumino also sets up March 3rd as the date to try on their custom-made wedding dress. The future looks bright.
Your adorable wife is getting drunk off a glass or two of 1% wine.
Meiko comes by as well, but leaves the cryptic farewell of “Make sure to make her as happy as you possibly can.” before heading out.
I was really, really itching for the sad train to pull into the station so I was really excited by this subtle hint:
My immediate thoughts went to she’s been dead the entire time and is fading out of existence! but that might be hoping too much.
But as I hoped, the feel train has left the station. I hope you packed your bags (and tissues).
Sumino slowly starts spacing out and forgetting little things. Her mom asks her to run errands, but she comes home after forgetting what she was out for.
Then later when you come home, she asks you if you’ve seen her anman anywhere. You look at her oddly and point to the table in front of her with the bag sitting on it.
It slowly gets worse as time goes on. One evening when her mom is busy and needs something from the store, Sumino volunteers to go get it and leaves before her mom can stop her. Several hours pass and everyone’s worried sick. You venture out into the town in the dark and eventually find her quivering at the shrine.
She’s completely forgotten how to go home or how to return to the inn. She’s stuck in an unfamiliar place, stranded in the snow. You warm her up with her jacket, calm her down, then escort her back to the inn.
It’s at this point that the family decides to take her to the hospital. She doesn’t know why they’re taking her. You and her mom just tell her she’s got a cold that could get worse if they don’t look into it. The doctor examines her and tells her that she’ll be fine, but that he wants her to stay as an inpatient for a while. Privately however, he informs everyone else that her mind is regressing similar to someone with Alzheimer’s. It will slowly get worse over time and there’s no treatment. The only factor is the will of the heavens.
At the hospital, she asks why she’s there since she doesn’t even remember coming. They decide to move her back home, since being around nostalgic places may help her maintain her memory.
Her disease reaches the point where she doesn’t remember eating after a meal. She complains and throws a tantrum that Kanata is ignoring her and refusing to feed her. She hits Kanata like a stubborn toddler would, but she doesn’t realize how strong she is and hits him for real. Once she finally tires herself out, she passes out, disheveled on the bed.
In one of her more together moments, she asks you a question that made me hesitant and mull it over:
That was a hard choice for me to make. Sayre and I talked it over a bit, and we finally went with telling her the truth. Even so, Kanata softens it a lot, saying she’s only a little sick and will get better soon. This gives Sumino some relief, but stabs into our heart.
At this point, the downward spiral accelerates. After dinner with her mom and Kanata, she throws a fit accusing them of eating without giving her anything. She calls her mom a horrible person for tormenting her child this way and screams at her.
Her mom, at her absolute breaking point, snaps and slaps Sumino. The sound effect really tore through as the music stopped and the screen went white.
Sumino’s unable to comprehend what happens and continues her tirade.
Eventually, Sumino wears herself down and passes out at the table, leaving Kanata and Sayori sitting together in silence.
Sayori instantly feels guilty about what she’s done and apologizes to Kanata. Both her and Kanata acknowledge just how difficult this situation is for them, and Kanata doesn’t fault her for breaking under pressure.
From then on, Sumino goes into episodes of saying “I don’t want to eat, I’m not hungry” then complaining and demanding food later on, even after just eating. Her mom offers her anman, her self-proclaimed source of life, but she refuses, saying they taste terrible.
At one point, you catch her voraciously shoveling snow into her mouth, complaining of her hunger. You try to wrestle her away, saying you made an onigiri for her in the other room, but she thrashes and batters you. She claws at you and leaves you bleeding.
Once she calms down, she glances at her hand and notices something: the plastic purple gem Kanata proposed with.
“What’s this thing? It’s in the way,” she says as she casts the wedding ring away.
Kanata’s spirit absolutely breaks at this point. It’s at this point that he feels like his beloved Sumino may truly be gone. That ring is the link between her and him. He spends the next several hours clawing through the snow in desperation, but has no luck. He thinks he sees a glimmer in the lake, so he dives into the icy water without hesitating and searches around. After cutting his feet on sharp rocks and nearly passing out from hypothermia, he somehow manages to stumble onto the toy ring.
Even with the ring back, Kanata can’t help but feel in despair. Just to drive the knife deeper, the game gives you this choice:
I talked to my discord at this point and described the plot. I suspected that if I picked the first option, my character might try to kill Sumino to put her out of her misery. ItsumoKnight made the valid point that the plot would become Silent Hill 2 at that point with James and Mary. Knowing where that plot went, I decided to select the first option and see what happened.
The plot continues for another day, with Sumino now unable to even remember Kanata’s name. She barely remembers her mom, but she calls her the impersonal Sayori instead of mom. Knowing his fiancé doesn’t even recognize him anymore, Kanata faces another decision.
This one is a more clear-cut choice as to what ending, but emotionally the first option felt like it fit the main character much more. I went with that one to see what happens, and you steal away from the town at night. Suddenly, you wake up in a bright room. A man you don’t know asks how you’re feeling, and you reply that you feel good enough to go for a jog. He responds in a familiar way which you find annoying. You’ve had this interaction before. A woman comes to talk to you. She mentions something about her daughter and a promise to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. You don’t know anything about that and tell her “who cares about that.” You’re alone in that quiet, white room.
So I guess we somehow also got sick when we left town and had our memories regress like Sumino’s. Well, time for time travel and redoing the decision.
Rather than breaking down and giving up, Kanata racks his brain for ideas on how to help. He suddenly remembers the hundred time worship Sumino did to save him and desperately gives it a shot since he’s out of options.
At the shrine, he hikes up the long staircase to the top, throws all the money in his wallet into the offering box, then vigorously shakes the hanging bell before offering his plea. “That’s 1,” he says as he heads all the way down the stairs, places a rock to keep track, then turns around and does it again. Around 20 times in, light breaks. Halfway through, he falls, but pulls himself up. It’s midday and he hasn’t eaten or rested, but he drags himself along. 70 prays in, he collapses again and thinks of Sumino.
After the vision of her in his head, he tears himself off the ground and keeps going. Only ten left when his knee gives in and sends him to the ground. He slowly pulls himself back up, but forgets what count he’s on. He keeps dragging himself along until he faints and wakes up in his room.
(I’m still not sure how big this staircase is for it to take him 36 hours to climb it 100 times? Especially when he climbs it now and then anyway…)
Staring at the ceiling, he realizes it must have all been a dream. However…
Sumino, who has been treating him like a stranger, walks into his room that morning and calls for him. Kanata starts crying for joy, with Sumino saying he’s acting weird. Sayori hears the commotion and comes over as well, also breaking down at her daughter’s mental return.
She seems to have all her memories from before her regression, but none during it. She’s essentially forgotten that she’s forgotten anything.
To keep things simple, they tell Sumino that she’s been asleep this whole time. To test the waters, Sayori hesitantly asks Sumino how she feels about anman:
Sayori and Kanata believe the gods answered Kanata’s prayers at the shrine and saved the day, conveniently enough. Sumino remembers they have to pick up her dress tomorrow, bringing tears to Kanata again since she remembered their engagement. Sumino wants to sketch since she hasn’t drawn in forever, so they decide to go to the lake.
We’re finally back to the happy, anman-filled silly antics after surviving the sad gauntlet!
Sumino makes Kanata stand in a weird pose while she sketches him, then gives him the above drawing. He promises to keep it close to him forever. Sumino suddenly realizes she’s missing her ring, but Kanata pulls it out of his pocket from earlier and gives it back to her.
What a happy ending…
JUST KIDDING THE FEELS TRIP IS BACK TO KILL YOU
Sumino develops a fever of around 102-103 and, after half an hour or so of in-game happy, the sad song comes back. You know the game lured you in and gave you the bait and switch.
Kanata tells her that if she sleeps and reduces her fever, they can pick up the dress tomorrow. Anxious and excited, she attempts to sleep. In the morning however, her fever has gone up to 41.3C. In Fahrenheit, that’s 106 degrees!!
It was at this point that Sayre and I looked at each other. “Doesn’t a 106 degree fever mean a medical emergency that kills people?”
Sumino refuses to back down and insists on going today, instead of, you know, going to a fucking hospital. Her mom finally agrees (wat), and Kanata agrees to carry her on her back to the store. Sumino tells her mom that she loves her and says goodbye. Sayori realizes that something is terribly wrong at this point.
Now Sayre and I are pondering the insurance liability for dying on store property. This scene was just not as well delivered as the earlier sad scenes, so we ripped on it a little haha.
She tells Kanata to hurry quickly to the store, then go by the hospital on the way back.
You can see Sumino’s arms draped over Kanata’s shoulders as he’s carrying her through the snow.
She tells him how happy he’s made her, and that she’s glad he came back to the village.
He asks where they should go on their honeymoon. She thinks about it, then decides that Hawaii would be a great escape from the snow.
She briefly goes quiet before Kanata prods her awake again.
“I… was really happy with you…”
And she dies in your arms.
SHE FUCKING DIES. Holy shit I’m tearing up just remembering this scene. This game dragged you through mud earlier, only to offer a nice hot shower and fluffy towel on the other side, then filled the bathroom floor with glass when you got out. Fuuuuuck.
I can’t see in front of me through the tears.
But I have to let you try on the wedding dress.
I can’t see you through the tears, Sumino…
The scene fades to white as you remember play marrying Sumino as kids. You use a curtain as a veil and profess your love for one another.
And then it got weird.
You find yourself in front of the shrine, hearing the voice of the pink-haired girl calling “Mom, over here, over here!” You hear a voice respond in kind that sounds like Sumino’s. You see them playing together, but they don’t see you at all. Eventually, as things fade, they slowly turn to you.
And the game ends.
WHAT!? So were the missing parents of the girl us the whole time? Does this mean those two are both dead now? Does me meeting them mean I’m also dead!?
What caused the amnesia!? Was it the dragon’s at the beginning? Was it plot convenience? How the hell do we have a dead time-travel daughter who talks like an old lady!?
For beating the game, the snow in the main title has melted, leaving a beautiful forest of green and confusion. There’s a new menu option called “Legend” which appears to be a prologue about the dragon fable, so I’ll have to read that next and see if it sheds any light on what I just saw. If not, we’ll have to play our time travel old lady daughter’s route next. And what’s with that animal girl!? And the green-haired screeching girl!?
Snow’s not ending anytime soon, is it…?