Michelle Fong Ha Cheung is a young professional working woman living in Hong Kong during the heydays of the 1980s. During the summer of 1986— a year after the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed— her carefully calculated life takes a detour one day when she breaks a heel on the way to work. This seemingly small act leads her to meet Sam Ka Yan Wong, a free-spirited and vivacious video store owner who seems to be everything Michelle is not. Despite being so different, there's a fast connection between Michelle and Sam... a connection that quickly turns into something more than just an odd friendship.
A Summer's End — Hong Kong 1986 is the first Visual Novel from Oracle and Bone Studios. It is described as "a new media homage to Asian cinema and Hong Kong's golden age of entertainment". A Summer's End is a joint project between Charissa So and Tida Kietsungden and features a soundtrack that includes independent and contemporary artists such as Timecop1983, Stevia Sphere, and Crystal Cola.
A spiritual sequel, In the Ocean, I Learned to Float, is in development. Some of the characters who appeared in the game are expected to show up in the sequel.
The official site can be found here.
A Summer's End — Hong Kong 1986 provides examples of the following:
- The '80s: As one can probably tell by the subtitle, A Summer's End takes place in Hong Kong in 1986. It's not simply an aesthetic choice— besides being a homage to Asian cinema and music of the time, the story takes place one year after the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, and the handover of Hong Kong is a looming presence of uncertainty that comes up throughout the game several times.
- '80s Hair: Cecilia has permed, feathered hair. Sam's hair is a more subtle example.
- All Women Love Shoes: Mrs. Tam, Michelle's boss, is a shoe lover who is rumored among Michelle's coworkers to have a closet of over 10000 pairs of luxury shoes. This is why when Mrs. Tam recommends a cobbler to Michelle after her heel breaks, Michelle knows they must be something special.
- Animesque: Several blog posts on the official site mentions how anime of the 80s (such as City Hunter and Kimagure Orange Road) had a heavy influence on the game's aesthetic. In one post Kietsungden names the art of Haruhiko Mikimoto, Akemi Takada and Akihiro Yamada as some early artistic influences.
- Cool Big Sis: Sam likens Cecilia to being like the cool older sister she never had.
- Decade-Themed Filter: Many CGs in the game have a neon overlay over them, leaning towards the blues and magentas commonly associated with The '80s.
- Deliberate VHS Quality: The game opens with an effect that evokes a VHS tape being started, complete with grainy quality, tracking lines, and the word PLAY in blocky white letters. The segment from Sam's point-of-view is bookended with similar VHS effects. It starts with a rewind effect and ends with a fast-forward effect, signifying the story going back in time to go over events from her perspective.
- Empathic Environment: If the player chooses to stay in the restaurant with Joey instead of following Sam, the scene ends with Michelle left behind in a gloomy rainstorm.
- First Period Panic: At one point, Sam remembers her first period at 12 years old, in which trying to tell her older brother only results in him telling her to talk to her dad, who in turn tells her to go to the drug store. When she asks the man at the counter for "a medicine for bleeding", he misunderstands and tells her to go to the hospital, which understandably left the young Sam in a panic. Luckily, a nurse at the hospital is able to give her a sanitary pad.
- Hopeless Suitor: Joey, a man who works at Michelle's office, is clearly into her despite the fact she shows no interest in him. Even in the game's "Bad End", in which Michelle stays with Joey at a restaurant instead of pursuing Sam, Michelle ends up with an unnamed man from America.
- Love at First Sight: The segment from Sam's point of view reveals she was charmed by Michelle from the moment they met.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It is never revealed whether the mysterious old woman that sets Michelle on the right path on her second visit to Mong Kok was a hallucination or real.
- Neon City: This is how Mong Kok is depicted.
- Nice Guy: Joey is an oblivious Hopeless Suitor, but he's overall a friendly guy whose worst crimes are being dense and kind of pushy. Even when Michelle suddenly ditches him at the restaurant, he is understanding and encourages her to pursue Sam, sensing that the two have some unfinished business between them.
- Non Standard Game Over: A Summer's End only has two endings, but the game's "Bad End" can be seen as this. In it, Sam and Michelle don't take their relationship any further and they end up with two different people on two different paths, quashing the story far earlier than the game's true end.
- Office Lady: Michelle is a prim and proper secretary at a publishing company. Sam actually calls her an OL.
- Period Piece: The story takes place during the summer of 1986.
- The Place: As the title indicates, it's set in Hong Kong.
- Punny Name: Sam's English name came about as a pun. Back when she and Cecilia used to manage a shop together, at the end of each day Cecilia would ask Sam to grab dinner with her. "Let's eat dinner" in Cantonese is "食晚飯", (roughly sounding something like sik maan faan) and after saying it so many times Cecilia noticed it sounded a bit like "Samantha", and the name stuck.
- Retraux: A Summer's End leans very hard into its '80s aesthetic, from the character art (which has a lot of visual cues from anime of the 80s such as City Hunter and Kimagure Orange Road) to the UI (which is made to resemble an old television with VHS setting menus) to the occasional use Deliberate VHS Quality. The game's trailer is also deliberately made to evoke the recording of an 80's music video, complete with 4:3 aspect ratio, VHS degradation effects, and rapid jump cuts.
- Romantic Rain: The scene in which Michelle decides to follow Sam out of the restaurant turns into this, with Michelle apologizing and the two sharing a kiss. Note that this only happens if the player chooses to leave Joey and follow Sam. If not, that scene ends with Michelle left alone in the same rain with a much more somber atmosphere, turning it more into a Gray Rain of Depression.
- Scenery Porn: This blog post goes into the effort and research put into the set design of the game, and it shows. A Summer's End contains several very accurate Hong Kong settings, such as the seascapes of Sai Kung and the streets of Mong Kok.
- Shoulders of Doom: As a proper Office Lady of the 1980s, Michelle's suit includes noticeable shoulder pads.
- Title by Year: As the title indicates, it's set in 1986.
- Tomboyish Name: Samantha shortens her English name to Sam because it's "easier to say and easier to spell".
- Uptight Loves Wild: In an inversion, it's the free-spirited Sam who falls for the uptight Office Lady Michelle first, with Michelle gradually warming up to her.
- Workaholic: Michelle puts in so much extra work at the end of the summer quarter in an attempt to get her mind off Sam that her boss actually requires her to take a day off.
- Yuri Genre: A Summer's End is a Romance Game between two young women with heavy anime influences.