Warning: Pretty violent in game pictures in this review.
Saya no Uta is an Adult Visual Novel centered around Fuminori who after suffering a horrific car crash that killed the rest of his family, is saved by an experimental method of brain surgery. Upon opening his eyes he sees that the world around him has transformed into a hellish landscape of intestines, disturbing creatures and endless darkness instead of a sky. After some time of laying in the hospital bed, miserable, he decided to end his life and that night a young girl named Saya enters his room. She is the first person he has seen since waking up and quickly takes a liking to her. It turns out she was looking for her father and after some time asks her to move in with him, promising her he’ll find him for her. As Fuminori’s only company in a world gone mad he is fiercely protective of her and willing do anything to protect her.
It is a very interesting tale with no villains or heros, only tragedy and hopelessness. It is also a very dark game that features rape, torture and murder. As most of the story is shown through the eyes of Fuminori you will experience the same things as him, which means you will be looking at gore for most of the game. This is not a game to be played if you have a weak stomach or one were you can make your situation any better. Hopelessness is the main emotion this title plays at and there are only two instances where you can choose what to do. One of them is near the end of the game and the other leads to a dead end meaning this is the type of visual novel where nearly all of your time will be right clicking and reading. That makes the game sound boring but truth be told I couldn’t stop thinking about the horror/mystery story that it tells and I always wanted to know what happens next even when I hesitate to read more as something terrible is about to happen.
Aside from Saya and Fuminori, his best friends from before the accident are still around called Koji, Yoh and Omi. As it turns out the world is completely fine but due to some brain damage and the experimental surgery, Fuminori now sees the world as a monstrous place. That means that the monsters are in fact ordinary people but appear as grotesque creatures to him. Upon starting the game this is the first thing you learn. Everything appears normal to him at first as he hears the noises one would expect from a hospital but open opening his eyes he sees everything much differently than anyone else and his other senses like smell and touch quickly adjust to match the putrid things he is seeing. It is a terrible condition that as you may expect quickly deteriorate his sanity and morality. If not for Saya he would have surely gone completely mad or gone through with killing himself. He tries to go forth living a normal life and his friends are very supportive to boot, though seeing them as monsters and the very sound of them speaking sends shivers down his spine makes it near impossible for him to keep the life he once had.
Everyone is fully voice acted and speak in Japanese. The English text is very good and I spotted no errors or anything of the sort. Sound effects and music work perfectly together to create a mood of unease and a lingering feeling that everything is very wrong. Great placement of music as well. It is warped and twisted in heavier scenes and strangely calm during others. Only one track close to the finale felt extremely out of place, it’s called “Savage” and ruined the mood completely as it sounds like it belongs in a comedy like Joe Dirt or something similar, instead of being in a tense life or death moment. Art is pretty solid and it does a good job at making characters look insane, happy or furious. There are not many characters but the ones that are there are well fleshed out and likable enough to have you worrying when something happens. That is when you are not seeing them through the eyes of Fuminori. In that case their voices are so weird, warped and squeaky that you may want to reach for your speaker and hate being near them. Which is exactly what Fuminori feels about talking to them even if they are trying to help.
The great thing about Saya no Uta is that they never show the monsters completely so it leaves it to you to fill in the blanks with your imagination. At most they will show you one of the creature’s bulgy blood shot eyes peering at you with enough descriptions on its appearance as to get a good idea of what is looking you dead in the eye. A weird artistic choice they went with is to use 3D models for the intestines laying around which really contradicts with the nice 2D hand drawn background. I have no idea why they did this but it does not look good at all. The 3D stuff is really outdated and detracts from the “gross out” factor. Not enough to ruin the dreadful mood or the environment itself but it is extremely noticeable and a negative aspect. To be fair it may have looked good back when it came out but has not aged well at all, unlike the hand drawn stuff.
This being a hentai game there is sex , both willing and unwilling. Saya looks very young which is kind of disturbing but this is not the kind of game where they go at it every few minutes. Sex is an unusual occurrence and doesn’t feel forced in. Needless to say at this point, this is not a title you’d want a kid playing. Or if you are suffering from depression for that matter. Saya no Uta does a great job at making you feel uneasy and hopeless which is something I’d imagine would negatively impact you. That goes to say how well this game accomplished what it set out to do. I went in expecting just a thoughtless gore fest but quickly realized it was in fact an amazing horror/mystery that I couldn’t get out of my head. The fact that it isn’t set in hell and all the monsters are regular people is a very interesting concept. Would you freak out and kill an ugly “monster” just because of its looks alone? How long would you stay sane if you had that condition? Could you possibly sleep in a pulsating and writhing hunk of flesh even if in your mind you knew it was just a regular bed? And would you even try to keep any of your friends? This title raises some pretty interesting questions in just it’s opening alone. It is so much more than a simple hentai game and should be experience by any fans of the genre if you can handle the dark subject matter.