You can tell when some forms of media are going to hit you hard. The moment I began playing Sumire on the Switch, I suspected it would have the potential to devastate me. And I mean, I was partially right. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt, and haunting game, one where every moment can count, and it can leave you feeling about how much people’s actions can matter.
Sumire is a child facing multiple challenges. Her grandmother recently passed away. Her father took off. Her mother is severely depressed, leaving Sumire to take care of herself. But the future is full of potential as evidenced by an otherworldly encounter following a dream. Sumire saw her grandmother, who told her something she couldn’t hear. When she woke, a strange flower seed was in her room. After she planted it, it came to life and begged her for what could turn into a perfect day. And so, Sumire sets out to the world around her.
From there, you live a day in Sumire’s life. Your goal is to have a good, potentially perfect, day. While there’s a general plan, which can involve things like visiting a Wisteria tree Sumire would visit with her grandmother, other tasks develop depending on how willing someone is to connect with the world around them. Perhaps due to the supernatural nature of things, you can interact with people, animals, and even inanimate objects. A cat also mourning Sumire’s grandmother might ask if it’s better to forget a lost loved one. A scarecrow might be losing its magical power and not be able to maintain its fight against birds if you don’t return at a certain time. How do you handle an encounter with a former best friend? Do you take time you would have spent running errands to play card and board games? Keeping track of time, talking to people, and looking around you can mean making things better for both Sumire and those around her.
And when I mean there are options, there are absolutely every kind of choice here. You decide what Sumire does, and those decisions shape her day and the ending. Sumire can turn out to be a kindhearted soul or she could be a real brat. There’s constant potential for things to be good. But they can also be bad. And in each case, it is up to the person playing on their Switch to determine how things will go in Sumire.
Which means it is also great that Sumire is quite short. A run through the game will only take a few hours. You can’t buy every cosmetic. You might not even be able to help everyone. Don’t worry about extra save states. It embraces the idea of taking one shot to make the most of things. To embrace life. You can see time pass. You can watch the flower deteriorate. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing that this will end. And, if you aren’t okay with how it ends, you could always return again and make different choices.
There’s only one element that troubled me, and that is that it can be easy to unintentionally make a decision. I’m not sure if this is only an issue with the Switch version of Sumire, but I’d sometimes advance dialogue and… suddenly realize I’d also chosen the first response to a potential decision. The first time it happened was after Sumire dealt with a crow blocking her path. She overcame a challenge, I was advancing the text. Before I knew it, Sumire threw a rock at the crow because I’d also made a decision without realizing it. This, in turn, lowered her karma. If you’re careful, it certainly won’t ruin your time with the game. But it certainly made me exercise more caution.
But as a whole, Sumire is more emotionally taxing than anything. Information about potential tasks is gathered in Sumire’s notebook. Controls are simple and don’t get in the way of accomplishing goals. The game is gorgeous, with everything clearly defined and ephemeral. And the TOW soundtrack is as otherworldly as the game itself can be.
Sumire is absolutely stunning and is yet another extraordinary indie in the Switch library. It taps right into your feelings and allows you to take charge and perhaps help Sumire and her flower have their perfect day. Or not. It’s all up to you. But no matter what you choose to do, it tends to feel satisfying. And, if you’re feeling up to it, is worth a second or third run to play games with “friends” or try to make the the lives of people (and objects) better.