A Summer with a Shiba Inu is a visual novel by Quill Game Studios that combines a dystopian world with Shiba Inus!
In A Summer with a Shiba Inu, you are transported to a dystopian island called Shiba Island. This is a visual novel where you play through the story, making decisions throughout that alter the reactions of other characters and even the ending of the game. You play as Syd, who has just moved back to the capital, Tai-paw, after several years away. She has returned to try and find her brother and stays with an old friend, Max.
As you might guess, the whole island is populated by Shiba Inus. Each one carries a pendant around their neck, which they have to keep on them at all times. To establish social rankings, each dog has to take part in ARInas, run by the Allocated Reality Institute. This is an emulated version of reality where dogs fight and compete to win in various landscapes — beaches, forests and even shopping malls. But unlike the Hunger Games, dogs defeat an opponent by smashing their pendant in the arena, and because it’s virtual, no one is hurt.
After completing the ARInas, the Allocated Reality Institute allocates each dog with a ranking based on their performance, the highest being 100. Dogs in the top rankings receive greater benefits, such as better jobs, higher income and respect from their peers. A dog in a higher tier can ask lower ranking dogs to complete tasks for them which can’t be refused.
While I have compared it to The Hunger Games, in A Summer with a Shiba Inu, Qull Game Studios has built a dystopian world that feels unique. As the story progresses, and depending on which endings you achieve, Syd explores the Allocated Reality Institute and considers alternatives. I played through this game three times and I enjoyed each one. I really liked that almost every decision (no matter how minor) changes how characters react and the ending you might receive. The way that the story and the world are introduced is really well written too. The story moves back and forth between the present day and Syd’s past, so you learn more about her and the characters she meets as you progress.
A Summer with a Shiba Inu also explains how dogs manage to live day-to-day lives, creating and adapting new technology to compensate. At the start of the story, we learn that doorknobs are almost obsolete as most dogs can’t operate them. I thought that this was a really nice touch and added to the realism of these dogs living human-like lives, with jobs, computers, restaurants and video games.
All of the characters that Syd encounters are really interesting. I enjoyed learning more about each one and their motivations through my different playthroughs. They make fun meta-references, such as to visual novel games and to memes (“sure Jan”) — none of which Syd understands!
The artwork for all of the dogs are really cute and the backgrounds are all beautiful works of art. I liked that the screen interacts with parts of the story, for example, when Syd swipes left and right on her phone, the screen also swipes left and right too. These were fun extra touches that added to the story without being annoying.
I initially wanted to play this game as I love Shiba Inus, but there is a lot more to this game — while the visuals are really cute and colourful, the story itself is quite dark. I really enjoyed the story and the world, and will be playing through additional times to see the alternative endings that I missed. If you enjoy dystopian worlds then this is definitely a game you don’t want to miss.
A Summer with a Shiba Inu is available on Steam for Windows.