Saya no Uta or Song of Saya is a well-recognized masterpiece among visual novels. It’s no wonder, thanks to its main writer being Gen Urobuchi, the writer of the highly acclaimed anime series’ Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Now for some warnings. When you start the game up it tells you the following: “Please do not play this game if you are sensitive to displays of blood, gore, death, partial nudity, sexual themes, or Lovecraftian horror.” Listen to it. This visual novel is not for the faint of heart or many other people.
I’ll only explain the beginning of the story as not to spoil it. Our main character, Fuminori Sakisaka is a medical student whose life changes when he gets into a car accident along with his family, killing them and wounding him. When Fuminori wakes up in the hospital, the world around him has changed: he sees the world as covered in gore and people as hideous monsters.
One night as he’s contemplating suicide, he meets Saya, a beautiful young girl who for some reason is wandering around the hospital and looks like a normal person. Fuminori and Saya grow close during these nightly visits, and when Fuminori convinces the doctors that he’s fully healed and sane, they move in together. This might sound like a cute premise, but I promise this visual novel is more Lovecraftian than love story.
The game itself is very short for a visual novel: one route took me about four hours to play. In total there are only three routes, so this game is more about the story that the choices made. Luckily the story is brilliant: it never loses its tensions or releases the player from its iron grip. The immersion is also aided by the game’s beautiful and eerie soundtrack. The mix of somber synthesizer, ripping electric guitar and haunting vocals by Kanako Itō is at times breathtaking. Also, the Japanese voice acting does wonders to set the mood and impart the characters’ feelings.
Song of Saya is not without its faults. The weakest point of the game was its art: I just wish there was more of it. For example, all the monsters Fuminori sees have the same game CG. Also, the 3D-modeled gory backgrounds are a bit tacky at times.
Some might criticize the game for its excessive violence toward women and even possible pedophilia. I do not personally see it as a problem because the violence, dehumanization and sexual perversion are not represented as anything good. The fact that you’re manipulated to at first to sympathize with these twisted characters is what makes the game so chilling when all hell breaks loose.
Altogether, Song of Saya is, for at least me, a thrilling and agonizing playthrough. Its horror is masterfully crafted, as it makes you expect the worst and somehow manages to top your wildest nightmares.
Publishers: Japan: Nitroplus North America: JAST USA
Director: Gen Urobuchi
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Android
Original Japanese Release: December 26, 2003
Genres: Visual novel, Eroge
Images are taken from the game’s Steam page.
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