Saya no Uta ~ The Song of Saya (2019)
Anyone who is even remotely interested in visual novels should at some point have at least heard about Saya no Uta ~ The Song of Saya. It was originally released in 2009, but English fans had to wait until 2013 for the official localization. However, it was more than worth the wait as it features a story that was as mind-blowing as it was shocking. This was mostly thanks to the involvement of Gen Urobuchi, who as fans will know, also played an important role in titles such as Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero, and Madoka Magica. The Song of Saya is also one of the titles that makes it very clear why fans have given him the nickname “Urobutcher.”
The reason why The Song of Saya is popping up again is that JAST USA has decided that it is high time to spruce up the title a bit. This also marks the first time that the game makes its appearance on Steam, albeit in censored form. Fear not, as players who want to experience all the adult content can simply buy the patch to uncensored the Steam version from JAST USA as DLC. Or, better yet, simply by the version that they sell directly as it is already fully uncensored. Even owners of the original 2013 release are not left out in the cold either as they can download a free patch to update their version to the brand new remastered version.
Before we delve into what is new for this update, let’s first take a look at what The Song of Saya is all about and why it has caused such a stir amongst visual novel fans. Although the story is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, the protagonist is a young medical student named Fuminori. He is involved in a terrible car accident while traveling with his parents and emerged from the crash as the sole survivor. The only thing that saves his life is the groundbreaking surgery performed on him, but it also leaves him with some unintended side effects. When Fuminori wakes up in the hospital, he slowly realizes that he is suffering from some strange form of agnosia that renders his entire world looking like something that would have given H. R. Giger nightmares.
Fuminori is understandably concerned that telling the people around them that they look like hideous monsters and that the entire world appears to be covered in gory intestines would cause him to be institutionalized. Initially, he decides to suffer in silence, but it takes such a huge toll on his sanity that he decides to end it all. Fortunately for Fuminori, this is when he encounters Saya, a young girl who appears to be completely normal. Seeing her gives Fuminori hope, and in his desperation to keep her in his life, he agrees to help her search for her father who disappeared.
We don’t want to say much more about the story as the game is quite short and deserves to be read without any spoilers. Suffice to say it is darkly twisted, but also manages to include some surprisingly touching elements as well. Everything moves along at a brisk pace, so don’t expect to find any humor or lighthearted moments in the tale. The fact that everything unfolds from multiple viewpoints makes it all the more disturbing as players get to experience some events directly through the eyes of both victims and assailants. Opting to play the uncensored version of the game adds some additional adult scenes to the game, but don’t expect to see anything arousing. Instead, these scenes make the game even more disturbing, especially knowing that what the protagonist is seeing is not reality.
The fact that the first thing you are asked when you start the game is whether you want to blur or dim grotesque CGs should say a lot about what to expect. Thankfully, most of the truly disturbing stuff that happens in the game is only described instead of shown, which is probably for the best. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of disturbing images in the game, so if you are sensitive to blood and gore, then this is probably not the game for you. Although The Song of Saya wasn’t the best looking visual novel on the market when it was first released, the visuals did have a certain charm to them. For this remastered version, JAST USA has wisely opted not to muck around with the art style and instead simply offers everything in a higher resolution. All of the illustrations for the game were rescanned and now look great on HD monitors. However, this means that there is still very little in the way of animations and the way that the text is displayed over the visuals instead of at the bottom of the screen feels a bit archaic. This remastered version also runs on a brand new engine, which means that the game is now more compatible with Windows 10.
It doesn’t sound like much was changed about the audio, but seeing as the original was already good this is not an issue. The game still features full Japanese voice acting for all of the characters along with a soundtrack containing fifteen songs. Most of these songs fall in the “very spooky” category, with “Song of Saya I” in particular creeping us out with its eerie melody. Fuminori doesn’t just see everyone around him as grotesque, but his hearing is also warped, which is conveyed perfectly via the audio in the game.
Although nothing was drastically altered about the story, this release features text that has been polished a bit by the original translator. The original localization was already very good, but now it is even better. We didn’t encounter any issues with the new game engine either and everything from scrolling through the text to saving and loading is very straightforward.
The Song of Saya is not quite a kinetic novel as the game does present players with three different choices over the course of the game, but each of these leads to a different ending. In a nice touch, each of these endings is really good, albeit rather grim. The story is still as captivating as always and we once again played through all three endings. There’s no doubt that The Song of Saya features some questionable content that means it is not going to be a game for everyone, but the Steam version does tone things down a bit. We still recommend opting for the uncensored version if you are not easily shocked to experience how truly horrific the game can get. There hasn’t been anything quite like it since it was released and the game still holds up really well. For those who have never experienced The Song of Saya before this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about and for everyone else, this release is a good excuse to become re-acquainted with a classic.