With The Sailor’s Dream, we are given more of an interactive picture story than what would be considered a traditional game. Indeed, if it hadn’t been found in the “Games” section of the App Store, I may not have even reviewed it as an iOS game at all. Still, as games continue to wrap themselves around other parts of our culture (social media, television, education) a marriage of the medium to written stories is not uncalled for, nor is it a new move.
Side-scrolling action, sporting, and plethora of arcade genres don’t require an immersive plot; however, rich storylines have found a natural home in RPGs. Final Fantasy, the Tales series and newer titles like Ni No Kuni have all leaned heavily on character development for player investment. In some cases, love for the plot and characters can even compensate for weaker gameplay elements (*cough* Final Fantasy 13 *cough*). The history in mind, it’s no wonder there is great potential to draw gamers into interactive stories. In fact, there are even romance games that use this very style, though not as effectively as The Sailor’s Dream.
Praising a game for its quality in storytelling only goes so far, however. If I am to be completely honest in this review, I will have to answer a very simple question: if I were to be told that a spiritual successor to el –the game I praised last month for its simple but grasping visual narrative—and a spiritual successor to The Sailor’s Dream were published on the same day for the same price, and if I was to pick only one of these, what title would make its way onto my iPad?
For all of A Sailor’s Dream’s praiseworthy virtues, I would still chose el. I see The Sailor’s Dream as an important first step towards something captivating. In its storytelling methods, scenes and sounds, I see the germinal components of a much larger project. As it stands now, The Sailor’s Dream seems a hint to a bright future in storytelling, yet it still feels as though it is exploring its own limitations. el, by contrast, has a tightly crafted story that is well-presented.
Still, there is much to be said for watching the evolution of this particular style of storytelling. I can imagine the great heights that a caring storyteller can put in, as well as the depressing lows that can come with lazy writing and pretentiousness. We’ll just have to see which takes hold in the coming years.
If you have the modest amount to spare, and you wish to experience an iOS game that gives dignity to what can be found in the App Store, this is where you should turn. We will see in the near future whether or not the market shows a hunger for this type of imagination. Until then, I can only hope that Simogo continues to experiment with these visual novellas.