You, Sakisaka Fuminori, were caught in an accident which killed your parents and left you near death, but thanks to the marvels of neurosurgery, you have been rescued from your limbo in the border of life and death and now function as a perfectly normal member of society. Well, perfectly normal, except for one small flaw – your senses have been distorted beyond repair. Because of some cognitive disorder that probably had been brought upon by the neurosurgery, you perceive the world around you as “broken”. The formerly clean, pure, whitewashed walls of the hospital you stayed in are now bloody slabs of flesh and entrails. The once fragrant scent of flowers has now morphed into an indisputably rotten, vile stench. And people have now turned into monstrous blobs of flesh and goo, speaking in words entirely unknown to you. Just as all hope was forever lost, you encounter a mysterious girl named Saya. She is the only one, among the thousands, millions of people, whom you perceive as human. Determined to live on, you push forward, with Saya as your new partner. However, things don’t turn out to be as simple as you’d want them to be.
Early on, the game asks you if you’d want the gory details blurred out, indicative of exactly what kind of an experience it will be. It starts off in medias res, thrusting the player into confusion as they wonder just what the hell is causing the game to be displaying some gibberish instead of text. Fuminori’s past is slowly revealed to us as we continue playing – what caused him to be this way, how he met Saya, and, throughout the entirety of the story, their romance. As their love for each other grows and their relationship deepens, he quickly descends down a spiral of chaos and inhumanity, turning his, and his friends’ worlds, upside-down.
The story progresses from event to gruesome event, with mysteries, murder, and mayhem at all sides. Every so often, the reader gets a glimpse of who – or what – Saya really is. However, the backbone of the entire story is still the love between Fuminori and Saya. It is their actions which advance the plot and it is on them that everything revolves around. As the plot progresses, we see the stripping down of their morals as they continue to commit inhuman acts. Yet as they comfort each other through their presence, we are still given little glimpses of their humanity. Ultimately, the story is about two beings that cannot fit in with the world – their joys (few as they are), pains, struggles, and the devotion of their entire existence to each other.
Given that the game is, at most, 7 to 10 hours long (it took me 3-5 of on and off play within a day), the writing is very tight, leaving little room for a larger cast or any unnecessary filler material. This is a one-way roller coaster ride to the hell of human depravity at its finest. Thanks to Urobuchi Gen’s incredibly descriptive, detailed writing, it leaves very little to the reader’s (already scarred) imagination. There are a lot of switches in perspective between the 7 characters of the cast, through which we learn more, both about the characters themselves and about the many conspiracies and truths deeply hidden within the plot.
There are only two decision points, leading to three different endings, each melancholic in their own way. I found the “flowery” end to be the best in terms of impact. The scene with Saya and Fuminori with – literally – Saya’s song playing in the background was most saddening, yet it bore, albeit rather twisted, hope for the reader.
The writing in Saya no Uta is apparently heavily influenced by Lovecraft – secret texts, unknown mythical beings, even down to the use of the archaic, anachronistic language (which is apparently the reason why many translators quit midway). Unfortunately, I’m not an expert regarding these things so I leave it up to the more knowledgeable readers of the site.
One thing I found out of place were the H scenes present in the latter parts of the game. With the story progressing as it is, scenes like that don’t exactly fit in, given the gravity of the situation they are present in. Furthermore, there is a complete and utter lack of any lighthearted scenes; Saya no Uta is devoid of any happy thoughts, which may put off those less accustomed to such niceties.
Saya no Uta’s graphics have a very rough, dark look to them, portraying a more realistic side of things, unlike the typical moe-moe bishoujo galge, leaving Saya to stand out even more against the gritty feel of the world. Varying camera angles are often used in CG, lending a hand in reinforcing the suspense that the writing builds up. Unfortunately, there are a number of CG that are often reused to great extent. The game is very short, however, and the writing intense, that you would just put it aside as a minor issue, which it is.
The voice acting leaves little to complain about. Fuminori’s VA lends him a very calm, flat, yet brooding demeanor. He does not give off the impression of a villain, yet at the same time, talks of most disturbing, depraved matters in such a calm manner that one really cannot help but question his sanity. Saya’s VA executes her role perfectly as well. While normally a cute, kind little girl, that facáde quickly gives way to a cold, heartless sadist whose morals – or a lack thereof – are quickly noticeable.
Music contributes a lot to maintaining the atmosphere all throughout the game. SCHIZOPHRENIA uses hard, almost painful sounds to establish a disturbing feeling within the reader; it really complements the grotesque, sickening backgrounds that he, as Fuminori, sees. On the other hand, SABBATH gives off a very tranquil, peaceful feeling while SONG OF SAYA Ⅰ and Ⅱ lend a mysterious aura that is no more fitting for Saya’s character. The lyrics of 沙耶の唄, the game’s titular song, has the most fitting lyrics to what I believe is the game’s “true” end. It is a very calming, serene song, telling the listener that he need not be afraid, that a new beginning will come.
Saya no Uta is a very short, intense tale that will leave anyone on the edge of their seat for the whole journey. Because of its “strong” gore content, depending on the reader, it may not be the most suitable game to play for beginners. Likewise, because of the heavy, mature topics of the story and the complete and utter lack of lighthearted tones anywhere within the game, it’s not for everyone. However, don’t let that bar you from skipping out on an excellent, short piece because despite its heavy themes, at its core is an incredibly good story.
PS: Many many thanks to the guys at TLWiki for finally getting this 5-year-old game translated. Much love to you guys <3