Here’s some general common route thoughts:
My first impressions of the setting were, surprisingly, nowhere near what they were when Summer Pockets was announced. I expected some kind of heavy-atmosphere AIR kinda dealio, and while some of the backgrounds and environments are the spitting image of AIR, it feels nothing like it.
Instead I’d liken it more to Rewrite. The VN feels very open, and in a way it’s kind of empty. Part of that feeling comes from the background music, most of which is very quiet and peaceful with a hint of adventurousness. If you’re a FF fan, expect some similarities to Crisis Core or 15 in music.
Another reason for the very open feel is the protagonist. He’s not exactly a bombastic character…
Hairi is a real downer. He looks at a defunct lighthouse and is like “yup, I feel ya lighthouse.” You buy the boy a happymeal and just asks what is happy about it. He has some of the same problems that Kotarou had, but he doesn’t have that happy go lucky outward behaviour to make everything fun. Hairi just feels like he’s ready to accept death in a way. He’s kinda lost, but he’s not really looking for anything…
Shiroha is slightly reminiscent of Mutsumi Suginami at times, certainly at the start. I’d say she’s overall more awkward and childish compared to Mutsu however. Her various facial expressions are some of my favorites in the entire game. Rather subtle when compared to Ao or Tsumugi, which makes for a nice contrast. It fits her personality.
Ao is basically a Mashiroiro character. She even has the weird animal companion. Her sprite naturally takes up a lot of the on-screen attention because of how flashy her hair is and how expressive both her poses and expressions are. More art that is very fitting of the personality.
I swear every single sprite and CG of Tsumugi is ever so slightly off. Her eyes never look like they’re in the right place. Still, her voice is amazing (had a bit of a Menma thing going on) so I like her. Not normally a fan of these kinds of characters, but there’s something sweet about Tsumugi. Her little peace sign sprite is adorable.
Kamome takes forever to show up, and when she does it’s rather surprising. I was expecting her to be more collected and cutesie than she actually is. The skull hairpin doesn’t match her personality at all. Her face also looks quite different when her eyes are closed, definitely not what I imagined her to look like.
Side character wise, Miki is pretty cute but her character feels very flat. The boys are both very flamboyant, which I’m sure some people here will love. The group dynamic that occurs whenever these characters show up is very similar to the ones you’d see in 1st Beat’s common route. Infact, the entire common route of Summer Pockets feels similar to Angel Beats. Lots of meaningless choices and dumb comedy choices.
Also Na-Ga needs to chill with the muscly dark haired glasses guys.
That scene with the three girls at the shrine… Island Girl C is probably my favorite character in the game. Her voice actor is great.
The tabletennis minigame is something else. I don’t know why it exists, but I’m glad it exists.
Also there’s a surprising amount of fanservice in this. Even disregarding the CGs, a lot of the conversations are pretty ecchi for a Key VN, including every single heroine introduction. I’m not sure what to think about that…
Another interesting thing I noticed, some parts of the VN so far, especially those involving Shiroha, feel like they were designed for an anime. There’s camera movements (such as the stereotypical follow-the-flying-birds shot), there are a bunch of pillow shots throughout, and there’s an interesting monologue over visual action thing that feels very anime… In fact, a lot of it seems like something Noriko Takao would do, which is very fitting considering her amazing work on Key anime. For that reason I think this VN really lends itself well to being animated (more so than any of Key’s previous titles) and I could see reason for people to be hopeful about a Summer Pockets anime.
Anyway, here’s an album of pre-Opening screenshots.
Also I know map screens were a discussion here in the past. Here’s the Summer Pocket’s map screen.