Originally a privately-published game worked on for seven years by independent doujin developer Team Berial and released for the PC in 2017, Dear My Abyss was ported to the Nintendo Switch in early 2018 by Regista.
Priced at under 1,000 yen and with doujin roots, Dear My Abyss is clearly not much of a looker: Characters are mostly presented as blue silhouettes in the vein of classic 1994 Super Nintendo text adventure Kamaitachi no Yoru (later released in English for mobile in the mid 2010s as “Banshee’s Last Cry”), and backgrounds seem little more than photographs put through a few Photoshop filters. Additionally, the public domain music used is for the most part best described as “unintrusive”, and there is of course no voice acting at all.
Despite its numerous imperfections, however, Dear My Abyss is fantastic where it counts, in the writing. The game is essentially a Lovecraftian weird fiction piece with a contemporary Japanese setting and a generous dash of yuri, making for an extremely unique experience.
The game begins with one of the protagonists, high school student Asato Subaru, receiving a mysterious book with no title and bound in what seems to be flesh in the mail along with a letter warning her not to read or let it fall into “their” hands, and that attempts to destroy it would be futile. After consulting with schoolmates Niikura Misuka and Hasuta Kazami and concluding it to be some sort of prank, they burn the book, only for it to mysteriously appear at Subaru’s side again the next morning. Mysterious cultists soon start showing up in the town, and a girl named Kuzu Lhu transfers into Subaru’s class and starts growing close to her.
The story is divided into two chapters with chronologically take place at the same time: The first follows Misuka, who knows nothing of the occult, getting drawn in to things as Subaru and many other of the people around her start behaving strangely, and eventually helping out Kazami, who is secretly fighting against the cult. The second chapter follows Subaru, who initially trusts no-one, as she starts to feel affection for the mysterious Lhu, who upon learning of how Subaru is troubled by nightmares, gives her the ability to control her dreams.
Dear My Abyss gives the player with a plentiful serving of Lovecraftian elements, with many being featured prominently, but also takes its own spin on the subject matter, for instance giving certain deities Mesopotamian instead of extraterrestrial roots, and personalities that wildly differ from the writings of Lovecraft himself (who did in fact exist in this universe, which leads to skepticism when people are told about what is going on).
Where the game truly shines, however, is in its detailed psychological depictions of the characters; For example, while many of the problems arising in the story might have been easily solved if some characters would only just talk to each other about them, the player is presented with perfectly sound reasons why this does not happen.
The game is mostly linear, with only a few short branching bad endings along the way, and is roughly 15 hours long (as the game is mostly text with no voice acting, this would wildly vary based on the player’s reading speed). Unfortunately, this ultimately feels insufficient: Throughout the story Kazami investigates and fights the cult off-screen, culminating in what is clearly a huge climax, but almost all of its happens off-screen, with the player only being told what happened later, which is very unsatisfying.
Also unsatisfying is the ending, which is somewhat sudden and abrupt. This reviewer was fully expecting a third chapter, possibly from Kazami’s point of view, to fully conclude the story, and was thus disappointed when the game ended at the second chapter. One can only hope that a sequel might come along some day.
Though simplistic in nature due to its genre and doujin roots, Dear My Abyss nevertheless manages to be fantastic, through the sheer power of its story. It is however unfortunately a flawed masterpiece, feeling like a great work left incomplete. In any case, it is a must-play for fans of weird fiction or yuri literature, especially when considering its 972 yen price tag.
The Good: Dear My Abyss is a novel game that makes no pretense to be anything else, and excels at what it is.
The Bad: The game regrettably feels incomplete, with an abrupt ending that does not feel like a definitive conclusion. The slow pacing might also turn away players with shorter attention spans.
Conclusion: Dear My Abyss stands as an amazing piece of weird fiction, with enough Lovecraftian elements to please fans while also putting enough of its own twists in to make it stand as unique.