North America and Europe’s Summon Night track record is an odd one. Our first exposure to the main series only happened last year, with Gaijinworks’ localization of Summon Night 5. Prior to that, the strategy-RPG never made an official appearance outside of Japan. Instead, Atlus picked up three of the spin-offs. Given that the ice has been broken with Summon Night 5 and Summon Night 6 is coming to Japanese PlayStation 4s and Vitas later this year, now seems like as good a time as any to go over all of the entries in the series that an English-speaker can actually play.
Before we start talking about these Summon Night games, let’s first go over a few things they all have in common. All entries in the series reference specific worlds and their races. Humans come from Lyndbaum, the world in which all actions take place. (Though occasionally, parallel worlds are in play.) Creatures from other worlds are summoned to this one, with machines coming from Loreilal, beasts from Maetropa, spirits from Sapureth, and yokai from Silturn. Humans are the most populous race in each game, but others can and will appear as summons. In games like Summon Night 5 and Twin Age, a summoned creature will live full-time in the human world, due to an atypical pact.
Which brings us to the second element. Given the series is called Summon Night, it shouldn’t be a surprise that supernatural creatures will be tied to and summoned by human characters. They act as partners in battles, working as additional party members. The element of summoning is present in every Summon Night game, though the official name for the summoned creatures may vary and main character’s summon will always be present. As an example, these characters are called Guardian Spirits in the Swordcraft Story series and Crosses in Summon Night 5.
Relationship building and decision making are the final commonality. Long before games like Persona made connecting with party members cool, Summon Night was sending your avatars off to talk to people. These decisions resulted in different endings, due to bonds formed between characters. It also could mean different party members could be recruited or storylines would be followed. In all of the English releases, the decisions people make determine which character ending you’ll unlock.
Summon Night games you can play
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story
2006, Game Boy Advance (Flight-Plan)
The Swordcraft Story line will look familiar to fans of the Tales series; it features 2D, side-scrolling, active battles where the player controls their avatar while allies battle alongside them. Skills can be used and weapons swapped in the midst of a fight. Which will happen a lot, since your hero or heroine is attempting to become the Craftlord of Iron, like his or her father, by participating in a tournament. The adventure covers a ten day period, in-game. You forge weapons, take on sidequests and go crawling through the Labyrinth Dungeon. You know, typical JRPG fare.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2
2006, Game Boy Advance (Flight-Plan)
Swordcraft Story 2’s mechanics and gameplay are nearly identical to the original game, only here the avatar aspires to become a Craftknight. The former orphan happens to be in the right place at the right time when a seal on some ancient ruins breaks. After making a contract with a Guardian Beast that happened to be in the area, the hero or heroine heads off to save his or her adopted family (and the world!) by resealing a violent Summon Beast named Goura. That means a Daemon Edge sword needs to be forged, which means quite a bit of crafting again!
Summon Night: Twin Age
2008, Nintendo 3DS (Flight-Plan)
While the Swordcraft Story games were more traditional JRPGs, Twin Age tapped into Summon Night’s strategic roots. It’s a real-time strategy game! Characters’ actions are directed on the touch screen with the stylus, moving the party of three around the field, determining their opponents and deciding on attacks. As far as the story goes, players follow a human girl named Reiha and a Summon Beast named Aldo as they investigate a disruption among the spirits and natural world.
Summon Night 5
2015, PlayStation Portable (Felistella)
Available on PlayStation Vita
Summon Night 5 is your standard, turn-based, strategic RPG. Units are deployed on the field, leaving you to move them around the grid and employ strategy to meet certain goals and eventually vanquish every foe. This is all hopefully accomplished without entirely diminishing the health or morale of your party, because game overs suck. Players follow either a male or female Summoner and their Cross as they perform tasks for an organization known as Eucross. Their actions help keep the peace in a world where races from multiple Otherworlds gather in one place. Naturally, a greater threat is lurking in the wings, meaning there are more charged issues to resolve than minor cultural misunderstandings.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any other Summon Night games we can recommend. Due to the tremendous amount of text, attempting to play the untranslated games is a near impossible undertaking. Fan translations of the third Swordcraft Story, Summon Night Sword Monogatari: Hajimari no Ishi, and Summon Night X have been attempted, but nothing has come of either project. We’ll just have to enjoy the four official localizations and hope some company picks up Summon Night 6!