Every year, summer is accompanied by festivals. Maybe they are local affairs, where communities gather for food and fun. Perhaps, if people are in the United States, it can mean fireworks and getting together for the Fourth of July. In Japan, July and August tend to be the main summer festival months, with people getting together for Bon festivals to celebrate their ancestors, enjoy fun with family and friends, dress up in yutaka and special clothing, have good food and perhaps even dance. While most people might not get a chance to experience this sort of thing firsthand, they can go through them virtually in games. Lots of Japanese games pay tribute to these events, giving you a taste of what that kind of life might be like.
In the Persona series, festivals are a big deal. Persona 3, 4 and 5 each have a summer festival taking place during July or August. In the third and fourth installments, these are date events where you can go with one of the eligible social link characters to see an event or maybe get an item. In the fifth game, it is a compulsory moment with an animated cutscene involving all current members of the Phantom Thieves. Each one involves getting to see people in a more social atmosphere and perhaps boost a relationship with them, all while also getting a glimpse of Japanese culture. You’ll see the vendor booths, the characters will dress up in yukata, there will be fireworks and you might even get special gifts.
This happens in the Tokimeki Memorial series too. In both the standard and Girl’s Side series, players can get to take part in these summer fireworks events. In these games, you have to keep an eye out on the calendar for the fireworks symbols on the map on a weekend. Then, you need to invite the character you are interested in on a date on that day. After that, you have to choose the activity and go to see the fireworks. In the Girl’s Side series, you can even save up and buy a yukata for yourself to get some extra compliments!
Dragalia Lost is another game attempting to get in on the Japanese festival spirit, though it is trying to accomplish it with a summon banner. Going into Summer 2019, it reran its New Year’s festival, New Year’s Tidings: Fortunate from Afar, with a new Festival Phenoms banner. This included two new characters who are dressed for and are focused on preparing a Bon Odori. This is a dance during a festival that can consist of folk or modern songs, could have a drum incorporated and would have people dancing in a circle around a scaffold where featured performers will be. Yaten, the master festival planner, is wearing a yukata with elaborate rope obi and a hachimaki headband. Natalie, his apprentice, is wearing looks more like she is wearing a happi, the sort of vest festival teams wear, or a jinbei, a shirt and shorts set.
Animal Crossing always pays tribute to the summer festivals, both in its main games and the amiibo Festival spin-off. During August, on the weekends, there will be fireworks shows. Redd will have a booth in the town square, where he will sell the special items. Isabelle will give you fireworks. If you play Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival and set the month as August, then there will be fireworks events on Sundays. Landing on his square will get you special fortunes. Given the look of Redd’s stall and the way they happen every weekend, it can feel like its celebrating the special occasion.
Most recently, WorldEnd Syndrome takes time to showcase a Japanese summer festival. The visual novel is set during the month of August in a small town. In addition to trying to solve a mystery and get closer to people, it inches toward everything coming together during the Mihate summer festival at the end of the month. Once you get to that day, the heroines’ paths culminate in the special event there. You’ll get to see some of the characters in their yukatas. Depending on which path you are following, you might even get to go to the event. A famous pop star is even the featured performer at the event. It helps with building the atmosphere.
There are plenty of ways to get a feel for Japanese festivals in video games. Lots of different titles take their time to show off these special events. Sometimes, like in Persona, Tokimeki Memorial and WorldEnd Syndrome, they show how people would dress and behave. Others might have characters who would fit in when performing certain roles at an event. Others, like Animal Crossing, might let you get a bit more directly involved in the fireworks fun and vendor side of things. They all help inject a little bit of a cultural event into our lives.