Game Review: Stories of Mara (Chapter One)

I recently had the opportunity to take a look at the first chapter of the brand-new Stories of Mara game from Chibig Studio. You may recognize the name as they are the same team who are behind the games Summer in Mara, Deiland: Pocket Planet and the upcoming Ankora: Lost Days.

“Mara is the ocean that brings life to our shores. After the elits, an evil alien corporation, attacked our planet, life is healing and everything got back to normal. But in Qälis, the city island in Mara, normal is just a word.” – Chibig

In chapter one, you follow Akaji, who is the resident blacksmith on the island. When the news that Koa has disappeared, she sets off on a mission to find her, along with the help of her neighbours. Even though she has her own personal struggles, she is determined to find Koa no matter what it takes!

On the game’s website, Chibig go on to explain more about what you can expect from the first chapter.

  • A bit-sized slice of life visual novel following a diverse cast from the calm and relaxing supernatural world of Summer in Mara. A soap opera featuring from trickster pirates to adventurer cat-childs.
  • Depending on how you bond with the cast will affect the relationships with the community and the ending. Your choices matter in the course of the story throughout different chapters.
  • Express yourself through making boat modelism to share with the rest of the community. This will impact how they see you and how you see them.
  • Visuals inspired by the Studio Ghibli films with a modern setting in a fantasy universe.

The first thing that caught my attention about Stories of Mara, was not only the beautiful Studio Ghibli inspired art style, but also the fact that this is a visual novel. I’ve never played a visual novel game myself before and felt this was the perfect starting point. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from chapter one, but I was ready to dive in. After establishing that Koa was missing and meeting the neighbours, I began to get to know them more through the different options that I could choose.

Early on in the chapter you get a real idea of what each character is like and the further through I got, the more I could feel that there was a sense of community and determination to find out what happened to Koa. There were times when I really felt for Akaji and could relate to how she was feeling. It was clear that Akaji was dealing with her own personal challenges and this made me feel that I could connect to her character even more.

As you continue to progress through the chapter, not only did I find myself asking questions about what really happened to Koa, but it was nice starting to get to know those around you. With each twist and turn during the chapter (I promise, I’m trying not to give anything away) it had me wondering what will happen next in the search for Koa? How the different characters develop and what kind of adventure lies ahead? Who and why is Napopo here? So many questions altogether!

During the course of chapter one, you’ll also find your self making a number of different model boats. I really enjoyed this as it really helped echo the way that Akaji was feeling or how it reflected another character’s personality. There are several different boats you can choose from, and then you can paint them and also decorate them to if you wish. While it is only a small mini-game, it was great fun creating each of the boats.

Overall, Stories of Mara Chapter One was brilliant to play through, as well as being my introduction to the world of visual novel games. I’m excited to see how the next chapters play out, as well as discovering what happened to Koa. It took me just over two and a half hours to play through, although I will be going back over the first chapter again to see if I get a different outcome from the one I had during my first play through.

I would definitely recommend taking a look at Stories of Mara if you have previously played Summer of Mara, are a fan of visual novel games or a looking for something new and different to try out.

Thank you again to Chibig Studio for providing me with an early access code to take a look at Stories of Mara Chapter One.

Stories of Mara Chapter One is out now on Steam and itch.io for free! 

You can stay up to date with Stories of Mara and more games from Chibig Studio via the links below

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