The Kids We Were is an award-winning adventure game that was originally released worldwide in 2020 for smartphones. The Kids We Were definitely doesn’t feel like a mobile game, as the colourful voxel graphics and characters look beautiful on my computer screen. This port includes the original game as well as bonus content that takes place after the main story, so I was curious to see for myself why the game won so many awards.
The story follows an 11-year-old boy named Minato. He is on a trip with his mother and younger sister Mirai to the small town of Kagami, located in a suburb of Tokyo. Minato’s mum has a memorial of an old friend to attend, so she allows Minato to explore the town while she is gone. Little does she know that Minato and Mirai have their own mission they are on. Minato knows that their father, who they haven’t seen in years, supposedly lives here and they want to track him down. While exploring the town, the children learn from a priest that their father has died and his memorial was being held that day, so that’s where their mother was. The priest has something special for Minato; a notebook titled “Seven Mysteries” from his late father.
We learn that Minato didn’t just want to see his dad for old times sake; it was to ask him to take a bone marrow test to see if he could be a donor for his little sister who has cancer. Neither Minato nor his mother were a match, so this was their last chance to save Mirai. He feels like the worst brother ever because he can’t save her. He’s done everything that he can and he has still failed. Minato has dreams and visions when he is awake that seem to predict the future, so he finds himself at the town shrine that is slated to be torn down.
Here Minato meets a mysterious man who claims he is Minato from 33 years in the future. He knows information that only Minato would know, like how his sister Mirai is sick, and the real reason he came to Kagami that day. Future Minato tells his younger self that if he wants to save his family, he will have to travel back 33 years and solve all the seven mysteries that his dad wrote about in his notebook. If he is not successful, his family will be stuck on the same sad path. Minato is unsure at first, but future Minato tells him that when he is ready and wants proof that he really is an older version of himself, to look at the last page of the notebook... Along with a warning to protect his sister no matter what.
Once Minato leaves the shrine he has a vision of a train station and hears a loud scream. He heads back to the station to meet up with his mum and Mirai, as he is very afraid. Minato runs there as fast as he can and when he gets there everything seems fine; his mum and Mirai are there and Mirai is happy and dancing around the platform. Mirai gets too close to the yellow safety line, causing his mother to scream as Mirai is going to get hit. Minato quickly jumps in and pulls Mirai out of the way just in time. This is what he had visions of! He quickly checks the last page of his notebook, which tells him that these visions are real and it is up to him to protect the family. There’s no way anyone who wasn’t Minato would know about these visions. Seeing this, he agrees to go to the past and do whatever he can to change this future.
Once you travel back in time, you have only 72 hours to solve all the mysteries and meet up with a girl named Nozomi. Once the time is up, you will be transported back to the present, so Minato has to trust everything written in the notebook, along with the crudely drawn map that his dad had made to navigate 1980s Kagami.
The Kids We Were is full of nostalgia for the 1980s by way of a catalogue of collectables. As you try to solve the mysteries and explore the town, you examine different spots to locate and complete all the different entries in the book. This is not required to complete the game, but it was really cool seeing all these things I remember from my childhood like disposable cameras, cassette tapes, a Famicom game with a name written on it, and even a CRT television. Who didn’t have a CRT television, cassette tapes, and Rubik’s cubes? Man, I feel old now, but it definitely reminded me of the simpler times when I was younger, so it was exciting to find these items.
The story in The Kids We Were is so heartwarming and innocent. Minato just wants to do what’s right and be the best brother to his little sister that he can be. All the children that you meet when you travel to the past are incredibly sweet, and they will do whatever they can to help you, even though you are a total stranger. They make sure you have a place to stay, food to eat, a place to bathe, and even try to help you solve the mysteries in the notebook. The kids don’t know the real reason you are there, but they are just good people. It was so nice to see characters like that in a game! I can’t think of the last time I had played a game that had so many helpful kids that would go out of their way for someone they had just met. If you ever get stuck, you can access the hint menu that tells you the task you are currently working on, which is great for when you leave the game and come back not remembering what you are working on!
The Kids We Were is a must-play game with an incredible story and characters. As each chapter of the story unfolds you learn so much from the visions that Minato has. It feels so rewarding when you get to stop one of the horrible visions he has from coming true. These characters in this game are so likeable, you just want the best for them, so you do whatever you can to make sure that happens. Collecting all the cool items from the 80s really added a neat treasure hunt feel to the game, so even if I was lost traversing the town, there was still something to do even when I went the totally wrong way. I can honestly say, this is one of the best games — or possibly the best that I have played this year!
The Kids We Were (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
The Kids We Were is a must-play game with an incredibly good story that focuses on childhood friendships and family. The voxel-style graphics look beautiful, the cicadas in Japan sound great, and a catalogue of items from the 80s to collect made me feel so nostalgic.