Mr. Saitou

Thumbnail - Mr. Saitou
Reviews | Charleen DiPersio | April 12, 2023

That work/life balance can get to us all from time to time. Especially when it leans a little too heavily onto the work side. Learning to find that balance can take years and for some it may be forever elusive, or at least seem that way. That’s when despair can set in. Mr. Saitou is a young professional who recently hit just such a wall and without a support system to help him get through, he ends up going down a very dangerous path that lands him in a hospital bed.

Mr. Saitou is passed out in a small bar. He is sleeping bent over the counter with a steaming bowl of ramen and a frothy beer next to him.

Mr. Saitou by Laura Shigihara is a game all about silver linings and new beginnings. For Mr. Saitou, his silver lining comes in the form of a spirited little boy named Brandon, who also happens to be a patient at the same hospital. Brandon’s vivid imagination sets into motion a vivid fever dream that leaves Mr. Saitou in a whole new plane of existence and a curious adventure that will change everything.

Header - First UP
Brandon is showing Mr. Saitou his drawings. This one is of Widetou. He says, "Like this Saitou is a little wider, so his nickname is Widetou.".

I believe my first encounter with Mr. Saitou was during a Wholesome Games Direct and it wasn’t hard to see why it was included. Super cute graphics and a heartwarming, albeit strange, story had me immediately adding it to my Steam wishlist. I mean if the fact that the bulk of the game is played as a Lamaworm doesn’t sell you on a game I don’t know what would. So I anxiously awaited release day and promptly snagged a copy for myself once that day came.

All the various Saitous have met up in a bar after work. Bosstou says, " Okay everyone, SOCIALIZE!".

There is a sister game of sorts that was released back in 2017 called Rakuen that takes place in the same universe I believe and now that I’ve played Mr. Saitou, Rakuen is an easy sell for me. It has the same cute artwork and sense of storytelling so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they compare. There were animated episodes released in 2020 for Rakuen as well which is pretty dang exciting. 

Header - Does It Hold UP
Brandon is skipping across cave rocks in a pattern to reach a switch on the other side. Mr. Saitou is watching near the door.

There’s something about a short and sweet story rich game that really speaks to me. It’s no minor task to pack a meaningful narrative into just a few short hours of gameplay. Not to mention that Mr. Saitou is not very dialogue heavy either. The story is conveyed through implied meaning, lots of exploration, and just a little bit of dialogue here and there. For the most part the story follows a weird and wonderful type of path and you can’t help but find yourself smiling from one odd encounter to the next. Brandon’s character however, really brought it home. He is so goofy and blissfully unaware of Mr. Saitou’s social inadequacies. He’s the perfect injection of levity in any situation that requires it. It’s not hard to see why he so easily disarms Mr. Saitou.

Mr. Saitou and Brandon meet a curious looking Saitou named Archaeolotou. He says, " You can call me... Archaeolotou!".

There is a bit of puzzle solving and exploration involved during the game as you progress. The puzzles aren’t terribly challenging, but they are clever enough to still be entertaining. You’ll be moving things in a pattern or solving math problems for the most part and enjoying Brandon’s “helpful” facts as you work. Think Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire. “The human head weighs eight pounds!”. It sure does buddy!

Header - To Sum It UP
Mr. Saitou and Brandon are traveling through a cave room that has a large apple tree in it. Brandon says, "Did you know that you shouldn't eat holiday scented candles, even if you really want to?".

I loved the overall aesthetic of Mr. Saitou. The bright and cheery colors, the silly cast of characters, and the surprisingly catchy soundtrack all work together harmoniously as Mr. Saitou works through his fairly dire feelings of depression and isolation.

The shop owner named Shimeji asks Mr. Saitou, "Do you have decaying hunks of tree trunk chunks on your person?".

Nothing makes me happier than finding a game where there is absolutely nothing to complain about. I spent a little under 3 hours from start to finish on my adventure with Mr. Saitou and Brandon and I think it was the perfect little slice of serotonin inducing goodness.

Header - Recommendation
Mr. Saitou and Brandon are up on stage with the band dancing while they sing and play their instruments. There are lots of neon lights and fog. The onscreen lyrics read, " Fancy kings and queens, that's not our scene".

I can’t recommend Mr. Saitou enough. It’s the short and sweet story of a man who lost his way and the tenacious little boy who helps him find happiness. With some light puzzle solving and silly dialogue abound, we give Mr. Saitou two rested and refreshed thumbs UP!