Horses are perhaps the most underrepresented demographic in modern gaming.
They respond to our calls, carry us across vast lands, and even sacrifice themselves so that we may keep fighting (Agro!), but when was the last time a horse was made the hero?
When was the last time the horse got the girl?
2011, actually, with the browser game My Sweet Umadonna ~I am Your Horse~, a Japanese visual novel where you play a rookie steed who strives to become a race horse under the care and training of three beautiful young women.
The game, which you can play for free here, launched last December and was created by the Japan Racing Association (JRA) as a way to raise interest in horse-racing among the general public.
Animation for the game was provided by Production I.G, one of Japan’s most prestigious animation studios, known for their work on Ghost in the Shell, Love Hina, and that new Mercedes-Benz commercial.
The story is set in the world of horse-racing and the protagonist a three-year-old horse who has never had any confidence in himself:
“I’m of an average pedigree, my training always takes longer than the other horses… Am I really cut out to be a race horse?”
That’s when you are sent to a new stable, were you spend your days under the loving care of the clumsy stable keeper, Asuka Matsuda;
The strict instruction of the first-class trainer, Kotobuki Yumeji;
And the steadfast saddle of newcomer jockey, Kurisu Fujisawa:
The game calls the three girls umadonnas (a combination of uma, or horse, and Madonna), and, at first glance, the story has all the trappings of a heart-warming animated tale about personal growth and believing in yourself.
But don’t worry: play through the three stages the game is split between and you’ll encounter plenty of questionable images in case you had forgotten what country this came out of.
Be careful Yumeji-chan, if you stare too long it might wink back!
The best part is that the game must have brought a lot of welcome attention to the JRA, as they’ve announced they will release a sequel, Umadonna 2 ~ Uma Sugu Kiss Me ~ (~Kiss Me Now~), on December 9.
You can check out the official teaser page here, which also has links to the fictional Twitter accounts of the three Umadonnas as well as a mystery figure that looks an awful lot like Hatsune Miku. The site also announced that an Umadonna event will be held at the Nakayama Racecourse on December 24.
We just hope there’s no actual horse kissing involved…
▼ Opening video for Umadonna 1. Where’s the horse?
▼ And the ending video. Still no horse to be found, but lots of memories.