The release of a charming adventure game Shin chan: Me and the teacher on summer vacation on Nintendo Switch this week may not seem like a momentous occasion in the annals of gaming – low-budget licensed titles rarely are. But like the recent Western debut of live alive, Kowloon High School ChronicleWhere Moon, Shin ChanThe new version fills an important gap in the history of video games.
Shin chan: Me and the teacher on summer vacation is the first full game in the My Summer Vacation series to be released in Japan, where it is known as Boku no Natsuyasumi. The cult series about a 9-year-old running around the Japanese countryside to make friends and catch bugs has never been released in English, and the series has lain dormant since the release of the fourth entry on PSP in 2009. . Shin Chan does not carry the My Summer Vacation moniker, it shares the same developer, director, setting, plot, gameplay loop, fishing mini-game, hand-drawn backgrounds, and wonky time-progression mechanic of the series . This is My summer vacation 5 in everything but the name and with a coat of Shin-chan paint.
The Summer Vacation games aren’t just another Japanese-made obscurity; they were among the most touching examples of the late ’90s turn to everyday life in Japanese game development. Worldwide, Shen Mue, animal crossingand harvest moon are the best-known examples of this trend in console gaming, but in Japan, the Summer Vacation series has gone with them. With the release of the Shin-chan spiritual sequel, we get a better picture of this creative moment.
Millennium Kitchen boss Kaz Ayabe based the Summer Vacation series on his own childhood adventures in the rural countryside, the same inspiration that drove Yasuhiro Wada to create harvest moon, and, most famously, Satoshi Tajiri for creating Pokémon. The plot of every summer vacation is the same: a child named Boku (“me” in Japanese) visits his family in the boonies, and he fills the long days with swimming, hiking, and chatting with the locals. amid quaint, dusty, quaint buildings. rolling fields.
Ayabe goes to great lengths to capture the geography of rural Japan. “When I start making a game, I start by drawing a map,” Ayabe said in an interview with Scroll. Each town in a Summer Vacation game is made up of non-scrolling screens, like a LucasArts-era adventure game, stitched together to form walking paths. Time only moves in the game when Boku moves from screen to screen, and because time is limited, this gives traversal a risk-reward dynamic unique to the series.
Boku has 31 days to live his life to the fullest before he has to go home, which means collecting all the bugs, fish, trading cards and other assorted junk the kids love before time runs out. The game imposes no progression on the player; Boku could theoretically spend the whole month inside if he wanted to. When the game forces you to do things, it acts like a parent: you can’t skip morning exercises, you have to attend both breakfast and dinner, and you can’t stay up too long or your uncle is coming to fetch you. Basically, the goal is to relive the ideal Japanese childhood of the 70s, frolicking without responsibilities in the warm embrace of a loving family, nice friends and unspoiled nature.
Ayabe has mentioned her love for influential filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu in the past, and there’s something like Ozu that pervades the entire series. For one thing, Boku’s family and friends are carefully observed and not entirely cuddly, especially in the more adult-oriented first game. In this first title, Boku visits his aunt’s house in the mountainous Yamanashi Prefecture, just outside of Tokyo. The tone of the game is warm but there is darkness around the edges: your young cousin Shirabe behaves coldly towards you, you occupy the bedroom of your aunt’s deceased son and you hear rumors that a wolf spirit roams the woods . In a truly moving conclusion that recalls My Neighbor TotoroShirabe runs away from home the day before Boku leaves, and you find yourself after a long search in a blooming field of sunflowers.
Ozu was celebrated for his “pillow shots”, periods when his camera would detach from the plot and rest on a landscape, just to admire it. My Summer Vacation has multiple backgrounds like this field of sunflowers, which has no gameplay related purpose but allows the player to slow down and drink from the view. While Boku himself and all the other characters are 3D models, the rest of the game is pre-rendered, atmosphere-filled, hand-painted 2D backgrounds made to be admired in their own right.
After that first outing on the original Playstation, the series moved to different scenic locations with each game: the tropical Izu Peninsula in My summer vacation 2the vast open plains of Hokkaido 3and the islands of the Setonai Sea in 4. Gameplay would remain the same, give or take a few minigames, though each version would expand the scope with more characters, more locations, or more collectibles. In Japan, the series will sell over one million copies.
Since the release of this fourth game, the series has disappeared. While Ayabe won acclaim for his Nintendo 3DS game Friday Monster Attack! A Tokyo Talewhich combined gameplay elements from the Summer holidays series with a tokusatsu-inspired fantasy plot, a short three-hour game simply wasn’t enough to bring the series back to prominence.
Shin chan: Me and the teacher on summer vacation could turn the tide. The game sees Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara, star of the Pencil Shin Chan manga and anime, vacationing with his mother’s friend in a rural area of Kyushu Island, filling his days with butterfly hunting, vegetable growing, and fishing. The charms of Summer holidays series – the aimless wandering, the evocative backgrounds, the likeable characters – have been preserved in this ersatz sequel.
Other aspects have changed, perhaps to appeal to a wider audience. There’s a central plot now, involving a mad scientist and some time travel diversions, though you can still skip it if you want. And just to add a touch of magical realism, time travel hijinks summon dinosaurs to roam the village, following Friday Monster AttackThe design philosophy of the giant monsters is really cool.
There is less emphasis on naturalism, but Shin Chan is remarkably faithful to its anime and manga source material. Unlike the serious Boku, Shinnosuke is a smart ass, and the game has all the usual gags of Shin spouting punny dialogue or awkwardly flirting with older women. Appropriately, there’s a dedicated button for Shin to wave his behind at the camera.
Millennium Kitchen, showing its concern for aesthetics, swapped the Studio Ghibli style of its previous work for the flat, shaded look of the Shin Chan lively. It’s accurate to a remarkable degree: the developers even made sure that Shin’s cheek bulge always faces left, whether seen from the front or from the back, just like in the source material. At its core, though, it’s still a familiar game of trying to have fun as an unsupervised kid in the desert.
Since Sony, which published the series in Japan, has shown little interest in further promoting the property and no active fan translations of the games exist at this point, Shin chan: Me and the teacher on summer vacation is the best, perhaps only, chance on the horizon for English-speaking players to get the My Summer Vacation live.
Shin chan: Me and the teacher on summer vacation is available now on Nintendo Switch, and is coming to PlayStation 4 and the Windows computer by steam.