The release of the charming adventure game Shin Chan: Me and the professor on summer vacation This week on Nintendo Switch might not seem like a momentous event in the annals of gaming – low-budget licensed titles rarely do. But like the recent Western debuts of live one life, Kowloon High School Chronicleor moon, ShinchanThe new release of fills an important gap in the history of video games.
Shin Chan: Me and the professor on summer vacation is the first full-length game in the My Summer Vacation series to make it outside of Japan, where it’s known as Boku no Natsuyasumi. The cult series about a 9-year-old running through the Japanese countryside, making friends and catching bugs was never released in English and the series has been dormant since the release of the fourth installment on PSP in 2009 Shinchan does not go by the My Summer Vacation moniker, but shares the same developer, director, setting, storyline, gameplay loop, fishing mini-game, hand-drawn backgrounds, and wonky time-progression mechanics of the series. That is My summer vacation 5 in everything but the name and with a shin-chan veneer.
The Summer Vacation games aren’t just another made in Japan obscurity; They were some of the most touching examples of Japanese game development going back to the everyday in the late 1990s. Global, shen mue, animal crossingand harvest moon are the more well-known examples of this trend in console gaming, but in Japan the Summer Vacation series stood next to it. With the release of Shin-chan’s spiritual sequel, we’re getting a better picture of this creative moment.
Millennium Kitchen chef Kaz Ayabe based the Summer Vacation series on his own childhood romp in the country, the same source of inspiration that drove Yasuhiro Wada to his creation harvest moon, and most notably Satoshi Tajiri to create Pokémon. The plot of every summer vacation is the same: a kid named Boku (“me” in Japanese) visits his family in the backyards and fills the long days with swimming, hiking, and chatting with locals amidst quaint, dusty buildings and 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 composed of non-scrolling screens, like in a LucasArts-era adventure game, that are joined together to form sprawling paths. Time only moves in the game as Boku transitions from one screen to another, and since time is limited, this lends traversal a risk-reward dynamic unique to the series.
Boku has 31 days to live his life to the fullest before he has to return home, which means he has to collect all the bugs, fish, trading cards and other assorted stuff kids love before the time is up. The game does not impose any progression on the player; Boku could theoretically spend the whole month indoors if he wanted to. When the game forces you to do things, it acts like a parent: you can’t skip the morning exercises, you have to go to both breakfast and dinner, and you can’t stay up too late or your uncle will come and get you . Basically, the goal is to relive the ideal Japanese childhood of the 70’s, where you frolic freely in the warm embrace of a loving family, cool friends and pristine nature.
Ayabe has mentioned his love for influential filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu in the past, and there’s something Ozu-like that permeates the whole series. For one, Boku’s family and friends are closely watched 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’s darkness around the edges: your younger cousin Shirabe is cold to you, you’re occupying your aunt’s dead son’s room, and you hear rumors of a wolf spirit roaming the woods. In a really touching ending commemorates My neighbor TotoroShirabe runs away from home the day before Boku leaves, and after a long search you find yourself in a field full of sunflowers.
Ozu was celebrated for his “pillow shots,” periods when his camera broke away from the action and settled on a landscape just to admire it. My Summer Vacation has multiple settings like this sunflower field which has no game related purpose but allows the player to slow down and enjoy the view. While Boku himself and all other characters are 3D models, the rest of the game consists of pre-rendered, hand-painted 2D backgrounds full of atmosphere, made to be admired in their own right.
After that first foray into the original Playstation, the series moved to different scenic locations with each game: the tropical Izu Peninsula in My summer vacation 2into the vast Hokkaido plains 3and the islands in the Setonai Sea 4. Gameplay would remain the same, giving or taking a few minigames, although each release would expand the scope with more characters, more locations, or more collectibles. In Japan, the series sold more than a million copies.
Since the release of this fourth game, the series has been discontinued. While Ayabe gained some recognition with his Nintendo 3DS game Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Storythe paired gameplay elements from the summer vacation Series with a fantastic tokusatsu-inspired storyline, a short three-hour game just wasn’t enough to bring the series back to prominence.
Shin Chan: Me and the professor on summer vacation could turn things around. The game sees Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara, star of the Colored pencil Shin-chan Manga and Anime, vacations at his mother’s girlfriend’s house in a rural area of Kyushu island and spends his days chasing butterflies, growing vegetables and fishing. The charm of summer vacation Series – the aimless wandering, the impressive backgrounds, the likeable characters – are preserved in this replacement sequel.
Other aspects have changed, perhaps to woo a wider audience. There’s now a central plot involving a mad scientist and time travel hijinks, although you can still ignore them if you wish. And just to add a dash of magical realism, the time travel hijinks summon dinosaurs to wander around the village and follow them Attack of the Friday MonstersThe design philosophy of giant monsters is really cool.
There’s less emphasis on naturalism, though Shinchan is remarkably accurate in relation to its cartoon and manga source material. Unlike the serious Boku, Shinnosuke is a smartass, and the game has all of Shin’s usual gags, spawning witty dialogue or awkwardly flirting with older women. Fittingly, there’s a special button for Shin to wave his butt at the camera.
Demonstrating its signature care for aesthetics, Millennium Kitchen has traded in the Studio Ghibli-esque styling of its earlier work for the flat, cel-shaded look of the Shinchan anime It’s remarkably accurate: the developers even made sure that Shin’s signature cheek curve always points to the left, whether he’s viewed from the front or the back, just like in the source material. At its core, however, this is still a familiar game of trying to have fun as an unsupervised kid in the wild.
Given that Sony, which released the series in Japan, has shown little interest in further promoting the ownership and that no active fan translations of the games exist at this time, Shin Chan: Me and the professor on summer vacation is the best, maybe only chance on the horizon for English speaking players to get My Summer Vacation Experience.
Shin Chan: Me and the professor on summer vacation is available now on Nintendo Switch and will be available soon PlayStation 4 and Windows personal computer via Steam.