In 2000, a game called Boku no Natsuyasumi (“My Summer Vacation”) was released on the PlayStation. As the name suggests, it was about being a kid on summer vacation, and its slow pace and cruisy setting made it something of a cult classic, though one that sadly never saw an official English-language release.
Over the decades a number of other games were released in the series, on PlayStation 2, PSP and PS3, and each one was largely the same experience, asking players to guide a young boy through the day doing stuff like fishing, collecting bugs and going for a swim.
Based around a calendar, the best way I think I can describe the games to anyone who hasn’t played them is to imagine Persona 4's daily schedule and idyllic rural setting, and then picture a game where going around town talking to people and doing idyllic sidequests was all you had to do. No monsters, no fighting, no RPG stuff.
Here’s the intro of the second game, released on the PS2. Please enjoy how beautiful the hand-drawn backgrounds are.
And here’s the third game, this time with very helpful (and fan-made) English subtitles:
The latest game in the series, Crayon Shin-chan: Ora to Hakase no Natsuyasumi, was released in Japan last year, but last month became the first one to ever get an official Western release, dropping on PC, PS4 and Switch. This is, for the most part, good news! It shows someone was paying attention when Westerners said we wanted to play the games, and on a structural level at least, allows folks to finally get to know one of the most chilled-out gaming experiences.
There’s a slight problem, though. While this game—called Shin chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation The Endless Seven-Day Journey in English—has the same calendar-based design as its stablemates, and mostly lets you engage in the same leisurely pursuits, the fact a cartoon license has been slapped over the top of it robs it of some of its appeal.
Sure, you can still go fishing and catch bugs, and sure you can still just wander around enjoying the sounds of cicadas and running water, but the whole tone of the game feels slightly off, from the character designs to the wackier storyline running through events.
A big part of the appeal of the main My Summer Vacation games was that you were just playing as a regular kid, hanging out for a month doing regular kid stuff. There weren’t any mad professors, fancy gadgets, or dinosaurs to mess with. Here, the presence of all this Crayon Shin-Chan stuff kinda drags the experience away from what made the other games so relatable. I wanted to be on vacation, not starring in a kid’s cartoon series!
It’s not a bad game because of it; there’s still a wonderful sense of humour here if you’re a Crayon Shin-Chan fan, and like I’ve said, this plays much the same as other My Summer Vacation titles. If the routine and setting are the most appealing things to you, then you’ll likely find little to complain about here.
But I dunno, I feel like part of the appeal here (for me at least) is how much we can all relate to a normal kid having a normal summer, and that it would have been great if we’d been able to enjoy the previous games in the series first before getting what’s essentially this off-kilter spin-off. I can only hope this one sells enough, or at least attracts enough attention, to convince someone to release some of the older games in English as well.