Boku no Natsuyasumi is a summer vacation; Shin-chan is a video game that is set during a summer vacation.
The gentle, understated daily morning exercises of Bokunatsu are pantomimed in Shin-chan with throaty yells and militaristic marching music. Nobody dares to speak a single authentic word with each other lest it gets in the way of whatever tired, juvenile joke Shin-chan is about to sucker them into. The player is constantly corralled down a main path so the game can continue expositing this narrative about a mad scientist and his dinosaurs, which regularly (and fatally) pierces through whatever atmosphere the game may have had with their garish clown music and exaggerated bombast.
Experiences are objectified as Things to Collect so that they may be included in the local newspaper and gain subscriptions. The wildlife is objectified as Things to Collect so that they may be traded in for money with the local shop owners. The money must be collected so food can be bought to satiate Shin-chan’s stamina meter; if it empties, Shin-chan faints due to hunger and is sent back to the house his family is staying at. This stamina meter turns even something as fundamental as walking into a number to manage. Everything is a datapoint. This is not a vacation. This is taking the beauty and joy and the little quirks of living and twisting it into a loveless economy.
Sometimes, in the quiet gasps for air between micromanaging a preschooler’s summer vacation and the squealing displays of Saturday-morning-cartoon-ish storytelling, whispers of Millennium Kitchen’s legacy can be felt in the breeze. Sometimes walking lazily through beautifully rendered backgrounds with considerately composed perspectives feels just as comfortable and familiar as it’s supposed to. This lasts until the mistake is made of interacting with the game at all by catching a bug or a fish or picking up an item, to which Shin-chan will once again holler out his raucous yawps, and being shown the name of that collectible inevitably calls to mind: “The girl who runs the grocery store will pay me 100 yen for six of these.”
Maybe someday Millennium Kitchen will have the opportunity to localize one of their games that doesn’t feel the need to obsessively gamify itself or “subvert” whatever honest sentiments they’ve drawn upon for the mainline Boku no Natsuyasumi titles. I also wonder how much of this obnoxiousness comes from the fact that they’re working with the Shin-chan intellectual property in particular. Attack of the Friday Monsters, their previous game, had similar problems in tone but at least wasn’t nearly so vapid. Maybe this is what they think Western audiences want. Looking at current review scores around the internet, maybe they’re right. Personally, I’d prefer a summer vacation over a video game set during one.

Reviewed on Sep 03, 2022


20 days ago

I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I'd also like to add, I'm a big fan of the Shin-Chan series, and I can assure you the core problem with the tone of this game has nothing to do with it. I felt not only the "story" was at odds with what this game was supposed to be, but the characters and dialogue felt uninspired and static, which is the opposite of what Shin-Chan is. The dinosaurs feel out of place and no attempts at performing humor were made (not that there was any need to), so it doesn't "feel like a Shin-Chan thing" either.

20 days ago

I was wondering if this would recapture any of the bokunatsu magic and your review answered that wonderfully. Thank you!

20 days ago

@santa3 that's a good perspective to have, thanks for sharing. What a shame that they've disappointed fans of two different things in one package!

19 days ago

Oof, that's rough. This game looked so chill from the trailers, but your review has made me reconsider getting it