Monday, February 4, 2013

Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 - Animal Crossing for Japanophiles

Right off, that title might be a bit misleading as the Japan-exclusive Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (My Summer Vacation 3) wasn't targeted at Japanophiles at all, nor does it feature sentient animals. Rather, it's aimed at Japanese people, young and old, who want to experience the nostalgia of a summer vacation in rural Hokkaido or experience it for the first time. Its resemblance to Animal Crossing comes in because of its laid back, do-what-you-want-in-every day-life style.
Everything you'll need for bug collecting.

In Boku no Natsuyasumi, things are simple. There aren't any obvious goals and no matter what you do, time will pass and the days will go by until the summer vacation is over. There are various events that always occur on certain days, but for the most part you're free to explore the farm and surrounding area to do what you want. You can collect bottle caps and bugs, some of which you can have fight your friends' bugs. You can help out on the farm by milking cows and collecting eggs or you can go swimming or sliding down hills on a cardboard box. You'll make friends with other kids, play games, and explore. Whatever you do, you'll write about it in your picture diary at the end of the day. You could say that the goal of the game is to have the best summer vacation ever.

Perhaps the biggest draw of this game is how atmospheric it is. The beautiful and detailed hand drawn backgrounds for each area are a convincing representation of a rural Japanese house and farm. The attention to detail is impressive, with little things like a dirty clothes hamper or storage boxes in the basement adding up to the feeling that this is a real house with real people. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the house and surrounding area is in fact based on a real place, because it is incredibly convincing. 
A bit of clutter helps the house feel real.
To the same end, instead of background music, there are only the sounds of nature or whatever other ambient sounds are in the area. The characters are similarly convincing, and talk like you'd expect people to talk: about everyday things, not forcing a story down your throat. It's all there to give the player the same experience a young Japanese boy might have visiting his uncle's farm in rural Hokkaido. Perhaps some playing this game have had such an experience in their childhood and would like to relive it, or perhaps they grew up and were never able to experience a vacation like this. Either way, short of flying to Japan and getting a family to let you stay with them, playing Boku no Natsuyasumi is the best way to experience rural Japan for yourself, and from the perspective of a child to whom everyday things are filled with adventure and wonder.

If that sounds like your kind of game, you might want to give it a try. This game in the series is for PS3, which is region-free so you won't have any trouble playing it in that regard. However, if you don't know any Japanese, it might be a bit difficult and not quite as enjoyable. Since I don't expect many non-Japanese gamers to take the plunge and import this game based solely on my recommendation, I've recorded (and translated!) the first day of Boku's vacation so you can experience it for yourself. Boku no Natsuyasumi is a beautiful and unique series that deserves more recognition outside of Japan. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed making it.

UPDATE: I've now recorded and translated the second day of Boku's summer vacation! It should give you an even better idea of what playing the game is like. So take a look and don't let my many unpaid hours go to waste:

UPDATE: I've continued this series yet again. For future videos check out my Youtube channel or this playlist.
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