Shin Chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation – Seven-Day Endless Journey Review – Best Kind of Do Nothing

Shin Chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation – Seven-Day Endless Journey Review – Best Kind of Do Nothing

Shin Chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation – Seven-Day Endless Journey Review – Best Kind of Do Nothing - Recommended Badge
A game that gives you the rare chance to relax and crouch.

I watched the ever-really good Phineas and Ferb for the first time in over a decade recently, a show that’s basically about doing absolutely everything you can during summer vacation. Absurdity is wonderful, but if we reduce it to “do a LOT while it’s summer”, it’s not so relevant to me. That’s why it’s a bit ironic that I played Shin Chan: Me and the Teacher on Summer Vacation, a game where you do next to nothing, something that I find reflects me much better. And it allows you to do nothing in the most calming way possible.

Before we explain why a game where you don’t do much is somehow a good thing, we need some important context. Shin Chan may be familiar to you if, like me, you watched it on Cartoon Network as a kid, but the Summer Vacation series is the one you’re least familiar with.

Boku no Natsuyasumi (or My Summer Vacation) originally appeared on the first PlayStation in 2000, but unfortunately was never released in English. It was created by developer Millenium Kitchen, who also created Shin Chan: Me and the Professor, and is simply a game about a young boy exploring a countryside village. You collect bugs, bottle caps, and meet the locals, and not much else. And even though I haven’t had a chance to play the game because of the language barrier, it looks exactly like my shit.

Then came the news not too long ago that Shin Chan: Me and the Teacher was getting an official English translation, instantly skyrocketing it into my most anticipated release this year. And while the game did overlay Shin Chan’s IP, it’s essentially just a new Boku no Natsuyasumi (which has spawned a number of sequels).

Shin Chan

The art captures a beautiful sense of time and place.

You might ask yourself questions at this point, such as “are you really catching bugs?” or ‘is there a deep emotional plot to spur you on?’ The answers, in order, are no, you catch fish too, and no, the plot is for the most part incredibly simple.

If you’re looking for a title filled to the brim with gameplay options, you won’t find it in Shin Chan. Your daily activities include, as I said, bug catching, fishing, walking, and toy dinosaur battles. Animal Crossing fans will absolutely find the appeal of the first two on this list, as they are functionally identical, despite there being no museum to donate them to. You just do it for fun.

Catching bugs and fish, while a fun activity to do, isn’t what makes Shin Chan so enjoyable. It’s the town of Asso that you slowly explore more and more, making you want to go on.

Shin Chan

What a game.

Shin Chan is literally a PS1 game for the modern era, with pre-rendered backgrounds from Kusanagi Animation Studio. Everything has a fixed camera angle, and because of that, we’re treated to some of the most gorgeous video game environments I’ve seen this year.

Every day is a beautiful day in Shin Chan, with an endlessly blue sky adorned with the fluffiest clouds, rays of sunshine softly brushing the landscape. It’s the kind of imagery where if you were to look up the word idyllic in the dictionary, you’d find images of these backgrounds.

Still, you don’t have access to all areas of the city at first. Some places are blocked by construction work, or a dentist sign (Shin Chan is very afraid of the dentist, you see), and you have to wait for them to open. Once they do, you’re unlikely to find anything new other than more expertly designed backgrounds, but that was reward enough for me.

There will be different bugs to catch and new fish to find, but it’s mostly about exploring for fun. I can’t think of anything more appealing than that for a five-year-old, which Shin Chan himself will constantly remind you of. And it reminds me of how I spent my own summers, exploring for fun, not really finding much, but just enjoying existing in this space at the time.

Shin Chan

It’s great to finally have this series here.

At some point, as you get to know the city better, you’ll eventually discover a not-so-secret secret base where the dinosaur battles I mentioned take place. In practice, it’s very simple turn-based battles that see you playing rock paper scissors, but presenting the toys as if they were real absolutely shows the power of a child’s imagination.

There are also collectible cards to acquire that improve your dinosaurs’ stats, and given my passion for collecting Yu-Gi-Oh and other cards as a kid, that kept me satisfied. There’s no greater reason to collect and battle, it’s just a way to have fun with your friends, which for me is a childhood mainstay. Do it for fun, not for a purpose.

One thing to be aware of is that Shin Chan can get tired, and if he runs out of energy he will collapse and end up in the house he lives in, although there are no consequences other than to waste time. You lose energy moving from screen to screen, which is a fun way to encourage you to memorize the layout of the city and figure out which routes are the fastest, if only for the satisfaction of do it.

Of course, there’s a plot to be found, one that absolutely caters to a younger audience. The homeroom professor figures prominently due to his use of a time machine that summons dinosaurs from the past. Jurassic Park would suggest that the dinosaurs would immediately cause mayhem, but they’re mostly pretty cold, and the townspeople even end up taking care of them.

It’s one of the lowest-stakes stories I’ve experienced this year, and in such a pressure-filled year, it’s something I really appreciate. The story isn’t really about the dinosaurs, but about how the townspeople live their lives around them and how five-year-old Shin Chan can help them.

Being the lovable goof that Shin Chan is, his help is normally well-meaning but not always productive, but it always works out in the end, because a game like this couldn’t get too dramatic.

Due to this lack of pressure, Shin Chan acts as a perfect, relaxing escape. Animal Crossing, as beautiful as it is, also has the potential to be stressful if you can’t design your island correctly, but Shin Chan asks so little of you that you couldn’t be stressed.

I want to be clear that games that challenge the player with uncomfortable and important themes absolutely have an important place in the canon. But Shin Chan also deserves such a place because, at least in the world of big releases, there isn’t much like it, especially since Boku No Natsuyasumi is pretty inaccessible outside of those who speak Japanese.

We cannot escape the real world forever. I know it, you know it. That’s not even what I want in the long run. But we all deserve a week off here and there, and I think many of us would benefit greatly from not being able to do anything without an ounce of guilt. And Shin Chan, a game about spending a week doing nothing, is one of the most perfect types of nothing you can do.

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