Saturday, July 10, 2010

Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 - mini-review

I’ve gotten 6 days written out in the BnN3 diary, read to start Sunday, so I thought I’d put up a mini-review in preparation. Tell your friends, bookmark the site, and get ready to travel back in time to 1975!
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My hope of these diary entries is to reach 31 days, document most of the game, and encourage people to check it out, or others in the series (there's Boku no Natsuyasumi 4 on PSP now). And although I don’t think big publishers read this blog (maybe they do?), I hope that it generates enough interest in the franchise so that someone emails someone else and maybe we someday see one of the series in the west, in English. Failing that, maybe the fan-translation community will tackle the PSP version. I am certain this has commercial viability in the west. It's not only tremendous fun, it's also different to anything else available on the market and yet, simultaneously, it has elements of a dozen other games. Crazy, huh readers?
BnN3 is a sublime game, blithe and delightful, reminding me of animated films such as My Neighbour Totoro, and also my own childhood spent on or near farms. If you’ve grown up in rural areas you can appreciate the smells and sights you’d encounter. If you haven’t, then the game should still appeal for it’s fishing, insect catching, bottle cap collecting, beetle sumo, and swimming gameplay.

A lot of reviews say there is no goal and it’s very laid back, but actually I found it the total opposite. The goal is to have the greatest holiday ever - and it’s not easy when there’s such a strict time limit. I’ve not played many games so tight for time. The game is portrayed similarly to Final Fantasy 7; the backgrounds are hand-painted water-colours, and overlaid on to them are polygonal characters. Each time you move to a different camera angle though you spend about 10 minutes of your day (this on the slowest timer; fast timer mode loses you 20 minutes or more). You only have until 11pm to play. It’s quite possible to run around your aunt and uncle’s house a few times and find it’s already time for bed. So most days require planning and strict diligence to achieve a specific goal. Wasting time can result in a “boring day” where you draw a generic picture in your diary at bed time, because you've not done anything interesting.

There’s elements of Pokemon, Tamagotchi, Animal Crossing, The Sims, and plenty of relaxing “non-games”, all of which have proven financially successful. The game was intended to cater to Japanese adults who remembered and yearned to relive their childhoods where they’d get shipped off to relatives in the countryside - I doubt anyone in the west spent their 10th year summer in Hokkaido, but this shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the game. Childhood is a universal thing, and in the developed world most of us should be able to relate to elements in BnN3. It won’t sell a million copies, but I believe it would sell enough to cover the cost of text translation, printing and distribution, and net a profit - thereby also opening the gates for building on an early fanbase to release future instalments.

My only concern with it coming to the west is how butchered it would end up. Anyone who has even a slight inkling in the game should be able to appreciate that it’s set in a different culture and that some things will be alien (such as Haiku and a reference to the mochi-rabbit in the moon), but if you remove these elements you wouldn’t by some magic entice mainstream gamers to buy it. They want Killzone 3 and grey/brown shooters, and no amount of alterations will ever bring them to the table, so there's no point trying. The Boku no Natsuyasumi series appeals to a few very specific groups of gamers (Japanophiles and relaxation gamers, for example), and leaving it intact would be the way to appeal to them - it would also make the job cheaper and therefore easier to accomplish. Maybe pull an Atlus and include translation notes in the manual, explaining Japanese culture.

Anyway, I’ll leave it there. Please note that when I make the diary entries, I have attempted to write in the mindset of a 10-year-old boy. So the language is mostly simple and to the point. I also try to be funny in places, or explain cultural things. And for those who like it, there is an ever-so-slight Digitiser vibe to some entries.

For anyone wanting to start the game, the first big tip I’ll give is:
Visit granpa’s house which is down the stairs - there is a red clock in there you can take, which allows you to tell time. Also, IMPORTANT: make sure to go to the settings menu, and change the timing speed to SLOW, otherwise the game moves FAR too quickly.
In the meantime, check out the following Youtube videos which have beginner’s tips.
Starting tips
Milking a cow
Sparrows
Swimming
Test of courage
Star Festival
Cemetery visit

Preview from the diary itself:
Day 2:
Since it was warm I decided to take off my t-shirt and shoes - I was about to do the same with my shorts when I remembered a similar incident at school in the city, where I got into all kinds of trouble with the teacher. Shorts must stay on!


Day 3:
Later I caught a fish. He’s small but red - I think I’m going to name him Turbo Derrick.

5 comments:

  1. This isn't really my style of game but I love the asthetic! Maybe Atlus should bring this one over, we'd get it relatively butcher-free at least. Soundtrack CD at best. :3

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  2. Is this worth importing? Because it seems pretty interesting. I really hope this comes to the US...

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  3. Really glad to see this series of posts has started. The game looks great. At first I thought that since this was a PSP game it had a better chance of being localized than the PS3 iteration of the series. But then I found out that apparently there's been multiple iterations on PSP, so I'm guessing if it's been passed up before, there's probably very little chance it could make it out here this time.

    Keep fighting the good fight though!

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  4. I've been following these little snippets but I've decided to just reply to the main idea post due to relevancy.

    I don't really why they are afraid of including Japanese cultural refereces in video games, especially this one. It would probably give more of an authentic feel to it as 'going on vacation to a foreign country', which some people actually do. They could still include all the cultural references via actually 'introducing' them to the western gamer.

    I've always known of Haiku, and in fact, almost everyone I know does too. Reading these journals actually enticed me to go learn up even more on the subject.

    Oddly enough, even being a western gamer, I definaly got the Obaa-chan joke the first time without explanation. ^.^

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