The perfect summer vacation is kicking back in a quaint countryside town in Japan, catching bugs, fishing, running errands, and of course, dealing with an evil professor and the dinosaurs he’s summoned with his time machine. The lengthily named Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation - The Endless Seven-Day Journey is the perfect laid-back summer game, with an utterly charming story and a cast of characters that help accentuate its gameplay.
For anyone unfamiliar, Crayon Shin-chan is a long-running manga and anime series that debuted in 1990. Still going strong to this day, Shin-chan is tremendously popular in Japan but simply never caught on in the West (though it did have quite an interesting run on Adult Swim). At the same time, this game is a partnership between Shin-chan and a popular series of simulation games known as “My Summer Vacation,” which have never been localized in English: until now. You don’t need to be familiar with either series and can go in completely blind.
In Summer Vacation Shin-chan and his family are staying in the remote village of Kumamoto for a week, bringing their ridiculous antics to the quiet residents. Shinnosuke Nohara, Shin-chan, himself is an incredibly odd child, a five-year-old that’s overtly mature and constantly engages in crazy antics that, somehow, solve people’s problems.
As Shin-chan and his family arrive at the train station they meet a quirky old professor that gives them a revolutionary new camera that instantly turns photos they take into drawings. This camera serves as Shin-chan’s journal for the entirety of the game, chronicling everything he does with cute little drawings.
Summer Vacation is essentially an Animal Crossing-style game with more narrative structure. Each day you can do literally whatever you want, explore the town, catch bugs, go fishing, become a journalist, play a Dino battle minigame, and more. As you explore the town and talk to people you start uncovering more narrative bits that unlock little stories called “Summer Memories.”
Partway through the week is where things get weird, as a giant Brachiosaurus suddenly appears in the middle of town, the first of multiple dinosaurs. The names you can give these dinosaurs are a good representation of the game’s comedy, and my personal favorite is the Pterosaur I named “IRL Terrifying Bird.” Summer Vacation has a phenomenal sense of humor, and there are multiple recurring gags that run throughout the experience, like Shin-chan completely mishearing words, such as mistaking “deliver” for “witchery.”
Things really get wacky when you reach the end of the week, and the professor curses Shin-chan to relive the events of the week for eternity. In a Majora’s Mask-like twist you’ll need to play through the week again and again until you advance all the narratives, help the townspeople, and find a way to end the time loop.
Despite the absurd story, everything about Summer Vacation is meant to be stress-free, and while the game lets you do whatever you want there’s enough guidance to make it feel like you have a purpose. Shin-chan is such a quirky charming character, and seeing him solve the problems of various people in weird ways is a blast.
While you’re wandering around collecting various items and animals you have a number of goals to complete, which add new drawings to your journal. These drawings can then be turned into the local newspaper to earn extra money, increase the paper’s readership, and continue that side story. There are plenty of fun little twists as well, like a turn-based dinosaur combat minigame, a farm that lets you grow crops, and a DJ minigame that lets you mix the game’s songs.
Tying all of these elements together is a phenomenal art style that looks just like the Shin-chan anime. The town of Kumamoto is brought to life with absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn background art, with the 3D character models layered on top of that. For all intents and purposes, Summer Vacation feels like a playable anime, as you cast your line into a babbling brook and wander past massive fields of wheat.
Shin-chan makes it clear that it’s a real shame we’ve never seen the rest of the My Summer Vacation games come West, as it’s a delightful experience that just exudes charm from every pore. In the midst of all the big games and overwhelming summer heat, Shin-chan is the perfect game to just kick back and relax for a few hours.
Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation - The Endless Seven-Day Journey is currently available on Nintendo Switch. A release on PC and PS4 is planned for a later date.