This game has two buttons dedicated to the Butt-Only Alien
I think one of the reasons I fell so hard for Animal Crossing back on the GameCube was it transported me back to a simpler era in my life. In the fall of 2002, I started my senior year of high school amongst strangers as my family moved to the area just a few weeks before. It was the third and final high school of my academic career, and while in hindsight I appreciate the fact I didn’t bother to get too close to anyone because I was zipping off to college the next year, it was a less than ideal situation for an awkward dweeb on the precipice of adulthood. That’s why I spent so many hours retreating into my Animal Crossing town, spending my evenings hanging out by the river and walking through the trees just as I did when I was a kid in Western Washington.
To be honest, I still use Animal Crossing as an escape whenever I get fed up with life as an adult. I need that break, that opportunity to retreat into my rose-tinted memories of an uncomplicated youth where the only responsibility I had was making sure I got home before dark. Maybe it’s just a form of arrested development, but the part of my brain that doesn’t want to grow up will always get excited about simple, laid-back games that loosely connect to those adolescent years.
That part of my brain is the reason I’ve been obsessing for the last month about the localization of Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation -The Endless Seven-Day Journey- even though I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the Shin-chan manga or anime series.
Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation -The Endless Seven-Day Journey- (PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: Millennium Kitchen, Star Factory
Released: August 11, 2022 (Switch), August 25, 2022 (PS4), August 31, 2022 (PC)
Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation -The Endless Seven-Day Journey- is a spin-off of the never-localized Boku no Natsuyasumi series. Developed by Millennium Kitchen, the franchise taps into those nostalgic feelings of the past by putting players in the shoes of a young boy visiting a small town for a month in 1975 (or 1985 for Boku no Natsuyasumi 4). Rather than offer players the thrills of their contemporaries, Boku no Natsuyasumi games have settled on a far more quaint and quiet experience, one that revolves around catching bugs, going fishing, playing games, and chatting with the locals.
The formula is more or less the same with The Endless Seven-Day Journey, only it’s been given a significant dose of Crayon Shin-chan. The Nohara clan has relocated for a week to the tiny mountain town of Asso, where five-year-old Shinnosuke will spend his days exploring the beautiful countryside as various storylines play out around him. The central plot of this jaunt has to do with a wannabe evil Professor who keeps reaching back in time to transport dinosaurs to the empty streets of Asso.
Shinnosuke’s vacation is only supposed to be for a week, but in a fit of rage, the eponymous Professor traps him in one of those infinite time loops you might have heard about. Every time Shin and his family leave, he falls asleep and wakes up back at the beginning of his trip. Hence, the “Endless Seven-Day Journey.” It’s a pretty decent setup that results in a lot of good feels and neighbors banding together for the greater good.
Because of some machinations of the narrative, you’re not really starting back at square one whenever Shin-chan loops. Everything you collect and all of the areas of Asso you unlock carry over with each reset. Additionally, the storylines you start during one week will keep going into the next, which is just one of the reasons tying the narrative to a time loop doesn’t really work for this game. Even when you’re given a further explanation about how the time loop works, it doesn’t adequately legitimize the narrative relying on the plot device rather than just extending the length of Shin-chan’s trip.
Thankfully, it’s an enjoyable trip and one I don’t mind extending long past the 10-hour run time and into New Game+. Fishing and bug collecting are the type of peaceful and stress-free activities I need to unwind after these ridiculously hot summer days. Stress-free describes most of what you’ll do in Asso, from growing vegetables to taking up a job as a reporter in the local paper. For that, you just need to play the game as you would anyway and the stories will write themselves along the way.
The only bit of stress you’ll find in The Endless Seven-Day Journey is the dinosaur card battles. Using a simple rock-paper-scissors formula, you’ll do battle with neighboring kids to see who can drain their opponent’s health first. Each of the dinosaurs the Professor brings to Asso is a playable character in the game and cards you collect from chocolate boxes can be used to augment your chosen dinosaurs’ strength or abilities. The difficulty of these battles does escalate quite a bit, and there are so many cards to collect I didn’t get a full deck until New Game+.
Of course, even if I did fill out my deck in my first go, I was coming back to this game anyway. The Endless Seven-Day Journey just provides a pleasant and gorgeous world to be in. The hand-drawn background art is exquisite, on par with what you see in well-funded anime films. There isn’t a corner of this game that isn’t dripping in detail, and going through it I couldn’t help but compare it to Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, which also features a trip to the Japanese countryside.
As beautiful as the background art is, the character art is definitely an acquired taste. I’ve more or less avoided the Crayon Shin-chan manga and anime because I didn’t care for the character designs and this game did nothing to change that. What it did do, however, is cement the fact that I’m not a fan of its humor either. Or at least, this twee country version of Shin-chan humor.
I’m not talking about the fart and butt jokes, which don’t really bother me and are pretty sparse across the game’s runtime. I’m talking about the constant mishearing and correction jokes. A character says one thing. Shinnosuke repeats it back as another thing. The character gets angry with Shin-chan. It’s just that again and again until you just want these people to shut up.
Outside of the poor humor, I think this is a very well-written game with endearing characters and enjoyable dialogue. Sure, the narrative around the time-travel aspect does get a bit wobbly as you enter the home stretch of the story and one or two of the character arcs you’ll watch unfold do come with a bit of an ick factor attached. But beyond that, I’m pretty pleased with how these storylines play out and resolve.
I came into The Endless Seven-Day Journey expected to revel in its recreation of the leisurely days of summer. I didn’t expect I’d leave it with a whole town full of characters I’m genuinely delighted by. And that’s why I enjoyed being in this world as much as I did. It’s an altruistic bit of nicecore gaming that plays like a warm memory of youth. Even if I don’t care for Crayon Shin-chan, this is a game I’m going to return to when I need a break from adulting all day.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]