Boku no Natsuyasumi is the Perfect Virtual Vacation to Chase Away the Quarantine Blues
Craving that fresh mountain air, lush scenery, and clear water? Boku no Natsuyasumi will transport you to a Japanese summer in the country.
For many of us, whether we’re self quarantined or essential workers, the current pandemic marks an extremely stressful period in our collective times. But fear not! Because while I may not have any permanent solutions to this horrible reality, I do have a game franchise that can at least put a smile on your face.
Boku no Natsuyasumi, or My Summer Vacation, is a Japanese franchise developed by Millennium Kitchen that first premiered in 2000 for the original PlayStation. The first game takes place in August 1975 and chronicles a nine year-old boy named Boku (which means “me,” and makes the title a pun) as he stays with relatives in the countryside during his mother’s last month of pregnancy.
“Boku no Natsuyasumi, or My Summer Vacation, is a Japanese franchise developed by Millennium Kitchen that first premiered in 2000 for the original PlayStation.”
What follows is the most relaxing game I have ever laid eyes on (and yes, more relaxing than Animal Crossing). You play through each day collecting bugs, eating meals with your relatives, building up your treehouse, making fly kits, fish, play with fireflies, and more. There’s 31 days in total and it’s completely up to the player how you spend those days. You can also choose to take walks around the environment to better view the area and note the places of interest. More areas open up as you gain access to certain tools or reveal certain plot points.
The characters have an extremely charming way of speaking, an interesting mix of polite and hyperbole. It’s a type of speaking pattern you rarely hear in Japanese media and it’s very refreshing. That’s not to mention how well it fits in with the whole relaxing aesthetic of the game, due to how positive and sweet the interactions are.
The one exception is the youngest daughter Shirabe, who from the start dislikes Boku and is clearly dismissive of his attempts to befriend her. In less capable hands this could have turned out rather disastrous, but thanks to the series’ excellent writing, Shirabe is without a doubt the most hilarious character in the game. She truly embodies the “weird little girl” archetype in both a wholesome and true-to-life way. And it’s sweet to see her slowly warm up to Boku as time passes, watching their familial relationship deepen.
“The visuals and sound design in this game are exquisite, transporting you into a clear Japanese summer day out in the country.”
Interwoven between cutscenes is the occasional chiming in from the narrator as he delves into what happened at that moment or what he was feeling. His soft, worldly, and slightly raspy voice lends a calming veneer to the already soothing atmosphere.
The visuals and sound design in this game are exquisite, transporting you into a clear Japanese summer day out in the country. The character designs are simple and cute, with excellent writing and voices as familiar as your own family’s. As Boku explores, there’s beautiful nature to take in. The area is filled with lush green grass and tall trees, sunlight reflecting off crystal clear water that he can scoop up, and butterflies fluttering about. All around you can hear water rushing, the chirping of cicadas and birds in the distance, and Boku’s own footsteps hitting the pavements and dirt roads. Beautiful music serves as an accompaniment to the natural sounds and elevates the already soothing ambiance into a tranquil paradise.
Even Natsuyasumi’s menu and save screens have their own unique charm. The former resembles Boku’s desk, each item representing a menu function. The latter is styled after a child’s summer homework as they detail their everyday events in a journal, complete with adorable childish scrawl and crude drawings. A minor detail for sure, but touches like this really flesh out the experience and immerses the player in its serene, peaceful world.
“Producer Kaz Ayabe created Boku no Natsuyasumi to replicate his childhood memories of spending lazy Japanese summers in the countryside.”
After 31 days, Boku’s vacation is over and he returns to Tokyo with new and wonderful memories of the good times he shared with his family in the country. And if you want to return to those serene times, there’s always the following three games in the series. Each one has Boku visit a new scenic location in Japanese as players revisit that same core premise of the first.
So, want to play Boku no Natsuyasumi? Well, it’ll be a little difficult but not impossible, luckily! The bad news is that it was never localized in English, but the good news is you can purchase the first and second games for the PSP, since the portable isn’t region-locked. The third title is playable on PS3, and the fourth is also available on PSP. Unfortunately there aren’t any English subtitles, but it’s still simple enough to navigate. There’s also a handy strategy guide of the first title, so you can use that as a jumping point to familiarize yourself with the controls and general progression.
For those who want an easier way to wind down, there are plenty of people who have already posted playthroughs of the game along with closed-captioned English subtitles. A complete one of the original game (provided by GK Translation), can be found below. Watching is more than enough to relax, as the game lends itself well to the passive experience of simply viewing versus interacting directly.
Producer Kaz Ayabe created Boku no Natsuyasumi to replicate his childhood memories of spending lazy Japanese summers in the countryside. Replicate them he certainly did, and I was struck at how much the strong design and execution of such a simple premise spoke to me. I was completely drawn into its spell the first time I laid eyes on the minute and a half snippet of a walk through the sprawling countryside (posted by Twitter user Kimimi). And while most of us aren’t able to retreat to nature to unwind right now, my hope is that either by watching or playing this amazing game, you’ll be able to find some peace of mind in this challenging time.
For more titles to unwind with, check out why Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing are giving our Features Editor Ryan Meitzler a semblance of routine once again. You can also read up on our DualShockers guide to the most relaxing and comforting games to play.