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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Japanese School Life: A year abroad on your computer.



Sekai Project has been bringing some pretty awesome games stateside, and I'm pleased that I've gotten to work on the ones I've worked on so far. Not long ago, I was contacted and asked if I'd like to work on their first original game. Naturally, I said yes. And it's a pretty cool idea.

Japanese School Life is a tradition dating sim style setup, but it's also here to teach you. Teach you a lot. About what? About... well... school life (and beyond) in Japan.

You play from the point of view of Brian, a die-hard self-proclaimed otaku who scores a year abroad in Japan during high school. He arrives knowing enough Japanese to get by and a whole lot about Japan through the lens of anime and manga. But when it comes to the day-to-day life of a Japanese teenager in the real world, he's still relatively in the dark.

Fortunately, there are two girls in his class willing to help him out: the studious, modest Chiyoko (Choco to her friends) and the sporty, ever-hungry Arisa. Together, they study for exams, go on field trips, celebrate both Japanese-specific and international holidays, and even go to both Comikets. By the end of the trip, Brian has not only improved his Japanese, but learned about the reality behind the fantasy.

While there are dating sim elements to the game -- you've got to decide which girl gets the nicer Valentine's Day present and things like that -- there's really only one route and one ending. So whether you decide to lavish affection on Choco or Arisa, you'll still get the full experience. Which is important for a game that's so information-dense.

And really, the dating sim is more a framing tool than anything particularly important. Brian, Choco, and Arisa are all fast friends. There's no 'dating' element per se. You go out with them both, you party with them both, and you all go to the beach together.

I suppose there's the concern that some may find the game dry or a bit too full of information, but I (even on editing duty) didn't feel overwhelmed. There was a lot of information, yes, but it's presented in a logical way. Each chapter is a month, spanning a Japanese school year, so things move chronologically. That means a close look at holidays, seasonal trends, and even what people do during flu season.

I'm a big proponent of visual novels as an educational tool and hope to explore that in future, so I love the existence of Japanese School Life. It also makes 'real Japan' accessible to anime fans in a friendly, fun way.

Also, favourite girl? Choco. You'll see why once you get to their first Comiket.

If this sounds like something you're on board for, go pick up Japanese School Life on Steam starting today.