Tokyo School Life (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Andrew 27.03.2020

Review for Tokyo School Life on Nintendo Switch

Tokyo School Life is a visual novel game that follows an exchange student that just arrived in Tokyo, and his interactions with three fellow students. This heart-warming, summer tale of summer love is part dating sim, part education in Japanese culture, and as such, it clearly isn't a game for everyone. Read on to find all about it, in Cubed3's review for the Nintendo Switch version.

Visual novels, in general, rely on their characters and storyline to engage, with the player selecting answers as the only kind of interaction. Tokyo School Life is no exception, with typically only a single player interaction in each chapter. This is not the game to go for if fast-paced button mashing is your thing. So what does it offer? There are three separate plots to go through, one for each character, with different endings depending on choices and interactions within the game.

Screenshot for Tokyo School Life on Nintendo Switch

The plots themselves are all fairly mundane, with emphasis being placed on characterisation. This is no bad things considering it follows a slice-of-life approach to storytelling. The three female leads feel a bit one-dimensional at first, but their personalities get fleshed out deeper into the story. They're also three distinctly different love interests, and, in a realistic way, there may be different aspects of each of their characters that appeals to any individual player.

One thing the game has in spades is cultural references. It feels like it's been designed from the ground up to teach people about Japanese culture. The three major story arcs focus on pop idols, martial arts, and otaku culture, but many other areas are touched upon (e.g. Japanese festivals, the Yakuza, and fashion). No prior knowledge is assumed, which means that some players may already know the bulk of the material, but it's still a useful guide that can teach most people something new about Japanese culture. There are also opportunities for Japanese language students to learn, due to the fact that various Japanese scripts are available as subtitles, and that two subtitles can be shown at any time. This is fairly niche, but surely some players would be overjoyed at being able to read Japanese, whilst also having an English translation available at all times if required.

Screenshot for Tokyo School Life on Nintendo Switch

"Picking" a love interest depends on answering questions correctly, and at first it felt impossible to pick a correct choice. However, as knowledge of each character grows, there are hints at what the answer should be to charm a love interest. On replaying the game (or just a chapter), the answers become clear cut, as in hindsight they reflect something fundamental about their individual personalities. Although it may not be within the spirit of this title, different answers can be experimented with relative ease, due to the ridiculous number of save slots available.

The interactions with the girls are mostly clean and wholesome, with positive messages about working hard and caring for others. Strangely, the start of the game has (somewhat mild) references to breasts and nudity, but expectations that these will develop as the game progresses proved unfounded. Perhaps this reflects how relationships develop from an initial physical attraction to something deeper. A more cynical person may consider it a bait and switch, but overall, it's no bad thing. The lack of nudity and sexual content works well with the dialogue and characterisation, and allows more focus on the cultural aspects of Japan that this is trying to emphasise.

Screenshot for Tokyo School Life on Nintendo Switch

One cultural aspect that is bizarrely mostly emitted is that of relationships themselves. It would be interesting to see their take on how Japanese relationships differ from Western ones, or even what the implications of a long-distance relationship are, but these issues are not really dealt with. The conclusions can also be a little simplistic due to the need to bring closure. An aspect that is handled exceptionally though is the issue of transitioning from a friendship into a romantic relationship. The dialogue brings out a lot of realism here, with misunderstandings and misinterpretations that are typical in teenage years. These interactions really bring out emotions, and allow for a truly enjoyable game. The mild panic of the main character as he tries to figure out if he should hold a girls hand or not (for example) will seem very relatable to anyone not adept at reading other people.

Lastly, there's also a visual aspect to mention, which consists of a mixture of pictures and animations. Overall these are well done, with the animations in particular bringing a lot out despite their relative simplicity. Facial expressions and movements of characters make a big difference in bringing the characters to life, and even highlighting personality differences in a way that would not be possible otherwise. It's a literal example of the "show, don't tell" philosophy. Music is also geared towards different personalities and situations. It's catchy, but not too distracting, which is another plus. The opening animation is a highlight of the game, reinforcing the Japanese roots by making it clearly based off an anime intro.

Screenshot for Tokyo School Life on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The visual novel format, animations, and cultural references all end up creating something that feels incredibly Japanese. There's even an anime-style opening to boot. It's recommended for those that wish to learn about Japanese culture, or practice reading Japanese, but it may not be a game that appeals to the masses.

Developer

M2

Publisher

PQube

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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