Tokyo School Life – Nintendo Switch Review

Genre: Role Playing, Adventure, Simulation
Developer: M2 Co,LTD
Publisher: Pqube
Release Date: Feb 14, 2019
Edited by KnightAvenger

Tokyo School Life is a visual novel developed by M2 Co.,LTD for the Nintendo Switch and PC. It follows the main character through his experience as a foreign exchange student over two months. He has to deal with exams and studying, but most of his time is spent with three girls and learning their stories. I, personally, played through on the Nintendo Switch.

The story opens as your character arrives at the airport. The narrative explains that he is going to attend a private school, Keyakidai High, due to being the applicant with the highest grades and sets him up as a slightly perverted teen who has a fairly stereotypical idea of Japanese girls and wants one for a girlfriend.

Your character runs into Karin, who soon disabuses him of his idea of the standard Japanese girl. Tropes are followed, a misunderstanding happens, and she takes him for a molester and uses a rape alarm. After escaping that situation, he arrives at the school and meets the other characters, Aoi and Sakura, and then later finds out he will be living with them at a shrine for his time in Japan.

The story continues on, following the character through classes and visits to various places in Japan, while the character becomes friendly with the girls. The story isn’t really a strong point of this visual novel, but while it is a bog-standard story about a foreign exchange student getting closer to and then into a relationship with a girl and it is full of the standard tropes, it does have its strong points.

Throughout the story, it does quite well, slipping in various cultural notes and realistic difficulties of living in another country. I have, personally, had some very similar experiences to the character when I lived in Japan and elsewhere abroad, such as not knowing how to use the polite form of the language instead of formal and not understanding certain seemingly obvious concepts due to not having a frame of reference. Language exams testing on what is an unrealistic type of speech to a native speaker was very relatable.

I appreciated that the cultural notes, while generally positive, do try to add in a couple of negatives for balance, too. From minor points, such as anime not being socially acceptable to drunkards passing out on the street as being more common in Japan than some other countries, it doesn’t just paint a perfect picture of the country.

That said, I would take the cultural notes with a grain of salt. I did notice a couple of mentions of something being Japan-specific, such as staying on one side of an escalator, which I have seen in other countries, too. There may be more instances of this.

As mentioned, there are three girls involved with the main character. While Karin, Aoi, and Sakura do seem to be rather generic at first, if you continue on, you do find a bit more depth and backstory than you would expect. Each girl has a secret which you uncover during the story. At first, Karin seems to be your standard outgoing and brash, but sometimes, kind girl. Aoi is basically the dorm mom, taking care of everyone else. Sakura is kind and polite, but often ill. Most of the enjoyment of this game comes from learning more about the characters, so I’ll avoid any details due to spoilers. Aside from one route, though, the story is kept fairly light throughout.

Speaking of the characters, your main character only has the name that you give him. This can feel somewhat strange if you use your own name, as the character sometimes acts in ways that wouldn’t be approved. His personality is very generic, presumably by design. Slightly perverted but generally nice. He has a seemingly unending wallet, too, despite often complaining that he’s running out of money. It never specifies which country he comes from, but I assumed it to be the U.S. or a similar country due to references he made.

While mentioning the slight perversion of the character, it never really goes too far. This game is rated ‘E’ for Everyone and the furthest it really goes is seeing characters in swimsuits and a naked back once.

There is one route for each character. If you make enough of the correct choices, you will have an option to choose that character’s route. If not, it will be greyed out. In my first playthrough, I had the options to choose Aoi or Sakura but hadn’t made enough Karin choices. There are no hidden routes or extra CGs depending on choices made. Just a line or two of different text if you make a different choice. To complete the main story and all three character routes takes approximately six hours, so it is quite a short visual novel.

One nice feature of this game for language learners is that you can play in English in the main text window with Japanese (a choice between kanji with furigana, hiragana, or romanji) in the subtext window. These can be switched or turned off as desired.

Tokyo School Life uses the E-mote engine. The backgrounds are static and nothing special, but the characters themselves are animated. They sway from side to side, move the arms, blink their eyes, and move their mouths when talking. It is often used to good effect, such as seeing Aoi bouncing around excitedly, giving the impression of a puppy-like demeanor. It really brings the characters to life, improving the visual aspect of the game significantly.

The audio side is fine, but nothing amazing. The voice acting is well done. There are ten songs, including a generic pop opening and some standard background music, but it all fits well.

Pros:

  • Animated characters
  • Cultural notes
  • Some real issues of the living abroad experience

Cons:

  • The story is not amazing
  • Very short

Eden gives Tokyo School Life a score of 7 out of 10 (70) Moe Blobs.

In summary, this is a fairly short and casual visual novel, with some nice cultural notes. It’s certainly aimed towards people with an interest in Japan. It was enjoyable more for the characters than the story itself and the animation is used to great effect. If this sounds like it suits you, you can pick it up for $14.99 (USD) on Nintendo Switch or on Steam.

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