Across the sunflower field — Going back home: closing words on the franchise
There’s something inherently nostalgic about summer as a season, but there’s also something bright and lively about it, and it’s not just the heat. In the case of the Boku no Natsuyasumi franchise — which at this point I can only describe as a heartfelt celebration of summer, of treasured memories, and of taking those treasured summer memories well into adulthood — all this is combined into a charming interactive experience.
Through its four entries, the series puts players in control of Boku and gives them the task of making his summer with relatives both memorable and fun. Despite their slight differences in character (with the fourth playable character being more chipper and prone to jokes than the original, for instance), each boy’s personality and thoughts are essentially manifested through the players’ actions and decisions: each little rivalry, each little bug bite, and, especially, each diary entry are there because you — the player — decided to take the protagonist down certain paths, explore certain trees and rocks, and make him interact with certain characters. Beyond its evocative atmosphere, perfectly grounded between a realistic setting and a child-like worldview of it, the series’ main charm resides in the way it gives players the liberty to have a personally crafted summer experience, be it that they base it on their own childhood experiences or that they, much as I did, get to live the mundane magic of Japanese summer for the first time.
Looking back into the franchise as a whole, Boku no Natsuyasumi grows on you because it is an exercise on creating routines: learning the most efficient routes, visiting the same places at different hours, talking to the same characters so that they gradually share bits of their story with Boku. Each of the game’s tasks -especially the more repetitive ones- are designed with the idea of ensuring that you (the player) not only partake in them, but also with the expectation that you will come to enjoy them, both as interactive experiences, and as efforts that will eventually translate into some revelation the protagonist of each installment will come to treasure, both as a child and as an adult.
Summer vacation might not be eternal (and in this case, not even real) but you can tell the franchise was designed to offer players experiences that, even at their most mundane, would feel like an adventure. Something that is achieved thanks to each of the entries’ realized aesthetics, their friendly exploration dynamics, and their earnest efforts to make the four Bokus daily experiences feel like realistic callbacks to any child’s vacation, even in cases they might not be necessarily relatable.