Thursday, February 21

Review: Tokyo School Life [Nintendo Switch eShop]

I’ll readily admit, when I first started out playing Tokyo School Life I began getting flashes of some of the other more pervy games I’ve played on Switch. In my own defense, in the very early going there are a few moments that pointed towards this being another sort of odd title looking for excuses to put some scantily-clad anime girls on display in a variety of creepy ways. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was that the further into this virtual novel I got that instead it ended up being full of a surprising amount of humor and heart.

You play the game as an exchange student who is excited by the prospect of spending a few months in Japan. Buoyed by what feels like a pretty genuine appreciation for Japanese culture and a host of stories from your “sensei” back home you embark on a journey to take it all in and hopefully meet some “cute girls” along the way. Pretty well right out of the gate your plans get off to a rocky and somewhat weird start as you literally run into 2 different girls and have some pretty awkward encounters with them. This gets worse when you come to find they’re also students in the classes you’ll be attending. To then top it all off it turns out the dorm you’ll be staying in is also where these 2 and another girl you meet in class are staying as well. Awkward!

Probably the main thing to keep in mind here is that with it being a visual novel your choices are pretty limited and, especially in the early going, infrequent. Your ultimate goal is certainly to choose one of the girls to pursue but unlike most games of this kind they don’t come off as being purely objects of your desire to ogle and treat somewhat poorly. Instead, the path to learning about each of them can be a complicated one and not only will you have to earn their trust you’ll also (more often to not) find that they’re far from the cookie cutter vision of “typical” Japanese girls your character starts his journey with. Each of the girls is quite different in their personalities and their interests often end up being a bit surprising as you get to know each of them.

In the end while I’m not typically a big fan of visual novels I found myself unusually drawn to this one. The strength and depth of each of the characters often proved interesting and in general each of their quirks felt pretty genuine like these could be real people, flaws and all. In addition, the reverence for Japan and its culture managed to pepper its way into just about everything and especially since so much time is spent reviewing how your character’s preconceived notions about the country and its people were incorrect there’s a refreshing quality to that side of the story as well. If you’re looking for a story with some humor, romance, and some unusual characters who have a sort of realistic (well, for a game) feel to them Tokyo School Life is far more interesting and worthwhile than most of the typical fare I’ve encountered like it.

Score: 7.5

  • Strong and quirky female characters who feel much more genuine than is typical for this sort of game
  • While it gets off to a somewhat shaky start the level of perviness is relatively limited

  • For the most part there’s not a great deal of choice along the way, so while you may choose to replay to pursue someone different there’s not likely much overall variation to the story in general
  • Visual novels can be an acquired taste