Toro to Kyuujitsu (Vacation with Toro)
Hey, it's the first post on my gaming blog! Here I plan to write here about anything I've been playing recently that I have something to say about, or topics relating to gaming I find interesting. I also apologise for the crummy quality of the images in this one. This game doesn't emulate very well and I don't have a means of capturing footage from my PS2 so I had to take photos of my TV. With that being said, let's jump into the article.
Today's featured game is called Toro to Kyuujitsu or Vacation with Toro. It's a game in the Japan-exclusive Doko Demo Issho series, which is virtually unknown outside of the region aside from Toro making some appearances in Playstation legacy media under the name "Sony Cat". The first game in the series was a huge hit and Sony decided to make Toro, the main character of the game by virtue of being on the box art, into a sortof mascot for the playstion brand in Japan alongside other characters like Parappa and the monkeys from Ape Escape. I have not played the original game due to it requiring the Pocket Station accessory nor have I played the other games in the series that don't require any peripherals, but I look forward to doing so in the future.
I'm pretty excited to write about Toro to Kyuujitsu as there's barely any English speaking coverage on this game, despite it having roughly the same level of accessibilty many untranslated Japan-exclusive games that get hyped up in English-speaking retro gaming circles. In fact, if you're learning Japanese I think this game is great conversational practice as everythings either in kana or a handful of the most common kanji.
The game starts with a short cutscene of Toro on a train headed towards the town where the game is set. You and Toro arrive at your room at the inn and the game begins. Half of this game is talking with Toro, and the other half is wandering around town. I'm far from fluent in Japanese but from what I can understand, Toro speaks in a somewhat excited and slightly childish manner and he seems totally infatuated with the player, It's pretty funny the things he says sometimes. Generally conversations are started when you examine something around you, he will either comment on it or ask you what it is. If you don't know the word, you can write in in english letters although there's a strict character limit. He will also ask you things about yourself such as your favourite food or what you like to read. You can teach him a word at any time by typing it in and specifying the category of "thing" that it is, such as living being, a greeting or the name of a famous person. You can also play games with him such as rock paper scissors and word chains. Sometimes he will also ask you to take a picture, which you can do at any time with the right trigger. Although I haven't figured out yet where photos are saved, if at all. You are also likely to run into one of the other characters from Doko Demo Issho such as Jun, Ricky, Pierre or Suzuki. Toro will have small talk with them for a bit if you move the cursor over them and press the O button while they're there, but otherwise they're not really interactive. You can also have FMV encounters with some of the human residents (or more likely just actors) but this can be quite rare and otherwise they're generally invisible.
Now to talk about my favourite half of this game, the exploration. Everywhere in this game is real footage of the town of Misaki, now considered merged with Miura City in Kanagawa prefecture. It's a lovely seaside town that makes this game a nostalgic experience for anyone whose spent an extended period of time in a sleepy seaside town like this, even if not in Japan. If somehow I'm ever able to make it there without going too far out of my way, I'd love to visit this town in real life and see how it's changed in the 20+ years since this game came out. I really appreciate that this game makes the most of the PS2's capabilities over the PS1, having these backgrounds be moving instead of photos. You can see the plants swaying in the breeze, the flickering street signs and of course, the waves of the ocean. The sound design is also lovely. Outside of rare cutscenes and the menus, there is no music and Toro's speech doesn't have any sound effects, although there are comic sound effects during some of his idle animations or he will meow when he wants to ask you something. Most of what you will hear is what's around you. Birds tweeting, leaves rustling, it's really nice. I'm not actually sure how many days are in this game (I think it's 7?) as I haven't beaten it yet but each day is about 20 minutes and there are different things in different places that might be there each time of the day, such as cars sometimes being parked somewhere they weren't before, or the school being open. Toro also blends in really well with the footage, they did a great job with the lighting and shadows to make it seem like he's actually there.
An interesting bit of trivia about this game. It gained some minor virality on the Japanese web after someone noticed something strange in the window of one of the houses in the middle of town during sunset. Supposedly it's the face of a ghost or a scary doll, and while I do see the face and think it looks kinda creepy, it's just a weird reflection from the sun after all. I managed to catch it myself in-game. What do you think? (right-click and open in new tab to get a better look.)
As for similar games, I'd say the closest one I'm familiar with is the Boku no Natsuyasumi series. If you haven't played any, please try at least the original on Playstation. That series is also only in Japanese but if you feel strongly about playing in English, there's actually a translation for a recent spinoff starring Crayon Shin-chan coming out soon for Switch and PS4 called Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation. There's also Attack of the Friday Monsters for 3DS, but it's an eShop exclusive. Unfortunately none of these games have real-life backgrounds but they're still gorgeous and there's actually much more to do in them than Toro to Kyuujitsu.
I'd definitely recommend this game to anyone who's learning conversational Japanese and is at least somewhere between beginner and intermiediate. It's great practice if you can get the gist of most of what Toro's saying, but it doesn't really give you much time to pause and look something up, and the exploration alone might not be worth the effort of loading it up on a USB or buying a copy. Emulation isn't a great option as all the 3D characters including Toro have major graphical glitches and the game is bound to crash before the end of day 2 at the latest, at least in my experience. You can give it a shot though and see if it works for you somehow.
Anyway, thank you for reading the first post on my gaming blog. I hope you try this game or any of the others if they seem like something you would like, and I hope you enjoyed. I don't have anything specific planned for my next post but I have a few ideas kicking around and I want to keep sharing knowledge of games so stay tuned for the next one!