Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ 2016 Version Review
Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ is a rather curious little visual novel made with the expressed purpose of simulating a foreigner’s trip to the promised land of all weeaboos, glorious Nippon. With the main character serving as a nondescript blonde white man who is staying with a pair of sisters, Makoto and Akira Misaki, who he met online, who serve as his guides to this foreign land, taking him to three of 17 distinct locations in the Tokyo area, along with a brief trip to Kyoto. All while the three engage in anime styled shenanigans with the two sisters. What this amounts to is a game that can easily be separated into two parts, despite how often they overlap with one another.
The first part is a rather loving simulation of a person’s trip to Japan, albeit a very idealized one that chooses to highlight specific and positive things about various locales and the culture they all hold. It is not a very thorough or even propr tour guide, and instead functions more on giving players a taste of a Japan adventure, as such a thing is often held as a lofty goal for those fond of games, anime, and other miscellaneous nerdery.
The developers made a concerted effort to simulate the sense of travel by having the game calculate the player’s expenses, offering a lot of trivia and insights about the visitable locales, and even offering the ability to display the game’s text in English, Romaji, or proper Japanese. I can see it being a somewhat useful tool, albeit one that lacks much use on its own, as its purpose as a tour guide still seem secondary to being a piece of fantasy fulfillment.
A fantasy that is all the more pronounced due to the second part of the game, which details the protagonist’s relationship with the sisters as they spend a week together, going through various anime style shenanigans and getting to know each other. Or rather, the protagonist gets to know the sisters. These sections are enjoyable enough, offering something as entertaining as an average slice of life anime or manga, but as the game nears its conclusion, one of the sisters ends up entering a relationship with the protagonist. Something that is not uncalled for, as it is established early on that they are friends, and they do spend quite a lot of time together, yet feels like pandering to the presumably male player, and also affects the way the two sisters are designed.
Both Makoto and Akira are designed to elicit romantic feelings from the player and be, well, waifus to fawn over. While they do have distinct personalities that nicely complement each other, they are incredibly tropey and unrealistic in the context of a game that is basing itself in reality. The characters are not bad, but they do feel like pandering to the presumably male player, and perpetuate the moe trend that has been spreading across anime and manga over the past few years. Combine this with how the game simply assumes that anybody who is playing this must be male, and it all comes across as a little patronizing.
It is clear fantasy fulfillment that masks itself as being somewhat educational, which it technically is, but I cannot help but wish that it did not choose to indulge in familiar tropes and trends for the sake of appealing to a niche and at times alienating audience. I suppose you could say that the game is knowingly pursuing that audience, but I really and truly want to think that the audience of anime nerds, weeaboos, and western otaku are a bit better than that.
As for the visual side of things, through successive paid updates to the game, Go! Go! Nippon! Developed its presentation quite a bit from its initial release, offering animated sprites for Akira and Makoto along with widescreen support that unfortunately only goes up to 720p because of… reasons. The two characters are well portrayed through their sprites, even if their designs are a bit too emblematic of the moe trend I referenced before, while both the backgrounds and CGs are of high quality, painting various locales and scenes in great detail, which is partially due to photo tracing, or, in a few instances, photo backgrounds. Still, it is pleasant enough and gets the job done properly.
As a whole, Go! Go! Nippon! is fanatical, pandering, yet ultimately innocent. It is designed to make Japan as a nation seem as appealing and wonderful as possible, and attempts to make the act of visiting it easier by highlighting multiple unique elements of the nation and offering tools for one to practice and familiarize themselves with the Japanese language. While I don’t think it is a particularly good game, and is a bit too heavily based in the conventions of a dating sim, Go! Go! Nippon! is a cute little title with a degree of earnestness behind it.
It also served as a basis for a parody, Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and my desire to better appreciate that title is literally the only reason I revisited this game.