Game Title: Tokyo School Life
Company: PQube Limited
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4 – 5 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 540 MB

I love playing Visual Novels, but they’re even better when there’s a love or romance aspect involved. And even better after that if there are routes for different characters in the game, essentially being a Dating Sim and Visual Novel all in one. It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of those, specifically back when a certain Chinese VN released on the Switch.

Today, I get to play one of these not only as a game I wanted to play but also something that’s been requested by you guys. Centered around Japanese School Culture, here is my review of Tokyo School Life for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

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TSL centers around a young man from America traveling to Japan for 2 months as a foreign exchange student in order to learn more about Japanese Culture (but secretly just wants to meet cute girls). After arriving and re-creating nearly every anime/manga ‘misunderstanding’ cliche in the book, he is reluctantly let into a dormitory to live with 3 young girls his own age to begin his 2 months of experiencing Japan.

The overall story isn’t bad and each route is done pretty well on character development, especially on the fact that the game doesn’t just do the same ending events but with Girl A, B, or C. All of the routes are different lengths and end in completely different ways, depending on who you choose, their interests and their personality.

The issue I have with the story is the Protagonist. He is so overly-obsessed with Japanese Culture and especially Anime and Manga, he is constantly reciting cliches to himself for the entire first half of the game. It happens so often to the point where I just couldn’t stand him until the actual routes started and the story focused on them and not him.

I will admit that I really liked each individual ending route. It was just the starting couple hours that remained awkward and weird with how the protagonist acts and thinks.

Gameplay

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Tokyo School Life is a Visual Novel with Dating Sim elements thrown into the mix. Across the game, you’ll be reading and cycling through story scenes and choosing dialogue options to affect the affinity rating for each of the three characters that have ending routes.

Progression in this game is pretty simple. You go through story scene after story scene like any other Visual Novel and as you progress through the game and find CG artwork and different music tracks, they unlock for you in the Main Menu.

The big control factor you have is which girl you do or don’t end up getting close to. You have 4 different endings you can attain and you get them by going through the story and making dialogue choices to lean for or against the 3 girls you live with during the game: Aoi, Sakura, and Karin. The choices can raise or lower affinity ratings for each girl and you get an ending path depending on what those affinity ratings are by the game’s half-way point, either 4+ points for that character’s ending, or fewer than 4 points on anyone and getting the Bad Ending.

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This is a pretty simple system and it’s pretty easy to get a few more points on any one character than you need for their ending, so you don’t necessarily have to repeat the entire game if you miss a choice towards the ending you want.

Now, in terms of content and length, the game’s not as long as you’d think. I cleared the game with the Sakura Ending, one of the longest ending paths, in a little under 4 hours of game time. I then went back and got the two other “Good” endings in about an hour and a half more.

That gives you around 6 hours total for a 100% completion run, but less than 4 hours for a single ending run. This isn’t “bad” for the $14.99 price tag, but I was personally hoping there would be more here.

Controls

Controlling the game is pretty versatile, as it contains both button and touch controls. You can tap anywhere on the screen to keep dialogue going as well as tapping on dialogue choices as they pop up.

Controlling with the buttons is pretty simple too. The D-Pad / Analog Sticks can be used to cycle through menus and dialogue choices (meaning that you can play the game with only the Right Joy-Con if you so choose.

Now the rest of the controls. L can be used to toggle “Auto Mode” and the two R/ZR triggers can be used to skip text. A is used to advance text and B can disable the text box to look at artwork. Y brings up the menu for saving and loading data, and X lets you pull up the Log of story, in case you accidentally skip something and want to go back.

Presentation

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Graphically, most of the game looks good, but not all of it. All of the Artwork stills are very well-done and the animated 2D renders during VN animations. I applaud the animations, themselves, as the characters are constantly moving in unique ways, like Sakura’s animation of constantly nodding off when she’s up early in the morning.

Those renders, however, do have a bit of a lack of polish around the edges. Despite being 2D renders, you can see jagged edges along them in many scenes which really throws off the VN style. It’s not a huge problem as they don’t always have jaggies, but they’re noticeable when they do pop up.

Performance, though, is great. No frame drops. No freezing. It works quite well.

Battery Life

As a VN, you can expect plenty of time in handheld modes. Here are my battery times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 58 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 01 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 43 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 52 minutes

As expected, you can probably get through the entire game on one charge.

In conclusion, Tokyo School Life is a cute little VN to bring Japanese culture and dating sim elements back to the Switch. On the downside, the protagonist doesn’t become very likeable until the game’s 2nd half and some of the renders aren’t polished enough to avoid being jagged during some animations. If you can look past this, however, you’ll find half a dozen hours of cute VN fun.

Final Score: 8.5/10