Go! Go! Nippon! My First Trip To Japan is at face value an interactive novel where you, the protagonist of this story, visit Japan for the first time in your life and are accompanied on this wonderful, life-changing experience, by two beautiful Japanese sisters. You arrive in Japan all excited and wondering how to spend your week away, something which is massively helped by the fact you’ve wangled a stay in the house of two locals thanks to the fact the house has space because everyone else who lives there has gone away themselves on holiday. Yes, that does mean you will be staying for one week in a house with sisters and no-one else. It’s a wonderful stroke of luck, allied to the fact that both of the sisters are beautiful, even if one of them chooses not to show it as openly as the other, apparently due to a lack of confidence. As luck would have it, one speaks perfect English (and you no Japanese!) and the other is well versed in the preparation of various wonderful meals. It sets the scene perfectly - living in Japan with locals who know how to prepare the traditional Japanese meals you wanted to try out whilst visiting and can take you out sightseeing. Your week is sorted.
It’s not entirely that simple though. You have to choose where to go each day! Wherever you go you get shown around by one of the lovely sisters, and the place you spend the day in could be somewhere Otaku-focused like Akihabara, or immensely busy like Shibuya, junction and all, natch. You get to decide where you’d like to head on each day (at first, anyway), and the ultimate tour provided to you is out of this world. If you’ve been to Japan it’s a reminder of the tour guide you read whilst over there and if you haven’t the detailed information you get from whichever girl is looking after you, well, it’s just fabulous. You can even click on a button to take you to a Google Maps picture of the real place rather than having to look at the cartoon images onscreen.
By day you see the sights, but at night you tend to have little chats, discussions and arguments with the two sisters. One is overly friendly, English speaking and a very incapable cook; the other feels they can’t speak much English but they do make a heck of a meal, accompanied with some stand-offish interactions. You spend much of your time trying not to offend either of them, or recovering when you actually do manage to do so (i.e. all the time). Interestingly though the relationships and the novel divert off in different directions.
Early on in the game you walk in on one sister having a shower. There’s no lock on the door! How do you react? Well...you stand there in disbelief (this is not a choice, the game ensures this happens) until she asks you to leave. She copes well, mind. She realises it’s not your fault - after all the bathroom has no lock and why would you check first before opening? Another day you’re asked to go and find sister number two by the first one. As you get to her room the door’s open. What you see is somewhat rude and the fallout is immense but in-game the characters just about make up with each other. Such scenes suggest the purpose of the game isn’t just to show you around Japan, but perhaps to help you find that relationship you’ve always been looking for?
There are twists in the story as you progress. You choose each day where you want to sightsee, but one morning you’re told by both sisters that you have to go elsewhere. It’s also an overnighter! Wow. That means if you didn’t go where you really wanted in the first place you might well need to replay the game. There are also other reasons why you might do that. It turns out that during the game you, the unseen protagonist, fall in love with one of the two sisters. More importantly, they fall in love with you, too! The only way to end up in both relationships is to play through twice. Of course you might get your dreamgirl on the first playthrough and leave it at that - if that’s what you want, why mess with the memory?
On each sightseeing tour the attention to detail is fantastic. It really does bring to life - in a more fun way than any guidebook could - the history of a given location, the reason why you would go there and more. It’s actually worth playing to remind yourself of where you’ve been or perhaps even to get that level of knowledge up before heading over with a real-life partner, or friend, whatever works. The pictures themselves are lovingly drawn in the game’s chosen cartoon style but given you can easily get a real picture too, it’s pretty invaluable as an educational tool as well as a fun game to play.
We say game, but in the only real disappointment there’s just no actual choice. The end result is dictated by the choices you make in where to visit - not who to visit places with - and some of the dialogue said by the protagonist will have you eating your elbow in despair and banging the keyboard wondering why he didn’t just say that, instead.
Ultimately what you have here is a visual guidebook (which is great but not really helpful at home on your PC) overlayed with an interactive romance novel, where the protagonist has minimal input to the final outcome, unless they know where you need to go to get the girl you want. Despite this it’s all incredibly educational fun and a must-play for anyone who has been, or wants to go to, Japan. The fact you get to “practice relationships” at the same time is a just a bonus which can be applied to real-life (or not...the romance side of things is very much aimed at a stereotypical male gamer), either in Japan when you finally visit, or perhaps back at wherever you call home.