Come on everybody, let’s go on a… VACAAAAATION!
In reality, that’s probably one of the last things anyone should be doing right now, but a virtual vacation couldn’t hurt, right? There’s more at stake with “this” vacation than your average vacation though, as it had some pretty big shoes to fill for a well-established fanbase. Anyone familiar with the “Sotsugyou” series (known Internationally as the “Graduation” franchise, though few were released in English) knows that it was, at one time, a highly beloved franchise that, along with Gainax’s “Princess Maker” and a few other games from Headroom (the main series dev for Graduation) like “Tanjou Debut” and “Mercurius Pretty”, were acknowledged as popularizing the “gal game” in Japan. While there were many other popular games to appear in the genre like Dōkyūsei (an example for the mature crowd), Tokimeki Memorial and such, Graduation held a special place in Japanese gamer’s hearts ever since the days of the PC-98. That said, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to make a game that cashes in on the fan’s desires to discipline more girls, but that’s not what you get here.
Instead, Sotsugyou Vacation is a departure for the franchise and one of the most successful spinoffs of the main franchise as well as a sort of follow-up to “Sotsugyou Crossworld”, the game that would come before it. With Headroom and NEC Interchannel handing the title over to Mycom for distribution, it’s a gal game of slightly epic proportions as you’re thrown on to an island as some random dude who has to woo 15 cuties who are stuck on an island during summer vacation for extra learning (about each other) and fun extra-curriculars (doing what all cool islanders do I guess). The game takes place on the small southern Suzunari Island where the girls of Seika Joshi High School decide to go on an adventure to uncover the secrets of a local legend regarding treasure on the island. The island’s hotel manager tells them a story of a hidden artifact that can bring the owner great prosperity and since the girls are bored and have nothing better to do, they use their gofer — I mean, lone, young male protagonist hero, to help them out here and there and you get to know them in the process. Each day, you all have a nightly gathering at the hotel to discuss your plans for the day as you break off into different groups to explore the island.
Many characters return from Sotsugyou, Sotsugyou II, and Sotsugyou Crossworld, but there are also three exclusive characters thrown into the mix for people looking for something new. The game involves making many choices that invisibly affect relationship parameters and events between the many girls, though the game is pre-determined in what girls will do what on certain days (though sub-events and main events won’t trigger at the same times based on your answers in different scenes). There are also ten mini-games that affect your relationships that are fairly rigged (like the fishing game… how do you catch something that isn’t even in the water?) but there are hidden codes for most of them that can make things much easier if you’d rather not deal with the hassle. It’s theoretically possible to make a comprehensive guide of every location for meeting every girl of choice at any given time of day throughout the game’s fairly lengthy campaign, but it would take many many many hours. As such, that’s where these types of games get their appeal from.
As for the delivery, It’s not the most exciting of the bunch: Yes, there are a multitude of nice CGs and the artwork is fairly sharp (though I’d refrain from calling most of them hi-res), but consequently, there is little in the ways of voiceovers and most of the conversations outside major events is very mundane and doesn’t really go anywhere… besides the nice theme song on the title screen (which I skipped for potential copyright issues), the music is also somewhat compressed and nothing to write home about. Still, if you want a game with tons of dialogue options and a reason to revisit some of your favorite Graduation gals, you could do worse than this one; You’ll definitely get your money’s worth in that regard.
This is a video going after one of the original gals, Ryoko Minami, with a few mini-games and the like thrown in for good measure. Enjoy.
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