Back in the fog of 2013, a bunch of Japanese developers got together to create a series of short 3DS games called the Guild series. Led by Ni No Kuni creators Level-5, it had some pretty notable contributors: Keiji Inafune, Goichi Suda, Yoot Saito, and Yasumi Matsuno among others. But there was one game that stood out to me as something very special. It was the much lesser known Attack of the Friday Monsters of Millennium Kitchen, a sweet slice of life adventure that saw you as ten-year-old Sohta walking the streets of his small Tokyo suburb on a hazy summer afternoon in 1971. It was a tender celebration of childhood nostalgia and fantasy, with just a hint of menacing undertones, both from the people Sohta meets in his neighborhood and the eponymous Friday Kaiju monsters that may exist in the real world or not.
I mention all of this because The Kids We Were is probably the only game I’ve played since that has even remotely captured some of the magic of Attack Of The Friday Monsters. You won’t find any kaiju here, but this is a similarly nostalgic portrait of pastoral Tokyo, seen through the eyes of young Minato on his summer vacations, first in the present and then in the 1980s, when he finally travels back in time to the future, when his parents first met as children. With three days to correct past mistakes, this is one of those gentle coming-of-age stories that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy in all the right places, even when there’s no actual “game” to speak of.