There aren’t many games around that allow you to re-live the innocence of being a child. Unless those games are games you previously played as a youngster, you’re hard pressed to find something that awakens the inner child, knocking at the door of long forgotten memories and emotions.
However, there is a fine line between being child-like and childish, and with Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, we’re not entirely too sure whether the line is crossed. At first glimpse, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a very basic narrative game. But the narrative is so engaging. Wonderfully so. Even as an adult playing a game you might assume is made for children, you can relate to it entirely; because not only do you have those emotionally nostalgic waves crashing over you time and again, you’re also confronted by subtle hints to very adult problems, such as job dissatisfaction, family unit worries and money woes.
There is pleasure to be found in even these depressing hints, because it highlights the nature of children to always be partially aware of the bigger picture around them, regardless of how much you might try to keep the wool over their eyes.
Sohta has just moved to a new area, where every Friday evening, kaiju monsters from the TV show made in his new hometown go on a rampage. Despite this, it seems to be a great area. A small town, family run businesses and a core of children to hang out with. Adults seem to go out of their way to fuel the imaginations of the children, and your imagination along with it.
The game is paced by chapters, though you won’t experience or finish them in order. In fact, during our first play, we seem to have missed one or two chapters entirely. Others weren’t finished, despite trying. We’re not sure if this is an oversight, or deliberate, given the task at hand and the nature of young children to become easily distracted.
The chapters are offset by exploration and interacting with the other characters within the game. The children are part of a close knit group, though their hierarchy is determined by Monster Cards; a Pokémon style, Rock Paper Scissors card game. If you lose, your opponent becomes your boss. The aim though, is to make everyone your boss, as this helps with the delivery of background information and furthering chapter progress. As boss you can cast a spell on your subordinate, making them fall down, and then pick their small, under-developed brains for information.
Monster cards are built by finding glistening stones, or ‘glims’ in and around the environment; all of which are pre-rendered (similarly to Monkey Island, think static view points) and feel like something straight out of a Studio Ghibli film. Once you have collected a set amount of stones, which you learn have ‘come flying off battling monsters’, you then have a card. Should you have multiples, you can strengthen them, which becomes essential toward the end of the game. The collecting element really scratches the completionist itch within us.
It’s a real pleasure to step into the psyche of a young boy and re-experience youth to some degree, everything from bullies, social relationships and settling yourself into a place where you feel like you belong. Everything plays out like a 1970’s Japanese monster movie film, bumping slowly along to begin with and come to a roaring climax. The game does a wonderful job of making you wonder whether the monsters are real, or simply an elaborate hoax at the children’s expense.
An almost woefully short experience, we were done in just a few hours. There is some ‘after-game’ content, though it doesn’t do much to prolong the inevitable end by much in any way. There is some slight replay value, but probably not until after you’ve forgotten many of the main factors. It’s also terrifically linear, but perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider you’re not really playing a game, but experiencing a story of a couple of days in a young boy’s life.
One of the most engaging and utterly charming 3DS games you’re likely to ever play, if you can get over the juvenile vibes. It goes to show you absolutely don’t need big budget AAA titles to produce something immensely enjoyable.