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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale (3DS)

My time with Attack of the Friday Monsters is one which I'd compare to reading a novella or watching a short film. From the mind of Kazu Ayabe comes a game set in a sleepy 70's village in Japan, where the residents have light conversation about food, laundry and television. Oh, and the monsters which inexplicably appear and fight on every Friday. Players are put into the shoes of Sohta, a ten-year old newcomer who slowly settles in to the town while unravelling the various mysteries faced (or ignored) by its denizens.

The gameplay is firmly story-driven, with an episodic structure which gives players choice over which mystery to pursue next. In addition to the overarching narrative involving the monsters, Sohta will also clear up disputes between townsfolk and find out other interesting titbits about his neighbours. Without spoiling too much, I will simply say that the story is magic realist, featuring both farcical comedy and surprisingly heart-warming family drama. Aside from a few small pacing issues, it certainly holds its own as a work of interactive fiction, although it does stand on the short side of the spectrum, clocking in at around 2-3 hours.

Breaking up the dialogue and exploration is a card game played by the children, which is very simple and yet decidedly strategic. Using a foundation based on rock-paper-scissors, the player is revealed a little bit of information on the outcome of the game and is allowed to swap two cards, creating a minigame reliant on both logic and chance. Each card features a detailed representation of a kaiju monster, and are created from collecting shiny "Monster Glims" which are scattered around the game world. The card game is ultimately quite shallow and does not serve much more purpose than to break up the story driven adventure segments and because of this, the game overall winds up being very slow paced and mundane for its most part, and will be very offputting to gamers expecting... a game, really.

Every mystery presented in the game is conveyed through the eyes of the ten year old protagonist and his friend acting as a narrator. This is where a lot of the game's charm comes from, as adults will condescendingly humour you and children will play a very silly game involving magic spells with you. The writing strongly encourages players to feel like a child again, which truly fosters a sense of adventure and nostalgia. In addition, the cast of characters the player interacts with are all fleshed out and share believable relationships with each other, making the exploration of the town a true joy to behold.

Backing up the fantastic writing is a superb graphics and sound production, both of which are reminiscent of high profile anime titles such as the works of Studio Ghibli. The hand drawn backgrounds are lavishly detailed and colourful, and also greatly benefit from the 3D effect offered by the 3DS. The music is also of high quality and befitting a childhood adventure, while also featuring mellower tunes for the more melancholic segments of the story.

Level-5 took a great risk in localising The Attack of the Friday Monsters, as it combines a story driven Visual-Novel-esque approach to storytelling with a nostalgic plot revolving around 1970's kaiju and Super Sentai culture. Beneath the cultural shock however lies a deeply rewarding story which mixes the mundane with the fantastic to conjure a sense of childish glee. Players willing to look past a slow pacing and a short main story will find lots to enjoy from this game.



- Harvard L
Contributor


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Review: Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale (3DS)
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