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

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Level-5
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 07/18/2013

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale (my brain keeps trying to parse that as “Attack on Tokyo,” probably a sign I’ve been watching too much Attack on Titan – yes I know, completely different genres) is the final release of Level-5’s Guild02 series, which also includes Bugs vs. Tanks! and Starship Damrey. As with the Guild01 series of games, they were released separately rather than in a pack. Kaz Ayabe, creator of Boku no Natsuyasumi, designed this game.

You play as a boy named Sohta, a 4th grader who recently moved to a rural Tokyo village. It takes place in the 1970s and has a slice-of-life feel with kaiju (think Godzilla and Gamera) in the mix (at least, the kids believe they’re real). Every Friday, monsters and superheroes resembling those from tokusatsu shows (e.g. Kamen Rider) appear, and the kids decide to investigate the cause of the monster appearances. The story unfolds in episodes, though they’re not sequential. Instead, they’re unlocked as you walk around the town talking to people. This pacing might feel a bit disjointed, but I had little trouble following the different plots. The dialogue and overall feel of the story is charming and lighthearted, and reading conversations between characters never got boring for me. The characters you encounter around town have distinct personalities and relationships with other characters.

There was one line that made me look twice trying to discern if it was a typo or some sort of wordplay, though: “The bakery was… desserted”. Given the context, the latter could’ve worked as a double entendre (the bakery is full of desserts, and there was no one there at the time, so it was deserted). Of course, it’s also possible that I could be over-thinking it, and it’s just a typo. No other line in the game gave me pause like that, though, and I didn’t notice any glaring typos.

The general art style used reminds me of a Studio Ghilbi title. While the 3D character models aren’t the most impressive, they look alright and animate well. There’s movements Sohta does depending on who he’s talking to, such as Sohta imitating his father’s pose or saluting the police officer, which I thought were a neat touch. The backgrounds look like 2D drawings and are nice to look at. They also contain details like laundry hanging on a line flapping in the wind, which makes the town come to life. The graphics for the card game portion aren’t too flashy, but get the job done. There are effects when cards attack, like claw or bite marks, but that’s about it besides the cards themselves and little circles indicating which cards won or lost. The song that plays during the opening and ending of the game sounds like the kind of opening or ending theme this would have if this were an anime, and it fits the general mood of the game. The music likewise suits the game well and is aurally pleasant. There’s voice acting here and there, though only the narrator’s lines are actually voiced. Even Sohta only gets little exclamations whenever he finds a Monster Glim and holds it up triumphantly.

The d-pad turns Sohta, while the circle pad moves him. I never used the d-pad because it felt too much like trying to move a tank, so I stuck with the circle pad. A talks to people and confirms options, while B cancels. The menu is located on the bottom screen, where you can look at the cards and Glims you have in your possession, as well as save your game, check on whose master or servant you are, and so on. You don’t actually fight any battles, just walk around talking to people or challenging other kids in a game of Monster Card Battle.

Monster Card Battle is essentially rock-paper-scissors (or janken in Japan) with monster cards. Each monster card has an attack stat and is either rock, paper, or scissors. You start by picking five cards, as does your opponent. After you’ve both picked cards, you’re then told the results of two of the matchups, and you or your opponent have the chance to swap two of the cards. You then get to see another result, and whoever didn’t have the chance to swap before then gets to do so. The rest of the cards are then flipped up. Whichever card has the dominant symbol (rock>scissors>paper) wins. If there’s a tie, the card with the higher attack wins. Whoever wins three out of five matchups wins, the winner becomes the loser’s boss, and afterwards the boss can cast a “spell” to have the servant fall on the ground and stay there until told to “arise”. You can’t avoid playing Monster Cards, as characters withhold information unless you defeat them and become their boss. However, the card game is simple to pick up and can be fun, even if it’s not particularly deep.

You find Monster Glims scattered around the city. If you collect seven of a kind, you get a Monster Card. You can keep collecting Glims and getting more copies of a card, then combine the cards to make them stronger. You can only combine cards that are the same, and you can only combine twice before you have to start over with another card of that type. You can also get Glims from winning battles, though your chances of getting Glims are better if you’re already your opponent’s boss.

There aren’t any puzzles to solve, it’s just a matter of talking to the right people to progress. I never reached any points where I was stuck on how to progress, though I generally just kept talking to everyone to see if they had anything new to say. You can check where you need to go on the map on the bottom screen, since it has markers for who you need to talk to in order to make progress on an episode. However, the Monster Card Battles can take a bit of luck to win, as it’s much easier to win if you go second, since you can basically go by logic after your opponent’s made their swaps. If you go first, however, your opponent might end up swapping and turning winning matchups into losing ones. It’s a little annoying to have to sit through the spell and arise motions every time you lose (you at least have the option to skip it if you win), but that’s a minor quibble, and you can do the same to your opponent if you win.

After you beat the game, you can roam freely and complete any episodes you haven’t finished. You can also keep going around collecting Glims and challenging characters in Monster Card Battle. While there’s 3 slots, I don’t foresee much use for them unless you’re letting someone else play your game. While playing through the game is enjoyable, there’s not much to warrant starting over and playing through it again once you beat it.

There’s linked content if you have Liberation Maiden, Aero Porter, or Crimson Shroud data. To unlock it, launch one of the aforementioned games and proceed to the title screen. Linked content can only be unlocked once, however. It basically consists of character and concept art, and while it’s not a huge amount, it’s still a nice little bonus for owning one of those games.

While the game is worth experiencing, it doesn’t seem like a great deal if you look at it purely from a dollars/hours perspective. It took me three hours to beat the game, so at $7.99, it might not seem like the best bang for the buck for some. Some people might be put off by the lack of action (no, you do not partake in any actual monster battles) and puzzles (or, really, challenge in general). It plays like a slow paced adventure game, and the charm lies in the story and childlike whimsy in the presentation. I tend to like quirky Japanese games, so I enjoyed my time with the game, but your mileage my vary.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale harkens back to 1970s Japan with elements of kaiju and tokusatsu shows. The graphics and music are pleasing and have somewhat of a Studio Ghilbi vibe to them. There are no real challenges to be found, nor do you actually take part in monster battles outside of a card game, but the story unfolds in a way that immerses you. It’s not a long game, but it’s a charming experience while it lasts, and it makes the most of those few hours.



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