If there’s one niche genre that’s getting some more attention these days, it’s the visual novel; however, it’s a genre that doesn’t appeal to most, as the games can be written off as glorified books with minimal interaction. Those willing to try something different are rewarded with some of the best stories out there, with a great deal of characterization and plot twists to keep gamers entertained. In a surprising turn of events, Level 5’s “Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale”, combines anecdotes of childhood mysticism with a wonderful blend of fantasy and everyday realism in a short but sweet take on what it means to be young and alive in a rural town filled with juvenile mystery.
The game isn’t more of a game as it is a glorified fetch quest, which in most cases would be a terrible thing; however, the detail to story and characterization turns this title from a monotonous experience to a fulfilling journey. Players take control of young Sohta, who lives in a rural town near Tokyo; while quaint, there are rumors that monsters invade the town on Fridays, leaving everyone in a panic when the day comes. After being tasked with delivering dry cleaning from his parents, Shouta embarks on an everyday journey and unravels some secrets regarding the weekly invasions. The story is steeped in Japanese culture of the 70s, as the setting is around that time, and is filled with references to Tokusatsu shows (in American culture, this can be likened to the Godzilla franchise as well the Power Rangers series). Throughout the game, the story borrows some fantasy and romance elements, introducing extraterrestrials and love interests; the concepts of childhood imagination and young love are explored throughout this epic yarn. By the end of the game, players will have experienced one of the most heartwarming, and relatable, stories about growing up and being a kid again.
While the story is one of the best out there in recent memory, how does the gameplay stack up? As aforementioned, the game follows visual novel-type mechanics; there’s a fully rendered hub world where players talk with NPCs and receive requests to advance the story. While this is the bulk of the gameplay, the children of the town have taken a liking to “Monster Cards”, a trading card game that follows rock-paper-scissors rules; it’s simple yet highly addictive, and will have completion type players scouring the map for glims, pieces of cards that will grant players an additional card when six are collected. While this is a side game, it becomes innocuously important near the end of the experience; perhaps it remains as a metaphor for childhood priorities, as the children adhere to the rules of the trading card game quite adamantly. If the player wins against an opponent, they become the opponent’s boss, and can make them fall with a player-created spell, in the same vein of childhood jinxes; this concept being taken as serious business is charming and endearing for the title. Essentially, there isn’t much game as there is story, so this title isn’t for everyone in that regard.
Level 5 has taken great detail for the graphics of this game, however; while the character models seem a bit jagged, the backgrounds are pre-rendered and give a cool retro vibe with the 3D turned on. The soundtrack is nostalgic while at the same time peaceful, so it’s not intrusive throughout the experience. Finally, players should know about the length of the game; while not a dealbreaker, the game can be completed in under three hours. However, comparing this length to Portal, it doesn’t detract from the game at all; in fact, it’s somewhat relevant, considering the story takes place all within a day. At $7.99, Level 5 intended this game to be part of a compilation, so it’s justifiable that this title would have a considerably brief running time.
Filled to the brim with nostalgia, “Attack of the Friday Monsters!” is a great title showcasing the 3DS’s hardware as well as having one of the best stories in recent times. Though having little gameplay, this portable title reminds players about the wonderful joy of being a child, as well as a superb example of less being more.