Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only (PlayStation Vita)
PlayStation Vita 5 likes 8 comments
- Release Date (NA): February 6, 2015
- Release Date (EU): February 6, 2015
- Release Date (JP): November 28, 2013
- Publisher: NIS America
- Developer: Imageepoch
- Genres: Role-playing
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Criminal Girls: Invite Only is one of those games you'd rather not be seen playing in public. Developed by Imageepoch and published by NIS America, this game is really quite something.
The past week, I’ve been playing the game “Criminal Girls: Invite Only”. I was doing this while over skype, and now everyone thinks that I was watching things involving Japanese little girls. It’s been quite an awkward week, I assure you. Was it worth it?
The story is somewhat of an odd one. The entirety of the game takes place wandering around in hell with 7 “delinquent” girls following you. Together, you must overcome the 4 trials and climb the tower you’re in. Something went wrong though, and now the monsters, named convicts, are running loose everywhere. You must fight them as you go! The story itself is a bit small, and only really gets more interesting near the end, so I can’t say much more without spoiling anything.
(I like how "I need to think for a moment." is an option)
The gameplay itself is… surprisingly good actually. It plays like a standard JRPG with a few twists. Leveling is obviously there, which is a good thing as it’s the main thing that keeps the pacing just right in this game. You don’t learn any skills through leveling though, that’s done through something else entirely.
Here’s the main reason why I can’t play this game in public. This is how you get skills. I still can’t get over how well this system works. The screen above is a mini-game that has you touching, swiping and holding various spots on the screen and touchpad. It costs you gradually increasing amounts of CM, which is this game’s currency, to play. If you play this right, you’ll gain more EXP towards a certain “motivation” as I’ll call it, and everytime it levels up, you get another attack or skill. For those wondering, yes, the fog clears up as you play. Every motivation has 4 levels and since their CM cost is gradually increasing as it levels, you can’t simply have all the skills early on once you unlock another type of motivation. You can also spend CM on items, but I literally did not buy items once in the entire game. They’re somewhat pricey too.
Come on, Lucky!
The battles are what kept me most busy in this game by far. The system is made in such a way that you don’t completely control your party members. Instead, your party members make decisions, and you pick out the best ones among them. Memorization is key in this, as the on-screen instructions don’t always tell you what attack or skill they want to use. Instead, they’ll say something like “Everyone, toughen up!” which means that the order gives all characters a defence boost. Characters involved in an attack will always light up, so you can get a fair share of information from that as well. You can also use one item and switch one of your characters out for another per turn. All characters have their own strengths and weaknesses so switching your characters out when necessary becomes key to the game later.
Aside from all that, the game just feels nice and rewarding. Early on in the game, you get told that enemies have strengths and weaknesses as well, but if you keep up with your skills then you are usually well equipped to take them on. Your characters also know the match-ups to this, and will ask to do effective moves more often than not. It might also be worth noting that I did not have to grind at any point during the game. There are also a few small sidequests you can do which unlock gradually as you motivate the girls more. They're very small, but you get a small boost in return for them. There's not much to say about these.
This is it.
Most of the things in this game look very basic and simple, but that never bothered me. The sprites in battle don’t even have animations, and yet I liked to watch them. It’s a very simplistic, but still very effective style being used. I can imagine that some people may be turned off by this though. One thing that did bother me is that there is no sprite for standing still in the overworld. You only have walking and idle while you’re in control, and it’s a bit odd to stop your movement to check your map and see your characters walking in place for a few seconds before finally going into an idle animation. The game may not be a graphical masterpiece, but it’s not horrendous to look at either.
I don’t like to repeat myself, but the music is just… there. It’s not outstanding gaming music, but it’s not bad either. Nothing I’d go out of my way to listen to. The first battle theme, which I found very catchy after about 3 battles, is somewhat of an exception. It’s the only music I can clearly remember. The rest just faded away into my mind.
The overall experience of this game was good. There is no denying that. I do feel that there were some parts that could use a little bit more polish, but nothing that really stands out. If the music and map design was a bit more memorable, I'd have easily given this game an even higher score. The whole "motivation" system to unlock skills really turned me off at first, but when I realised it's a simple mini-game that masks shelling out your in-game currency for skills, it felt a lot better. I just really wish I didn't have to go through it every time, as it can get a bit tiring... and since this game is Playstation TV compatible, I wonder how it's done on there with no touch screen. Sadly, I don't have one of those, so I can't test that out myself. It might be better this way, though. Imagine the things I'd have to explain if someone walked in on me playing this on my monitor!
+ Fun, engaging battle system
+ Simple, effective gameplay that anyone can play
- For a Vita release, I really can’t play this in public
- Lack of English dub
While the game isn’t graphically impressive by any means, this game makes it work. The characters are interesting enough to keep listening to their ever-japanese yelling, and it’s great to see that through the course of the game, they grow steadily more confident. It’s a nice touch.
I haven’t played an RPG as good as this in quite a while. Battles are simple enough for anyone to understand, and the difficulty is just right. I also liked how you fight with all of your characters as opposed to half your party sitting it out, through switching characters mid-battle.
While the game was definitely short, having clocked 25 hours to finish it, there is still post-game content to be played. And even then, I’ll gladly play this again if I want to play a really solid RPG. The lack of anything resembling a story for at least half of the game actually increases it’s replayability for me since it just means that this game does not rely on a story to be fun, unlike most other RPGs.
out of 10
(not an average)
A bit short for a JRPG, but a great experience overall. The gameplay really makes this game for me. I haven’t played an JRPG as good as this in a long time. It doesn’t drag itself, instead it paces itself wonderfully. A lot of the things this game does is just right. Except the motivation stuff. That’s just plain wrong on so many levels. Truth be told, going into this game, I was scared that it’d be nothing more than a lolicon fest, but instead I found something great. A lolicon legend.