Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is quite the misleading title. While this final game in Level-5’s Guild02 trio continues the trend of offering a creative game from a well-known game maker on the 3DS eShop, anyone considering this game really needs to know that the type of experience you’re getting is likely the exact opposite of what you would expect. Obviously, expectations aren’t necessarily a good reason to dislike a game and should never be a contributor to calling a game bad — especially when there are plenty of other reasons to do so.
Designed by Kaz Ayabe of the popular Japanese Boku no Natsuyasumi (“My Summer Vacation”) series, Attack of the Friday Monsters takes inspiration from the mid-twentieth century Japanese monster and superhero television shows. However, this does not mean that the game is crazy kaiju fighting action; instead, the final product is a slow adventure game focused on one boy’s story inspired directly by the programming in the past.
The game follows Sohta, a grade-schooler living in the small Japanese town of Fuji no Hana. Fuji no Hana is special because every Friday night, giant monsters run amok around the community. As Sohta, the goal of the game is to solve the mystery behind what the monsters are and why they appear. On top of that, you also interact with townspeople and fellow schoolchildren to solve their forgettable issues present in all sorts of adventure games. I don’t want to spoil the science fiction elements that pop up or the cool questions of what’s real and what isn’t, but the monster stuff only acts as a backdrop to the main story about Sohta’s life as a recent arrival in a small Japanese town and his relationships with everyone within. In fact, the only real monster stuff you’re going to see happens at the very end of the story (the entire game takes place over one Friday).
The story does a fine job of characterization and feels occasionally nostalgic when running around town with the diverse schoolchildren, but the actual act of storytelling is messy and not nearly as focused as it should be. When the science-fiction stuff gets heavy at around the halfway mark and gets much heavier by its conclusion, the game does a pretty awful job at explaining what’s going on and justifying the turns that the story is making. It carries enough competence to maintain some coherency, but the amalgamation of the quiet 1970s Japanese community lifestyle and the Ultraman-inspired monster and superhero science fiction elements rarely works to the game’s advantage.
More importantly, calling this an adventure game and not an interactive story is a serious stretch. You do control Sohta in third-person within Fuji no Hana with separated areas and a static camera, but all you can do on this map is go from waypoint to waypoint talking to people and advancing the story while occasionally obtaining Glims that you can craft into monster trading-cards to do battle against your friends. The game itself is a glorified rock-paper scissors with no depth or fun outside of the 3-5 required matches inside of the game. When you beat your friends at the card game, you can cast a silly spell to make them fall down or sometimes continue the story. More or less though, you’re basically walking from place to place and watching the story unfold — something that might have actually been more enjoyable to watch than play.
On the visual and audio front, the game looks and sounds occasionally great. The backgrounds are hand drawn in a great style almost comparable to Studio Ghibli (though definitely not quite as masterful), and the equally charming score sounds orchestrated (if not actually being orchestrated). My only complaint about the technical side of things is that the character models look pretty rough and out-of-place in the game, and remind me of the ones used in old DS games.
I can’t recommend Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale. Not only does it barely justify itself as something that needs to be interactive, but the story part, the bread and butter of this game, feels half-baked at its best. At least the sound is good.