A different kind of attack
Video gaming can be a violent world. Nearly everyday, I play some game that has nothing but murder on the menu. While fun and engaging, I oftentimes grow weary of Gears of Duty: the Decapinating’s slo-mo headshots, curbstomps, and whatever grisly scenes I get to participate in. Sometimes I challenge myself to find the most peaceful strategy in these games but, more often, I just pick up something a little less bloody. This time, Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale danced into my crosshairs and, after a quick download from the 3DS eShop, I was off on an adventure devoid of death and destruction.
By now Level 5 has developed something of a reputation for creating games with a family friendly flair. Many of their previous titles like Ni no Kuni and various Professor Laytons featured gameplay that wouldn’t cause your grandmother to lobby Congress. Attack continues this tradition, giving you the role of a little boy named Sohta in the middle of the Japanese equivalent of a picket-fence neighborhood. Friendly townsfolk, and a soundtrack fit for the Smurfs, replace what in many games would be gritty battlefields and gruff sergeants hollering for air support.
In lieu of firefights, Attack has the player run around doing errands. This consists of merely carting Sohta to clearly marked objective areas and interacting with the other characters. There’s never any real illusion of weighty decisions in these activities, they are usually the only marker on the mini-map, and there’s no choice in the dialogue. The children in the village compete with one another with Monster Cards, a slightly more complex version of rock-paper-scissors played with cards collected by gathering tokens on the ground. Even this activity seems oddly pointless, though, since it’s rarely required for any of the quests, and its rewards are meager: another card piece, some information, and the ability to make your opponent fall over at will. Overall, the gameplay’s designed to be fit for a five year old.
The writing, while also utterly child friendly, features greater depth. Townsfolk all have distinct personalities and differ in their interactions with others. Moreover, the script contains perspective elements. While a select few adults take the monster attacks very seriously, most understand that it’s all part of a show. However, they make sure to humor Sohta anyway, with promises to keep a watchful eye or the awarding of an honorific badge. Additionally, no true enemies exist in the game. Even the child introduced as the “bad kid”, gets a shining and selfless moment. Ultimately, Attack feels like it was written for eight year olds rather than by eight year olds.
The visuals, while pretty enough, are simple and the 3D feels unnecessary. The music is similarly pleasant but passable and the featured Japanese narrator could’ve easily been replaced by better storytelling. Finally, Attack is remarkably short. I ride the BART train to and from work 45 minutes each way and it took me two workdays to beat it. The actual monster attack only happens once, toward the very end, leaving me feeling a bit let down. But, in its defense, the game is about eight bucks, a very reasonable price for nothing more than a pleasant romp through childhood.
Days of endless headshots have left me wanting something different, if only for a little while. Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale fits this niche quite nicely, cradling my bullet-riddled mind with a story of a boy in a town. And, for eight bucks, I couldn’t ask for more.
Review copy supplied
Tested on 3DS