Many role playing games thrust you into familiar settings like the ‘ye olden days’ or the distant future and while the concept of exploring a hellish location in JRPG’s is not new, it is open to some creative set ups and locations you can visit. NIS America saw the success of their Vita JRPG Criminal Girls both in Japan & US/EU markets, leading to work on a sequel being put into production.
With its release pushed back to October 13th, I was able to spend a few hours with the game and will be reviewing the title next week. But I want to talk about my time with the game and express how I feel it holds a lot of promise.
Before we continue though, I need to establish something; this game is meant for mature audiences ONLY and younger readers are advised to not continue reading. Criminal Girls 2 contains suggestive content and is rated M for Mature.
Now that is out of the way, lets continue and talk about a trip into a hellish location with seven girls trying to find there way back home.
Wait, where am I?! – Story
The game beings with your main character waking up in the middle of purgatory, a place between heaven and hell. You are contacted via radio that your job is to escort seven girls to the top of a tower, as doing so will ‘reform them’ and bringing them back to life. This shouldn’t be an issue, but you lost your memories more or less being a blank state.
Talking to the girls at first is a tricky as none of them listen to you but you end up convincing four to tag along and explore the first floor. After learning about the ‘convicts’, creatures made up of lost souls, you go back to where you woke up and convince the three girls that refused to go with you originally to tag along.
What makes the story promising is that every girl has a unique personality and with dialog choices being common, you can have many ways to speak to the seven girls in your party. Their personalities are very apparent and with well done Japanese Voice Acting (with English Subtitles) & some great localization work, they are very enjoyable to interact with.
So the plot is interesting at the start of the game and it holds a lot of potential for the rest of the game.
JRPG Action, But with some Motivation Involved – Gameplay & Design
The core gameplay of this game is that of a traditional top-down dungeon crawler, where you go up from floor-to-floor fighting creatures, opening up chests for items and getting keys to open doors. But two elements of the gameplay stand out from other JRPGs; Motivating your Party to fight stronger & the combat system itself.
Criminal Girls as infamous originally for its ‘suggestive’ elements and the sequel is no exception. You interact with the seven girls through touch screen mini games that cost money you get from battles. I don’t mind games with heavy fan service and suggestive means if there’s purpose to them, and this game has a reason.
In combat its a turn based system but the main difference compared to other JRPGs is how your party members have their own minds. You can tell them to fight, but how they fight is based on how you ‘motivated’ them. If you hit a high enough level after ‘motivating’ them, the girls get different attacks and magic skills. Once they unlock a skill, they can use it in battle. This presents some interesting mechanics, as it makes combat very fast but also have a layer of depth.
For example, if you get your mage character ‘motivated’ enough, they can unlock a healing ability which fully heals your entire party for 5 Magic Points. They can’t use this right away though, as she only offers to use this skill once a party member(s) get enough damage. This also applies to combat too, where sometimes characters can offer to attack twice by asking another girl to join in for a strike (you can see this by the Attack X2 icon popping up).
I really loved this, as it made combat fast and not unlike any other JRPG I played before. It also gives context to the ‘motivating’ mini games, as in order to get new moves to get your girls stronger, you need to keep doing those mini games. So the suggestive portions of the game have meaning and I greatly appreciate that, as it allows the game to embrace its setting & tone.
Presentation – Music & Visuals
Criminal Girls 2 uses 2D art for much of the game but its very expressive with the character portraits & the combat animations with the chibi versions of the girls being very animated. Musically the game has a great score so far, with the main menu theme being catchy and the games battle themes being enjoyable to listen.
Creature designs are also well designed, using the prison motif well. This also applies to the character designs for the seven girls and they have nice designs.
Criminal Girls 2 honestly surprised me, as the game benefits from its suggestive content and has some really interesting mechanics for the JRPG genre. I really enjoyed my first 2-3 hours with the game and I will be writing a full review on this title next week.
This game was played on a PlayStation Vita with a review copy provided by NIS America.