Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is a brief but enjoyable experience from Kaz Ayabe, one of Japan’s leading game developers. It feels like a love letter to a time and place long since forgotten by many. As a game it is somewhat shallow and short, but beautiful scenery and the feeling of being able to look at the world through a child’s eyes speak volumes.
You play as Sohta who, along with his family, has recently moved to a small rural Japanese village during the 1960s and 1970s. It was a simple time where massive urban development hadn’t taken over much of the countryside and the “Superhero” tv genre was reaching its peak of popularity.
The Kaiju (‘Giant Monsters’) were a favourite of children everywhere at the time, and Sohta is thrilled about the prospect of being able to watch kaiju shows every week.
The town they have moved to has a somewhat unique trait though: every Friday, the monsters from TV come to life and do battle with the heroes just outside the town. The children gather of a Friday afternoon to watch the monsters do battle.
The game is great in the way it presents its story, for most of the play through you are not sure if the monsters are real, or if they are just the exaggerated stories of children. Sadly the truth is far less satisfying than just a child’s imagination, and by the end you are left with a lot of unanswered questions and a sense that it didn’t quite live up to its expectation.
Gameplay is the weakest aspect of Attack of the Friday Monsters. The whole experience is rather short, clocking in at under 3 hours for most playthroughs, and most of it is spent watching cut-scenes and listening to dialogue.
As Sohta you travel around the small-town map, interacting with the locals, and collecting ‘Glims.’ These glims allow you to create monster-cards to participate in the monster card game against the other children.
The monster card game is rather shallow too, and in essence is nothing more than a game of rock/paper/scissors but with pictures of monsters. Each participant places down five cards randomly, while trying to guess what the other has. The winner is able to “cast a spell” (say some funny words) to knock their opponent over. While it isn’t complex, and there isn’t exactly anything supernatural about it all, it is still presented in such a way that it feels real. It captures how children act with one another; creating silly games with even sillier consequences.
Aside from the card battle, you as Sohta are just running around the map, which is although covers the entire town, is still rather small. Checkpoints are marked on your map and you move from one to the other to progress the story. As I mentioned before, the story is only a few hours long at best, so you can breeze through the entire game in one sitting.
One area where Attack of the Friday Monsters really shines is its visuals. The character models all look great, but the real star of the show is the backgrounds. All of the game’s backgrounds are pre-rendered and look absolutely outstanding.
The backdrops and scenery are all drawn in an anime-style, and are done so beautifully. The smallest details are all visible without making the screen look crowded, or the artwork being ruined. The pre-drawn art looks like it was hand-painted before being inserted into the game. Colours are vibrant, and no two houses look identical.
The 3d effect on this game is really impressive too. The foregrounds are done in the same style as the backgrounds, and when you flick your 3d slider on, you are greeted with this sense of depth that is almost impossible to put into words. Clothes hanging from a washing line are jumping out of the screen at you, looking like they are being blown so slightly by the breeze.
It is also the little details that were not necessary, but their inclusion makes for some great images. Sights like a train moving along the tracks in the background are great to see, as are the lights from the city of Tokyo off in the distance.
The choice of sound in Attack of the Friday Monsters captures perfectly the sounds of a small rural community. The sound of a slight breeze rustling the leaves of trees, and of crickets chirping really bring to life this quaint little village.
All of the character voices are in their original Japanese, with English subtitles. As I am sure most anime purists will agree, this keeps the tone and feel of the game in-tact, and doesn’t water-it-down with English voice actors who more often than not just don’t get the job done.
The music is great too, quiet and calming but still present. In fact that is probably the best way to describe all the audio of this game. The calm nature manages to capture the light-spirited, soothing adventure that you are on.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale has so much going for it; from its visuals, to its sound, to the way it managers to personify a child’s glee and imagination. Sadly, the gameplay and story itself are areas that are lacking, and when it comes to a video game, those are some key elements to be missing out on. If you have ever lived in a tiny country village, or were around in 1970s Japan, then this game will be a breath of nostalgia for you. For those who weren’t, you will enjoy feeling like a child over again, and maybe even feel like you have an idea what it was like to live at that time.
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