Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-07-28 06:16:03
Attack of the Friday Monsters! and the Guild series
The 3DS eShop is a surprisingly decent platform for games. Whereas its Wii U counterpart is comparatively sparse at the time of writing, the 3DS iteration of Nintendo's online store has all sorts of excellent games on it, whether they are great ports (VVVVVV), unique titles (Mighty Switch Force) or enjoyable Virtual Console relics (The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Series). Among the more interesting and original titles on the 3DS, though, are the Guild series of games by Level-5 and their affiliated developers. Released in two parts (Guild01 and Guild02), each part containing three games, the Guild series offers six unique experiences on the 3DS that cannot be found elsewhere.
Games within the series tend to be around ten dollars and offer decent variety across multiple genres. Crimson Shroud is a tabletop RPG dungeon-crawler, while The Starship Damrey is a survival-horror game in a space setting. The last game in the series, Attack of the Friday Monsters!, is an anime-styled visual novel-type game centered around a young boy called Sohta who lives in a village that gets attacked on Fridays by monsters. It's a unique and intriguing concept, brought to life by some excellent visuals and a surprisingly competent, if subtle, use of the 3DS' 3D potential. It's nice to see a game that actually looks better in 3D rather than distorting into a blurry mess.
The graphics are the main thing that Attack of the Friday Monsters! has going for it. Every new screen is a visual treat, and while exploring Sohta's town doesn't take very long, there is a great deal of variety in the realistic locations. Whether the player enters the bakery, the TV station or the dry cleaners, the game brings each building to life with pre-rendered graphics overlapped by simple-but-effective animations reminiscent of games such as Final Fantasy VIII. While Sohta's animation can look odd, particularly when walking up or down stairs, there isn't much to fault on the visual front, and players looking for a beautiful adventure will likely feel satisfied by the final entry in the Guild series.
Alas, outside of the visuals things start to fall apart. The story is certainly unique, but the dialogue that ties it together is disjointed and odd at times. I am no great fan of anime, and one of the reasons I have never been able to particularly enjoy it is because I find that the writing, when localised, often leaves me scratching my head in confusion. Some Japanese customs don't translate well to a Western audience, and the same can be said for some of the exchanges between the characters in Attack of the Friday Monsters!. I suppose the intention is that an audience should consider the eccentricity of the dialogue to be part of the charm, but as an individual who likes a story to make sense and heavily scrutinises randomness and plot holes in narratives, I found myself growing tired of what a lot of the characters had to say.
That said, anime fans will likely lap up the hyperbolic dialogue and the weirdness that comes with it. They might not be so keen, however, to greedily consume the card-battling system, which seems like an unnecessary addition to the game. Perhaps aware that walking around town talking to people doesn't constitute as 'gameplay', the developer has chosen to include a card-battling element, wherein the player can fuse cards together and take on opponents in what is effectively a colourful version of rock-paper-scissors. Beating an opponent makes the player that person's 'boss', during which time you can cast a spell on them to make them fall over. As far as I could tell, that is the only purpose to the card system, and thus there really is no purpose to the outcome at all - making people fall over felt kind of pointless after the novelty wore off, and I couldn't help but feel that the card mechanic was a tacked-on minigame designed to give players more to do than walk-and-talk.
As a game, Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a limited experience. That said, I consider the games in the Guild series to be experts in the field of making flawed titles with a couple of distinct mechanics that work. Often, the series has interesting premises let down by the execution - The Starship Damrey, for example, is a great idea, but as a survival-horror game it is neither scary nor difficult, leaving the experience a shallow one. Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a gorgeous game in the vein of Level-5's Ni No Kuni, and for players looking for a few hours of enjoyment watching - and occasionally playing - a Studio Ghibli-type piece of entertainment, it scratches that particular itch. With lovely visuals and attractive music, Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a memorable experience, marred only by its limitations as a video game and its insistence on finding forced ways of making the player actually play it.