At first glance, Attack of the Friday Monsters!: A Tokyo Tale seems to be some action-packed game of monsters and heroes. After all, it has big creatures and fighting! Really, though, it’s a tiny fraction of the world, and serves as a backdrop for a relaxing story of childhood.
Designed by Millennium Kitchen, creators of the Boku no Natsuyasumi (My Summer Vacation) series, Attack scales that franchise’s weeks-long adventures down into a single Friday. Even still, it will remind you of your lazy childhood days, wandering around with no agenda and just hanging out. You’ll talk to friends and adults about whatever they happen to be doing, and explore the back paths and alleys of Fuji no Hana, a small Japanese town.
The protagonist, Sohta, is the son of the local dry cleaners, and has recently moved to town. Fuji no Hana is largely built around the TV station, producing monster shows on Friday. Since the story’s told through Sohta’s eyes, though, it’s more real than that. While Ni no Kuni, released earlier this year, was produced by Studio Ghibli and felt like being in one of those company’s worlds, Attack feels more like watching an idyllic Ghibli film. It’s only a few hours long, and weaves the reality of rural ’70s Japan with the imagination of youth.
He doesn’t know anyone very well, and gets to know his peers by playing Monster Cards. It’s based on Rock-Paper-Scissors, sure, so it’s not super-complicated, but the strategy comes from judging and countering your opponent’s actions. You play five cards from your collection, and your opponent does the same. Then you learn how many of your cards are beating the ones across from them, and get some hints as to which are which. It’s at this point that the game truly begins: each player can switch two cards, based on the information you have.
The Monster Cards game serves as a reason to just wander about. You get new cards by collecting Glims, strewn about the town, and once you collect enough of one type, you get a card. If you collect multiple identical cards, you can combine them to have higher power, and power is used to break ties when symbols match (or other special conditions).
What makes Attack special is the little touches. You become “boss” of anyone you beat at Monster Cards, and can cast a “spell” on them to have them fall down. You can customize the spell with your own words, which does nothing mechanically but is the kind of thing you’d do as a child. As a player, you know that adults are lying to you sometimes about monsters and heroes, but it’s done in a way that still lets you have that innocent joy of joining a galactic defense force or thinking your dad’s secretly a superhero.
The world feels nice, and the 3D effect is well-used. There are a few things that could’ve been polished a bit more. Each scene has a static camera, and the cut between them can sometimes be disorienting. Knowing all the next steps is sometimes tough, even if most main events are clearly marked on the map, and some of the minor touches, like signage around the town, are still in Japanese and lost to Western audiences.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! doesn’t have the things most would expect in a game, but it doesn’t need them. It’s a very different experience, and a thoroughly pleasant one. Pick it up for your own lazy Friday.
Pros: World is charming, story doesn’t overstay its welcome
Cons: Camera cuts can be disorienting