Tokyo Tattoo Girls Review
Release Date: November 14th, 2017
Developer: SUSHI TYPHOON GAMES
Platform: PlayStation Vita, PC (Steam)
Price: $29.99 (Vita), $19.99 (Steam)
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is misleading in a lot of ways. For those like me that saw the trailer earlier in the year, we were all a little dumbfounded as to what exactly was going on. It just showed slideshows of the characters in the game that would occasionally switch to a shot of them getting tattooed. Makes sense I guess, I mean, these are girls. In Tokyo. Getting tattoos. The name speaks for itself, but unfortunately, beyond this and what was shown - or the lack of it for that matter - there isn't much beyond that.
To put it simply, if you've played titles like Plague Inc., then you should know what to expect here. The difference, however, is that Plague Inc. has gameplay that's set up in a seamless manner between how you distribute a virus across the planet, leveling up and buffing those viruses, and clever ways that give you the freedom to counteract any vaccines that are administered. It's a deep science-oriented title that simulates what it would look like if an actual, lethal plague would occur, and everything that would follow in a plausible manner. Tokyo Tattoo Girls takes the same vein of this when it comes to taking over wards throughout Tokyo, but the way it actually has you accomplish this is so stripped and barren compared to other games in its genre that it becomes simply a waiting game. Truly, a waiting game. Even with the ability to speed up time, it's a game about waiting in which you can choose to interact with some stuff, but ultimately, you're paying money for something you can do - and probably something that occurs every day without you even noticing - in real life for free.
There are six girls that can be chosen for you to aid as you take over 23 wards in Tokyo. Each one is trying to unite and/or take over Tokyo for different moral reasons. While it's not entirely interesting, it gives a sense of direction and objectives. Each ward also has their own tattooed leader that you must "fight" once you've worn down the district enough before you officially take it over. Again, there is still nothing for you to do here. Regardless of the character you choose, the ward leader will have a nonsensical conversation in which you're arbitrarily asked a question. Depending on how you answer, you'll receive an OK, Good, or Super rating. Super will give you a massive passive boost to help you with your ward conquering, as well as an art gallery piece of the ward leader you're fighting. Good will give you a moderate boost, and OK will grant you nothing at all, but all ratings will still give you some cash to spend on tattoos to buff your character further. Regardless of rating, you'll always win the battle against the leader, which is just a black screen with a cute little animation of smoke before going back to the conversational sequence which more often than not will be them saying, "Alright, I'll help you.", regardless of moral reasoning behind it.
Once you've taken over all of Tokyo, the character converses with you shortly basically saying "Thanks for helping out - you're a great tattoo artist!" and then they're on their way and credits show up afterwards, with a new gallery unlock. The game is so barebones and doesn't feel rewarding in the slightest, even after you've beaten it. The menus are clunky and laggy as well, making moving on to the next story or even simply going from overworld map to tattooing a chore. It's always great having a new game come to Vita, but when you're charging players nearly full price for a game that would benefit more on mobile or Steam at a much, much lower price tag, it can feel like a stab in the back to those that invested their hard-earned dollars into the game, especially when the trailers and marketing of it have shown next to nothing - granted that's exactly the amount of content in the game itself, so maybe it's not so misleading? It's debatable, I'm sure.
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a game that I believe could've been something a little more worthwhile had it been more engaging in its presentation and gameplay. It's not that this style of gameplay can't be fun - on the contrary - but doing so in a way that lacks spectacle, worthwhile music, animations, decent UI, or optimization hurts it from being a game worth recommending. It's nothing more than an interactive map, where you can choose to tap or click your way to victory, albeit in a very slow and banal manner. The art is great, but I feel with a little more time spent on story - or even balancing the two styles to make it half visual novel and half real-time strategy to help cover up the boring gameplay a bit - and the entire package of it all, this may have been a nice niche title worth having in the library, but the way it is - and it's not going to change - this is ultimately a game you should pass up unless it goes on sale for just a few bucks, which is highly likely.
- The design of traditional Japanese tattoos are beautiful and look great on all of the girls.
- Though in most cases cliché, each girl has a distinct personality and look that's easy to tell apart
- This is essentially a free mobile or steam game that has been priced at an absurd $30 for the Vita. If it needs to be paid, at most it should be $10, but even then that's a bit steep. Seems like it'd be a solid $2.99 game on Steam, however.
- Quite literally nothing to do but wait as your girl of choice takes over wards. You can influence the speed and proficiency of your captures by giving tattoos on the girls which grant "powers", but the outcome is always the same.
- Not much story content, and each girl's "campaign" can be completed in less than an hour, with little to no replay value unless you want to collect art for the gallery in the main menu (or just want trophies)
- The menus are laggy and the loading times are horrid for a game like this
Thank you to NIS America for supplying us with a copy for the purposes of this review!