Sohta is a 4th grader whose family recently move to Fuji no Hana, a peaceful town in Tokyo. His parents move to Fuji no Hana to open up a dry cleaner in the town, this causes issues as Sohta’s mother blames his father for their meager situation by lacking a backbone, and Sohta’s father’s idosyncasies cause some friction with the local townspeople. Not only does Sohta have to contend with his parent’s fractious marriage, but he has to adjust to being the new kid in school and making new friends in an unfamiliar town. Additionally, Sohta needs to run various errands for his parent’s dry cleaners, and understanding unfamiliar feelings of love and attraction. Oh, he also has to be back home before dark because every Friday night, when the sun begins to set, a giant monster appears in Fuji no Hana. There are also weird meteorites and aliens to deal with as well. You know, typical coming of age type stuff.
One of the biggest strengths of the game is its superb writing. Ayabe has a knack for nailing the emotions, cadence, thought process and imagination of young kids. What makes Attack of the Friday Monsters! shine are the little moments between characters when Sohta connects with a new friend like when he first meets up with A Plus and the rest of the gang. To become part of the crew, Sohta needs to act out a silly ninjitsu that requires the person to fall down until the caster says, “Arise”. Only the “boss” of a “servant” can cast the spell, and the “servant” must fall anytime the spell is cast. In order to become someone’s boss, the person needs to beat them in a game of Monster Cards (the card game all the kids play). This introduces a weird childish hierarchy that requires Sohta to collect five Monster Cards so he can compete and become someone’s boss. That is how integrates into this group. Another moment is when Sohta talks to the director of the hot Tokusatsu in Fuji no Hana and she indulges what she perceives to be his childish imagination of aliens and monsters. Attack of the Friday Monsters! is full of these great moments of childhood wonder.
Gameplay in Attack of the Friday Monsters! is broken up into episodes that comprise the main bulk of the game. Sohta has little mysteries (episodes), which he must solve in order to advance the story. Much of what this entails is exploring Fuji no Hana and talking to various townsfolk. By chatting with different people can either complete, progress or start new episodes. Going through the episodes will cause Friday Monsters’ story to take shape. The reward for the episodes is some of the story’s character moments. While there are times that the objectives to complete an episode are a bit nebulous, mostly, the game does a good job of marking the map on the touch screen of where the player needs to go in order to progress an episode. It makes for a brisk but leisurely pace without too much worry of getting lost.
The other component of gameplay is Monster Cards game. During the episodes (and as rewards for completing) Sohta will collect glims that add up to form a monster card. When Sohta has five monster cards, he can engage in a match with the various kids in the game to become their “Boss”. A game of Monster Cards is essentially five matches of rock, paper, scissors with a twist. Once the five cards are played blind, the dealer says the win-loss-draw count, and allows the player and opponent to switch up to two cards. They dealer gives two hints of what has happened in the battles giving the player an idea of what might be a smart play to win the match. Once the cards are flipped traditional rules apply, but if a match is a draw, the strength of a card determines the winner. The game is a bit simple, but a fun minigame. To add some complexity, there are cards that can do two actions and doubles of cards can be combined to make stronger cards (cards can be combined up to three times).
Graphics and Sound
Attack of the Friday Monsters! features a clever mix of hand drawn backgrounds and 3D models to create an interesting look. The backgrounds in the game are gorgeous and pop everywhere Sohta travels in Fuji no Hana. From his parents dry cleaners to monster hill, the settings in the game look amazing. The 3D are solid, but feature the same issue most 3D models on the 3DS suffer, which a slight lack of sharpness. If the models had a definite cel shaded quality to them like Toon Link from The Wind Waker or Oliver from Ni no Kuni, they would have created a much stronger visual aesthetic. The music in A Tokyo Tale create an excellent tone for the game, it is full of whimsy making the more surreal elements of the story feel right at home. It is a soundtrack that captures what it is like to be in the 4th grade and to think you are an alien and monsters and superheroes are real.
Kaz Ayabe has been a storied game creator in Japan since the Famicon, but this is the first time American gamers can truly experience his work. To that end, what they can expect is an intriguing little game that is full of heart. The game in many ways captures what it is like to be a young kid when anything was possible and the only thing limiting you was imagination. Visually, there is plenty to admire and while the gameplay is not especially strenuous, it serves the story well. What Attack of the Friday Monsters! does best is allow the player to feel like they are coming of age again if only for a brief moment.