Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors (PS Vita) Review

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors has come to western shores, and I am happy to see it happen.  The first game was fun and unfortunately mired in some misplaced fan backlash, so I wasn't sure we would even see the sequel come here.

The basic plot of the game is similar to last time.  You play as an instructor banding together a group of girls as they fight their way through hell to be reborn and cleansed of their sins.  This time, the girls died before committing their crimes, so they are, in effect, in purgatory.  They must still face their possible futures, and learn from their mistakes to grow as a person before they can be cleansed.  While it is a similar plot to the previous game, there are definitely enough differences that it doesn't feel like a retread.  Similarly, there are some similarities in the dungeons, but they do feel very different.

Combat is largely the same as it was in the previous game.  Since you don't directly control the party members, they will each have a suggestion of what to do in a turn, and you pick one of the four suggestions.  This time the attacks and characters are animated, which to me, makes it look a better.  The system works for the game, but isn't ideal.  Many times a certain skill the girls have would be the best, but you have to hope they suggest it first.  Thankfully, the game is smart enough to give you the "defend" skill when the enemy is charging up a powerful attack, or "heal" when someone is low on HP, assuming you have the skills and MP for it.  Other than that, most times you can't use the best power for the occasion, since it is up to a random chance that it shows up.  The more skills you learn, the harder it can be to get the one you want.  At least usually feels balanced enough, since you only really get one action per turn, not per girl per turn.

So what else does the instructor (you) do in battle?  Well, you can use one item and/or switch out one of the girls per turn.  Switching them out is very useful if one is out of HP.  Unfortunately, the item use is still a pain, since many times you will need to use more than one, and have to make the call on which would be more beneficial.  Both of those will cause new actions to be suggested, so there is some strategy to it as well.  A new system added to the game is the 'coach' command.  This will shout encouragement to the girls,  Their damage will raise or lower depending on which coaching option you choose.  I didn't often use this until the second half of the game, and even then it wasn't automatic for me to remember and use it.  The effect is has on the girls is substantial enough that you should take advantage of the system, especially on boss fights.

So how do the girls acquire their battle skills?  Well, it is by, uh, punishing motivating them in very suggestive ways.  Similar to the previous game, you will pick a girl and a method, then rub and poke the screen in various ways to...help them out.  Unlike last time, there is no more pink fog!  Some motivations will have another girl with your chosen one.  When you "motivate" them enough to level up, you can now choose one of two skills, either relating to "S" or "M".  Yes, the S&M that you are thinking of.  Any time you are at a camp, these can be switched, so you can try them out and pick the ones you like best, or whichever will serve you better in the current dungeon.  I do like this bit of customization, but there are a few skills where I would want both of them (or even neither).  Some skills are repeated among the girls, so it is possible to spread them out or even double up.  This also makes it easier to swap around which girls you use in battle.

It's usually not very hard to make your way through the various floors and dungeons of the game, but the bosses seem tougher this time around.  Even the first boss required me to grind a couple of levels before I could topple it.  Unfortunately, this tend continued through the rest of the game.  Every time I reached a boss, I had to stop and grind another level or two before beating them.  It didn't seem like I was missing some element or trick, but that I just had to be able to take less damage and dish more out, which you can only really get by gaining levels.

Even more unfortunately, this does add up.  The story takes about 20 hours to reach the conclusion, and at least a third of that was grinding.  It's a shame, because Criminal Girls 2 is fun, if sometimes unreliable, and the grinding really puts a damper on it.  Fans of the first game and those that dismissed the previous game's censorship should definitely check it out.  I'd also recommend it to people who likes quirky and unique RPGs.

The Good:
Improves upon the first game in nearly all areas.  No more pink fog!

The Bad:
Battles can take longer than they need if the girls don't suggest decent attacks.  Needing to grind to beat the bosses kills your momentum.

The SaHD:
The slime throwing motivation was oddly fun.

(Review code for Criminal Girls 2 was provided by the publisher)

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