There’s a group of gamers who seem to crave niche titles that otherwise won’t receive much attention from the larger gaming population. These gamers don’t necessarily want what’s popular or what’s on everyone’s most anticipated list, and they like it that way. Luckily, NIS America has come to give this group what they want and delivered the most niche game that I have played this year, Tokyo Tattoo Girls.
Developed by Sushi Typhoon Games, Tokyo Tattoo Girls might have evaded the radar of many with the overall lack of information there is on it. However, this only made me more eager to see what exactly this game was and if it had any qualities that would peak my interest. What I discovered about Tokyo Tattoo Girls was that it wasn’t the total train wreck that I thought it was going to be, but instead it turned out to be a game that presented an exciting strategy system that perhaps could have been better with a bigger budget and more time.
At its core, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a strategy game (you guessed it) based in Tokyo. After a strange “calamity” strikes Tokyo, girls began to appear around town with special powers. The government allows them to live among themselves, but they’d have to stay in the region. This is where the player comes in as a tattoo master and is given the choice of helping one of five girls to take over Tokyo and eventually escape.
This is easier said than done as each of Tokyo’s 23 wards are controlled by a clan and a leader. The player and their girl must defeat each of these girls in order to obtain their personal mission. Each character has some motivation to go on this dangerous task, but they aren’t to be taken too seriously.
My thoughts on the story as a whole aside, the intro to some of the girl’s campaigns were hilarious and also very mature. I was surprised by some of the things they were saying and found myself laughing quite a bit. However, over time some conversations feel out of place and what’s even more out of place is that the characters never really speak about what happened in Tokyo and how they are adjusting to this new world. Which begs the question, why even have the calamity in the first place and why not just have a solid strategy game where the player takes over the 23 wards?
The gameplay is where players will find the most fun out of Tokyo Tattoo Girls as it can be compared to the popular board game Risk. Players will start their Tokyo domination on a chosen ward and begin to expand their clan over the board. As in-game time progresses leaders of the wards will fight back, and players must address whatever the leaders throw at them.
During gameplay, it’s essential for players to watch their honor meter that will increase and decrease throughout the campaign. If this reaches zero, it’s game over. Usual things that affect this meter are turf wars that will break out as the player expands their territory. However, these turf wars can be stopped in the player has the right amount of money to purchase an action that would limit this possibility.
I know this sounds confusing to be completely honest — my first time through was one of the most confusing experiences in my gaming life. I had no idea what I was doing, and by playing on the easiest setting I seemed to get by okay. However, my second time through I took my time with the systems and forced myself to understand how this game worked.
I know this is going to sound strange after reading the review up to this point, but Tokyo Tattoo Girls can be fun if you enjoy Risk-like gameplay with absolutely no motivation. The speed of the systems paired with the gameplay is somewhat solid, and the cooldown between using actions has the player attempt to time your invasions perfectly.
Also, time can be sped up and paused, which allows the player to make strategic decisions at their own pace. It’s only after learning these systems, which are quickly and poorly taught to the player at the beginning of the game, that Tokyo Tattoo Girls becomes an acceptable game to be putting time into.
After you gain ownership of a ward, the leader will initiate a battle. For some reason, there’s a choice system that does not affect the fight between the girls, which will end with a victory every time. This happens a total of 23 times before the game is beaten. On easy difficulty, I got through the entire campaign in a little over an hour, but this time changes during the high difficulties.
Ultimately, Tokyo Tattoo Girls wants the player to play the campaign on a higher difficulty because this is where you’ll be able to do the most strategic planning. To make the harder difficulties more accessible, players must take advantage of the tattoo system. Basically, throughout the campaign players will be able granted various tattoos that they can put on the girl’s back. Each tattoo has a different effect in battle and actually looks pretty cool when the girl’s entire back is covered in traditional Japanese tattoo.
There’s fun to be found in Tokyo Tattoo Girls for fans of strategic games that have less complicated systems and cute anime girls. Additionally, there a few hilarious scenes between characters found in an overall worthless story. The systems that I ended up liking in Tokyo Tattoo Girls were just not strong enough to keep me interested in playing on harder difficulties with every character.
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is as niche as it’s going to get and if that sounds like something you’re into than you might find this title to be just what you want. I hope to see Sushi Typhoon Games evolve as a developer and take what’s good about this game to create something more because this game has more in common with a random smartphone title than a proper strategy RPG.