One of the staples of the JRPG genre is exploring new towns on your journey. Usually this provides a break in the action for the player to relax, chat with the citizens of the town, and generally live out the Role part of a Role Playing Game. Now imagine if an entire game was based around just exploring a town and unlocking the various subplots its townspeople are involved in. This is the approach Attack of the Friday Monsters attempts for the 3DS, and you know what? It actually kinda works.
The game stars Sohta, a young 4th grade transfer student living in a small suburb of Tokyo during the heyday of Japanese Monster and Super Hero shows. Sohta is the new kid in town, the son of a dry cleaner with some kind of checkered past. He’s interested in making new friends and exploring his new town which just happens to the home of a tv station that produces his favorite monster show. There are some strange things going on in this town though. Chiefly every Friday at dusk giant monsters attack the town to the delight and sometimes horror of the school children. There have also been meteor showers and some of the residents don’t exactly act “normal”. Attack of the Friday Monsters is the story of Sohta unraveling the town’s mysteries and the monster attacks as well as unraveling the story behind the various trials and tribulations of the town’s citizens. Sohta doesn’t go it alone though. He’ll make new friends as the tale unfolds. This was really the absorbing part of the game for me. The dialogue between Sohta and his new friends sounds like how kids talk on the playground. They live in the moment and aren’t afraid to say whats on their mind. They jump to conclusions, tease each other, and just generally behave like children. I got a little swept away in their adventure and thats always the hallmark of good writing and sense of world.
The game is presented in a few dozen episodes but the neat twist is episodes can and do occur frequently simultaneously. You’ll be figuring out why your Mom is disappointed in your Dad’s life choices at the same time you’re exploring vacant lots with the other kids in town. As you run around town you’ll keep bumping into people that will advance the story in one episode while you’re doing an errand for another episode. It was a pretty neat little mechanic that I wasn’t expecting and allows you to explore pretty freely while not really wasting time. There is one other game mechanic that plays into Attack of the Friday Monsters and that is a paper rock scissors card battling game. As you explore town your run across “glims” fragments of something monsters have left behind after their attack on the town. Collect enough glims of a certain type and you’ll be awarded with a particular monster card that has a strength as well as a paper, rock, or scissor attribute. With these cards you can battle your friends in a card game and if you win you might be able to get a little more out of their dialogue and advance parts of the story. Its real lightweight stuff but it provides a little break from the normal gameplay mechanic and really is the most gamey thing in the entire adventure.
What I really want to stress about this game was the charm of the whole thing. Its a very relaxing and serene gameplay experience and you’ll dig watching these children use their imagination to live out their fantasies. It might spark a memory or two of your own childhood when you see how well crafted all the children and adult archetypes are in this game. From the mean kid who probably comes from a broken home to the cute girl you have a crush on to the badgering mother or defeated father, this game excels at seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I played through the game in one 3 hour session and it was about perfect for that kind of experience. If you have a 3DS and a few bucks to spare I encourage you to get it off the eShop and give it a spin, I think you’ll be rewarded.