Before I get into the main talking points of the review, I want to just disclaim that this was indeed a review copy given to me by NIS America. With that being said, this review and any review I do is always unbiased and my honest opinion on what the product has to offer. Alright! Fluff out of the way, lets talk about this oddity shall we?
Tokyo Tattoo Girls (we will just refer to it as TTG here on out, so it doesn't get annoying to keep reading) is weird, but its oddity is actually its strongest offering. TTG puts you in the shoes of the "Tattoo Master" who is traveling around a destroyed Tokyo in search of the family members they lost contact with after the unexplained disaster. You will be given a choice of six girls to help build their tattoo and make it stronger, so they can achieve their goals.
Tokyo has been divided into 23 wards with each ward being controlled by one clan leader that has their own armies. These characters also have their own motives and reasons for doing what they do. A very interesting part of the game is the fact that to encourage replay value, every lead character has their own personality and will interact with the ward leaders differently, which also allows you, the player, to learn a little more about the girls or even the disaster that struck Tokyo.
At the end of every scenario, you and the girl you chose will have a heart to heart and then the credits roll. Honestly, for me at least, a few of the characters did tug at my heart strings which made me feel a little bit sentimental for my character. It makes you feel like you went on this journey together, and not make you feel like just an observer like most visual novels do.
The graphics are pretty common for a Vita game, but this one jumped around quite a bit. The characters were presented in standard anime fashion, but the backdrops behind them were highly detailed, like from a high budget animation. The special ability menu, however, was decorated in chibi characters and simple graphics. The ward leaders also popped out, with no character ever feeling bland or just a slight modification of another character to save time. All of those things, coupled with the fact that the tattoos for all the girls you work on are unique for each character (not to mention that some of them are seriously beautiful), make the graphics a real strong point more often than not. The graphics are unique where they need to be and simple where it makes sense. It is the perfect blend, even with a few compression artifacts in the chibi drawings.
Not much to say here. TTG has a few tracks to help set mood but they do repeat very often. Menu choices have the standard clings and clangs that you would hear nowadays in games. but that doesn't hurt the game much when you consider that the voice acting is very professional and matches each character perfectly. To my ears, no characters sounded the same, so you start to recognize them very well after multiple playthroughs.
That ending song, though, that is the one track I can say had a lot of heart, and it definitely set the mood for the last conversations with the girls you help. If it wasn't for that song and the top-tier voice work I would have called the sound design mediocre.
Like I said, this game is an odd mix of part visual novel and part strategy game. The majority of the game is spent talking to the various clan leaders and taking over the wards, however, you must amass armies to invade and overpower those districts, hence the strategy features. This part of the game is presented with a map divided into 23 named wards that the player must help their girl invade and conquer. Right at the start you get a home base to invade and go from there, branching out and taking over one ward at a time.
This is where tattoo building comes in, things like not being intimidating enough, not being able to smooth talk well enough, and of course not being strong enough to hold a ward will always stand in your way. But with the ability to slowly complete your girl's tattoo, you can make her stronger and more determined, which in turn makes it easier for enemy combatants to join forces with you and overthrow the current ward leader.
Each girl also has her own abilities unique to her, as well. A few of these are available off the bat, and some have to be unlocked by gaining further progress on the tattoo. There are some really useful ones, like earning 5K Protection Money right then and there, and some odd ones like "a random event occurs" which can be positive or negative. Again, by making certain abilities only available to certain characters, it makes each girl unique in her own way.
At the end of each scenario you unlock an item that will actually make the game easier for your next sessions. You get one item for each character per difficulty level. So, lets say I want to unlock all the extras. There are six girls and four difficulty levels, so that would be over 20 playthroughs to see everything the game has to offer.
There is a minigame for gambling where you roll dice to earn more money, but it always felt super leaned towards the house so I avoided it most of the time. One small complaint is unless you're on extreme difficulty, it is quite easy to just sit and do nothing and steamroll the wards after you bulk up.
All in all, the gameplay is fun and fits very well on the Vita.
Not much at all! Right at the start, the game holds your hand and lets you know everything you need to know before allowing you to jump in by yourself. The game requires simple management of your resources while also keeping morale high, so its simplicity makes it fit perfectly as a handheld game, and I wouldn't be surprised if making it this way was done for that reason. I never once felt lost or that I was supposed to be doing something I was never shown.
Extremely high. With each character having their own unique conversations with the leaders and the ability to unlock things to help with future playthroughs, it is very easy to say that you will have no problem justifying multiple playthroughs of TTG.
With its colorful and unique characters, vague but interesting storytelling (with each character having their own motivations), and the game itself being so easy to put down and come back to whenever you want, there is nothing stopping me from recommending this game to anyone who enjoys a unique handheld experience.