“Why did you come here…?”
-Komachi, Tokyo Tattoo Girls
“The following is a guest post by the Final Fourteenth Mage.”
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a unique game in which your main objective is to take control of all twenty-three districts of Tokyo, Japan. This is done by invading districts, recruiting clanswomen and punks, and then defeating the clan leader of each district. The clan leaders each are in a position of power, due to the mystical tattoos that cover their bodies.
There are six unique characters to choose from, and each start with one solitary tattoo. As you collect currency called protection money, or PM for short, you are able to both work on invading and gaining traction in the districts of Tokyo, whilst continuing to obtain more and more powerful and intricate tattoos.
At its core, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a strategy game – albeit a very casual one. Your only input into how the game will play out is by choosing and paying for commands from a separate menu. The allies that you have forged both over time and through overtaking districts, will automatically invade neighbouring districts and it is up to you to control what happens from here. You can’t stop the game’s progression but you can use PM to pay for commands that recruit clanswomen or punks; the strategy here is that it is more efficient to recruit certain groups of allies from certain districts. You can also decrease the alert of other districts which is important especially later in the game. When a district is on high alert it can start a ‘Turf War’, which decreases your honor especially if you lose.
The honor system is the most important aspect of the game as you will discover early on. You need to constantly observe your honor bar and take care to make sure it doesn’t deplete. If it does happen to deplete then that’s game over for you.
The difficulty in Tokyo Tattoo Girls comes from managing your PM and being able to tattoo your chosen girl to completion, whilst at the same time having enough PM left over to be able to recruit and issue any commands that will undoubtedly be the difference between a close win and a game over. The game can get intense rather quickly! Once more districts are invaded, both they and the surrounding districts can be on high alert, which negatively impacts your honor. It’s therefore essential that you reduce this and take control of them as soon as possible. Leaving them on alert is a sure-fire way to share an intimate moment with the game over screen.
The mechanical aspects of the game are easy to comprehend, and whilst a game over is likely if you don’t play your cards right, the game itself can be completed in a few hours – meaning a defeat is not devastating and what you’ve learned can be strategically put into play on the next run through. Tattoo Girls has a range of difficulty modes which definitely kick the game up a notch. It took numerous attempts until I felt comfortable with the speed and strategy needed to play the game above easy, but doing so is definitely rewarding in itself.
Once you have taken over a district it is time to fight the clan boss. This is also a completely automated process with a 100% success rate. In fact you don’t even witness the fight itself: instead you are privy to a comically disappointing cloud with each fight. The only input that you as the player have in this moment is a dialogue choice. The clan boss will ask you why you are doing what you are and you will have three choices to choose from; each boss has a slight variation of choices. The answers are ranked from super, good and finally okay. Super gives you an 8% honor recovery bonus and a special CG of the clan boss on the victory screen which is generally risqué in nature. Good gives you a bonus of 5% honor recovery and okay doesn’t give you a bonus at all.
Steam lists Tokyo Tattoo Girls under ‘nudity games’ which led me to expect something that contained a lot more fan service than was actually included. The only time anything that could be considered remotely erotic was displayed was during the tattoo process where your chosen character was naked, face down on the bed, the side of her breasts clearly visible.
Some of the clan bosses’ outfits were revealing but that fit into the theme of the game as it exposed their tattoos. The tattoo designs themselves were absolutely remarkable. Each clan boss has their own tattoo style and whilst different they are all inherently feminine and the best part of each of their designs. The only downside to any of the tattoos is that the ink the player character tattoos onto his or her chosen girl are never shown throughout the game. The only point you ever see them is when you are in the process of tattooing, which seems redundant and disappointing.
The 8-Bit Review
For anyone who has played a NISA game before, the game is visually exactly what you would expect to see from something that has been localised, particularly in the character designs. The variety in regards to the six girls that you can choose from is refreshing as not all of them are your stereotypical ‘loli’ that is so commonplace in this genre of games. With that said most of the character designs do fit into that description and for Tokyo Tattoo Girls it works.
The revealing outfits feel more like a necessity to the game as opposed to cheap fan service as the girls get their power and fighting prowess from the tattoos themselves – so why wouldn’t they want to display them? The tattoos look wonderful. They are without a doubt the most interesting aspect of each character design. Outside of the character designs the visuals consist of a map that one would have constructed in a grade school class room activity and a few different background locations which are fine but not memorable.
The gameplay is what lets Tokyo Tattoo Girls down the most. The one question I had when the credits rolled was “Did I play the game or did it play itself?” Whilst a little disappointing that the allies you had weren’t able to be controlled, the lack of boss battles is what really threw me for a loop. Not only that but regardless of difficulty every boss fight has a 100% success rate. That took all of the enjoyment out of the game for me. I would have preferred the success of the encounter to be left to RNG as opposed to knowing there’s absolutely no challenge at all. This paired with the lack of control previously mentioned makes the gameplay very minimal and more akin to being there for the ride as opposed to taking compete control of the situation.
With a name like Tokyo Tattoo Girls it’s quite clear what the theme of the game is. Girls with tattoos in Tokyo, right? Right! This theme is rather interesting as Japan as a whole tends to have very strong opinions on tattoos and they are not something you usually see on anyone, let alone cute girls. This idea goes against the grain and really does give the game a more dystopian and dysfunctional feel.
It’s nice to see people with tattoos in positions of power as well as pop stars and models in this universe. Whilst of course Tokyo Tattoo Girls is only a game, it still can help to normalise tattoos in peoples minds and that is inherently a good thing!
Tokyo Tattoo Girls does give you instructions on the gameplay but I personally found the best way to learn the mechanics of the game was to dive right in and play it for myself. This of course resulted in my eventual death on my first attempt, but it’s fair to say the knowledge I gained from this playthrough allowed me to play more strategically on my next attempt, and then I flew through my second playthrough which encouraged me to try the more challenging difficulties.
Strictly referring to easy mode, the game is accessible. It only requires a mouse and a few clicks to complete everything that you want to. Once basic mechanics are understood the game is easy to control and navigate. The benefit to the game being automated for the most part is that none of that is left to you as a the player and decreases the difficulty in that regard.
The game is incredibly challenging on the higher difficulties, as it is fast paced and easy to go from being in control to accepting defeat if you aren’t perfectly managing both your PM that you have available and your constant tattoo upgrades. The game does require more strategy the higher the difficulty as you do need to try to recruit the right set of people from each district for maximum efficiency or defeat will be knocking at your door.
Replayability : 6/10
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is fast paced and you can go from thinking that you have everything under control to being blindsided by a game over screen very fast. This is nicely countered by the game itself being short at roughly one to two hours total for a successful run. Defeat doesn’t seem as devastating when there’s not much progress to lose.
There’s six characters to choose from and they all have their own perks and abilities that slightly alter the game. They also have their own personalities and dialogue but most importantly they have their own unique set of tattoos. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how each of the tattoos take shape and transform as you upgrade them when you collect enough PM to do so. It’s worth taking the time to play with each character for this reason alone.
Tokyo Tattoo Girls is fairly unique. I’ve never played anything quite like it and for that alone I did enjoy certain aspects of the game. Cute girls, stunning tattoos and a fast paced strategy game are not the stereotypical mix but Tokyo Tattoo Girls makes it work.
The length of the game means that there are aspects of these elements that aren’t as fleshed out as they could be and that definitely impacts on the game itself however as a whole it’s still an interesting game.
My Personal Grade: 5/10
I thought about how I would score Tokyo Tattoo Girls a lot whilst playing and even more so once I had finished. It wasn’t at all what I expected in both positive and negative ways. I enjoyed the strategy elements and the character design but the fact that the game was automated with limited player input especially in regards to clan boss fights was something that I felt heavily let the game down. The main theme of the game is tattoos, and it’s disappointing that the tattoos that you obtain throughout your run of the game are only shown on one screen and never again. Being able to see them during the different character interactions or at least on the screen with the map would have been a much welcomed addition to the game. The fact that the tattoo designs were so nice and each character had her own different set made this even more disappointing.
The story was weak and I felt there wasn’t enough backstory. Everything could be summed up in a paragraph. It felt like the story was just loosely there because it had to be. In the sense that they needed something to link heavily tattooed girls and a dystopian Tokyo.
The strategic elements of the game that you could control were fun. My blood was pumping when multiple districts were on alert, turf wars were rampant and I was losing honor fast. I really enjoyed that aspect and whilst manageable on easy it’s definitely a lot more work on the harder difficulties whilst still maintaining the fun aspect of the game. This is definitely where the game performed highest for me and is therefore my main consideration in regards to my personal grade.
Thank you to NIS America for the review code for Tokyo Tattoo Girls. Please note that the game is currently going through beta testing and the version I playing was not the final version of the game.
Aggregated Score: 5.3
The Final Fourteenth Mage has the weight of her backlog on her shoulders as she scours the internet searching for her next favourite game. You may know her as Priscilla Cullen and can read more of her musings at Cilla vs. Games.
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