Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale- 3DS

I've long been an admirer of Kaz Ayabe's long-running Boku no Natsuyasumi series - in fact one of my first blog posts was about Boku 3 on PlayStation 3 back in 2008. 

Since then I've tracked down the second game on PlayStation 2 but the first game on PS1 - and subsequently ported to PSP - and the PSP-only fourth game in the series have sadly eluded me.

It's a series which has a lot going for it, but with its roots deep in Japanese culture, there was never a chance  of any of the games being translated into English and released in the West - although I know of one brave soul who is currently beavering away on a translation project for Boku no Natsuyasumi 3.

So it was with delight that I discovered that Ayabe's Millennium Kitchen - along with Level 5 - had actually released a title in the West last year on 3DS. It went completely under my radar until chatter over on Twitter alerted me to the game's existence just last month.

While Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale isn't directly linked to the Boku series, there are many similarities here, specifically the hand-painted backdrops, the rural setting, the joy of exploration and the innocence of childhood.

The protagonist is young Sohta Tono, a kid who has arrived in a Tokyo suburb toward the end of the summer of 1971. Here, in this well-looked after collection of houses, shops and businesses, something amazing happens every Friday - huge "Kaiju" mysteriously appear, hulking great monsters who do battle on the edge of town. Or do they?

The strange goings on in this picturesque town are seen through a child's eyes and are open to interpretation, while Sohta and his friends' imaginative tale unfolds beautifully in waves of wide-eyed wonder.

The immaculately told story is utterly charming and while the game is linear in its structure, there are things to do when not following the story arc. Multicoloured Glims are scattered around the town and collecting seven similarly coloured motes of light rewards the player with a monster card which can be used to battle friends in a simple rock, paper, scissors-style game. The monsters have wonderful names such as the Colossal Crustacean and Jumbogon and each card gives a delightful description of the monster along with a roaring sound clip.

The general atmosphere of the previously mentioned Boku no Natsuyasumi series is intact here, not just because of the lovely hand-drawn locations and the Japanese voice acting, but thanks to the environmental sounds which pepper every scene; birds chirp, katydids and crickets rattle away, Japanese voices from unseen TVs chatter while you're exploring the streets and wind chimes clink in the distance.

There's even a nod to Boku no Natsuyasumi to be found in the game: Stand outside the dry cleaners, and you'll see a small poster featuring a young lad who looks remarkably like Boku from Ayabe's best-loved series.

The soundtrack is another feather in the game's cap, with gentle guitars, tinkling pianos, clarinets and violins combining to creating a superb atmosphere. However, the standout is the game’s opening theme which is upbeat, sickeningly cute and packed with heartfelt lyrics.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale lasts around four hours and costs £7.19 from the Nintendo eShop and it is a little gem. I'm so glad I was pointed in its direction - better late than never - and now, I'll just wait patiently to discover if Ayabe-san has Boku no Natsuyasumi 5 up his sleeve for PS4 or Vita.

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