Game Title: Tokyo Tattoo Girls
Developer: Nikkatsu Company, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Availability: Retail | Digital
Download: 772 MB
PSTV Support: No

Tokyo Tatto Girls is a game that sounds really interesting because it is so different. A game about tattoos is something I’ve not seen in handheld games before, and all of the art and characters just have that cute, anime look that’s made me want the game for quite some time now. Unfortunately, not receiving a review copy from NIS America along with the Boom of the Nintendo Switch has delayed my owning and reviewing of the game.

Upon finding the game on PSN for a measly $19.99, though, I grabbed it, played it, and am ready to give you my thoughts. So, all of you Tattoo Masters out there, here is my review of Tokyo Tattoo Girls for the PS Vita!

Story

A horrible disaster has struck the city of Tokyo, Japan, leaving only young female girls in the city to suffer its fallout. However, the disaster turns out to be a blessing in disguise when strange Tattoos appear on the girls’ bodies, granting them supernatural abilities and powers. Having been sealed off from the rest of the world, the girls begin to make Clans in different sections of the city and run their own Crime Syndicates to create a new life, behind the impenetrable barrier that traps them away from the rest of the world.

In the midst of this New Order, you appear as a Tattoo Artist, partnering with a young girl with a blossoming tattoo, aiming to escape from Tokyo by the only means necessary: Conquering the 23 Wards of the city and banding everyone together to escape from their prison.

I was intrigued by the story scenario at first, but even with this incredibly serious and dark story setting, it just doesn’t keep the atmosphere after that initial introduction. Every time you meet a Crime Boss, they are just young girls doing normal things, like inviting you to a tea party, discussing the beauty of the body, or reading books in a library.

Tying that in with the fact that most of your Partner Choices are less-than-serious girls that strive to be in romantic pornos to try to find their grandparents or little girls that just want to collect cute things, you just forget that the game is trying to be serious and it turns into a cutesy anime about young women somehow taking control of Tokyo through the power of Cuteness, Fashion, and Modeling.

Gameplay

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is labeled as a strategy game with some light Visual Novel elements thrown into the mix. Across the game, you’ll be doing an RTS-style of invasion across the World Map and encountering Clan Bosses through VN-style dialogue choices.

The game works by you invading a territory in Tokyo, and spreading your invasion to eventually own the entire city, not so different from the basic concept of the Empires Game Mode in the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors “Empires” games. However, the gameplay aspect is watching and maintaining the surrounding Wards to make sure they don’t attack you too often.

This is done through the use of commands and PM, the game’s currency. Across the game, you have an “Honor” Gauge, which will decrease as you anger rival clans and provoke them into attacking you, losing fights over turf, among other things. You use your PM to issue commands to prevent this from happening. Commands can be as simple as lowering the Alert status in a specific Ward for a set amount of time, preventing Wars from breaking out for awhile by having Peace Talks, or by using PM to create new Tattoos on your Partner to raise their own stats and speed up the process by which you conquer each Ward.

The Tattoo feature is the game’s core theme, as Tattoos grant magical powers in the world of TTG. They are easily the most expensive usage of your PM, but the most useful. As you enhance your girl’s back with new tattoos, her stats will increase, making it easier to conquer Wards and easier to recruit enemy groups to your side of this Clan War.

The strategy comes into the fact that you only gain so much PM per day as well as the fact that commands have cooldown time before they can be used again. Each day that passes also increases Alertness and Tension with surrounding, unconquered Wards. To expand on this further, the more territories you claim, the more territories around those will become hostile, making you worry about using commands to calm a couple wards to trying to calm up to a dozen at one time.

Once you get to the Conquer Phase for each Ward, you enter a Boss Fight, which isn’t really a Boss or a Challenge because you are not capable of losing to any Clan Boss. You automatically win over every single one of them. The only challenge is picking the more correct of the 3 dialogue choices for why you’re invading their territory to get the best result out of them. It is not unlike choosing the correct dialogue option in a Dating Sim to get the most Affinity Points out of the event. You can’t lose, but choosing a better option grants you special artwork and recovers a section of your Honor Gauge, making it easier to manage your way through the rest of the game.

The bad thing about this is that, outside of issuing commands, there is no challenge to the game and, in some sections, it’s debatable as to whether there is even a game to play at all. You could easily just leave the game alone for the first half of each playthrough and not do a single thing, outside of dialogue choices for the Clan Bosses and you’d be nowhere near the Game Over Point by the time more territories started getting hostile. It’s almost like a Clicker Game where you get no sense of difficulty or interactivity until you’re halfway through the entire game.

And that’s another thing to make note of. This game doesn’t cost much, having a price point of 20 dollars, though it makes you wonder why a game would have a seemingly-permanent price drop from 30 to 20 less than 2 months since it released as a brand new game. The reason for that is most likely tied to its length. A single run through the game on the game’s normal speed (there is normal and a faster speed) will last you maybe 2 hours. Perhaps 3 hours if you do the higher difficulties and spend a significant amount of time in the menus, doing tattoos, looking through the gallery, etc.

To put it bluntly, it’s an extremely short game. While you do have the option of replaying the game with end-game rewards from previous playthroughs, those enhancements will also only server to make the game even simpler and shorter in length, leaving those plays mostly to do quick runs to learn about the other playable characters.

Controls

One thing I have to stress is that this game is not compatible with the PlayStation TV, and this is a big problem. Not being compatible and being touch-heavy is not a problem, but the game is advertised by NIS America and by the game’s own box art as being compatible. 2 months in, there’s been no patch to enable this functionality, so at the point we’re at now, it’s false advertising to the PSTV Community and that is a problem, especially coming from NISA, whom has always been good about enabling that functionality.

As far as controls go, it’s pretty simple once you figure it out. Everything in the game be used with the touch screen, though everything can also be used with the physical controls. You can use the D-Pad to navigate across the map and menus, while the two Analog Sticks can hover the map around on the screen, if any part you want to see if covered up by something. The L and R triggers are used as well, to modify the time settings (Normal Flow, Paused, Fast Flow).

The rest is done with the face buttons. X confirms and interacts with the selected options/ward, and Circle cancels options. Square takes you to your HQ to create new tattoos, and Triangle pulls up information about the different wards. The only thing I cannot figure out how to do with buttons is pulling up the Command List.

Of course, there’s another issue with controls, a lack of a tutorial/explanation. While there is a tutorial to showcase how the battle flow goes, with Alertness, Conquering Bosses, and Issueing Commands, none of the actual controls are explained, leaving you in an RTS situation button-mashing and tapping all over to try to figure out how to do what you want to do.

Presentation

This section is definitely what I’m most pleased with. Graphically, everything is in 2D, but all of the artwork is beautifully done and looks wonderful on the Vita’s portable screen.

Performance is good as well. Load Times are almost instant, no frame-drops. It is, all around, a smooth experience. As it should be, considering the only “renders” in the game are 2D artwork pieces of the characters.