Attack of the Friday Monsters is a difficult game to describe. It’s a sweet little coming-of-age story in a quiet little town, that just happens to involve space aliens, superheroes and giant Godzillas. I’ve heard some people compare this to the films of Studio Ghibli, but since I’m pretty unfamiliar with that stuff, this felt more like Spielberg to me than anything else. A super Japanese version of Spielberg, of course, but still Spielberg. Much like The Goonies, E.T. or Super 8, this is about mundane small-town life brushing briefly up against fantasy and adventure, as seen through the eyes of a child. And like the best of Spielberg’s stuff, all the crazy shit is simply a backdrop for a story about growing up: seeing the world expand before your young eyes, and deciding how to move forward.
You play the role of the new kid in town, who takes it upon himself to investigate the local legends involving enormous monsters. Along the way, you forge tenuous new friendships, feel the first sparks of young romance, and make discoveries that deepen your understanding of your own family. Spielbergy as fuck, am I right? The main game plays a lot like a point-and-click adventure, focusing heavy on exploration and interacting with the many interesting non-player characters. The environment is by far the game’s best feature, even though it basically amounts to a few quiet streets and some small mountainous outskirt areas. But the developers do a great job of making you feel like a wide-eyed kid with an adventurous heart, because that tiny world somehow feels so big. Exploration in Attack of the Friday Monsters is pure joy.
The other side of the gameplay is in the form of a monster-themed collectible card game that you play with the other kids in town. Scattered throughout town are little glowing widgets, and once you snatch up X amount of them, you get a new card for your deck. Gathering these whatzits is just about as satisfying as any collectible in any other video game, and the cards themselves are fun and remind me of the old Dinosaurs Attack! cards I collected as a kid. But unfortunately you eventually have to play the card game itself, which is by far the worst part of Attack of the Friday Monsters. It’s basically a dumb variation on Rock Paper Scissors, so dependent on luck that it renders your decisions all but meaningless. It takes forever to play a round and you have to do it so often that the whole thing becomes tedious pretty quickly. This minigame is not so bad as to be a complete deal-breaker, but as a guy who enjoys card games in general, it would have been really cool if this one was any fun.
Monster cards aside, I really enjoyed my time with Attack of the Friday Monsters. It’s a short experience (I finished it after two sessions of around 90 minutes each), but a really satisfying one, especially if you’re the type who doesn’t mind gameplay occasionally taking a backseat to narrative. The developer (Level-5), frequently have sales on their 3DS eshop titles (I got this game for a mere $2), so keep an eye out.
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