By Annie Gallagher / March 3rd, 2015
|Title||Criminal Girls: Invite Only|
|Release Date||February 3, 2015|
|Genre||Turn Based RPG|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
Admittedly, I did not think that Criminal Girls Invite Only would be localized. One of the reasons was due to the original game never leaving Japan. Another was due to how explicit the game was in terms of sexual content. However, this only made me want it more, and it was likely the same with several other people. Combined with me having enjoyed other ecchi titles such as Senran Kagura and Hypderdimension Neptunia, this has earned it a place on my most anticipated games of 2015 list. So, did Criminal Girls: Invite Only live up to my expectations, or should you just throw your invitation in the trash?
Just to get the most controversial part out of the way, I will start with the censorship aspect. When it was first announced for localization, a lot of fans were upset that NISA was going to censor the game. NISA said that the censorship of the game was due to the game being guaranteed an AO rating if released uncensored. It is probably best to take what I say here with a grain of salt, seeing as how I likely know a lot less than industry professionals, but I honestly have my doubts that this was the case. I say this because the sexual content in Criminal Girls was very tame, and I have seen far more explicit content in games that have gotten away with M ratings. Also, I myself was under the impression that a game will only get an AO rating if it has particularly graphic sexual scenes, and the motivation sequences are not quite that far even in the Japanese version (really the only changes between versions is the addition of smoke that is easy to see through and the dialogue being removed). A possible theory could be that NISA is just being cautious and does not want to end up getting the game delayed (we don’t want it to become “Criminal Girls Forever” now do we?) due to needing to fix the rating, or I could just be wrong. Either way, I felt the need to mention this for anyone who would want to know, and this will not factor into the rest of the review.
Criminal Girls takes place in Hell, and you play as an unnamed prison warden who is given the task of reforming seven delinquent girls. You need to reform them by climbing a tower and passing four trials with them and making it to the top. If you succeed, the girls will get a second chance at life; if you do not, the girls will burn in hell for all eternity.
As I stated in my 2015 anticipated games list, I was looking forward to this game due to the aspects of how the trials would be handled. Unfortunately, this was severely underutilized in Criminal Girls. When people think of Hell, they tend to imagine a place of eternal torment and punishment, correct? If that is the case, then why does every dungeon in Criminal Girls look so painfully generic? The only level themes in the entire game are a prison, a temple, a fire dungeon, an ice dungeon, a school and the typical crystalline rift that is the final dungeon of every RPG ever made. When you theme a game around the afterlife — something that most people hear of their entire lives, but never get to see — you have no excuse to have the level designs be this boring. You can literally use any design you think of, no matter how weird, and it will fit due to being in Hell.
What was also an issue was the game’s pacing. For a majority of Criminal Girls, there is a significant lack of any story or character development. At the beginning of the game, you have one plot point brought up about how convicts (the game’s term for enemies) have broken into the tower and are in places they shouldn’t be. However, after that, you have nothing happen in the first two trials aside from just occasional talk about the surroundings and fighting a giant monster. You literally could have cut out those first two trials entirely and the plot would have benefited from it. The third and fourth trials develop the characters slightly, but not nearly enough for one to have been interested in them, especially seeing as how you are over 3/4 of the way through the game before you learn anything about for what reasons the seven titular girls were sent to Hell to begin with.
Even at that point, there was nothing interesting about their characters other than the backstories (which should have been shown a lot earlier than when they were). Each character has a very thin personality except for a few specific traits (and even then I have a hard time remembering anything about them). Literally, the only characters I can remember that were even remotely memorable were Ran (whose only trait was that she hates men), Sako (who is overprotective of her sister, Yuko) and Alice (who is shy and wants friends). The remaining characters tend to be even more bland and don’t really have any qualities that stick out.
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