After spending most of its time as a sort of last-resort/travel-only gaming option, the 3DS has become my system of choice for the summer. Several different developers have produced high quality titles for the handheld, and the Virtual Console is starting to get up to speed (after years of merely hobbling along on bland Game Boy re-releases). What really makes the 3DS ideal for the warmer months is the convenience of portability. After a long work day in a windowless lab, all I want to do is enjoy a smooth summer ale on my balcony while playing a video game in the cooling afternoon.
At these times, I do not want a fast-paced, twitch gaming sort of title to ruin an idyllic evening. I want to unwind with an immersive game, something that moves at a moderate, maybe even relaxed pace; giving me plenty of time to explore an interesting world unlike my own. Fortunately, a recent release on the 3DS eShop can provide exactly the sort of game I am looking for.
The latest in the Guild-02 series from Level-5, Attack of the Friday Monsters puts you in the role of a ten-year old boy named Sohta, whose family has recently moved to the Fuji no Hana suburb of Tokyo. Set in 1971, the capital of Japan was not the bustling metropolis you see today, but a sort of border world between nature and industry. A stream runs through the game’s environment, right beside rolling fields and rustic playgrounds that are juxtaposed against the billowing smoke-stacks of factories and the excitement of a television station. All of these details are rendered in hand-drawn backgrounds that would be right at home in a children’s story book.
At the start of this charming game, Sohta is tasked with delivering some fresh laundry from his family’s cleaning business to the local bakery. The plucky hero is warned to be home soon, since it is Friday, and that is the day of the week that the monsters come out to play (read: rampage). Thus begins a series of errands and tasks across Fuji no Hana that will lead Sohta to make new friends, play plenty of cards, and uncover the mystery behind the monster attacks in his new home.
Much of Attack of the Friday Monsters is spent exploring the Tokyo suburb and interacting with its citizens. Along with the core gameplay, there is a card game enjoyed by the local children, which boils down to a sort of rock-paper-scissors game, but with cards depicting the monsters from the local television broadcast. Overall, the game is meant to convey a nostalgic story of a life that many of us in the States never had the chance to experience. The entire presentation does an excellent job of immersing the player, with gorgeous visuals and a fantastic soundtrack that further emotes every scene in the game. There is also a narrator to this delightful tale, who is unaltered from the original Japanese and a pleasant addition to the story.
The only complaints I could possibly wage against this game are an over-eager auto-save system, and a somewhat short playtime. My playthrough clocked in at just over three hours, which seems to be the average completion time for most players. This makes for a rather bite-sized experience, but Friday Monsters never overstays its welcome, which makes it an ideal game to enjoy in a single afternoon.
When I was the age of the protagonist, my summers were punctuated with visits to my father’s parents in Mt Airy, North Carolina. Much of my time on these trips was spent running around outdoors, playing with my cousins, and eating huge Southern-cooked meals (which mostly consisted of pig fat in some form). One special treat came in the form of cable television, a luxury we did not have back at home. On Saturday mornings, my brother and I would wake up early and watch the dubbed version of Ultraman that came on one of the extended channels. I have no idea why a notoriously Japanese show made it to early-morning American television, but I certainly didn’t complain. As a kid who grew up in complete adoration of Godzilla and his brethren, it was fascinating to see a gargantuan super-hero battle the creatures I idolized.
You see, I never really wanted to be Godzilla or Ultraman; I simply wanted to be a child who had the chance to witness these marvels firsthand. Attack of the Friday Monsters is not an over-the-top, bland triple-A action title about fighting titanic terrors with high-tech weaponry. It is simply the story of a young boy and an enthusiastic afternoon where monsters from the screen come out to play, which sounds perfect to me.