Review Code Supplied by NIS America
The game sees taking the role of a warden in a prison located in Hell that has been tasked with leading a group of girls to the top of the prison tower. These girls aren't quite convicts like the foes you face, as they died before they committed their crime. So the girls now have a chance of reaching the top of the prison tower and securing a second chance at life. After a brief introduction from Miu who explains the situation, you meet the first 4 girls and have to talk them around into following you. Once done, off you go to find the rest of the Sinners that have somehow gotten loose on your journey upwards. The storyline doesn't really deviate from this much, if at all, with the bulk of dialogue focusing on how the girls interact with one another as each obstacle arrives. The humorous dialogue between the characters helps hold things together. Humorous is probably the wrong word, although I do find it so, instead I should probably go with 'trashy'. It can get a little smutty at times, packed with innuendo's & the like as you would expect, which may annoy those with fragile sensibilities out there. I find it helps if you think of the games narrative as a trashy piece of moe Grindhouse. Its not to be taken seriously afterall. Not only does the girls relationship with each other improve, but you can also get to know the girls yourself via the 'Girls Wish' system. Defeating foes rewards you with CM, which is used to purchase items at portals or spent motivating the girls (ill speak more of motivation later) Hitting a certain level in the motivation will see the girl open up a little and give you a request to complete. Doing this rewards you with not only a bit more information on the girl, but also reductions to MP, CM cost etc as well. There's al;so as standard leveling system in play that sees XP from defeated foes increases your characters level which boosts stats. The only way to unlock new abilities is via the Motivation system.
So let's talk motivation. The motivation system employed for Criminal Girls is often mentioned in not so good terms by most reviewers. Is it that bad? Not really. As I stated in my PsP review of the game, it's not as you'd expect it to be from what most outlets say. On Vita the way things are handled has changed due to the switch to a handheld interface, but the ends are the same. The first motivation sees you tapping temptation crystals till they break (on PSTV this is handled via the analogs & triggers) instead of rhythmically whipping a heart like in PsP. The developers should be ashamed of themselves in incorporating such a wild act as whipping gems! It's been well documented that the game would be somewhat censored, and that is true here. The pink mist hangs longer & covers more of the girl in the background, with all audible moans from the girls completely cut. The character CG's can be a little risqué, panties here, side boob there - but the pink mist helps cover some of those aspects. Does it effect the system? No. It all still plays out the same. The motivation system is integral to leveling up your party though, so if the act of whipping gems and dragging dials is too much then it could pose a problem.
Traversing the tower to reach the top means this game is almost exclusively a dungeon crawler. You'll spend almost all your time exploring numerous floors of the tower, meeting other characters and bosses that will give you objectives to fulfill. Progression is pretty much handled by finding the stairway up to the next floor, which will sometimes be guarded or will require you to complete a quest of sorts. All this exploring you'll undertake means one thing - grinding. And a lot of it is needed to combat the difficulty spikes that flare up when a boss enters the fray. Luckily, the games combat system is somewhat novel compared to most other RPG's. To reinforce the notion that you don't have full control of these girls, your given an option of what it is that girl would want to do instead of choosing from their repertoire of abilities. 4 options are available for you to choose from which can be further boosted by completing the motivation levels and opening up more attacks that could randomly show in your options. You'll have to be mindful of how the skirmish is progressing too as girls may throw their weapons down and refuse to fight if things don't go there way. Like I said, it helps reinforce the notion your not fully in control, but it's also a little too simplistic. It's great for those not used to the intricacies of turn based combat, but those wise in the ways of that system may not like the idea of how their choices are seemingly randomised which makes tactical play tough. Battles can sometimes seem unfair too due to you only having one turn for all 4 girls, whilst your enemies get one each. Thankfully, actions such as using items & switching characters doesn't use up your turn. It's a somewhat simple and intuitive system, but veterans of other Jrpg's may find it a little restrictive.
When it comes to taking a look at the games presentation, it's better to think of the title as being a port rather than a remaster. Very little has changed graphically. The main bulk of the improvements come from the higher quality character CG's and motivation backdrops. In-game hasn't seen as much of an improvement, with the game still utilising a bulk of the assets from the original PsP release. Dungeons & effects can look a little basic at times because of this, which is made all the more obvious when playing the game on Playstation TV. On the big screen, the pixelated nature of the graphics can be a little worse than they would appear on the Vita's 5" screen due to the lack of, or little in the way of, an upgrade to the In-game visuals. Character sprites & backgrounds may be pixelated when exploring dungeons, but thankfully the character CG's upscale on the PSTV nicely as well as most areas of the game that features artwork. The games audio has had a boost somewhat, owning to the much expanded file size of the game (from 400mb to 1.3gb) Sounds and dialogue are more refined over the original release, although things can suffer from the usual compression nuances we tend to see with Vita titles. Things could have been improved a little more on graphical side of things over the PsP original, but thankfully at least improvements have been applied to characters & CG backdrops.
The greatest aspect of Criminal Girls Invitation is that its been localised, as its original caused enough of a stir to make the notion seem outlandish. There hasn't been as much of an improvement as one would hope though over the PsP original, with minor additions & changes to the motivation system being about the extent of it. There's still a decent Jrpg here for those looking for something a little different to go with their dungeon crawling and could fill the void till a meatier RPG hits, but then keep your expectations in check for this port and be wary of its more risque nature.
Who Should Play This:
- Looking for an RPG thats a little different
- The novel aspects of combat & levelling sound interesting
- Need a little something to tie you over till the next big RPG
- ecchi & moe are your thing
- It sounds a little risque. It is a little risque
- the novel combat may not offer enough tactical depth
- Not as much of an improvement as one would expect over the original