There are times I find myself playing a game and having a complete blast only for one element to remind me why I shouldn’t be playing it on the train to work. Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors by Nippon Ichi Software and NIS America is the follow up to the first Criminal Girls games available on the PlayStation Vita. Offering a dungeon crawler experience with some cute anime girls thrown in sounds like a recipe for success. However, if you come for the gameplay and girls you may soon be a bit surprised by just how far the lewd elements go. The question is though, does Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors have a solid game underneath it’s sexual design or is it just all for show?
In Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors you take up the role of the Program Instructor, your job being to lead the party onwards. You won’t however be taking part in battles yourself and rather will need to manage the girls who will do the fighting for you. Outside of battles however you’re in for the standard dungeon crawler gameplay. Making your way from floor to floor as you explore and discover along the way. Random encounters against rather cute, if scary, set of foes will keep you on your toes. Should you find a camp on your way you can take the time to rest up, save, shop and “motivate” your girls. But more on that later.
It is within the battles that Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors really shines as it puts a nice twist on the common turn based combat we are use to. Your girls will have a range of moves and abilities available to them and as you level up you will unlock plenty more to go with then. On each turn you can perform a set number of actions but only pick one of the available ‘attacks’ so to speak. It feels more like a card game as each of the four girls will prompt you with a possible action that is randomly selected. The good thing is that the girls can team up and with select actions to perform combos, giving you more attacks per turn. Managing the team, their status and abilities becomes a surprisingly fun element of Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors.
Sadly ,though the game doesn’t feel fairly balanced due to the need for some seriously grinding to ensure your party are up to the challenges ahead. At times it almost feels like you’re not be rewarding at all in the form of experience points and currency. Some of the earlier encounters will have you grinding for some time to ensure you have enough health and healing items to see yourself through the tough battles that await you. In all, the combat for Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is by far the strongest point of the game. It’s refreshing and challenging but also gives you plenty of flexibility to deal with encounters in a range of ways.
What makes Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors questionable for many though is the system to “motivate” your girls. As part of the Reformation Program and to help boost the girls stats you need to motivate them in a number of ways that are straight up sexual and questionable. Your start by brushing bubbles (no seriously) off the games to earn points to unlock new skills, but soon you’re booty slapping and more. It’s an element that honestly feels like it could just be removed from the game and not damage the experience. That said it’s due to the target market that such a mechanic is in place. It’s uncomfortable but required to develop your characters. It’s a tough call as well, because the look and age of the girls is always in question within your mind and once you start getting more ‘creative’ ways to motivate your girls it just feels too awkward and unneeded. If you can overlook this however, your find a solid gameplay system underneath.
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is from a graphical standpoint a very polished title even if it is only in the form of 2D artwork. Thanks to the use of a tool called Live2D, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is able to create some stunning 3D effects using only 2D artwork. It’s hard to explain in word but it allows for characters to have depth and animations which otherwise wouldn’t be possible. It adds some nice character to the detailed and lively designs of the girls and creatures your find throughout Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors.
It’s worth noting that Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors only has the Japanese voice audio present, meaning you’re in for some high pitched sounds from time to time. It’s worst when you are motivating your girls however as of course, the perverted moans and dialog are present but not subbed. This is a game you don’t want to be playing aloud if you’re in public, or honestly, play in public at all if you plan to do anything besides battle. That aside however, the rest of the audio for Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is good from the sound effects to the battle music. It all sounds great on the PlayStation Vita and fits within the theme and art style of the game.
As I mentioned earlier, in Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors you take up the role of a Program Instructor who has the job of guiding 7 girls, delinquents, though the Reformation Program. This requires you to travel and climb the Hell Spire to finish the program and return back to the life you now don’t remember. To make matters worse however is that you are told over the radio that you were only meant to have six girls. So the question is, who is the seven and why is she there? That is only the start of Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors story as you set out to learn more about each girl and help them through the Reformation Program and overcome the troubles along the way. Because these girls are not criminals just yet. They happened to die before they could commit their crimes and therefore were sent to the Hell Spire to undergo the Reformation Program.
It’s a lot to take in right at the start of Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors but it does a great job at slowly building the world and characters through plenty of dialog and interaction. The game tries to sell the motivation section as a means to ‘connect’ to the girls. As you build that bond with them you might start to learn more about what is going on and how to better encourage each character in battle. It’s an interesting system but take note it’s all wrapped in some lewd context.
It’s a shame really that Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is, by all accounts, perverted in many ways. Underneath all of that is a game that offers a fun dungeon crawler experience with a good twist on the turn based battle formula. It’s a common thing I see now adays with a lot of games in this niche target audience. Games that deliver a overly sexualise and perverted display that masks an enjoyable game or mechanic. Regardless, that is a discussion for another day. What is important here is that Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is an enjoyable game albeit with some issues around it’s delivery of some elements. Overlook those and you’ll find a dungeon crawler that will challenge you but still feel fresh and enjoyable. It’s not one for everyone that is for sure but I would recommend at least giving it a look.
Just take it from me. Don’t play this on a busy train.
This review is based on a PlayStation Vita copy of the product provided by the publisher.