PS Vita Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Criminal Girls: Invite Only
Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a Japanese role playing game developed for the PS Vita by Live 2D and published by NIS America.  It is a remake of the Criminal Girls game released for PSP in Japan.  This game is compatible with the PlayStation TV micro-console.

In this game you are a newly hired warden in the most unusual place Hell.  You are tasked with the rehabilitation of 7 girls who died stuck in the middle of good and evil.  You goal is to rehabilitate them as you move those the maze like prison, fighting monsters beyond redemption.  Once you reach the top level and have rehabilitated the girls, they will be restored to life.

Kisaragi is one of the girls you hope to rehabilitate.
Kisaragi is one of the girls you hope to rehabilitate.

The girls don’t trust you however.  They even refuse to fight, even if they are attacked.  So as part of their rehabilitation, you have to discipline them so that they become an effective member of your party.  To do this, you take them into the rest area/infirmary and beat the temptations out of them.  You can tell this isn’t going to be your typical JRPG.

Ran is pretty stubborn and distrusts male authority figures
Ran is pretty stubborn and distrusts male authority figures

You start the game with four of the girls under your control.  While you get to choose one girl to automatically fight for you, the other three have to be disciplined to unlock their ability to attack.  To do this you must go to the save point (infirmary, which are purple portals appearing in different levels) and choose Motivate, Using C M points you gain from battle,you play a mini-game in which you touch the touch screen or real touch pad to whip the temptations, appearing as little creature on-screen.  You do this over a picture of the girl in a suggestive pose with their clothing in disarray.  So pretty much, this is an S&M simulation.

The Motivation mini game is a bit creepy.
The Motivation mini game is a bit creepy.

The rest of the gameplay differs a but from you standard RPG.  Once you motivate the girls to fight with you, you do not actually control them.  During combat, each girl will offer a suggestion on what to do, either attack or perform a skill.  Once you choose that, that’s your turn.  No other girl attacks (unless that was what the girl you chose suggested) and then the enemy goes.  When they attack, all enemies get a turn. Some of them will even attack before you do.  But you do get some advantages.  Item use does not take up an attack, those you can use one item per turn.  You can also switch girls at the beginning of every round.  So, if one of the girl’s hit points are low or their attack is ineffective, you can swap them out.  It definitely adds something to the combat, but the only attacking once or twice a round can leave you hurting all too easily.

At the start of each turn, the girls offer suggestion on what to do.  Choose wisely
At the start of each turn, the girls offer suggestion on what to do. Choose wisely
Sometimes the girls team up for special attacks
Sometimes the girls team up for special attacks

The graphics are okay, with the levels having some variations.. You do not see the monsters on the map, unless it is an event monster or level boss.  During the fights, the monsters are represented by a static picture,flashing when they attack.  If they appear on the map, the monsters mostly look like a purple of pink blob. You can also find treasure chests while exploring the map, which have either items, skills or CM points.

This is Shin.  You have to do some motivational Maintenance to get her to fight for you.
This is Shin. You have to do some motivational Maintenance to get her to fight for you.

The characters themselves are done in the typical anime style.  On the map, they appear in the standard, super-deformed style (big heads, small bodies,), but appear normal during cut scenes and during, ahem, motivation activities.  The girls run the gamut of anime girl stereotypes.  While all have some part of the striped prisoner outfits in their costumes, their looks varies.  Some are waifish Lolita types while others are busty.  some have ill-fitting prisoner uniforms on while others are busting out of their clothes.  They only changed costumes for the Motivation mini game in which they wear gym clothes, those they seem to show more skin as you get higher in the mini game.

Tomoe is busting out of her prison...kimono?
Tomoe is busting out of her prison…kimono?

Now, I not that prudish when it comes to a bit of fan service in video games.  I didn’t mind the scantily clad females in games like Senran Kagura or the Hyperdimension Neptunia series.  As long as there is some sort of story or gameplay, it is all just ere candy.  But with Criminal Girls, there isn’t enough story for me.  The Motivation mini-game seems to be there just to shock and titalate.  You have to do it level up your character’s attacks,  Even though the Western version had been toned down by adding a pink haze and removing the girls’ yelps at you “spank their temptations”, it is still a bit disturbing,

The pink mist is NIS America attempt at self censorship.  I think it makes it worse.
The pink mist is NIS America attempt at self censorship. I think it makes it worse.

This is one of those game that is not for every one.  It is not for me.  The RPG gameplay is different, but a bit too frustrating with only being able to attack with one or two girls per round not choose what skills they used.  And with the Motivation mini-game being as it is, this is one game I won’t be playing in public or with an audience

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is available on a game card or as a digital download.  Check online for pricing.  It is rated M (17+) by the ESRB in North America.

2.5/ 5

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Author: xcalibar25

One man on a never-ending quest against mediocrity.

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