Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors Review

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Game Title: Criminal Girls 2 Party Favors
Developer: Nippon Ichi, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 1.3 GB
NA Availability: Retail (NISA Store), Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

When I first heard the name “Criminal Girls”, I thought of something entirely different than what I experienced in Criminal Girls: Invite Only on the PlayStation Vita. I had pictured a female gang committing crimes, like a female version of GTA type of storyline. What I got was a pretty solid dungeon crawler with some very lewd skill-creation systems that I never thought possible to be released in the West.

Criminal Girls had a sequel that’s been out in Japan for some time now. Just like Invite Only, no one expected it to come West, yet it did. Bringing back the lewd mini-games, solid dungeon crawler, and of course, the censorship debates from more communities than I would care to count, here is my review of the PS Vita game, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors!

Story

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Criminal Girls 2’s intro mirrors that of its predecessor. You wake up in Hell with no memories. You’re quickly brought up to speed that you’re a Program Instructor for Hell’s “Reformation Program”. It’s your job to take a group of young girls under your wing to help them face the sins they committed in life and atone for a second chance.

The main premise shown above is almost a copy-paste of the first game’s story. Unlike the first game, though, the story is new. The Reformation system breaks down early in the game, and instead of climbing to the top of the Hell Spire to redeem your group, you’re sent into the depths of Hell, not only to help your girls face their sins, but also to find the problem with the system and get it solved.

The story is different enough that it’s worth a play. Another new aspect is the fact that the Main Character has a personality and dialogue outside of random dialogue choices. He gets to know the girls as much as they get to know him, bringing a lot more character background and development from within the game.

Gameplay

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Criminal Girls 2 is a turn-based dungeon crawler RPG. You’re going to spend most of your time running through dungeons and fighting enemies and bosses. Aside from that, you’ll also be taking part in touch-oriented minigames to further develop your characters and learn new skills. (These have button alternatives for PSTV owners)

For the bulk of the game, you’re going to be traveling with your party through about half a dozen dungeons filled with enemies, chests, and switches to be able to open locked doors and proceed forward. Although many view the focus of this series to be the mini-games used for skills, you’ll be spending much more time dungeon-crawling than doing mini-games.

In each dungeon, there are also Save Points that allow you to Rest to heal your HP, Motivate the girls in mini-games for skills, use the Shop to buy and sell items, and of course, Save your progress in the game. These will be used a lot, mostly for healing and for the Motivation. You can also warp back to these at any time, given you have the right item or skill to be able to do that.

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Before we get to anything else, let’s talk about Motivation Time. From a story standpoint, you use Motivation to help train the girls, learning their inner desires and then use that motivation to push them to better themselves and reform.

The story also blatantly calls the feature out to say that you are performing what is called Sadomasochism. SM is something that not only exists in the game but is a very real activity in the world of Kink and BDSM. If you’re not familiar with the term (and are of proper age since SM is a sexual activity), take a quick Google Search and you can learn about it.

During Motivation Time, you use CP you get from winning battles to interact with the girls and, in turn, learn skills. You gain different types of Motivation Activities throughout the game and with each activity comes a greater challenge in the mini-game and better skills. Skills could be as simple as stat increases or as useful as new attack or support skills. There are also side-quests you get for each girl during these sequences that can be used to lower their MP usage and see special events.

Outside of dungeon-crawling and Motivation Time is combat. The game is a turn-based RPG so you have turn-based battles. As soon as combat starts, you will be given one possible combat option for each of your four characters taking part in the battle. Each command is randomly chosen based on the attacks and skills each character has available so there’s a random element in play here, encouraging strategy and challenge in every battle.

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On top of the random commands causing challenge, the difficulty has gotten overhauled since the first game. Criminal Girls 2 has very challenging bosses and very large difficulty spikes between dungeons and bosses themselves. If you want to just fight all of your battles and succeed, you won’t. You will be doing a lot of level grinding and CP grinding, both for getting skills and items to help you in boss fights. Setting the difficulty to Casual also helps, but still maintains a pretty high challenge compared to most Vita RPGs.

All of this comes together pretty well, but you have to like grinding to be able to truly enjoy the game. Once you get into the system, it works, but if you don’t like grinding in RPGs, this is not the game for you.

Now, with length in mind, you should expect to spend at least 25 hours with the game. My 25-hour file was at the point where I was just barely able to scrape through the final boss and get the credits to roll. If you want to be more prepared and go into post-game content, expect your total play time to be much higher than that.

Controls

First, let’s go over Motivation Time. The game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, but the default touch controls are very awkward to do on the micro-console. In the Title Menu, you can switch control of Motivation Time from touch to button controls to make this doable. Many of these are far easier to accomplish with button controls while some are easier with touch controls. But the nice thing is that you have the option to switch from one to the other.

The rest of the controls are pretty simple. The D-Pad and Left Analog Stick is used for moving around dungeons while the L and R triggers will let you dash and change your map view in said dungeons. The face buttons are more standard. X interacts with objects, Square interacts with the portal feature of save points, Triangle pulls up the customization menu, and Circle will cancel commands in menus.

One thing I will say about the controls are regarding how finicky the touch controls are. Some touch mini-games are very responsive, while others are hit-and-miss. I’ve spent time in each mini-game to learn all skills for my main party and the first mini-game still never goes through quite right. The touch sensitivity on it and one other just doesn’t work and respond very well compared to others.

Presentation

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Visually, this is a huge step up from the first game. Invite Only looked like a PSP game that was copy-pasted into PS Vita format. Party Favors has a lot more polish, character models move instead of being static, and there’s all around little to no graphical flaws to be seen from the zoomed in artworks of the characters to the battle animations for combat.

The performance I’ve no issues with, either. Short Load Times, no frame drops to be seen anywhere. It’s optimized really well, as it should be for a game that is handheld exclusive.

Summary

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors improves a lot on the formula, from smoother visuals to an interesting story. There is still adult content to be considered in the SM mini-games and a couple issues with the touch controls. But, if you are wanting a grind-heavy dungeon crawler, it’s a solid experience.

7/10

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