Criminal Girls: Invite Only Review + Video Review

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Title: Criminal Girls: Invite Only
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America (Publisher)
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes 

The last video review we published was on Akiba’s Trip, one of the games on the PlayStation Vita that many people hesitate to buy because of the content seeming to be lewd from the outside.  Going on this, we have another video review today on a game considered to be lewd.  Unlike Akiba’s Trip, today’s review isn’t just considered to be lewd.  Parts of the game are very much lewd in nature and may appear offensive to certain audiences.  I am talking, of course, about Criminal Girls: Invite Only.

While an exclusive to the PlayStation Vita in this generation and the West, Criminal Girls was originally a PSP title that never left Japan.  Nippon Ichi Software America, however, deemed this dungeon crawler a worthy risk to bring the PS Vita version of the game over to western shores and test the grounds for this type of game in Europe and North America.

As we dive into the game, we are bringing forth as unbiased of an opinion as possible.  It’s no lie that there are reviews out there judging the game because of the lewd content from within it, as it is more intense content than previous PS Vita titles.  A game that some don’t want to touch because of its sexual undertones, here is our official review of Criminal Girls: Invite Only!

Story

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Criminal Girls takes place in Hell.  You have been separated from your body and are now to lead a group of young girls who have been condemned to hell for having tainted DNA.  These younger women were sent to hell from having a premature death before they were able to commit the crime that their DNA had programmed into their brains.  Your job is to lead them through four intense trials as you climb up a tower in Hell, leading to them being reformed into good citizens and being revived into the world to begin life anew.

The journey up the tower of Hell and through the four trials will mostly focus on the girls you will find and recruit into your party.  Each girl has a past that slowly reveals itself over the course of the game, as well as constant notes of how the girls grow to become attached to one another, becoming better people and a better team in the process.  It’s more of a focus on the girls and their struggles through the tower than your own struggle with leading them.

The story of Criminal Girls isn’t bad, but isn’t great either.  There are definitely some interesting plot twists, and seeing the past of each girl helps you understand why each of them acts the way they do.  Outside of that, though, there isn’t a huge world-shattering story to be told.  It’s entertaining, but not outstanding.

Gameplay

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As the original was, Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a dungeon-crawler turn-based RPG.  As you play through the game, you will be exploring 2D dungeons as well as fighting off enemies and collecting points to learn skills and buy various items to use as you progress through each trial.  It has all of the basic needs of a dungeon crawler and has a couple twists and turns you won’t find in many other RPGs of its kind.

Progressing through the game has you constantly going through dungeons.  As opposed to other dungeon crawlers, there isn’t really a “Base” you go back to as you go through each dungeon.  It’s a whole world that you travel through.  As soon as you pass the first set of dungeons and go up to the next floor, you’re already in the next with story content moving you forward.

The closest thing you have to a home or base is the Infirmary.  Within every dungeon and floor are various objects that can teleport you to the Infirmary, where you can heal the girls, shop for items, save your game, or learn skills.  You will be using this place often, especially for healing and saving.

The biggest aspect of the Infirmary, though, is learning skills.  Skills you learn vary, from battle skills to buff allies or attack enemies or field skills that you can use while exploring, like attracting enemies or healing your party.  This game’s way of learning skills is the biggest piece of the game that people frown upon.  Motivation Time, called Punishment Time in the Japanese release, is where you “Motivate” the girls using points you have earned as well as objects like Whips, Shock Sticks, and Tickle Feathers.  The more motivated the girls are, the more skills they can use against opponents.  In blunt terms, you punish these criminals until they agree to help you.

The manner in which this is presented is the most potentially offensive.  As you go through these mini-games, you will see artwork of the girls in various cosplay costumes as you whip them, shock them, or tickle them to make them break and help you.  NISA has done some censoring on this, though, as there is pink fog covering up the girls’ sensitive regions (though they’re still covered with clothing), and the sounds they make as you whip them has been removed.

The big thing you need to know about the game is that this is not an optional game mode.  You need better skills as you progress through Hell, and this is the only way to do it.  In other words, you have to do it.  Fortunately, most of your game time will not be done with this.  90% of the game will be used fighting battles and dungeon-crawling.  These Motivation Time sequences only last about 20 seconds a piece, but are still there and have to be done.

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Combat, itself, is a bit of a mixup of genres.  The battles are set in 2D, showcasing fights and character models in a first-person fashion, but the four members of your party are also on the screen, in a border around the enemies.  It mostly resembles the battle set-up from Demon Gaze, another PS Vita title that NISA published in the west.  The combat progresses in a turn-based fashion where you choose your battle command and then the game acts it out for your party as well as the opposing party.

The uniqueness of the battle system is the randomness of the commands you’re given.  When you go into each battle, each girl will tell you which command they want to use.  They could have 10 different skills they can use, and could tell you they want to do a physical attack.  This adds a bit of challenge because you have to choose one of the options they give you, and not any skill they have learned.  If you want to use a skill and all of them suggest skills, you’re using a skill.

The combat system also offers the options to Change and use Items once per turn as well.  Since there are seven playable characters in the main story and only 4 slots in the party, you may want certain characters and not have them out right away.  Like in Final Fantasy X, you can switch them out with another party member and then choose commands.  This is especially useful when you need your healer out or want to bring out the character that can buff your party’s physical defense.

As you fight through and win battles, you are awared experience points as well as points.  EXP is used to level up and increase your stats, and points are used for currency in the game’s shop as well as being used for Motivation Time to learn new skills.

This is where the difficulty comes in.  The difficulty spikes a lot, and you always need the better skills you have at your disposal a lot, so you need to always have your possible skill-trees through Motivation Time maxed out.  As such, the game requires a lot of grinding, especially towards the end of the game.  When you play it, don’t expect to just fight every battle and never have to stop, because you will.  The Final Boss, in particular, required me to stop and grind for levels as well as points for a good amount of time because of that final difficulty spike.

All in all, the game will last you a good 30-40 hours to clear the story, along with post-game content to go into.  Unlike the original, Invite Only has 2 new playable characters to recruit into your party, whom were in the original but were not playable.  All in all, though, it’s a pretty long game, even by handheld RPG standards.

Controls

The controls for the game are pretty simple.  However, you will be using both of the touch screens as well as the buttons as you progress through the game.  Everything is separated, though.  The touch controls are exclusive to the Motivation Time sequences, while the button controls are only used in battle and exploration.

To move through the menus as well as exploring dungeons, you will be using the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick.  Since this is a 2D game and you only have directional controls, I felt the D-Pad was more suited to exploration.  The L and R triggers are strictly used for combat.  When you’re choosing your commands, you can tap L to change out characters and tap R to use an item.  The face buttons are used for both.  Triangle is used to open the customization menu.  X and circle are used to choose options and go back one area in both combat and menus.

The Motivation Time sequences are where the controls get interesting.  During each sequence, you will have temptations you need to tap, slide, or drag across the screen.  Some of these are specifically for the front touch screen and the rear touch screen.  These controls are pretty responsive, but things can get really awkward when trying to do both at the same time.  On the PlayStation TV, however, you use the Analog Sticks and the L2/R2 or L3/R3 buttons for this feature.

Presentation

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The visual presentation of the game is one thing that isn’t a shining example of how to port a PSP game to the PlayStation Vita.  The visuals are mostly unchanged from the PSP version, as can be seen when you’re going through dungeons.  The environments look fine, but the characters models are deteriorated with jagged edges.  It is uncommon to see jagged edges on hand-drawn models, as opposed to 3D models.  It almost looks as if it’s a PSP game being stretched to the PS Vita’s screen.

In battle, though, it’s different.  When you’re in battle, every effect, enemy, and character model looks flawless.  If they’d incorporated that type of detail into the dungeon-crawling, the game would look ten times better, overall.  It’s still a simple style of game, but it would look better with more refined character models during exploration.

Otherwise, the game plays well, for the most part.  When you’re exploring dungeons, you won’t be waiting a long time for the game to load.  However, there are some skills towards the end of the game that causes some lag and slowdown in battle.  These skills are not numerous, but I encountered at least a couple that causes some slowdown during the animation.

Summary

Criminal Girls: Invite Only is: Decent
Criminal Girls has been brought over to western shores in a risky move from NIS America.  On the downside, there is some slowdown in battle animations, the visual presentation isn’t as refined as it should have been, the plot is entertaining but nothing fantastic, and the lewd segments are not optional if you don’t want to do them.  Looking past that, Criminal Girls proves to be a decent and entertaining dungeon crawler that will keep your attention for at least 30-40 hours. 

6/10