A key component of magic is having you look one way while the guts of the performance are occurring elsewhere. This distraction allows the wonder of an illusion to take hold of us. Of course, misleading a person carries its own dangers, so it’s best if the end result leaves the desired impression.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is an example of such trickery. Its title brings to mind battles between gigantic creatures, a town crumbling around their feet amid the chaos. In reality, the titular monsters don’t appear until the game’s final moments.
The monster epic you may have been expecting is instead a far more human story, one that managed to surprise me with its warmth.
Broken up into over 20 distinct storylines, Attack is about a boy learning the ropes of his new hometown. Along the way you’ll meet an interesting cast of characters, children and adults alike, each with their own tale to tell.
Importantly, these characters aren’t plagued by the issues we associate with most video games. No one needs three pigeon feathers, and there’s no ‘moral’ choices to bluff your way through. There’s some pretty heavy stuff on display; a father raising his daughter after his wife’s passing, living up to expectations, feeling alienated. While the story is generally lighthearted, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for some genuine heart. The game is brief, but concise, and never dwells on anything for too long.
As mentioned, Attack‘s story is divided into separate pieces. As you talk to the NPCs, new chapters open up or continue along. All chapters run concurrently, so there’s no need to worry about locking yourself out of a content. Regardless, it is an odd system, and since players can continue to play after the credits roll (picking up additional stories or continuing unfinished ones), it’s unclear why the story couldn’t have followed a more natural path. The game is constantly pausing to alert you of chapters opening and closing, saving in the process. The prescription of a name and number to each story in Attack feels clunky, and disturbs the flow of the game.
Behind the scenes of Attack, there’s a card based mini game that not only figures into the narrative, but also manages to impress on its own. By collecting glims, shining stones that litter the landscape, players can amass a collection of cards. Each card has either rock, paper, or scissors associated with it, as well as a strength stat. Players lay down five cards of their choosing, and their opponent does the same. The opponent’s cards are face down, and the game tallies your wins, loses, and ties. Two to three hints are provided (depending on your standing), and you are able to swap the positions of any two cards. Extra depth comes from cards that can beat its strength and weakness, but will lose to its own type (in this case, scissors beats paper and rock, but will lose to scissors). The mini game’s broader role in Attack‘s story is that victory leads to you becoming your opponent’s ‘boss’. In that role, the NPC will tell you more information regarding particular storylines.
It felt great to visit this quant little town, taking in its sights and citizens. Instead of a lifeless city that appears to revolve around your existence, Attack‘s world is one that remains in motion when you arrive. It’s clear that this place would have existed whether you ever showed up or not. Attack tells a lovely tale, and is certain to win you over. It may not be as vicious as the title implies, but the surprise of Attack‘s true tale is better for it.