Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors Review

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Last year, NiSA localized a JRPG title not many expected to see come west in Criminal Girls: Invite Only. Many were surprised by the fact that the game had an actual deep plot. This year, they have decided to bring us the second entry into the franchise, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors. As with the first game, the player takes on the role of an instructor who is tasked with “reforming” a group of girls who were sent to Hell because they had the possibility of committing a crime. You must crawl through the different themed dungeons of Hell, making sure to “motivate” the “delinquents” along the way so that they can be reborn into the real world. Criminal Girls 2 spices the formula up by adding the element of the unknown, should everyone in your party be there? Or is there a Convict among your party?  The game has a very distinct flavor to it which lends itself well to fans of the JRPG genre, but will it be able to gain mass appeal?

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Strong character design: Upon starting up this title, the first thing that stands out is how well-endowed the characters are. Despite wearing prison clothes, all of the characters manage to have unique designs which really seem to fit their personalities. The artwork for “Motivation” also is very well drawn and involves strong reactive animations which allow the player to feel more like they are participating in the game. In the first game, the characters did not have as much individuality as they do in Criminal Girls 2 and it really helps to keep the game fresh.

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Updated motivation system: Anyone who played the first game remembers the ways you “Motivated” the girls… Criminal Girls 2 does not disappoint in that regard. They have changed the tools you use to motivate them and changed the way the player interacts with the tools. For some tools you must vigorously rub the screen in order to clean the girl whereas with another you must actually throw slime on the girl you are motivating. Not only the tools have been changed though, when you complete the motivation you must select from either an “S” or an “M” skill which skews the characters personality towards that direction. The closer to “full throttle” the girls’ personalities are, the bigger effects (Positive or Negative) they will get from the newly implemented “Coaching” system in battle.

Increased difficulty: One of the issues with the first Criminal Girls was that it was too easy throughout the game, none of the bosses even felt like that large of a challenge. In Criminal Girls 2 this is not the case. Even standard battles can test your strategical skills, and the bosses are incredibly tough and will press you to utilize the battle system to full potential.

Unique battle system: In the Criminal Girls franchise, you are greeted with what you believe to be a standard turn-based battle system, but quickly it becomes apparent that is not the case. Your party consists of 4 girls,  and each girl will suggest an action. Each turn you are able to switch out 1 girl for another, use 1 item, and select 1 action. If the girls do not suggest the action you want, you can use an item or switch a character to get a new set of options, but there is never any guarantee you will get the exact option you want. Of course, if you are low in health, a healer will suggest to heal or if a big attack is coming, someone with guard will suggest it. For the second game, they added a new feature to the battle system in which you can Coach the girls. When you “coach” them, you select one choice from 4 different types of interactions.  Your coaching choice impacts all 4 girls in the battle and based on the route you have leveled the girls’ skills and their personality type, it can have either a negative or positive effect. Due to the coaching system and the way actions are selected, Criminal Girls 2 makes sure that all 7 playable characters are useful and should be utilized.

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Deep Plot: No, I don’t mean “Plot”,  I actually do mean plot. Criminal Girls 2 has a surprisingly deep story in which you really get to know all the characters. Everyone has something they are hiding, and through the process of crawling the labyrinths of hell you uncover the girls’ stories. Everything in this game that happens does so for a reason and all of it is tied to the plot. None of the conversations you have with the girls are frivolous and all add to the depth of the game.

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Repetitive enemy design: In Criminal Girls 2 the enemies you fight are not as varied as they could be. There are few unique enemy designs and often enemies are just a pallet swap from a previous enemy you have already fought.  Get used to seeing the same enemy art work popping up throughout the game. This problem does not apply to bosses as they were given unique designs.

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Clunky controls at times: As far as controls go, battle and dungeon crawling is smooth and intuitive, however Motivation at time falls short of the mark. With the first tool you are given, you need to rub the spots before time runs out and this creates a lot of friction which can lead to your fingers becoming far too hot.  A later tool tasks you to tap the spot on the screen with a certain rhythm and at times this is completely unresponsive and you find yourself mashing in order to achieve even a “Good” rating.

Some questionable music choices: For the most part, the music in Criminal Girls 2 is just ambient and is neither impressive nor poor. However, one such example of poor music choice would be the post-battle theme. It consists of a tune that lasts less than 3 seconds and is on permanent loop. Luckily, the results screen is bare bones, but if you wish to watch your characters exp bars or notice who leveled up, you will sit through the tune at least a couple times. Most of the time I found myself mashing through the results screen as it was not pleasant to listen to.

Overall, Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a solid game that can appeal to fans of the JRPG Genre. If risque is not your thing, this may be a hard title to take in, but I still recommend trying it. The unique gameplay will provide a fresh look at turn-based RPG battles and the characters and story will keep you interested. Give it a chance, Criminal Girls 2 will be the most pleasurable journey you will ever take through Hell.

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors was developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by Nippon Ichi Software of America. It will be released for PlayStation Vita on October 11th, 2016 in North America and September 23rd in Europe. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.

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