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Tokyo Tattoo Girls (PC) artwork

Tokyo Tattoo Girls (PC) review

"Perfecting the art of doing (almost) nothing."

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is the must have game for the current year, if youíve been keeping up with the popular talking points presented by some of the lesser video gaming web sites out there. Thereís been a lot of chatter about having the option to skip large segments of gameplay, so you can just enjoy the game without any of that pesky interactivity upon which the medium is firmly based. Cupheadís ableist and racist because some guy canít get past the tutorial; SOMA might be a standout horror game, but wouldnít it be so much better if all those scary monsters were taken out and you could just stroll through it? For developers, the natural response to this brave new narrative must be to release games that just play themselves and remove player input completely.

Enter Tokyo Tattoo Girls, which is little more than an idle game gussied up in its Sunday best. It presents itself as a strategy game, but doesnít want to burden you, the poor player, with anything as strenuous as actual strategy. Perfect, right? Now you can just sit back and enjoy this completely uninvolving thing and pretend really hard that television and movies havenít existed for the last hundred years to much more competently scratch that particular itch. Except, the reality is that this sort of endeavor isnít a very good idea; the thought of having little to do while a video game games itself isnít actually embraced by anyone of worth. This, unfortunately, turns Tokyo Tattoo Girls into a vapid, shallow chore.

With little to actually do, you canít even count on losing yourself in the plot, such as it is. Tokyo is in ruins, survived only by a series of anime girl tropes who are given magical powers thanks to their collection of magical tattoos. Except, these tattoos doesnít actually seem to have any magical powers to speak of; none of the cute, inked girls display any remarkable characteristics besides their deep-rooted sense of clichť. For example, one really likes trains; another is really into computers and one of the others has a theatre addiction. Tokyo is split into 23 segments, each ruled by one of these unmagical magic girls, and itís on you to pick an equally insipid protagonist to conquer all the territories and reunite the capital.

You do this by selecting an area to wage war on. Then you wait. Invasions take place automatically. Declaring war on neighbouring areas happens automatically. Winning an area over happens automatically. The actions you can undertake require using occasional special commands, investing in new tattoos and clicking through the uninteresting exchanges between bosses, just before the automatic boss battle you canít lose starts up and you go back to just watching.

The supposed strategy aspect of the game comes in how you spend your protection money, which grows gradually from the areas either under your control or under siege. Or, in an attempt to give you something else to do occasionally, you can click briefcases full of money when they sometimes appear on the map for a quick cash boost. Special commands will allow you actions such as a quick recruiting burst (recruiting is usually done automatically in the background) or the chance to lower a sectionís threat level and lessen the chance of a turf war.

Each area has a standing army of sorts, comprised of punks and clanswomen. The idea is to reduce that to zero, which then triggers a confrontation with the mob boss. But itís very poorly explained how this is done; the tutorial skims over the invading premise, and itís only through a mixture of trial and error and keyboard mashing that I managed to find that one of the keys (Spoiler: itís 4. This review is now more useful than any in-game prompt.) allows you to bring up information for each individual area, letting you know how many converts you have inside and the remaining number of the enemy force.

Sometimes an area will not just roll over and let you invade it and start a turf war, which is signified by a siren popping up on that section of the map. If your forces are hardy enough, you can click on that affected area and start a street fight thatís completely automated, takes place entirely off-screen and uses no logical reason that I can ascertain to determine who the winner might be. Iíve undertaken numerous wars where the size of my army dwarfs that of the opposition five or six to one. But Iíve still lost. And those losses eat into your honour.

Reach zero honour and itís game over. Considering overwhelming forces routinely lose to casual gatherings, honour can certainly plummet quickly. You often gain some back with the use of a special command and a fistful of cash, but the best way forward is to completely drain an area of soldiers and then beat up its boss. Pitting two girls loaded with magic-giving tattoos in an epic battle may sound exciting, and it should be. But each battle plays out exactly the same way. Thereís a one-fits-all fight animation of two people brawling inside a cloud of dust and then you win. No matter what. The only choice you have is to pick one of three dialogue options, the best of which grants bonus resources and unlocks a picture of the girl youíre about to beat down to view in your gallery.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls feels more and more like an exercise in futility. If you win, itís hard to feel victorious because your input in the undertaking has been so minimal. Likewise, losing big chunks of honour and sliding towards a loss feels unstoppable because youíve so few options to correct the situation. You just plug more and more money into tattoos that increase your influence in certain areas and hope the RNG is kind to you. Completing campaigns in various difficulties gives you bonus items which grant you pre-emptive stat boosts and, really, this is the most effective way to clear the harder stages. Thatís a lot of sitting around briefly clicking on damningly static screens. Even the most weaboo of you must be able to find better ways to spend your time.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (November 25, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zigfried posted November 25, 2017:

This is the kind of game I would normally preorder (on Vita), but something about it felt wrong so I passed. After reading your review, it sounds even worse than I thought. Saved me from spending more money!

(PS - remake of the original Utawarerumono is in development)
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EmP posted November 26, 2017:

It took me by surprise how poor this game was. I saw NIS had ported it and they usually port the good stuff over. I dunno; maybe it was a slow month. Glad you had better insight than I and avoided it; Jason tells me he wasn't so lucky, so I wait to see what positives he can wring from this.

I'm always happy to hear about Utawarerumono news. I spent ages learning how to spell that mess, and it's about time it started paying off. I was considering giving that a reply not very long ago; I'd definitely be up for a decent remake. Assuming it gets a port.
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honestgamer posted November 26, 2017:

I like the game a fair bit more than you did, EmP (I finished the campaign with two different girls, on two different difficulty settings), but it definitely has issues with accessibility. And, even though I like it more than you did, I'm a long way from calling it a fantastic game. ;-)
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Masters posted November 29, 2017:

Emp, even for you, this is a very sarcastic review -- especially at the start. I feel your pain though, as the whole thing must have been quite the slog. Found a few things:

"Cupheadís ablest and racist because some guy canít get past the tutorial..."

Did you mean "ablest" here? Also, the Cuphead link doesn't work.

"With little to actually do, you canít canít even count on losing yourself in the plot, such as it is."

Typo here.

Did Venter proof this for you? Fire him, immediately! ^_^

Anyway, way to take one for the team. Probably you should have let Venter review it himself, since he loves it.
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EmP posted November 29, 2017:

I did mean ablest. It's the shiny new ist slur meant to guilt people who supposedly shame people who aren't as able as they. I think it was supposed to be aimed at people who talk about how they can run the two minute mile around people in wheelchairs feel bad, but it's been adopted by the thirsty for controversy gaming press to try and get clicks on their worthless opinion pieces on why they shouldn't feel bad that they can't twitch game. If they get their wish non-game games like Tokyo Tattoo Girls are the future they desire. It's a sucky future.

Thanks for the other catches. I fixed the double can't and the link. I'm also not sure Jason's not pulling one of his hilarious pranks when saying he enjoyed this game. It can't be done! Oh, Venter, you card.
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honestgamer posted November 30, 2017:

"Stretched thin" seems to be my permanent state these days, and is likely to remain that way for the next 2 to 3 years, what with me essentially working full-time at a retail job, freelancing online, attending college (also online), maintaining the site's infrastructure, taking care of PR matters (including review requests), playing and reviewing games myself for the site and trying to fight off stress-related depression while battling various other health issues (on the docket tomorrow: the extraction of two teeth by the local dentist). So I do sometimes miss a few things when I go over reviews, but I also tend to catch a lot more than I miss and that means the process is still worthwhile.

EmP, I was serious about not hating Tokyo Tattoo Girls. In fact, there were times I even enjoyed it! I'll DM you a link to the review I finally wrote.
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Zydrate posted December 04, 2017:

Would you recommend this to me, a player who actively enjoys idle games? Or is there just not enough content to bother with?
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EmP posted December 06, 2017:

I wouldn't. Though there's very little to do, it's still not the kind of game you can just let tick over by itself in the background, so you have to be active until the forty minute or so campaign ends. Mainly to scroll through recycled text. As stands, it also seems a tad pricey for what it is.

Maybe get it at a discount if curiosity drives you, but it really doesn't have a lot going for it.

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