Criminal Girls: Invite Only - Steam Review

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“Be sure to read the fine print before accepting the invitation to Criminal Girls: Invite Only on Steam”

Game Info

  • System: PC [Steam]
  • Publisher: NIS America Inc.
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Release Date: January 12, 2017

Who it Caters to

The Criminal Girls series is still quite young when compared to other major titles, but it certainly stands out on its own with a nice array of humorous and adorable characters along with some very lewd scenarios. It’s most certainly entertaining and challenges you to really think about your approach in battle, rather than blindly rushing in and getting killed prematurely. Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a steam exclusive title at the moment, and it definitely will speak to fans of the series more than anything.

Those who are looking to try out a new strategy based RPG may also find the game to be intriguing, but perhaps its play style may not be suited for everyone. Be that as it may, Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a title that will entertain you with its sarcastic remarks, colorful personalities and fun mini-games in motivation mode. Originally debuting on the PlayStation Vita, the new steam release of the title will be a treat for anyone who missed out on the handheld version, with a few added bonus features.

What to Expect

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Criminal Girls: Invite Only pays tribute to the old school isometric view that RPGs were known for, but throws in a few visual upgrades to stay up to date with current trends. The gameplay in itself is definitely where the fun begins, with a strategic element stitched into the fabric to encourage players to think twice before making decisions. It certainly isn’t your Final Fantasy Tactics by any means, but it’s definitely a game that will challenge you not only by battling enemies but also through its motivation time mini-games. Each level gets progressively more difficult, with enemies popping up more frequently and in larger groups. Criminal Girls: Invite Only tests your patience in many ways and you must decide whether it’s right to devote yourself to battle or simply just escape in order to salvage your items and save them for the stage boss.

Resting and saving will be something you’ll constantly have to do because there’s just so much happening and sometimes you’ll be so depleted of items that you’ll have no other choice. We only managed to die once in our entire playthrough, but it took a very long time since we spent most of it debating whether or not we should engage the enemy. Let us remind you that in spite of the characters being carefully drawn in a cutesy manner, Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a mature title due to its sexual themes during its motivation time, along with some strong language.

Launch Trailer [Vita Version]:

Story

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Criminal Girls: Invite Only starts off in a gritty prison where Miu, the female security guard, informs you that your new objective is to look after these girls who were troublemakers. Their evil sins have resulted in them being condemned to hell, and must now receive severe punishment for all eternity. Now you must get to know these girls and their backstories while trying to cleanse them of their wicked ways. However, something evil is lurking within the prison and now you and the girls must band together to uncover what’s transpiring before it’s too late.

Gameplay

Introduction - Is this place safe?

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The game starts off in the basement level of a prison where you encounter and eventually team up with four girls, all of which come with their own perks in battle. The game throws in a lot of various elements from visual novel titles such as decision points, where choosing an answer will result in a different situation taking place. It doesn't necessarily affect the endgame, just that particular segment within the dialogue. The game does a good job of walking you along to help you understand the fundamentals of how to play the game, throwing you into early battles with enemies to give you a good feel of what to expect.

The gameplay aspect is turn based and so you’ll need to pick and choose how to approach each enemy as you encounter them over time. The unique aspect of the battle system, however, is that the girls attack differently based on their desire in battle. There are also times when a girl won’t even participate in a battle, so then you’ll need to come up with other solutions to claim victory.

For example, Kisaragi can attack solo or with another member of the team based on the order you give them, which results in a different outcome but at random she may not want to engage at all. Each character has their own distinctive play style which you’ll have to figure out as you play because unfortunately, the game doesn’t really provide you with a character breakdown. We’ll provide you with a quick overview of the starting cast to give you a little heads up as you go forward. Whoever you’ll encounter later in the game, we’ll leave that up to you to play through and discover what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Character Breakdown

Alice - The Magic User

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To save you some trouble and help you understand each starting character, Alice is shy and conservative and so her physical attacks are weak. Where she shines, however, is in her magic abilities, and so you’ll need to rely on her when engaging a very strong enemy or when bombarded by a large group. Depending on how she feels in battle, her attacks will constantly change so pay close attention to her comments to see whether she attacks her own, or with another member.

As you progress further in the game, you’ll be able to unlock more attacks that can be used in battle. Like any magic user, you’ll need to ensure she makes good use of her spells at the right moment because wasting your MP on weak creatures will amount to nothing, and as we stated earlier this game is far from easy.

Sako - The Formidable Boxer

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Sako is very aggressive in her approach and fights head on with no fear. Her attacks hit hard even at a base level so it’s best to rely on her at all times when it comes to closing out the battle. Her personality is more outgoing and compassionate because she always looks out for the team, and ensures that teamwork comes first before anything.

Depending on her desire she can unleash a wicked punch that can take off a huge chunk of the enemy health, which can be beneficial especially when you can attack shortly after with another character. Once chain attacks are learned, this is where Sako truly becomes a beast.

Kisaragi - The Courageous Sword Wielder

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Kisaragi is your typical tsundere personality type, who acts all prissy around you but actually has a very nurturing persona underneath the facade. While she has a sharp tongue in dialogue, she also has a sharp sword that can cut through the enemy quickly and with little effort. Motivation time will be very useful for every character but perhaps more so Kisaragi because one of her special moves allows you to steal items from the enemy, such as potions or antidotes. These items are so imperative in battle so ensuring that you have extras is perfect. We’ve run into situations where we had very few healing items but then, Kisaragi came to the rescue and snatched some group heals to keep us alive. Of course, there are plenty of moves which can be learned but be sure to think strategically about whether it will prove satisfactory or not.

Ran - The Fearless Leader

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Ran is all about defense and so as you progress through the game, many of her special attacks revolve around trying to protect the team. Since each level you progress through gets more and more challenging, deciding on which special to keep or lose will be important so consider wisely. Ran doesn’t hit as hard as Sako or Kisaragi, but she does pair quite well with either of them and can come in handy when tackled with a problem.

Motivation Time! mini-game

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Motivation Time! is perhaps the most critical aspect pertaining to the overall flow of the game, because this is where you’ll need to whip your characters into shape and unlock new attacks for battle. Depending on the whip that you find within the game you’ll have a choice to pick between five ways of punishing your character. This mini-game instructs players on how to properly complete everything, with detailed explanations beforehand.

Each girl has an evil sin and good desire and they’re depicted by the colored creatures that you’ll need to click on to win. Red refers to evil while blue refers to purity, and so the more you progress through each mini-game, the creatures pop up more frequently and at different speeds. You’ll also notice that within the mini-game there’s an image of the chosen girl in the background, but most her body is covered by a pink mist that you can get rid of once you correctly dispose of each creature. The faster you click, the more is revealed and to be honest it’s quite fun to see just how far you can get.

The first mini-game is the basic maintenance, where this unlocks the most basic upgrades for your character and you use a basic whip to get things started. Edgeplay takes things a step further by throwing more challenge into the mini-game by putting both red and blue creatures into the fray and allowing you to use an electric whip to really get a shock out of each girl. Slippery Slope gives you a bottle of mysterious liquid that you can pour on each girl’s body. Tickle Party provides you with a feather duster that you’ll use to tickle each girl and punish them with laughter. The game gives you a certain amount of tries along with a timer located right next to the icon, to inform you to hurry up and get on with it before it’s too late.

We honestly had a very fun time with Motivation Time! because it’s definitely not a mode that you’ll encounter most often in any RPG, and because it’s actually quite challenging to pull off it really does motivate you to play better so that you can fully upgrade your girls efficiently. Depending on where you touch the girls in the game, they’ll react differently such as their limbs moving or a sudden change in expression.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

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Criminal Girls: Invite Only is most certainly a fun and engaging experience albeit with some areas that need improvement. While the turn-based system felt like the old school titles we grew up with, the animations were extremely bland and didn’t really provide any extra element to them. Of course, it’s a 2D title which tries to take inspiration from classics, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to create something more free flowing and vibrant. Whether you chose a regular attack or special attack didn’t matter because the animation was the same, for example, Sako and her punch attacks.

The game just felt rigid at times and started to wear thin towards the end because it never really tried to step past its comfort zone. While the motivation aspect of the game was intriguing, we would’ve liked the option to pick through certain attacks to allow for more versatility, rather than being forced to learn a move the game tells us to. Things just felt a little bare boned in terms of the gameplay, and despite it having a very entertaining story, there could’ve been more implemented to really flesh things out.

Each floor came with its challenges which were great, and the RNG factor pertaining to enemy attack patterns was nice. You were never really sure how they’d approach the battle, and so you could never truly prepare yourself. That challenging element perhaps is the best selling point of this game because you’re always constantly thinking of new ways to make decisions, and using items effectively. Dialogue wise, we certainly enjoyed the Japanese voice acting along with the option to choose English or Japanese text. Some of the cheesy punchlines and weak one liners gave us a slight chuckle, but nothing that made us tear up and burst out.

Overall, Criminal Girls: Invite Only provides fans of the series with a lot to offer in terms of features and modes to choose from, but those who are totally new to the series and are just diving in for the first time might find the experience to be a little flat. With over 35 hours of gameplay, the title provides enough playtime to keep you busy but with all of the missteps along the way, will you be able to even complete it all? That, too, is challenging feat of its own.

Honey's Pros:

  • Fun and wacky mini-games.
  • Japanese voicing and text were a nice addition.
  • Challenging gameplay that encourages strategic thinking.
  • Good amount of play time [35-50 hours]
  • Cool new playable characters.
  • Great features that turns your girls into Knights.

Honey's Cons:

  • The game can feel rigid at times, especially with animations.
  • New players to the game may not enjoy the experience much.
  • Lack of character breakdown within the game.
  • Feels somewhat limited pertaining to the options we have in-game.

Honey's Final Verdict:

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Criminal Girls: Invite Only is one invite that maybe we’d have to think about for a little while, because despite how enticing it was to click our way to see lewd poses of these girls and battle challenging enemies, something felt missing and it didn’t really provide the oomph that we were expecting. As stated earlier, fans of the series will most definitely have a blast with this one and will probably get more out of the game than anyone else. Those who want to try something new, however, just be sure to read the fine print on your invitation before accepting the offer.

Let us know what you think about Criminal Girls: Invite Only when you buy your copy of the game, which is out now. Be sure to stay up to date with the latest buzz by following us on Twitter and our Facebook page!

As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.

Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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