Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: February 3, 2015
ESRB: M for Mature
Has anyone ever told you to go to hell? Well, most of the time they *probably* don“t mean that literally but in Criminal Girls: Invite Only, you find yourself with a personal invitation to the fiery depths. This ain“t no vacation, though; you“re here to work!
You have to escort the souls of seven pre-damned girls in hopes they can be redeemed and revived on earth. The catch is they don“t like you, and there“s no guarantee they“ll listen to a word you say, even if it means saving their own livesâ€¦
Typically in an RPG you never have to worry about anyone downright refusing your commands (save for Pokemon, if you don“t have enough badges) so immediately my interest in how this game works shot up through the roof. Starting up the game for the first time, I wasn“t disappointed. Each of the girls that start your party downright hate you (if you were in hell for something you didn“t even do, wouldn“t you?). Only by properly motivating them (which we will discuss at length later, promise) will they begin to pull their weight.
For example, on the first floor only one of them will even bother attacking! Shortly after some motivation you“ll have plenty of combat options for the girls to use, but smooth sailing it is not. The girls will let you know what they want to do, allowing you to choose one option from among them, and never the full repertoire of what they can do. Sure, it“ll feel like you“re babysitting a bunch of spoiled wicked stepsisters, but in a way what happens next makes it all worth it.
So if you“ve ever wanted to torture someoneâ€¦ wait, let“s start this differently. Channel your inner Christian Greyâ€¦nope. If you“re into kinky...OK, I“m going to stop myself right there. Let“s face it—there“s no easy way to beat around the bush here, you are going to beat these girls. Most of them will even like it. Motivation is a very political way of describing the minigame that is essential to Criminal Girls“ progression system. In this minigame (accessible from save points) you can use a riding crop, cattle prod, massage oil, and a feather tickler to give these girls the incentive they need to pull out all the stops in combat.
Doing this ensures they have plenty of new attacks to use in combat and their stats are always... heightened (I“m the worst). Proper motivation (please stop me) will also open the girls up to you, and occasionally they“ll share their desires with you... in the form of a quest that, when completed, will further increase their performance in combat. Motivation isn“t really optional either; you“re going to have to do it if you want to raise stats or learn abilities, many of which help greatly with bosses and tougher monsters. So basically, if the idea of sexually charged torture is a turn off for you then this game really is not for you.
Hilariously enough, I encountered quite the controversy while researching this game. NIS America, while localizing this game made some minor changes that proved quite divisive. During these motivation minigames, a pink fog shrouds the ladies and their provocative poses. As you raise their motivation level with each of the devices, the pink fog becomes more scarce, and their poses even more suggestive (sometimes downright exposed). NISA ensured that none of these girls“...erm, "goodies" would be on full display by covering those particular parts with a permanent fog that never clears.
The original Japanese audio for the girls during the motivation minigame was also removed entirely because some of it was downright pornographic (sexual gasps, moans, etc.). NISA explained they never enter such situations lightly and only after contacting ratings boards for multiple regions did they decide on what edits to perform to ensure the game wouldn“t land them an Adult Only rating. So whine if you want to but I for one think the game is far better off with the changes.
What really set this game apart for me was the premise of never really being able to give orders. Basically you“re a terrible dom because these girls all do what they want. As you head to into combat each of the four girls that are currently in your party will all recommend a command, literally one of possibly anything they“ve learned through the motivation minigame. It can go from a single attack to a team attack from all four party members, to special attacks, to even special unlockable combo attacks. The problem (and the interesting part) is there is no guarantee any of the girls will suggest anything even remotely useful. There are a few healers to choose from, but there“s no guarantee they“ll feel like healing anyone when the time comes.
You are allowed to switch out one girl per turn, and use one item per turn so you always have a chance to not suffer some terrible fate. Personally, I loved this aspect of the game with one exception. I expected the girls to feel a bit â€œtemperamentalâ€ perhaps acting up because of how you choose to treat them, or certain things that happen in the story but I never got the impression that had any effect during my playthrough. It“s a shame, though a minor one admittedly, because I feel like it could have driven the concept behind the combat system home.
The thing that will most likely drag this game down, though, is the fact that aside from combat there is so much about this game that just doesn“t stand out. Most of graphics look like they were lifted directly from a PSP game (which indeed they may have been since Invite Only is the enhanced port of Criminal Girls on PSP, which never came to North America) with only a select few effects reminding you that you are indeed playing on a Vita.
And while I“m hardly a graphics snob, the fact the game is visually uninteresting just compounds the disappointment. Dungeons themselves are vibrant enough, but their layouts and fixed top down view make them seem far less like the eye candy they deserve to be. Combat suffers even greater problems in this respect, with nothing but a fade-to-black screen and 2D sprites for the girls and enemies alike, and limited animation for attacks. NISA was content to focus on the girls being the only eye candy here and that“s disappointing because you“d never guess combat was actually interesting by looking at it.
So despite the highly (implied) sexual tones to the game, ultimately I left feeling pretty unsatisfied. And you should never be unsatisfied by climax! Between the very â€œholdoverâ€ graphics, a story that could have been fleshed out a bit more, and a combat system that can get periodically boring due to the irregular/infrequent addition of new combat elements, there are quite a few things that could have been changed to make this feel like a worthy addition to the Vita library. As it stands now, it really just feels like an overpriced PSP game with an interesting combat premise and a bunch of fan service. If that“s all you“re in it for then you won“t be let down; otherwise Criminal Girls: Invite Only can be a bit of a cold shower.
+ Highly unique combat system
+ Party variations are fun to experiment with
- â€œMotivatingâ€ girls may creep out or offend players
- Visually uninteresting
- Graphics hardly better than a PSP game
- Can get stale at times
Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10)
Criminal Girls: Invite Only teases with interesting combat, but not much else to truly please players.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher