You might look at Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors and think that it’s a game that only has fan-service to offer but you would be wrong as Party Favors has more heart than you’d expect. Like with the first game, Party Favors tells both a heartwarming and heart-wrenching story about a group of girls who’ve been sent to Hell and have been given a chance at reformation, and it has much more to offer than just the sexually-fuelled mini-games.
Party Favors follows 7 girls and the Program Manager, who you play as and can name, as you work to reform them so that they don’t become Convicts, mindless and violent monsters roaming Hell, and can pass on to a more pleasant place. The girls are in their current predicament because they were not criminals before their untimely demise, but they would have grown to be criminals and so it’s up to you to reform them and knock the criminal tendencies out of them. It soon turns out that one of the girls is already a Convict disguised as a human, so you have to find out which girl isn’t real too!
So as I’ve already mentioned, there’s more heart and depth to Criminal Girls than you might expect after looking at the motivation mini-games, but there’s an honest story here that tells of the struggles of a group of children and young adults who just want to go home and, for all intents and purposes, have been sent to Hell for no reason – they hadn’t committed any crimes at this point. It mixes things up quite differently from the first games story despite starting off very similarly, but it’s nice to see that this isn’t a re-treading and if you were a fan of the first Criminal Girls, then Party Favors has plenty to offer for you.
Gameplay is similar to as it was in the first game, and it’s still incredibly simple and easily accessible to those familiar to JRPG’s and, well, I would say new to the genre but chances are you’re not if you’re playing Criminal Girls. The girls will voice options of what they want to do during their turn which will usually be attack alone, attack with another girl or perform a special skill such as healing or an attack that hits multiple times. When you’re only able to select from set options rather than freely, there’s only so much you can experiment with so whilst you’re still aiming to fell enemies as quickly as possible, you’re now left to do it without putting much thought into things – the most thought required here really is to use items to heal or use a healing skill. You’re able to switch girls out during battle so it’s unlikely you’ll face a KO, especially if you grind a little.
I realise I make the game sound dull but it isn’t, it’s still plenty of fun and I’ve enjoyed my time with Criminal Girls 2 greatly, and its gameplay mechanics are solid even if they are simple. The motivation mini-games aren’t thought-provoking by any means either but they do make for a lot of the appeal in Criminal Girls (well, not for everyone of course but if you’re here, then you’re likely interested!), but I certainly wouldn’t want to be caught playing them! The mini-games see you discipline the girls through weird actions such as scrubbing them with soap (I assume to cleanse them) through using the touch-screen or the analog sticks. They can be rather fun but again, I would not want to be caught playing them and even when playing alone they could sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable, especially as some of the characters look extremely young.
The 2D character design has undergone change since the first game with a seemingly more shiny, brighter style being used here. The sprites used when travelling around a dungeon are smoother too, and the characters in-battle are more dynamic and active. Whilst some may prefer the different art style from the first game, I think there are many visual improvements here that make the game look great. For the most part I like the character and enemy design and whilst dungeons can sometimes become repetitive and a bit barren, they overall succeed in being dungeons worth exploring. The character models during the motivation scenes react well if not a bit rubbery but those who enjoyed the motivation scenes from the first game will love them in this one.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no English Dub and this is likely for the best! I think it’s safe to say that the Japanese voice talent had fun with this game and took its ridiculousness in stride where most conversation is performed more realistically, whilst any sexual noises are exaggerated and over the top, making them quite funny too – I assume this is the intention, as Criminal Girls tells a serious story but doesn’t present it as such. The main theme for the game is catchy along with much of the soundtrack and it seems that Hell doesn’t have the worst music imaginable!
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors didn’t quite hook me in the same way that the first game did, but it’s a solid title with a decent story, notable character development and simple, engaging gameplay. If you were a fan of the first game then you’ll want to pick this one up, but you can start with the second game if that’s something you’d prefer to do – the games feature standalone stories and characters. The motivation mini-games and induce a red flush across anyone who’s caught playing it but this is a game I’m happy to have on my Vita and if there’s ever a third game, you can bet I’ll play it.