Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a strategy game in where we take one of six protagonists as our partner. It takes place after an unknown apocalypse has rendered Japan into little more than an alliance of various district mob leaders and has also seemingly annihilated the entire male population. Each of the six girls have their own motives but are all ultimately on a mission to defeat every one of the Syndicate’s 23 gangs in order to unite Japan under their banner. Bleak stuff, though our goal is not to cause even more mayhem. Instead, we must peacefully get more and more members into our faction by means of applying awesome tattoos, that increases either the girls’ charisma to get unaffiliated punks into her ranks or boosts how threatening she appears, which makes it easier to get mobsters to switch sides.
Each protagonist has unique actions we can use by means of cold, hard cash and they play slightly differently. Some are better at making money, others at appearing threatening and so on. What really makes them unique is both their awesome tattoo designs that you can put on her back and their personalities, which they display in the visual novel like segments when facing a district/ward leader. Before all of this, you simply need to choose the starting area that you want to invade, then sit back and watch your partner do the rest. We are just the tattoo artist, our partner is the one that handles recruiting, which lands to invade and so forth. Really, the only control we have is to wisely choose what tattoos to ink her up with first to gain the respect of that specific region.
If you choose to start in a wealthy commercial zone then naturally a tattoo that increases her charisma with the poor isn’t of much help in the immediate terms of things. It is by studying your neighboring zones and choosing in what matter she can benefit most from our tattoos, that we can indirectly govern her towards success. Rival factions will not take kindly to you snatching up their possible recruits and getting their members to turn their backs on their faction to join you instead. Once you make enough of an impact in an area it will turn red, leading to the possibility of a turf war between you two. You do not want this occurring as it will decrease your honor which is this title’s equivalent of health. The two ways to avoid them are either to buy a command to use or to click on a siren icon that may pop up over the zone of conflict. The latter will still lose you a bit of honor though it costs nothing.
You may also see a pair of dice pop up at times. These give you the opportunity to gamble with 5% of your total wealth for the possibility of scoring it big. It is a simple gambling game in where you roll three dice, then if two are the same, the third is your score. As an example, rolling two sixes and one five will mean you scored a total of 5 points. Win or lose, you can only play three matches so one can’t rely entirely on your gambling skills to immediately become rich. Another icon that will frequently spawn in around the map is a briefcase that contains a nice chunk of change. Simply click on them, and they are yours. Planning, clicking on random objects that pop up, and watching the game days go by are the extent of what we will be doing.
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t turn-based, it all moves in real time so if you want to study up on the neighboring gangs or check up how your forces compare to theirs in an area, make sure to use the pause time feature. All you really have to worry about is honor, the gangs do not retaliate in any way to get their soldiers back or make things difficult for you. This is an extremely laid back game that from the moment you invade your first district, you merely watch your numbers rise and see your partner zerg rush a good chunk of the island successfully from the get-go. If you want challenge or depth, this is not the game for you, it is more the type of thing you’d play to unwind. Never is this more evident than when encountering one of the 23 bosses you will have to face.
Bosses will only appear once you completely dominate their zone and is where the visual novel part of the title comes into play. Each of the six characters will have unique, and entirely voice acted dialogue for every boss. That is a heck of a lot of scenes to experience, and it is interesting to see how differently a boss will react to a different protagonist. Whether they love you or hate you, meeting with them will always lead into a fight which is where I can’t help but be disappointed with Tokyo Tattoo Girls. You see, you have three dialogue options to choose from though they only affect how much honor you refill. Victory is guaranteed each and every time, making it feel slightly dull having to speak with all 23 of them. While every single one of the bosses is unique and mostly entertaining, knowing that your stats, choice of words, or anything else has no effect, makes learning about them pointless.
Once you’ve conquered every square inch of land from the grasp of the other factions you are treated to a unique CG ending for your chosen character, are given a new game plus item to raise your stats from the get-go, and finally, you unlock a harder difficulty. Oddly enough, while you can use items for any character, you will need to unlock that higher difficulty once again with every character. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the highest we can pick is Normal, which is so incredibly easy that the game basically plays itself. One thing that did not disappoint is the tattoo designs. They are amazing, and while I have none myself, I’d have trouble saying no to getting one similar to Choufu’s filmography arm sleeve tattoo. It is a shame that we can never actually see them since they are all placed on their backs while the VN parts only show characters from the front.
There is a blend of three different artstyles at play here. One is your standard anime affair, another is the big-headed chibi style, and finally, you have the gorgeous paintbrush drawing for the world map itself. They all work in harmony with each other, all being great in their own way. Its soundtrack is no slouch either. Tokyo Tattoo Girls is an interesting title that features an unusual premise and a stress-free, hands-off type of gameplay. Having tons of content in the form of the humorous Visual Novel sections, plenty of replay value due to six playable characters and many tattoos to see, there is plenty to like about this title. While the gameplay itself lacks any unique aspects or any depth to keep you playing for long, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a decent game to pick up from time to time and just unwind.
[Review copy was provided]