The first game I was ever given to review was the first in the “Criminal Girls” series, “Invite Only”. I have since harbored a soft spot for the franchise, even though I had some issues with that original release. I always compare fan-service-y type of games to “Invite Only”, and now that “Party Favors” has come, I can see where the series moved on to. Join me in this journey of SM, dungeons and color swapped enemies.
Once again, you are the instructor sent to the very bowels of… well, not hell, but close enough. You’re at the bottom of a tower you must climb, with the help of the titular Criminal Girls (called “Delinquents”), defeating all kinds of monsters and growing closer along the way. While the story is actually much simpler than in the original game, the character development is just as deep, and remains one of the highlights of the game. Each girl has her own personality and quirks, and you really do grow fond of them as you progress (some more than others). These girls have been sent here preemptively because they have criminal DNA, even before they committed any serious crimes. It’s up to you, a very, very green instructor to see them redeemed.
How do you these girls achieve redemption? Just like anyone does: through sadomasochism, of course! You will battle in a turn-based system, gaining points you can then use to Motivate the girls. Motivation is achieved by different means according to the level at which each girl is, but it generally involves furiously swapping or touching your Vita screen while it displays a very sensual image of the girl you’re motivating.
The whole thing was controversial from the start, with censorship applied even to the original game so that it could get a western release. Using this information, though, “Party Favors” has actually been designed to pass certification in the West from the get-go, meaning we don’t feel as shortchanged when it comes to fan service.
The presentation is absolutely stunning as usual, with pixel-perfect sprites and gorgeous manga-like scenes during Motivation. The voice acting is fantastic and it’s quite easy to discern each girl by accent and cadence, even though it’s obviously in Japanese. We sadly come back to the same issue the original game has, which is the lackluster selection of enemies: there is a lot of color swapping going on, and you’ll end up battling the same enemies with different colors for a long, long time. They are even the same enemies as the original game, so if you’ve just played that, this will feel like a 30-hour DLC to “Invite Only”. It saddens me, because I could handle how grindy the game is if the enemy diversity matched the content length. But it doesn’t, not by a long shot, meaning you grow tired rather quickly of fighting the same enemies with slightly different colors or attributes, and it brings the whole experience down.
The environments look good, although again, there is some heavy asset recycling from the first game going on. I have no idea why the developers didn’t choose to invest a little more time into giving us more enemies and a more varied world to play in, as you need to put in serious time into leveling up. My conclusion, therefore, is the same as it was for “Invite Only”: this either needed to be a game with a more diversified enemy roster, or it needed to be half as long of a game than it is now.
Other than that, though, the combat system is very tight, intuitive and rather quick-paced for a turn-based RPG, and the fan service hits the spot much more so than it did in the first game. If you can live with color-swapped enemies and a hell of a lot of grind, then “Party Favors” is a fantastic little RPG for those of us who are into more adult content. If variety and quick satisfaction is what you’re after, though, you might be better off checking the Senran Kagura or Neptunia series.
At a glance:
- Title: Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors
- Developer: Nippon Icchi Software
- Publisher: NIS America
- Format: PSN Download / Physical
- Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Required: 1.3GB
- PlayStation TV Compatible: No