by Joshua Russo
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Format: PlayStation Vita
Released: October 11, 2016
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a (very) guilty pleasure
Depending on who you ask, being surrounded by seven scantily clad women might sound like heaven, but in Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors it’s exactly the opposite. You play as a Program Instructor trying to save these ladies from Hell by rehabilitating them through a process known as Reformation. While the name of the game is Criminal Girls, your gang of seven all perished before they ended up committing their biggest sins. Now they’re teetering on the edge of Hell or returning to their lives as changed individuals. This dungeon crawling JRPG combines some nice turn based combat with some very naughty mini-games, but does commit a few misdemeanors along the way.
Your goal as the Program Instructor is to lead your party of girls, known as Delinquents, through multiple trials as you climb Hell’s Spire. Because the girls died before they committed their crimes, they are given the opportunity to reform themselves through the program. Had they already committed their crimes and died unrepentant, they would have been sent to Hell as Convicts and turned into the monsters you encounter throughout the floors of Hell. Without giving away too much of the story, it is revealed early on that one of your seven Delinquents is actually a Convict, but which one remains a mystery.
The characters in Criminal Girls 2 are the real stars of the story. Seven may seem like a crowd but they quickly distinguish themselves as individuals complete with their own likes, dislikes and personalities. I developed favorites within my group and became invested in a couple (but not all) of their stories. The crimes and backgrounds of each character are revealed as the game progresses. While some of their personal stories are not as captivating as others, they still manage to make each character original and personable.
Character sprites are visually represented chibi style both in battle and while roaming the floors of Hell. Only four directional sprites are used, meaning if you move your party in a southwest direction, they will face either south or west, depending on what direction you hit first. For some reason this really seemed to bother me, four diagonal directional sprites could have been easily added to make the game feel a little more smooth. As for the levels themselves, there are multiple areas your Delinquents will discover in Hell. Entering a new area was always a treat because after traveling through five floors and dozens of rooms that all look uniform, it was nice to get to see something different. Unfortunately that new area feeling wears off and everything starts blending together in the new style all over.
Battling in Criminal Girls 2 is a little different than a normal turn-based JRPG, but it’s easy enough to get the hang of after a few battles. Each turn, instead of telling all four members of your battling party what attacks to use, you are only allowed to pick one. Each girl starts the turn with a different, random suggestion. Some players may be turned off to losing a little control this way, but it makes the game more fun and challenging. If your party members are weak, the suggestions will be catered more towards support moves, like healing and defense. If your party is healthy the suggestions may be to attack, either with melee or with spells. Once per turn, you are able to swap out one of your four party members with one of the other three if you desire. You are also limited to using only one item per turn, which forces the player to use a bit more strategy when things get tough.
Pretty much all great RPGs have memorable enemies and monsters. Some even become the face of the series, like the slime enemy in the Dragon Quest series. In Criminal Girls 2, the entirety of the monster and enemy sprites are all entirely forgettable or completely unoriginal. The only well designed enemies were a few of the bosses in the second half of the game. The bosses are also the only main threat in the game. On each floor of all areas in Criminal Girls 2, there are camps that you can stay at and rest and heal your party. They are frequent enough that you will never really be in serious danger traveling between two of them. There are also no weapons and armor to outfit your Delinquents with. It would have added a nice challenge to battling enemies between bosses if upgrading offensive and defensive items were something to worry about.
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is a fantasy RPG in the truest sense. When you finish a battle your party will earn experience points and CM. CM is the currency used to buy items at camps, but it can also be used for Motivation. Motivation in Criminal Girls 2 is a series of sadomasochism mini-games that give your party members special moves and stat boosts. For a few different reasons, playing the Motivation mini-games made me feel awkward. Criminal Girls 2 is a PlayStation Vita game and I was not always in the privacy of my own home when playing, so having to rub scantily clad anime girls in compromising positions was not something I wanted someone to see me doing over my shoulder. On top of that, the girls do not seem to be enjoying themselves until you level them up a few times in each activity. Seeing what could be interpreted as a nonconsensual look as I am spanking and inflicting pain on these girls is incredibly uncomfortable.