Criminal Girls: Invite Only will send you to the depths of Hell to help reform 7 delinquents. Are you up for the task?
At its core, Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a dungeon crawler RPG. You’ll go through layer upon layer as you help reform these girls. At first they won’t even care to listen to you, but as you get closer to the top you’ll find that they have formed an unbreakable bond. The road to that bond isn’t easy though. You’ll need to spend time motivating them to work harder and to do better.
There are 5 main sections, with each section having four floors each. Each section has its own theme. For example, one is a wet, mossy area, another is an inferno, and another is a frozen land. Each section will pit you up against new challenges, both in combat itself and for the bonds between your girls.
The layouts are pretty basic – you’ll have your hallways and big rooms. On each floor, you’ll typically end up exploring most of the area to progress through the story. However, there are sometimes hidden chests that will require you to look a bit harder. Thankfully, one character has a field skill that will let you see how many chests are left on a particular floor. This makes it at least a bit easier to know if you missed one there or not, since sometimes even if you think you fully explored a floor you might not have walked close enough to that chest.
To learn skills, such as the previously mentioned treasure locator, you need to motivate your girls. Each one will have a field skill, with the rest of them being combat related. To motivate them, you’ll have to do some… interesting.. stuff with them. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but there’s a minigame involved. Complete a certain amount of tasks and you’ll get a side-quest. These side quests will benefit you in a couple ways – two of them will lower the MP cost of skills and two of them will lower the cost to motivate them.
Unfortunately, in order to buy anything from the shops you need to use the same “currency” as what you use for motivating. Just spent a huge chunk on motivating? Well, have fun because now you can’t buy anything! This felt like a massive oversight to me, because often I wanted to do both without having to do a bunch more grinding.
Speaking of grinding, get used to doing a lot of it. This game isn’t exactly easy. While there was only a couple points where I had to actually sit for a while and just grind, a lot of the bosses I was barely getting by on. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just gotten so used to learning how to abuse a battle system in a game, but some were definitely a huge challenge for me. I haven’t even started into the Vita-exclusive post-game content yet, which, from what I’ve read, is even harder!
In battle, each girl you have in will present a command they can do. This is based off of what they’ve learned from motivating them so far. While they’ll often want to do something that’s best, sometimes they’ll just come up with Attack when you really want to use a skill. While at first I thought attacks were better, I quickly learned that skills are extremely strong in this game. Unfortunately… it comes at a heavy cost. You don’t get much MP to work with and these skills will drain it fast. MP recovery items are limited and you’ll likely run out long before you make it to a save point. If you try and do any amount of killing before a boss, especially if there isn’t a save right before, you’ll end up hurting in that boss because you ran out of MP. It would have been great if there had actually been more ways to recover MP, or that regular attacks actually did more than those skills.
For each turn in battle, you’re limited to using one item and can switch out one character if you want. While I’m usually only switching out party members during boss fights, I’m sometimes having to use healing items in regular fights as well. Often times, especially when it does come to bosses, I’m wanting to use more than one item per turn. This especially comes up when a boss has just done a big group attack that also caused a status effect. I don’t want to have to choose one or the other!
The story in Criminal Girls will seem a bit bland at first, but as you get further in you’ll likely start to really get into it. I know I did. I actually felt myself tearing up during some really emotional scenes later on. So while it does seem to start out a bit slow and you’ll have a lot of questions, they get answered later on. I really did end up finding myself pretty invested in the story.
While the game does suffer a bit from the slight randomness in commands, limitations on using items, and shared currency, what else is there makes up for it. Though learning skills is a bit slow and tedious at times, their general power in battle makes up for it. While I haven’t yet touched the post-game content, from what I’ve heard it’s still pretty good (and is quite long). Whenever I do end up diving into it I expect to both get my butt kicked and get even more invested in the story that is there.
If you’re looking for a decent dungeon crawler RPG on the Vita then check out Criminal Girls: Invite Only. Do take note that is a bit more aimed towards guys. I still enjoyed myself however, and am planning to head into that post-game content at some point.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only Review Score
I would like to thank NIS America for providing me with a copy of the game for review.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only is available now for the PlayStation Vita. You can find it on both Amazon and the PlayStation Store.