It's your responsibility to escort these 7 girls out of hell and have them atone for their sins. Are you up for the challenge?
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors is the sequel to Criminal Girls: Invite Only (a PSP game that was ported to PS Vita with additional content). The game is created and published by Nippon Ichi Software, who brought us great titles like the "Disgaea" series and "Yomawari: Night Alone".
The game plays similar to the Disgaea series or the early Final Fantasy games on Famicom. You adventure through dungeons fighting whichever Convicts (Monsters) that randomly appear before you. If you are familiar with the previous game then you should be fine with this game, the gameplay hasn't changed much bar a few new additions like "coaching system".
The coaching system is a new mechanic where, in mid-battle, you "coach" your party to perform better in battle. However this is ultimately dependant on how you "motivate" your party beforehand. This mechanic is necessary to learn and use when playing on normal or higher difficulties. You can still coach on lower difficulties but you may not need to use it.
"Motivation" returns to this game in a more interesting way. Motivation is a core game mechanic where you use in-game currency to level up the party by playing sexualized mini games. This mode isn't optional as you need it to progress and gain new moves for characters. I understand that this is one of the factors that make this game series controversial. I feel that if you are actively making the decision to buy the game, you shouldn't have a problem with it.
I do have a few issues with motivation, and how it works with coaching. Each time you level up you are given a choice of skills marked S or M. Meaning you can go back and switch moves according to what moves suit the situation.
Coaching can be successful depending on whether or not characters have more S or M skills. During my playthrough, I didn't use the coach system a lot as, for some reason, the skills I had for my characters rarely gave a majority "good" outcome. The mechanic made me feel as though I was being "punished" for my choice in skills. However your mileage may vary.
Let's talk more about motivation. I find the mini games to be an improvement compared to the previous entry in the series. The mini games are played without the use of The Vita's rear pad. I loved how the first game used the all parts of the vita, but ultimately the first game wasn't able to be played on PS TV. By removing the rear panel games, NIS have allowed for the game to be played by PS TV owners.
The mysterious censorship fog didn't return to the game, which lead to believe I was playing a special uncensored version of the game. I must commend NIS America for sticking with their guns on this one. However the game is still censored from the japanese version to meet ESRB guidelines. For example, during motivation characters do not speak at all and any chains or rope used in the japanese version has been removed. I've also noticed that the girls are consenting to being "motivated"; I cannot confirm if this is the case in the JP version.
Motivation mini games are more creative this time around, as well as far more sexualized. For example there are motivational scenes where you throw slime balls at various body parts of the characters. Honestly, the screenshots say it all.
All the sexualization aside, let’s appreciate the game’s characters and story. The goal of the game is to fight through various dungeons, and find a way out of hell so that these girls can atone for their sins. This is what I love about the game and why I was excited and honoured to review it.
The game itself touches on some very serious issues - abandonment, depression, bullying, sexual assault, etc. It speaks about these issues in a meaningful way that isn't degrading to anyone. You learn about why the girls are in hell and what wrong doings they did to be there. You see them grow and acknowledge their faults and fight to overcome them and I find that endearing
There were moments during my play through where I cried because I felt for these characters, even the characters I didn't quite like. I am not a fan of how this game gets treated because of its "appearance", it's much more than another sexy anime game set in a dungeon. It's an emotional and heartwarming game if you can overcome the motivation mechanic. And I recommend this game to those who own a vita (or PlayStation TV).
I give this game an 8.5 out of 10 (not as great as the original but still a fantastic game). Criminal Girls 2 is out now worldwide on Playstation Vita with support for Playstation TV. Criminal Girls: Invite Only is also available on Steam and PlayStation Store.