Tokyo Tattoo Girls Review (Vita)

Taking Over Tokyo With Tattoos!

Tokyo Tattoo Girls

For reasons unknown, a major catastrophic incident has befallen the city of Tokyo resulting in chaos and destruction spanning across the cityscape. Said destruction proved to be so great that Japan decides to quarantine the city from the rest of the country leaving the poor citizens trapped inside. It is within this quarantine that a mysterious phenomenon begins to occur, where strange tattoos appear on the bodies of the city’s women, granting them mysterious powers. From amongst these women, 23 bearing the most powerful of tattoos rise up and decide to form a collective government, calling themselves the 23 Ward Syndicate.

Japan decides to allow this “government” to operate under the condition that they and those with tattoos never set foot outside of Tokyo. The 23 Leaders agree and decide to form a barrier in order to encase the entire city. Years later, the player taking on the role of “The Tattoo Master”, must ally himself to one of six special women from the Tokyo slums in an attempt to dismantle the 23 Ward Syndicate, remove the barrier, and escape from their makeshift prison. And thus begins the tale of Tokyo Tattoo Girls – a tactical strategy game developed by Sushi Typhoon Games and published by NIS America.

Preparing For Battle

It’s time to tattoo Tokyo the colour of your clan!

The above description sounds like it would make for an absolutely awesome game filled with action, intrigue, cool characters, and even a nice dose of fine art. The promotional marketing for Tokyo Tattoo Girls also did a great job of leaving as much of this game’s content to the imagination as possible further allowing the mind to wonder what experience lies in store for the player. Unfortunately, the final product is unlikely to live up to any of these expectations.

At the onset of the game, you are tasked with choosing one of the aforementioned six girls to partner up with for the duration of the game. Each of them carries one of four traits: Balanced, Offensive, Defensive, and Special along with a short description of a perk that they carry such as “good at invasions”, “early game advantage”, or “good at recruiting enemy clanswomen.” Once chosen, you’ll be placed onto an overworld map displaying Tokyo’s 23 Wards and it is from here that you are able to get a lay of the land and learn about each ward’s individual characteristics. Each ward’s population is divided into three groups: Your allies referred to as “Disciples”, neutral women called “Punks”, and opposing clanswomen or “Enemies” that are allied under that ward’s Syndicate leader.

The Low-down on Downtown

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is lacking in deep gameplay.

By opening up the player menu, you can get further information on the ward including a brief description of the terrain, a silhouette of the ward’s leader, and a display indicating whether the ward is Residential, Commercial, Cultural, Poor, Wealthy, or some combination of those five traits. You select where you wish to begin from and then proceed to recruit and invade territories by… doing absolutely nothing. For the most part, the game plays itself by having a calendar advance as disciples are recruited from whatever wards you have invaded thus far. Territory encroachment, or “invasions”, themselves happen automatically as enemies and punks from contested wards are converted over to disciples and the area’s disciples pay you tribute in the form of cash donations. Your allied tattoo girl will occasionally chime in from the left side of the screen to either let you know of a change in your situation or to just provide a general comment.


Big Trouble in Quarantined Tokyo

“Tattoo me like one of your French girls!”

As time progresses, various events can occur on the map. Sometimes, a briefcase will appear on the map for a short period of time and, by selecting it with the cursor you can receive a small cash bonus. This cash can be used to purchase temporary buffs that allow for things such as increased punk recruitment or a temporary decrease in alert. These buffs all come with cooldowns so they are unable to be abused even if you have the finances with which to do so. Other times, when the aforementioned alert increases in invaded wards, their map color will change to red and eventually display sirens. These sirens need to be selected and removed quickly or else a turf war will break out. Sound exciting? Well, it isn’t. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than an automatic event that displays a cute graphic and leaves you with a chance of losing “Honor” – the game’s name for its life bar. Once this honor meter is depleted, the game is concluded.

If a cup and dice icon is spotted and selected, you enter a gambling den where are given the chance to play a dice mini-game consisting of three rounds. In each round, you are able to roll dice in an attempt to beat the value rolled by the “House.” Winnings can be hedged in double or nothing follow-up rounds up until the end of the three sessions in which case you are returned to the world map. Lastly, when a ward’s enemy population has been completely converted, the player then enters into a final duel with the ward leader.

Colorful Clan Leaders

Even if you’ve got two left feet and are rhythmically challenged, who could say no to her?!

Each respective ward leader is a colorful and uniquely drawn girl whose design exudes personality so it is a huge shame that these duels, like the rest of the gameplay, are a big letdown. The leader and your partner exchange words eventually giving you a choice of three options of which there is no wrong choice. By choosing the best answer, you receive an honor meter restoration bonus along with a special image of the defeated ward leader for the Gallery. Every other answer merely yields either a lesser bonus or no bonus. This is followed by a short dust-up animation, which is the same animation for every leader duel, and then closing statements. You absolutely cannot lose these duels and they are only there to signify that a ward is now under your control.

And what about the fantastical tattoos that I mentioned early on in the review? Well, each girl starts with a unique tattoo and the player can use acquired finances to add additional tattoos to their partner’s arms and back. While the description of the game would make you think that these tattoos would actually provide amazing powers or abilities, they are mainly used to affect your character’s Threat and Charisma: stats which factor into the rate at which you recruit punks and clanswomen, respectively. Each tattoo can be buffed up to three levels with each increasing the amount of the tattoo’s original boost.

A Tattooed Travesty

I wish that I had more to say about Tokyo Tattoo Girls and what it had to offer but I have honestly described everything in the preceding paragraphs. In fact, for those that are familiar with it, this game can be easily compared to the Nintendo 3DS Mii game: Warrior’s Way. They both have the same general concept of conquering neighboring territories using accrued units but Warrior’s Way provides more gameplay in the form of the rock-paper-scissors unit allocation system while this game mainly has you focusing solely on mitigating rate of unit acquisition and honor depletion. I honestly did not enjoy playing this game which is an absolute shame because I personally felt that the premise had laid the scene for a lot of creativity and fun gameplay opportunities. But we are instead treated to a game that hoped to use cute women and very information-lite advertisement as a means to drive home sales of a game bearing a lackluster experience and shallow gameplay.


Final Verdict: 1.5/5


Available on: Playstation Vita (reviewed), PC; Publisher: NIS America Inc. ; Developer: SUSHI TYPHOON GAMES ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 14th, 2017

Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.

Pernell Vaughan
A fan of all things video game for as long as he can remember, Pernell likes few things as much as quality imaginative video games, quality VGM compositions, and friendly people with which to share those video game experiences with. He has a rather hefty library of retro and modern titles from which to draw his knowledge. In addition to Hey Poor Player, Pernell can also be found as the co-host of the Rhythm and Pixels video game music podcast, co-host of the Youtube show, “Pernell and Matt Play Games", and as a regular reviewer on the SML Podcast.

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