One genre you don't see a lot on the Vita (or any consoles in general) is strategy games. At a first glance you wouldn't think that a title like Tokyo Tattoo Girls is here to try to change that. That's where you would be wrong though! Despite the big cast of girls that look like a harem of female JRPG protagonists, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is very much a strategy game. Are these girls' tattoos worth studying though, or should you skip the ink parlor altogether?
At the start of the game you pick one of the six girls to ally with, and then you'll be introduced to Tokyo and its various wards. The city has befallen a rather vague disaster that has left it in the control of people who possess magical tattoos (and who are naturally all young females), and have divvied up the wards between them. Your job as the "Tattoo Master" is to help your ally (who also possesses magical tattoos) in her attempts to take over each of Tokyo's wards back.
And that's about the most you can expect out of the game's so-called story. Each girl is trying to take over Tokyo for their own reasons, but they are beyond shallow. One does it because she wants to see "cute things", while another does it to find her dad, which (gasp!) never happens during the game. The reason for Tokyo's disaster and the fate of the girls afterwards are both summarily forgotten. Also, every single girl you fight over a district with is literally a one-hit wonder. For example, one dresses up in a train station attendant outfit and "fights for the trains" (seriously, I don't make this stuff up!). Frankly, saying this game has a story at all is being beyond generous.
So, what do we have instead of a proper story? Well, the "strategic" gameplay. Note the quotation marks there. The gameplay here consists of you picking a ward to start out in and then... the game pretty much plays itself from there. You will automatically start gaining influence in nearby wards, attracting thugs and followers from neighboring wards, until you take over the ward completely and fight the boss. Along the way you gain money that you can use on skills that either stop gang wars (which can decrease your influence, this game's "health bar") or help you gain more followers.
The tattoo system in the game is also tied to the currency that you'll automatically gain as the game plays itself. You can buy tattoos that let you gain more easily followers in certain wards. For example, certain tattoos have more influence with poorer wards, so there is some strategy in here after all. By obtaining certain tattoos first makes taking over corresponding wards much easier. Still, there is absolutely no depth to this strategy. I literally left my first game to play itself and won before losing all of my influence, not caring about tattoos. On my second go, I learned how to look at certain wards individually (the game's tutorial system is rather lacking) and then tailored my tattoos and conquests together, winning very handily.
The thing that pushed me over the edge regarding the gameplay, however, were the boss fights. Take over the ward and you're challenged by the ward's boss. A perfect time for an engaging mini-game at the very least, right? Wrong. All you do is have a fairly unengaging chat with the boss (who is a one-dimensional stereotype, as you'll notice) and then pick one of three dialog options. Get this though: you win no matter what you'll choose. Seriously. The best responses though unlock still-screen cut scenes after the game is beaten.
So, that's seriously all you do in this game. Pick a girl, let the game automatically gain you followers while being semi-involved by purchasing beneficial tattoos and using skills, take over wards by talking to the enemy bosses and then... profit, I suppose. Ugh.
Just about the only good thing that Tokyo Tattoo Girls has going for it is that the still-screen cut scenes and character designs do look fairly good. It's almost like the game is just an excuse to show off talented artists' creations, but even then you are mainly staring at the bland map of Tokyo's wards for the most of the time. The game's audio design is fairly average as well, with Japanese voice acting for each main character, and pretty generic music playing throughout.
With the number of playable characters available, you'd think that the game would have a good amount of re-playability. Wrong again! The gameplay is the same no matter which girl you choose, with the possible exception of the boss battles and what dialog you select (though I haven't researched this, as I don't think I can stomach a third playthrough!). The individual girls' scenes change (all three of them!) and they have different tattoos (which do look cool once they are completed), but you'd have to be pretty hard-up for things to play to go back to this time and again. It's worth noting that each playthrough is relatively short, for what it's worth.
In the end, what we have in Tokyo Tattoo Girls is by far one of the most shallow strategy games I've ever seen, with absolutely a joke of a story, and shallow and repetitive gameplay. It's just so utterly disappointing in just about every aspect. As someone who doesn't have any tattoos (although my wife more than makes up for me), I think I'd rather go get my first one than play this game any more than I had to.
It's good to meet you! I'm better known online as "Bkstunt_31" and have been writing Reviews and video game Strategy Guides/Walkthroughs for WAY too many years! Feel free to stop my my Facebook page and say hello! Have fun and keep playing!