Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is a short-story that plays upon the player’s nostalgia for shows like Power Rangers, Ultraman, and other “hero shows” where gigantic protagonists fight “kaiju,” or gigantic monsters, in an effort to protect the public. You play as Sohta, a young boy whose parents have just moved him and their laundromat business to the quiet Japanese village of Fuji no Hana. Sohta makes friends with other young children in the town who share his infatuation with hero shows. Fuji no Hana holds a special fascination for Sohta, since actual monsters are said to appear on Friday evenings. Attack of the Friday Monsters! is Sohta’s journey through this mystery and the popular card game “Monster Cards,” which uses kaiju fiction from the town's most popular television show.
Being ten years old, Sohta is given errands by just about everyone within Fuji no Hana. Attack of the Friday Monsters! plays primarily like an adventure game, where you’re asked to seek out specific people and prompt them until the topic of discussion changes and then you go and seek someone else out. Eventually these chains of dialogue culminate in a mystery that only Sohta and his kaiju-obsessed friends are willing to solve: What is the truth behind the monsters that appear on Friday?
In order to complete his quest Sohta needs to seek out “Monster Glims,” which are sparkly, gem-like objects that form into “Monster Cards” after Sohta has collects enough of the same glim. “Monster Cards” are where the gameplay of Attack of the Friday Monsters! happens, and it’s essentially a glorified version of rock-paper-scissors.
Players use five cards that each have a rock, paper, or scissor attribute and then arrange them in any order they like. There’s a hint system that allows the player and their opponent to change the location of two of their own cards, and then they flip the cards over, compare the attributes, and see who wins the most matches. It’s simple, but the late-game monsters you form also contain “hybrids,” which have an attribute that can beat rock and paper, or scissors and rock, etc. It’s a simple task meant to pace the player through the charming story and flesh out the world that Sohta lives in. Collecting glims and playing a game that consists primarily of chance can be tiring, but the town and story are so vibrant that the “game” part of the experience isn't too much of a burden.
Visually speaking, the art direction of Fuji no Hana is serene and gorgeously crafted. The town’s train periodically travels in the distance, which juxtaposes beautifully with the still paintings that serve as the majority of the art. The polygonal characters are rather plain and mostly uninspired, but it’s the Ghibli-esque pieces that keep the town vibrant, even after visiting every locale at least twice. Turning on the 3D highlights the angles with which Fuji no Hana is presented—a crisp power line juts out of the screen when you run down the town’s main street, the vivid colors of fresh paint lay next to the sign shop, and even insignificant foliage on the side of the road is given a pleasing pop.
More than the cards or the visuals, the child-like wonder and sense of spirit that courses through the veins of the story are sanguine. Sohta is presented to the player as a particularly aware child, even asking himself about his father’s lack of self-confidence or his mother’s problems with communication. Like Ghibli, Game Director Kaz Ayabe delivers an adult message through a light-hearted tale. And just like the hero shows they praise, Sohta and his friends tell a tale of finding courage and discovering purpose during their journey to discover the mystery behind the monsters of their town. I was so wrapped in atmosphere of Fuji No Hana that I even came to love playing with the monster cards, a task I originally shrugged at. Attack of the Friday Monsters! has a delightful way of reminding you how the mundane activities of children can be painted with fantastic strokes of mystery and conquest. It’s a spirited story that gives players a few hours of joy, and even offers a bonus “Saturday” level after Friday is finished. Relish the art and experience it across several sittings; Sohta’s journey is brief, but very uplifting.