A dungeon-crawling RPG where you use various methods of torture on teenage girls to get them to learn battle skills. Developed by Imageepoch (known for the Luminous Arc series, and more infamously, Time and Eternity) and published by Nippon Ichi Software. It looks low budget like a cheap fanservice game, and while I wouldn’t argue against such accusations, I also found much enjoyment in it as a light RPG that’s reasonably balanced and easy to get into without having to make huge commitments or decisions. This might interest those who want a simple and straightforward RPG with some lewd mini-games.
You recently signed up for a job that pays a good 3000 yen per hour, and you wake up in hell’s prison to your new supervisor’s scolding and whip. Your job is to guide and re-educate a group of half criminals–people who have a high chance of becoming criminals in the future but died before they could–and guide them through trials in four of hell’s dungeons so that they can revive and get another chance at life with their reformed personalities.
Not only do these future criminals not want to take orders from you, but monsters (the souls of full-fledged criminals who went to hell) begin attacking before they’re supposed to and your supervisor disappears, leaving only a bloody trail. Your only choice is to lead the girls through the dungeons, but three of the seven under your supervision have escaped and the remaining four are unwilling to do so much as fight under your command without a good spanking or two.
In order to get the girls to obtain battle skills, you must “punish” them. This is where the most controversial part of the game comes in, in a series of touchscreen-based mini-games that represent spanking, electrocution, dripping liquid, and tickling. You have to play each minigame at least 7 times for all 7 characters to get all their skills, and there are 4 (+1) types of punishment mini-games to play. For anyone not into spanking girls and listening to lewd voices, it can get tedious real fast. The mini-games are basically still images with some Live2D animation. I wish there were more mini-games or CG variations, but neither the developers nor publishers are known for having a phenomenal budget.
I wanted to punish Shin more…
At first the CGs are covered in steam…
But it completely clears off if you clear the level 4 version with a perfect score:
The core gameplay includes walking through dungeons in a top-down perspective and fighting turn-based battles. The dungeons are straightforward and not too long, but the regular enemy encounters are strong enough to be a drain on your resources if you’re not careful. Thankfully, there are camp points where you can save, rest, shop, and punish girls on every one or two floors, and there is a character with a field skill that teleports you to the last used camp. You can also freely teleport between previously visited camps, making backtracking convenient. There are no towns or many NPCs at all, making this as straightforward a dungeon-crawler as you can get that’s tailored towards a more casual user. There are also no equipment or skill/stat point distribution to tinker with.
The battles are different from the standard RPG fare as well. You don’t get to freely pick from all your characters’ skills (the game would be terribly easy if you could), but instead, each active party member will give you a suggestion on what to use in their skill repertoire each turn. That totals up to four suggestions, and you can only pick one. That means that even though you have four party members, only one can act. But the game is properly balanced around that, since most heals and buffs affect the whole party. The skills that come up aren’t random either, they’re based on your current situation. For example, when the boss is charging up for a powerful attack, the Ran’s skill that makes everyone defend will pop up. When most of the party is on low HP, the all-heal skills will show up provided that there’s a girl in the active party who knows it, and the same happens if everyone is down with status ailments. If you’re fighting a mob of enemies weak to ice, Alice’s all-target ice spell will come up, and in the first turn of a boss fight, Shin’s buff skill will always be suggested. Because of this system, most skills end up being useful for at least one specific situation, and they usually show up during that one situation.
Inactive party members gain EXP, and they can be swapped into the party at the beginning of each turn. Item usage is also separate from skill usage, and you can use one item at the beginning of the turn. This is a convenient system for experimentation, since you can easily swap your party around and test out various combinations. The difficulty is reasonable, with most bosses providing a decent challenge when you encounter them, but not to frustrating levels. The final boss, true final boss, and extra boss in particular require you to proceed with care and know what you are doing. I came out of most of the important boss fights satisfied, which was certainly quite a pleasant surprise. I can think of a bunch of complaints that people will have about the battle system being “restricting” and what-not, but it’s quite fun when you get used to it. It’s not amazing enough to make the game worth playing for anyone repulsed by the punishment theme though.
The story is pretty barebones and you get exactly what you would expect from the synopsis. Criminal Girls is a character game so the enjoyment is obviously from the girls, who are all cute. Even the ones who start off as prickly and disobedient (or outright aggressive) soften out. They all have some backstory that explain why they are considered half-criminals, but whether their sins are grave enough to class them as future criminals vary in great lengths. They correspond to the seven deadly sins, however.
Kisaragi is a fashionable girl that claims to be rich and high-class. She’s a twintail tsundere who’s difficult to deal with at first but turns out to be a sweet girl with more “normal” hobbies like making stuffed animals. She’s something like the poster girl for the game, but her backstory might be one of the less innocent ones too. In battle she is in charge of status effects and item stealing, while having balanced stats overall.
Ran is a rough and aggressive man-hater who is quick to express her disdain for you. Her first greeting is a punch and she will respond rudely no matter what you say. She, too, gets better down the line and her backstory definitely justifies the initial rudeness. Despite her aggressive character, she’s more like a paladin in battle and has a high defense stat, as well as the guard skill and the ability to heal and revive everyone because the game anticipates situations where she will be the only one left standing. Unsurprisingly, she’s probably the most likely to become a criminal if left alone.
Alice is a denpa loli who says that she is “special.” She appears to have some kind of sixth sense and communication power. Also, super-cute when shy. Her backstory is rather unique, and her chances of becoming a criminal if left alone are high as well. A squishy mage in battle, and has probably single-handedly dealt the most damage in the game.
Sako is one half of the loli twins. She’s an energetic tomboy who loves her sister and spoils the heck out of her. Likes to rush head-first without thinking, and appears to be rather dim-witted. In battle, she’s a speedy physical attacker with decent HP and is probably your main damage dealer for most of the early game.
Yuko is the other half of the loli twins. Unlike her sister, she’s sweet and girly, but also extremely lazy and great at getting her sister to do things she doesn’t want to. I almost expected her to have a manipulative dark side, but she’s just really lazy. The healer of the game.
Tomoe is a feminine, big-busted beauty with a my-pace type of personality and speaks in kansai-ben. She seems to be nice and innocent, but, well, she did end up in hell after all. She has the highest attack power and a bunch of all-target skills that serve to be effective mob cleaners, but her HP, MP, and defense are abysmal so she tends to die quickly to bosses.
the best girl a prideful girl who claims to be a genius strategist and holds a logical approach to everything. It doesn’t take long for her to accidentally call you “Guildmaster”, though…She’s also sort of tsundere and makes up a good duo with Kisaragi. She’s a commander-type character in battle, with an assortment of skills that let multiple people act in the same turn (otherwise she’s a mage). For example, her OPR Freeze has her use ice magic, and then makes Alice do a follow up with her ice magic if she’s in the party. It’s extremely useful for bosses, especially ones with weak points. Her OPR Assist can buff ATK, DEF, MAT, and MDF for everyone at once if the right party members are present. Her regular magic tends to be pretty strong too, although not as powerful as Alice’s.
In Invitation, the PS Vita port, there are two additional party members that join for the True ending final dungeon.
Let’s make this clear: the game’s budget is low. Dungeons consist of 2D super-deformed sprites on a 2D background in the top-down view. The sprites don’t get many different animations. Story sequences are told visual novel-style with still portraits, and even the punishment mini-games are one CG with Live2D used to make the breathing effect.
The worst offender has to be battles, which happen with still enemy images on a semi-transparent black background. Battles aren’t first-person, but instead show SD images of the active party members in each corner, and you actually see them do battle animations like slashing the target. However, the animations themselves look cheap with few frames. The SD battle sprites look cute as heck, though I do admit.
The character designs are cute, but also make most characters look younger even though they’re all teenagers around high-school age. I suppose this is what caused NISA to perform censorship. The true ending and extra ending CGs are nice, but you can’t help but see that they cut corners in the character ending CGs. They all have the exact same composition in terms of space.
The Vita version of the game is fully-voiced, which is great. The girls have lots of different lines in and out of battles too. Music starts off as cheesy, but I started liking it after a while. Each girl also gets her own vocal ending theme, which is neat. I can’t say I care for most of the songs, though.
Fun RPG that doesn’t require heavy commitment, and has cute girls with some lewd minigames. I would have played the game even if they used the same system in a different setting where you don’t get to touch little girls. It’s a game with solid mechanics, but the low budget and abundance of RPGs on the PSP at the time probably wouldn’t have done a very good job at attracting buyers. Those looking for more ‘meat’ in their RPG mechanics would probably dismiss the game as being barebones (unless you’re looking for a different kind of meat) since there are no equipment, skill points, towns, NPCs, sidequests, etc. But it’s fun, and the story doesn’t get in the way of gameplay much. Also the girls are cute. If you’re offended at the “punishment” theme then the game is probably not worth it, since the mini-games aren’t avoidable.
Clear time is 20~30 hours for a character ending, probably around 50 or less to get the Platinum if you make a save at the right place.