Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale (怪獣が出る金曜日)
Genre: life simulation
Release Date: March 13, 2013 (Japan), July 18 2013 (NA & Europe)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Director: Kaz Ayabe
Developer: Millennium Kitchen
This is the fourth part in a series on notable kaiju video games. Giant Japanese-style monsters and games are two of my favourite things in life, so to cross them over like this was only natural. I’m going to highlight classics, hidden gems, and everything inbetween.
Most Kaiju games are violent action games where players can beat the tar out of other monsters or smash cities into rubble (Dawn of the Monsters certainly does not intend to buck this trend). This is simply developers attempting to deliver on what they believe their audience is looking for. However, every now and then a game comes along that defies those assumptions. Attack of the Friday Monsters is one of those games. Instead of making the player feel like a lumbering beast, it recreates the magic of being a kid and revelling in your love for the genre.
So as we savour these last few days of summer, it’s only appropriate that we look back at one of my favourite Kaiju games: Attack of the Friday Monsters for Nintendo 3DS.
In October of 2012, Level-5 announced a new Nintendo 3DS game they were working on called Guild 01. Similar to films like Paris je t’aime (2006) or The Animatrix (2003), Guild 01 is not one single game but instead a collection of smaller-scoped titles created by 5 of Japan’s most famous game creators.
These included Suda51 (Killer7, No More Heroes), Yoot Saito (Seaman, Odama), Yasumi Matsuno (Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story), and comedian Yoshiyuki Hirai.
The collection was popular enough to get a sequel collection in Guild 02, followed by releases of all the games as individual eShop releases in English. The sequel contains games from Keiji Inafune (Mega Man, Dead Rising), Kaz Ayabe (My Summer Vacation), Kazuya Asano (Torneko, Kamaitachi no Yoru 2) and Takemaru Abiko (Kamaitachi no Yoru, 428: Shibuya Scramble).
I could talk about the Guild series for pages, as it contains some of my favourite 3DS titles (Crimson Shroud alone is among my favourite RPGs). It still fascinates me that a massive company gave a bunch of creators carte blanche to make whatever weirdo stuff they wanted to (a game about tanks fighting ants! A game about sorting luggage at an air port!). However, I’m here to talk specifically about Kaz Ayabe’s contribution to Guild 02 – Attack of the Friday Monsters.
Kaz Ayabe founded developer Millennium Kitchen in 1997 with a desire to make games based off of the experiences from his childhood. The game that was birthed from that idea is known as My Summer Vacation ぼくのなつやすみ. In it, you play as a kid on his summer vacation and have 30 days to complete various tasks and make the most of your summer.
The game is soaked with the details of summer in 1970s Japan and plays like a mix between animal crossing and old school 3D adventure games like Resident Evil (due to the camera angles and tank controls, not due to a presence of zombies. No zombies appear in My Summer Vacation).
The success of My Summer Vacation spawned multiple sequels, ports and re-releases leading up to Millennium Kitchen’s involvement in Guild 02.
I’ve been spending a lot of words talking about “Not Attack of the Friday Monsters” but that is because context is important.
You see, Attack of the Friday Monsters takes the general structure of a My Summer Vacation game but applies a more clear and concise structure, condenses it to a one-day experience, and adds some whimsical elements of fantasy. All this comes together to (I assume) perfectly simulate growing up as a kaiju fan in Japan in the summer of 1971. Not only is it a fantastic treat for Kaiju fans, it’s the only taste of the My Summer Vacation series that the english-speaking world ever got.
You are Sohta, a young boy in the 4th grade. Your parents run a dry-cleaners and the game takes place entirely over a Friday, and has you running errands for your parents and other NPCs, collecting glims (gems that can be turned into playing cards), and meeting up with your friends.
The twist is that in this town, monsters appear every Friday! So as you explore the town you’ll see kaiju silhouettes and footprints, hear roars and growls, and meet mysterious characters that might be connected to the kaiju appearing around town.
It’s probably trite to say “this game makes me feel like a kid again” but truly this game does an excellent job crafting position the player as an omniscient presence that can easily get caught in the story of this group of kids. You know plenty that Sohta doesn’t by virtue of (presumably) being older and wiser, but the plot begins to subtly blur the lines between reality and the dream-like world of a child, pulling you in closer and making you question your assumptions. It’s absolutely charming.
This is really accentuated by the excellent music by Hideki Sakamoto, that perfectly captures the mood and flavour of the era. It’s reminiscent of Yoko Ueno’s soundtrack for Gamera: The Brave and, frankly, that film is the perfect companion piece to this game.
For the kaiju-acquainted among us, I want to make it clear that Ayabe has really crafted a personal love-letter to his childhood. When The Gaming Intelligence Agency asked him why he chose the year 1971, he responded:
“I have strong feelings for 1971; it’s the year The Return of Ultraman started airing on television.
For those in my generation, born around 1965, the first Ultraman series we saw on TV as it aired was The Return of Ultraman. Previous entries in the series included Ultra Q, Ultraman, and Ultra Seven amongst others, but we were too young to remember their initial runs, and we only recall those shows from reruns.
Personally, I feel this type of “uniqueness” is an important factor in creating games. But of course, there are various opinions regarding the matter.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the kaiju cards you collect throughout the game can be used in a simple card game you can play against your friends and are inspired by the classic menko cards that were popular at that time.
The entire experience is around 3 hours long, and if you have any nostalgia for Showa Era Kaiju or relaxing, sweet and charming interactive experiences I cannot recommend it enough. If you have save data for any of the other Guild 02 titles the game unlocks a special ‘behind the scenes’ section for you.
I hear complaints about unoriginality all the time when it comes to video games. The Guild series cannot be accused of that. So check this game out on the eShop now!