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    Level-5 Inc. is a studio that focuses on bringing new twists to standard RPG gameplay.

    Stop Ignoring Level 5's Crazy eShop Experiments

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    patrickklepek

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    Edited By patrickklepek

    While everyone checks daily prices for turnips, I’ve been hooked to my 3DS for very different reasons. Level 5, a company best known for JRPGs and the Professor Layton series, doesn’t usually show up on my radar. My ignorance shifted when chatter about Guild 02 kept coming up among some whose taste I deeply trust.

    Guild 02 is Level 5’s second set of eShop-exclusive experimental games made in collaboration with outside designers, and this lineup includes Kaz Ayabe’s Attack of the Friday Monsters!, Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko’s The Starship Damrey, and Keiji Inafune’s Bugs vs. Tanks. You might remember The Starship Damrey because Vinny and I took a look at it a few months back.

    When that Quick Look finished, The Starship Damrey joined a pile of games I had every intention of returning to, even if I knew, in my heart of hearts, it would never happen. But I kept reading and hearing about Attack of the Friday Monsters!, and finally decided to see what Level 5 was up to.

    Guys and gals, make your way to the eShop immediately. Level 5 is getting weird and wild.

    Attack of the Friday Monsters! joins a growing trend of games looking to draw emotional resonance from the seemingly mundane. So many games dwell on saving the world and/or universe, unfathomable situations we can barely begin to imagine, let alone empathize within. Gone Home, the first game from The Fullbright Company, looks for this in a creepy but otherwise seemingly ordinary house from 1995. The Novelist explores the small decisions, such as choosing to spend time with your son at the beach or working on your book, and unintended consequences. Attack of the Friday Monsters! concerns itself with the naivety of childhood, albeit set against the rather fantastic backdrop of a world having come to grips with kaiju-like creatures stomping around every Friday evening. (There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil.)

    You spend much of your time in Attack of the Friday Monsters! balancing your relationships with other super young kids.
    You spend much of your time in Attack of the Friday Monsters! balancing your relationships with other super young kids.

    Isn’t that at the crux of the problem, though? It’s not that we’re tired of ambitious scope and extravagance, but so many games have done a poor job at establishing a relatable world with empathetic characters. The focus on characterization is why people are so passionate about BioWare’s games. Although Attack of the Friday Monsters! begins with a familiar premise, that premise isn’t immediately exploited to push the character into preposterous situations.

    Sohta is the 10-year-old at the heart of the game, and his family has just recently moved to a suburb of Tokyo to start a clothes cleaning business. Sohta’s father is clumsy and not particularly good at his job, and it’s clear he feels as though he’s disappointed his son with his choice of career. Washing clothes is not something Sohta can brag about at school, and the townsfolk whose clothes don’t come out perfect pick on poor Sohta. Much of the game is spent exploring a very tiny area over and over again, talking with characters, making new friends, collecting card pieces that are used in an entertaining variation of rock-paper-scissors, and trying to find the secret of Sohta’s new town. What he learns is heartwarming and not the least bit epic, underscored by the game's fascination about how children perceive reality compared to adults.

    And, gosh, it’s just charming and beautiful and you want to hug it from start to finish. There’s nothing else quite like it, and the description of “life simulation” I’ve seen attached to it is alarmingly appropriate. Some of us use games to escape from our own lives, but the lives we decide to escape to are, sadly, limited. Reveling in the normalness of others can be riveting, too.

    The Starship Damrey is, tonally, way over here, completely the other side of the spectrum. It’s a horror game, albeit one with a limited amount of actual horror to speak of. It’s more about a creepy tone, sense of dread, and culling atmosphere from the terror of isolation. It’s more than that, though. When The Starship Damrey boots up, it comes with an appropriate warning:

    “This game contains no tutorials or explanations. Part of the experience is to discover things yourself.”

    There's a whole lotta dead bodies in The Starship Damrey.
    There's a whole lotta dead bodies in The Starship Damrey.

    Weird, right? Right off the bat, before anything actually happens, prior to the appearance of a single polygon, The Starship Darmey has communicated its most essential quality, a message that immediately put me on high alert. The Starship Damrey, both the ship and the game, wants to invite you aboard and poke around. It puts trust in the player, rather than holding their hand.

    You awake inside an isolation chamber, try to reboot an operating system, and take control of a robot on a deserted spaceship, which probably means something went very wrong. Flicking off the light inside your chamber produces a distressing message about “Lucy,” but the chamber won’t open, and it’s time to guide this robot around and see what’s what.

    The game remains true to its word, and explains very little about itself. You can complete the whole thing in about 90 minutes, and it’d probably take less time if you don’t concern yourself with the game’s sole, optional collectible. It delivers some simple puzzles and a few effective jump scares along the way, and its minimalism keeps you on edge during the whole session. It becomes clear pretty early on that The Starship Damrey is gearing up for a singular revelation, and the payoff is extraordinary. I worry to say much more for fear of giving you too many ideas, but implore you to stick around through the whole credits sequence.

    I haven’t yet tried the third game in Guild 02, Inafune’s Bugs vs. Tanks, but given the pleasant strangeness of Attack of the Friday Monsters! and The Starship Damrey, I’m inclined to check it out. Let me know if you’ve played it, but in the meantime, these two come highly recommended for a lazy afternoon of gaming.

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    GaspoweR

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    WELL...wish I got a 3DS to check those out.

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    TheManWithNoPlan

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    #2  Edited By TheManWithNoPlan

    I really need to check out this and The Starship Damrey.

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    Mento

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    #3  Edited By Mento

    You know, I've already given you today's allotment of snark about ignoring Crimson Shroud (and by extension the other Guild 01 games) despite it being a Matsuno/Level-5 joint. No point flogging that dead Wiegraf again. But you're right, folk need to stop ignoring these.

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    MisterCrow

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    #4  Edited By MisterCrow

    Patrick you rock for continuing to provide the site with content like this. There are so many wonderful indie / small shop games out there I would otherwise be missing.

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    murph267

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    Well I guess I know what I am going to buy with the SMT4/Fire Emblem special of $30 worth of Nintendo e-shop credit now . Also what about the first wave of Level 5 3ds games like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud. Are those games any good?

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    deactivated-6157afb2b3c07

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    @murph267 said:

    Well I guess I know what I am going to buy with the SMT4/Fire Emblem special of $30 worth of Nintendo e-shop credit now . Also what about the first wave of Level 5 3ds games like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud. Are those games any good?

    Crimson Shroud is very good.

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    fistfulofmetal

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    #7  Edited By fistfulofmetal

    Starship Damrey was a pretty decent little game however I felt that the entire game did not live up to the really awesome first 10 minutes.

    Also the concept of it having no tutorial or explanations were a bit hollow to me considering the game features some extremely basic adventure mechanics that spell themselves out and make the solutions blatantly clear.

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    sonicrift

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    I was curious, but I think your recommendation pushed me over the edge.

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    Shaanyboi

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    Patrick, please continue to provide coverage of weird-ass eshop games.

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    ImmortalSaiyan

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    I would love to play attack of the friday monsters. I don't have a 3ds though.

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    Graham_Nix

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    @murph267: Crimson Shroud is really good, but know going in that it's part visual novel; be prepared to read.

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    Hunter5024

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    #13  Edited By Hunter5024

    Don't tell me what to do Patrick!

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    murph267

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    #14  Edited By murph267

    @graham_nix: Is it a well written game because if it is i won't mind the reading at all.

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    Nigthguy

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    I'll use those 30 eshop dollars I got from the SMT4 and Fire Emblem promotion to buy both of these games. Attack of the Friday monsters sounds especially interesting

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    recroulette

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    I bought LIberation Maiden last year and thought it was neat except for the fact that I couldn't play it left-handed. But yeah, most of these Guild games are pretty neat.

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    Seedofpower

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    I can't watch the video.

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    Raven10

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    Although people mostly associate Level 5 with Professor Layton, they do a ton of really interesting stuff. Shame a fair amount of it doesn't hit the US ever. Glad the eShop has given these games a chance to find an audience here.

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    GunstarRed

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    I have both Friday Monsters and Damrey on my system, I just haven't gotten around to them yet. I'm pretty drawn to the absurdity of Bugs Vs Tanks, but I heard it can be insanely punishing which put me off. I'm sure I'll get around to it at some point though. I wish this second set of games had something as bizarre as Liberation Maiden... That game is fuckin rad.

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    nickernzen

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    I wish we had a weekly podcast or at least a section on the Bombcast to cover these eShop releases!

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    violette015

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    #22  Edited By violette015

    Patrick you rock for continuing to provide the site with content like this. There are so many wonderful indie / small shop games out there I would otherwise be missing.

    Yeah I agree, Patrick's been knocking it out of the park lately, good show!

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    SatelliteOfLove

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    #23  Edited By SatelliteOfLove

    Anyone who owns a 3DS who hasn't bought Crimson Shroud is a known pedophile and doesn't turn in library books.

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    MormonWarrior

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    I've been burned whenever I get these kind of games. They're boring even if they're trying something different. When I get a 3DS again I'm not going to buy any eShop games except the very, very best this time. Like Pushmo and that's it.

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    BBQBram

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    Stop telling me what to ignore!

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    fisk0

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    #26 fisk0  Moderator

    i wish they'd do their crazy experiments on the Vita, as I don't own a 3DS.

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    LarcenousLaugh

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    Added to the list. Thanks for the read, Patrick.

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    crusader8463

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    STOP TELLING ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN'T IGNORE PATRICK! YOU'RE NOT MY DAD!

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    uomoartificiale

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    I played Starship Damrey expecting to love it, and I didn't like it at all. Sure it was superficially interesting but it had all the bad tropes of adventure games in the style of Myst, plus it wasn't very interactive and controlled poorly.

    I then played Attack of the Friday Monsters and I love it completely. I immediatly look at it as a piece of semi-interactive fiction. It never promised any interaction and so I was really glad when I got some. Super-charming and relaxing.

    The "salute" between the protagonist and the cop is worth the price of admission.

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    donchipotle

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    I never ignored them. I played them. I don't regret it.

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    Video_Game_King

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    @murph267 said:

    Well I guess I know what I am going to buy with the SMT4/Fire Emblem special of $30 worth of Nintendo e-shop credit now . Also what about the first wave of Level 5 3ds games like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud. Are those games any good?

    Crimson Shroud is very good.

    As is Liberation Maiden.

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    climax

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    I was very on the fence about this game, but you might have just pushed me over the edge to grab it. Attack of the Friday Monsters! looks great

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    jimmyfenix

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    You know what @patrickklepek you should take over NDX the train is coming back baby!

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    skelington_

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    I wish we had a weekly podcast or at least a section on the Bombcast to cover these eShop releases!

    OH IF ONLY

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    aerobatics

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    #35  Edited By aerobatics

    Gonna ignore them even harder!

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    LandonRobinson

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    Been thinking about these recently, wanting to give them a fair look. Looks like I have my answer.

    Thanks for the reminder, Patrick!

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    the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG

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    Ive never seen the eshop before.... I need a 3DS soon

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    paulunga

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    #38  Edited By paulunga

    This is kinda stupid. the eshop is host to many unique and interesting games, not just the Guild01/02 stuff. It's been a good, worthwhile service for a while now.

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    falserelic

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    This isn't my cup of hyphy mud, so I'm going to leave it alone.

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    csl316

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    The Kaiju concept page image is perfect.

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    me3639

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    Ill stick to Steam Indie games and pc mods.

    BTW, "Balancing my relationships with super young kids" sounds creepy.

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    Eribuster

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    Hurrah! Love for the Guild.

    Liberation Maiden is a fun, little shooter and Crimson Shroud is a great JRPG with table-top trappings. When the next eShop sale comes around, I recommend picking those up.

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    buzz_clik

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    Huh, just finished Starship Damrey last night - a timely article! I really liked what it was doing, and would have happily played more, but as it stands it's a solid little condensed vignette that I think works at its final length.

    And I was eyeing off Attack of the Friday Monsters while I was away overseas, but connecting to hotel WiFi sucks with a 3DS, so downloading stuff wasn't really gonna happen. But thanks for jogging my memory, Patrick. Might peep it tonight!

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    pocketroid

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    Guild01 games - all bought

    Guild02 games - bought Attack of the Friday Monsters!

    The eShop is my favourite part of the 3DS, the main draw for me.

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    Bolt3

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    Attack of the Friday Monsters is really, really good :) Check it out, and thanks for the shout out Patrick! Underappreciated gem.

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    Majkiboy

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    This should be relevant to all interests! ^^

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    deactivated-66361f5b4a584

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    Patrick you should do a nintendownload x-press with Jeff.

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    Pilzi

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    Level 5 makes me wish I owned a 3DS...

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    alexe0506

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