That Kaz Ayabe’s coming-of-age tale should arrive at the same time as Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim could either be considered fortuitous or unfortunate timing, depending on your perspective. Both game and film feature kaiju, the colossal creations popularised by the Japanese movie industry in the 1950s, though the two couldn’t be less alike. This tale of a rustic town visited weekly by monsters in ‘70s Japan eschews bombast and spectacle for an intimate fable that casts an electrifying spell.
It follows the ten-year-old Sohta, as he attempts to acclimatise to his new home. Like his schoolmates, he’s obsessed with the hero shows of the time, and bonds with his peers over games of monster cards. These challenges prompt simple, but disarmingly engaging rock-paper-scissors battles, where the loser becomes the winner’s servant. Succeed, and you can cast a spell (which can be customised from several commands and gibberish phrases) that makes your opponent fall over, whereupon you command them to “arise!” This delightful ritual is typical of the skill with which the game captures the patterns of childhood speech and behaviour, while the world is framed with a delicate, nostalgic beauty.
A Toyko Tale is brief and entirely linear – in the main, you’re simply walking between numbered waypoints, though you can unlock certain dialogues by losing your servant status – but Ayabe transports you so utterly to an unfamiliar time and place that it matters little. By the outlandish and oddly touching final act showdown, you’ll be a rapt spectator, cheering on the heroes alongside Sohta and his newfound friends.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is out now on 3DS.