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How Attack of the Friday Monsters depicts Japan like it's our own backyard

attack-friday-monsters

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Little fanfare was made around Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale’s initial release. It’s not a surprise considering most Nintendo fans were busy celebrating the long-awaited Virtual Console release of EarthBound.

Thanks to Nintendo’s Indie Week, Attack of the Friday Monsters was brought back to the forefront of the 3DS eShop. It’s a title that left a huge impression on me with its childlike innocence and heart-warming characters.

If you haven’t heard of Attack of the Friday Monsters, it’s hardly your fault. There was a lone trailer for the English release, and what is shown offers little insight into the experience. The trailer features a young boy doing a lot of walking around as giant monsters fight in the background. It’s accurate but lacks context.

Once you start a new game, everything becomes clearer as the most charming opening-credits scene ever created plays. The 10-year-old protagonist, Sohta, sings about himself, his father’s job as a dry cleaner, his mother’s love of cooking, and the Japanese town of Fuji no Hana, where he recently moved.

On a Friday morning in summer 1971, Sohta’s family sends him out to deliver laundry to a nearby neighbor. Despite the short trip, he becomes sidetracked with investigating a strange phenomenon: Everday Friday, giant monsters appear on the outskirts of town.

Solving the mystery behind the monsters is the driving force, but getting a glimpse into the life of the townsfolk reveals the true quality and love in the writing. The kids cast fake spells on each other, and the victim voluntarily falls to the ground. They gossip and make assumptions about monsters, adults, and classmates, exaggerating as children often do. The real stories fall within the passing conversations of the adults, who are somewhat aloof as Sohta is oblivious or confused by their troubles.

attack of the Friday monsters Resized

Fully exploring Fuji no Hana doesn’t take long, but the characters that live there frequently move, often triggering a new set of dialogue to enjoy. This is essentially a picture book you can explore. Beautiful hand-drawn scenes set the backdrop. On the edge of town, flat green farmlands stretch across the distance and meet the base of the mountains, and factories from the next town over pump black smoke into the blue sky. All of this is set to ambient bird and cicada songs mixed with the occasional sound of distant trains.

Within the town are small and wooden houses, where most families both live and run their businesses. A peppy TV announcer and wind chimes can be heard from the households as Sohta runs by open doors. Toward the north, a railroad-crossing signal rings endlessly as trains pass and conductors announce stops in a monotone voice. This impeccable attention to detail and atmosphere completes Attack of the Friday Monsters as a package.

The majority of us didn’t grow up in 1970s Japan, but Attack of the Friday Monsters tickles the player’s childhood nostalgia either way, creating a warm, feel-good experience. It may not have any active challenges as a traditional game does, but its world is one that many can fall in love with.