Tokyo Tattoo Girls is definitely a strange game. If you’ve taken a look at any of the trailers for it then you can be forgiven for assuming that it’s going to be some kind of JRPG – even the opening cutscene feels like typical JRPG territory. But ignore your initial preconceptions, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is actually a strategy game and though it has the basis of something promising it unfortunately ends up falling a bit flat.

The setting for the game, as the name suggests, is in Tokyo. An unspecified disaster has struck the city and strange tattoos have appeared on some of the female inhabitants giving them special powers. The city has been quarantined off from the rest of the world. Each of Tokyo’s 23 wards is controlled by a different clan which has a different powerful lady at the helm. While the story begins well, unfortunately nothing ever seems to happen with it which makes you wonder why a plot was included at all.

You’ll be playing as a "Tattoo Master” and will get to select one of six different ladies with which to try to take over Tokyo with. The background story for some of the characters is a little weird; for example, one of the girls you can pick is a porn actress who is trying to find her grandmother. She seems to think that if she stars in porn movies her grandmother will see them and come to find her, which does make you wonder if this means that dear old granny is well known for watching lots of porn. It’s a little bit odd to say the least.

During gameplay you’ll start off by selecting one ward to invade and eventually try to expand and conquer the whole map. You do this by making use of various commands such as recruiting (this reduces the opposing army numbers while increasing your own) or you can hide your presence from rival bosses. If rivals do notice you then an alarm might ring out which will decrease your honour meter; if your honour meter reaches zero then it’s game over. To be honest the game does an incredibly poor job of explaining its mechanics to you. Many of our early hours with the game were spent just randomly pressing all options to try to work out what things did. It was only after the first playthrough that things started to actually make sense.

Once you’ve recruited all of a ward’s inhabitants you’ll get into a boss fight with that area’s clan leader. While this could have been an opportunity to introduce some kind of fun minigame, you instead get a short visual novel-style cutscene. A conversation will take place between the clan leader and your tattooed lady friend, during which you’ll be able to select one of three dialogue choices. Regardless of the option you pick you’ll always win the fight. Choosing the best dialogue option will reward you by recovering more of your honour meter but as you can never lose it ends up feeling a bit pointless.

There’s also a tattoo system to get involved with. Every in-game day that passes will grant you some protection money which, in addition to use on special commands, can also be spent on your lady’s tattoo collection. Different tattoos will have different effects, making it easier to recruit enemies, increase money, or reduce the risk of alerting regions to your activities. Once you complete all of the tattoos and get to see the Japanese style tattoo in full it’s actually quite beautiful.

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is ok to play in small doses but it doesn’t feel like it has much depth to it. There’s a pointless story and weird characters which don’t add anything of value to the game. The only real redeeming feature is the artwork. Overall it feels like something you’d download to your smartphone and then delete within days.

Conclusion

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is a simple strategy game which can be fun in small doses but is sadly not interesting enough to keep you playing for long. The story is poor, the characters are strange (and not in a good way), and the gameplay is lacking. The artwork and tattoos look gorgeous, so it’s a pity they weren’t in a better game.