Saturday, 14 March 2015

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters

I generally hate visuals novels. I ranted about this last September during my review of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the PS Vita game that placed you as a student in a school that had to get away with murder- literally. Despite my general disdain for visual novels (like really, why not just read a book!?) I quite enjoyed Danganronpa 2. It suited the PS Vita handheld experience, as instead of sitting back and reading text from a TV in my living room like a prat, I was often playing it while curled up in bed like a twonk. Sadly, this game wasn't the same cosy experience as Dananronpa 2 was, as instead Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters was confusing and often just boring.

Developed by Toybox Games and out now for Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita comes Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, a game full of interesting ideas and concepts, but one that ultimately fails to capitalize on all of them. Like many Japanese games, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters places you in the shoes of a young student. You've just enrolled in Kurenai Academy, and after a rather typical first day you find out that a female student has jumped to her death from the roofof her school. Disturbed yet intrigued by this news, you decide to go and investigate the scene of the students death. Upon finding the suicide spot, you're brought face to face with an evil spirit, a creepy guy in a red jacket brandishing a meat cleaver. You and the students manage to defeat him, and soon after you're contacted by a woman offering you an invitation into the Gate Keepers; a secret group that perform exorcisms across Tokyo after dark. After accepting you now moonlight as a ghost hunter, accepting missions from the Gate Keepers regarding any paranormal mysteries that pop up. It's like The X-Files meets the Persona series, and while that sounds great on paper, the reality isn't that thrilling.

The game plays out like a TV series that has chapters coming across more like episodes, with even each chapter having an intro with music. These chapters nicely break up the game, and though I really looked forward to seeing what would happen during an upcoming episode, I was disappointed that there wasn't an overarching narrative in Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. This leads to the game being playable, but ultimately feeling like it's going nowhere really. Though I made it sound like the game is a visual novel from start to finish, that isn't exactly the true. It's more of a combination between a visual novel and an action RPG, but it sadly doesn't nail neither of those genres satisfactorily. Most of the game will be spent talking to characters, and this is presented by hand-drawn, slightly animated cardboard cut-out anime characters on top of completely static backgrounds. Needless to say, it's rather bland at times even if the somewhat subtle animations (breathing in and out, hair movements) are nicely achieved.

However, the big screw up in Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters occurs when you need to interact with give responses to chracters. Instead of talking you must give emotional responses, and this whole game mechanic is just weird, misused and useless. Basically, when you need to give a response a wheel pops up with four emotions. The game never tells you what these symbols mean, so through Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters you're left to figuring it out via trial and error. This doesn't always work though, as one response for one character might mean a completely different thing to someone else. This leads to a massive portion of the game being ruined by a completely cock-up in terms of game design.

Combat isn't much better either, but it at least tries to be different. Presented in a top-down POV and depicted with very -and I mean very- minimalistic graphics, the combat isn't like a typical RPG. Instead of, you know, walking up to an enemy and attacking it, these ghosts you fight will always move before you attack. This essentially means that when attacking you need to guess where an enemy will be after they move. I can see why they did this, and though this does often lead to the player working out an enemies movement pattern, and then getting into a cool little game of cat and mouse with them, it can mostly be infuriating. What's worse is that while chasing an enemy attacking certain objects around you can lead to property damages, and that is taken out of your money. Nothing is worse than trying to attack an enemy for 15 minutes, only to have been destroying half the room while trying to get in 1 hit. Ugh.

Overall Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is an interesting idea that is just wasted. Though the visuals can be rather striking, and the general atmosphere of the game is creepy and unnerving, it fails too often to call it a success.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters forgets its proton pack and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters at CeX

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