Ghostwire Tokyo Is The Weirdest Title I've Experienced In A While
And yet it is also quite possibly up there as one of my top three favorite titles of 2022 so far. So much so that I got carried away with my allotted time of "one-hour gameplay maximum for a first impressions preview." Every time something new was revealed to me in Ghostwire Tokyo, I wanted to see more of it. Despite being set in Tokyo, a city that has been run to the ground in video games, it was completely foreign to me. Tango Gameworks' idealization of Tokyo is one that's both inviting and repelling.
This Tokyo is full of the bright lights, blaring music, and liveliness one would come to expect from the city. Everything appears normal until the silence kicks in. Heaps of clothing, purses, backpacks and other personal belongings clutter the streets. Pockets of ominous fog that threaten to spirit away the player make many of its streets inaccessible. The only residents in this ghost town are the ghosts. It's just the player and the spirits beyond that make up the population of Tokyo. It's up to the player to save the city.
Akito Izuki: Spirit Detective
Meet Akito Izuki, a young college student victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. On his way to visit his sister, Mari, he gets into a motorcycle accident just outside of the Scramble. Because everything always happens at the Scramble, including Tokyo residents being spirited away. In the midst of this chaos, a spirit sees Akito's body and attempts to possess it, thinking that the boy is dead. Turns out being on the brink of death isn't exactly the same as being dead, as Akito wrests control of his body from the spirit. Thus begins the game's first fight against some dapper ghosts in business suits wielding umbrellas.
Ghostwire Tokyo is set in first-person, with controls similar to that of a first-person shooter. Akito has
a spirit gun the ability to shoot wind bullets from his fingertips thanks to the power of the ghost inside him. The controls feel like a first-person shooter but are way laxer in comparison. You don't get bonus multipliers for headshots or reload your finger gun, just a way to destroy your enemies. Eventually, the du reaches the hospital only to find Mari kidnapped by a person in a Hannya mask. After this, the spirit, named "KK," and Akito comes to a mutual agreement in helping each other out, stopping Hannya, saving Mari, and other trapped spirits within Tokyo. Replace KK and Akito with Botan and Yusuke and it's Yu Yu Hakusho. Kinda.
Ghostwire Tokyo Shouldn't Be Compared With The Evil Within
Both games are very different from each other, like, by a lot and they should be cherished for their contributions to Tango Gameworks. While Shinji Ikami directed The Evil Within and is the executive producer of Ghostwire Tokyo due to his role as founder of Tango, he did not direct this title. Those accolades go to Kenji Kimura, who previously worked at Bandai Namco as a designer for the Tekken, Soul Calibur, and God Eater series. This makes sense as almost all of the designs in this game are colorful and vivid from the world of Tokyo to the character designs themselves. It is also not a survival horror game, but an action-adventure title with suspenseful aesthetics.
There's one moment in the game where Akito enters KK's old apartment to uncover information and arm himself. Upon leaving, the entire apartment complex is in danger of collapsing from an unseen force. Said force is the work of a Visitor, the group of enemies that the duo has been facing up until this point. The only way to prevent this is to break the seals trapping the duo within the complex and each seal is in a different apartment. The apartments, under this spell, change shapes and forms bending to the Visitor's will. At some point, the entire apartment shifts, transforming into a sudden platforming sequence. Once the seal is broken the illusion is shattered and everything turns to normal.
Animals And Japanese Snacks Are Your Friends
It was sequences like these that made me want to explore more of what Ghostwire Tokyo had to offer. To explain everything that happens during that mission would ruin its surprise and its lasting effects. Tango's brilliance in giving the players shock value without relying on jump scares and grotesque horrors is what makes Ghostwire Tokyo a beautiful experience. The more things appear "normal and realistic," the startling it is when reality bends into itself. The last time I felt this emotional tug-of-war was during the original Silent Hill titles.
Occasionally, there are animals such as dogs and cats who roam the streets of Tokyo. They will alert the player of anomalies such as the Visitors attempting to capture a spirit. Freeing the spirit, saving them to a talisman, and releasing the spirits at a phone booth will be the player's secondary mission. The player can even pet the dog, which will not only net a trophy but the gratification of petting a dog.
As Akito finds and purchases snacks, lengthy, almost peculiarly descriptive, information about each food appears in the game's dossier. At one point I can admit that it made me hungry for some Japanese snacks. Perhaps it was Tango's intention. There are nekomata who take over abandoned convenience stores, selling important items to Akito in exchange for spirit currency. After years of saying that "cats run the bodega/corner store," here we have Ghostwire Tokyo proving this to the world.
Despite Rocky Beginnings, Ghostwire Tokyo Is Worth It
Ultimately, Ghostwire Tokyo was well worth the wait despite its delays and internal conflicts. Unfortunately, it was enough for former creative director Ikumi Nakamura to leave both the project and the company. There's an extensive read about Nakamura-san as well as her decision, which lead her to create Unseen, her own development studio.
Despite this, one can argue if it wasn't for her jubilant personality at E3 2019, Ghostwire Tokyo would not have had the push it needed to get people interested. So far, it seems like it all worked out for everyone as this is not only Tango's strongest title, but it's certainly a GOTY contender.
Ghostwire Tokyo is available on PC and PlayStation 5.