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Who You Gonna Call? Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Review
Released for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a stylish visual novel with strategy and role-playing accents. Like other popular visual novels, the story is divided into chapters and follows a company of ghost hunters known as the Gatekeepers. There are two sections in each chapter: the dialogue segments introducing the case, and the exorcism where you control the team’s actions to defeat the mission’s main target. These dialogue sections are pretty to look at, with detailed sprites and smooth animations ferrying players through the story.
So far so good, but then the confusion starts.
In the middle of dialogue, the player is often prompted to “interact” by first picking one of five symbols to (presumably) determine the attitude of the action, then another additional symbol to specify the action itself. The first five symbols are a heart, a fist, a person’s head with a question mark, a teary eye and a handshake. The secondary symbols are a palm, an eye, a tongue and a nose. A few of the symbols may seem self-explanatory, but they are not. I never knew if I was going to hug or grope someone, reply to a question or give them a kiss, nod in agreement or stare blankly like a lobotomized monkey.
This aspect of the gameplay is never explained either. I found myself just trying to shake hands with everybody when the symbols came up, but it’s too bad most of the characters in the game do not want to shake hands. If you try a different action, the other characters ask why you’re all spaced out, or wonder why you’re sniffing the air all of a sudden. It felt like the game was mocking me by presenting choices that all resulted in equal but different lunacy. Luckily, for the more important scenes Tokyo Twilight uses traditional prompts where the player can pick between two clear options instead of having to worry about the nonsensical symbol system.
Despite the cryptic symbol interactions, the game mechanics in the actual ghost hunting sections are much more simple. Before the mission, players have the option to purchase different types of traps that might come in handy. One trap creates a ghost-proof barrier, one attracts the wily phantoms, and one forces them to move to a certain direction.
The selected traps are then put in place on the grid-based map before the mission starts. Placing them strategically is key to a quick victory. The ghosts often destroy the traps they come across, which helps you to pinpoint their current location, even if they are not in your field of vision.
Every mission has a main target, but there are also other ghosts that can attack your party. Defeating the main target is essentially a turn-based game of hide-and-seek with a time-limit. The player issues orders to every party member on the overhead map. They can move a certain number of grids at a time, use items and attack. You also get information via radio at the start of every turn. When a ghost is encountered, the view briefly changes into first-person perspective– really the only difference between this and a board game. Once a ghost is spotted on the map, their movement can be predicted to some extent.
The ghost hunting is fun and engaging enough, but it’s a shame that most of the time is spent looking at a boring and simplistic map. Since the visuals are otherwise so engaging, it’s questionable why developer Aksys couldn’t (or didn’t) make the ghost hunting a little more stimulating.
After every mission, your ghost hunting team gets awarded money and experience points. A short conclusion to the chapter follows, then the next one starts. Another paranormal case’s introduction, investigation, then an exorcism. Rinse and repeat. That is one of the problems in Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. There is no gameplay variety, and the characters aren’t interesting enough to hook the player. Besides the dialogue segments and ghost hunting, you get to buy new items and equipment, and spend TP (training points) that you gain from missions to train with one of your party members and raise their stats. That’s it. Other interactive visual novel type games like Danganronpa offer plenty of gameplay variety, making Tokyo Twilight pale in comparison.
Let’s end on a positive note. Besides how impressed I was by the visual style, the soundtrack is great. The groovy instrumental tunes greatly compliment the atmosphere and stand out amidst the game’s minimal voice acting. Varying from moody acoustic ballads to energetic hard rock with great bass lines, the BGM tracks never fail to make the scenes a little cooler. There were multiple times where I found myself bobbing my head to the catchy beat and forgetting to proceed with the dialogue.
Overall, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a shallow game with a lot of style. I would not recommend it for PlayStation 3 as there are much better console SRPGs to choose from. If you’re a fan of visual novels, pick it up for the Vita where the competition is a bit less stiff. I would wait for the price to drop a little first, though.