Nothing gets me more excited, when it comes to video games, than quirky Japanese RPGs do. The trend in most of these types of games is to have a setting that takes place in some type of high school with most of the characters being teenagers. There are a few adults added in to balance out the cast but the primary focus of the stories mainly revolve around how these teens deal with the issues that they are confronted with. So, take high school kids in Tokyo that band together to rid an entire city that is infested with ghosts and who you gonna call? Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a visual novel/strategy RPG game that puts you into the shoes of a ghost hunter and his crew of Gate Keepers. Developers ARC System Works and Toybox lnc. with publisher Aksys Games have come together to bring you the next line of ghost-busters and throws you head-first into life-or-death battles against the ghosts that lurk in the darkness of Tokyo.
This is what you will see for most of the novel sections of the game. The characters designs are reminiscent of oil paintings almost with a cool anime flair.
Gameplay in Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is split into two sections: the visual novel sections and the ghost hunting sections where you will actually engage ghosts and send them on to the afterlife. The two sections meld seamlessly together to create an experience that is unique and more that a little intriguing. The visual novel sections are the foundation of the game as it sets up the characters and the ghostly storyline. The game moves forward through the dialogue between the main characters as it delves into their likes and dislikes and you learn what type of person they are in addition to their motivations for being Gate Keepers. The novel portions of the game go into great depth about the characters, situations and ghosts that you are encountering and are important to following how each of the main characters evolve as the story progresses.
This is the main office of Gate Keepers Inc and your hub to all of the different areas of the game.
Where the visual novel sections mainly have you reading dialogue and occasionally choosing responses to your fellow Gate Keepers inquiries, the ghost hunting sections is where all of the action takes place. Early on in the game you join up with a group of like minded students and a few adults of Gate Keepers Inc; a company set up to rid their clients of pesky evil ghosts that may be inhabiting their homes or offices. Requests for exorcisms are received via a secret website that is accessed on a computer in the home office of Gate Keepers. This office serves as the main hub of the game where you can complete many different tasks such as equipping the items and tools that you will need to fight ghosts, train with your fellow ghost hunters to level up as well as to save your current progress. It is here that you will take care of the necessary tasks to prepare you for hunting ghosts and to progress through each episode of the game.
During briefing, you get to see the approximate locations of the ghosts that have been reported at that location. Plan your attack accordingly.
Before you can head out on an exorcism, you must head to the Briefing Desk to be briefed on the nature of the particular ghost that is causing trouble and where it is taking place. In the briefing, you will be presented with a grid layout of the location that the ghost is inhabiting. Here you will be able to place items on the map from your inventory that will aid you in dispatching the ghosts. Items like salt (a ghost can’t cross over salt), traps that attract the ghost to a certain area as well as scanning equipment that will help to pin down the exact location of the ghosts can be placed on the map and be used to give you an edge when you come up against a particularly nasty poltergeist. The strategy comes in when you have a limited amount of hunting items that you can place, each map is different and therefore changes the difficulty of the hunt and the number of additional ghosts that is accompanying the particular ghost that you are tracking. In addition, you only have so many minutes (think: rounds) per scenario so you have to decide if its worth exorcising other ghosts or to just concentrate on removing the main focus of your hunt.
There is a fog of war that is only cleared away in your immediate surroundings or if you employ ghost sensors.
Once the planning is done at the Briefing Desk, you choose your party members and its on to the location to begin the hunt. The battle-map looks similar to the briefing map with slightly more details and will show icons representing the traps that you have set out as well as other elements present in the location such as walls, chairs, tables and the ghosts themselves once they are detected. You and your party members are represented on the map as different colored arrows inside of a circle. Depending on the level that you and your party members are will determine the number of action points that you can use per turn. You can use your action points to move a certain number of spaces and standby, move a certain number of spaces and attack or just make an attack. When you come within a certain range of a ghost, you can attack it or it will attack you so knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team will go a long way towards helping you to dispatch the ghosts and collecting your fee for services rendered.
Once combat has begun, the screen will transition to a first person view of the ghost and battle will begin automatically. Damage is taken or given by your current stats.
In order to create a unique look for the game, two renowned character and animation artists were tapped to create visuals that would be worthy of a game about hunting ghosts in Tokyo, Japan. Character designer Chinatsu Kurahana was tasked with creating character designs that are attractive and showcase a variety of lifestyles and moods as well as ghosts that are believable and scary. Animation designer Koya Takahashi created a completely new animations style called “GHOST” to bring the characters to life. By placing an emphasis on conveying the characters subtle movements, such as breathing, it allowed the characters to more resemble actual human movement and you can constantly see the flow of time. This is a huge step forward in the visual graphics style for this type of game because in the past, game designers have mostly relied on still character images and backgrounds for the visuals.
Sayuri Mifune is one of the first people that you meet and will become a valued asset to the team.
The excellent soundtrack for Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters was created by famed game music composer, Nobuo Uematsu. The creator of scores of musical accompaniment for video games for the last several decades including Final Fantasy, Uematsu San put together some very masterful creations to back up the onscreen ghost battles and the novel sections. In homage to the band Led Zepplin, each episode opens with rock music that was heavily inspired by their classic rock sound. The voice overs in the game, while somewhat sparse and in Japanese, are done by some very talented voice actors.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a game that I really wasn’t expecting…but in a good way. This game makes no bones about what it is and that is a visual novel, first and foremost. The story is completely conveyed to the player through very detailed and copious amounts dialogue. There are some stretches of dialogue in the game that went for forty-five minutes during my play-through. There is a lot to read, and this may turn gamers away that was thinking that this is a game based purely on action. The good thing is that the writing is superb, the characters are interesting and the story is fun and fantastic.
Characters come in all types so the story never gets dull.
I did find it quite odd, however, that in this day and age of the game manual being accessible in-game, this game did not offer any type of in-game documentation of any kind. The game is offered on a disc so it comes with the paper manual that you can go to for help if your get stuck or just want more information about the games many mechanics. The game is also offered as a digital download from the PlayStation store, so if you want any further information on the game, you have to turn to the Internet. My review copy was in the form of a digital download so in trying to find more information about how to play the game, the Internet is what I had to turn to. It is being offered on the PSN for $39.99 for PS3 and VITA. That’s not a bad price for a unique video game ghost hunting experience that combines the ghost hunting of Scooby Doo with the ghost trapping of Ghostbusters.
Bustin' makes me feel goooooood!!!
Challenge - 9/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Design - 8/10
+ Unique gameplay and visual style
+ Lots of interesting characters
+ Ghost hunting premise is fresh idea
+ The music is some of the best I’ve heard this year
– No in-game manual?
– Lots, and lots of dialogue