Aksys Games (NA), NIS America, Inc. (EU) / ARC SYSTEM WORKS, TOYBOX INC.
Visual Novel, Strategy RPG
ESRB Teen, PEGI 12
Who ya gonna call? Ghostb…. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, not quite the same! With a name like Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters you’d be forgiven for thinking this game is a horror title, in fact, I’d say it’s more along the lines of Scooby Do or what a Japanese version may look like.
You play as a new transfer student at Kurenai Academy, that just so happens to be experiencing a little ghost problem, enter the – Gate Keepers. Under the guise of a paranormal occult magazine publisher, the Gate Keepers secretly take on requests for exorcisms. Having the ability to see ghosts yourself you end up helping the Gate Keepers in riding your new school of its unwelcome guest. Having joined the Gate Keepers after the first chapter you now progress through each chapter, taking on investigation, preparation and eventual exorcism. The Gate Keepers even have their own Mystery Machine within which you can pick your own music, via the tape deck, to pump you up for the battles ahead. The story plays out in chapters with thirteen chapters in all, each starting and ending with a theme song much like a series of anime. Each chapter focuses on a different request that has been submitted to Gate Keepers, allowing you to get involved with each set of characters as they appear.
Without any explanation you are introduced to the Emotion and Sensory Input Systems very early in the game, this works by allowing you to choose any number of 26 different combinations to interact with the world. The Emotion input allows you to choose between Love, Friendship, Anger, Sadness and Anxiety while the Sensory inputs give you Taste, Smell, Hearing, Sight and Touch. In combination they allow you to interact with people, objects and ghost or you can even choose to do nothing. With no explanation or tutorial to go on you are left to your own devices of trial and error, while there doesn’t seem to be any negative affect to choosing the wrong combination it does make for some entertaining moments.
The battle system works similar to a strategy-RPG and takes place through the use of an Ouija pad, a paranormal tablet device, which has a grid-based layout of the room in which you will do battle. Unlike standard strategy-RPGs however, both the player and the ghosts move at the same time, predicting where the ghost will move and making use of traps is key to clearing the mission. The battle system can be extremely frustrating at times and when you somehow manage you lose your first battle, a tutorial one at that, it’s a real kick in the teeth. A better and more in-depth explanation would not go amiss here as this is really the one and only tutorial in the entire game. In future battles you can make preparations beforehand by placing traps and various items in order to corner your ghost, giving you the chance to get enough hits in to actually exorcise it.
Outside of the main story your hub of operations will be Gate Keepers HQ here you can accept requests for exorcisms, these are side missions outside of the main story. Train with other members of Gate Keepers allowing you to learn useful skills to take into battle and also make preparations for upcoming story or side missions. Taking part in side missions early in the game will be your best friend, as it allows you to learn the ins and outs of the battle system and the extensive range of traps and items that can be used. The briefing desk is where you will make your preparations, here you can see the layout of your missions and where you can set traps and varying items in order to hurt, corner or slow the ghost.
One of the best parts of the game is the cash flow report; this shows you your total profit after clearing a mission. Items used during the preparation stage and any furniture damaged during the battle stage are charged to the Gate Keepers. You can, of course, turn a profit which gives you a lot more freedom on what items can be used but keep getting in the red and you’ll need to improve your strategy. While battles can be frustrating it’s great when you’re rewarded for good strategy.
The game employs a new animation technique termed GHOST, Graphic Horizontal Object Streaming, while not confined to only the character portraits this is where the feature truly shines. Gone are the days of static portraits that occasionally blink at set intervals, GHOST brings the characters to life with a realistic “softness”. The subtle movements the characters make as though breathing and reactions to choices you make during the game all work together to bring a real lifelike feeling to the characters.
With a game that doesn’t have a great deal of voice work the fact that this is Japanese language only doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. The only areas where voices are present are very few and far between. The soundtrack largely follows rock-themed music, an odd choice for a game of this genre but it actually works very well given the motley crew of characters involved rock is certainly the most fitting choice of music. Nobuo Uematsu did the composition on the theme song but don’t expect anything Final Fantasy here.
Using the R1 button to continue the dialogue seems like a revelation, being so much more comfortable why we haven’t seen it before I don’t know. I feel the PlayStation 3 version suffers a little being only able to save at certain points, while the Vita version is the same in that regard it does allow you go into sleep mode and pick again later on. Given that this is primarily a visual novel the option to save during lengthy dialogue scenes would have been a nice addition.
Frustrating and annoying battle system aside Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is an enjoyable and rewarding game with a great cast of characters and entertaining story. The GHOST animation is brilliant throughout and even after hours of playtime still wows with its natural movements and gestures. The cash flow report is a nice little addition that really gives you a sense of achievement when your strategy pays off. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is packed full of unique and exciting features combined with a great story, you'll be missing out not picking this game up.