Who you gonna call? High school students apparently.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, from Toybox Games, is available on PS3 and Vita, bringing its very own style of quirky ghost hunting gameplay involving part visual novel and part strategic board game, all with more than a hint of luck and randomness. You gotta love these niche Japanese titles, you really can’t predict what you will get…
So, the game begins with the player as a new student at Kurenai Academy, a role that is quite normal in many Japanese games.It is your first day and, rather than a productive day of learning, the player will quite quickly, after meeting some characters, find themselves dealing with a ghost. The obvious outcome of this encounter is that the player is quickly joins the Gate Keepers, a group of Tokyo ghost busters who happen to work behind the front of a publishing company, taking on jobs for various haunted individuals as they come up.
It’s not exactly the deepest of setups, feeling more like a pilot for a TV show than an epic movie, which is quite handy as the game itself is divided into chapters that even come with their own closing credits on completion. The episodes last for up to an hour, making the game ideal for commuters or lunch break ghost hunters, and the game follows a “monster of the week” format with each episode revolving around a new spook in a self contained style. It is quite nicely done and I have to admit enjoying this format.
So, episodes begin with someone having a ghostly problem which they want dealt with. Before jumping into the actual capturing of the ghost, there is a fair amount of talking and preparation. This part of the game is laid out like a visual novel, with plenty of reading for the player to do as they get deeper into the characters and the story for this episode. It never really goes so deep as to fully involve the player, but it moves along reasonably quickly and is quite easy and enjoyable to follow.
Players are able to interact in these parts of the game occasionally, but the outcomes don’t really have much of an impact on the direction the game is taking. Sometimes, the player will be presented with simple multiple choices, other times the player will interact using a strange series of choice wheels. With no explanations given, the player will be presented with a wheel offering different emotions, followed by another wheel with a choice of which sense to use. It will take some time for the player to work out which selections are required for any given situation, and I wouldn’t want to spoil that journey of discovery here, as it is quite fun. However, I don’t know if I could spoil it as every time I think I have worked it out, the game seems to change its mind as to what the results are. It is a strange system, but at least the results don’t have much of an effect on the overall direction of the story.
The player will find themselves having to level up their team in preparation for the actual act of dealing with the ghost. Traps and gear need to be readied before finally heading to the more strategic side of the game. There are also smaller battles, side missions of sorts, outside of the main story which the player can grind in order to increase their leveling.
Here in the act of capturing the ghost, or ghosts as it often turns out, play takes place on a grid. Each character in your team of up to four has a limited number of action points with which the player can plan their movement and other actions. Then, when it comes time to execute the actions, both the ghosts and the players team execute at the same time. This means that the player has to predict where the ghost will move, although the game does indicate the possibilities of the ghosts movement before hand so the player can at least make an informed guess. Still, luck is involved and instances of attacking empty space as the ghost has moved elsewhere can be common, and also pricy as damage to the location will be charged to the team, and could possibly leave the job with a loss.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is, for the most part, quite a good looking game. The battles are the obvious exception, where a lot of the action takes place from a top down view of what could be a blueprint of the area. Outside of battle, there is a real style to the game and it is quite pleasing to look at. Fonts on the Vita screen are a little smaller than would have been nice, obviously more suited to the big screen and PS3, and the UI is not always as straight forward as it could be. But, in all, the game looks good.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is yet another niche game from Japan. Fans of the visual novels may well find it a little thin, and strategy fans will be troubled by the level of luck required. That being said, it is an interesting and good looking combination, and the short episode style and quirky interactions certainly make the game enjoyable. If you regularly enjoy the more niche videogame offerings, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is certainly different and could be worth checking out.