LifeisXbox’s Ghostwire: Tokyo review | I love Japan. Its culture. Its history. Customs and cuisine. Manga and anime. Most definitely their video games and consoles. So when I watched Bethesda’s 2019 E3 presentation I only just managed to catch my jaw on the way down as Shinji Mikami and Ikumi Nakamura from Tango Gameworks took the stage to present us with the trailer and premise for Ghostwire: Tokyo. The atmosphere. The mystery. The allure of seeing all these myths and urban legends I’ve read about and seen hinted at in anime and manga translated into an interactive experience from a big name studio. I had to play this. And so I did!
Most Memorable Moment
The most memorable moment for me by far is when reality went a bit unstable and started shifting in front of my very eyes. This can happen on the regular during story missions, but even during side missions. So whilst I won’t delve too deeply into the details, I did capture some spoiler-free footage of one of these dreamlike trips.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we Liked!
- Collectathon | The last time a Bethesda game had me turn the place upside down like this I had just assembled the crown of Barenziah. In Tokyo, however, you’re not looking for gems, but for more or less every and any kind of cultural collectable under the moon. Hunt for Jizo statues to boost your elemental ammo capacities. Sniff out Tanuki tails all across the city to reunite the raccoon dogs with their boss. Scour the streets for K.K.’s lost case files and Voice logs. While these will already keep you quite busy, there’s more still. Because all over Tokyo you’ll find these Nekomata (cat spirits) operating street stalls where they’ll trade treasures for Meika, Ghostwire Tokyo’s currency, clothes and other customization options. The Tanuki’s will even reward you with emotes for the photo mode. Now, these treasures can really be anything. Find a Rhino beetle on a tree? Better take that. Got a kite stuck in some antenna? Yoink! Sticker in hardhat? Handle with care, this one doubles as an easter egg. And the list just goes on. Luckily, you’re not relegated to manually combing through every nook and cranny to find them all. Your spirit pulse will already help you locate some of these, and by making generous offerings to local shrines you can pinpoint the location of many others.
- Tokyo | In recent years, I’ve visited the digital recreation of Tokyo several times. Persona 5 Royal & Strikers, Shin Megami Tensei 5, Akiba’s Trip, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth with more waiting in my backlog. They all had their unique style, and Ghostwire Tokyo isn’t any different. Tango Gameworks has gone for photorealism in their version of Tokyo. When I was first given the reigns at the large scatter crossing at Shibuya station, walked through the shopping street across it. Or went into the underground part of the station, locations I’d frequented so much in Persona 5 Royal, it all felt so authentic. Hell, I even opened up google street view in those exact locations, and lo and behold. I had a hard time picking out the differences that weren’t artistic freedoms taken to make the game world work. But the Ghostwire doesn’t only thread us through the national landmarks, but also residential areas and a slew of inside locations and it does so seamlessly. Aside from the loading screens when entering a building which is to be expected. The attention to detail everywhere is off the charts. From the DVD and game cases on the shelves to the train timetables in stations and different kinds of bread in the convenience stores. I sadly can’t read (m)any of the writing anywhere, or it would probably be littered with clever naming and puns. My favourite of the ones I have been able to find, however, would be their version of Final Fantasy. And I feel like it is largely because they made such a detailed and believable world that seeing the state it is in feels so unnerving, as all of Tokyo’s humans just went up in smoke. Cars have crashed. Piles of clothes are everywhere. The constant feeling that the city was bustling with life until just a moment ago is almost unshakeable.
- Audio | I found Ghostwire: Tokyo to go to both extremes when it comes to their audio design. When walking through the eerily quiet abandoned streets and back alleys, the only things keeping that silence at bay are the rain, loud advertisements and other ambient noises based on where you are in the city. This means that the neon-filled bar and hotel district can get slightly noisy without losing that feeling of loneliness. Yet when you’re walking through a residential district you’ll only get some distant dog barking if you’re lucky. Get unlucky, however, and you’ll run into some Visitors who bring with them a tense, oriental instrumental soundtrack. Woodwinds and percussion aplenty when you’re engaged in combat, or find yourself in a heavily corrupted area. At times I even found the music to be reminiscent of classics like Akira or Ghost In The Shell.
- Cats ‘n Dogs | Are you more of a cat or a dog person? Regardless of which you prefer, Ghostwire: Tokyo has you covered! Because while the mysterious mist evaporated every corporeal human in Tokyo, the feline and canine populations did not suffer the same fate. This means that the neon-lit streets of Tokyo are filled with a healthy amount of Japan’s iconic Shiba-Inu and cats of all varieties. But the fun doesn’t stop there! As long as there’s enough space to do so, they’ll all happily lean in for some pets and scritches. Yet their purpose is more than that of quick serotonin providers. Due to your spectral roommate, you can even read their mind, effectively allowing them to tell you a bit more about the surrounding. You can even feed the dogs if you have some dog food on you. They might just be so thankful to you that they’ll show you something interesting.
- Side missions | While Akito and K.K. are in a race against the clock to stop the events unfolding in Tokyo, nobody said they couldn’t stop along the way to help a wayward spirit or two. And honestly, it can be a breath of fresh air between all the hurried chasing after the masked antagonists. Most of these missions revolve around helping a soul pass on to the afterlife. For example, You’ll help an old man check on an underperforming bathhouse and help an old lady who worries about a kidnapped Zashiki Warashi, a Yokai that brings good fortune. Just like how the enemies depict various urban legends and myths, so do a lot of these missions touch upon them. Sadly not all side missions are as fun or endearing. While it is the stark minority, some of them are just busywork. Like running around to fetch toilet paper for a spirit who has trouble “passing” in more ways than one.
- Various Visitors | Ghostwire: Tokyo means business when it comes to the “Ghost” part of its name. And while you will encounter various Yokai of old, the bulk of your encounters with the supernatural will be with the Visitors. These current day spirits are born from a sort of “collective unconsciousness”. And while they used to be seen in the form of monks or samurai before, nowadays they take on the form of salarymen, schoolgoing kids and otherwise generic appearances. And even among the more generic archetypes, there are plenty of variations still. While you have the long and slender Rain Walker, the Rugged Walker packs a bit more gut, which subsequently makes it harder to take down. Yet there are also more prominent urban legends prowling the streets. Take the Kuchisake for example. These rather tall women, overgrown scissors in hand, are directly based on the Kuchisake-onna. While a formidable and ferocious foe, you can’t beat her with good manners alone. Both in legend and in-game she wears a face mask and would ask you if you thought she was beautiful. Reply impolitely and she would cut you in half, but if you were to compliment her on her appearance she would take the mask off to reveal a face with a slit mouth. It’s from here you could distract her with candy, money or even telling her you have a prior arrangement, so she wouldn’t delay you out of politeness. Leave it to the Japanese to come up with this stuff.
- Combat | Since the streets of Tokyo are brimming with Visitors, Akito and K.K. will be put through their paces when it comes to fending them off. To that end, the two have reluctantly at first, teamed up to show Visitors and Yokai alike the door. With K.K.’s help, you can now use the ethereal elements to perform Spirit Weaving. This approach to ghostbusting does not require an unlicensed nuclear accelerator strapped to one’s back, rather wind, water or fire ether which can be harvested from fallen enemies and various out of place objects strewn about the city. With some of the fanciest hand signs I’ve seen to date: slash wide areas with water, blow your foes away with powerful wind gusts or pierce through entire crowds with fiery lances. Each has an instant and a charged up variant, with the charged attacks exposing more of the Visitor’s cores. And while just blasting them until they vanish does the trick, you will want to expose and yank out as many Visitor cores as possible. As not only does it provide you with an instant kill, but it can also let you recover health or ether. While you also get a bow and some talismans with which to crowd control, I found myself rarely using them outside of the stealth sections. Did you get all that? Seems simple enough, right. That’s because it is, but sadly there isn’t much more. The moment I found my water powers was also the last time I felt the combat dynamic changing. It is definitely more than serviceable, but at the end of the night, serviceable only stays engaging for so long.
What we Disliked
- Tengu | Not too long after entering chapter 2, you unlock the power to pull yourself up towards a certain type of Yokai called a Tengu. While in folklore these winged creatures often act as divine messengers, this time around they have only one thing to tell us. That they’re there. And they will make sure you don’t forget this. Because much to my dismay, they’re constantly squawking like prehistoric birds. And while it can be a good thing to let the player know occasionally they’re there, near constantly hearing them in the background subtracts a fair bit to the otherwise masterfully crafted immersive experience. And that’s not to say they should just be quiet altogether, but a squawk every 10 seconds is better than one every three.
How long to beat the story | 12 hours
How long to unlock all achievements | 25 hours
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.