- Format: PS4
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: NIS America/Reef Entertainment
- Developer: Arc System Works/Toybox Inc
- Players: 1
- Site: http://nisamerica.com/games/tokyo-twilight-ghost-hunters-daybreak
- Game code provided by the publisher
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is, in several ways, an odd game. The name, yes; but also the way that hand-drawn anime characters are used against backgrounds of slightly blurred photographs of the real world. Certainly the way in which you interact with people, which we’ll be discussing shortly. Even combat is odd, a system which sticks to familiar JRPG traditions but makes absolutely no attempt to hide the strings being pulled. The story – about people who can see ghosts and hurt them with weapons such as guns, pipes, whips and guitars – is the most normal thing about the package. And that’s bizarre in itself.
Despite the aforementioned JRPG-style combat, this is at least three quarters a visual novel. It’s an overly familiar mixture of Japanese high school students and supernatural goings on, but the telling of the tale keeps things ticking over nicely. With amusing speed and nonchalance, you join a secret band of ghost hunters using an occult publishing business as a cover, and promptly find yourself beating souls about the spectral head. Despite the stereotypical characters and comedic misfires, it’s an interesting stories with moments of effective humour. Kudos too for making one of the main characters a chap in a wheelchair without making a big fuss about the fact that he’s in a wheelchair.
The visual novel element means that there’s lots of hitting a button to advance on-screen text (R1 in this case, which makes for an exciting change) and, as is par for the course, there’s no English voice acting. Hardly any Japanese here either, in fact. Now and again you’ll be able to answer, react, or investigate via on-screen wheels. Not dialogue wheels, though. Oh, no. That wouldn’t be nearly odd enough for this game.
When afforded the opportunity to interact in some way, you choose your actions via two sets of choices. First, you choose which emotion you wish to react with; curiosity, friendliness, sadness, anger, or (inevitably) something of a more amorous nature. With this choice made, a second wheel appears which allows you to choose which one of the five senses you wish to employ to make your feeling known (sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell for the benefit of those who went to terrible schools). “But”, we hear you cry, “doesn’t that make it difficult to predict exactly what your character’s going to do?”
Yes. Yes it does.
Intentionally or otherwise, the consequences of your choices don’t always go exactly as planned. Yes, if you choose to be overly affectionate via touch or taste, things will tend to go a bit Trump. Any such instances are just about handled in a way that skirts round offensiveness however (though the same arguably can’t be said for the depiction of a pair of gay men who fight alongside you at one point). We certainly enjoyed trying to alternately attack and flirt with a yakuza boss. Anyway, beyond any immediate reactions from characters around you (“did you try to lick me?” etc.), there are multiple endings to be had which rely on how you handle certain situations.
The game is split into various missions (each named after a famous song) and, unusually for a visual novel, there’s no quicksaving. You can only save at your HQ, which is also where you purchase, sell, and equip items as well as accept and launch side quests. Interestingly, you can also customise the battle area before setting off to bust the ghost. You can lay and move traps with various effects such as damaging ghost HP, restricting ghost movement, forcing ghosts to move in a certain direction, and more.
Fights take place on a grid you see and, as you would expect, are turn-based. The presentation is unique but this is not necessarily a good thing. Fights take place on a literal grid and you, your allies, and the ghosts are represented by arrows. It’s a shockingly retro look that could easily be replicated in an old MS DOS game, and the semi-animated sequences when human meets ghost do little to soften the blow. It’s gameplay that matters though, and the fundamentals are sound.
You and your team enter each area with no idea of exactly where your target is, and there will usually be at least one or two others in there too. You won’t even be able to spot them unless they fall within the area of a character’s equipped ghost detector. When they’re in your field of vision, you get to see exactly where the ghost is able to move in its next turn – but not, of course, where it will go. The idea is that you anticipate where your target will move next, and position characters and launch attacks/use items accordingly. Sometimes you learn that it’s targeting a specific character, which you can use to your advantage. Other times… it seems to rely a little too heavily on luck.
More accurately perhaps, it seems to rely a little too heavily on luck and grinding. For the first half of the game, good equipment and decent tactics (with a sprinkle of luck, of course) are enough to keep you rolling through the story. After this point, fights quickly get tougher until you may feel like you’re wading through the game rather than enjoying it. It’s yet another example of allegedly optional activities being compulsory for the vast majority of players. This situation is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the side quests have absolutely no visual novel story attached to them; playing a string of dry and sparsely decorated fights with little context in a row isn’t much fun. Just to make things worse, there will be times past the point of increased difficulty where the game demands you complete more than one fight before you’re able to save again.
Worth picking up if you want something different… but also don’t mind grinding just to read a story.