Ghostwire: Tokyo is a game many have been anticipating ever since then Creative Director Ikumi Nakamura burst onto the stage to announce the game at E3 2019. Though it’s a new IP and isn’t continuing the narrative of Tango Gameworks’ last title, The Evil Within 2, some of that horror game DNA has bled over to Ghostwire: Tokyo, though it’s as part of a faster-paced and quirkier game. It’s not what I was expecting.
Our main character, Akito Izuki, is on a journey to rescue his sister, Mari, from the clutches of the evil Hannya. It’s a simple affair, except with the twist that Akito is possessed by the mysterious KK, granting him some pretty nifty powers with which to fight back against the spirits that now roam the fog-filled streets of Tokyo in place of its living citizens.
Control over the three elements Wind, Earth, and Fire are the cornerstone of Akito’s move set. It’s not your typical FPS where you are given eight million guns (I see you Far Cry 6), and instead have three main powers with plenty of time to become acquainted with them.
Complimenting those powers, you get a mystical bow as well as talismans which are effectively grenades, just minus the explosions. For instance, the stun talisman stuns everything within its radius – surprise! – while the thicket talisman throws up a makeshift bush that you can use to sneak around. It’s a different arsenal from the norm in which nothing is useless.
Certain segments of the game see you separated from KK, robbing you of all but your basic abilities and leaving you with just the bow. This can even happen in normal enemy engagements which does bring a sudden flash of fear after being fairly powerful for a majority of the game. I quite liked this as a thing, because it can come out of nowhere and forces you to think on your feet.
Speaking of feet, getting around Tokyo is a fairly fluid affair. The ability to be able to grapple to Tengus and then glide away, makes exploring a cinch, and there’s also the rooftops that you’ll want to scope out for secrets as well. With quite the large upgrade tree, you can naturally unlock the Amenotori X ability to summon a Tengu to any spot, making traversal a doddle. You’ll want to take advantage of this because a large component of Ghostwire sees you rescuing lost spirits around Tokyo.
Tokyo’s streets are now devoid of live, all of its citizens having been shuffled off from this mortal coil, but their spirits remaining. Akito uses a Katashiro, a traditional Japanese paper doll, to collect the lost souls dotted around the map, which are traded in at telephone booths for money and XP. This could be palmed off as a by the numbers open world mechanic of collecting, but being as the process is quick and easy, it doesn’t really feel like a chore. You are exploring anyway and it gives you a nice excuse to try and reach higher areas, some of which are genuinely puzzling to get to. Also, the more spirits you collect at once, the more XP you earn so it’s super easy to level up.
The in-game explanation for trading souls into a telephone box is that you are transporting the souls to safety outside the city, away from the nasty fog, through super complicated tech. It sounds off the wall, and you’re right, it is. It’s super quirky and I love it.
Souls are not the only thing strewn around the city. There are tons of collectibles and relics to pick up. These relics come with quite the large explainer in the database, which is nice if you’re curious like me and want to know what you got. These items also have a decent worth to the various Nekomata vendors. The local shops, which sell basics like food and ammo, are run by spirit cats but there are also special shops that accept these collectibles for currency which can, in turn, be spent on other items, such as cosmetics, music for your music player and specialist upgrade items called Magatama, curved, comma-shaped beads that appeared in prehistoric Japan.
Dressing up Akito is another unexpected element I ended up enjoying. The fact that you can have your music player on shuffle while you cut about the streets of Shibuya fighting ghosts is another feather in the tonal cap that Ghostwire is trying to don. Quite early on, I found the track “Under the Water” which I set on repeat while I beat the hell out of ghosts.
I find Ghostwire: Tokyo reminiscent of the Yakuza series thanks to how it fills out its world with things to do and see. The Yakuza series does a great job of creating short but sweet side missions that are generally playful in nature, spin an entertaining yarn, and providing respite from the more serious main campaign. I feel Tango has borrowed from this formula and I’m fine with it. According to the developers, many of the side missions were inspired by stories told to them through their lives, which was a nice touch, but a lot of the missions also dive into Japanese folklore, explaining various types of spirits such as the Kamaitachi and the Yōkai. I enjoyed these tidbits and the length GhostWire goes to in explaining them.
Side missions in games often outstay their welcome and after too long become a little tiresome, but I didn’t get that feeling here, despite there being an abundance of them. My one caveat is the balance between side content and the main story. I was surprised by the point where Ghostwire flashes that final ‘are you sure you want to proceed’ warning, coming way earlier than I was expecting. All together with doing side missions, this was at around the 20 hour mark, which is relatively compact compared to some of the monstrous time sinks out there at the moment. On the other hand, I really appreciate shorter games, and 20 hours is still a good amount of game time with plenty still to see and do. Let’s be honest, 20 hours is not a short game.
It’s still more than enough time to get to know Akito and KK who are likeable enough as protagonists and provide a nice back and forth of commentary. I did noticed after using an Offering Box for the tenth time that KK would always ask the same question to which Akito would always give the same answer. This was a little jarring and showed a limit to the variety of voice recordings, but I still enjoyed their journey and hope to see more of them in the future.
Graphically, Ghostwire is wonderful to look at. Playing on PS5, mostly on the Performance Mode, the city streets glistened in the rain, and the lights and colours of battle looked absolutely stunning in a consistent 60FPS. I found myself quite often standing on a tall building in the rain just staring out over Tokyo, taking pictures or just listening to music. I never thought I’d want to spend time just chilling in this game, but here we are.
Another feature utilised on the PS5 is the haptic feedback, which does well to immerse you in the world. From simple finger tapping to cleansing Torii gates, every step of the journey is felt through the controller. KK also communicates to you through the PS5 speaker built into the controller which is a common function in PS5 games these days, but it makes more sense here because, you know, KK is in your head.