Who you gonna call? Uh, you, I suppose! Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters in the latest in a fine tradition of PS Vita/PS3 visual novels. You know if you like these. If you don’t, you’re going to hate this one. If you do…well, read on!
This visual novel casts you as Ryusuke Touma, a new transfer student who falls in with the Gate Keepers organization. While it’s ostensibly an occult magazine, it turns out that Gate Keepers are actually exorcists, here to bust some ghosts back to the afterlife by any means necessary. The atmosphere leans more toward “cool” than “terrifying,” so it’s not really a horror game, but like any ghost story there’s chills to be had.
The visual novel aspects of the game are fairly standard; there’s the typical characters like a tsundere girl you meet within five minutes of starting the game, for instance. One cute twist regarding responses to other characters is that you can choose the emotion of your response as well as a sense to use when responding; this is a little weird but once you’ve got the hang of what the game intends by each selection, you’re able to get a little more immersed into the role of Ryusuke.
Tokyo Twilight stands out from the visual novel crowd by including an actual honest-to-god combat system. While it’s similar to a turn-based SRPG, both your turns and those of the enemy take place simultaneously. Before each turn you’re given a forecast suggesting what the enemy might do. You need to move your characters and set up attacks in such a way that you’ll land hits where the enemy will be, not where they are.
The only similar game that comes to mind is the obscure PlayStation SRPG Vandal Hearts II…and that system resulted in the game getting destroyed in reviews. Here it’s a little more acceptable and the game takes its time to ease you into combat. There’s a fair degree of strategic thinking necessary to succeed, particularly when you have to start dealing with elemental resistances and status effects. What’s more, ghosts are ghosts, after all, so they can pass through objects, transmit themselves through power outlets and so on, which complicates your plans to corner them. Meanwhile, you’ve also got traps and items available to help keep the ghosts under control.
Ghostbusting is a tough job. You should be prepared to have your crack team of exorcists spend a lot of time fumbling around like idiots until you get the hang of things. If you’re just trying to sit back and enjoy the plot like you might in a traditional visual novel, well…sorry, I guess! There are side-missions to work on if you want to level your characters as well.
In any other genre I’d probably loathe this combat, but after visual novels took off here we’ve seen a ton of them that don’t have any distinguishing features to set them apart. Tokyo Twilight is memorable, so if that’s what it takes, so be it. There’s other little touches that enhance the experience as well, like a board game and some degree of relationship management with the other characters that will eventually determine your ending.
Presentation is vital for visual novels, of course, and Tokyo Twilight excels. It’s got a sort of punk aesthetic reminiscent of games like No More Heroes. The interface design and soundtrack are especially notable for this; the soundtrack in particular is one of the best I’ve heard from a video game, bar none. It just rocks. The writing is solid as well, though the battle text is hamstrung a bit by the necessity of cramming English text into space originally intended for Japanese characters.
If you’re a fan of visual novels but you want to shake it up a little, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is for you. It’s certainly unique! SRPG fans might also get some mileage out of this. Either way, it’s a well-made title that looks and sounds great.