The representation of the capital of Japan in Ghostwire: Tokyo might be my favorite depiction of an actual city in any game, which is odd considering it takes place in the middle of a Rapture-like event where 99% of the citizens have disappeared. Their shoes, clothes and shopping bags were right where they started. But the bright lights, bustling signage and jingles of Tokyo’s storefronts remain, as the event happened so suddenly no one had time to turn them off. It’s a bit like walking through a theme park after it’s closed, where all the guests have left, but the lights and sounds continue.
While games like Watch dogs have gone to great lengths to capture the full expanse of a place like San Francisco or London in their interactive playgrounds, ghost yarn instead favors depth, making every street in Tokyo feel like it’s brimming with life, even if there’s hardly anyone alive. Tango Gameworks has something really special on its hands here, and it makes me want to visit the city again.
My recent look at the game revealed details about its story and combat, which I likened to a cross between strange doctor and ghost hunters. And now that I’ve had a chance to get to grips with the first few hours, I have a solid understanding of how it generally plays out – in short, it has the player-driven pace of a traditional open-world game.
I like this Ghostwire: Tokyo Rarely guides you to the next objective, instead letting you take your time and soak up the sights. It’s always clear where you need to go next to advance the story, but you’re encouraged to think outside the box. And while I dug into the central mystery surrounding protagonist Akito, his spiritual friend KK, and the malevolent Hannya, those were the times I took the time to wander around. ghost yarnis a dense depiction of Tokyo that really stuck with me.
Stroll around Tokyo in ghost yarn reminds me of the urban exploration contained in the free nights I’ve had throughout Persona 5 Royalbut with the incredible density of Yakuza Games. Convenience stores manned by adorable yokai kittens invite you in with their catchy jingles. Inside, you can buy all kinds of stimulating snacks, from takoyaki to boba tea. Shinto shrines nestled in the middle of a bustling neighborhood convey a small pocket of serenity amid the noise of a megalopolis, while offering upgrades to your mystical combat abilities. There are narrow lanes lined with food stalls and shops and multi-level malls that allow you to reach the rooftops of the city. The underground depths of Shibuya Station allow you to completely lose yourself, which is pretty much how everyone’s first trip to Shibuya Station goes.
I spent my first hours Ghostwire: Tokyo explore every nook and cranny of the city. I loved stumbling upon a new neighborhood or finding a wandering spirit and helping them finish their unfinished business so they could move on. Most of the kami you encounter are pulled straight from Japanese mythology, which means anyone who has spent time in Shin Megami Tensei Where Character will find familiar creatures like Kappa, Tengu, Kodama and Makami.
As I started unlocking more of the map by clearing various Torii gates scattered around the city, more neighborhoods became safe to explore. Well, safe is a relative term – there’s always an occasional mob of ghouls wandering around, but they’re both easy to avoid if you want to and fun to fight if you don’t. But just by looking at my in-game map, it’s clear that there’s a lot in Tokyo that’s still shrouded in fog, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the city has in store for us. Maybe some of my favorite spots, like the morning bustle of Tsukiji Fish Market or the micro-bar mecca of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, will pop up.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit Japan on more than half a dozen occasions for various work trips. Of all the places in the world I’ve missed in the past two years without traveling, Tokyo ranks high on this list. And while I used video games as a means of virtual tourism during this time, nothing came closer to reality than Ghostwire: Tokyoo, which is one of the greatest compliments I can give.