Ghostwire: Tokyo (Review)

Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person perspective action-adventure game that was released on 25 March 2022 for PC and PlayStation 5.

The story of Ghostwire follows a spirit of a man named KK who possesses the body of another man, Akito, after he is involved in a traffic collision. Akito has control over his body other than his right hand, which KK controls. A man named Hannya, who wears a Hannya mask, uses a spell to summon demons all across Shibuya. It is Akito’s task to hunt down Hannya and stop him. KK grants Akito special powers that can be described as karate meets magic to help him defeat the evil spirits that now infest the city and to save the many imprisoned spirits. As the player collects spirits, they are converted into points that can be used to upgrade skills to improve Akito’s moves and abilities.

Ghostwire is a game that I was looking forward to since its initial reveal; it looked like it had an interesting story and a different way of combat that would be compelling. I picked up my copy when it was on “Deal of the Week” on the PlayStation store and got straight into it.

Let’s start with the positives. The story starts off slow as it introduces the central premise of the game and its key players. It has a pretty decent tutorial regarding the main character’s skills. This tutorial isn’t as out of place and clunky as some games out there. It’s slow and not overbearing, but it tells you enough so that you can start playing with relative ease.

When first thrown into the city of Shibuya, I couldn’t help but notice just how pretty it is. It looks amazing. The colours, the lighting, and even the weather mechanics are beautiful and only serve to immerse you in the character’s environment further. The map is pretty big and traversing it, due to many fast travel points, isn’t a chore, and there is a lot to see and do, although this can be a bit overwhelming at timesꟷbut more on this a bit later.

The characters and enemies are well done. The main characters, Akito and KK, have depth, which is nice to see. Too many protagonists these days are little more than 2D caricatures. The enemies are just terrifying. The main enemy you face is slender man-like things that creep up on you with their no face and umbrellas. These come in a few different versions, but the way they move and sound is just creepy as hell. There are plenty of other enemies which are all based on Japanese folklore, for example, the Kuchisake, which is based on kuchisake-onna , AKA “Slit-Mouthed Woman”. This enemy is a tall female who wields a massive pair of scissors. In folklore, the kuchisake-onna asks its victims if they think she’s beautiful, only to reveal her disfigured grin. She then asks the question again, often maiming the victim with similar scars if they lie about her beauty or killing them outright if they lie. These added details only serve to immerse you further into the games world and add that extra bit of realism to it.

One thing I have to mention that was talked about quite a bit before release is the fact that you can pet cats and dogs throughout the city. These may seem like a superficial addition, but it does actually serve a purpose for those wanting to see all that Shibuya has to offer. The cats, when petted and talked to (yes, you can talk to the animals), will point out various things in the city that the player can collect. The dogs (much like the foxes in Ghost of Tsushima) that you can purchase dog food for will, when fed and followed, dig up coins or otherwise lead you to collectables. These are nice little additions that serve to assist you if you’re going for 100% completion.

Talking about collectables, there are a lot of them to collect throughout the map. They range from bundles of spirits as mentioned above that level your character up, shrines that increase your abilities, Tori gates, that unlock areas of the map by clearing the dangerous fog that shrouds most of the map at the beginning of the game, and various items that can be picked up and traded at some cat vendors for outfit items, music tracks and other things. You also have many spirits to either help, follow or trap. As well as the human spirits that you can do various types of quests for, there are other more traditional Japanese spirits that you follow or capture, such as the Tanuki which are racoon spirits that disguise themselves as various objects around the city. They can be discovered only by the fact that their tail is always showing; even so, they can be pretty hard to spot and require some real investigation. And something that deserves an honourable mention is the use of cucumbers to attract kappas, a kind of human-turtle hybrid spirit.

So, what about the negatives. First of all, is a big one for me; the combat. The combat is unique in its style as you use a combination of three special abilities to damage enemies. The fact that there are only these three abilities that have both a normal and charged attack but don’t have any sort of combo usage isn’t the main issue for me; it’s the issue of aiming. The enemies can move around sporadically, and the targeting system for aiming, for want of a better word, is piss-poor. It’s hard to focus on one enemy at times as the spot where you can hit things is relatively small. So sometimes, unless the enemy is in your face, all you do is miss, and when you’ve only got a limited number of times, you can use each ability; this can be very frustrating at times. I found myself just firing wildly and hoping I hit stuff. Having said this, I have to admit that I found the bow very useful, but this can also be a pain if you’re aiming at moving targets.

Another issue I found, and those going for 100% will probably find it too, is that there are many things to collect all over the city, and I feel like it’s just too much. You could spend hours purely collecting items and other collectables, and it just all gets a little repetitive. This is also an issue with some of the side quests; they can be very repetitive and confusing. It’s generally a case of finding a building or spot on the map, clearing it out of enemies, and then returning to the quest giver. This is nothing new and is an issue in many open-world gamesꟷI’m looking at you, Assassin’s Creed. As I said earlier, the map is sometimes overwhelming and may be seen as a little too big for some players.

All in all, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a fun, albeit at times frustrating, game. There is enough going on to keep you busy for hours if you have the time and patience to see and do everything the game offers. The details of the Japanese folklore are an excellent addition, and even if you know nothing about such things, it can still make sense to you. I never found myself asking why I was chasing a ghost otter over rooftops; I just did it. If this game is on your radar or even seems interesting, I would suggest that you give it a go. The game is far from perfect but is a good game nonetheless, so I’m going to give it a 7/10. I could have given it an 8/10, but the combat just lets it down a little too much.

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