AKITO is having a very bad day. First, he just died in a motorcycle accident on a Tokyo street. Then he is possessed by a strange spirit. Next he was brought back from the dead to find his face smoldering as if his eyebrows were on fire. Eventually he realizes that the town’s population has been wiped out by an evil devil. Unfortunately for Akito, this is just the beginning of his strange evening.
Unsuspecting schoolgirls, faceless employees with umbrellas, and a ghost with giant scissors – Ghostwire Tokyo bombards you with surreal images during its opening hours, but at no point could you really be frightened.
This is strange because it comes from the Tango Gameworks studio, founded by horror maestro Shinji Mikami, the famous Resident Evil. But Ghostwire — which Mikami only served as executive producer, not director — veers away from outright horror, despite its chilling premise.
The bustling metropolis is lifeless apart from the ghosts of the deceased (plus a few stray dogs and cats) and Akito’s new ghost friend is a supernatural detective named KK, who is on to the villain’s trail. This leads to a madcap chase through the neon-lit city, with the unlikely pair bickering and joking while helping each other out with either brains or brawn.
None of this really makes sense, but it doesn’t matter because Tango’s world-building abilities do a lot of the heavy lifting in conveying the emotional weight of a city bereft of its citizens. Piles of empty clothing lie on every street, apparitions bemoan their misfortune to no one, and the wailing sounds of abandoned animals echo through the concrete canyons.
Tango delves deep into Japanese culture with its meticulous cataloging of found objects and encountered phantoms, explaining the mythology of spirits, the origins of rituals, and even the types of oriental foods that act as buffs. It’s fascinating in a nerdy way.
But if that lavish staging doesn’t pique your interest, Ghostwire can walk right through you without getting a foothold. KK endows Akito with a variety of supernatural powers to fight the ghouls. Mixing kung fu with magic, he hurls fireballs and air blasts to weaken the spirits before draining their souls.
However, combat never registers as fully cohesive, partly because of slack aiming and the tendency of most enemies to just charge at you. Tango also borrows from open-world gaming clichés, such as giant gateways that function like Ubisoft towers, lightening the map fog to reveal clusters of icons like side quests.
Nonetheless, Ghostwire exerts a mysterious attraction. Its Japanese voice acting and authentic setting give it a real sense of place that emphasizes the ferociousness of annihilating a city’s population. The nooks and crannies of the side streets hold a variety of stories related to the main quest. And while the experience can’t be described as scary, many moments feel genuinely unsettling due to their sheer weirdness.
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So kudos to Tango for creating something really new, something unearthly. Don’t try to understand it, just indulge in its bizarre portrayal of Toyko’s afterlife.
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