Also On: PS3
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Arc System Works/Toybox
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Try as I might, I can’t figure out the appeal of visual novels. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, maybe I’ve just played terrible examples of the genre — whatever it is, they just don’t do anything for me.
As nice as it would be to say that Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is the game that changed my mind…well, it’s not. Going strictly by the visual novel elements of the game, it’s probably worse than what I’ve come to expect. Not only that, the one major departure from visual novels — the ghost-hunting boardgame that acts the climax for each chapter — falls a little flat. So all in all, if you’re looking for the game that will get you into visual novels, this probably isn’t it.
It’s possible, of course, that I’m drastically underestimating other people’s enjoyment of ghost hunting. After all, I’ve always been a little iffy on tactical, turn-based action, and that — more or less — is what it is. Think of it as a supernatural version of Battleship: you move your ghosthunters around on a grid, hoping that eventually you’ll run into the ghosts and be able to attack them before they can attack you. If you like the randomness of Battleship, obviously, then that might bode well for your enjoyment of this game, but as someone who never went crazy for that game, I didn’t like it much more here, no matter how many ghosts it may add to the equation.
And even if the words “supernatural version of Battleship” do set your heart aflutter, you’ve still got to deal with the fact everything surrounding those boardgames kind of sucks. Visually, the presentation is incredibly forgettable, all static pictures with characters zooming on and off screen. While this is pretty standard, and some characters (particularly the ghosts) look kind of cool, the fact all the locations look like real-world pictures just thrown on screen makes it kind of cheap-looking. Contrast that with a game like XBlaze: Code Embryo, where the backgrounds all look like they belong in the colorful Blazblue universe, and you can see why it seems kind of lackluster.
As for the story itself, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the game’s title: a bunch of high school students running around Tokyo hunting ghosts. Some of the chapters are more interesting and engaging than others, but on the whole, I can’t imagine there’s much here that will stick with anyone after the game is done.
But that’s even assuming you play the thing to begin with — and unless you really love supernatural Battleship, I don’t think that there is. It’s cool that Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is trying to make something out of the visual novel that’s more than historical dramas or tales involving barely pubescent schoolgirls, but ultimately, it doesn’t seem like the end result matched the goal.