I’ve been very curious to know what exactly we’ve been getting into with Ghostwire: Tokyo since lovely ex-Creative Director Ikumi Nakamura showed us the game at E3 so long ago. I was also wondering how it would go with him leaving mid-project. That said, after a recent preview of Ghostwire: Tokyo, it looks like Tango Gameworks is entering a whole new chapter of horror design and interesting action, and I can’t wait to see more of what their supernatural open-world adventure is all about. Reserve. we.
The most singular of circumstances
In Ghostwire: Tokyo, players take on the role of Akito, who has just had a horrific motorbike accident on his way to his sick sister’s house at a local hospital. Akito should be dead, but a desperate spirit possesses his body as a vessel, prolonging his life at the cost of a contentious existence with the spirit now trying to take full control of his body. While this is happening, a fog descends on Tokyo that turns the humans’ physical forms to dust and lets their souls drift freely from their bodies. These souls become the target of a parade of Yokai demons called visitors in-game. Akito’s state of near-death and possession allows him to keep his body and he and the spirit realize they have to work together if they want to survive this paranormal nightmare.
One of the most amazing parts of Ghostwire: Tokyo right out of the gate is Tango’s view of downtown Tokyo. Neighborhoods like Shibuya are lit up with a cavalcade of lights and advertisements shining through an ever-present fog on the city’s streets and alleyways. There is a moisture in everything that makes dew and puddles a constant array of shimmering reflections on the ground and various buildings, vehicles and other objects around the world. Tango Gameworks’ sound design also seems on point in that each part of the city feels like it’s alive with life that has come to an abrupt halt as fog vaporizes the humans that inhabit it. Music echoes through the streets from the shops, televisions share reports and advertisements for the absent lives that once watched them, and the wind echoes through the alleyways giving constant airflow and movement to the ghostly state of the city.
Tango Gameworks also got really good at their sets and it’s also where Ghostwire: Tokyo put on some impressive early shows. As human life is gradually suppressed by the spirit fog, ghostly spirits and Yokai (Japanese demons otherwise known as “Visitors” in this game) are unleashed. In areas infected with particularly powerful spirits, the logical world coalesces around the player and normal environments transform into twisted amalgamations of themselves in real time. A normal apartment infested by a malevolent force has become a maze of upside-down rooms and tunnels deep in closets. Reddened lighting with creeping blackness flowing down the walls as players try to escape gave an eerie sense of impending danger. My debut with Ghostwire: Tokyo made me think of some of the more unsettling parts of games like Silent Hill and FEAR and made me want to see how crazy those paranormal experiences get in the full game.
Sending visitors to packing
Another interesting aspect of Ghostwire: Tokyo has been both the encounters across its world and the combat through which you deal with a lot of it. All of the paranormal encounters in Ghostwire: Tokyo are based on authentic Japanese legends with little twists here and there and it makes for some incredibly unsettling encounters. From faceless men in suits with umbrellas to headless schoolgirls and more, encounters with these enemies are pretty chilling, especially when you can watch them up close.
However, not all Yokai are evil. The small section of Ghostwire: Tokyo I played in had nekomata running shops, tanuki asking me to help them find their friends, and doggos giving helpful advice and locating hidden objects in exchange for a few kibbles for puppies. All of the encounters in this game are interesting take on Japanese paranormal legend and lore and I love Tango’s creative adaptations of these familiar and perhaps less familiar ghost stories.
Of course, when you need to throw yourself away, that’s where the spirit that possesses you serves its purpose quite well. He gives Akito paranormal power to fight against malicious visitors and Yokai. Most enemies cannot be killed outright. You must eliminate their physical form, then rip out or destroy a spiritual core inside to eliminate them completely. To this end, the spirit provides you with a gust of wind to start with which can be fired at enemies from a distance. However, you end up also collecting a spirit bow, fire and water elements, melee abilities, special techniques to destroy spirit cores at close and long range, and more. Getting stronger includes sending visitors, but also rescuing the drifting human souls that can be found throughout the city.
Traveling through Tokyo is also an expansive free-form affair. The fog that dematerialized everyone is thick in areas and will damage you if you touch it, preventing you from freely exploring the city at will, but by finding and purifying Torii gates in various regions, you can lift the fog of an area and make more of the map explorable. As you do so, other main missions, random spirit side missions, and various other undiscovered opportunities open up for your exploration. It’s a vast city, but the gradual way you unlock more to explore made it less overwhelming for what I saw.
Ghostwire: Tokyo feels so much larger than I expected, but it’s also oozing with style and substance. I’ve only been able to play two chapters so far, but the tale of Akito and the spirit possessing him trying to survive in this paranormal town and find his sister hooked me. If that wasn’t enough, the gorgeous visuals of the city and the interesting adaptation of ghosts, demons, and paranormal legend make me want to keep seeing what kind of horrors lurk deeper in the fog. I’ve only scratched the surface of what Ghostwire: Tokyo has to offer. Now I’m ready to see where the spirits take me.
These preview prints are based on an early PS5 build provided by the publisher. Ghostwire: Tokyo is set to release on PS5 and PC on March 25, 2022.