On the eighteenth day of our Advent Calendar you find yourself curiously, suddenly alone. A fog rolled through town and suddenly everyone has disappeared. Oh, wait, that looks like a bunch of school kids over there, maybe they’ll hel- OH GOD OH NO.
Lot of dead people clogging up the lines in Ghostwire: Tokyo!
James: Not that it was a New Year’s resolution to change my tastes, but I do feel less inclined towards open world games than I did at the start of 2022. Between a busier schedule and my rekindled fixation on class-based team shooters from 2007, I’m less motivated than ever to traipse across vast lands doing chores for randos. Ghostwire: Tokyo, however, has been a shining exception.
And by shining, I of course mean eerie and rain-soaked. In the aftermath of a paranormal invasion, Ghostwire: Tokyo’s Tokyo has been left as one big liminal space, devoid of anyone save for patrolling yokai and the unsettled spirits of their victims. This emptiness, far from feeling dull, helps realise a brilliantly compelling atmosphere – as does the impeccably detailed rendition of Tokyo itself. I could spend hours poking around its glowing streets, strewn with the clothes of its vanished citizens. And I have.
There’s busywork, sure, but it’s sufficiently spiced up by the richness of Japanese folklore. A simple fetch quest, for instance, becomes a rescue mission to save a zashiki-warashi – a childlike, fortune-bringing household spirit – from that greatest of evils, a landlord. Even upgrading your own set of ghostly powers relies partly on playing a baiting game with the kappa, aquatic turtlemen who steal lifeforce orbs out of people’s bums. Not that video games should ever form the entirety of one’s cultural education, but I got ensconced pretty quickly in this world of tales and monsters that’s rarely touched upon here in the West.
The action is decent, making a charming use of literal finger guns, and as dull as our protagonist is, there’s something quite touching about the blooming bromance between him and the deceased cop co-inhabiting his body. But it’s the city of Tokyo, and the cast of ghoulies within it, that stole my heart like a kappa steals bum balls. Wait, no, hang on.
Rebecca: Ghostwire: Tokyo isn’t a scary game, but it is a spooky game. It’s an important distinction. I’m definitely one of those anxiety-ridden oddballs who regard horror as their comfort genre, but I prefer a good slow-burn spookening to straight-up running for my life from a chainsaw-wielding zombie. It’s not that there’s no peril in this game, far from it; but nevertheless, it’s a game that feels as though it wants to work with you, not against you. It wants you to walk through the empty city streets together taking in the sights, and while it aims to keep you nicely creeped out, it would hate to strike such fear into your heart that you neglected to have a proper look around.
I had nothing but praise for Ghostwire back in our GOTFHOTY list, and everything I said back then still applies, basically. There are just so many things I love in this game, from the opportunities for digital tourism in a realistically rendered Tokyo — a wanderlusty lifeline when I haven’t ventured further afield than North Wales since the start of the pandemic — to the endlessly intriguing enemy designs. The Students of Pain and Misery deserve a special shout-out as my new favourite video game mooks: deeply sinister as they mooch about the streets in their spectral teen gangs, yet somehow still so adorably gawky that I just want to give their cheeks a materteral squishing… except, oops, they don’t have faces, do they? Nor heads, even. Best shoot them with my elementally-infused finger guns instead then.
When I last wrote about this game in July I hadn’t even unlocked the Summon Tengu ability yet, which is a literal gamechanger, let me tell you. Even without a Tengu at my beck and call, this was a very “just one more” type of game. You know: I’ll just do one more quick side-mission, look round one more corner, clear one more cluster of Visitors and cleanse that patch of corruption they’re guarding, oh look now there’s a new street for me to walk down. Now, with the ability to glide across the city skyline on the wings of my paranormal pals while bypassing the meaner streets of Shibuya, I have to be physically peeled away from this game and reminded to eat. I haven’t even finished it, I’m still just so busy sticking my nose into every alleyway to see what’s there. (Spoiler: it’s ghosts.)
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