The streets of Tokyo are empty after a rolling fog erases all humans in the city. An eerie silence permeates everything. Piles of clothes and blinking cell phones litter the pavement. Off in the distance, I see a figure standing, his face shielded by an umbrella. Was someone left behind? All of a sudden, he begins shuffling toward me with small and quick steps. I feel uneasy. The umbrella moves and reveals a featureless face. It is blank and devoid of emotion, but it strikes a sense of fear and dread in me. I quickly use my elemental wind powers to strike down the creature, blasting a singed hole right in the center of his chest. I rip out his core, and he evaporates in a splash of color into the air.
I’ve spent several hours in the first two chapters of Tango Gameworks’s Ghostwire: Tokyo so far, and these unsettling moments continue to surprise and delight me. It is their follow-up to the horrifically creepy and fear-inducing The Evil Within series. If the opening two chapters are any indication, Ghostwire: Tokyo is going to be one hellish journey full of Japanese folklore, elemental bending powers, and a heavy dose of exploration.
In the opening moments, you met Akito, a young man who was in a horrible accident. He becomes possessed by KK, a spirit looking for a body, and the two merge and agree to try to help one another. It is because of this that Akito isn’t taken by the fog that claims the souls of all those around him in the opening moments – for some reason, KK’s presence protects him. As the two try to work together and share a body, they learn more about each other and realize they have what it takes to survive in a now humanless Tokyo. Fear not, though, there are plenty of other creatures inhabiting Tokyo’s streets.
Ghostwire: Tokyo prickles with atmosphere. From the opening moments, Tokyo looks bright, colorful, and, despite the lack of people, lived in. But there is still a sense of trepidation lurking around corners and, on occasion, a sense of whimsy even if the setting isn’t far off from what modern-day Tokyo looks like. It is not nearly as scary or unsettling as The Evil Within, but there are moments, especially with some of the creatures, who are called Visitors, that will send chills down your spine. Thankfully, there is a nice balance with the inclusion of a myriad of creatures – both dangerous and helpful.
There are of course those that seek to harm you – these manifest from the unsaid desires, fears, and stress of the people who have seemingly evaporated from the city. Women stuck in jobs forced to smile emptily at those who expend negative energy manifest as Visitors called Paper Dolls. They spread that same energy and try to harm you by emitting giant, red orbs that float slowly toward you. There’s also the Rain Walker, a deadly blade-wielding Visitor born from the deep enmity that grows from personal conflicts at work. The inclusion of these Visitors and the reasonings behind their place in this new Tokyo continuously fascinate me. It can be fun to try and guess how a new creature you come across came to be.
Thankfully, there are also creatures inspired by Japanese folklore that aid you. Shopkeepers called Nekomatas, cute calico cats adorned with a bell and traditional Japanese wear, inhabit now abandoned convenience stores. I’ve also come across several yokai – one had grown from a well-used umbrella and had to be captured and returned to the spirit of a small girl. Another, called a Nurikabe, blocked the door in a hotel room. It has a large, cingular eye and fat, fleshy white skin and filled the frame and made the door unpassable. While these don’t harm you, they also don’t help. Instead, they are merely things to retrieve or get rid of for spirits who are stuck in limbo in Tokyo.
There are also, of course, the Animals of Shibuya. Animals did not vanish and still roam the streets. Thanks to KK’s powers, you’re even able to communicate with them. Some offer hints and some need help. You’re also able to pet them, and it is just as adorable as it sounds. It is nice to break up the fighting and element bending to give a dog or kitty a good little head scratch or feed them if you find some pet food.
Fighting Visitors in Tokyo can be fun, but oftentimes I found myself wishing for a dodge mechanic and more fluid movement. Moving can sometimes feel a tiny bit clunky, but thankfully the abilities at your disposal all feel great. There is nothing quite like slinging bursts of wind toward a headless schoolgirl as she tries to roundhouse you in the face or charging up your explosive firepower to explode in the middle of a group of enemies. Once you’ve done enough damage, you can snatch the core of the enemy to defeat them. Akito does some fun hand movements and animations with his elemental powers to vanquish enemies.
I am excited to see what the rest of Ghostwire: Tokyo has to offer. Even if battling Visitors sometimes feels a tiny bit awkward and stiff, there is still fun to be had. It’s hard not to enjoy the banter and conversations Akito and KK have as you explore Shibuya and help spirits and blast away baddies with air, water, and fire. I am intrigued to learn more about the central mystery at hand, and can’t wait to encounter more creatures – both good and bad. Oh, and pet the dogs. I want to pet all the dogs.