What can I say about this game, besides the fact that I spent 40 dollars on something that feels slightly better than the average indie game. You don’t see too many visual novel games anymore though, at least not on consoles. The way main stream games now and days drop all form of originality in favor of bigger explosions and shinier graphics I never would have believed this game could get off the ground, let alone released.
That being said, the main strength of this game is the graphics. Stunning 2D characters with an almost 3D feel to them. It provides a kind of charm and individuality to each NPC, instead of them all looking like the same character with a slightly different color scheme and wig. The way they move and display emotions is also a strong point, avoiding the usual static look of other visual novel games. It is very satisfying to grab an NPC in a loving way and either watch them blush and wiggle around embarrassed or get mad at you and treat you like the pervert you are.
Of course this does get old after awhile because each NPC only has so many animations. The background images are also very bland. Sure they are neat to look at when you start but they get real old real quick, most are used and reused long before reaching the end. Most level backgrounds appear as though someone took pictures all around Shinjuku with the lens covered in vaseline.
There is nothing special to talk about when it comes to sound aspect either, mostly just the same sound effects someone would get from angrily banging on there computer. The dialogue is only in Japanese though, which always seems to automatically turn off some people, I assume those who get headaches trying to make out all the big difficult words. It works to this games favor though, if I had to listen to this dialogue in English I might have been tempted to tear my own ears off. Then again I usually dislike most dubs so take that as you will.
The game play is where I really was lost, I get frustrated when half of a game is built around tutorials to make sure we have to use every new item. However, this game doesn’t tell you how to do anything. Okay, there is a brief tutorial at the start but it teaches what I easily could have figured out on my own. It can take multiple play throughs just to find all the most basic features. Especially one instance where I eventually realized you can click on a green ad icon on the computer and trade points I never knew I was earning towards rare items. The game even told me once that I could have the same ability as any of my teammates but I could never figure out how. Instead I just equipped whatever weapon had the highest number and widest attack zone and went postal on every level.
Most of the game you just talk with NPC’s, half of which can join you and the other half are introduced and dropped from plot just as fast. This is where the original part of the game comes in though. For the most part you are a silent protagonist, the usual ‘project yourself onto this character and avoid real life awhile longer’ concept. Even going so far as to ask for your stats, most of which I maxed out being the fat American giant I am and where you were born in Japan. Again, I had no idea where most the choices I was given were so I just chose the area I’ve heard the most in anime.
The way you interact with other NPC’s though is where the game comes into its own. You start with an emotion wheel and choose if you are sad, angry, pervy or so on and then a second wheel to choose an action, touch, look, smell and so on. The problem though is that there is no explanation on how to use this system. I spent a good amount of time my first play through just figuring out what the different combinations would do. Worried that if I chose the love emotion and lick action I was going to start humping the nearest NPC like the world’s biggest bulldog. Fairly quick I just started using my hand in a friendly way which apparently translated to a handshake, which seemed to work even if most the NPC’s instantly called me out for being a westerner. Some correct combinations still didn’t make sense after figuring them out though. Such as one part where I had to investigate some ectoplasm and it turned out the correct combination was to lick it in a curious way. Excuse me if my first idea to solve the problem didn’t involve licking the green ghost spunk like the dimmest prostitute in Japan.
At the end of the game you can even get a slightly different ending with the character you showed the most affection towards during the play through. However, this seems to function about as well as a deer on the highway. If you do something a character likes you get a chime noise to let you know, but half the time there is no way to know who actually likes it. You can receive chimes for even innocuous things like slapping a wall with all the hate you can muster but no way of knowing which NPC really hates walls for some reason.
So you could be overly friendly with only one NPC and slap all the others like a dick and still easily end up with anyone besides the NPC you were nice to. Sometimes what each character is looking for doesn’t even make sense. At one point you meet a playable NPC pair that are so obviously gay they might as well shoot quadruple rainbows from their back ends. Besides my first play through where I timidly accepted their affection I could never get them to join me again, no matter how much love humping I did. It should be easy because affection seems to heavily lean towards the male NPC’s. Getting attached to any character in this game though is liking trying to get close to Birdo, you’re not sure until you get up close and then it doesn’t really matter anymore.
The other part of the game where you actually play as apart to going through the novel of a young man figuring out his sexual identity is where the game completely falls flat on its face. It takes place as a over head looking board game where you and the ghost you must fight all move at the same time and choose a certain area to attack. You also have a limit on how many moves you can make in a turn. Since you have a limited attack range and ghost move at the same time you end up blindly attacking empty space most the time while ghost run circles around you. As the ghost get stronger they can cross entire sections of the board at one time. Even when I was over 40 levels higher than the ghost I was fighting a match would take forever because you have to guess where the ghost will be next. Essentially the game removes almost any use of skill and turns into how lucky you can get at guessing where the ghost will be next.
The only time you ever actually witness a ghost outside of the story is when you actually attack the ghost. At which point you get a cut scene of the ghost, usually some everyday item as seen by someone on a bad acid trip and then a quick animation to represent your weapon of choice. All in all, actually playing this game feels like playing a low end indie game.
There are other modes and features to this game but unless you plan on getting the platinum trophy there is little to no need to do any of it, with little to no explanation on what any of it does. For instance, there is actually a board game you can play with a few other NPC’s that plays exactly like the actual game. It just looks more like a board game, like some bizarre game inception. The rewards for winning are so small and the amount of luck you need to not lose in the first turn are so great it’s not even worth doing. If you like the look and visual novel part of this game maybe it would be worth it. If you don’t buy Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters no one will be surprised. If you do buy this game though you might just blow some marketing executives f-ing mind.