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Interview: Ghostwire: Tokyo Director Talks Yokai, Urban Legends

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Ghostwire Tokyo interview Visitors

My interest in Japanese yokai and urban legends began long ago when I first discovered GeGeGe no Kitaro. Anytime I come across a piece of media focusing on the subject, I have to consume it. Which is why Ghostwire: Tokyo was so intriguing for me and struck all the right chords. After 50-something hours exploring every nook and cranny, tracking down every collectible and supernatural entity, there were still things I needed to know. Thankfully, Director Kenji Kimura took the time to answer a few of my burning questions about Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s otherworldly yokai inhabitants, accessibility, and making use of the DualSense controller.

Annette Polis: Due to the nature of Akito and K.K.’s partnership, players only get enough of each character’s backstory to drive this unusual team through the plot. Were there ever plans to expand on their pasts in more detail?

Kenji Kimura: Urban legends in Japan allow for the listener to have their own understandings, their own interpretation of the characters involved, and we wanted to make Ghostwire similar in that way. We intentionally made the game so that it could be enjoyed as it is, without giving a ton of background information for Akito and KK. That said, we are seeing and receiving a lot of feedback from fans who want to know more about Akito and KK, and it would be great if we could find a way to address that feedback in the future.

With so many unique creatures in Japanese folklore and urban legends, was there a particular reason why most of the Visitors encountered during exploration were humanoid characters, while yokai were reserved for other types of interaction?

Kimura: In general, the Visitors are inspired by Japanese urban legends and folklore. Urban legends in Japan tend to not be about monsters that jump out to attack you. They are more about something moving subtly in the darkness, and you approach it to find out that there is something there, something familiar, but with a kind of unnaturalness, a spookiness, about them because they are unordinary but lurking within an ordinary setting or scenery. We wanted the game to give players a similar feeling and so we opted to make the visitors generally more humanoid in form. On the other hand, yokais are something we grew up with in Japan, seeing and learning about them in manga, anime and books, or hearing about them in stories to explain natural phenomena. So we wanted to respect their image but at the same time, update their image a bit to fit the world of Ghostwire.

Ghostwire: Tokyo tanuki

Which yokai did you prioritize including in Ghostwire: Tokyo as characters? How did you work and write around them to ensure they’d be a good fit?

Kimura: We started off by picking up the more famous ones. The first one we started with was the Kappa, because we felt it was the most famous. There’s even a novel by Ryunosuke Akutagawa titled “Kappa,” and the content of that novel was close to what we had in mind for Akito’s experience. In the book, a man chases after a Kappa and ends up wandering into another world where values are quite different from the human world. Players will also be able to find that novel in the game’s archive menu.

The way Ghostwire: Tokyo takes advantage of the DualSense controller is just amazing. From the variations in rumble and the ways in which the audio coming from the speaker immerses you, making it really feel as though KK is an entity surrounding you. Was utilizing everything with the DualSense controller part of the original design process or something added into the game later in development?

Kimura: It was added during the development of the game, towards the middle of development. We had already been working on creating KK, the combat with ethereal weaving shots and core grabbing mechanics before the game became a PS5 exclusive. After we started experimenting with the dev kits and the early version of the DualSense controller, we were amazed by how great of a fit the DualSense controller functionality was for the game experience we were trying to make. From there, we really focused on making it a great, immersive experience with the DualSense controller.

Ghostwire Tokyo Tango office Visitor

I noticed that Ghostwire: Tokyo offers accessibility options to change fonts, color balance for color blindness, and adjust motion blur. How important was it to the team to incorporate these accessibility functions?

Kimura: We wanted to make the game enjoyable by a wide audience, as wide of an audience as we could, so that more and more gamers could have fun in the paranormal Tokyo that we created. But it was just as important and high of a priority to make other parts of the game accessible. We also had members of the team who were slightly color blind and others who were prone to feel camera dizziness/sickness. With the help and support from the team and the folks at Microsoft, we were able to find a way to implement those key functions.

Part of the design process means things are inevitably cut either because they just don’t seem to fit or there isn’t enough time to implement them. Was there anything the team really wanted to see in the game that didn’t make the final cut? And is there any chance we could see future DLC bring that into Ghostwire: Tokyo?

Kimura: During development, one must take into consideration the quality of experience that is desired along with the amount of time available to create that experience. There’s times where pivoting or changing direction are necessary, but for release of this game, as a developer, I am very pleased with what we were able to create. I feel like we did the best we could, and there isn’t anything I can think of right now that I would consider as something I regret not making in the final cut. I do hear voices from the community though saying that we want to know more about the characters. I think it would be great if we could do something that would give a deeper view into the characters’ backgrounds in the future.

Ghostwire: Tokyo is available now for the PlayStation 5 and PC.

Annette Polis
Annette is an avid gamer and obsessed with Nendoroids. She is that one person you know who actually likes Fallout 76. You may have spotted her streaming or writing about video games elsewhere. Annette contributes reviews and playtests for Siliconera and assists with contests and giveaways.