Odds are Ikumi Nakamura’s infectious introduction of Ghostwire: Tokyo is what got you first interested in the title. From there, it was the promise of an action-filled adventure through the streets of Tokyo. Toss in a healthy dose of Japanese folklore, letting players pet every animal in the game, and climbing to the tippy top of 109. All of this sure sounds like a winner for Tango Gameworks. And if my addiction to hunting down every darn hidden item in this game means anything, get the trophies ready.
Please note that this review contains minor Ghostwire Tokyo story spoilers.
When we meet Akito and K.K., it’s on the heels of an immense fog rolling through Tokyo. Shibuya Crossing, normally bustling with activity, is devoid of life. Everyone touched by the fog vanished. In the wreckage of a car crash, an entity looks for a body it can inhabit. There aren’t many, and time is of the essence. Which is how the spirit of a former detective comes to possess a young man named Akito. K.K. explains that he is the only thing keeping Akito here. If they work together, they can find the culprit and put an end to his nefarious scheme to merge the worlds of the living and the dead.
They aren’t completely alone. Some of K.K.’s old companions still linger. Ed’s telephone network collects the souls Akito saves in the hopes of reuniting them with their corporeal forms. Rinko aids them by analyzing data and tracking potential activity. Ed is only ever a voice on the wire, but knowing that he’s watching over all of the souls you send his way is reassuring somehow. Rinko’s carrying some baggage which keeps her tethered to this world. Helping Akito and K.K. bring down the man in the Hannya mask drives her now.
As the world of the dead seeps in, so do a variety of spirits and otherworldly creatures. Most prevalent of these are the Visitors roaming the streets. These are malicious souls hellbent on staying here. Mixed in with the angry high schoolers and office workers are more dangerous enemies. Kuchisake (the split faced woman) moves and strikes quickly with her giant scissors. If you spot an Amefurikozo, tread lightly. He may look like an innocent child splashing about in his raincoat. When he senses you, be ready to fight. Danger lurks around every corner. Tread lightly and use every trick in Akito’s pocket to make it to safety.
I absolutely love the battle mechanics in Ghostwire: Tokyo. It’s a combination of three types of elemental damage, alongside melee strikes and archery. Gust attacks are Akito’s primary source of magic. Eventually, he finds water and flame attacks, but wind will always be his most plentiful magic type. You must Attack your opponent until its core is fully exposed. At this point, K.K. will prompt you to grab hold of it and yank it out. Removing the core is the only way to make sure the enemy can’t respawn the next time you are in the neighborhood. You can deal damage until the enemy poofs away too, leaving only ether behind. You just run the risk of them showing up in the future.
Some battles take place in a sort of pocket dimension. These are not quite in one world or the other. The space is warped, with items shifting to block your path. This is typically the case for larger story or side quest missions. Breakable items to refill ether respawn here, so Akito is never without access to spell weaving. There was only ever one or two of these battles where it took me more than a couple of attempts to figure out the pattern and defeat the enemy.
If you’re playing on PlayStation 5 like I am, you are in for a real treat with its DualSense functionality. The first thing you will notice is that K.K.’s voice comes through both your TV and controller. This really pushes the whole “attached spirit” vibe. Other audio cues from the speaker will let you know if you’re in range of special items or if Visitors are close. Haptic feedback is so diverse too. Whether it’s the heavier vibration during a battle or the softer, smaller, almost imperceptible tapping when raindrops fall on your shoulders, Ghostwire: Tokyo may just make the best use of the controller yet. Oh! And you can use the touchpad to make sealing symbols instead of the right stick. (Which works so much better, in my opinion.)
As you cleanse torii gates and push back the fog, Akito will come across lingering souls to collect. He can absorb them into katashiro, a simple paper doll, and then transmit them via public telephones to Ed, who will watch over them. Transmitting souls is one of the best ways to earn experience and cash. They always show up at a newly cleansed gate, upon completing side quests, after cleansing corruption spots, or just tucked away in alleys or on rooftops. Spectral vision is a great way to spot them. Akito can hold up to fifty katashiro, which is a lot of souls to have in your back pocket. You can also save souls from containment cubes and by letting yourself get consumed by the Hyakki Yako when it marches down the street.
Leveling up and discovering K.K.’s investigation notes grant skill points. You can upgrade your elemental weaving techniques and melee skills, as well as carrying capacity for arrows and consumables. Sometimes, progression is locked behind magatama. You can collect magatama by finding special yokai on your map. Some, like the kappa, require a bit of trickery. Kodama and oni appear once any Visitors threatening them have been removed. Yokai have their own special map markers and usually show up as soon as you cleanse a gate. You can tag them with a marker, and K.K. will shift your attention to them as soon as they are within sight.
Another way to improve Akito’s abilities requires hunting down Jizo statues and prayer beads. Jizo statues are some of the toughest things for me to find. Sure, you can make offerings at a few shrines that will highlight ones in the area you haven’t prayed to. But not all shrines have offering boxes. After using the PlayStation help cards and scouring the streets and alleys by spamming my spectral vision, I just have a few more to locate. As for prayer beads, there are a few ways to find them. Some of the smaller shrines you can cleanse contain beads. You can also earn beads as rewards for turning in relics at the special Nekomata stalls. You’ll find all kinds of beads as you explore and turn in requests. Just don’t forget to equip them.
Scaling buildings in search of items or following story trails is a huge part of Ghostwire: Tokyo. When you hear the heavy flapping of wings, check for a tengu. These yokai are friendly and don’t get upset when Akito grabs them to reach new heights. You can even unlock a skill to summon a tengu (space allowing), which comes in very handy.
One of the cool things in Ghostwire: Tokyo was that not only did consumables heal Akito, every single time I ate one, it also increased his health bar a tiny bit. Pair that with health increases from leveling up, I felt invincible. Sure, a decent mob could pose a problem. But when K.K. and Akito’s sync gauge is maxed, I am grabbing multiple cores at once and smashing them to smithereens. Then I chow down on some onigiri or kakigori, lick my fingers, and get right back in there.
After watching the credits roll on Akito and K.K.’s journey, I still find myself itching to finish up every single thing in Ghostwire: Tokyo. Pray at those last few Jizo statues. Find the remaining tanuki. Figure out how to get inside of the 24th floor of the shopping complex so I can take out its pesky corruption spot. I’m forty hours in and counting and one hundred percent willing to do it all over again. It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun playing a video game, and I don’t want it to end.
Ghostwire: Tokyo will be available on March 25, 2022 for the PC and PlayStation 5.