Video games are a medium where all kinds of genres can go wild with many concepts and mechanics. You can have action games with heavy story elements or story-focused adventures with quick time events sprinkled about to keep the action going. But the visual novel is one that is normally blended with role playing games.
This mixture is natural, considering the visual novel portion of a role playing game can focus on the characters and create really impressive artwork to tell its story with combat and exploration mixing things up. Aksys Games Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is a game that blends the visual novel with the strategy game genre.
Does this mixture better the experience with both complementing each other, or does it detract greatly from the overall experience?
It opens up with your main character walking to school and meeting people attending the school. From a class president who is upset with you at first too a wheelchair bound student who is skilled with technology. Things seem normal, but the game asks you this question; Do you believe in ghosts? That is a good question, because not long after you get your footing in the school, you face a dangerous ghost and decided to help take it out.
The story gets more interesting as the plot progresses and this is where the game shines the brightest. With the topic of ghosts and Japanese culture, it opens the doors to a number of great concepts being explored making learning about the different ghosts and the culture of the games world all the more fascinating.
Strong characters also help with this, as every character you come across is very animated thanks to well written dialog and multiple ways of interacting with the many characters you come across in your adventure. What also helps the story is very strong presentation but we will get to that later.
Overall the story offers a interesting tale and one I feel is the strongest aspect to this title. I wanted to learn more about the world and characters.
This game is split into two distinct parts, with one being the visual novel portions. The visual novel portions of the game give you many different options when talking with the games characters thanks to a special wheel system. You have two wheels focusing on emotion and the five (or when you beat the game, six) senses. After picking two options from each wheel, you interact with the characters speaking to you. With two wheels (each with five options), the door to a number of interactions opens up. For example, you could accidentally kiss a female student or just shake her hand depending on your choices.
But the game also has more traditional visual novel elements, with dialog choices popping up and other options being open to you (skipping dialog, fasting dialog options, ect). The different choices you can make allows the story to be quite dynamic and will offer plenty of replay value for those that want to see everything this game has to offer.
However there is the other half of the gameplay, the ghost battling systems. The combat system works like a game of chess, with you character and party being different pieces you move along the map. Controlling your party requires AP points, with this informing you how much you can travel across a given map before your turn ends. You can change your direction with L & R (Vita version) and use the D-Pad to move up/down/left/right. They reset every turn but it creates a feeling of strategy on where you place party members on a given battle map.
Each character has different skills and abilities they can offer for combat. This is also helped by some smart and interesting mechanics such as placing traps on the ground like salts can block the paths ghosts can take. The amount of tools you get open up the more you play the game, making combat enjoyable if you put a lot of time into it.
Sadly, the game does a very poor job making a positive first impression of this system as despite explaining the core mechanics to you, you have no access to traps and your player character has a low amount of health. So once the hand-holding is done and you have to take on the very first boss ghost, it is a test of frustration. I spent so long in the early parts of this game (at least a full hour or two) just battling this boss ghost. Thankfully, more systems open up as you play the game and you do have the games digital manual that explains some of the mechanics. So if you sit down and take your time learning these mechanics, you can get through the combat to experience the enjoyable story.
Overall the core gameplay here is quite interesting and nothing like any other game I have ever played. But the combat system is a issue for me early on and I feel the game could explain its mechanic’s a bit better.
With the amount of choices to make across the game, you will want to replay the game to see how different interactions play out. This is further pushed with a sixth sense being unlocked once you beat the game, adding new interactions for a new playthrough.
The game also has a number of trophies to unlock, so that can be an incentive to fully go down every path the game offers.
The game is a very attractive title, with the main menu having a nice band aesthetics and the music using various guitar types for it’s soundtrack. As someone who enjoys rock music, this was so nice to hear and made playing through the game quite enjoyable just to hear the next track of the soundtrack.
Voice acting is well done too, with the Japanese cast fitting the character designs that you see across the game. Much of the game is voice acted, so it is consistent across the game. What strikes me the most about this title is the art work and character animations. While they cycle through a set pattern of animations they look very expressive, detailed and lively.
The ghost designs are also quite unique across the game, with there appearance in the visual novel portions of the game having impact due to playing off the Japanese horror theme that is present at various points in the game.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Gameplay: 3 out of 5 / Lasting Appeal: 4 out of 5 / Presentation: 5 out of 5
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Gigs is a title that honestly disappointed me with its core gameplay for the ghost hunting portions of the game. I had a hard time getting into the systems and thought it took away from the game. But the visual novel elements alongside a very strong presentation and story helped me enjoy the game despite my issues with core gameplay systems. If you can get used to the strategy game portions of the title, I can see many enjoy this unique visual novel adventure.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
This game was reviewed on the PS Vita platform with a review code provided by the publisher. This title is also out now for the PS3 and PS4.