Bethesda is known for some of the best franchises in gaming history and has always had a staple of unconventional yet memorable conceptions with gameplay and storytelling. From creating the legendary beginnings of the open-world legends of Fallout and Elder Scrolls to dipping their toes into more sinister stories like Evil Within and Bioshock, Ghostwire: Tokyo has one of the most unique concepts I have ever experienced, and is one of Bethesda’s most innovative concepts. While that sounds like a bold claim since they published Deathloop, which was also absolutely ingenious, Bethesda seems to have no chill in releasing new games with contemporary approaches.
The story takes place in Tokyo, obviously, and you find that a culty terrorist, going by the name of Hannya, has released a murderous fog that kills off nearly the entire population. The city has become infested with ghostly entities, called the Visitors and Yokai, who wreak havoc across the entire city. Instead of merchants, stores have become filled with adorable cat spirits that sell food, talismans, and other oddities. Dogs act as aids on the streets if you have the good stuff (yummy dog food and pets). People that fail to move on float around as absorbable spirits, or spirits in need of help. Tokyo is not what it was before, and is pretty much a plain Ghost Town.
You play as a survivor known as Akito very much should have died from the fog, but out of sheer will is holding on by a thread. KK, a dead police officer working the Hannya case, manages to possess Akito before he passes on in hopes of taking his body and destroying the mad cultist. However, what KK was not planning on was Akito still being alive, and assumed he was taking a corpse. While the relationship starts off as a battle of wills for Akito’s body, the pair team up with a mutual goal of destroying Hannya and saving the city.
I love the pair up between Akito and KK due to the fact that they are completely opposite, but share the same drive and stubborn tendencies. Akito through sheer willpower manages to keep KK at bay from completely possessing him and killing Akito off. Akito manages the impossible in hopes of saving his sister while trying to cope with the trauma of not only almost being killed and possessed, but the entirety of Tokyo being annihilated. KK, on the other hand, seems to be emotionless aside from his passion for revenge on Hannya. He is cool, calm, and calculated, but also can act rashly in the right moments. He seems to become more human as time passes and as he works with Akito, though they still butt heads from time to time.
Metaphysical Tokyo with a Splash of Night City
I love running around Tokyo in such a spiritual setting. The developers did an amazing job capturing a haunted version of the city while still keeping it as lively as Night City in Cyberpunk. The lights reflect off of the damp streets during the rain while visitors lurk around every corner and spirits are suspended in the air. Signs are still illuminating the night sky as the remnants of clothes and trash are scattered on the abandoned sidewalks. The most beautiful part of running around in a modern phantom-filled city is that shrines, temples, and historic landmarks still stand out keeping Japan’s more traditional values.
Bethesda did not sleep on content for this game, and the fact that while the game is only six chapters long you can still dump a good sixty hours in it says something. When you pull up your map you unlock more and more to do as you progress in the game (thank god for good tutorials). Torii Gates are dispersed around the map that is in need of cleansing and unlocking more areas to cover. For each Torii Gate, there are usually a few shrines that are in need of prayer which will upgrade your elemental abilities. Raccoons are also in need of finding as a fun completionism gig and serve as a mythological representation of shapeshifting species from ancient Japan. You can also absorb Yokai powers by finding them across Tokyo and clear corruption from random areas that usually block entrance to a quest area or captured spirits that need saving. The side quests are usually a lot of fun and range from extremely creepy exorcisms to humorous ghosts taking up a bathroom stall because they need toilet paper and won’t pass on. Needless to you will never run out of things to do in the game, and the side content makes the bulk of the game which has a shorter story than your traditional Bethesda game.
Amazing Yokai and Spirit Designs
When I first started this game, I felt that the visitor design felt redundant, however various types pop up through the game and they all have unique individual combat styles and designs. Some of these designs feel creepy or plain terrifying, while others seem to represent greed or playfulness. Amewarashi entities represent younger children in yellow raincoats that are filled with abandonment and mischief, and honestly just make me feel uncomfortable as the Omen pops in my head. I have never wanted to yeet something so badly during combat as my flight beats my fight response. Same with Forlorn visitors which are the same but rather than abandoned they were straight-up abused. Then there are these Students of Misery running as you and doing cartwheels despite having no heads that mess around in a more playful murderous manner. Though I would rather face them than the Edward Scissor Hands ladies known as Amewarashi that want to cut you up with giant scissors. Honestly, the enemy selection ended up being the opposite of redundant, and actually very well designed. I was impressed by how well the developers created so much of the lore and spirit types off of actual Japanese urban legends and mythology.
Feeling Like a Ghost Buster with a Weeb Mash-Up
The combat feels like the most original part of the game, though not the strongest feature since the exploration takes the cake. Bethesda has always been a bit wilder when it comes to combat and weapons of choice, and Ghostwire is a shining example. Believe it or not, you utilize elemental castings using hand signs as if you were ancient ninjas. These elemental abilities are comprised of Fire, Water, and Air that come with upgrades and unlockable combos. The air shoots out like a gun-style attack, while the water is cast as a wave that can hit multiple targets. The fire cast is pretty much a shotgun fireball hitting one enemy as its base attack. In addition to this mage like arsenal, you get talismans and a dope Bow to kill off your ghostly apparitions. The talismans are extremely clutch, especially the Stun Talisman. This can be used on nearly every apparition and allow you to get in critical or lethal damage. Exposure Talismans are also a necessity since they can instantly expose the cores of your enemy cutting long fights into instantaneous ones. However, they are way less effective on the stronger enemies and are mostly used for trash mobs.
One minor nitpick I have is the skill tree, and that is mostly due to the fact that leveling is based on encounters and spirit collection. It can take a while to level up, which is why side quests and content is essential, but in order to collect spirits, you need to roam the city and dump them into a phone booth for transmission. The cap for the total population is over two hundred thousand which can feel overwhelming. Every level will net you ten points to dump into one of the two skill trees, and the two skill trees really make you choose between status increases and element combinations. The combos are obviously less of a necessity, but they do add more spice to combat that can end up feeling monotonous. Rather than separating the two, they should have combined them into a tree that can unlock more upgrades to the combo or personal stats as you go.
Thank God KK Can Take the Wheel
The game feels amazing on PC and performs perfectly depending on specs. I have had little to no frame drops, maintaining a constant 60 FPS on high settings with no crashes whatsoever. Sadly, there is one majorly annoying issue for those using a controller and that is the ability to perform hand signs for gate or spirit cleansing. Cleansing spirits is essential for the game whether taking a Torri Gate to progress in the story, or exorcising a spirit that is tormenting a hospital. Regardless, this is done by using unique hand signs based on Kuji-Kiri hand gestures. KK essentially guides you by telling you what sign to use, and when using a controller this is done so by moving the analog sticks. However, when doing so the game is extremely nit-picky despite you using the most accurate direction sometimes. It makes you start completely over if completed incorrectly, and the more intricate they are the slower you need to be. However, there is usually an option every time to allow KK to take over and do it for you. It is frustrating to not be able to do so yourself, but it can also be a nightmare when you try to do it a million times and it keeps saying you did it incorrectly. This honestly needs a hotfix in my opinion because the game feels directionally challenged at times.
We Need to Talk About Ghostwire More
I am honestly surprised this game has not been talked about more than what I have seen in the gaming communities on social media. While the announcement and information released seemed a bit clouded in mystery, it is one of the best supernatural meets modern Japan mash-ups I have ever experienced. I do hope the game finds more traction and makes its way to be a candidate for the Game Awards because it deserves more recognition. Bethesda is on a roll right now since their downfall of 76, and I hope the releases like this and Deathloop keep steamrolling the gaming world.
Vibe Score: 8/10
Veteran gamer, tech nerd, comic addict, anime lover, and just your average introverted weeb.