RPS Advent Calendar 2022, December 18

On the eighteenth day of our Advent calendar, you find yourself curiously, suddenly alone. A fog rolled over the city and suddenly everyone disappeared. Oh wait, it looks like a bunch of school kids over there, maybe they’ll help- OH GOD OH NO.

Lots of line-clogging deaths in Ghostwire: Tokyo!

One of the best parts of Ghostwire: Tokyo is exploring the spooky, rainy city.

James: Not that it’s a New Year’s resolution to change my tastes, but I feel less inclined towards open world games than I did at the start of 2022. Between a busier schedule and my rekindled fixation on team shooters based on the class from 2007, I’m less motivated than ever to roam vast lands doing chores for hikes. Ghostwire: Tokyo, however, was a brilliant exception.

And by shiny, I of course mean weird and rain-soaked. In the aftermath of a paranormal invasion, Ghostwire: Tokyo’s Tokyo was left as a large liminal space, devoid of anyone except to patrol yokai and the unstable minds of their victims. This void, far from feeling boring, helps create a brilliantly compelling atmosphere – much like the impeccably detailed rendering of Tokyo itself. I could spend hours poking around its glowing streets, littered with the clothes of its missing citizens. And I have.

There is work, of course, but it is sufficiently spiced up by the richness of Japanese folklore. A simple fetch quest, for example, becomes a rescue mission to save a zashiki-warashi — a childlike, fortune-bringing household spirit — from the greatest of evils, an owner. Even leveling up your own ghostly power set relies in part on a game of baiting with the kappa, aquatic turtles that steal life force orbs from people’s butts. Not that video games should ever form the entirety of a person’s cultural upbringing, but I settled into this world of tales and monsters quite quickly that is rarely touched upon here in the West.

The action is decent, making charming use of literal guns, and as annoying as our protagonist is, there’s something quite touching about the blossoming bromance between him and the dead cop cohabiting in his body. But it was the city of Tokyo, and the cast of ghouls therein, that stole my heart like a kappa steals ass balls. Wait, no, wait.

In Ghostwire Tokyo, an umbrella-wielding visitor guards a corrupt shrine.

Rebecca: Ghostwire: Tokyo isn’t a scary game, but it is a scary game. This is an important distinction. I’m definitely one of those anxious eccentrics who consider horror their kind of comfort, but I’d rather a good slow-burn scary than a straight run for my life from a chainsaw-wielding zombie. It’s not that there is no danger in this game, far from it; but nonetheless, it’s a game that feels like it wants to work with you, not against you. He wants you to walk the empty city streets together admiring the sights, and while he aims to keep you well scared, he would hate to scare your heart that you neglected to look around.

Player uses katashiro item to absorb blue souls of lost people in Ghostwire Tokyo

I had nothing but praise for Ghostwire on our GOTFHOTY list, and everything I said back then basically still applies. There are so many things I love about this game, opportunities for digital tourism in a realistically rendered Tokyo – a wandering lifeline as I haven’t ventured further than North Wales since the beginning of the pandemic – to the enemy endlessly intriguing designs. The students of pain and misery deserve a special shoutout as my new favorite video game mooks: deeply sinister as they roam the streets in their spectral teenage gangs, but somehow yet another so adorably goofy that I just want to give their cheeks a materteral squishing… except, oops, they don’t have faces, do they? Or heads, even. Better shoot them with my element-infused finger guns instead.

When I last wrote about this game in July, I hadn’t even unlocked the Summon Tengu ability yet, which is literally a game-changer, let me tell you. Even without Tengu at my command, it was a very “just one more” type of game. You know: I’m just gonna do another quick side mission, look one more corner, clean one more group of visitors and clean that patch of corruption they’re keeping, oh look now there’s a new street for me to walking . Now, with the ability to glide across the city skyline on the wings of my paranormal pals while skirting Shibuya’s meanest streets, I need to be physically removed from this game and reminded to eat. I haven’t even finished it, I’m still just as busy poking my nose into all the alleys to see what’s there. (Spoiler: they’re ghosts.)

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