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Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs

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While the visual novel’s stateside popularity is a relatively new phenomenon, the medium has been building momentum in the U.S. for quite some time. From games like Lost Odyssey– which used sections of text to reveal backstory, to amalgams like Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love and Riviera: The Promised Land, where role-playing elements were blended with passages of exposition, fans of Japanese games are likely to have experienced this kind of language-rooted storytelling. Today, entries in the BlazBlue series continue to provide a visual novel component that help to cultivate the fighting franchise’s roster of combatants.

One slightly overlooked hybrid of turn-based, role-playing and text-based storytelling was 2015’s Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. Told with a serialized approach which even included closing credits after each episode, the game centered around a transfer student who was thrust into becoming a member of the Gatekeepers, a for-profit ghost busting organization disguised as a magazine publisher. Periodically, players engaged in turn-based battles where teams tracked down and subdued wandering yurei. At least one of the reasons why the title might not had made a bigger impact was that the game wasn’t vert welcoming. Largely, players had to figure out how to make their own way through the game’s social interactions and ghost busting.

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Regrettably, the release of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita doesn’t remedy that core problem. Instead, the update boasts an added scenario, more characters, and a fleshed out plotline. But if gamers are determined enough to dig into the game’s digital manual and actually role-play like a Japanese student turned ghost hunter, they should be able to make it through the campaign relatively unscathed.

Like the original iteration, Special Gigs breaks up the conversation with the intermittent bit of branching dialog. Here, the responses are robust enough to indicate a direction, and you should be able to guess whether your choice will please or piss-off your conversational partner. But more frequent and ambiguous is a two-part, icon-based interaction system. Using the directional pad, you’ll first selection from one of five emotional states, following by option to link the choice to one of five senses. Sure, despondent inhalations and angry tastes might be hard to wrap your head around, but at least the system is more complex than the three or four retort tradition of most VNs.

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Soon, you’ll probably discover that Western sensibilities might be offensive to the team of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. Japan is a rather touch-avoidant culture, so it’s not surprising that selecting ‘affectionate physical contact’ results in an invasive fondle. Once you’ve exhausted the comic value of inappropriate interaction, you’ll learn that the game usually is looking for thoughtful observation, rather than inappropriate grope. And once you think about the implications in a high-context setting, it will all make sense, adding a satisfying cultural facet to these interactions.

Largely, the game’s ghost battles won’t be conquered as easily. Here, Ghost Hunter moves to the Ouija Pad, a rather abstract title-based representation of your spiritual showdown. With basic icons used to symbolize your team of up to four associates, ghosts, environmental elements and traps, reading the board won’t become intuitive until after a few confrontations. While it’s not ideal for the impatient, it seems developer Toybox really wanted to capture the uncertainty of being a student approached and drafted by a shadowy, paranormal squad.

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Stick with your newfound vocation, and soon you’ll understand the rudiments- which allows each member to draw from their pool of AP points to move and attack specified areas. The tricky thing is that you have to predict the trajectory of each poltergeist, and you have a limited number of turns to subdue spirits before you fail the assignment. Another niggling detail is that Ghost Hunters drops few clues about how you should approach yurei fighting. Without sullying the role-play experience, let’s just say you’ll want to study how traps and lures can be utilized to manipulate any spectral paths.

The age-old role playing convention of having a statistical advantage and dishing out more damage that your receiving is only part of the solution. Sure, you’ll need to periodically accept free battles to neutralize the difference in attacking power against an escalating succession of enemies. But, largely the title shirks the tit-for-tat conflicts of most games, for conflicts that focus on controlling space and mitigating status effects from your otherworld foes. In execution, it’s a pretty big deviation from role-playing tenet and might not sit well with some players.

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Aesthetically, Ghost Hunters Daybreak is competent. Backdrops seamlessly blend photographed locations with hand-drawn elements, and the occasional camera pan or tilt keeps the game from feeling like a sequence of still images. Character portraits are especially well done, with both humans and ghosts smoothly animated and expressing sentiment through facial expression or gestures. The title’s soundtrack draws from a cornucopia of styles, with relaxing melodies during friendly conversational and discordant guitar work signaling an upcoming ghost hunting segment. While a few words of voice work are used to flavor conversation, it would be been great to hear entire conversations.

With the addition of new content layered onto Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters unique integration and combat components, Special Gigs might be a tour worth booking. Just know that before embarking that think can be less than intuitive- and battles, which are required for progress, might not appeal to all players. But as visual novel hybrids go, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak is distinct. So if you value inventiveness, the title might be worth tracking down and taming.

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Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs was played on the
PlayStation 4 and PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs
Platform: 
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita 
Developer:
Toybox, Inc. 
Publisher:
 Aksys Games
Release date:
September 20th, 2016
Price: 
$39.99 via PSN
While the visual novel’s stateside popularity is a relatively new phenomenon, the medium has been building momentum in the U.S. for quite some time. From games like Lost Odyssey- which used sections of text to reveal backstory, to amalgams like Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love and Riviera: The Promised Land, where role-playing elements were blended with passages of exposition, fans of Japanese games are likely to have experienced this kind of language-rooted storytelling. Today, entries in the BlazBlue series continue to provide a visual novel component that help to cultivate the fighting franchise’s roster of combatants. One slightly overlooked…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 70%
Controls - 75%
Aesthetics - 80%
Content - 80%
Accessibility - 60%

73%

GOOD

Summary : Building on the 2015 release, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs adds content, but neglects appending what many players will want most: instruction and direction. Make sure you’re ok with this approach and the game’s idiosyncratic enemy encounters.

User Rating: 3.31 ( 4 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

19 comments

  1. I really disliked the first one. I couldn’t get the hang of battles. Got stuck on the 3rd one.

  2. Good review. Any differences between the versions?

    • Special Gigs has an extra episode and a few new characters. Think of it as a Game of the Year edition.

  3. Kind of a shame that this didn’t come out cheaper. Especially for those who bought the first game.

  4. How much fan-service can I expect?

    • There’s no really much at all. Just a bit of flirtatious behavior. I wish you could go out and dates to improve your standing with your fellow Gatekeepers.

      • You can – sorta…
        You can study with any of the Gatekeepers to increase your stats – each member will increase your stats differently – and this will increase their affection toward you. Their affection is also effected by how many times they die in a mission, how often you take them on a mission, and your dialog choices. You can also increase affection by playing the board game with them.

        The game’s ending is determined by which character has the highest affection level, so it’s important to make your decision early and nurture that friendship.

        But no – not a lot of fan service. This game takes itself seriously.

        • Thanks for the second opinion. Might have to give it a go.

          Every other review I’ve read said combat is too random, but Robert made it sound like it’s more of a matter of learning the systems. In your opinion, which is it?

          • They give you a LOT of rope to hang yourself with. Every character attacks differently, there are a bunch of different kinds of traps to set before the battle, and the story missions have a STEEP difficulty curve. I wouldn’t call it “random” at all, but you really have to learn to anticipate the ghosts’ movements, and you have to pay close attention to your surroundings if you want to avoid trashing the place (you have to pay for anything you break)

            It is definitely a thinking game, but it’s really rewarding if you put some time into it.

          • Lets see you have to think a lot and you pay for anything you break. That sound a lot like my university experience.

            Oh, I even think there were a few traps around.

          • This should have been one of those two person reviews, like you USED to do. Have no idea why you stopped, everyone seemed to like them.

  5. What does “Special gigs” mean? Sounds like a Fiver add-on/.

    • The whole game has a classic rock/roadie aesthetic – so the “special gigs” thing is a nod to that.

  6. What does “Special gigs” mean? Sounds like a Fiver add-on.

  7. Man, I really love Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, but I’m not sure I’m ready to revisit the same story. The original had a bunch of different endings, but only one of them really felt like the “true” ending, and the others didn’t deviate enough to make them feel special. I can’t imagine that adding more characters – each with their own ending – would really add anything meaningful to the story. I’m torn, because another episode sounds cool, and I really DO want to support the game, since I love the tone and the battle system, but I was really hoping for a sequel instead of a rerelease with an expansion…

    • Yeah, milking things is all too common these days. At least give us a 1.5 or a big discount rather than 1.1 at full price.

  8. It’s funny- I’ve read at least 3 reviews that said the conversation system was unfair and combat was too random. Shows they didn’t try to play the game in a role-playing method. That’s why I like the reviews here. You get it.

  9. “actually role-play like a Japanese student turned ghost hunter”

    Serious, when it comes to the conversation wheel, this is is a great pro-tip. You want to use sight, hearing, and though, not touch or god forbid, taste. You don’t want to express anger or sadness very often.

    As for combat, expect to die and restart a lot. Just roll with it.