The latest entry in the Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters series is not a sequel, but rather a completely retooled game with added scenarios, better translations, a richer battle-system, and more characters. The first game originally came out less than a year ago to mediocre praise from most outlets. However, with this latest incarnation–the developers are hoping that it will remedy many of the problems people had with the original.
If you’re unfamiliar with Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters what you need to know is that it’s a visual novel with a lively artstyle, but it’s coupled with an aesthetically minimalist and mechanically flawed battle system. Regarding the visual novel aspects. As opposed to many static visual novels–the 3D models used are fully animated and still retain a smoothness that’s reminiscent of something hand-drawn. The bright colors look great on Vita as they ooze with a style that’s suitable for the subject matter.The story follows a high-school boy transferring into a new school (because anime), he is then shown around the school by the president of the class which happens to be a charming highschool girl (because anime), and they eventually encounter a ghastly apparition while exploring the school (because anime). The story for the most part remains the same as the game released a year ago.
The paranormal investigators that they team up with are intriguing and are by far the most entertaining part of the story. I’m not sure if the voice-acting is any different apart from the dialogue that was rewritten recently and this latest additions scenarios, but the voice acting remains consistent throughout the entire game. As for the dialogue itself, the writing is much better than the original release back in 2015. It’s great to see that with this rerelease, localization was improved greatly. It’s quicker in places that needed a more concise explanation, and expanded in places that felt like needed a little more detail.
The game has an interesting mechanic involving the use of senses and expressions in place of dialogue choices. For example, you can choose to use the emotion of love and the sense of taste to reach in for a kiss with somebody. It can be frustrating to accidentally do something you didn’t want to do (especially towards the beginning where I kept trying to kiss a teacher), but the freedom with the dialogue choices are entertaining and add to replayability. Referring to replayability, the original Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters didn’t have much content and ended up being pretty short. I can only assume that the development was focused harshly on producing a game with a battle-system, transcending parts of the story to be developed. However, with this latest version of the game, I feel as if I’m playing a fully realized version of the game that I played last year. With nothing cut, and many more appealing features.
However, while the battle-system is improved. It’s nothing close to perfect and still feels detrimental to the game as a whole. The aesthetic is minimal, and it requires imagination to understand at first. Even considering that this is my second run-in with the battle-system in any game, I still was left feeling incredibly confused during the tutorial. It’s archaic, and the presentation takes a major downgrade during battles. The enemy design looks stylish during battles, but for some reason the developers don’t seem to take advantage of the Vita’s hardware in this iteration to make the animations look less choppy. Whether or not it’s an optimization or quality issue, it still doesn’t help the combat sections which feel tacked-on.
Regarding to how the combat doesn’t feel like a good component to the game, the changes to the combat system can feel immensely frustrating. There are moments that feel like the system is entirely luck based. I had multiple moments while I was playing that I felt like I needed to put down the game and take a break. And with a game that already feels like it can be easily played in short bursts, then having to force yourself to quit out of frustration due to game mechanics isn’t exactly enjoyable.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is more of a mouthful than the previous game that it attempts to expand from. However, it isn’t more than the original in places that I had hoped. There’s a great concept that lies underneath Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, and I wish it just had the focus and courage to not fly too close to the sun. There’s no shame in being a visual novel when it has a consistently intriguing plot. But when the player feels distracted by a frustrating combat system, it’s hard to not feel a little disappointed.