Circus Reviews - Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs

As an occasionally masochistic individual, I seek to better myself through challenge and frustration. As a gamer, this tends to come out through my searching for games outside my usual comfort zone. It's an anger-inducing practice, but hey, the expansion of one's horizons is important. Also, this game in particular looked cool.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs (I'm just going to call it Tokyo Twilight from now on because long titles are long), you play as a transfer student to Kurenai Academy, one whom you can customize to an unusually high degree, picking not just your name but things like your height and blood type. After setting all of this up, while being shown around school by the class president, you encounter a strange girl on the rooftop who tells you to defeat “the man in the red coat”. This meeting leads to you being roped into joining a ghost-hunting organization called Gate Keepers and coming face-to-face with the spirits running rampant at the academy.

While the initial premise isn't that creative, the game goes on to have a fun and engaging story. The characters are all well-realized with their own quirks and personalities, from class president Sayuri to calm and stoic Shiga, and the animation lends a great deal to all of them, being beautifully done and far above the bar of a typical visual novel. At times it feels more like an anime than a game, particularly in the opening segments. Gameplay is split between branching dialogue paths and dungeon-esque combat sections wherein you actually fight the ghosts, and the transitions between the two segments are relatively seamless.

Unfortunately, my biggest issue with the game is one that actively hinders my ability to enjoy it, and that's the lack of explanations. None of the game's central mechanics are explained in the beginning. For starters, the game was pretty clearly meant to be played with a controller (it was initially released on Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita), and thus the keyboard controls are completely unintuitive. As best as I can tell, there's no way to rebind them, either. In one of my more shameful moments, I was reduced to slapping every single button on my keyboard trying to figure out which one would let me advance the dialogue, which isn't a great sign out of the gate. But more damningly, the combat is only barely explained by an observer and then you're just kind of thrown into it without any further hints, and that combined with the aforementioned control issues throws up an unhappy brick wall.

There's also a mechanic during dialogue segments that involves picking an emotion and then picking one of your senses, which then causes your character to react in a certain way. If that sounds like a terribly vague explanation, then don't feel too bad, because that's more explanation than the game itself gives you. I was just picking random ones the whole time, not having any clue how my decisions were impacting anything. I presume it's supposed to affect your relationships with characters, and if so, I might have a problem, because I'm pretty sure I groped the class president by accident at one point.

The truth is, though...I don't like slamming this game. The story and characters are compelling and the production values are clearly very high. I really, really want to like it. And I keep opening it back up to try it again, so maybe once I climb over the mountain of my own ineptitude I can start having more fun with it. As it stands, I feel like anyone who figures out the central mechanics is going to get a lot of enjoyment out of this title. It's got a unique style and a compelling cast of characters, and while it's unfortunately held back by its refusal to teach anything to the player, there's the potential for a really enjoyable title here. So if you like a challenge (or if you've played the game on console and know what all the controls do), then give it a shot!

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs is available on Steam. Physical editions for Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita are available from local game retailers.

Final verdict: While the production values are high and the story and characters do a good job of drawing the player in, the PC port of Tokyo Twilight is unfortunately rendered nearly unplayable to newcomers by unintuitive controls and a complete refusal to explain any of its mechanics in any detail.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs is developed by Arc System Works and TOYBOX Inc. and published by PQube Limited. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was given a free copy of this game in exchange for my review. This review was originally written for Anime Backgrounds.

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