In Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, the gameplay is a combination of traditional Visual Novel storytelling and Strategy RPG.  Interactions with Characters move the story along at a relaxing pace while you learn more about the Gate Keepers and your team mates.  Unusually, the producers have scrapped the traditional text options during these segments for an emotion/senses mashup.  Rather than choose from a selection of text options to react to other characters, you’re faced with two grids.  The first has emotions ranging of confusion, sadness, anger, friendship and love; meanwhile the second lets you choose from one of the five senses.  The only problem with this method however, is that you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to do half of the time.  I chose anger and then the mouth option one time assuming this meant my character was going to shout at someone, only for him to then try and bite a Yakuza boss!  Not cool.  For cautious players, the friendship plus touch option is a safe bet, but as it seems these options don’t seem to make a difference to the story apart from provide humorous diversions.

Sensory Input Sayuri 1 - Emotion

TTGH uses grid type strategy RPG elements for its missions, with the Player taking turns to plan their strategy.  Before going into battle, players have the option of buying items from the shop to assist them with their mission and these can be placed across the grid to track ghosts, inflict status effects, and generally make your life easier.  However, each of these items costs money and are deducted from your earnings.  This isn’t so bad when you’re buying salt at about 100yen a go, but those handicaps can hit your profits quickly.  Another thing to be mindful of is your environment.  Ghosts can be unpredictable and travel through walls whilst some varieties can also zip through electrical outlets.  If you choose to attack them in an area close to furniture and items in a room, missing your target can cost you big time.  Whilst trying to exorcise a ghost in a schoolroom I managed to break a few chairs, leading to a decent chunk of my fee being used to pay for the damages.  Fees are also charged for hospital appointments for your characters if they are injured or had a status effect inflicted upon them whilst in the line of duty.  This led to me paying much more attention to the condition of my team in battle and keeping an eye on their health.

Battle 7 - Ghost Fight

Visually, TTGH is a beautiful game with what looks to be hand painted backgrounds and softly animated character models.  Rather than flat and sometimes stiff 2D images often found in the Visual Novel genre, TTGH’s characters move during the Visual Novel aspects with softly fluttering hair, facial expressions and reactions.  This works really well and updates the game nicely.  Another notable feature is that text options are advanced using the R1 button rather than the X button.  This felt strange at first, but I quickly got used to it and it felt much more natural whilst playing the game.  TTGH’s interfaces are fun and immersive, with each menu designed to complement the game’s mood.  When not exorcising Ghosts, players are dropped off at the Gate Keeper headquarters to recuperate and plan their next moves.  Each of the options from this point is designed into the screen, with a stack of posters being the save/load option and the PC available to accept incoming requests from beleaguered civilians.  From the Gate Keeper offices you can do this, whilst also training with teammates to level up their skills, read case files, and even play a tile based mini game.  From the entrance mat you can also travel to other locations, including the local 4B convenience store to stock up on snacks, salt and other essentials.

Battle 4 - Critical Zone

Before playing TTGH, I was really excited after learning that Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu was responsible for the game’s soundtrack.  His love of bands like Deep Purple shine through in the game, but for those looking for an orchestral score may find themselves disappointed.  Nevertheless, the soundtrack is decent (apart from a couple of notably screechy guitar tracks) and matches the mood of the game well.

Review Summary

Overall, TTGH is a fun and relaxing game and despite the subject, is really not scary at all.  I’d recommend it for any RPG fan looking for a casual strategy game to pick up and play that will deliver hours of chilled gameplay in an unhurried atmosphere. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is available to pruchase now for PS3 and Vita.