As a surprise the other night, my sweet husband gifted me with Ghostwire Tokyo, a game that had been on my Must-Buy list since it dropped on PC and PS5 back in March. I have been super hyped for this game ever since its concept leaked into gaming news, and this morning I happily breezed through Ch. 1 of the story.
You play as Akito, a guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or was it the right place at the right time, really?). Having just been in a gnarly motorcycle accident in the middle of Tokyo’s commercial district of Shibuya, Akito becomes possessed by a desperate spirit with an agenda named KK. This immediately precedes a mysterious white fog that rolls through the city and whisks away humanity, leaving behind clothes and personal effects Rapture-style. Okay, obviously anyone with a shred of sanity would be freaking out during all of this, and that’s what Akito does as he fights against KK’s possession, even though KK keeps telling him that the alternative is death. Akito tries to understand the phenomenon happening around him, but he also just really wants to get to the hospital to check on his sister, Mari. Oh and did I mention that with the rolling white fog comes a multitude of Yokai and an ominous Hannya-masked individual who clearly has nefarious intentions? Yeah, that happens too.
In a haphazard effort of teamwork, KK instructs Akito on how to fight the Yokai invasion using ethereal weaving. Yessss! I can FINALLY feel like Naruto, throwing hand signs that do some serious damage!
The cool thing is that the ethereal weaving is actually modeled after traditional Japanese kuji-kiri practices. We start off using the element of wind, and a peek at the game’s delicious skill tree reveals much more to unlock. As Akito puts his newfound skills into practice, he and KK make their way to the hospital, kicking yokai booty along the way and acquiring groceries–food items dropped in the great disappearance that (thankfully) restore health. So far, the game’s exploration is pretty linear as you traverse Shibuya, the city’s many alleyways and streets blocked off by health-sapping fog, but that’s okay because the visual effects are stunning and pleasing to the eye. Neon lights bounce off the rain-laden streets, and the atmosphere of a bustling commercial ward gone still is quite eerie.
Upon arriving at the hospital and fighting Yokai up to the fourth floor where Mari’s room is (PS5 controller, I LOVE YOU, thanks to your adaptive triggers it actually feels like I’m yanking out Yokai spirit cores), we see that the masked man is there, hovering over Akito’s sister. Hannya promptly punches through Akito’s body, leaving him to die, and whisks Mari away to use in some sinister ritual that will bring about a new Yokai existence–or something like that, it’s all still very mysterious. Anyways, Akito agrees to let KK fully possess him to save his life, just so long as they can go rescue Mari. From this point, beginning Ch. 2, KK directs Akito to a shrine, where we learn that the spirits of Shibuya’s previous human inhabitants can actually be saved! The spirits are scattered across the city, and Akito must absorb them using the shrine’s katashiro and take them to a phone booth…wait, what? What in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is this?! KK informs Akito that his friend Ed had invented a spiritual transfer system using the city’s pay phone booths. Wild.
So this is where I left off on my playthrough, and I am beyond excited to get back to it, to experience more of the city and unlock more skills and see how the story pans out. One of the biggest draws of this game for me (I mean, aside from feeling like Naruto as I weave the earth’s life forces with my very hands!!!) is the heavy presence of Japanese culture. Ghostwire is a perfect array intermingling traditional Japan with modern, and the game lets me experience Japan’s customs, lifestyles, and folklore all from my gaming chair. From tori gates and shrines to the history of certain food items, I get to explore and learn so much! While Ghostwire deviates a bit from other titles of developer Tango Gameworks (ex. The Evil Within, which I also highly enjoy), producer Shinji Mikami ensured to pull some of the same unsettling vibes into this game via cultural superstition and belief. (Notes of spooky goings-on in the hospital?) All in all, so far I am really enjoying this game and it’s everything I had hoped it to be!