The overall lack of quality-of-life features hinder an otherwise gripping Japanese horror tale in one of 2020’s finer adventure games on ps4.
What is Tokyo Dark: Remembrance?
Initially released in 2017 on PC as simply Tokyo Dark, this enhanced port is a point-and-click Japanese horror game that finds Detective Ito Ayami (pictured above) in search of her lover and working partner Kazuki Tanaka, who recently went missing in Shinjuku. Now titled Tokyo Dark: Remembrance, the Nintendo Switch and PS4 versions feature additional story beats and new endings, of which there are a whopping 11 to uncover.
Story wise, you’ll be exploring various areas of Japan, from Shinjuku and Akihabara to the “Suicide Forest” Aokigahara, while uncovering an ever-expanding mystery surrounding a magical mask, religious shrines hidden beneath city streets, and the appearance of someone once thought to be deceased. There’s talk of other “realms,” doomsday cults, and other, equally dark themes, but they’re rounded out by some pretty fantastic character development and cute, comedic scenarios involving kitty-obsessed yakuza and a cats afflicted with rampaging diarrhea. Yeah, Tokyo Dark goes places.
While point and clicking your way around and discovering clues, Detective Ito’s mental state will shift depending on your choices within conversations and personal actions. The game calls it the SPIN meter, being Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, and Neurosis. For instance, you may choose to order a drink while on the clock in order to pry information from the local bartender (dropping your Professionalism while gaining critical information), or refusing the drink and finding another way around (raising Professionalism, but losing out on said info).
After an important story beat early on in the game, Detective Ito finds herself suffering from nightmares and possible hallucinations, so you’re given the choice to take her medication (keeping her sane, but lowering her ability to keep a clear mind and investigate thoroughly).
The SPIN system is an interesting take on a morality mechanic, but I was never sure what moving the needle ever did. For that, I’m sure it’d require me to play through all 11 scenarios, but as of now, I’ve only made it through two of them. So whether or not SPIN really matters is up in the air, but it did give Tokyo Dark that sort of The Walking Dead’s “…will remember that” feeling that indicated what I just did made some sort of lasting impact.
Speaking of which, your first time through Tokyo Dark is chock full of meaningful choices that greatly impact how the story plays out. There’s also an auto-save feature that prevents you from save-scumming your way to your desired outcome, which really makes you think before committing to anything. There are a few choices that need to be made within a specific time limit, but, for the most part, you can take your time and really think it out first.
After finishing the game once, a New Game+ option opens up that allows you to make save files, which I thought was pretty smart. Like I said above, I enjoyed having to live with my decisions and watching Ito’s mental state change (and her story) as a result.
Where does it go wrong?
Visually, Tokyo Dark is mostly serviceable. Characters are hand drawn and exist on pre-rendered backdrops. Their models are certainly better out in the world than they are within the game’s storyboard cutscenes. Aside from Detective Ito and a handful of other important characters, some of designs are just downright bad and feel lifted from some poor sap’s DeviantArt account. Animated cutscenes are few and far between, but they’re beautifully done and I wish there were more of them. There aren’t a ton of explorable areas either, and, thus, not a lot to actually point and click on, so Tokyo Dark ends up being equal parts adventure game and visual novel. Not a bad thing by an means, but worth putting out there for folks who just want a horror game to play.
There’s also a significant lack of quality-of-life features that you’d find in other, similar games — like the ability to fast forward conversations on subsequent playthroughs so you can get to the choices quicker. One my second playthrough I completed the game far quicker than the one before it, but spent a lot of my time mashing X just to speed things along.
There’s no option to adjust text speed, so I ended up accidentally skipping a few sentences here and there. Unlike other visual novels, though, there’s no way to revisit missed text and I was just left in the dark (no pun intended). Other games usually have a dedicated button to press or a flick of the analog stick that brings up the last few dialogue boxes.
Another quality-of-life feature missing is a clear distinction of which choices you’ve already made in earlier playthroughs. It’s ultimately up to the player to keep track, which is a huge bummer. There are 11 endings and various ways to unlock them, but no shift in text color or check mark to tell you what you’ve done in the past.
Why should you check it out?
I’m a big fan of horror games, point-and-clicks, and visual novels, so Tokyo Dark checked off a lot of my favorite boxes. It’s also the perfect length to play through once or twice during a long weekend, with my initial playthrough clocking in around 5 hours and the next around the 2-hour mark. For a game with 11 possible outcomes, that makes it easier to swallow.
The story also goes to some crazy places, at least during my playthroughs. I do wish the SPIN system made more sense, but every single choice had a clear consequence, for better or for worse. It really felt like I was responsible for these outcomes and that’s not always the case with other games in the genre(s).
If you want something narratively dense, but also easily digestible in smaller bites, then check it out. There’s a lot of game here for such a fair asking price.