Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is an interesting game that’s a remaster of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters released in 2015. While the full name would do wonders for my word count, I’ll abbreviate it to TTGHDSG, which is still pretty long. I call TTGHDSG interesting because I can’t think of a more apt description for the game. It’s an interesting cross between strategy RPG, murder mystery games, and visual novel. The “Daybreak Special Gigs” version boasts an expanded story with new scenes and in-depth looks at the characters, the new “Daybreak” scenario, and an improved battle system. Fair disclosure, I never played the 2015 release so I couldn’t tell you specifically what has been changed or improved, but the game certainly does feel polished.
Before we break into the gameplay, I’d like to note something about the configuration screen: it’s a car radio. The old kind, not the fancy new age voice activated stuff. Each “nob” associates with a setting, such as voice volume, BGM, etc. While incredibly interesting, it took me a couple of minutes before I figured out where the buttons were. While not overly user friendly, it certainly was a unique approach to a config screen. Either way, we can now move into setting and gameplay. In TTGHDSG you take control (pretty much literally) of a young Japanese boy in high school. Name? Well, you get to decide that yourself. As well as height, birthday, favorite school subject, and vision in each eye, because that’s a totally normal thing to want to know when transferring to a new school. Heck, I don’t even know my own specific vision in each of my eyes. Anyway, the first day is introduction to your classmates, the important ones not being called “classmate A” and actually having names and intro cinematic. Now that you have introduced yourself, the wonderfully harsh Miss Mifune class president will give you an after-school tour, when suddenly ghosts! Not all that suddenly really, the game really does a good job of building up to the creepy exposure of the ghosts. Either way, you help fight off the ghosts, and are recruited to join “Gate Keepers”, the local paranormal publishing company and underground exorcism corporation.
It’s at this point that you “really” start playing. The game is divided into chapters. Each chapter consists of an investigation/info gathering segment, a battle phase, and a post chapter wrap up. Each chapter is like a self contained story, complete with the opening and ending theme playing each time you finish a chapter. So how does the game play? This is, apparently, actually highly debated among the community, but let me try to summarize it as a comparison. If you take the battle style of Agarest War, the investigation of Nancy Drew games, and put them in a setting from The Calling or DreadOut with an art style that makes me think Vanillaware. Chances are you may have recognized half of those at best. Let’s start with the gameplay and I’ll expand upon the art style and setting next. As I said earlier, the game is divided into three segments: investigation, battle phase, post battle wrap-up. During the investigation phase, the game is similar to a visual novel. Heck, the game basically is a visual novel with RPG style elements thrown in.
This works in Tokyo Twilight’s favor, though, as each segment is disconnected enough that it doesn’t get to wordy for more action oriented players, but also lends itself well to the exploration and investigation. You interact by making decisions, as well as utilizing what I’m inclined to call the “unique crux” of the game: the wheel of fortune! Maybe less fortune, more like “wheel of interpersonal relationships”, but that doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. Whenever you are presented with an opportunity to perform an action, or act in a manner you believe fitting of either you or the character, a mandala will pop up with five symbols representing an emotional or mental state. You choose one, and another mandala pops up with five symbols representing the five senses. I had a lot of fun figuring out what each of the combinations mean, but I felt that was a big part of the fun, so I’ll let the readers figure it out for themselves. I will say I apparently spent a lot of time licking, biting, and sniffing people before I figured out what I was doing. The best part is that characters will actually respond to what you do. For instance, the harsh tongued class president said that if I tried licking her again, she would scream. Well, she did.
After the investigation is completed, you return to the Gate Keepers hub room, where you can change equipment, play mini-games etc. When you’re ready to head out, off you go into the battle phase. The battle phase is a wonderful concoction of strategy, preparation, and guesswork. Yes, I’m serious about the guesswork. Basically, battles are turn-based grid-style combat, except both you and the enemies move and attack at the same time. At the beginning of each turn, you choose your movement and attack, based on how many action points you have. Once everyone has been “set”, you start the turn, and everyone moves, turns, and hopefully attacks where you want them to. Or what you want them to. Thankfully, as long as a ghost is detected, you can see potential movement areas of the ghost, so you have to predict where it will move to, and attack somewhere in that vicinity. If a ghost stops on top of you, you get hit. Some ghosts can also warp through segments of the terrain, such as electrical outlets, gas mains, or water pipes. Combat is made more intricate through the use of items and traps that can be set up at the beginning of a battle. These range from damage inducing traps, preventing movement with purified salt, detection devices, etc. Have the battle stage is setting up items and traps to how they would most benefit you. Each weapon also has a different attack radius, with some having a critical hit zone, and it is up to you to work your attack coverage or strategy to deal with the pesky ghosts. Something I found interesting, is that during one battle I used an attack but the ghost had moved out of the way. Instead of hitting the ghost, I instead hit a chair and broke it, which then came out of my wage at the end of the battle. Yup, they legitimately fined me for breaking their furniture.
After the battle, you return to the Gate Keepers building, where you can chat with party members before continuing with the story and learning a bit more about the situation of the case. Another interesting aspect that I only noticed when I tried playing through the first few chapters again, was that there are certain interactions you can do that give you sort of “visions” about the ghost or general situation. At the end of the battle, this can help give you insight into the ghost’s problems, and to help them pass on. Or you can miss them and feel like all you did was beat up a poor and defenseless ghost. As an example, I licked the ectoplasm on my first trial run and I got this fancy scene explaining the reasoning of the ghost, but during my second trial I “angrily listened at” the ectoplasm, and I got no such scene. And no, don’t ask me why I decided either of those would be the correct choices. Another interesting mechanic is recruit-able party members. Yes, that’s right, you can miss party members. There is a built in affection system, where you need to make a decently good impression upon people in order to get them to join your cause. If you’re mean, or bite them all day, they won’t join your party and you’ll be down a companion.
During the intermission between battle phase and investigation phase, there are a bunch of options available for you at the home base. Your options include: saving/loading, the hypernatural board game, a PC where you can accept additional requests and convert shell points, a locker to change equipment, a whiteboard where you can train with allies to increase or learn abilities, the event viewer, and then the mission prep desk. Additionally, you can head to the lab to craft gear, or to the store to buy healing items and the like. At this point you’re probably wondering about that board game I mentioned. Basically, it’s like a very brutal game of Marco Polo. You choose a character, and a main ghost to hunt, and you have to find and kill the ghost. Which is easier said than done, because the ghosts are invisible. Also, I swear the computer cheats. The winner gets a portion of TP, which is used to train, and a small chunk of exp. It’s a really interesting mini-game that makes itself worthwhile to play if you want.
The art for the game is certainly interesting, if nothing else. For the most part, backgrounds look like live pictures put through a digitization filter, with characters appearing and moving in front. As in visual novel format, character cutouts will appear on screen when conversing, and in the case of TTGHDSG, they also move, blink, breath, and occasionally perform actions, such as flipping their hair, or strumming a guitar. The character art is definitely unique. I don’t very often see games with similar art styles, and the closest I can say would be any of Vanillaware’s work. The soundtrack for the game is pretty solid: there are some creepy tunes to set the ambiance, some upbeat tunes during celebrations, and sad tunes during the flashback scenes. While none of the songs were bad, some of the time, specifically during the battles, the music made it sound much more of a “game”, rather than a difficult fight against an undead specter.
There are multiple endings, which I believe are based around affection rating with your party members, so there’s a decent amount of replay-ability for the game, especially if you would rather play through the game again instead of having a save file to load from just to see the endings. The game is fun and easy enough to pick up in short bursts, or play through a large chunk in one sitting.
Overall, the game has a really solid story, with a well laid out setting. Combat and interactions, while often quite confusing, bring a rarely seen aspect to the limelight. The characters are unique personalities specializing in individual weapon types, and the story is interesting and engaging. The game is not without its drawbacks, however. There is no real tutorial to speak of, so it is very difficult to get new players accustomed to the game, and hard to keep players without them getting frustrated. The segregated chapter segments may be good for casual players, but if you intend to play through in only a few sittings, the repeated opening and ending sequences can get fairly annoying fairly fast. Bonus requests are a nice way for players to get extra exp and levels if they are doing poorly, but the difficulty rating system is a little subjective, as there was one bonus mission I had where you had to complete it in four turns, but it took two turns to reach the ghost and three turns to kill it.
The game is definitely what I would call a niche gem, from the perspective of an action oriented visual novel, it really excels at providing entertaining characters and interludes, despite giving little to no explanation on how the non-combat portion functions. If viewed more so as an RPG, however, it feels slightly flat, or lacking, a little too slow paced, perhaps. Realistically speaking, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is a great visual novel with RPG elements. If you enjoy story driven games, definitely take a look at some of the combat videos, to see if you would enjoy it.
Arc System Works
Article by Richard