PC game review “Ghostwire: Tokyo” (a realistic trip through the streets of Japan)

By | May 2, 2023

These days, with so many other responsibilities (and hobbies) I find it hard to make time to sit down for a PC game for any length of time. Part of the reason is that playing games a few minutes at a time is just not as satisfying as those hours-long sessions that I could do when I was young, but I’ve also grown particular about games; if I am not blown away in the first 5-10 minutes I’ll just quit and uninstall it (this is especially true for games I download as part of XBox Game Pass).

When I saw an ad for “Ghostwire: Tokyo”, while it looked cool I didn’t have high expectations since many games that try to take advantage of some element of Japanese culture end up doing it in a way that isn’t accurate, or at least not very enjoyable. I think that is especially true on desktop platforms, whereas on consoles like Playstation you can find more authentic games by Japanese companies. Some games like the Yakuza series seem pretty authentic, but the graphics aren’t up to par with the level I’d like.

When I started “Ghostwire: Tokyo” on my PC, I was impressed from the very beginning by the polished menu screen, and really enjoyed the introduction that showcased the sprawling night city of Shibuya––one of the most famous cities of Japan that some even consider the center of modern Japanese culture. Normally I am not a big fan of long cut scenes (except for Final Fantasy games), but the intro really drew me into the story and made me want to learn more about the game world. The vocal narration (defaulting to Japanese audio with English subtitles, a nice touch) is great and really adds to the atmosphere.

While not exactly photo realistic, the graphics of this game are quite excellent (even on default settings), and soon it became clear that the world was *very* detailed. From the countless variety of storefronts lining the streets, to the advertisements and even the random items strewn about in houses, there was an amazing attention to detail, and above all things were amazingly authentic. 

When I finally decided to research the game, I was not surprised to see it was created by a Japanese game company. I can’t imagine a US company making a game this authentic to Japan’s culture. And the game’s designers have adeptly integrated compelling fantasy elements into real-life things such as Shinto Shrines and katashiro (paper dolls used in ceremonies for purification and to ward off evil).

For someone who hasn’t been able to travel to Japan in the last few years, playing “Ghostwire: Tokyo” was a bit like taking a trip to a big city in Japan, and the extreme realism made exploring a real joy.

For language learners I can’t say the Japanese is exactly easy (especially due to the vocal effects that are applied to many of the voices, not to mention some regional accents), but the narration does have some short, simple phrases that you may be able to pick up.

At this point I’ve only played a few hours, and even though there are some things (like the combat) that aren’t that enjoyable, I think this game is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of Japanese culture. If you try it, let me know what you think.

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