Developer: Cherrymochi, Mebius Publisher: UNTIES Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC Release Date: November 7, 2019 (Nintendo Switch), TBA (PS4) Price: $19.99 Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch Review Code Provided: Yes Tokyo […]
- Developer: Cherrymochi, Mebius
- Publisher: UNTIES
- Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Release Date: November 7, 2019 (Nintendo Switch), TBA (PS4)
- Price: $19.99
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Review Code Provided: Yes
Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is an anime styled point and click horror mystery game previously released on PC, and coming to Nintendo Switch for the first time on November 7, 2019. It features 13 different endings, an intense story, and an innovative system to track and display how your interactions and decisions mold the story. Having not played the PC version, this will be my first experience with the game, and the review is based on one playthrough, and one subsequent ending. Is this a mystery worth diving in to?
Tokyo Dark : Remembrance is a visual novel at its core. If you are not interested in this type of game, then this may not be for you. That would be a shame though, as the story is really quite fascinating and takes some truly shocking turns. The main story follows Detective Ito Ayami on her quest to find her lost partner, taking her on a journey through some of Japan’s more unsavory back alleys, famous landmarks, and Ayami’s own damaged psyche. To reveal much more of the storyline would truly be a spoiler, so I won’t include many more specifics here, but will say it is truly fantastic!
It touches on serious topics such as mental health in law enforcement, the treatment of female police officers by their own colleagues, mythology, cults, suicide, Idol culture, abuse and more. These heavy topics are counterbalanced wonderfully with minor storylines involving cats, laxatives, bumbling boys trying to impress Ayami, arcade claw crane games, sushi and others. Everything melds together surprisingly well without any obvious transitions, making the dark themes more palatable and the silliness refreshing. Not only does this make for a good detective drama, but horror elements play heavily as well, making it a tense experience navigating what is real and what could be attributed to Ayami’s fragile mental state.
Throughout the 5 to 6 hours needed to complete one playthrough (mine clocking in at around 5 hours, at a fair clip) and experience one subsequent ending, the decisions you make form what happens in the story. Based on the brief and dismal nature of the ending I received, I believe I unlocked one of the “poor” endings. I would not say that was a bad thing at all, since the ending I received was fantastic, even though it did not end well for the world as a whole or really for Ayami. As you make your way through it is made fairly obvious how some of your decisions will impact the story, but there are some pretty significant twists along the way that will make you wonder about what choices you could make on a subsequent journey to take a different path. That being said, there are rarely moments that stand out as ones that will greatly impact the story or trigger a different ending. Instead, there are many small instances that impact different statistics tracked through the game’s SPIN system.
SPIN is an acronym that encompasses the four major stats that impact Ayami’s grasp on reality. They are as follows;
Sanity is the big stat that seems to have the greatest impact, and is actually influenced by the other three stats. It is very easy to let Ayami’s sanity drift off into negative digits, and makes for some truly terrific horror storytelling. Ayami’s sanity, and neurosis, can be positively impacted by simple actions like taking medication, playing with her cat, or helping others. Some of this requires visits back to her apartment, which is easy to miss and feeds well into the mental instability she is experiencing and her faltering grasp on reality. It makes complete sense that she would forget to go home to medicate when she can not keep track of what is real.
The other statistics are briefly explained early in the game, and it is easy to figure out how they can be manipulated by your actions. It was not clear on my first playthrough how these stats impacted the end of the story, but were clear in the lead up. Professionalism, for example, can be altered by simply sharing a drink with someone while on duty, using violence to solve a problem, or appearing weak in an interrogation. Each instance seems small at the time, and can be used to get where you want to go at the time, but could have a large impact in the branching paths later on. I had the most fun with this stat and Sanity, making my Ayami a bit of a reckless short-fused Detective with nothing to lose. For a visual novel game, this adds some great role playing elements that I truly appreciated.
Investigation was a bit of a let down, as it was FAR too easy to raise, and kind of necessary to move the story forward, or at least it seemed that way. Just looking at things in the world (this is a point and click style game, mind you) easily kept investigation in the positives. Neurosis was interesting, and has an impact on sanity, but again was kind of a throwaway from what I can tell. More time with the game may prove this wrong, and I am dying to see what can be ignored or done differently in the game to change my stats up in a subsequent playthrough.
Speaking of, it is very easy in the game to monitor the SPIN statistics beyond what direction the story is going. You can simply press the Y button at almost any point to pause the game and bring up SPIN. This displays the SPIN menu, complete with slider bars for all 4 stats, displaying where Ayami currently exists in terms of these measures. Above this you can also see how much time you have put into the game, which really I only obsessed over to try and get through the game in time to review it, and likely is not really that useful unless you get a perverse joy out of speeding through a visual novel game for a record time while absorbing none of the story. Don’t do that!
As cool as it is to track these stats on the fly, the SPIN system could have done with a little more effort to highlight its importance. As I stated earlier, it is fairly easy to miss going to Ayami’s apartment which can result in some drastic changes to some of the SPIN parameters. This does make sense in the story, but there are not a lot of opportunities to positively impact particular stats through in game actions. As the game is fairly short, which is not an entirely bad thing, this is further accentuated. So many games now include stat building exercises built in to side activities like the Yakuza and Persona series and even Fire Emblem: Three Houses, that it is very noticeable when a game does not allow for easy manipulation of statistics through side activities. That is not a bad thing though, and the length of the story does not allow for that leeway anyway. To draw out the story anymore would also impact how well it is presented, and might not encourage multiple playthroughs, so I will not fault the game for this. It is a shame though, as it could have been something really special instead of just a cool novelty.
The game also does an impeccable job of guiding you along your path. Yes, you do need to pay attention to what is being presented to you in the text of the game but when you load up the map (pictured above) the next location is automatically selected for you. I loved this for a few reasons. One, I have a terrible short term memory, so guiding me along really was helpful and prevented unnecessary backtracking when I was not exactly sure which location was mentioned. Two, as I have stated a few times already, it is very easy to skip activities that help Ayami with her mental health. The map very conveniently pushes you toward the next selection so you can quickly continue the investigation and story, which plays off of the urgency in Ayami’s journey so very very well! I felt like I was forgetting to take care of myself instead of that simply being written into the story. I really appreciate that kind of detail.
My negative points are very few, but did have a slight impact on enjoyment. The presentation at times was simply gorgeous. The background designs, especially in the shrine and some of the darker more horrific areas were fantastic! One scene later in the game takes you to a club where only the silhouettes of the people dancing can be seen in front of the bar backdrop as you make your way through, and it was striking! There are some transition scenes and animations that are impeccably done as well. For this reason it is all the more jarring when you walk through an area as Ayami and her movements are reminiscent of cheap Flash animation. The character models are alright, and the areas are fantastic, but the movements could use some polish. I will say that I got used to them though.
The controls in the game work fine for what they are, but there is no direction out the gate on what to do. I found the directions by pausing the game with the SPIN system (re: Y button) to pull up the controls, but that doesn’t change the struggle I had for the first few minutes trying to figure out how to select something that was clearly selectable. The controls are actually very simple, consisting of moving Ayami left and right through the world, pressing A when ready to interact, and selecting options with the left stick and the A button to progress. The integral part I was missing was the input to cycle through the available objects/people that you could interact with in the environment. These is delegated to the L and R bumpers, but that does not feel logical to me. I would have preferred the right stick to select options.
It is a small quibble, but nonetheless a brief screen when starting would have corrected this. There was also an odd choice at the very end of the game, after the credits roll. I was stuck with a black screen and some ambient noises that I will not spoil here. No button presses pushed me forward and I could not return to the menu screen. I left it at this screen and tried multiple things to see if something was hidden or some Easter egg awaited me for about five minutes, to no avail. It wasn’t a huge issue, as I had completed the game and could simply close the software through the Nintendo Switch home screen, but still.
These foibles were there, and noticeable, but I still loved the game. This speaks to the storytelling, which I would think is paramount in a visual novel game. Sure some of the character models were a little … off, but this is not some huge project. This game started as a Kickstarter, and I thank the people that supported it. I should also mention that there were improvements made to the base PC version to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch. There were improvements in the design of some of the rooms, as well as some additional dialogue and scenes that were added. I can not speak to the scenes or what was improved, but it is great the see the developers work on improving the game and not leaving it as a simple port. It is obvious there was a lot of effort and heart put into this game. This was a really fun experience, and I recommend it very much for horror fans as well as Detective thriller fans.