Ghostwire Tokyo is a showcase of using tried-and-true methods with an unique flair in order to make a fresh yet familiar experience. There's nothing truly groundbreaking about the game, and yet it has tricks that aren't seen too often in the AAA gaming landscape.
This game shows how important the setting is in an open world game. Despite having a open world structure that is not unlike any other open world game we've seen (think of the classic Ubisoft style open worlds), the game thrives as it showcases its delightfully designed rendition of Tokyo. Whether in exploration, combat, or story-related activities, Tokyo never escapes the spotlight. It's a breath of fresh air amongst all the big-in-size-but-empty-wasteland open worlds, and also the car-centric American cities that tend to be the backdrop in most modern open world games. Instead of mostly driving cars through big roads to traverse the city, you'll be walking on tight streets, and also glide from roof to roof. Especially later in the game when you're truly familiar with all the abilites you have, exploring the ups and downs and the nooks and crannies of Tokyo is not only a rewarding experience on its own, but also through how the developers reward your curiosity by well placed rewards, mostly in the form of Meika coins that you can use to buy items.
Combat is simple yet satisfying. It's about being aware of your surroundings, managing the space between you and your enemies, and seizing the opportunity when you can deal massive damage at once. You'll mostly shoot various energy beams towards the enemies, and you can parry attacks if things get too hectic, but it's a tricky thing to master. There are also talismans with specific uses later on, such as a talisman that can expose the core of your enemies, making them instantly available to kill. These talismans are mostly earned by buying them at stores, and they can drain your cash if you rely on them too much. You can also use a bow to hit enemies stealthily from afar. Many people will feel that the combat is too simplistic for their liking, but for me, the flashiness of it and the challenging difficulty (on Hard) is more than enough to keep it engaging throughout the whole game.
The main plot is pretty basic, but it certainly has its emotional moments, especially in the later half of the game. The game is mostly about the character interactions and the side stories you'll stumble upon. The relationship development between the two main characters (Akito and KK) are simply a joy to watch, and they form the charming core of the game. As the game goes they will learn to open up to each other, making way for entertaining dialogues. There are also various side characters that are memorable, despite not being as developed as the main characters.
Another big part of the game is how it treats Japanese culture with so much respect. Obviously the story of the game is drenched in Japanese folklore, but it doesn't end there. It is shown through all the side missions, the collectibles, and so on. A lot of the stories in the side mission deal with some sort of Japanese supernatural elements, such as dealing with cursed artifacts, or ending a long-lasting grudge. All the collectibles (and also other items such as consumables) are accompanied with flavor text which can be quite educational in Japanese culture. The game also presents Japanese demons or Yokais in its own charming way, and it's a delight to interact with them. If you don't like the nekomatas that are guarding the shops, then you're just not a good person.
Visually the game is quite mesmerizing. The rain-soaked streets of night time Tokyo is a charming beauty indeed. Not to mention many of the enemies and Yokais are beautifully designed, with their own personalities and levels of creepiness. The flashy energy effects and animations of your hands also adds a lot to the excitement of combat. There are also segments in some main and side missions where you are transported to unnatural locations, and these are their own showcases of visual splendor to experience. Lastly, the models of the dogs and cats aren't too great, but they remain as adorable as ever.
Still, the game has a lot of flaws. Some buildings have questionable climbable sections, making you fall down to the street because you don't know which part of the building to glide to. There could be a lot more done to make the progression system more exciting, because it's mostly simple upgrades such as 10% boost on fire rate. The variety of offensive and defensive abilities could also be improved, maybe by adding a dedicated dodge move, or adding melee combo moves. Managing consumables is not very intuitive. The music can be too ambient at times, making it quite forgettable. The performance on PS5 is not yet perfect even on the latest patch. And yet, I don't think these flaws are enough to drag the game down too much.
In the end, Ghostwire Tokyo is a truly memorable open world experience. It feels like a PS2-era semi-experimental game, except this game doesn't fully rely on the charm of its uniqueness alone. It has quality execution to back up most of its great ideas. In a way, the game uses familiar mechanics and ideas from other games to not only support its main ideas, but also as a contrast in order to make them stand out even more.

Reviewed on Jul 08, 2022