Ghostwire: Tokyo has been out for a while. In fact, we actually reviewed it last year (review here) and it’s a pretty darn good game. Now Bethesda has finally released it for the Xbox and it’s time to take another look at this unique ghost-killing experience from Tango Gameworks.
In Ghostwire: Tokyo, you play Akito, a normal guy who gets into an accident during a ghost invasion of Shibuya (a district in Tokyo) and is about to die. Fortunately for Akito, he’s inhabited by the spirit of KK, a ghost hunter of some sort who keeps him alive by instilling him with the power to fight ghosts. These ghosts are called Visitors and they’ve been summoned by Hannya in his attempt to raise the underworld into the world of the living. Fun stuff!
The main story for Ghostwire is relatively short and intrepid players can finish the entire thing in about 12 hours or so, but what you might not realize is that this is an open-world game. Sure, you can blaze through the story (and it’s fun to do so for pacing purposes, but Shibuya is ridiculously full of things to do! If we’re being honest, there’s a lot going on in Shibuya in games, anime, and movies and it was really as crazy as all that, it would rival fictional New York City for absolute madcap adventures. But putting all that aside, Ghostwire is remarkably interesting because of the immersion level.
As Akito, you’ll use KK’s abilities channeled through your body to use wind, fire, and water spells. These spells do magical damage to the Visitors, slowly pummeling them down to the point where you can rip the spirits right out of their ethereal bodies and absorb them for experience. Do this enough and you level up, gaining new abilities as well. You can also use a bow and arrows with a variety of talismans that amp up your abilities too. We’ve covered the gameplay pretty well before but suffice it to say that there’s a lot going on here too and it’s important that you master each skill.
What may throw some players off is the first-person nature of the game however. Ghostwire: Tokyo doesn’t play like an FPS and the combat is fairly slow-paced, making a strange combination of FPS play and adventure-style planning. Sure, some enemies are faster and nastier, but by-and-large, you’re planning moves and assaults and then following through on them, allowing you to bait, trap, and eliminate visitors of various types, whether you’re floating through the air with magical glides or shredding Visitors in half up close and personal. The controls are fairly complex as well and shifting between attacks and weapons isn’t quite as intuitive as it could be, making for some awkward deaths as you occasionally screw up and get decimated by a ghost while KK screams impotently at you for dying.
Once you do get the hang of the gameplay, and it does take a bit, things go more smoothly. Shibuya is absolutely massive and it seems like there’s something to do around every corner, whether it be finding tanuki spirits, purifying gates to make new areas accessible, harvesting the spirits of citizens obliterated by the Visitors, or even completing side missions to help out wayward spirits. Don’t forget all the cats floating about running shops and having you gather up things for them to buy from you too! It’s an absolute mess of a map once everything starts getting revealed and you can spend hours just wandering about killing random Visitors, completing missions, and generally getting lost in the game. Heck, if you want to, you can spend 10 hours straight gathering spirits to help boost your levels and you still won’t have ‘em all because there’s around a quarter million to collect!
That lack of focus has a significant impact on the story in Ghostwire: Tokyo. It’s hard to stay invested when you’re constantly getting distracted, a hallmark of the open-world design philosophy. With a story as short as this one, there needed to be some padding, sure, but it would have been nice if there was a bit more cohesion to the side quests and some more detailed world-building going on. Picking up wallets and items to read some menu-driven backstory isn’t the greatest way to flesh out a world after all.
More than anything else, Ghostwire: Tokyo feels like an incredibly Japanese version of Cyberpunk 2077. That’s a compliment, not a dig. Cyberpunk was an amazing game. Buggy for many, sure, but amazing. And that same level of scale is present in Ghostwire, making you feel like you’re actually in Shibuya. Sure, it doesn’t have the scope of Cyberpunk or the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but the amount of detail in every aspect of the game is definitely impressive.
Visually, this is a masterpiece-level fusion of Japanese culture, neon, tech, and mythology that looks absolutely amazing on the Xbox Series X. The character designs are fantastic, the backgrounds are stunning, and the attention to detail is so high that the buildings all look like you could just walk into any of them and find them full. Add in some incredibly creepy enemies, a particularly nasty antagonist, and a whole lot of cool cinema work and you’ve got one hell of a game.
The sound work does a great job keeping up with the visuals as well. Traditional Japanese music is fused with modern sensibilities and a dramatic score that showcases all the distinct layers of Shibuya. The voice work is top tier stuff too and KK in particular is so incredibly unlikeable that it’s legitimately hard not to love him. Sound effects are suitably creepy too and the magic abilities whoosh, splash, and crackle in ways that rapidly increase player immersion.
The Xbox version of the game also includes the Spider’s Thread update, adding an entirely new rogue-like game mode with 30 stages. Completing the entirety of this game unlocks an even harder version with over 400 more stages, adding a wealth of additional gameplay to the original game. The update also adds new enemies, areas, skills, and side quests, and even modifies the game’s photo mode! This was a late addition to the PS5 version of the game, so having it right from launch on the Xbox really adds a bit of extra oomph to Ghostwire: Tokyo.
While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a remarkable fun game with a vast array of challenges, activities, and monsters for all types of players. If you’re story focused, the main quest will be well worth your time. Want to wander about and relax? This is also the game for you. Feel like a complex challenge? Play Spider’s Thread. There’s something for everyone here and even if it feels like a bit of a mish-mash, that broad appeal and some outstanding visuals and sound really make Ghostwire: Tokyo a unique and entertaining game that’s well worth your time and cash. At $60, it isn’t the cheapest game but the gameplay you get definitely justifies the price. If you’re really into it, you can also tack on $20 and grab the deluxe edition, adding a variety of wicked cool skins, but just like many parts of Ghostwire itself, that might not be for everyone. Regardless of what parts you like, Ghostwire: Tokyo is undeniably cool and a great experience that deserves to be played. Now if only Bethesda would release a physical copy…
This review is based on a digital copy of Ghostwire: Tokyo provided by the publisher. It was played on an Xbox Series X system using a Sony 55” 1080p TV. Ghostwire: Tokyo is also available for PS5 and PC on Steam.