Approaching Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs, I wasn’t overly sure what to expect. A little research revealed it to be a revived version of 2015 title Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, offering an updated story with new chapters, characters and smoother gameplay. What I particularly noted was that it merged a visual novel about hunting ghosts with a strategy game where you exorcism them. It was too interesting a concept to pass up.
Daybreak: Special Gigs begins with Ryusuke Touma transferring to Kurenai Academy. Not only was I in charge of choosing his name (I kept the standard), blood type, and height, but the poor boy couldn’t do or say anything that wasn’t of my choosing. Each time a character wanted his opinion, I made use of two conversation wheels that combined an emotion (love, friendship, sadness, anger or anxiety) with a sensory action (look, touch, taste, smell or listen). For example, friendship and touch can equate to a handshake, while love and touch is, well, going to be inappropriate.
While it was highly amusing to have Ryusuke introduce himself to people by giving them a sniff, I ended up having more issues than fun. A lot boiled down to having no tutorial for a system that’s very confusing at a glance. Once I did understand, there was still no way of telling exactly how he would act. In most instances, ‘friendly touch’ equated to a handshake, but then he’d randomly stroke someone, or pat their head. It was a shame, because I ended up being too afraid to experiment, sticking to ‘friendly look’ and simply hoping for Ryusuke to keep his hands to himself.
Luckily the story isn’t really about Ryusuke, but the Occult magazine and ghost busting club, Gate Keepers. Daybreak:Special Gigs follows a series of their cases in a “Monster of the Week” style. So each chapter always introduces, and solves, a separate case. I liked the variety this foundation gave to the title, allowing me to meet an assortment of characters and ghosts without ever feeling overwhelmed. Particularly enjoyable were the references to real Japanese ghost stories and general occult history, grounding the game in reality.
Despite dealing with some dark topics (in one case, a man keeps different body parts of the women he murders), the atmosphere was lacking. Much of this was down to having so many individual stories, lasting around 40 minutes each, and not dedicating enough time to building serious tension. I also couldn’t help but notice how empty the game was. I spent many conversations just staring at text with a location, as only the protagonists and ghosts had been deemed worthy of pictures. It’s such a shame because the existing art style is very pretty, giving the impression that the creators started to make a decent atmosphere, but didn’t get around to finishing it.
Daybreak: Special Gigs style drastically morphs into a strategy game when there’s ghost to exorcise. The location gets divided into a grid, and is seen from a top-down perspective (via the ‘Ouija Pad’). Instead of charging in blind, I could place traps for the ghost to limit its movement, cause damage, and act as a lure. While the concept was very simple, I got lost in the assortment of options. The game did provide a helpful setup at the beginning of each mission, that I could keep or change, but it still took a long time to test everything and come-up with an informed strategy.
Upon entering a mission, I had a set amount of turns to finish the job. In each turn, I could move my characters (pictured as arrows) and have them use skills (attack, heal, support, etc). These actions all take up AP (action points) with each person having a small amount available at the beginning of each turn. Limited AP made just finding the ghost a problem at times, with precious turns wasted wondering around the map.
When I did discover the ghost (which looks like a flame on the map), I had to predict how it was going to act, in order to attack successfully. Their movement was affected by nearby lures, pathways it could take to escape, and if it wanted to attack a specific member of the group. I found the situation pretty frustrating because successful hits on it were often pure chance. Not helping matters were the sudden jumps in difficulty that awarded ghosts with extra health, defence and attack power. At one point, I’d just finished a 25 level battle, only to see that the one straight after was level 35.
Spending time on activities outside of the main story can be used to improve the whole experience. Collecting charms and parts improves your abilities and skills in battle. Taking on extra missions raise your level and give trainer points (TP). Then you can use your TP to boost how many traps you can take into battle, lower the cost of mistakes, improve your chances to get good items from the shop, and lots of other upgrades. While I enjoyed levelling different stats and choosing what to focus on, many of the upgrades felt mandatory as the game went along. I found myself longing to just sit and enjoy the story, and not having to constantly stop so I could grind every skill.
Tokyo Twilight Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs got off to a bad start due to poor direction. Clever elements, such as the conversation wheel, laying traps, and numerous extras then got labelled as frustrating before they could really be given a chance. I did find enjoyment in tales of the Occult, as well as the strategic segments, once I knew what I was doing. It just took a too long to get going, making it difficult to get invested.
This review is based off a Vita copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Tokyo Twilight Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs is made up of solid concepts that get forgotten due to lacklustre tutorials. Additions made to the story and gameplay improve upon the original title, leading to a decent experience, but only if you’re willing to stick with it.