Anime is a medium produced in the hundreds and enjoyed by millions. The thing is even though its artstyle is consistently identical through all respective variations of the genre, its delivery can vary between night and day. A broad spectrum of emotional colours, sounds and themes that all interlink with each other that produce something that captures hearts all around the world. The strange allure to Japanese Cartoons is an enigma and it has the potential to deliver some powerful knock out blows to our psych and inner emotional state.
Tokyo Dark is one such of these pieces of Anime in which I’m referring to. A grim, devastating and gut wrenching experience but in no way a particularly unique one. Tokyo Dark shines a light some very real issues within the Tokyo populace – prostitution, human trafficking, Chikan, drugs and homicidal crime – but in my personal opinion it fails to reach the full heights of its potential.
Not dissimilar to the Broken Sword or King’s Quest games, Tokyo Dark is a side scrolling Point & Click adventure that focuses on a shamed Homicide Detective known as Ayami Ito. Without giving away too many spoilers, some shit happens to Ito. Something pretty insanely supernatural that destroys her entire life during an investigation in to the “Red Paint Murderer.” Ominous right. It’s as about as generic as it gets, the premise behind a depressed Detective isn’t anything new but it’s still interesting.
While I enjoyed the story within Tokyo Dark, I do believe the gameplay holds a lot more potential than what what was on offer. For the majority I felt like I was just along for the ride, go back and forth to one location to the other with no real freedom to make my own decisions, while this kind of system is attempted and choices about the story can be made, I felt like these choices were far apart and few between. While a detective is a tried and true avatar for players to figure out puzzles and murder scenes, everything is laid out in an obvious way in front of the player that it feels like I’m just watching Ito uncover these secrets, rather than Ito embodying me.
Tokyo Dark is a game where psychological torment is addressed and mental illnesses are questioned, further and further down the rabbit hole Detective Ito descends, yet not once did I myself feel distressed or able to relate to her questionable sanity. Regardless how sad she looks through the game. My frustration towards the game’s inability to meet its potential stems mostly from this. The story had all the pieces, the artstyle was gruesome and dark enough to pull me in to the same pit as Ito, but not once did I feel the toll on my psych that Tokyo Dark could have punished me with.
This, along with its arbitrary SPIN system, paints a picture of a game trying to be one thing but finds itself lacking in the ambition needed to push itself into a true piece of art. And that’s something Tokyo Dark could have become, all the parts of the puzzle are already in the game but are never delivered correctly.
While the game does offer a New Game+ mode, it offers little replayability other than the discovery of all the endings, including the games “true ending.” Mostly revolves around playing the same story over and over again, but does little to explain this mechanic or even give a reason to why Detective Ito is reliving these sequences exactly. Not that I need one but it does detract even further from the immersion.
Now I’ve been pretty negative about the game so far, however don’t let that deter you. Tokyo Dark actually holds a lot within its rough 5-6 hour long campaigns, including its fantastic social commentary about the struggles of daily life and the butterfly effects that come with it. The score is majestic and the brush stroke art style mystical. Every scene is designed with love and the characters themselves are relatable in an extremely personal sense. I’d be happy to wager that the many people struggling with the harsh existence we’ve come to know as life could relate to at least one character within this story. The hopelessness just doesn’t feel as hopeless as I’d want it to but none the less, it is a devastating, gut wrenching and real storyline that managed to hold my attention from start to finish.