By: Matthew Striplen
Ever wondered what Ghostbusters would have been like had it been set in a Japanese high school? Finding out is only one play session away in this enhanced version of 2015’s Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters, Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters: Daybreak Special Gigs.
For the sake of saving space and time, I’ll be referring to this current game simply as Special Gigs. Tag along with a quirky group of psychic high schoolers in this visual novel/JRPG.
Since Special Gigs is primarily a visual novel, the game doesn’t have complicated controls. All you need to do to scroll the dialogue is to tap R1. Unfortunately, there’s no auto-scroll function, so be ready to continually tap the button for the entire game.
The RPG segments are slightly more complicated but not much. All players need to do is to target the area or item of interest and tap the button that corresponds with the desired action — simple, yet effective.
Special Gigs offers a far better graphical presentation than many other games in the genre. Each character model is full of detail, and better yet, they’re animated! Most visual novels feature still or barely animated figures, but here there are multiple animations to express a wide range of emotional responses.
Although this game does offer many more animations than the average visual novel, animations get recycled frequently and are sometimes awkward or inorganic.
As evidenced by the game’s logo, Special Gigs has tons of rock music. Unfortunately, most of the rock sounds bland and commercial. Even after many hours of gameplay, I would be hard pressed to hum the tune to any tracks.
As with most visual novels, not much voice acting is present, aside from a few Japanese phrases and miscellaneous gasping and grunting.
Welcome to Kurenai High School. You are the latest transfer student and, as such, lots of people are interested in getting to know you. It doesn’t take long for you to fall in with some unusual sorts. Enter Masamune Shiga, a wheelchair-using brainiac, who is invariably described as “cool.”
He explains that he works for a magazine called Gate Keepers, which publishes articles on the occult. However, the magazine is actually a front for an exorcism business, run by Chizuru Fukurai, a flirtatious businesswoman. After helping out with an exorcism, Gate Keepers offers to let you become a full-fledged member of the organization.
Special Gigs is divided up into episodic chapters, each of which contain opening credits, an extended visual novel segment, RPG gameplay and then a second visual novel segment and closing credits. The credits feel reminiscent of watching an anime, but they’re unnecessary due to the fact that the medium is a video game. Luckily, the credits are skippable.
The writing during the visual novel segments is inconsistent at best. The early chapters suffer from a slow plot and empty dialogue. Later episodes fare a bit better, as the empty dialogue is reduced and the plot takes a more engaging direction.
Unfortunately, most characters are one dimensional and adhere to typical anime tropes. Moichi Sengen is the techie and a wimpy otaku. Sayuri Mifune is a tsundere who treats you with extreme distaste but slowly warms, while Kajirou Yamakawa is a stereotypical Yakuza member. The list goes on…
Special Gigs also contains some out of place sexist remarks. Harukichi Kosuge, a big-hearted rocker, extolls the greatness of rock and roll, saying, “Rock is all about love! And peace!” However, he is surprised to see the player taking orders from Sayuri Mifune, exclaiming “Being bossed around by a woman is -not- rock. Why don’t you speak up?”
Kajirou Yamakawa similarly expresses his reservations about having a female superior, explaining that he could not see himself taking orders from a woman, and the only reason he joined Gate Keepers is because he respects the player, a male character. These comments seemed like the beginning of a conflict, but they were swept aside and never mentioned again.
Statements like that make more sense coming from Yamakawa, an anti-hero, but Kosuge is supposed to provide comic relief. If casual sexism is to make an appearance in a video game, the writers should have taken the opportunity to condemn it rather than perpetuate the problem.
After the story elements are complete, it’s time to dive into the RPG segment. All action takes place on a large grid, each of which has a unique layout depending on the location. Each battle has a large ghost that the player must defeat, but there are plenty of smaller secondary ghosts to watch out for, too.
These ghosts are invisible unless the player is close enough, or the ghost strays close enough to a detector. Detectors are one of a wide array of devices that the player can deploy on the field. Traps and other environmental hazards can be purchased and placed on the grid before the battle at the player’s discretion. Each device costs money, however, so keep an eye on your funds.
Before the beginning of each turn, the game displays a prediction of the ghost’s movement, but the field is so wide that the prediction is rarely of use. Since the ghost moves at random, finding the ghost is difficult enough, but killing it is something entirely different. I often found setting up a perimeter and having my characters attack into thin air was more effective than trying to actually catch the enemy.
One of Special Gigs‘ biggest problems is the lack of explanations. The visual novel segments contain a handful of player choices, some of which have major consequences. Some choices come in the form of text responses, while other times players are faced with symbol wheels, which appear without explanation.
After doing some online sleuthing, I discovered that the wheels contain potential emotional responses and action, but the responses are so vague it’s difficult to predict their outcome. Naturally, I continued to respond to my fellow characters with “love” and “taste.”
Tokyo Twilight Ghosthunters: Daybreak Special Gigs is a quirky hybrid of the visual novel and RPG genres. Unfortunately, lack of explanations and an uninteresting battle system, coupled with initially poor writing and instances of casual sexism, ultimately makes playing the game more effort than it’s worth.