Hold on. That’s it?
When I beat the final boss of Ghostwire: Tokyo, I was bewildered by a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion.
Ghostwire: Tokyo’s vision of Shibuya is eccentric and captivating. Exploring every nook and cranny to learn more about the Japanese myths and legends that inspired the game makes for a compelling gameplay hook. It’s a shame that despite some interesting ideas, parts of the story campaign feel like they were left on the cutting room floor.
Getting Wires Crossed
Ghostwire: Tokyo follows Akito, a young Japanese boy who gets possessed by a phantom spirit named KK who imbues him with magical powers that allow him to combat various monsters inspired by Japanese folklore infesting the city. They both want to take down the mysterious figure wearing a demonic Hannya mask who kidnapped Akito’s sister.
The theme of family permeates throughout Ghostwire: Tokyo. Hannya sees family as mere tools to be used, but protecting family means everything to Akito and KK. Their fun and lively banter as they grow closer together reflects shared values — surprising for a boy and his phantom.
Throughout the game, KK will talk about his relationship with old comrades, or things that happened before he met Akito. Yet so many details are brought up once, and Ghostwire: Tokyo never does anything with them. The backstories go largely unexplored or aren’t given much further context.
At one point, KK mentions that Akito and his sister may have a particular affinity for the mystical ether energy that surrounds the city and that it could explain why Hannya kidnapped her. Why do Akito and Mari have an affinity for ether? In fact, how did enemies in the game, called Visitors, arrive in the city in the first place? The game offers very little explanation as part of the main story.
While Akito’s personal journey gets a heartfelt ending, Hannya and his minions feel underdeveloped. What little bit we do end up learning is genuinely interesting — it just isn’t fleshed out enough.
A Literal Ghost Town
Shibuya itself is a sight to behold. All humans except for Akito, Hannya, and his minions, have disappeared. The entire city is now taken over by Visitors and yokai spirits. Ghostwire: Tokyo mashes together several different subgenres and styles, riffing on Cyberpunk 2077’s perspective, Yakuza’s neon lights and Japanese signage, and Shin Megami Tensei’s post-apocalyptic flavor.
Yet it suffers from “Ubisoft sandbox” syndrome. The open world feels like a checklist of activities and objectives to pad out a short campaign. What makes the exploration worthwhile are the numerous entertaining side-quests. You’ll find spirits that haven’t been able to pass onto the afterlife because of a certain regret tying them down.
Some are serious, such as trying to find a woman’s missing boyfriend that was involved in a cult. Others lean towards being downright silly: Two spirits couldn’t pass on because they both really had to use the bathroom before they died. These side stories provide much of the world-building. Despite the fact that everybody is dead, they still make the city feel alive.
There are interesting lore collectibles scattered throughout the city that detail KK’s previous investigations when he was still a human, as well as dive deeper into Hannya’s motivations. They do alleviate some of the aforementioned underdevelopment of the supporting cast and antagonists but having to manually play the entirety of each recording while in the menu is a pain point.
Compare that to Horizon Forbidden West or countless games before it where similar audio collectibles would play automatically upon pickup while you keep moving. It’s a strange design decision that I hope can be changed in a future patch.
The Finger is Mightier
Combat in Ghostwire: Tokyo is fun and unique. Akito’s elemental ether attacks function like different first-person projectiles. Akito's connection to KK allows him to wield various elemental ether attacks by contorting his hands into different positions. By pointing his fingers in a classic gun motion, he can fire off quick bullets of wind.
Swiping his arms forward allow him to summon blades of water and holding both his palms outward like he’s doing diamond pushups lets him blast out fiery explosions. These fancy finger movements add some stylish flair to the experience and investing experience points into upgrading your favorite moves feels rewarding in the endgame.
After doing enough damage, enemies will be stunned and have their core exposed. Akito can then pull the core out of them, earning him ether crystals to replenish his ammo.
It’s such a satisfying gameplay loop and Akito’s fancy finger movements make the fighting look stylish too. Akito can also buy seals to help out in battle too. They offer a variety of effects, such as a lightning elemental one that can hold enemies in place.
The stealth options, however, feel somewhat undercooked. Akito can sneak up behind enemies and do a surprise attack, but I was only mostly able to do so with enemies that were scripted to have their backs turned away from you. Another option is to pick off enemies from rooftops with Akito’s bow.
Some Seals help with stealth by distracting enemies or creating paper bushes. You can see enemy movement patterns using his Spectral Vision, but there’s no way to peek out from corners to get a better view without getting caught, like how Dishonored does; enemies spot you entirely too quickly. However, in most combat encounters, the best approach is likely to go in with (finger) guns blazing.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has an absolutely whimsical world that’s filled with rich and interesting lore — its peculiar setting helps it stand out amongst the crowd. For the most part, combat is thrilling and impactful as well. Unfortunately, there were many potentially interesting subplots that just ended up not being fully utilized. By the time the story concluded, I was left with more questions than answers.
Ghostwire: Tokyo launches on March 25 for PC and PlayStation 5. Inverse played the PS5 version for this review.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? And, are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure. And as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.