Admittedly, I’m a bit late.
At the time of writing, Tokyo 42 is a month old; releasing in May 2017 meant this game took a backseat to all the other titles that were hot on the shelves. Sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened this year; the ghost-hunting horror of Sylvio, the shocking The Town of Light and the unconventional platformer Four Sided Fantasy being examples of hyped games that I missed. But, those are other titles for other times. For now, it’s Tokyo’s time in twilight.
This isometric cyberpunk caper comes to us from SMAC Games, a two-man team originating from South Africa who have been keeping this game under wraps, possibly polishing it to a mirror shine, coining it as “The lovechild of Syndicate and GTA I“, which is a bold claim if anything, but there is some truth by that statement, but as it turns out, Kyoto 24 seems to be more of a carbon copy than a straight up groundbreaker.
This story is set in a not-too-distant futuristic Tokyo where death is a thing of the past, thanks to a new form of drug distributed by NanoMed, a shady mega-corporation based in Tokyo. But in this serene future, it seems the living can’t live as someone inexplicably dies for really reals, and you’re the fall guy for the murder. So now you and your pixelated friend Tycho must uncover the massive conspiracy as to why you’ve been framed.
Right off the bat, it feels like Nagasaki 21 doesn’t just seem to wear it’s influences and inspirations on its sleeve, they’re tattooed on its skin, laid bare for all the world to see. The story appears to borrow elements from the Deus Ex series; the NanoMed pills that the population takes and their context in-game is practically the gameplay concept that Hotline Miami pushed; the hot minute missions and quick restarts, for reference, and the environment design is heavily reminiscent of Mirrors Edge, albeit more commercial in nature. But, at the same time, how the game looks is probably one of few recommendations I have for this game.
The aesthetic of Osaka 143 is what truly makes it shine, and not because they turned the gamma up to 8000. From the moment you step out of your apartment into the first bustling city center, as the somewhat warming soundtrack crafted by Beat Vince kicks in, you quickly set yourself into the world and feel a part of it.
The game is beautiful, without a doubt. The characters pixel art, while being slightly muddy in colour tones, also fits in with the world SMAC Games have meticulously created. Every moment spent in ambiance is one worth remembering. It mostly reminds me of the short-lived Vaporwave music genre, and if we’re going on looks alone, Japan 456 would be the undisputed Game of The Year. It’s such a shame then that the rest of the game is so lackluster.
Yes, a grave misfortune of this title is that the main game feels severely undercut in nearly every other area. The gameplay probably gets hit the hardest, even if the tongue-in-cheek message to death and the absurdity of the context behind most of your missions is humorous and adds levity. But it’s main flaw is the combat itself.
In all fairness, this complaint could be considered a minor offence because I can count the amount of games that have been able to employ weight to gunplay in isometric and top down shooters on one hand; Nuclear Throne, Enter The Gungeon, Hotline Miami and possibly Postal are the ones that first come to mind. But, at the same time, you’ve got an assassin wearing Deckard’s coat from Blade Runner, jumping across skyscapers with a katana and almost every fight ends with a pathetic *POOF* as you move on to the next section.
Despite the story making genuinely piquing my interest, after a while, I just couldn’t be bothered to continue. I didn’t know what I was doing in fights, spamming RT until the bullets stopped because employing tactics gets you killed 97.8% of the time. Characters come and go with no real emotion and in the end, I just could not find a reason to continue. I’m sure it exceeds what Act 2 conjures up but I failed to press on.
I wish I could elaborate on the game further but it’s hard to remember something that offered nothing other than a pretty face. Yes, Timbuktu 4623 is a visually stunning game, but beauty is only skin deep and here, all we’ve got is skin. What could’ve been a brilliant blend of aesthetics and concepts instead ends up being a half-baked pot of average results. The word of the day here is “Weightless”.
If you play your games for visual appeal alone, then buy Tokyo 42. But if you prefer your experiences to have more depth than a swimming pool for ants, steer far away from this disappointing adventure.
This review of Tokyo 42 is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
A visually magnificent title suffering from a lack of focus in many categories, with no weight in gameplay and progression being the main culprits.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.