Let’s start with the glaringly obvious; Tokyo 42 is a visibly striking game that is flipping beautiful to look at. In terms of its aesthetic it may be one of the best looking games available on the Xbox One, not graphics wise, but simply that the art style looks fantastic.
Unfortunately for Tokyo 42, the rest of the game is very hit and miss. At times I was completely engrossed in the stealth elements and placement of enemies, causing me to treat each mission almost like a maze, figuring out the correct path to take and stay hidden, adjusting my mind accordingly. The rest of the time I was cursing the game at its lack of depth found in the gameplay and at the repetitive missions.
The game starts with you being framed for a murder that you didn’t commit. So, in an attempt to clear your name, you are peer-pressured by your friend Tycho to become a hitman. It’s a very bizarre and nonsensical plot at the start, but later levels involve infiltrating a massive pharmaceutical company who demand every resident take their drugs every day without question, all backed up with an interesting cast of characters. These characters however, are only ever really contactable via video call.
Aesthetically, these video calls are ill-fitting with the rest of the game. The character faces on the video call are done in a pixel art style that completely clashes with the art style of the world, and they are very unappealing to look at.
The rest of the game looks truly amazing. It’s an open-world where you are encouraged to explore and discover the secrets hidden within the fairly-large sized world. There are of course collectibles to be found, and these can be used to customise not just your character’s general appearance, but that of your guns and personal Trackacat cat which will assist you in both single player and multiplayer, keeping tabs on suspicious looking NPCs.
The NPCs wander round the city just like you, going about their daily business. Aside from being able to barge into them and shoot them down, there is no interaction with them at all. The occasional NPC at specific locations will say something to you that appears as a big speech bubble which covers an unnecessarily large part of the screen, but that’s as far as it goes.
Tokyo 42’s gameplay is very much like that of a twin-stick shooter, but with added ideas. These allow it to be fleshed out, but can make the controls a bit tricky to get used to at first. Any tips given to help with controls are shown in the top right of the screen, in a tip box, but even these can be tricky to read as the size of the text in the game is very small.
As you wander over the rooftops the game is set upon, you will need to undertake missions to uncover the conspiracy you have become broiled up in. Side-missions are also present to flesh out the game and these contain more variation than the main missions; rather than simple infiltration and the killing of a specified target that feature prominently in the main story, the side missions had me taking long range sniper shots, killing three enemies within a few seconds, running through the city as fast as possible and even defending a certain place against waves of enemies. Some of these tie into the main story, but many are just there to flesh out the game. But it is these which became the more interesting things to complete.
Most missions will provide some sort of recompense for completing them, either in the form of money (to spend on ammo and more weapons) or in RP, Reputation Points, which are used to unlock more side missions. Some missions however also feature extra rewards based on your performance. Ronin is awarded when you kill every enemy in the mission, Ninja awarded for completing the mission without being spotted and Roninja for killing all without being spotted. Some missions only offer a Ronin or Ninja, but Roninja is the ultimate reward offered on only a handful of missions.
Earlier missions are all pretty run of the mill, but the later missions in the main story border on the unfair. The difficulty curve in this game is very steep and having spent most of the game completing each mission as stealthily as possible, I was disappointed to see that the final few missions rely heavily on the gunplay aspect of the game.
Not that the gunplay is bad necessarily, but when given the option I always chose the stealth approach. The gunplay is actually quite fun and can also become quite the tactical battle at times too, having to choose the best weapon for the correct moment. Bullet speed is especially important as the gunfights take place in large maps and bullets can take a while to reach their victim. Sniper rifles are especially quick at reaching their target, but, as we all know, their fire rate is very slow.
Alongside the single-player section is a multiplayer component that features the same gameplay in a deathmatch scenario. It can be a tense affair as enemy characters only appear as NPCs to you, making the use of Trackacat essential. It gives off a similar vibe to indie game Hidden in Plain Sight, but without the local capabilities, which is a big oversight. Therefore, this mode offers little else and while it can be fun for a while, I don’t expect this to detract you for long from other multiplayer games.
After seeing the screenshots and gameplay for Tokyo 42 I was blown away by its aesthetic and was completely sold. Many people will fall the same way for it and be utterly hooked by the various media being released by the studio.
This is not a bad game by any means – although it can be as frustrating as hell – but the amazing world design feels second fiddle to the lacklustre gameplay and it would have been a lot better to focus on the exploration, or even make it an out and out stealth experience. There are collectibles to go out and find, but this is turn makes the exploration feel cheap, and this is a game that deserves so much more emphasis on that fact.