Title: Tokyo Dark: Remembrance
Release Date: November 7, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Narrative choice is an exciting thing to implement in a video game: too much control over the story can negatively affect pacing, while limited and cliched decisions can lead to frustration over a supposed impact on the tale. Enter indie developer Cherrymochi’s Tokyo Dark: Remembrance, a point and click/visual novel mix that tries to toe the line between choice and linearity.
The game is an updated re-release and console port of the original that came out in 2017, which combines mystery and adventure, with several horror elements thrown in. The protagonist is Itō Ayami, a detective who is looking for her missing partner. She’s still suffering from trauma related to an incident in which she shot and killed a young girl during a hostage situation. You will have to help Ayami as she unravels the secrets of her tainted past, her partner’s disappearance, and anything else that’s hiding in the ‘dark.’
While the game is mostly clicking on static backgrounds and scrolling through text with animated portraits, there is some level of control. You move Ayami up and down the street, using the A button to select a point of interest. You can then use the shoulder buttons to jump between points. From there, you choose a contextual reaction, whether it be talk, look, listen, or blast a hole in somebody’s head.
Your decisions will either positively or negatively affect your SPIN stats: being sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis. You can keep track of them on the menu as they impact your adventure. Instead of just locking you to a path, this system makes it so that the more professional you act, the more of those options you’ll get. The influence is subtle, but it’s there. I combed through this game multiple times to prove it.
The game has eleven endings, contingent on your actions throughout the story. What’s most interesting is that nearly all the endings are conclusive. They don’t feel like ‘Bad Ending A, B, and C,’ and there’s no sudden *bang you’re dead* choices. To make things more interesting, you can’t save and load on your first playthrough: the autosave makes sure of that. It’s not until a new game plus in which you unlock the ability to save and load, which makes obtaining other endings far less arduous for you 100% completionists.
However, if you find yourself encountering what is the “True ending” early, you may find the others somewhat lacking in comparison. The game’s story deals with themes of fate, luck, and responsibility, which all lend nicely to a perfect wrap-up. But, like myself, you may find yourself somewhat miffed by the execution of some of the endings.
Aesthetically, Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is top-notch: the environments know precisely when to be gritty and dark but are also varied. The game doesn’t use regular full-screen graphics instead of using very short animated sequences, which gives it a unique look. These movements aren’t ‘clean’ and work to lower production costs and maintain the dark tone. Still, images pop out more due to this juxtaposition against the jagged walk-cycles and other actions on screen.
The areas you’ll explore are quite detailed, and each is visually distinct. On top of this, there are small gimmicks to each one. You might notice Ayami’s model shaded slightly different or the background distorted by waves as if you were drunk. And while you’ll see recurring characters throughout the game, each section has a bunch of fun faces to meet, each with their unique portrait.
The visuals also have glitchy filters and the like, for when the game decides it wants to drop a bunch of horror-lite elements on you and sell the mood. And what better way to sell the atmosphere than with the killer soundtrack which is dripping with songs to bring out that deep-seated paranoia you have in the back of your skull. It hits all the right notes, especially when the creepy tracks aren’t making me look at every potential movement I think I see in the corner of my eyes.
Ultimately, my gripes with the game are limited. I have mixed opinions on specific endings and found the game a bit too short at 5 hours for the first full playthrough. The good far outweighs the bad with fantastic visual design, sound design, environment design taking center stage. My choices mattered, and it’s an enjoyable mystery starring a detective with a bunch of talk about fate and chance. Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is more about the journey rather than the destination, and what a journey it was.
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