Interview in Tokyo – High-speed grandmas, toilet demons and Shinji Mikami’s “strong” DualSense comments

If you ever drive alone at night, be careful not to come across Kôsoku bâba, a Japanese urban legend that literally translates to “high-speed grandma”.

Picture the scene: you’re driving along, listening to the radio as road markings and streetlights fade into your outskirts. Suddenly, the radio begins to crackle from interference. It’s probably because you’ve just entered a tunnel, you tell yourself. Then you look to your left and there it is, a face looking at you. A face belonging to a frail old woman who runs beside your car and peers into your soul – Kôsoku bâba.

I would suggest taking public transport to avoid this, but you might instead fall for the midnight train, go anywhere. Ride a train alone at night in Japan and urban legends say you might be taken to another world, never to be seen again apart from the labels on a bottle of milk.

“There are other cool ones that are school-based,” Ghostwire: Tokyo game director Kenji Kimura tells GLHF. “Once everyone has gone home after dark, there might be a bathroom that no one is using. The last cabin in this bathroom, the toilet could be haunted. There is a famous story called “The Toilet Hanako”, which is based on this kind of setting. There are probably urban legends similar to those in the West, and these are always pretty scary.

Tango Gameworks is a studio best known for its scary games. Founded by Shinji Mikami – one of the minds behind resident Evil – the studio’s previous games are both what you’d expect. The Evil Within and its sequel were essentially resident Evil in everything except in name (and almost in name, when you think about it), but Ghostwire: Tokyo is new territory for Tango. It may have more wit than a dive bar, but it’s an action-adventure title through and through.

“The fight had to feel good,” says Kenji Kimura. “It’s not a horror game. The combat, we wanted to make sure it felt good as you progress through the story and move around the city.

After reading the first two chapters, I can confirm that the studio has pulled it off. Using hand gestures inspired by kuji-kiri – a ninjitsu-style martial art where the hands represent Yin and Yang – you cast elemental spells like pistol fireworks.

Flicks of the wrist send volleys of gales, the cupping of the hands evokes a ball of fire and their unfolding creates an arc of water. It’s a cool way to have a pistol, rocket launcher and shotgun without using guns. Switching between gestures is fluid, each transition accompanied by its own hand gesture, and each impact is sold by gouging open holes in your enemies or spraying dust particles like sweat from a boxer’s cheek. Elsewhere you have paper panels that replace various types of grenades, and then there’s a bow, which acts like, you know, a bow.

When you’ve weakened a spirit, their core becomes exposed and you’re free to rip them out by binding them with energy cords and tearing them from their horrifying and strange bodies, turning them into a rain of dust and dust. crackling magical energy. . Stun multiple enemies at once, and you can rip multiple cores at once. It doesn’t show in the trailers, but it’s ridiculously cool when you’re the one ripping. I’d go so far as to say this is the best showcase of PS5’s DualSense controller outside of Astro’s Playroom.

“Beating them, shooting them, and extracting those cores – it all had to feel seamless and like you were performing it,” Kenji Kimura continues. “Achieving this goal through the controller took a lot of trial and error and lots of discussions with the team, but we are happy with where we ended up.

“It wasn’t just within the team. We talked about the fight with Mikami-san, and Mikami-san then talked to the folks at Sony about it – they were able to take our feedback and make some changes to how controller input could feel to the player . They were very helpful and we are very grateful for their cooperation and for making this experience so enjoyable.

At this point in our interview, producer Masato Kimura breaks into a laugh. I ask the translator what he finds so funny and I’m told he remembers a visit to Sony with Shinji Mikami to look at a prototype version of the PS5 controller. Between laughs, Masato Kimura begins to do a Mikami impression, saying, “That’s too weak.”

He remembers Mikami-san telling him he was going for a walk. He made it look casual, like “he was going out for tea”. In reality, he was going to Sony to give “pretty strong feedback on the controller”.

“Mikami-san is quite verbal in the way he puts things,” laughs Masato Kimura. “Sony people were probably surprised and a bit scared by the power of Mikami-san’s voice. Afterwards, when we received a prototype closer to the end of the controller, Mikami-san was very pleased with how his feedback was used within Sony to improve the controller. It was very impressive that they were able to take our feedback seriously and make improvements.

Ghostwire: Tokyo It’s not just about ripping out the ethereal hearts of salaried demons, headless schoolgirls and reclining ghost women, of course. The clue is in the name. Part of the game’s appeal is its virtual tourism, which is another area where Tango Gameworks delivers.

Even if you explored Tokyo in the Yakuza Where Character series, you’ve never seen the city like this before: devoid of people, almost photorealistic and first-person view. Visually, it has the same hyper-real quality as PTKonami’s playable teaser for the silent Hill game we will never play. Except it’s not relegated to a single looping hallway – it’s a condensed version of an entire city, including the interiors, alleys and rooftops of its skyscrapers, that you can slide and jump between. . From neon lights reflecting in puddles to cube-shaped skyscrapers, this is one of the most compelling gaming locations I’ve ever explored. The fact that there is no one there only heightens the mood, evoking a haunting and oddly romantic feeling.

It’s not just visuals either. Taking full advantage of the PS5’s 3D audio, you really need to hear this Tokyo through headphones. Chiptunes roll out of convenience stores to fade to the sound of soft jazz emanating from a nearby bar. Advertisements streak across TV screens, cats meow, dogs bark, spirits sob at the thought of being dead, just like you would. Auditorily, it’s like being dropkicked through a haunted arcade.

“When we started this project, we tried to focus on creating a cool Tokyo,” says Masato Kimura. “And when we thought about it, we also started thinking about the typical Tokyo things that we Japanese people see every day – things that may seem normal to us but may seem special to others. We saw a lot employees, for example – businessmen in dark suits, and that’s something that other countries would look at and say, “That’s really weird. Another thing that we think might be particular to other countries is that when it rains, they take out an umbrella very quickly. Not everyone carries an umbrella in other countries.

“There were a lot of things – natural and everyday things – that we rediscovered about the city,” adds Kenji Kimura. “For example, there would be a shrine right next to a very modern office building. When you go to work, it’s a normal everyday thing. But when you watch it and try to create the city of Tokyo inside the game, you start to notice these kind of little rediscoveries of what’s cool about the city. We have discovered the reasons why these things are the way they are. There could be a story of the shrine actually owning more land. There could be other cultural reasons behind different things that are city specific.

This is one of the things that stands out in Ghostwire: Tokyo – it’s a Japanese city seen through the eyes of people who know it intimately. Stories are based on folk legend, collectibles are rooted in culture. They may be ghosts, but there’s a lot of humanity here.

According to the developers, this is a game about loss. The main character, his ghostly passenger, and even the antagonist – loss is something they all share, and so are the many spirits trapped in limbo. Each character “does their best to find a way to solve this problem or accept it”, says Kenji Kimura.

“The idea is that these ghosts still exist in this world because they have a strong emotion that stays with them for some reason,” he continues. “There are four kanji that represent joy, anger, sadness and happiness. Sometimes these emotions are felt during their normal life and at home, at work or at different important stages of their life. And so those strong emotions are basically what keeps those ghosts still appearing in this world. For example, when you are a child and enter a new school, or if you graduate from elementary school and go to college, there is a big change in life. Also, when you start a new job and have to put on a new suit, you feel anxious because it’s a new job and you want to do your best. The man with the umbrella looks like he’s started something new. We don’t explain in-game how each enemy is born, we leave that up to the player. To some, that sounds like a salaried employee. He wears a black suit. But for others, depending on where they are in their life, it could also look like a costume you wear to a funeral.

While you may already be praising the death of the survival horror genre, Ghostwire: Tokyo deserves a chance. It’s not the game I expected from Tango, but it has more soul than Shang Tsung. Whether you’re here for its snappy physical combat, a virtual sightseeing spot, or want to reflect on how humans deal with loss, you can try it out for yourself when it launches on PS5 on March 25.

Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.

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