Ghostwire: Tokyo, the game where ghosts are masters of life

Ghostwire: Tokyo, the game where ghosts are masters of life

Ghostwire

"The more we desire that there is continuity beyond death, the more we are inclined to believe that what is strange and unexpected in life is proof that the afterlife exists. For this reason, those who need to believe in this also believe in the paranormal. On the opposite side we find those who, convinced that they are assuming a rigorously scientific attitude, establish a priori the impossibility that beyond matter and beyond death there is anything ".

Thus writes, in the introduction to The great book of morte (Il Saggiatore), Ines Testoni, professor of Social Psychology at the University of Padua and director of the master in Death Studies & the End of Life - yes, you read that right - from the same university. And from this consideration begins his journey through myths and rituals "from prehistory to cyborgs", between the otherworldly ancestral tensions of mankind and their evolution in the era of transhumanism. It is a path dedicated to understanding the boundary “between real and unreal. Between what we want and what we believe is true ". A limes, as the author calls it, which should be traveled "having the courage to think seriously, because when it comes to death it is better to sink the scalpel to the root of the problem".

Hannya, the villain of Ghostwire: Tokyo: between fantasy and the unknown (image: Tango Gameworks)

It is unlikely that Shinji Mikami, gaming magister who, among others, is responsible for Resident Evil, The Evil Within and, with them, the representation horror as video games have understood it for almost thirty years, well, it is unlikely that Mikami and the designers of his Tango Gameworks, such as game director Kenji Kimura, have read the pages of Testoni, but it is on that limes, on that threshold between true and hoped, their Ghostwire: Tokyo moves, available from March 25 in an exclusive time frame (one year) for Playstation 5 and PC.

Without speculating too much, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a horrifying first-person adventure that literally puts you in the shoes of Akito, a young man who has recovered from a terrible accident at the Shibuya intersection, which would be deserted if suddenly not filled with ectoplasmic wandering figures whose aggression is evident (they are the "Visitors"). It doesn't take much to notice that not only in Shibuya, but in all of Tokyo there is not a soul. And that, indeed, the Visitors and especially the gang headed by Hannya, a group of ferocious supernatural entities whose intentions are as dark as the faces, hidden by the typical masks of the Noh theater (the Han'nya, precisely).

Hannya and his people seem to know what happened to the metropolis. Indeed, they could be the architects, responsible for a plan that for some reason seems to involve Akito's sister, who has been in a comatose state for weeks. Or at least this suggests KK, the disembodied spirit of a detective who after taking possession of Akito's body by resurrecting it - like the player - becomes the link between the realm of the living and the afterlife, as well as the guide between powers and abilities. available.

Urban legends and Japanese folklore spirits haunt Ghostwire: Tokyo (image: Tango Gamewors)

By Ghostwire: Tokyo at this point we could sing the technical-playful praises and celebrate the fighting - a mixture of "karate and magic", as defined by ShinichirĊ Hara, the combat director already working on the 2016 Doom - as well as the perfect balance, the intensive use of the Playstation's DualSense features, or the management of Akito, so instinctive as to make one perceive the evolution of the character and his potential already in the first twenty minutes of the game. We could also talk about the original characterization of the characters, a tribute to the Japanese spirit made by Japanese and therefore perfectly in balance between folklore and the technological avant-garde - the same group of Hannya is the most explicit visual representation, with its theater masks. classic and urban-hypster clothing.

In addition, we could underline the perturbing setting, in the Freudian meaning of the term, that is, that sinister familiarity which, on closer inspection, is the most distinctive feature of the whole production linked to Mikami - it is no coincidence that he talks about his Tango Gameworks as a school, a studio dedicated to routing the shoots of game design like Kimura: difficult, then, does not come to mind the persistent feeling of strangeness and threat of many Resident Evil or The Evil Within, the perception of recognizing the surrounding reality mixed with the awareness that, of what we see, under or something fundamental is missing. And terrible.

From this point of view, the decision to set the game in a recreated Tokyo map in hand yet alienating, transfigured into a (para) psychological dimension that not even the "upside down" of Stranger Things.

A transfigured Tokyo, but reproduced with impressive detail (image: Tango Gameworks)

Finally, one could recognize yet another distinctive feature of the "Mikami school", that is, measured writing with the caliber, a dramatization capable of involving the player from the first minute and then dragging him into a whirlpool that is gradually more muddy, deeper and, therefore, impossible not to play / discover completely.

You could do everything this yet does not mention the game's best intuition intuition. Because the truth, and the Mikami school really has few rivals here, is that the fact that the player is not his own master in Ghostwire: Tokyo is themed. What's more, it is the theme: while recognizing the environment - Tokyo, its neon, its inextricable streets, the restaurants overlooking the narrow streets - and the actions imposed by the gameplay, it is watching and experiencing everything from a threshold - the limes of the book by Testoni -, as if in a dream, to transform a good game into a powerful and violent reflection, as inevitable as a sudden slap: “do you understand what you are playing at? ”Seems to be asking for the title of Tango Gameworks every second. After all, Ghostwire: Tokyo is not scary enough to distract, it is not so survival (indeed, it is not at all) to refer to its ancestors, nor so bad as to become cathartic, like Elden Ring.

It is, al on the contrary, as if the player, continually disoriented, gradually slipped into a past of which every ghost returns to be faced, was stimulated to remain awake. To think about the facts of life. To make sense of them - it is no coincidence, amazing intuition, that the Visitors were obsessively dedicated to their careers and, once dead, they find no peace except in gorging themselves on the souls of others.

With his Dantesque counterpoints, Ghostwire: Tokyo brings to mind an interview with Mikami a few years ago, when the game designer wondered if horror video games, even in the era of esports and virtual reality, would have been effective: "It will be enough to show the people the scariest thing of all: themselves. In the near future, the most serious threats will not come from zombies or who knows what monsters, but from our approach to technology, to life.

It won't happen tomorrow, but not even in a century. Videogames will play a role, also as a vehicle to tell and perhaps face our worst nightmare: man ".

As if it were a prophecy, tragically come true in these days, Ghostwire: Tokyo is the digital translation of this thought: it represents in pixels the border between the real and the afterlife, but never ceases to remember the urgency to question oneself about what we "want and what we believe is true". Ghostwire: Tokyo talks about death and "sinks the scalpel to the root of the problem". This is why it is a game entirely dedicated to life.

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