Ghostwire: Tokyo, how a haunted Shibuya was created

Ghostwire: Tokyo, how a haunted Shibuya was created


Ghostwire: Tokyo has finally brought us back to Shibuya, one of the most famous neighborhoods in Tokyo, but the city we have come across is not exactly what we remembered. The inhabitants of the Japanese capital have disappeared and the streets are infested with goblins and scary creatures. In these hours we are completely immersed in the fascinating action of Tango Gameworks (find the tried by Francesco Serino online), but waiting for the review, we had the pleasure of interviewing the developers of Ghostwire: Tokyo with Kenji Kimura and Masato Kimura, respectively. game director and producer of the game.

We talked about Shibuya, urban legends and the challenges of bringing yokai and other elements of the Japanese tradition to a global audience so that it remains fascinating, authentic and usable.

Shibuya before and the gameplay after

One of the elements of Shibuiya transformed into Ghostwire: Tokyo We are used to seeing Shibuya crowded and chaotic. The chaos at the station intersection is so iconic that it wouldn't be the same without people. How do you start a haunted Shibuya, get everyone off the street, but make sure it looks like the same place?

Kenji Kimura: "We did a lot of research, wandering the length and breadth of Shibuya with the other team members. Apart from the station area, we thoroughly explored every single street, discovering hidden areas and narrow alleys ".

Masato Kimura: "You speak of a" haunted "Tokyo and actually our goal was precisely to adapt it to perfection to make sure it looks authentic. to take a 3D map of Shibuya and insert it into the game as it was. Instead we put a lot of attention into creating a sandbox map, doing a lot of research to enter not only Shibuya and the surrounding area, but also places that are far from the We've taken some fascinating areas that are actually distant from Tokyo, but the way we've linked them to Shibuya helps to reinforce this feeling of a haunted, paranormal place. Overall it's a combination of a lot of work, a lot of research and the 'addition of our own personal touch ".

So the decision to set Ghostwire: Tokyo in ... well, Tokyo, was born even before deciding what kind of game is would have been?

Kenji Kimura: "That's right. Our starting goal was to create a place that was fun to walk around. I know it's unorthodox, but we wanted our new game to be set in one place. wonderful and "cool", and Shibuya was an easy choice because the city itself is beautiful and full of charm. So at that point in development we prioritized the map rather than game design, story or other gameplay elements Almost immediately we said to ourselves "Wouldn't it be great to walk around a deserted Shibuya?" Living here we know how crowded it gets, and every now and then we wonder what it would be like to walk around Shibuya without having to dodge other people.

Masato Kimura: "I've already said it, it's quite atypical to create games in this way, starting from the map and then thinking about the mechanics afterwards, and certainly for our game designers it was a challenge to have to elaborate the gameplay on a map already defined ".

Spirits and urban legends

The streets of Shibuya haunted in Ghostwire: Tokyo And those yokai I see behind you? Let's talk a little about what it was like to put them in an action RPG with a modern setting.

Kenji Kimura: "This was another idea that we had almost immediately, that is to insert our urban legends into the game. Many legends in Japan tell of things that hide in the shadows, beings that often do not you can see with your eyes but you can perceive. And they are there for a purpose, to teach a lesson. We therefore decided to create a Shibuya where, walking around the streets, you would have noticed dark corners, or you would have had the feeling that something hiding in the dark. You might have seen someone who from a distance looks like a normal person, but then you approach and find that person has no face. We loved that kind of restlessness and we wanted players to be able to try it on their own too. skin.

The next step was to decide the game structure. We said to ourselves "Okay, maybe we should do some sort of sandbox", not quite an open world like in other games with huge settings from to explore. In our case it is more a sort of sandbox map that allows you to walk around Shibuya and go and browse in the darkest and most hidden corners. If you see something interesting in an alley, the game lets you browse. "

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Adapting them to the game must not have been easy. There was one that gave you some headaches and for which have you found an interesting solution?

Kenji Kimura: "It is really difficult to answer this question, especially at this stage of development. Probably if you ask me the same thing in a couple of months, with a cool head I could better rethink the work I did and tell you which ones were the most fun and inspiring, but for sure each of them was quite complicated to adapt. But if now I have to choose a yokai that was particularly interesting to adapt, I would say the teru teru bōzu: it is a cloth doll that you are taught to create in kindergarten. Build a doll using a piece of paper or cloth and hang it outside the house; in practice it is a good luck charm, and it is hung outdoors to make sure that the rain stops and the good weather comes. It is a nice object but at the same time it has something disturbing, because when it is hung it can remember a hanged man. In the game, we have made him a treacherous and aggressive enemy. If you notice, the streets of Shibuya are full of clothes scattered on the ground, left there after the inhabitants have dissolved: here, since the teru teru bōzu are made of cloth they can hide in your clothes and jump on you when you don't want them. wait ".

One of Shibuya's most iconic places in Ghostwire: Tokyo Have you ever come across a creature or tale that is so strange or rooted in Japanese culture that you said:" No, we can't put this into it, no one outside of Japan will understand it "?

Kenji Kimura:" We never thought that something could be too Japanese or too weird, to the point of not putting it in the game. If we had an idea that seemed good to us then we tried to figure out how to fit it into the game. Another example is the tanuki. The tanuki is an animal that appears in many tales of Japanese folklore: it is small and cute, and it transforms itself into anything it wants to do mischief, even if its tail always remains the same and then you understand that that is a tanuki. Seeing as it seemed like a nice addition to us, we didn't ask ourselves whether or not it made sense for people outside of Japan. In the end we have inserted them, and in the game the tanuki transform into so many different things that we will leave you the pleasure of discovering ".

Masato Kimura:" We know that there are things in the game that people outside of the Japan will not understand right away, and we have taken the liberty of doing so. Our idea is that somehow we can still recognize ourselves in certain aspects of our culture, even if these are very Japanese. For example, take yokai or urban legends. Many of the stories involving yokai are passed down from generation to generation because they have some kind of morality or teaching. An example is the tale of the kappa: grandparents tell their grandchildren, "Look, this scary creature is hiding near rivers, so I recommend that you do not go near the river alone." These stories are sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and are told by teachers, parents and grandparents to children. In other countries the same happens, but simply with stories that have different forms and protagonists.

In the West they could be fairy tales or fables with animals and sprites, while in Japan they are with yokai or other creatures. In the end, however, the teachings are very similar. So back to our game, although some stories may not be familiar to Western audiences at first, by the time you are told their story or teaching we are sure you will find something you can relate to. From that point of view they are universal messages, a sign that after all we are on the same planet and we are very similar ".

Kenji Kimura:" We would love it if as many people around the world know a little about the culture Japanese through Ghostwire: Tokyo. There are so many things that can grab attention, and we have rediscovered many aspects of our own culture in developing the game. If through our work we were able to stimulate curiosity about Japan and its stories, we would be proud of it. Games where you have a katana or fight the yakuza there are several, but we hope to show a part of Japanese culture not so well known abroad ".

The extraordinary in the ordinary

A Ghostwire Fight: Tokyo in the Streets of Shibuya There are moments in the game when entire buildings and apartments are transformed. Little horror pills that destabilize, frighten and fascinate. What feelings did you want to convey?

Kenji Kimura: "What we want to recreate is the feeling of filming in what apparently looks like an ordinary place, but finding something extraordinary inside it. This theme is the glue of the game, and one example is the apartments that transform before your eyes. You enter an absolutely normal room and instead you find yourself in front of absolutely paranormal events and images. We have not given specific explanations to the artists and designers of these levels, nor have we thought about what the logic or reasons behind what happens in the game might be. We focused solely on creating something that we thought was spectacular and that fueled this sense of sudden awe in the player ".

Masato Kimura:" The city of Tokyo is a fantastic blend of old and new, of modern architecture and traditional. It is built in a crazy way to the point that if you turn the corner you feel like you have traveled back in time, or you have teleported yourself to a completely different place as soon as you enter one of the many sanctuaries hidden between skyscrapers and offices. And from that point of view it is impressive, it offers many surprises, and what we want to propose is a condensed version of a city that is constantly changing and that can surprise you at any moment ".

A Ghostwire portal: Tokyo A curiosity: rumor has it that in an old concept of the game the characters wore masks to protect themselves from the fog that caused the disappearance of the city. Is there any truth? The pandemic has led you to make some changes? Kenji Kimura: "Probably refer to one of the very first versions of the game, in which a protagonist was seen wearing a surgical mask (in the first public trailer it was a hood instead). At the time we were so far behind in development that we still hadn't decided what the main character would be like and so it seemed like an effective way to hide the face. In Japan we have always used surgical masks even before the pandemic: people wear them when they have a cold or are unwell and do not want to infect others. The character with the surgical mask was a simple representation of a generic Japanese person but, to answer the question, the pandemic did not affect any aspect of the design of the game or the story: by the time we had already defined the basis of the plot and the gameplay. .

Masato Kimura: "This speech also reminds me of something else: in Japan, since people have always worn masks even at school or at work, there is probably this unspoken feeling that the Japanese do not communicate much with their faces. Instead they use their hands a lot, and you often see them gesturing a lot. Perhaps it is something that refers to the tradition of ceremonies and theatrical performances that we have in Japan and which are often linked to sacred events, but it's funny how it eventually relates to Ghostwire, since there's a lot of hand movement in the game. " As we told in the special about kuji kiri and the art of gestures in Ghostwire Tokyo.

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