Walking the line between linearity and choice-driven narrative is a hard thing for a game to do. While a linear path is the same every time you tread it, choices can overwhelm a player with too many options to choose from, creating far too many endings for them to ever see. I’m happy to say that Tokyo Dark: Remembrance does a great job of making decisions matter whilst holding onto a core storyline that players can master if they want to unlock every possible ending.
Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is the console port of the original 2017 release of Tokyo Dark for PC, with some updates added in for good measure. The game plays incredibly well on the Nintendo Switch, with controls feeling natural in all of the game’s different scenarios, and at no point did the smaller screen size impact on my experience.
A Story To Return To
The story stars Ito Ayami, a detective looking into the death of her partner while also dealing with post-traumatic stress from a particularly intense case in which she shot and killed a young girl. Depending on the decisions player makes, Ito’s journey can end in one of thirteen different ways, with each one tying up all the loose ends of the story. Those who stumble upon the true ending first will find the other twelve a little lacking, but that’s only because the true ending provides such a satisfying payoff.
Unlocking each ending obviously requires multiple playthroughs, but there’s no save functionality available until you’ve completed the game once. After that, obtaining additional endings feels like a piece of cake. Considering the game’s story only takes about five hours to complete, this isn’t a huge issue, but it’s definitely a barrier to entry for those who enjoy flitting between multiple games in a single session.
You SPIN Me Right Round
Players alter the story through choices, and those choices each relate to a different part of the SPIN meter, Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, and Neurosis. Drinking on the job will lower Professionalism, but open up new dialogue options for a specific ending, while choosing to avoid taking a pill can boost Investigation but lower Sanity dramatically.
Narrative choices don’t only alter the path the player is on, they alter whatever scene they’re in. Drinking on the job adds a layer of waviness to the background, making it clear that Ito’s judgement is impaired at this time. The wavy background also mimics the feeling of nausea that comes with mixing medication and alcohol, almost allowing the player to feel what Ito feels.
Choices can be fairly obvious in their outcomes, such as shooting someone. However, there are choices with an impact that won’t ever become clear unless you work through multiple playthroughs and see what happens yourself. One such example is playing with Ito’s cat, an action that may seem useless on the surface, but when you think about the impact that taking the time to pay with a cat can have in real life, it starts to become clear how complex the choices in Tokyo Dark: Remembrance are.
Along For The Ride
Given that Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is a story-driven game, there’s very little gameplay to it. Each location in the game can be navigated by running up and down the street, choosing doors and other points of interest to interact with along the way. These points are easy to navigate, with a simple press of the A button to initiate the action, and shoulder buttons to swap between the interactive objects on the screen.
All interactive doors and items are clearly displayed to the player, making it simple to ensure you’ve covered everything in an area. With that said, it’s all too easy to get carried away with a theory and completely miss a certain NPC or item if you pass them by on the way to a destination that goes much deeper than you thought it did.
At a few points in Tokyo Dark: Remembrance you are faced with situations that require quick action. These aren’t immediately obvious, and with good reason, but the timer adds a sense of urgency to everything you do. This timer makes situations that you’d expect to be manageable in a game like this much less so, almost to the point where you feel out of control. This feeling is absolutely intentional, bringing players much closer to Ito as she loses control at the same time as they do.
A Visual Experience
Each environment in Tokyo Dark: Remembrance has been lovingly created by the game’s artists to look beautiful on the surface, but retain an edge of unease that runs throughout the whole game. The soundtrack supports this, with jolly tunes for the interactions with Ito’s neighbour, and much darker and more sinister sounds for when Ito is wandering a dark alleyway alone.
The environments are the real star of the visuals in this game, but each character has also been created to appear individual and unique at face value. Their personalities set them apart from any generic NPC, but their appearance plays a big part in every conversation. Certain characters wear bold, happy colours that calm the mood, while others are wearing darker colours that match the shady areas they occupy.
Playing through Tokyo Dark: Remembrance always felt like an enjoyable experience, even if there are moments that are unsettling no matter how many times you experience them. The drive to find all thirteen endings will definitely appeal to those looking for a short game that they can play with to see if they can unlock each one by themselves, but that aspect of the game will definitely be frustrating for some.
I had a great time with the game. The animated visuals are a particular highlight for me, especially because the game doesn’t focus on overly-attractive female characters. Ito is a believable person, and a flawed one, which is why I think players will find it so easy to identify with her. The game covers some aspects of mental health issues, showing the results of not paying attention to it and looking after yourself. For such a short game I expected a much shallower experience, but I’m pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised.