Roaming around the streets of Tokyo, plagued with voices in her head and images that she doesn’t understand, Detective Ito finds herself wrapped up in a world that is deeper than she knows. With a self murdering cult, a strange mask and a door, she’s forced to make decisions that could drive her mad or destroy the city that she holds dear.
Tokyo Dark: Remembrance is a point-and-click adventure with visual novel elements, developed by Cherrymochi and published by Square Enix. Originally released on PC in 2017, it was also released on the Nintendo Switch in late 2019, which is the version I played. Detective Ito Ayami is on the search for her missing partner and lover, Detective Kazuki Tanaka, who disappeared while investigating a case. While hot on his trail, it becomes evident that his disappearance is linked to something much older and deeper than Ito knows. To get answers and find out the truth, Ito will need to confront the past of those around her, as well as her own and try to keep her sanity, or not, while doing it.
My biggest gripe with the story was that it seemed to lack in depth. A lot of the story was told through dialogue or very short flashback cutscenes that explained the surface of what was going on, but never dove into deeper details. It was a guessing game as to how all the story pieces fit together and why everything was happening in the first place. Most of the main story details weren’t explained until the end of the game, which left me bored halfway through as I felt more like an errand girl over a detective. As for the characters, however, I liked Ito. She’s the type of character that tries to do good and rationalize what she experiences, even if everyone thinks that she’s crazy. On top of that, she is strong-willed and doesn’t give up, even when she should probably take a break.
As for the other characters, they didn’t have too much depth to them. For example, Ito must gain the trust of a Yakuza mob boss. During the conversation, they briefly discuss the Yakuza boss’ father and that she is someone who is soft at heart for cats. Beyond this, she doesn’t provide much useful information and isn’t visited again after this point. The same can be said for the factory warehouse. Towards the beginning of the game, I spoke briefly with a warehouse worker who provided me with some details about entrance to a sewer. After this though, I never encountered that NPC again nor did I see anyone at the warehouse each time I went back.
On the other hand, one of the more interesting points about Tokyo Dark is that, while a point-and-click game, the choices actually matter. Depending on if players talk to a NPC or interact with random objects, there may only be two to four choices available. During a flashback with Ito and the owner of a cat cafe, I could force her to sign a Yakuza contract, or take a chance with the Yakuza boss and not force her to sign it. With that being said, dialogue options affect character attributes, called the S.P.I.N. system, as well as the actions available when interacting with objects and Tokyo Dark‘s ending. S.P.I.N. stands for sanity, professionalism, investigation and neurosis. When first starting the game, I picked things that felt like the correct option to me, but for Ito, they lowered her sanity and neurosis quite a bit. With a low sanity score, Ito had hallucinations more often and, combined with an even lower neurosis score, couldn’t gain sanity points back easily. As for professionalism, that stated pretty high and I was able to easily speak with the NPCs around me and gain their respect. Out of all four attributes, my investigation was the highest. The higher my investigation, I noticed that there were a lot more objects around me that I could interact with. Overall, I thought the S.P.I.N system was interesting, and helped remind me that my choices in the game mattered.
As for different locations, there is a map that allows you to toggle through the different areas. Closer to the end of Tokyo Dark: Remembrance, I couldn’t really revisit some areas, such as going home to take the medication to increase my sanity. This made me a little upset since I was making poor choices and in the negative, but contributed it to the S.P.I.N. system limiting my freedom because of the choices made.
During my first playthrough, I noticed that I didn’t have an option to revisit any of my choices, too. As I stated previously, I was picking options that I thought were best. As I dug this hole deeper for myself with low S.P.I.N. scores, it was one I found hard to climb out of. For example, should I take the hit on my professionalism points by having that drink at the bar to possibly get some information out of the bartender, or should I turn it down and risk not knowing? I wanted to go back and pick different choices, but couldn’t. This was frustrating as I didn’t notice until halfway through the game that my poor choices were taking a toll on the detective. Her co-workers at the police station looked down upon her, and she was demoted and put on leave, unable to return to the station. NPCs at the bars notice Ito’s face and give her sideways glances, always making reference to the articles calling her crazy. I found myself having a hard time trying to keep her sane and make the best decisions at the same time. It was a constant battle between sacrificing a couple attribute points here to gain others in a different area.
While searching for her partner, Ito is taken all over different parts of Tokyo and meets a variety of different people. The atmosphere and the art style helped to give each area its own unique sense of personality. Personality shines through areas like the rainy, dark back alley in Shinjuku is lined with failing businesses and locked doors. In size, the areas are all roughly the same, and they aren’t very big and may only offer two to four places to actually walk into. Some areas aren’t used more than once. There is a warehouse in the back alley of Shinjuku that only has one cut scene. Every time I visited the warehouse after said cut scene, there was nothing to do besides to leave.
The art style is also very anime with the cartoonish backgrounds and characters. There are some shortcut scenes that appear more bubbly in style and don’t add any deep details to the story. Instead, they seem to be included to break up the continuous 2D animations . As for the music, I thought it tied together well with each setting and situation that Ito found herself in. While getting lost and twisted around in the suicide forest, the music had a foreboding ambiance. I could tell something was going to happen, but didn’t know what or when. With my low sanity score, I was afraid that Ito was on the verge of completely losing it, and the music seemed to confirm my thoughts.
Tokyo Dark: Remembrance has interesting game mechanics and setting, but lacks with the story and overall characters. The vague story details at the beginning of the game leaves the ending overwhelming since a lot of important plot information is kept until then. While the story is bland, it does have some simple, yet interesting game mechanics, locations, art style and music. Choices matter, making every decision one that needs to be thought about before being made. The locations are diverse and colorful when coupled with the anime-like art style. Lastly, the music fit every scene perfectly from being lost in the sewers to stressful standoffs. Still, overall Tokyo Dark: Remembrance leaves something to be desired.
Haley reviewed Tokyo Dark: Remembrance on the Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.