Seriously, you’ve only got to look at the screenshots for Tokyo 42 and you’ll want to play it. It’s what actually drew me to the game to begin with, with the stunning eye-catching landscapes demanding I see the game in motion. After seeing the isometric action-packed gameplay videos for the game I was sold, though there was a worry that it might be a classic case of ‘style over substance’.
I’ve finally got my hands on the full game, and whilst it isn’t perfect, it certainly provides an enjoyable and action-packed experience that I had a hell of a good time playing.
Tokyo 42 has a fairly unique concept that begins with the protagonist being framed for a murder he didn’t commit, sending a plethora of aggressive Police Officers his way to hunt him down. After getting rescued by his friend Tycho, he decides the best course of action is to actually becoming an assassin to try and find out who’s behind it all. There’s some logic to it… I think? Don’t worry about ethical side of killing people too much though – a big pharmaceutical company has released a pill that doesn’t REALLY allow you to die. Neat, huh?
As you play through the story and the narrative unfolds things start to make sense though, with a huge conspiracy falling into place and new characters introduced that reveal what exactly is going on behind the scenes. Sure, it can be a little predictable at times, but all-in-all Tokyo 42 offers enough to keep you intrigued throughout the entirety of the game. One issue I did have with the narrative was just how small the on-screen text was though – I haven’t had this problem with video games in the past, but I literally had to get up close to my screen to read any of the text from the game’s cutscenes.
Becoming an assassin leads you on a series of missions that typically boil down to either killing people (duh) or causing havoc. However, whilst the game is certainly entertaining to play and killing people doesn’t stop being fun, the missions could get a little repetitive over time. They do have multiple ways to approach them (more on that later), but I couldn’t help to find they felt a little samey. As you approach the back end of the game and the difficulty levels spike they do become a bit more thrilling, but it won’t alleviate the feeling that you’re doing a lot of the same things over and over again.
There are plenty of side missions to complete though. A lot of these side missions task you with smaller objectives that you wouldn’t expect to see during the main missions such as delivering items or even zipping around on a motorbike, though that doesn’t mean they won’t have you killing people in a variety of different ways too. Fortunately, they typically come with some extra stipulations, forcing you to think outside the box a little or at least posing an extra challenge on the player. They’re a fun endeavour and break up the familiarity that you’ll feel from playing the main missions though, with some of the side missions emphasising some of the game’s strongest points.
Whilst the game’s missions could become a little repetitive in design, the actual gameplay of Tokyo 42 always remained entertaining. There’s a decent range of weapons on offer that each feel satisfying to use, with slick weaponry such as pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, and even katanas offering plenty of different ways for the player to take down their foe. You’ll certainly feel empowered in Tokyo 42 and you’ll never feel like you’re unable to take down the tough enemies that’ll flood the screen, even when there are a good dozen or so of them on your tail.
It’s when enemies are hunting you down that Tokyo 42 is the most exciting. Hunting down enemies is a hell of a lot of fun and going on satisfying random killing sprees is an absolute must, but the pursuit of enemies against the player offer some of the game’s most thrilling sequences. Simple things such as making your way across each level is fun, with the parkour abilities of the protagonist allowing you to effectively bounce across each area with ease. Doing this whilst running away from and shooting at enemies all whilst carefully trying to take cover makes it all the more satisfying though; it really feels like you’re playing out a chase scene from one of your favourite action movies.
Tokyo 42 also has a neat feature where you can actually hide your identity, allowing you to completely change your appearance providing an enemy isn’t looking at you. You can’t do it freely (you need to have the ability charged) but it’s definitely a game-changer as far as hiding from any pursuers and making your way to safety is concerned. It really compliments the game’s style though; with a focus on allowing the player to play things safe and sneak through levels, being able to completely mask your appearance from enemies when they’re hunting you down can make life a hell of a lot easier. Be warned though – every so often you’ll come across enemies that are hiding their appearance too, so you’ll have to be vigilant if you want to survive.
Whilst Tokyo 42 is a lot of fun to play, it could be a little awkward to control to begin with. It’s not that the game has bad controls, but rather that it felt like it would work better with a mouse and keyboard. It took a good hour before I really got to grips with it, and even then I still found myself casually forgetting how to throw a grenade. The difficulty spikes that come with some missions don’t help, especially when you’re trying to deal with shooting at a plethora of enemies whilst trying to work your way across the environment. It all comes to you in time though – I wondered if I’d made a mistake opting to play the Xbox One edition of Tokyo 42 to begin with thanks to the tricky controls, but as I played more and got used to it all everything started to come together smoothly.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Tokyo 42’s strongest point is within its stunningly vibrant visual style. Whilst the aesthetic might be simple in design, it’s displayed in such a fantastic way that it’s difficult not to be in awe of it all. It actually reminded me of tilt-shift photography in a way, with the miniscule characters, vehicles, and buildings having this overwhelming sense of presence that makes it really feel like you’re playing within this finely crafted world that’s right in front of you. I absolutely loved it.
It’s not just the way the city looks that’s impressive though, but how it’s put together. Nothing ever felt like it was there for the sake of it, but were instead placed together in a finely tuned way to further compliment the gameplay experience. Each area feels like it was designed to not only flow together perfectly for missions but to also offer plenty of hidden secrets for the player to uncover. These might be something small like a hidden staircase that might make a mission easier to play through or a hidden collectible; whatever you find though, the sense of discovery the game manages to include in these neatly crafted areas is impressive.
Having a good understanding of your surroundings is vital in Tokyo 42, especially since you’ll have an easier time completing missions if you manage to take the sneaky approach. Almost every mission you undertake in the game has multiple ways to complete it, offering the player a sense of freedom in how they want to play. You could just go guns blazing, shooting everyone and everything in your sight as a means to reach your goal, or alternatively you could take the slow and steady approach and sneak your way to your target as a means of avoiding triggering any alarms. The former might actually be the best approach – Tokyo 42 can be pretty tough at times, so going through it undetected can make life easier. Still, it can be pretty hard to resist going on a killing spree…
You can get different rewards based upon your approach in each mission too. If you complete a mission without being spotted, you’ll get a ‘Ninja’ award. On the flip side, if you kill every enemy in a mission you get the ‘Ronin’ award. If you’re an absolute beast at the game and manage to kill all of your enemies without getting spotted though, you’ll earn the ‘Roninja’ award – an accolade that only the finest Tokyo 42 players will achieve. It adds an incentive for you to approach the game in a specific way, though the tricky difficulty might see you simply going with whatever makes you the die the least.
I’ve seen Tokyo 42 compared to classic action game ‘Syndicate’ and even the original ‘Grand Theft Auto’ games in the build up to its release, and after playing the game I can say it’s a pretty fair comparison. Whilst the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ similarities come down to the bustling world full of NPCs and violent-heavy missions, the ‘Syndicate’ comparison feels a lot more fitting with the game’s isometric viewpoint and actual gameplay feeling very similar to the 90s classic. Tokyo 42 offers the same freedom that both these games feature too, allowing the player to freely explore the world and approach everything how they please. At the same time, it certainly has its own sense of identity. Whilst the inspirations are clearly there, everything about the game feels distinctly unique. Having small reminders of two classic video games that I loved was a nice touch though.
Tokyo 42 is far from perfect thanks to its slightly awkward controls and repetitive mission design, but there’s something undeniably enjoyable about the game that never disappears. Killing enemies and then blasting across the environment with your slick parkour skills to evade their pursuits is a hell of a lot of fun, whilst the stunning visuals of the game ensure that everything about it looks absolutely superb in the process.
I’m sure Tokyo 42 will be divisive amongst gamers and rightly so – even I can recognise that it has its flaws. Each one is trumped by all of the exciting things that the game gets right though and I had a blast playing it.
Developer: SMAC Games
Publisher: Mode 7
Release Date: 31/05/2017 (Xbox One, PC) July 2017 (Playstation 4)
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC