REVIEWER’S NOTE: Given the review has been published so close to the game’s release, this review contains no narrative spoilers; it focuses on the gameplay elements, design, and particular features I found interesting.
SMAC Games and Mode 7’s Tokyo 42 places us in a stylish isometric open-world; more specifically, as an unfortunate male framed for murder. The answer? Becoming the very thing you were framed for. You climb the ranks of a dangerous assassin in attempt to reveal the truth behind your false incrimination.
In its early stages, Tokyo 42 introduces the player to its isometric open-world which lets the player decide how they can go about completing their missions; shall you attempt to climb the building’s stairs all the way to the rooftop in a glorious gunfight filled with grenades and a downpour of bullets? Perhaps the more stealthy approach will yield better results as your foes won’t be attracted to the sounds of bullets raining down upon them. Rotating the world and exploring the possible routes on how you can achieve that adds to an endless sense of discovery as you attempt to platform your way around an objective. That said, some missions encourage the all-out gunfire approach. Finishing missions leads to new environments within the city to explore, thus leading to even more missions, collectables in the form of weapon skins, clothing, and more.
Beauty in the architecture.
I found myself captivated by one particular mission: I had to assassinate a leader with the stab of my katana. Killing the army of henchmen that led to him, however, could be done as I pleased. I originally chose the all-out Rambo attempt of shooting my way through them, but ultimately decided to use stealth, using the environment to pick a route as I slashed through them one at a time and eventually killing their leader. To receive my reward and complete the mission, I had to head back to a vending machine. Jumping from pathways down onto unsuspecting enemies. Ducking and hiding behind walls, creeping up to the final henchmen I had ignored previously until none were left. In that moment, I felt the same vision the developers had. A sense of awe lingered.
The open-world genre, to me, often feels like I am staring at an object of astronomical scale, but upon setting foot on it and digging into it, the object reveals its true nature: it’s empty; lacking substance. The open-world genre has me questioning what small additional features I would have implemented to fill the void. Tokyo 42 does not give me that feeling; I find myself engrossed in its beauty; in its true city-like nature in which there is always something going on; always something to observe as you navigate throughout it. A world that breathes serenity amidst the chaos of rivalling gangs and criminal underworld that’s just beneath the surface.
You’ll understand the fun of doing this eventually.
Tokyo 42 pays homage to Grand Theft Auto 1 in not only its open-world style, but with its features: Cop Drop, an increasingly difficult wave of cops that are called in if you are found murdering civilians in the city (yes, that includes punishment for collateral damage); missions that require riding a bike around the city as you mow down gangs, which is notably fun given the game’s one-hit, instant-kill element, which I would like to talk about a little more: very few games can successfully pull off such a mechanic, it can either feel too frustrating or too easy based on your arsenal — in Tokyo 42, you have a weapon inventory that’s exceptionally well-equipped; you have access to grenades, different assault rifles, pistols, and more, yet you never feel like you are invincible; all it takes is one shot, one grenade, and you’re dead. The enemies are not stupid, they will attempt to rush you, they will spam you with grenades just like you are to them, and they will attempt to flank you as you attempt to take care of a different, more threatening group of enemies. There’s no hand-holding here, if you mess up, you suffer the consequences. There is a solution, though: maintaining awareness of your surroundings to ensure you have the advantage at all times, being aware of potential flanking positions and escapes using the isometric world.
The ‘all-seeing eye’ overlooking the city.
My time spent in the world of Tokyo 42 was wonderful. Its unique style, narrative, use of exploration and platforming without hand-holding was incredibly refreshing — it was an experience I had been longing for in recent years, and I highly recommend that you do not skip it.
Note: This review was based on a Steam digital copy provided by the publisher.