Your target is a set of twins who run a local gang. There are several points of ingress, some more heavily guarded than others. One could go in all guns blazing but that will, most likely, end in a quick demise as the plethora of guards will no doubt descend upon you. Instead the better option is to take out your katana and slice your way to the top, quietly taking out unwitting guards as you make your way upwards to your goal. Having finally made it you notice your targets are inside rather than out in the open and the roof of the room lifts up only to descend again. It now won’t raise again no matter what you do and whilst you try blindly to take out your targets you die and die again. This scenario sums up Tokyo 42 perfectly. As when it works, it is sublime, but when it doesn’t it is just downright frustrating.
If Fez and Syndicate were to have the gaming equivalent of offspring then Tokyo 42 would be the result. Set in an isometric and futuristic Tokyo City, you are a person framed for murder and the only way to clear your name is to become the thing you're not: an assassin. You escape via your friend’s flying car and quickly set on a path in your new found career. We’d be lying if we said that we weren’t a little confused by our titular character’s decision to clear their name by being an assassin. However, we are soon told that most of the populace is taking a drug called NanoMed which has effectively ruled out death. As such, death is now just a minor inconvenience. This perhaps explains, then, why the citizens of fair Tokyo seem rather untroubled when bodies start dropping around them. Death, it seems, has become a part of the landscape and being an assassin is, by all accounts, no different than being a plumber.
The world created by SMAC in Tokyo 42 is visually stunning. With clean lines and lashings of neon it invokes memories of Blade Runner, only a heck of a lot more colourful. From the flying cars to the “Deckard” overcoat you start the game with, it’s clear that Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic had its influences here. Other movies and pop culture references appear sporadically as you play and they only add to its charm. Furthering our admiration for the game environment is the camera movement as you rotate around your protagonist. The camera pans are wonderfully smooth, each showing a little bit more of the beautifully crafted world in which you play. Movement is also very well animated with everything from gun-play to running having an almost ethereal feel to them. That being said, it is when things go south that Tokyo 42’s star starts to fade.
Your first few contracts serve as a tutorial of sorts showing you how to navigate the world at large and possible approaches to various situations. Before long you’re left to your own devices on how to take out each target. While you can always use one of the five types of main weapons (which are split into variations of melee, pistol, sniper, heavy and bombs), it is always to your advantage to take the stealthy approach. This is mostly due to the fact that, should you get spotted, staying alive for long is pretty hard. It seems that Tokyo 42 is so determined to make you take the stealthy approach it makes all other methods almost impossibly difficult for later missions. The biggest issue is that you're aiming on a 2D plain so when height is involved you have to zoom to compensate. This wouldn’t be too bad if you had time but things get frenetic once the guards are alerted to your presence. They will approach en masse and have an almost freakishly accurate aim so coupled with Tokyo 42’s one-shot kills, dying is annoyingly frequent. Things become very much like Edge of Tomorrow as you will find yourself dying repeatedly until, finally, you happen upon the perfect sequence to complete your task.
Aiming issues aside, it’s the sheer number of opponents that make things the most frustrating. Cover is possible by ducking behind things but your character, understandably, has to pop out of cover to fire. Since you can’t often see all your enemies due to the isometric layout, you have no way of knowing who can and cannot shoot you. As a consequence, you can often end up dying due to a bullet shot by an off-camera sniper you had no idea was there. This continues to increase as you progress through the storyline and in the end all semblance of fairness is lost as you square up to robots and turrets. The final mission descending into hair-ripping levels of rage rather quickly. Even with being able to rotate the levels round a full three-sixty you must adapt your aim as you do so. In the end this devolves into a case of remembering where everyone spawns, the best path to kill them and hoping you don’t forget anyone.
Speaking of which, Tokyo 42 has a nemesis system where, sporadically, an AI-controlled enemy assassin will be dispatched to deal with you. They would often appear soon after this warning and as there was no telltale sign to help you spot them they would often get the drop on you. If you are lucky enough to make them or kill them before they kill you, you are gifted a some cash to spend in one of the floating stores dotted about the place. However, we found that if we started a storyline mission, our nemesis would disappear making the whole thing relatively pointless. In the end they were inconveniences as when our nemesis did find us we’d just let them kill us and we’d move on given there was no discernable negative to just dying. Sure you may miss out on some money, but given the Tokyo 42’s preference for you to use your katana, you use so little ammo as well as having plenty of money saved up from everything else that buying equipment isn’t a worry.
Outside of single-player, Tokyo 42’s multiplayer levels the playing field as all players suffer from the same aiming and viewpoint handicaps. However, there’s only one mode, deathmatch, and unfortunately only five maps to play on. It’s a rather lightweight offering and even now isn’t overly populated as we found it difficult to find a game to join. It makes you question its inclusion but it's a welcome distraction after dying for the umpteenth time in single-player if you’re able to get a game.
It’s a shame that the promising start Tokyo 42 makes in the initial missions descends into a rage-inducing frenzy at its climax. Thankfully there’s much to like here and whist it's not perfect it’s still a fun game to play. There are plenty of side-missions and collectibles to get that you can distract yourself with if you’re finding a main story mission difficult. In the end Tokyo 42 feels like a missed opportunity that takes plenty of shots but with only a few hitting the mark. In the end our initial enjoyment faded to one of disappointment of what could have been. However, if you can get round the aiming issues and don’t mind rinsing and repeating the same mission several times then you’ll likely have a lot of fun.