Tokyo Ghoul is a weird, quirky arthouse manga that accidentally became a shonen smash hit for the Hot Topic set. By sacrificing the initial contemplative tone for bloody, intense clashes, the manga became a pretty big hit among teens and angsty adults alike.
It's because of those fights, which only increased as the franchise continued and turned into a strange sequel/reboot, that somebody saw fit to turn Tokyo Ghoul into a video game. But to my surprise, Tokyo Ghoul:re [Call To Exist] is not only an above-average adaptation of the source material, but the rare anime tie-in game that could be called "ambitious."
"I Feel The Rage"
Players are given a very condensed summary of the series' initial setup before being thrown right into the action, when Ken Kaneki escapes his brutal torture at the hands of Aogiri Tree and starts to truly awaken his powers. This means that the first, oh, six or so volumes of the manga are glossed over. However, considering that practically nobody except for fans of the series will be playing this, that's more than acceptable.
Fans will be taken through the latter half of the original series, and most of everything of Tokyo Ghoul:re that's been turned into an anime so far. Along the way, players will also get to take control of fan-favorite characters like Amon, getting their own perspectives of the overarching conflict and plot twists. Considering one of the defining facets of Tokyo Ghoul is its preoccupation with moral ambiguity, that works in the game's favor. It's nice that, despite the condensing of the narrative, the game manages to capture this.
That's one of the biggest surprises about [Call To Exist], actually. Yes, it suffers from the usual anime tie-in game problem of, "Huh, there's a lot more going on here that we're just passing over," but the tone and themes of the series remain intact. Not only that, but the game's comprehensive, on-disc lore bible gives fans a chance to catch up on the finer points they may have forgotten - even including the canonically dubious Tokyo Ghoul √A. Fans such as myself will be pleasantly surprised that this game has a nice amount of thematic substance to sink their teeth into.
"I Feel It Deep Within"
The opening minutes of [Call To Exist] filled me with an existential dread only anime fans know - the possibility of this being nothing more than an arena brawler. Modern anime games have a tendency to all the feel the exact same, regardless of tone, genre, or subject matter - a far cry from the cool and ambitious stuff we got on the PS2. (Samurai Champloo Sidetracked or Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, anyone?)
Imagine my surprise, then, that developer Three Rings Inc. managed to not only make a technically competent game, but one that actually feels in line with what I'd want in a Tokyo Ghoul cash-in. For the most part, [Call To Exist] is a corridor brawler that would feel right at home with the upper echelon of mid-tier PS2 brawlers. It also dabbles in being a serviceable shooter with MOBA-esque elements with an unremarkable, but nevertheless functional parkour system. Oh, and there's a multiplayer aspect to this whole thing too, with a decent character selection system and co-op raids plus PVP. It's a fairly robust package, all things considered.
It also plays very well for what it is. There's some sloppy camerawork and instances of character models doing some weird stuff, but as far as 3D brawlers go, it's fairly tops. Combat is fast and furious, but with a chunky weight to it that feels unique to the franchise - you never feel like you're controlling superhumans, but real, fragile people with preternatural abilities. It's also a very, very bloody game in a way that few modern titles are, with blood splashing by the gallon with each passing second. All told, it's a snappy beat-em-up with visual panache and weighty mechanics that are responsive and satisfying.
"It's Hiding In The Dark"
What strikes me most about [Call To Exist] is just how many hats it's capable of wearing. When Kaneki or other characters are fighting down dark alleyways, it captures the sparse and bleak tone of the source material. When players get rushed by a swarm of enemies and are forced to slice through them, Musou-style, you'll feel the same desperate struggle for life that defines the franchise. In one-on-one battles, fast health depletion and a call for precise inputs and dodges remind you of the fragility of each character, which dovetails with the series' focus on the value of life quite nicely.
This is a roundabout way of saying that this game actually has variety, depth, and a surprising amount of nuance in its design. Not only that, but that variety and depth actually complement the tone of the source material, creating a nice synergy of narrative and gameplay that even most AAA games fail to lock down. It also has plenty to go around, with a sizeable campaign, solid multiplayer, and lots of lore to catch up on. For sixty bucks, you're getting a lot of value here - especially if you're a big Tokyo Ghoul fan.
"I Feel Like A Monster"
Tokyo Ghoul:re [Call To Exist] isn't a perfect title, to be sure. It's pretty impenetrable for people who aren't fans, it's clearly made on a shoestring budget, and the static anime still cutscenes aren't the prettiest.
However, it also has loads of ambition. It wants to be a fighter, brawler, shooter, parkour sim, MOBA, and narrative game all rolled up into one little package. As a critic, flawed ambition will always win me over more than a flawless adherence to the status quo. And as a fan of Tokyo Ghoul, an imperfect, but ambitious little game that punches above its weight is the most fitting tie-in that I can think of.
Tokyo Ghoul:re [Call To Exist] is the rare anime cash-in that is both ambitious and chocked full of content, and one that franchise diehards can eagerly sink their teeth into and be able to take a deep, stiff drink from.
A PlayStation 4 copy of Tokyo Ghoul:re [Call To Exist] was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Tokyo Ghoul:re [Call To Exist] is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC.
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