REVIEW: Tokyo Chronos

3 minute read

Of the three VR games I’ve played since I got my Quest 2, this one has taken the longest to complete because to get the most out of it, you do actually have to read and understand the story (duh! it’s a novel). It’s my favourite game I’ve played so far.

Tokyo Chronos box art

Not everyone’s cup of tea

Tokyo Chronos is a visual novel so you don’t play it the way you would an action game or RPG.

Like how you would play (watch) a movie or play (listen) to music, playing (reading) a visual novel is all about the experience, what it makes you think, and how it makes you feel.

On the Oculus store page, some of the negative reviews seem to be from people who did not find the kind of game they were expecting, i.e. a typical action/adventure game. In my book, I would say a game is any kind of interactive media where you can make choices to affect the outcome.

Perhaps it might help to think of Tokyo Chronos not as a videogame but as interactive fiction. Growing up, I used to love choose-your-own-adventure gamebooks, which were books that you could play by reading them. I was especially fond of the Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson, and the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever. I still read Lone Wolf, because they are officially available for free online.

We’re on the right track! The TVTropes page Visual Novel mentions Interactive Fiction and goes on to say:

“Visual novels are effectively seen as a digital evolution of Gamebooks, with music, pictures, and occasionally even voice acting or movies.”

I’m not that familiar with visual novels. I think I’ve played a little Ace Attorney but my first real experience of visual novels prior to Tokyo Chronos was Doki Doki Literature Club. However, DDLC is really a horror game that uses the format and mechanics of visual novels for its gameplay, so it’s not your typical visual novel even if it is outwardly presented as a “dating sim”.

Still, I think it’s introduced me to some of the conventions of visual novels - or at least the conventions of a specific genre of visual novel. Either way, you have to play through it multiple times to unlock different endings, which in the end allow you to unlock a true ending.

Great gameplay

The overall story is deep and thought-provoking. Maybe I’m just sentimental and a softy but I swear I got teary-eyed several times while playing. Although this game is two years old, I’m still hesitant to say too much in case I spoil it for anyone reading this who hasn’t played it yet. I feel that the story is so good, and that everyone should be able to experience it all for themselves.

This game is marketed as a “VR Mystery Visual Novel” so let’s start there. So something has happened, and playing through the game, you will learn about the different experiences of all the characters and piece together the whole story.

Not all visual novels are dating sims (see TVTropes), and Tokyo Chronos is most assuredly not a dating sim. All the characters have their own meaningful backstories, and there is like only one truly romantic relationship.

The trailer and cover has the tag line I am dead. Who killed me? So this is a whodunnit story and you will discover who the victim is and who killed them.

So far, so obvious.

The story is good because because there is a twist that makes it not entirely obvious. Perhaps predictably, because this is a game, the story does ultimately revolve around your character.

If you are at all partial to a good story, then trust me, it is well worth getting through all the downer-endings to unlock the true happy ending.

Verdict

Tokyo Chronos is one of the premium titles, going by the price tiers in the Oculus store, and I think justifiably so considering that it’s fully voice-acted (albeit in Japanese). My sole criticism is that there are a lot of spelling mistakes in the English subtitles. That’s kind of just nitpicking, since it didn’t affect my comprehension of the subtitles or detract from my overall experience.

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