I haven’t made a post since February but I’m still here and still absolutely want to continue the blog, I’ve just been dealing with – as I mentioned a lot in most of my posts the past year – almost nonstop physical ailments and so it’s been hard to get around to writing and I put it off instead choosing to focus on trying to get myself better instead. I’ve also been sidetracked by all the muslims on the warpath again, helping someone move, and generally dealing with shit. I really do enjoy posting and hope at least some of you who kept with my blog this long are still around even after that really long hiatus. Can’t say how frequent I’ll be posting as all that’s still going on – including the pain – but I definitely really want to post more often again at least as much as I used to which wasn’t that much to begin with, let alone more. Pardon how this review goes – I haven’t written in ages plus I actually wrote a lot of this months ago so it might be a little awkwardly written! I included some personally recorded clips for you as an apology. And yes, I’m aware I abuse commas even worse than usual in this review.
Anyway, I need to say first and foremost – I did not finish this game (yet – I got stuck and some other stuff I cared about more came out is all) so “review” isn’t entirely true to name this but the game is pretty consistently the same throughout and I really felt, even without having completed it, it’s something that’s worth talking about as most people probably haven’t even heard of it. I usually hate the concept of reviewing something without finishing it (unless you’ve outright dropped it – in this case that is absolutely not how it is) given a REview is going back over something you completed but I don’t mind the occasional exception.
Have some smooth fucking tunes to go with your reading;
TTGH:DSG (that’s still long, goddamn) seems to be incredibly niche and unheard of but is definitely a hidden gem – and many of the reviews, albeit there aren’t that many in the first place, seem to be from people who either REALLY liked it or who simply went in not knowing what it was and thus being upset that it’s not some character-action game. This is absolutely a VISUAL NOVEL and while it has loads of gameplay which isn’t normal for a VN, it’s gameplay that’s very strategic and simplified. I don’t mean the gameplay MECHANICS are simple and for idiots – in fact the game gets incredibly challenging over time, has a ton of depth to it, and is a great take on strategy style gameplay – just that it’s presented visually as a layout and you pretty much command it via a floor plan and some icons. There’s no first person or third person stuff going on here (aside very short moments when it zooms in for when you successfully attack a ghost/one attacks you and you take damage – though you can skip these if you want as they’re super simple as well) and the map is literally just the floor plan of the place – it’s essentially a board game.
Does that make it less fun? Absolutely not, actually I appreciate it for being able to be so addicting and fun while lacking all the things modern games – even of the strategy genre – rely on to distract you from bland gameplay by being flashy and such. This is PURE strategy to the point your characters are just represented by colored triangles instead of sprites or 3D models. Something about that simplicity really makes it feel not just fresh, but interesting and fun in a way you can’t really find elsewhere. Before every mission (and after loads of visual novel dialogue and chances to shop) you get the floor layout of the place you’re going as well as vague estimates of where ghosts might be located, the layout of rooms and furniture in them, and any methods of transportation a ghost could use (water taps, electric outlets, etc). Here you set up traps from a list of a shit ton of different types – you have an upper limit you can’t exceed so planning out your traps is probably the most strategic part of all, especially with how incredibly important it is once you begin as without good placement of the right types of traps you can fuck yourself over entirely or make it way more difficult than it needs to be. The traps range from things like ghost detectors to help you locate them and salt to keep them from being able to move over a certain location, to things that just outright attack them depending on what kind of ghost you’re dealing with. It forces you to actually look at the information it’s giving you and spend some time figuring out your entire plan before you even make a move.
While i love the super unique combat I have to admit it does get fairly frustrating at times – by fairly I mean fucking super frustrating often enough to be kind of a bother because the randomness behind the ghost AI, which I think SHOULD be there, can be a little OVERLY unpredictable at times. The entire gameplay is centered around mitigating that and making them easier to guess ahead of via traps and character placement but at times it feels like they do things that just make absolutely no sense just so that you waste a whole turn by missing them because they moved in some nonsensical way to a nonsensical location even if it’s surrounded by traps and across the fucking map. The reason this can be so frustrating is that a lot of the missions start having shorter turn counts (“minutes” but not actual time) and sometimes that one single time they do some dumb bullshit will be the soul reason you lose. It doesn’t feel “unfair” it just can, at times, be very upsetting to lose to a completely random choice that while being RNG should still manage to feel like something the enemy might have a reason for doing. There are also cases where some ghosts can just go into walls where you can’t hurt them at all which WITHOUT the time limit might serve some purpose but with minimal time it can just sit in the wall forever if it wants and when that happens it IS unfair, however this is really rare.
There is also a 5 Emotions / 5 Senses system during the VN portions letting you occasionally pick a response via 1 of 5 emotions and 1 of 5 senses rather than a dialogue choice. I actually kind of like this as it’s very vague and leaves you with just enough of an idea of what you might do and giving you the result essentially only through the response you get. I tended to shake hands upon first meeting anyone – except the Yakuza guy, I knew he’d like a show of manly spirit so I tried punching him (it worked, he smirked and told me I had balls) – and any time I got the chance to use the system with the chief I’d pick the hearts and the hand in an attempt to grope the shit out of her tits which she never was offended or upset by, never LET me and instead teased me over it, but still it recognized what I was attempting to do and she responded to it in a believable way.
Aside that, for some reason that I will never know the entire game has a pretty big music focus – not in terms of the story (though there is one guy who just jams in the office all day once you meet him and fights with a guitar) but in relation to just EVERYTHING ELSE. For one the OST is fucking incredibly good, it really is; it doesn’t just sound good but also manages to really add a more upbeat and cool rock feeling to everything and keeps the tempo from ever slowing down too much even in the visual novel portions or (especially given it’s the best song in the game) when planning your trap layouts while also managing some really emotional tunes as well. All games have OSTs though so that’s hardly what I mean by music seeping into every part of the way this game is presented. The logo of the game right on the box even has two guitars for some reason, you guys go to jobs in one of those shitty old shitty VW bus-van things that bands used to use after manually going through your cassettes to pick which music track you want to have during the strategy portion, hell even the fucking save system is themed as concert posters. And of course the jams never stop, aside the OP and ED to each chapter there is absolutely nothing that isn’t in the same style as the rest or that sounds remotely normal for a video game.
Speaking of the OP and ED, each chapter is also themed as an anime with every main story mission beginning with an intro VN prologue bit to the story to come, then having the same opening video and song play every time, and AFTER every main story mission is concluded you get the same ending video and song with credits and all. They even go as far as having the ED song do the early bleed-in over the last chunk of dialogue of each chapter. It’s a really cool idea and it genuinely adds a lot to the feeling you have when playing the game.
The game has a lot of really lovable little details about it as well, like how you have to pay damages for anything you break on a mission (if you attack anywhere that stuff is shown on the floor plan and a ghost isn’t there you break something if you use certain weapons unless nothing was there in the first place, adding another strategic element to the already very strategic gameplay) to something as simple as getting essentially short testimonials on your website for every single random little side job you do. Actually, the site overall is completely unnecessary but such a fun and detailed thing even down to the generic stuff you’d find on real life websites like disclaimers, recruitment services if you’re looking for a job with the company, and the Coopa delivery service has a full FAQ, price list, and about us all of which do fucking nothing for the player aside world building. There are details that help too, like talking to the cat often enough (I think that’s what does it at least) will make it sometimes randomly follow you to a mission and pop-in when it feels like it walking around showing you the area and detecting any ghosts near it.
The Daybreak additional missions that are forced on you throughout at certain points while interesting can, and typically do, over fill themselves with MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF TEXT. That’s fine, this is both a strategy RPG and a visual novel…the thing is VNs let you save whenever you want while this doesn’t. You’re stuck for ages and ages and ages no matter what during these daybreak missions and you just aren’t allowed to fucking stop because there’s no way to save sometimes until an hour later. I’m fine with all the dialogue especially given these missions are pretty much meant to flesh out characters more from what I saw, but not being able to save at all during them is pretty harsh.
I know my main focus in reviews tends to be story and characters but this time around I guess they kind of take a back seat to the game mechanics, soundtrack, and some damn fine presentation. It’s worth mentioning though that both are good and interesting. I like pretty much the whole cast, the Yakuza and the witch(?) girl are my favorites – OH and the shop guy – and plot-wise it’s very episodic and each episode does a pretty good job hooking you with the prologue before the OP and maintaining endearing enough qualities to keep you wanting to continue but giving me not much to talk about because as far as I got there was no real overarching story so it’d just be spoilers for each chapter. Neither the cast nor the plot are anything super special, but they aren’t bad at all and do their job well – some of the chapter stories can actually be really sad or touching as well.
Overall, as I said at the start, this is definitely something that fits the bill of a hidden gem and that’s kind of sad given how unique, stylish, and rockin’ it is. I recommend checking it out at the very least as long as you aren’t averse to visual novels or a lot of reading and have an interest in strategy games at all. The music alone makes it pretty worthwhile. It can get repetitive after awhile, it has plenty of other flaws, but it’s very different from what you’re probably used to (in a good way) and is fairly addictive for awhile – not great, but definitely a pretty good game with a really unique…everything – from the OST and atmosphere of it all to the barebones yet enjoyable SRPG mechanics.
There is a version on PS3 and Vita but it’s the original release, I have no experience with that one but I do know Special Gigs is dramatically updated in loads of ways and includes a lot more content so it’d be worth getting this version if you’re interested in it even though you can’t carry it around with you.