Echo Tokyo: An Intro it’s exactly that, an Intro to the Echo Tokyo series that are coming soon to Steam. Two games are planned which are; Echo Tokyo: Phoenix and Echo Tokyo: Reaper, two complete games in a futuristic cyberpunk Tokyo, with supernatural elements. Sounds amazing, and by the looks on their respective Steam Store page, we can surely hype for a new and unique experience. But until that happens, Echo Tokyo: An Intro delivers two very distinct experiences, that serve as an introduction to the future games.
In future Tokyo, people live above the ground, avoiding the darkness, almost wishing they could reach the clouds, far away as possible from the radioactive wasteland the earth as become. Society is split into two groups, the ones trying to survive among the dark and dirty slums, and the Society Core, where the elite and wealthy reside, missing out on all the pain under them while prospering. These two stories will confront each side of life and changing them, resulting in ways we can only speculate in the future chapters of Echo Tokyo.
Shizume Misaki Origin Story, is the first of the two available adventures in the game, and let players enroll in the plot of Shizume’s events that changed her as an individual and as a character. She’s just a young woman that works as a Fixer, somehow similar to mercenaries who accept all sorts of jobs in exchange for credits, trying to survive while helping those in need. Shizume it’s not just another bounty hunter, she follows her heart, and even if sometimes it’s tough to choose between the right decision and the other side of the coin, she still manages to complete the task, with no lives wasted. One night, though, everything changes, as she accepts a mission to track and find a missing teenager, last seen in the slums. This is not any random girl, as her parents come from the Core of Society, and therefore it’s an important mission. Things turn to the worst, and the unexpected happens, completing transforming Shizume, in what she always tried to avoid...
Shizume will fight for her life and survival depends only and exclusively on good decisions through player’s choices, as this episode, it’s an interactive Visual Novel, with five different endings, that may or may not result in her death.
Keiji's Origin Story, is the second adventure included in the game, and narrates the backstory of Keiji, a young man who grew up alone in the slums. His only fear was not having a meal for the next day, but the constant scavenging made sure he was away to busy to think about his fears. Sometimes, however, he wondered, where his parents would be, did they abandon him? Did they die? He wondered, but has he grows, these questions seemed less and less important! Eventually, children started to form groups, to survive in such hostile environment. Keiji grew up in one of those groups, made friends, rivals, and lived all sorts of experiences, until one decisive day, where a scientist from the Core Society, came and took him, leaving behind a trail of blood.
Keiji’s nightmare starts now, where he will be tortured, and endured as much as possible, to a point where his humanity fuses with the industrial desire for perfection and sub-human powers. Nothing can stop this, except, his last rays of humanity, that refuse to die, as players watch it all through this Kinetic Visual Novel.
Echo Tokyo: An Intro delivers a short but very intense experience. Combining both stories, players have slightly above the one-hour mark of content, but other aspects add tremendous value to the package. Both chapters are 100% voice-acted, and this means main characters and secondary ones as well. The actors did a fantastic job, especially for Shizume, giving her a strong vibe, and very emotional as well. On Keiji side of things, the voice-actor did a great performance as well, with a much gloomier and harsh mood, perfect for the character at the hands.
Besides fantastic voice overs, we’re presented with a postmodern experience, with fullscreen, futuristic menus, and a very dedicated experience when comes to gameplay. It’s not possible to save the game on multiple slots, as choices are to be lived intensely. Worry not, a unique quick save/load is still present. What is not present though, is the option to change in-game audio volumes, for both music and character voices, which is 99% of time available, which is interesting at least.
Visually, we’re presented with hand-drawn characters, and scenarios, in fact, everything in the game has a very hand-made style, with some exceptions regarding few backgrounds. Particular backgrounds are over the top with details, light works and looking over the top, even for the amazing quality of Dharker Studio. The small amount of backgrounds we get to have an eye upon, are also displayed in the Steam Store pages regarding the upcoming games, so we assume they are going to play a major role on those. Futuristic places can be seen, with an underground style, depicting the urban lifestyle, such as casinos, bars, stores, and much more. Although in this Intro we only get a small glimpse of Shizume’s house, we can tell it’s promising.
The characters in both stories display the usual Dharker Studio art style, in which Shizume resembles previous models, but her body traces are relatively new and very well shaped within the traditional approach the studio as been using since the beginning. This time, however, we can see more anime-influenced characters, especially in the artworks DLC. This might be a clue about the art direction of Echo Tokyo, and we for one, are extremely excited.
There is no sexual content (or adult patch for that matter), but partial nudity does exist, and goes hand-to-hand within the game's direction, so it’s not out of the nowhere we get to see Shizume’s sexy curves during a nice and provocative shower scene. Dialogues are many times based on character's introspective thoughts, and it’s definitely an adult game, but not due to its nudity, but rather to the violence that’s highly explicit across the two different scenarios.
In-game extras are scarce (despise the 160 original images unlocked in the gallery), however, two DLC’s are available to purchase, one is a digital graphic novel called “Echo Tokyo Phoenix”, and contains the events of Shizume's Origin Story. This short book can also work as a guide for the game’s choices, since it pretty contains the same progression. it’s an interesting concept, and offers a few different angles, a depth into the world of Echo Tokyo, and a couple of unseen scenes that didn’t make in the game. A DLC called “Wallpapers” is also available, and it’s slightly more than just wallpapers as the name suggests. It’s, in fact, nine different images, containing; 1 HD Dakimakura of Shizume in a very cute outfit, 5 artwork images based on characters, including the original Shizume, 1 incredible wallpaper of the city, another wallpaper of Shizume is rising from the ashes, and to finish, a wallpaper with the game's logo.
Overall, the prices are somehow worth it, especially if one buys it in a bundle. Wallpaper DLC is definitely worth it for the Dakimakura, while the digital graphic novel is more a fan extra, as it may serve of use for later, when Echo Tokyo really becomes extremely relevant among Visual Novel fans. The soundtrack isn’t an extra, this time around, and one can guess why, assuming Dharker Studio is saving the final tracks for the major releases, and we’ll probably even see a DLC for it. But as for this Intro, the soundtrack is really smooth and atmospheric, creating a good and stable base for the action at hands, and still delivering a digital future, with uncertainty at every corner. It’s short, but the main theme, it’s certainly remarkable.
Playing Echo Tokyo: An Intro, it’s like like opening that early present on Christmas! it’s a good-bad habit, but in a positive way. We can’t wait to see what Dharker Studio will be doing with this series, as the possibilities are endless. From what we’ve seen, we’re already imagining an over the top interactive Visual Novel, with multiple locations to visit and interact with. At the same time, we have a very well directed and executed Kinetic Visual Novel, so that’s also a possibility. Either way, it’s a fantastic introduction to the future series, involving two fascinating characters that will surely take us to a world of fantasy and action.