Echo Tokyo: Phoenix is a direct sequel of its original first chapter; Echo Tokyo: An Intro, which we also reviewed HERE, and I highly recommend everyone to play, before entering this new chapter. It’s not obligatory, but will provide extra depth into the characters.
Published by Dharker Studio, we take the role of a Fixer in the futuristic city of Tokyo, a place divided by money, and its consequences. The less fortunate ones live in the Slums, ruled by their own debt, addiction, and sometimes sold or bought as slaves by crime lords. Above, the wealthy upper class ignore everything, living their lives like nothing is happening. In the Intro chapter, we learned about two important characters; Shizume and Keiji.
In this chapter, we play as Shizume, who is again late to pay her rent, but this time the landlord is not getting her an extra day. She has to pay, and it’s of extreme necessity to find a job. As a Fixer, Shizume's usual jobs consist of gathering information, or “fix” situations that would be suitable for a police agent, but in a district without rules or justice, she’s just a mercenary. There hasn’t been many jobs lately, and becoming an escort is out of the menu, so she has to follow the only lead for a possible job.
Dark Casino has been stolen, one of the big and important places in the slums, owned by Daedelus Dark. Someone managed to do a major heist and stole some large credits, but who could have done it? This is definitely a great job for Shizume, but yet, another opportunity arises. Serenity, a young but already tamed women working at Dark Casino, has only one thing in her mind; find out what happened to her father. She has no freedom, no possession, and is forever enslaved by the man who bought her. Still, she saved some credits, so one day, she could hire a Fixer, or a detective.
These are the two story paths one can follow in Echo Tokyo: Phoenix, within the same playthrough. You decide what side you want to investigate, and each decision results in an outcome. This is actually a well done system, instead of having two different stories lined up, the developers decided to tangle both storylines, and let players choose their path, or follow what case seems more interesting. This type of entwined plots is more complicated in terms of production, but we appreciate the effort, as the final result is a much more interesting and cohesive narrative!
The narrative has a huge detective oriented vibe, that somehow gets lost midway the game, being replaced with thrilling action moments appointed through dialogue decisions. With dozens of possible endings, players have a large amount of choices to go with. Some of these can lead to a premature game-over, so it’s recommended to save frequently. Each wrong path takes us one step further, not only into the heart of the Slums, but towards the truth.
Narrative dwells between a crime thriller, with corruption, and the fight Shizume has to do, in order to avoid the fate of many other women. Like all Dharker Studio games, one can expect well written dialogues, with fine descriptions of events, which is pleasant considering there are some action moments involved. The characters are well developed, and for those who played the short Intro, there’s even more progress to witness.
Visually, it’s a vast improvement from the first Intro chapter, with amazing backgrounds depicting the city as originally intended. Dark and mysterious, portraying ruined lives stacked like dust and dirt on buildings. That’s the slums, perfectly executed in each background, but with a wide touch of solitude, as they are designed entirely deserted. One can still picture the rest, but would be nice to have some notion of human fulfillment.
The cyberpunk style suits very well with the 3D environments that are still hand drawn, but with a much improved quality, almost like artwork for a Triple-A game! Each area of the game as a text description of the location, almost as if the creators wanted players to know their location in the city. I personally like the idea, and I have a feeling this was to be used in case the game turned out to be a much larger project.
Character renders are another improvement, with a clear anime-style, yet with some distinguished western traces. Overall quality is on-par with what Dharker Studio has been publishing lately, with great detail for clothes, hair, and light/shadow works. Facial expressions are present, but in a very limited way, which doesn’t affect much, since every special moment has a dedicated scene that works as cutscenes. Those are hand drawn, and are designed with a much more western direction into them.
Adult content is still present, but not in a typical way. Themes are definitely heavier, involving prostitution, drugs, murder, human traffic, and other violent references, however… Nudity is not present! There’s sexual content within the plot, with character involvements, but during such acts, no full nudity is shown. There is, however, one topless scene that can be unlocked in the Gallery menu. As for an Adult Patch, there’s no news for it yet, and I personally think we won’t have any.
As quality goes, we have native 1920x1080, with amazing support for 1440p and 4K resolutions. Upscaling goes amazingly well, barely noticing any lost of quality whatsoever for higher resolutions. Interiors and exteriors have a good variety, and do not feel repetitive.
The Soundtrack unfortunately is far less recognizable, with just a handful of tracks that end up becoming somehow the flow of the entire game. With no voice-over for characters, even though the trailer shows a voiced narrator, the music ends up mixing a nice synth neo-future pop-wave in a cyberpunk/noir style, aiming at the detective vibe from the storyline. It’s a smooth tune that goes well with the game, and if there is one thing missing, it’s perhaps some special sound effects that we came to enjoy in the latest games from the studio.
Echo Tokyo: Phoenix is another well developed chapter in the futurist city of despair and ruin, but not everyone is willing to give up, especially Shizume. In this 5 to 6 hours Visual Novel, where choices can definitely kill you, Phoenix marks Dharker Studio commitment to the series! A well driven action / thriller narrative, with an interesting plot that might push the Echo Tokyo series in further rail, for the upcoming titles; Echo Tokyo: Reaper and Echo Tokyo: Mana Defence Force.