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GHOSTWIRE: TOKYO's chilling Visitors


GHOSTWIRE: TOKYO's chilling Visitors

Get into the spirit(s)! Our list of the game's most fascinating creatures.

Arjan Terpstra

18 May 2022 ⋅ 5 min read

Take a contemporary city, empty it of humans, replace them with all kinds of supernatural creatures, and you have a fitting backdrop for a horror/adventure game. The premise of GHOSTWIRE: TOKYO is that the Japanese capital is somehow taken over by the ghastly and mysterious 'Visitors', and it's up to you to get everything back to normal.

Of course there's plenty going on before you reach that point, and that plenty is defined by the interesting creatures you meet along the way. The team at Japanese studio Tango Gameworks delivered an intriguing set of creature designs that are as scary as they are fascinating: every design is firmly rooted in Japanese culture and folklore. Below are our five favorite designs.

1. The Slit-Mouthed Woman

When you first meet a "Kuchisake-Onna" in the game, you see a young masked woman. She may be very tall compared to other Japanese women, but otherwise there's nothing unusual about her —long before Covid, the Japanese wore masks in public to curb the spread of viruses.

Approach her, and you'll soon find out this is not your average Japanese lady. She'll ask you if you think she's pretty. Answer "no," and she'll kill you with a large pair of scissors. Answer "yes," and she'll take her mask off, repeating the question while showing horrific ear-to-ear slashes across her face. We're not spoiling which answer yields what action, but neither outcome is pretty, and you will need some proper skills to best her.

The Kuchisake-Onna or Slit-Mouthed Woman is based on a traditional type of "onryō," a ghost bent on vengeance to redress the wrongs of its past. In folk tales, this specific ghost is either the victim of a vindictive husband, mutilating his wife as punishment for infidelity, or the victim of a dental procedure gone horribly wrong.
© Bethesda Softworks

2. Nekomata

Japan would not be Japan without its share of "kawaii." The "culture of cute" established by companies like Sanrio ("Hello Kitty") in the 1960s, and powered by oceans of manga ever since, easily outflanks other successful Japanese export products (the Walkman, or the Toyota Corolla) in terms of worldwide cultural impact.

In GHOSTWIRE: TOKYO most cuteness is gone from the city. But not all: there's always cats! The Nekomata are yōkai (nature spirits) shaped like cats with two tails, who act as shop-keepers in kiosks around town. For a small price, they provide the player with provisions, ammunition, and also comfort—something sorely lacking now all humans have disappeared from the streets.

The Nekomata have been a staple in Japanese folklore since at least the 14th Century. In old manuscripts they are less cute than in GHOSTWIRE, though: one is thought to have killed and eaten several humans in one night. Perhaps that accounts for the empty streets in GHOSTWIRE, too?
© Bethesda Softworks

3. Kappa

To Western ears, Japanese lore can be wild. So don't be surprised when you learn Kappa are amphibious yōkai, accused of attacking humans under water to remove, and we're quoting Wikipedia here, "a mythical organ called the shirikodama from their victim's anus."

In the game, this ancient folk tale plays out exactly like that, when you meet "the Boy Who Can't Move," whose spirit hangs suspended over a pond after the resident Kappa "took something" from him. As a player, you have to trick the Kappa by using stealth (and a slice of cucumber) to free the boy, or you stand to suffer the same fate.

A different attack option is suggested outside of the game by Japanese printmaker Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), who in a woodblock print shows someone opening his butt cheeks to a bunch of Kappa, to blow them away with a well-aimed fart.

Like we said before: wild.

Japanese woodblock artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi is known for his many depictions of ghosts and monsters. In this specific scene, he portrays the Kappa in time-honored fashion: oversized frogs with claws, donning a hard top shell to protect their heads.

4. Shine Dancers

Somewhere between cute and creepy are the Shine Dancers. The model for these airborne Visitors are the "teru-teru bōzu" charms, doll-like objects made out of cloth or tissue paper, that are hung from buildings to invite good fortune. Kids will do this, hanging the dolls from their windows on the day before a school picnic or other outing, wishing for sunny weather. Inversely, an upside-down doll is meant to invite rain.

In the game, these well-known dolls aren't so harmless. As airborne Visitor's, they attack the player from above, never losing the unnerving inky smile painted over the cloth. Suddenly it's a cross between a Halloween sheet-over-the-head ghost and a criminal swinging from the gallows, and little does it matter if you hope for sun or rain.
© Bethesda Softworks

In-game image of Akira fighting a Shine Dancer.

5. Rainwalkers

Our final pick for this listing are the Rainwalkers. At first sight, they seem like ordinary salarymen or schoolgirls wielding black umbrella's, a regular sight for anyone who ever visited Tokyo. You'll meet dozens of them on any subway ride, at any time of the day, and if they scare you, they do because of their numbers. They're everywhere, always, all the time, and—sorry, Japanese salarymen–they look completely interchangeable.

Perhaps this is why the in-game Rainwalkers are so frightening. It's not the fact they're faceless, or headless even. Our fear of them is born when you wade through the multitudes on a subway platform and think: what if they suddenly turn on me? Something that will never happen in real life, but the fear is real, and relates to a common angst for crowds, that's amplified by the similarity of the people in that crowd.
© Bethesda Softworks

A Walker roams the wet Tokyo streets, while every normal salaryman has vanished, leaving only heaps of clothing behind them.

Ghostwire Tokyo Fine Art Print Collection

"If I leave your body, you're toast!"