Grant’s Journey Through Tokyo JungleAuthor: Grant | Filed under: Gaming
Mankind is gone. The city of Tokyo lies in ruin. As the sun peeks through the clouds at the once bustling Shibuya Station, a silent killer is on the move.
The mighty Pomeranian stalks its next victim, an unknowing Sika Deer, with the stealth of a practiced assassin. He knows that each meal will be a battle, and each kill will bring the attention of bigger, more powerful carnivores. Carnivores who will turn him from hunter to hunted in the twitch of a whisker.
So he is patient.
The Sika Deer feels no fear as it breathes its last. The Pomeranian’s strike is as fatal as it is instantaneous. As he devours his prize, the hunter feels no remorse for the two baby Sika Deer now left orphaned and helpless in this cruel new world, nor should he. Kill or be killed is the law of the jungle – the Tokyo Jungle.
Tokyo Jungle is this weirdly perfect mix of fun and… well, weird. The first time you take down a seemingly innocent house cat as an adorable Pomeranian, you really don’t know how to react – Is this awesome, or is this just horrifying? The more you play the game, the more you come to accept that it’s a little of both. It’s an absurd exaggeration on how things somewhat go in the natural world, and that’s both breath-taking and terrifying when you really sit down and think about it.
While it isn’t quite appropriate, I’m tempted to label Tokyo Jungle as a survival horror game. I say this because I’ve never been more afraid of things that actually exist on planet Earth on this very day than since picking up this game. It’s given me a renewed sense of awe and respect for the animal kingdom that I haven’t had in a very, very long time.
Survival is the main mode of play in Tokyo Jungle, and it lives up to its name. Though the game kicks you off with some goofy animals for you to play as (the aforementioned Pomeranian, as well as a few other common household pets), it quickly intensifies as you obtain more deadly predators and defensible prey. When stalking around the abandoned alleys of Dogenzaka, the game seems far less silly as a wolf or panther than it did as a golden retriever an hour or so ago. The flow of Survival Mode is pretty simple: You start off as an animal of your choosing and put yourself to the test. You hunt and complete missions for stat-ups to help you face the unforgiving wilderness that has swept across Japan. Over time your animal ages, and you have to find a mate to breed with before you begin to die at the ripe old age of fourteen. Only the strongest hunters attract the best mates, and only the best mates produce superior offspring. While you have to start your quest from the beginning each time you boot up Survival Mode, the strength inherited from each generation carries over to your next play through. Over time, you may very well produce a baby beagle with the power to take out a full-grown dinosaur. Did I mention there are dinosaurs in this game? Because there are.
Another incredible feat of Tokyo Jungle is its ability to give you an almost acceptable explanation for this ludicrous situation in its story mode. By the end of the final chapter you have a pretty solid understanding of why the world has become the way it is and, science be damned, it almost makes sense. And it’s actually pretty fun to play, too! Each chapter gives you a piece of the story from a different animal’s perspective, and each chapter has its own unique personality to give you a glimpse at how these animals interact with one another. While the proud Tosa is exiled from his former kingdom, hyenas charge the sewers to overtake the powerful new beagle overlords. Elsewhere a lioness is hunting for her pride when she stumbles upon a strange flying reptile, just as a bizarre metal dog searches for his destiny in the caves below the city. While not all chapters are crucial to the over-all narrative, they do a wonderful job of world-building and giving Tokyo Jungle a sense of personality beyond a weird gimmick of seeing normally tame pets rip each other to shreds. It gives you insight on what these animals have to go through now that they don’t have mankind to lead or tame them. It shows you that every day is a battle, and the odds are incredibly stacked against any of them living to see tomorrow. A lot of the chapters, though starting light-hearted and silly, often end in tragedy or a grim revelation that, though you’re alive now, you’re never truly safe.
The game is not perfect, however. While multiplayer is provided and is incredibly fun, it is limited to local co-op only. Online co-op would have been a fantastic addition to this game, and would’ve given it a much longer lifespan for those who don’t have a group of friends close enough to conveniently play with on a regular basis. Survival Mode, though intentionally difficult, has a severe random factor that can take the game from being a tough-but-fun challenge to a frustrating series of unstoppable obstacles. Lethal pollution, famine, and disease can absolutely ruin a perfectly good run you’re having through no fault of your own. This is amplified by the fact that there is no save and retry function on Survival Mode. If you’re aiming for the “Survived 100 Years” trophy, and you die on Year 99 with only seconds left to go, you start at Year 0 again. While I find the lack of a retry feature perfectly reasonable, your inability to control certain factors of your own survival make it a tough pill to swallow from time to time. The game is also fairly repetitive – you hunt or forage for food, you mark your territory, you breed, and you start that cycle over until something big and scary enough comes and kills you. Or you starve to death because the game decided not to spawn food anywhere near you. Either way, you find yourself doing a lot of the same thing for long periods of time. If the thought of seeing what it’s like to run around Tokyo as a buffalo instead of a pig doesn’t excite you, this might not be the game for you, as that’s really the only carrot on a string this game offers. Well, that and dressing up your animal in hip-hop attire.
Over all, I had a ton of fun with Tokyo Jungle, and I’m really considering it my Game of the Year so far. While it’s repetitive and frustrating at times, I can’t deny that it’s some of the most fun I’ve had with a video game in recent memory. It might not come back as a game I play any marathon sessions in, but it’s an easy game to just pick up and play for a little bit. Easily worth its $15 price-tag on the US Playstation Store, and the DLC is fairly low-priced as well if you’re looking to add a couple more animals to your collection.