I am dead. Who killed me? Tokyo Chronos is a VR Visual Novel with a mystery murder theme from one of the producers of Sword Art Online.
As a VR adaptation, Tokyo Chronos isn’t your typical visual novel. Note that it cannot be played without a VR headset, but I have had some success with VRidge and a Google Cardboard. I personally played with a HTC Vive.
Fuzzy Memories and Mission
You start the game by waking up in an empty building. Your memory is fuzzy. You don’t know how you got there. There is no one around. The trains aren’t running. The world is silent.
Eventually, you come across a few people. They all happen to be your friends, but none of them know how they got there. You learn that this is the Chronos world. An empty world with only what you need and nothing else.
The world has set you a mission – to find the killer among you. Only then can you escape? But not only does no one know who the killer is, but no one knows who was killed.
It’s a really interesting hook, to be in an empty world and searching for a murderer without even the context of who was killed. The pacing works well, as it slowly reveals tidbits of the story and the clues you need to solve the mystery. It throws in a number of unexpected twists and turns, which I both enjoyed and didn’t expect. Despite such an interesting story, Tokyo Chronos reveals the story through your time getting to know the characters, rather than a hard focus on the plot. It’s a slow start, but grabbed me after chapter 2 and wouldn’t let me go.
Choices and Repeats
Tokyo Chronos features a small number of choices throughout its playtime and took me five hours to complete initially. But playing it once is not the end of the story; When you replay the game, you can make new choices and go down different branches of the story. Even if you stay on the same path, events change and spiral off into a new ending. To play all of the scenes and see all endings, even skipping repeated scenes, it took me 11 hours, which is short for a visual novel, but quite impressive for a VR game.
The second playthrough answers many questions that are left unanswered in the first playthrough of Tokyo Chronos. These are revealed in the new story segments and by noticing things that would be missed before, but can now be understood with the new information giving more context. I found it an interesting way to handle it since there were several moments of realization and understanding based on it being a second loop, which fits well with the ‘Chronos’ name focusing on time.
Basic VR Gameplay
As a VR visual novel, Tokyo Chronos’s gameplay is limited to looking around at the environment and characters, prompting the next line of dialogue to appear, and occasionally selecting something. It’s not like the later Altdeus: Beyond Chronos which adds in a few interactive moments, or Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate, which changes to more of an adventure game. In this way, it felt rather dated for a VR game, even on launch. The main benefit of VR here is really the immersion factor.
The standard visual novel options are included. Autoplay can be used if you want to lay back and watch the story. You can choose to go back to certain chapters or rewatch openings and endings, which is a nice bonus. After completing the game once, you can unlock a skip scene function too as mentioned above, which works if there is nothing new to see. This is particularly helpful considering that it needs to be played more than once to get the full story.
Playing on PC, you can move around slightly in all but a few scenes to see different angles, but the game is designed to be seated. Sadly, there is no room scale here to explore the environment.
Models and Voice
Graphically, the character models are very well done and the style is distinctive; they’re designed by the artist LAM, who you may have heard of as they went on to create VTuber models for Hololive and Nijisanji, among others (notably the very visually striking model for Kureiji Ollie). The characters are partially animated, changing expression and pose at times when they talk to you. It would have been nice if they were more fully animated, like Project Lux, but in fairness, that is a much shorter game.
I did come across a couple of graphical glitches, but they were rare and fairly minor. Playing the PC version, like many older VR games, the window had to be kept in focus too or performance suddenly became terrible.
The backgrounds are decent. They set the scene well, but they do lack in detail at times. The game has varied background music which sets the scene well but doesn’t particularly stand out.
I enjoyed hearing the voices in Tokyo Chronos and felt the voice acting was great. It’s Japanese only and included voice actors from the anime industry. There are English, Japanese, and Chinese options for subtitles and other text, which I found easy to read, even in VR.
Tokyo Chronos is a particularly unique experience, not just as a rare VR visual novel, but due to its story, which is best experienced with few details beforehand. The replay mechanism works particularly well, without being tedious, which is a failing of some games with loop mechanics.
TOKYO CHRONOS IS RECOMMENDED
If you would like to see more visual novels, you may be interested in our review of Under One Wing. Or perhaps Altdeus: Beyond Chronos or Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate for more virtual reality titles by the same developer.
Many thanks go to Sekai Project for an PC review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.