What roleplaying games have that separates them from other types of games is their focus on story more than gameplay. And with this deep exploration of the story comes a game far longer than other genres. While you will spend an average of 10 hours on most single-player titles, RPGs can easily last triple that time, if not far longer.
Along with their focus on telling a more detailed, complex story comes the potential for greatly developed characters. And from a genre filled with complex, well-developed characters comes Tokitowa, which has the best characters of any game I've played this year.
Tokitowa is the story of a girl with multiple personalities — Toki and Towa — who travels back in time to prevent the murder of her fiancé (Zack) mere moments before they are to be married. Unexpectedly, Zack's soul is then pulled back in time along with Toki/Towa; and while her soul enters her past body, his soul is forced into that of her pet dragon.
Of the game's three protagonists, two are female. Neither of them is a damsel in distress nor is either just a man with a woman's body. They are two strong female leads with very different personalities: Toki is a remarkably down-to-earth, high-society lady, while Towa is more of a tomboy who is always eager for a fight.
As they share the same body, their relationship is an interesting one. While Towa only comes to the front in extreme situations, she is completely aware of all of Toki's actions, and the two are constantly talking with each other (inside their shared head). Their friendship — along with their love for Zack — is the story's driving theme.
The supporting cast is almost exclusively female as well, with all of Toki/Towa's friends getting a large portion of the overall story dedicated to their development. None of the characters are exactly what they seem at first glance, whether that be the ultra-polite lady (with a hidden past) or the shy girl (who will brave any danger to help her friends).
The villains are no less developed, though they are all played for laughs as much as for any kind of serious threat. The best of these is the fortune teller who first warned Toki/Towa of the imminent danger lurking at her wedding. While the fortune teller is not evil, she is selfish and envious and that complexity makes her a great villain — as well as a great ally.
And as for male characters? Due to Zack's predicament (namely being trapped in the body of a baby dragon), he is relegated to a computer-controlled support role in battle, while the player fights monsters with gun, dagger, and magic as Toki or Towa. This is an interesting reversal of the normal knight/princess relationship, as it is Zack who must be protected.
Yet it is Zack who is the narrator and player proxy character, not Toki or Towa. He's the only character whose thoughts the player is allowed to hear, and the player is occasionally allowed to choose how he interacts with Toki and Towa as well. And while Zack is the butt of the occasional joke, it is his excellent dead-pan humour in the face of danger that makes him capable of carrying the story — even if he is a bit of a pervert at times.
In the end, Tokitowa is a game that delivers deeply developed characters. It has two excellent strong female protagonists (that easily pass the Bechdel Test) and a male lead who provides them with the perfect foil. If you ever wanted a sci-fi/fantasy with strong characters, Tokitowa is what you are looking for.
Tokitowa was released in Japan on October 11, 2012, for the PlayStation 3. There are rumours of a Western release but no official date has been announced.