Psycho-Pass is Japan's big Xbox One exclusive. I was expecting a rather standard text-based adventure game -- your typical wall of words broken occasionally by a choice selection. What I got, however, was a very cool look at how the game will use real world tech.
Tokyo-based game maker Mages has long been pushing the limits of the text-based adventure games. I've been a massive fan of Steins; Gate, not only for the amazing story, but the utilization of the cell-phone system within the game. Now, with their new game, Psycho-Pass: Happiness Without Choice (Psycho-Pass 選択なき幸福), Mages is looking to push beyond the boundaries to what I would describe as the natural evolution of text-based adventure games.
I started out the demo being shown a brief synopsis of the Psycho-Pass anime series (the series is a solid cyberpunk mystery). I was then shown to a demo booth at Microsoft's Tokyo Game Show booth which had a sofa in front of a monitor. On top of the monitor was a Kinect, and next to the sofa was a nightstand with an Android tablet on top hooked up to a pair of speakers. The demo booth was designed to look like somebody's home.
I sat down and was handed a controller and I started up the game. I was first given the option of choosing either the male or female protagonist. For the demo I could only select the female protagonist. The game opened up in front of the Public Safety Bureau offices. I was immediately told that I needed to identify myself by scanning my fingerprint. The Android tablet next to me immediately lit up with an image of a fingerprint scanner. I pressed the tablet thinking it was kind of cute. The game noted that my identification had been verified.
The tablet suddenly began ringing, indicating that I was receiving a call from Joshu Kasei, the chief of the Public Safety Bureau. I accepted the call and a message played from Kasei welcoming me to the bureau as a new inspector. She continued to inform me of my duties and what I would have to do from here, and the game proceeded. Honestly, at this point I needed no further convincing. I was completely sold. So many text-based adventure games have hit a wall. This game just broke right through it.
One of the features of Psycho-Pass is that there will be an Android or iOS app that will be made available along with the game. By installing the app on your smartphone or tablet device, it will work in synch with the game, expanding the game experience and virtually bringing the game out of the TV into the real world.
Yes, this is not the first time a game has utilized a peripheral device to enhance the game experience, but for a text-based adventure, this expansion of the gaming experience fits perfectly. It felt both revolutionary and natural. I found myself wondering why nobody has done something in this way sooner.
There was a time that I thought text-based adventures had nowhere else to go in terms of "gameplay." Then I played Steins; Gate.
Robotics Notes, another Mages game, offered a similar experience with the in-game tablet and its AR function. For Psycho-Pass the synchronisation with the smartphone/tablet app felt very much like the logical next step, and leaving the booth, I found myself wondering how else such a system would be utilized in the game, and felt giddy at its potential.
The TGS demo was less of a gameplay demo and more of a tech demo, designed to show off this new feature. Sadly, there wasn't much gameplay or a peak of the story. A Mages spokesperson told Kotaku that, currently, the story is not completed; however, the developers have it plotted. It hasn't been fleshed out. That makes the game's TBA release date all the more understandable.
Psycho-Pass will be playable without an outside device, but it really feels like there's only one real way to get the full experience. The story is being written by Gen Urobuchi, who wrote the story for the original anime series, as well as such classics as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, and the ongoing series, ALDNOAH.ZERO, so it will likely not disappoint. The game's story is slated to take place between episodes 1 and 6 of the original anime.
Psycho-Pass: Happiness Without Choice is scheduled for release on the Xbox One.