Tokyo Babel is a rather interesting Visual Novel developed by Propeller and published by MangaGamer. The story follows an artificial human named Tendou Setsuna and a small team consisting of an Angel, a Demon and a regular Human as they traverse Tokyo Babel in an attempt to reach Heaven and come face-to-face with God. The story borrows a lot from Biblical stories, as well as some themes invented by Dante in the famous Inferno stories, and then throwing a layer of Japanese complexity and a whole lot of anime-esque storytelling to the mix. The end result is a game that is fun from beginning to end, while still maintaining a sense of mystery and even sometimes, horror.
The story begins with one of the main characters, Sorami, awakening in a kind of nightmare about her school. During this nightmare, the school becomes a nightmarish hellscape where she is chased down by some kind of possessed person, or ghost. However, when she is stabbed, she finds that it was just a dream. But then, as if it was a false-flag, the school becomes a nightmare again and she is attacked by a sister she’s not sure she even had. This is where the main character of the game, Setsuna, comes into things. Aided by the ex-wife of Adam, and demon, Lilith, he is able to defeat the evil demon Gethel, and bring Sorami to the new world of Tokyo Babel.
Tokyo Babel is the set of the story in (the VN) Tokyo Babel. It is here, and it’s six zones, where the story unfolds, and with it, a series of drama centered around the main cast. Like most visual novels, there are a series of choices that the player can make in order to move through different routes within the story. Our particular route was the Raziel (True Ending) route, which saw the story progress through a kind action-romance standpoint with Setsuna and Raziel. The two, slowly but surely, become closer to each other and end up romantically involved.
I actually really enjoyed the story in Tokyo Babel. While the theme of humans, angels and demons working together and battling each other is older than the bible itself, the way that this is written is incredibly entertaining. It was quite enjoyable how the writers of the story could go from this kind of dark and serious feeling to a light and jovial tone. For example, there was one scene where the team are fighting an insane angel, and then the scene after shows the team in their room having a cooking party where even the lord of the demons can be seen wearing a pretty pink apron, which is in stark contrast to his position.
Looking online, it is estimated that Tokyo Babel is between 20 and 40 hours in length. I’m not sure if that is an accumulative length between all routes, or for a single route, but it felt like the route we took was a lot shorter than that. If I had to put a feeling of time into the game, it’s way shorter than eden* and probably a bit shorter than Steins;Gate. Checking in the game, it looks like there are 7 different endings all up, so it definitely has a fair bit of replay value. And given the quality of the game, you’ll want to be checking it out again later.
The art in Tokyo Babel is probably not as well drawn as other visual novels when it comes to the characters themselves. They tend to look a little plain, and kind of have that look of where they’re good, but not entirely great. Like someone is about to move into the pro-leagues, rather than someone already there. However, the character designs shortcomings are offset by the amazing artwork that was put into the monster designs, and the designs on the weapons.
What’s actually pretty cool with Tokyo Babel, artistically, is the way the designers have used effects and the like to really emphasise points of action, and horror, within the story. For example, right at the start, the game captivates you with this really eerily spooky feeling that is almost pushed by the use effects in conjunction with this unfamiliar feeling in the audio. Even more, above these effects, the team also use alternative styles of artwork to emphasise the comedic aspects of the story. Sometimes, you’ll have a pop-up box with chibi depictions of the characters, which I found quite amusing and enjoyable. For example, like with the cooking party I mentioned earlier.
Musically, there is not a lot of variation in the musical score of Tokyo Babel. There’s a few memorable tunes that get played over and over again depending on the scene and what is happening. However, it never really feels repetitive. I actually really enjoyed some of the tunes and even thought that they were catchy. So the soundtrack definitely works really well for the story, which is a really good thing.
There is also a lot of voice acting in the game, with each spoken line being given a voice. The voices cast to take on each role do an amazing job at really pushing each of the characters personalities into each line. The voice acting really makes up a large chunk of the feeling behind the story, and it is done so well that you can’t help but love it.
Unlike most of the Visual Novels that we have looked at, Tokyo Babel is actually rather clean when it comes to content. There aren’t any sex-scenes or nudity in the game, although some of the horror scenes may be a little much for really young viewers. This is more action oriented than horror, so they don’t come up too often.
Overall, Tokyo Babel is an amazingly enjoyable experience. I went into this not really expecting much, but by the end, I just want to go through and play the other routes! I can’t recommend this Visual Novel enough for fans of the genre, and those looking to get into them.
Rating: Stairway to Heaven /10
Tokyo Babel is developed by Propeller and published by MangaGamer. This review is for the game as it appears on the PC and based on the code sent to us by MangaGamer. You can buy it on their site for ~$35.