Narrative game. Japan-style.

Title: 428 Shibuya Scramble
Platform: Android, PC, iOS,PS3, PS4, PSP, Wii
Developer: Chunsoft (Wii, PS3, PSP, iOS, Android) and Abstraction Games (PS4/PC)
Publisher: SEGA, Spike, Spike Chunsoft, Koch Media
Release date: Out now for PC, PS4, Xbox One and coming to the Switch Winter 2018
tl;dr: A weird-ass book on your console.
Price: $50/£40 (Across all platforms)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

428 Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel game which first saw release way back in 2008 on the Wii exclusively in Japan. The game was then ported to Sony’s PSP and PS3 a year later, in 2009. The game was then adapted to Android and iOS devices in 2011. Then seven years later, 428 Shibuya Scramble is back on PC and PS4. Instead of using standard gaming graphics, the game is presented through scrolling text, live action stills and video sequences. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

428 Shibuya Scramble is a game set in Shibuya, Japan where the fate of five vastly characters different lay in your hands. At the core of the story is the kidnapping of a Japanese teenager named Maria. Kano is in charge of the investigation and Maria’s twin sister, Hitomi, volunteered to help the police find her sister and have the culprit(s) arrested and put behind bars. Unfortunately, as expected, things don’t go as planned. This is where the story truly begins and unveils a plot bigger than anyone could’ve expected.

First off. Let’s get this straight: 428 Shibuya Scramble has NO gameplay. Unlike other narratives like Heavy Rain, Until Dawn or even Detroit: Become Human, this game is basically a film with stills peppered with a few video sequences here and there. This is a perfect relaxing game where you can just launch auto-read and read it like a book. The game’s events and consequences are all based on the player’s actions between the five characters:

  • Shinya Kano: Young detective from the Shibuya Police Department who’s part of the investigation team trying to solve Maria’s kidnapping
  • Achi Endo: Former leader of S.O.S., Shibuya’s most influential gang, Achi has left the gang behind to help Shibuya become a greener place by spending days cleaning up the city.
  • Tama: All we know about Tama is that she’s a girl in a cat suit hired to promote Burning Hammer.
  • Minoru Minorikawa: Freelance writer who receives a desperate phone call from his former boss as a cry for help.
  • Kenji Osawa: Virus expert and father of the twins, Maria and Hitomi. Not only does he have to worry about his daughter’s kidnapping and his wife’s bitchy attitude, Osawa-san has much darker ghost coming back to haunt him

The game’s tutorial launches the game’s story which crosses both Shinya Kano and Achi Endo to give players a taste of the mechanics. During certain conversations, players will come across terms highlighted in blue or red. The blue hints give additional insights to the conversation or give educational information either on more complex terms or situational explications. It can also be considered a bit educational for people (like me) who never went to Japan. There are also certain terms with a more comedic explanation (wait until you reach the term “Bondage”). While red hints will allow players to jump into a character’s parallel (mis)adventures. No matter the decisions taken, conversations flow really well and there are no inconsistencies in the dialect.

The game’s chapters are basically hour blocks. The events take place between 10AM-11AM, 11AM-12PM, and so on up to 5PM. You can’t move on to the next block until you’ve reached the “To be continued” section of all five characters. Depending on the actions taken, before reaching the end of the hour block, players can reach two different “endings”: Bad End or Keep out. The Bad End essentially means that either as the character you’re playing or some other character’s decision (that you’ve made), the current protagonist got the short end of the stick. Thankfully, when getting a Bad End, players are given hints on how they can change the results. It will often time require players to go back to a different time in another character’s set of events to make a different choice. On the other side, Keep Out is basically the player getting blocked from moving forward until they progressed further in one or more of the other playable characters. Sadly, reaching the Keep Out screen won’t give you hints on how to move forward.

This can also mean a lot of re-reading and making different choices. Thankfully, if you have to go through a chunk of text you’ve already read, you can fast forward to certain pre-determined text, including, more importantly, the sequence which requires players to make a decision. Let’s say you realize that making a different choice screws up things worse for someone else, you can go back and re-do the initial choice and all subsequent faux pas will be rectified prior to your bad decision.

Considering all the possibilities and choices to be made throughout the game, there’s a possibility of reaching over 50 different endings; ensuring a hefty replay value for this title. Furthermore, PS4 trophy hunters will want to fail as much as possible as a plethora of the game’s trophies are reaching every Bad end possible throughout every time block.

428 Shibuya Scramble’s presentation is unique. I was expecting an experience similar to the game Late Shift, I was taken aback. While the first few minutes include Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles, the game’s far heavier on text rather than speech. But thankfully, the stills used in the game do a great job of hitting the right tone; be it either tragic or humorous. The game’s score is also a nice fit though some tracks are a bit corny, especially during the Tama story. I would have loved some Japanese voiceovers (with English subtitles as my Japanese is severely lacking) to give the game a bit of life, but I can understand the developers not re-investing for the port of what was originally a Wii game; a much less powerful console than the PS4 and current-gen PCs.

So is 428 Shibuya Scramble worth your time? Definitely. I’m usually not a big fan of narrative-driven games, but 428 Shibuya Scramble is quirky and interesting enough to keep players enthralled for the long haul. The game’s story does a great job of sinking its teeth into the player, becoming more and more gripping as it progresses, and the fact that all five characters intertwine one way or another gives players a unique experience. Don’t sleep on this one; it’s my sleeper hit of the year.

The Good

  • Unique and intriguing story
  • Great mix of humor, creepyness, action
  • Interesting story design

The Bad

  • A LOT of reading

Family Focus

428 Shibuya Scramble is rated T for Teen and PEGI 16 due to the presence of blood, drug references, language, use of alcohol/tobacco and violence.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.