Tokyo 1923 is a free new video game which explores the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 as it was remembered by Akira Kurosawa in his book Something Like An Autobiography. The game was created during the Global Game Jam, a yearly 48 hour event held in January and during which teams around the world work on new game concepts.
At its heart, Tokyo 1923 is a platformer and a light puzzle and 2D exploration game. The player controls two characters who move around in a scenery devastated by the earthquake while Mount Fuji looms in the background. Although most of the areas are empty, you occasionally come across survivors whom you can help, including an old woman who needs some water and a lady who has lost her son. Combining the special abilities of the two characters — the boy can lift the girl, and the girl can fit into small spaces — the player is able to help them, although it is not mandatory to do so.
The game is fairly brief but memorable.
In their description of the game, the creators write that “Tokyo 1923 immerses the player in the midst of a catastrophe and tries to bring up questions about solidarity, desperation and moving on after a personal or global tragedy”. Whether they entirely succeed in this aim is perhaps debatable, but considering the game’s apparent 48 hour production period what they have produced is impressive.
Tokyo 1923 also offers an interesting contrast between its historical earthquake devastated setting, its excellent gloomy background music, and the fairly light hearted 2D platformer gameplay that also influences the game’s level design which abstracts the environments considerably. The retro graphics are also lovely, and again something of a contrast to the theme.
You can play the game for free in your browser and it is also available for a free download from the Global Game Jam website.
Do also check out Kill Screen and Rock, Paper, Shotgun for further impressions of the game.