on Apr 02 by I love Japanese games
I tell people I like Monster Hunter. It’s not a lie, there is some truth in it, but if I really think about it, the word ‘like’ isn’t the best fit. I ‘respect’ it, is probably closer. I respect what it does, what it offers – but I don’t always enjoy the way it goes about it. I often find it trite and unnecessarily unwieldy… like its going out of it’s way to be inconvenient.
I knew when I approached this Toukiden review, that it was a clone of sorts – one of the many games clamouring to fill the void left by Capcom’s giant, and as a result part of me was a little nervous about entering into it. As though Monster Hunter’s many inconveniences lingered and made me lethargic in approaching it. Within an hour or so though, I found all this disappeared.
The set up is similar. You’re a new arrival at a village. A village that’s being beset by demons, ‘Oni’ who roam the outlying lands and forever threaten to destroy this peaceful oasis of calm. The Village of Utakata has everything a demon slayer could want. A house, a blacksmith, a store, a priestess who will upgrade your ‘Mitama’ (more on this later) and, of course, a place where you can accept missions, set up your party and enter the fray.
On starting the game, you can chose your character, name him or her and alter rudimentary aspects of their appearance – like skin tone and hairstyle. You can also choose your starting weapon, although to be fair, you can pick and choose your weapon in game, so it’s less of a concern at this point.
Weapon classes are what really differentiate your characters and there are six to chose from. Swords stike the balance between speed and power, spears on the other end of the scale are slow and powerful with additional range. Gauntles are also slow- but offer power at close range, while the Chain and Sickle gives the option of both slash and crushing attacks at a variety of ranges. Bows are pretty much as you’d expect – focusing entirely on range and are a good choice for those who prefer to play supporting roles (they complement healers well, for example) while the twin daggers are for those who like to get up close with speedy attacks. Though much weaker, they also make you agile enough to attack in the air – which is invaluable for some of the larger Oni.
I found all the weapon classes to be fun in their own way. Getting to grips with their quirks is interesting and I found myself switching between favourites fairly regularly, particularly when playing with other people, to mix up my play style depending on my mood.
Each weapon has two different ‘normal’ attacks and a special attack – and there are a few combo options with each to play around with, that work well in different situations. No, it’s not exactly Bayonetta in the combo department, but I found combat to be both satisfying and hypnotic enough to make extended play sessions comfortable against smaller weapon fodder enemies – and the movement and skill-sets against the larger Oni afford plenty of opportunity for strategy to make these titanic battles really engaging.
Complementing your choice of weapon are the Mitama – this is where Toukiden really shines. As you defeat enemies, you’ll often get Mitama drops. These are the lost souls of warriors defeated by the Oni. Once you’ve found one, you can equip it to a weapon, and their skills are mapped to the Vita’s face buttons.
These come in a range of types, Speed, Attack, Defence, Healing, Space, Luck, Spirit and Deciet – and each offers your character a range of techniques and passive effects and status buffs. Speed for example will buff movement, but triggering a skill will also let you attack and negate attack from an enemy for example – or will boost attack speed for a while. Meanwhile, Spirit will give you access to ranged magical attacks, while attack will boost your overall damage output.
As you progress , you’ll be able to attach more than one Mitama to your weapon and the more you use them, the more you can level them up, and the more effects you can unlock. Ultimately, the more Mitama that become available, the greater your choice in influencing your characters build – and this really has a big impact on the game’s longevity, especially as it affords plenty of room for experimentation to suit your play style. For me it’s Toukiden’s defining feature.
I know many people who found Toukiden a little repetitive – and I’d say there were points in single player that this is the case. On the whole missions are as you’d expect. Kill X amount of a certain monster, clear out certain Zones, hunt down a particular Oni. To an extent, I think this is par for the course with these kinds of games – complaining about the repetition here would be like complaining about Forza 5 being a bit too ‘drivey’ – and I have a pretty high threshold for accepting this kind workmanlike approach to mission design. That said, if I had to single out one gripe it was that, given Toukiden’s speedier flow and more accessible combat, I would have preferred a greater range of enemies and – and given the developers heritage with Dynasty Warriors, more enemies on screen at any given time.
I think this only really becomes an issue in single player though. Playing with other human players seems to make this a moot point – and pretty much forgiveable when you’re all partying up against the game’s gigantic Oni. These are the huge boss enemies which you’ll need to team up with people to bring down.
As you’d expect – making better weapons and armour comes down to dealing with these guys and cleansing them of their loot. The clever thing in Toukiden is that each of these Oni have body parts you can sever, each of which house specific items.
Not only do you have to defeat the Oni by brining down their health, but to get to the good stuff, you need to specifically target certain limbs or horns or whatever, sever them, and cleanse them – sometimes the trick is whether you can sever the body part you want before the Oni is defeated, which can be a little more annoying in single player when you don’t have a full party systematically targeting the right parts! It’s a great mechanic and again, one of the examples of Toukiden going out of its way to differentiate itself for the better.
On the whole Toukiden does a great job of emulating Monster Hunter, and while it rarely goes all-out to improve on the template, it does have it’s share of new ideas to bring to the table – and it’s certainly a valiant effort at a ‘first stab’ of filling that void – both in its core mechanics and it’s attempt at giving some context to the action via a slight, if welcome story and characterisation. It’s a great universe, with nice environments and its own distinct feel, and given that this genre has a tendency to bring revisions to it’s core on a regular basis, its fair to say Toukiden Age of Demons provides a solid bedrock on which to improve with future iterations.
I get that Monster Hunter wears its inconvenience as a badge of honor. I also get that part of its appeal is the fact that you have to suffer to truly appreciate the good stuff. But like I said, that doesn’t always make it enjoyable. It’s for this reason alone that, and I’m going outon a limb here, I prefer Toukiden. I don’t necessarily think Toukiden is a ‘better game’ – because it relies so much on people’s tastes – but for me now that I’ve poured hours and hours into Toukden? I’m happy enough to state that I enjoy Toukiden more than I enjoy Monster Hunter. It’s faster, there’s less faff, it’s a more accessible game in a universe who’s aesthetic I prefer and who’s combat I find more agreeable.