When the PS Vita was announced, me and my friends were looking forward to a new Monster Hunter adventure. We were fans of the series and were bent on continuing with our hunting adventures in a more formidable hardware. As always, fate has a funny way of striking down gamers’ dreams. We were smashed with the knowledge that our beloved coop game won’t appear on a Sony handheld. Yet, we were still awaiting for that one single game that would keep our fragile hunting-based friendship together. And then came Toukiden: Age of Demons. Released in Q1 2014, this hunting game felt similar to Monster Hunter, yet it exudes a unique feel to it. It did copy but it was undeniably fun with its unique storyline and design. Riding on the waves of success, developer Omega Force decided to extend the adventure further by introducing an expanded version, Toukiden: Kiwami, and luckily, we have one for review.
The new version adds more missions, four more allied NPCs, three new weapons, and heck of a lot of features in the end-game and coop. The kicker is that it also includes the original game.
Monster Hunter with a Plot
Toukiden’s world is that of hopelessness. Endless legions of demons are raging to pour over the Earth, destroying and corrupting everything in their path. The lives of people in the villages attempt to be that of the usual, but the threat is always there, impeding progress and stymieing peace. There is however a fine line that demons can’t cross to achieve the victory that they constantly strive for. Slayers, elite individuals tasked to counter the opposing forces, stand ready to serve as humanity’s last line of defense. And you, the player, are part of that sort of A-team.
As I’ve stated before, Toukiden is a hunting game with a solid plot. It works and builds itself up steadily during the course of the single player campaign. The supporting characters are more than just bystanders to humanity’s plight. They do help during missions but the story’s progression is founded on their heartaches and reasons as to why they joined the cause. Some find being a Slayer a means for them to exact revenge, or to pay back for their past sins. Others simply wish to put a smile on the hopeless people and bring optimism back to their weary hearts. It does sound cheesy most of the time but it does have a strong inclination to push the player forward.
Everything starts in the humble town of Utakata. This small Japanese-esque village manages to maintain a façade of normalcy despite being located in the front lines. The player makes use of this little hamlet as a central hub. Here, one can buy and manufacture weapons, sign up for missions, and interact with various NPCs. There are also mundane tasks that benefit the player in one way or another, tasks such as feeding money to a tree, talking with deceased heroes, and playing with a two-tailed fox.
Going out on a sortie is as simple as signing up. Instead of doing it alone, the player is accompanied by up to three NPCs depending on the scenario and conditions of the mission. In Toukiden: Kiwami the player can assign a secondary team to undertake a mission and reap additional loot. Mission types include that of finding artifacts, slaying lesser demons, or defeating a big boss. In some conditions, the game throws a curved ball, pitching the player against two large bosses at the same time.
Missions are done in levels that find inspiration in Japanese history. Disturbed by the presence of demons, some historical events are now part of a cosmic tear that disturbs both time and space. Thus, making them appear at places and in eras they shouldn’t be.
Each level is segmented. Areas can be traversed by just going through a narrow path or gate. There’re no special shortcuts, elevated obstacles, or anything tricky. It’s just straightforward exploration and lots of walking.
If it’s a boss hunt, once the target is found, the action begins.
Arming the Slayer
Before jumping into the fray, it is best to know that basics first. Controlling the character is that from a third-person view. The HUD is comprised of a health bar, a stamina bar, and a Mitama wheel (more on this later). Basic movement involves running and jumping, and surprisingly, no crouching. Foregoing the crouch is an obvious ploy of the developers in encouraging a more dynamic and action-oriented approach. The HUD works well and is spliced and positioned so as not to be intrusive.
For the tools of the trade, the player can choose from a large variety of weapons that start from the up-close-and-personal standard katana down to the ranged variants such as the rifle and the bow. Each weapon has a unique moveset and characteristic. For example, the katana is a balance between speed and damage, and when used with its unique ability, leaves a delayed stacking damage condition on an Oni.
Continuously pummeling the Oni rewards the player with Weapon Gauge points. Once it reaches its limit, the player can execute a ‘Destroyer’ attack which destroys a single body part from the Oni provided that it hits.
Instead of the lugging cumbersome potions and other gadgetry needed in a hunt, Toukiden makes use of the Mitama as a convenient alternative. The Mitama are fallen heroes in Japanese antiquity and folklore. They guide and empower their users with supernatural abilities, making them more powerful in taking down demons.
The Mitama are categorized depending on the benefits that they provide. Aggressive ones provide buffs for attack, imbuing the weapon with more damage whilst leeching away life from the target. Others make use of support abilities such as healing and regeneration. Some take advantage of an increase in mobility like short-range teleport and laying down paralysis traps.
The Mitama can have an increase in level the more they are utilized. Upgrading them opens new benefits, but the player must take into consideration that he/she can only store three passive abilities at a time.
Only one Mitama can be equipped as the main. Whilst two more can be taken advantaged of via their passive effects.
“Oni” is a Japanese word for demons, ogres, or trolls, and they are the ones that act as the game’s collective antagonists. Dispatching and slicing them up is part of a Slayer’s job. Taking inspiration from Monster Hunter, Toukiden encourages the player to chop down the enemy boss into bits for rare materials which can be used to craft new weapons. Each boss has two health bars, one is for the physical part and the other is for its spiritual essence a.k.a. its true health bar.
When a limb nets enough damage, it will break off with a cinematic boom, allowing the player to stand beside it to “purify” it. Purifying mutilated Oni parts provides two advantages: one, it allows the capture of the limb for loot. Second, it prevents the Oni from regenerating the part, making it open to attacks.
As soon as the essence health bar is depleted, the Oni dies and ends up either as a weapon or as a trinket collecting dust in the item cabinet.
Fighting large creatures from the underworld is a task best done with a group of friends. If absent, your real-life friends can be replaced by in-game NPCs. Sad, but practical. Anyhow, the other Slayers sport a unique weapon and a Mitama of their own. Toukiden: Kiwami improves on the coop features and it further stresses that teamwork is essential in effectively taking down Oni. They also help you get up when you’re in a pinch.
Each weapon type has its own unique movesets and features, and that diversity, if taken advantage of, will more than likely end a hunt well. The player can give off commands to change the behavior of the whole squad. What’s strange is that there’re no controls for individual commands rather than those already built-in their character behavior.
Another introduction in Kiwami is its sort of team special called the ‘Unity Gauge’. The more the team exemplifies the spirit of teamwork, the more this gauge fills up. Upon being filled to the brim, the user must gather all members together in a very tight position to launch a super attack that destroys multiple limbs.
Toukiden is undoubtedly a beautiful game. Design-wise, the developers really did a great job in crafting the characters and locales. The whole game is distinguishable from the clones and the characters are iconic enough that some are even cosplayed. It also goes that the impending nature of the Oni is readily exuded in their portrayal. The large behemoths are diverse with some adorned with the standard horns and beads, while others stray away from the design, sporting a hybrid body of a snake or snail. However, the developers imagination can only go as far as the technical foundations of the game. Some enemies are just rehashed or reskinned versions which somewhat mitigates the sense of awe in the latter stages.
For audio, it’s in Japanese and even with my very limited knowledge of the language, I still did find some dialogues (especially small talk during battles) to be lost in translation. This may have been done to safeguard the meanings and the context which could get lost if done literally.
The technical superiority of the Vita does manifest in this game. But I do have to stress that there are also times that I experienced a drop in frame rates as there were just too many artifacts present in the screen. Though this situation is very rare in battles and it does occasionally happen during cutscenes as more characters are rendered for dialogue.
If you own a PS Vita and were a fan of the Monster Hunter series in the PSP, then I can definitely recommend that you take your time playing this one. It is both different and similar at the same time and that can’t be bad since this game takes pride in how it breathes identity into a genre that’s filled with copycats.
Toukiden: Kiwami is fun for the most part, seldom dull, and is highly addictive when there’s the itch to improve. On the otherhand, it may not fare well for those that find repetition and item farming/looting as unenjoyable and bland.
The game is only available for both the Sony PS4 and the Sony PS Vita.