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Review: Toukiden 2Toukiden 2 Omega Force Koei Tecmo PS4 PS Vita PC
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC
Release Date: March 21, 2017
ESRB: T for Teen
Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game
After the Monster Hunter series jumped from the PSP to the 3DS as the franchise’s platform of choice, several companies tried their hands at the format to fill in the hunting gap on the Vita. One such game was Koei Tecmo’s Toukiden: The Age of Demons -- a game that, while it held very close to the gameplay structure of Monster Hunter, distinguished itself with a creative historical setting and gameplay elements that made it more than a simple clone. After following the initial release with an enhanced PS4 version in Toukiden Kiwami, the developer Omega Force has brought about its first true sequel in Toukiden 2.
Set after the events of the first game, Toukiden 2 returns to the Midlands; the last remaining region of what was once Meiji-era Japan where humans live in a world overrun with demons, or oni. As in the first game, the player takes on the role of a slayer whose name and appearance can be customized, and whose job is to leave the confines of Mahoroba Village and protect it from the relentless hordes. There are a few callbacks to the original game, as well as returning faces, but the story doesn’t require knowledge of the first Toukiden in order to follow along.
The storyline is surprisingly strong, with characters that start off as one-note showing more depth over time. A stark factional split keeps the village divided politically to a seemingly irreparable degree, which at times leads to some surprising but effective moments of drama and tragedy. The conflict is exacerbated by both human faults and oni attacks, but the narrative is kept light enough with plenty of humorous moments, as well.
As a hunting game, Toukiden 2 strays from the first game’s formula in a significant way with the introduction of an open world. Unlike the first game, which used Monster Hunter-style maps of segmented zones, the map in Toukiden 2 is one large landmass populated with oni, side quests, and hidden secrets. What’s more, the world can be explored freely at will without a time limit; instead, a restriction is placed on the player in the form of the miasma gauge, which measures the player’s exposure to a toxic atmosphere created by oni. In regions of the map where miasma is thicker, the gauge will fill at a faster clip, though making progress in the story and by clearing map waypoints will reduce the miasma and make it easier to explore more of the map over time.
The new map indeed goes a long way in giving the game’s world a sense of place. In the original game, the player visited different maps referred to as ages, such as the Age of Grace, Age of War, or Age of Chaos. Each of these maps was thematically based on an era of Japanese history, but there wasn’t anything to link them, other than they’re all accessible by leaving the village through its lone gate. Toukiden 2 reintroduces the ages as regions of the map, interconnected with each other and the outskirts of Mahoroba. In sum, the world feels vast, with a lot to explore, and only a small portion is seen while sticking close to the main story.
The combat in Toukiden 2 also receives an upgrade in the Demon Hand. This new tool, which is essentially a spectral grappling arm, lets the player grab on to oni from a distance to close the gap or trip them up. When a special gauge is filled, using the arm on a giant oni will instantly tear off one of its limbs, weakening the demon while dealing heavy damage. The Demon Hand also has its uses outside of combat, allowing for some light traversal as well as destroying barriers that blockade select routes. It’s a little unwieldy to use at first, as it takes some time to get used to aiming, and in single-player, the AI partners tend to be much faster in using their own Demon Hands, getting into the fray before the player. It doesn’t take long to get used to, however.
Toukiden 2 offers multiplayer that lets four players team up on oni-slaying missions together. These missions, also available in single-player, are analogous to the missions that the first game was structured around. In general, they’re short, sweet, and quick to jump into. After accepting a mission and heading for the gate, the game will take the players straight to a portion of the world map that has been cordoned off as the mission area. And once the target oni are slain, the mission ends, and it’s easy enough to jump right into another.
The Mitama system from the original game also returns with some upgrades, allowing the player to equip Mitama for offense, defense, and the Demon Hand, with effects that vary based on the type of Mitama equipped. The Mitama equipped also determine what skills can be activated during battle, which can have a major effect on your play style and your role in a group, whether that be as an offense-focused attacker or a more support-oriented slayer with team-healing abilities. The system is of limited use in single-player (I made it through the story largely with the earliest acquired Mitama), but it offers more key significance in multiplayer.
The vast majority of the game’s Mitama are based on figures from Japanese history and folklore, dating from the nation’s prehistoric era through the Meiji era and early twentieth century. Collecting these Mitama is one of the game’s more prominent side-tasks, and it’s worth it, not only for the varying abilities provided by them, but in learning their historical context, as each Mitama has its own accompanying biographical text. Certain Mitama that are historically associated, such as spouses, also provide extra boosts when equipped together.
In terms of presentation, Toukiden 2 is on par with Kiwami in a technical sense, and shares the same art style, but with a greater sense of cohesion to its unified map. Many of the oni are distinctive and diverse in their design as well, with the giant oni standing out in particular. On the audio side, the game features well-done Japanese voice acting, though there aren’t any subtitles for incidental flavor dialogue party members may chatter in the field. The music, largely reminiscent of the original game, is of high quality and fits the mood and setting.
But beyond those presentation checkmarks, Toukiden 2 is very much a sea-change in terms of being a sequel. While the original Toukiden and similar titles have been referred to as Monster Hunter clones for their not-too-subtle attempts at mimicking that franchise’s formula, the sequel takes great strides in furthering its own identity and creating a more unique experience as a result. It’s refreshing, and it makes for an easy recommendation.
+ Open world structure gives the sequel a fresh take over the original
+ An entertaining story with fun characters
+ A great range of weapon types, as well as tutorials for each
+ Gameplay styles can be customized through equipping Mitama
- The camera can be obstructed at times when fighting giant oni in tight spaces
- The game doesn’t do a perfect job of teaching all of its mechanics up front
- The number of quests available in the open world feels somewhat sparse compared to the map’s size
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
Toukiden 2 takes great strides in furthering its own identity and creating a more unique experience as a result, making it a refreshing and easy recommendation.
Disclosure: A downloadable PS4 code was provided by the publisher for this review
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