Toukiden 2 PS4 Review
The original Toukiden was Koei Tecmo’s attempt to fill in the void that was left on Sony’s Vita when Capcom’s Monster Hunter series jumped shipped to the Nintendo 3DS. While I’d argue that the last few Monster Hunters are better games, I do feel that Toukiden added new ideas to the genre, making it the next best alternative. Toukiden brought its own distinct flavour with its medieval Japanese setting twisted with some good fantasy demonic monster designs.
Toukiden offered players a full single player story that took many hours to finish. It was also a game defined by its frantic combat, as it removed the complexity for people who didn’t click with Monster Hunter‘s methodical action and gave them flashy combat in exchange for a loss of depth. Three years later, Omega Force returns with a sequel that builds on what was crafted with Toukiden, but again throws in a new idea for the hunting genre that moves it from the safe space of cloning what Capcom has popularised.
The biggest new feature I am talking about is the game’s move to an open world. Gone are the small themed locations and numbered zones typically featured in hunting games, as in Toukiden 2 they are now replaced with a big piece of land that lets the player go and explore from their centralised location of the main village. It’s a decent sized map, not one big enough to make you go “holy crap” like the recently released The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but its size is adequate to give the sense that you are in this mysterious world that allows players to run around after opening the village gate for the first time.
Including an open world is a refreshing step to evolve the genre, but this first attempt has its issues that standout even more after playing Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s game offers a world that is begging players to climb every cranny, explore every nook, in contrast, Toukiden 2‘s is very restrictive. Players cannot jump or climb. This means that exploring is limited to walkable surfaces or footpath sections between elevated grounds that stand out with bold textures. NPCs, side quests and items are plotted around, giving people things to do as they venture outwards, but these quests are standard stuff – find items, kill monsters (Oni), save a character, etc. There are still things hidden around the world, such as ruins that habit a sort of survival boss rush across multiple floors, but they are easy to stumble across due to the limit on what can be accessed in the world.
Minor Oni are located everywhere and are easy to kill enemies, but occasionally players will stumble across the big guys, the boss Oni that litter the land through its mountains, snowfields, forests and desert settings. Stumbling across a new Oni for the first time tingles a sense of discovery, as it turns its focus to you and initiates a battle. To have the difficulty balance intact with the open world design, the further away from the village players travel, the harder survival becomes. Not only do the Oni become stronger, but players enter the Otherworld, a demonic area that is filled with a poisonous gas (Miasma) that begins taking its toll on the body. The only way to stop this happening is to cleanse the soul by touching key stones scattered around the world or returning to base. You can eventually clean these up by killing the guarding Oni, but you have to find and reach them first. I do like having a world filled with these deadly monsters that players can accidentally stumble across, it is a flipping cool idea, but one that needs improving by either Omega Force or others to truly flesh out the potential that an open world hunting game could have.
Just like its predecessor, Toukiden 2 piles on more story in its single player for a hero made in its extensive character creator. There’s enough slides and attributes included that you can come out with a cool looking male or female avatar, or even build an anime-fied face that can resemble yourself. Your hero is part of the Slayers, a secret group of people who dedicate themselves to hunting down Oni. It’s been quiet in the world, but things are heating up as the game begins in Yokohama during the Oni Awakening, the major invasion that was heard about in the first game. This causes the Slayers to come out of the shadows to guard against the threat. The situation appears to be going well until a new sighted Oni causes an incident that has the hero sucked through a portal and jumping 10 years into the future (two years after Toukiden Kiwami), arriving in a forest just outside a village far west of Yokohama called Mahoroba, having no idea what has just gone on.
It’s a passable, enjoyable story that has its ups and downs for the solid 30 plus hours it takes to beat the main content in the single player portion. It has the tropes, such as the main character suffering from amnesia, and there are some stereotypical anime characters, but you grow to enjoy the time with them, thanks to their colourful personalities that make them standout between each other. Toukiden 2 brings interesting scenarios into the mix for its setting and plot. The game moves forward from the traditional Japanese themes of the original game and brings in a era where one of the main characters, The Professor, has discovered technology that allows advancement in gear and weapons, going as far as to move a spirit from a living man to keep him alive in a small mechanical shell (think Final Fantasy IX‘s Vivi, but as a cool looking robot). Village drama is also in full force, since currently Mahoroba lacks a chief, as they were killed two years ago and no one has succeeded his place, causing tension between two factions – Samurai (outsiders who came to the villager after the Awakening) and Guards (insiders), as their leaders are to be put to a vote who should become the chief, which leads to both sides squabbling and fighting constantly. It never goes too deep or serious with its themes, so there is no chance of getting lost in life philosophies. It’s here to tell a understandably simple and pleasant narrative, although, it can drag its story scenes on longer than they need to be, taking time away from the action.
Combat remains similar to the original, retaining the hyper-fast action, button mashing style that enables anyone to jump into the game and give a beat down on some demons with only a small learning curve. Mitamas still exist as well, spirits of Japanese warriors that can be embedded into armour and gear for buffs and four accessible skills. Omega Force has implemented new features for the combat, which begins with weapons, with weapon types been given a small bump, increasing from nine to eleven. Chain whip and Sword and Shield make their debut that add a new long range and close range weapon set, along side all the original weapons (be honest with yourself, the Naginata was the best). While weapons use the same buttons to perform light and heavy attacks, their distinctive combos and traits gives them unique move sets and powers, activated either with the circle button or a combination of pressing two keys together. These abilities can be devastating, but using them drains stamina. Lastly, there is a metre that builds up for every hit the weapon lands, once filled, this can activate a limit breaker move that deals huge damage and knocks over the Oni, so that everyone can relentlessly pound it while its defenceless.
In addition to weapons, a new ability for slayers is the Demon Hand, a sort of unnatural grappling hook that is accessible with the R2 button. It’s inclusion allows for players to quickly snap themselves towards enemies by launching the Demon Hand at parts of the Oni and having the device pull you in. Since there is no jump button, it’s handy to make use of this tool to hit higher parts of Oni that slayers cannot reach normally by pulling to its head or attaching it to the legs and pulling itself from underneath for a trip up. Similar to weapons, the Demon Hand also has its own metre that charges up slowly, and when charged, it can instantly purify a body part from the Oni and knock it over. Other uses for the Demon Hand are to throw elemental entities found on the ground, such as fire or wind, to deal extra damage, or use it to grab onto edges to cover height easier. I found I used its feature more so in combat, as Toukiden 2‘s hectic action lends itself well to the tailor-made for fighting device, giving the player options on how to approach or hiccup the enemy.
Fighting the giant monsters are the highlights, as it should be in these games (if you’re faltering here in this genre, then there is a problem). Battle tactics are identical to the first game, so players need to focus on attacking body parts to break the Oni’s armour (and to get purify parts for crafting – basically carving in Monster Hunter). Once the armour is off, the spirit of the Oni glows in its place, where direct damage to the monster occurs until it’s dead or heals the armour on itself. The Eye of Truth, a vision that is enabled by clicking L3, displays the armour and health of the Oni.
Due to the faster pace of the game, you often find yourself constantly performing attacks, being right up in the Oni’s face mashing away at the buttons, then using the roll to dodge out of the way when the Oni begins an attack animation. Keeping an eye on the Oni is important to learn their attack animations/patterns, escape them and then jump back in. It has a different feel compared to Monster Hunter. In that game, its slower animation/movement add to the imminent danger that monsters pose when they attack, but in Toukiden 2, it’s almost an arcade take on hunting monsters that lacks some of the tactical depth, where the enemy threat is diminished, due to the increase in speed movement, and as time goes on, the combat can feel repetitive towards the back end of the game.
Unlike Toukiden, the main story in the sequel removes the need to go to a desk to accept quests, as these are now just delivered through the story, with NPCs sometimes offering side quests in the main village or around the open world. The option to do missions is available, but they are no longer a requirement. Moving to play online revokes the game back to its original design, where missions, group into difficulties called Phase, are accepted from a guild member, then four players, either three other online players or computer controlled AI (which are actually quite decent for AI companions) go out of the gate and are loaded into a piece of the open world map, but locked into that small section to fight the boss. It does occasionally open wider, when tasked to hunt two or more monsters, but a large amount of the world is never accessible. This also means the small numbered zones that are a hallmark of the genre don’t make an appearance, so bosses cannot flee to another section that forces movement to hunt them down. I understand that the setup in single player has been built around the flowing structure of its open world mission design, but since AI companions are in the single player, they could have been a way to also allow cooperative story play, along with this standard cooperative mission structure.
Support for PlayStation 4 Pro is not included in Toukiden 2. It runs at 1080p30fps, and mostly commits to that frame rate, but support would have been nice to bump the resolution or offer more frame rate. Artistically, it has a nice look to it, thanks to the Japanese influenced art direction, but it still has the handicap of supporting older consoles that it won’t blow anyone away with its graphics. On the audio side, I do have a slight issue with what I feel is a little lazy; the game only contains a Japanese audio track, but subtitles do not appear for members of your hunting party when they are bantering between themselves, which sucks, as I’d like to know what my members are expressing as I explore.
Toukiden 2 is a packed title that sacrifices complex depth, but in exchange continues to offer people a faster, more easy to understand hunting game for anyone who does not gel with the methodical style of Monster Hunter, while also bringing a fun single player story. Omega Force switched up the formula with the inclusion of an open world, an idea that works well within its framework, but isn’t perfect – it could do to express the “open” aspect further, and also branch it out to the multiplayer component of the game. Fans should be happy to know that the sequel is a good follow up to the original, adding a little creative divergence, but upholding what was fun about the first title, while also allowing single or multiplayer gamers to jump in and enjoy without frustration.