Toukiden: Kiwami PS4 Review

When Monster Hunter jumped ship to the Nintendo 3DS, it opened up a huge gap in Sony’s portable market. Sure, there were a lot of PSPs sold in Japan, but people bought the system to play Monster Hunter. With the window open for companies to try capture that missing genre on the system, a wave of Monster Hunter inspired games appeared. One of these was Toukiden: The Age of Demons for Vita, which came out early last year and was, in my mind, the best hunting monster game that wasn’t called Monster Hunter. With the PS4 doing super popular at the moment, Koei Tecmo has decided to do a Capcom and produce an ultimate version of Toukiden, dubbed Toukiden: Kiwami, and bring it not only back to the Vita, but as a new port for all those PlayStation 4 owners, making it the first hunting game in English for the platform.

My reference to the Ultimate/G versions of Monster Hunter is that Toukiden Kiwami is more like an expansion pack that comes with the original content. Everything that was in the original Toukiden is included here, making it a brilliant starting point for newcomers who missed The Age of Demons on Vita or don’t own a Vita, but are one of the 20 million plus people owning a PS4. Those newcomers get to experience the story of the village that is defending against an increase wave of Oni invasions, as your newly created Slayer is enlisted to figure out and put a stop to the big Oni that is about to unleash another awakening and destroy the Human world.

For existing fans, Toukiden: Kiwami also includes a brand new story that takes place three months after The Age of Demons, which once again pits the Slayer against a new wave of Oni. This begins at chapter 8 and finishes at chapter 13, basically giving the game nearly double the amount of story content that was in the original. Existing fans can also be happy to know they can transfer their original save from The Age of Demons to either the Vita or PS4 of Toukiden: Kiwami, allowing them to continue on to the new content without having to do all the missions again in story or in multiplayer.

As for the story, there’s actually a nice cast of characters to interact with. Unlike Monster Hunter, Toukiden: Kiwami offers characters with interesting personalities, even if they fall on the side of the predictability, with such traits as muscly angry guy who wants revenge on the Oni for destroying his village, a comical dude who hides his pain behind jokes and the young girl who hates being picked on for her age. These are typical anime traits, but even so, there are things to enjoy here with the characters and their backgrounds that become focal points during the story arc. With cinematics and cutscenes used often, you can tell that Omega Force wanted to make a story worth investing in, rather than being there just to offer some single player content before everyone moves onto multiplayer Oni hunting, and it works well to keep the player captivated and working towards something in single player that isn’t just new gear.

Toukiden: Kiwami doesn’t try to hide that it’s clearly inspired by Monster Hunter with a Japanese demonic twist. Everything in the game is set up similar to Capcom’s title. You talk to a quest giver and then go through the door and make your way to accomplish said quest. The beginning few missions are simple tasks to get you used to the controls, such as hunting small imps or flame skulls, but then it introduces the stars of the game, the large Oni, which take minutes to take down rather than seconds. As you deal damage to the Oni parts of their body will detach, which require the Slayer to cleanse these parts by holding R1 to absorb the body part. This is the game’s way of carving and collecting materials for new armour and weapons. Specific large Oni will have certain parts required for making the gear, so repeated hunting sessions against the monster is often required to finish weapons and armour.

Combat is where the differences between the two games become apparent. Monster Hunter is a slower moving and methodical game, making the player eye up monster patterns, while slowly dwindling the monster’s health. Toukiden: Kiwami, on the other hand, is obviously going for the crowd that love the fast-paced action of Dynasty Warriors. The combat in Toukiden: Kiwami, from attacking to running, is quicker, but also feels less focused or deep, as the combos from the game’s weapons are limited, mostly staying with the square button for quick combo strikes or using a weapon type’s special move that requires use of stamina (sprinting also reduces the stamina metre) to cause crazy amount of damage until you run out of stamina. There isn’t much in ways to alter the attacks apart from throwing in a heavy strike or charged attack, as Toukiden: Kiwami is happy to let you go wild and repeat the same combo at the enemy, while feeling like some sort of gladiatorial badass.

Could Toukiden: Kiwami go for some more combos? Sure, it could use the Dynasty Warriors combo system to blend fast and slow moves together for more, but the game doesn’t require deeper combat or add more to confuse people, as it still plays well. One of the issues with Capcom’s game is that people who are new find it hard to get into the game. That isn’t the case here, as clear tutorials explain the mechanics and features, such as having no items with you, instead acquiring mitamas that equip to a weapon to add four reusable abilities depending on the type – attack, defence, healing, speed, planning –  can offer healing, buffing attack, increasing defence or placing traps. AI is also very helpful, as any of the NPCs that are involved in the story can come on the hunt with you. AI is capable enough to take down enemies, gather materials and heal you. They can be given an order from a very limited list, but often just leaving them on “free” is enough for them to do a good job. These NPCs aren’t weaker characters, like the felynes in Monster Hunter, they come with full weapons and skills that deal just the same amount of damage as a character at their level would – very helpful in offline or to fill in gaps during an online session.

Weapons all handle differently and people will no doubt find their preferred playing type with what selection is included. The choice has increased from six types to nine for the Kiwami addition of the game. Originally there were Long Sword (big katanas), Twin Blades (knives), Spear, Gauntlets, Kusarigama (chain-scythe) and Bow, but joining the list is Spiked Club, Naginata and Rifle. The Naginata set of weapons are my favourite new inclusion, this long halberd-like weapon is fast and can hit multiple parts with one attack. It also has a fantastic stamina special that lets you just barrage with swings until the stamina is depleted. Rifle is also a nice inclusion, because it adds a weapon type that is very unlike the others, as the slayer has to keep a note on what ammo is loaded into the weapon (it can be loaded with multiple types at once) and has to reload when empty. It’s one of the more demanding weapons to use, as bonus damage can be dealt on the Oni if you manage to find and hit its glowing weak spot, a feature that only shows for the rifle user. The rifle is great for people, especially fans, who might want more challenge from their weapons. All nine weapons play different, and I often found myself jumping between types with different elements (fire, sky, earth, water, wind), so I had an excuse to have fun with other weapons, while feeling relaxed in the back of my mind that I didn’t waste Oni parts crafting it.

While Toukiden: Kiwami does add a lot to the original title, it still suffers in the level design. That’s not a knock on the visual aesthetics, because the Oni designs make for some amazing beasts, the characters look great, even allowing your own created avatar to feel at home with the rest of the cast of characters, and the variety in locations, which cover snow, forest, fire and old Japanese settlements, make great backdrops. It’s just that having the ability to climb would add more, because as it is, Toukiden: Kiwami always feels flat, missing the scale and height dynamic that comes with vertical land.

Even though Toukiden: Kiwami is building on from the original Vita game, the graphics have been given polish for the PS4 version. It’s not as pretty as a pure PS4 game, but the inclusion of better lighting, shadows, improved textures and smooth, detailed models on top of its attractive art design offer a pretty game to look at. The game runs at 1080p, but sadly is kept at 30fps. It does mostly keep to that, with some rare drops happening when players unleash moves with heavy graphical effects that cause a slight hiccup. It’s a shame that you cannot have a digital keyboard for online play, making it awkward to communicate with other people, but if you have friends and are using party chat, this can bypass that issue. A brilliant feature is that no matter if you are on PS4 or Vita, both systems can play online together, which means that the player base isn’t separated and should always have people looking to slay some Oni.

Toukiden: Kiwami might be heavily influenced by Monster Hunter, but the combat gives the game its own identity, while removing complexity to allow people struggling with Capcom’s game to play this and ease into its less intricate systems. Toukiden: Kiwami is the only game like it in English for the PS4 and offers great cooperative play, while also supplying a huge single player campaign that isn’t a chore to experience, thanks to a developed story and cast of characters. If you are looking to invest in a current generation hunting game that offers fast, fluid combat and amazing monster designs, then Toukiden: Kiwami is a great recommendation for existing fans or newcomers to the genre.

8 out of 10