Game Review: Toukiden: The Age Of Demons
The Playstation Vita is a powerful piece of technology and owners are desperately seeking games to show it off. While there are big name games like Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, and Killzone, these games aren’t nearly enough to justify large numbers of gamers to invest on this portable platform. Tecmo Koei sought to ease this pain by offering the action brawler Toukiden: The Age of Demons.
Probably the easiest way to describe this game is a Monster Hunter clone. Toukiden puts you in the shoes of your own customizable demon slayer. With a wealth of weapon types to choose from (and switch in between) you are tasked with taking on massive demons (called Oni in Japan) that lumber around the screen in spectacular fashion.
Now, as a gamer that loves Dynasty Warriors and yet has never played a Monster Hunter game, I was kind of left in limbo as I played this game. On one hand, I enjoyed the various options of playstyles (the various weapon types) and the RPG grind required to build new weapons and armor. On the other hand, the actual action of fighting off regular enemies in between the Oni battles is totally uninteresting aside from the possibility of harvesting just the right monster parts to forge a stronger item.
On the battlefield, your character has a limited amount of attacks structured much like Dynasty Warriors 7. There you have a normal attack, strong attack, and special attack button. Interchanging the normal and strong attacks don’t provide special maneuvers or combos though. Instead, it descends into a boring button masher that seemingly should have some kind of depth or purpose behind the type of weapon used. The gameplay never once forces you to use say the bow or the chain and sickle to take down a demon rather than a spear or oversized sword at any time.
Even beyond the lack of ‘equipment strategy’, the regular enemies are slow and in small quantities that don’t offer any challenge. As you progress through chapters and missions (which can be replayed) Instead, missions tasked with taking them on devolve into a roulette spin for monster parts to forge better weapons or to get the experience needed to upgrade the existing equipment.
Also interesting is the inclusion of Mitama’s which are the souls of fallen heroes that can be attached to al of these upgradable weapons. Attaching them to a weapon acts like magic where the skills used do things like enhance the attack damage, heal your character, and more. Just like the weapons, these Mitama can be upgraded as well to do stronger magic attacks. These abilities do become quite useful during the boss battles.
In truth, the boss battles are supposed to be a strategic ‘hit location assault’ where you destroy a body part to reveal their demon essence. Then you can harvest the appropriate monster part. Don’t worry though. You won’t get a disgusting Red Dead Redemption scene filled with grunting and blood splatter. Instead, your demon hunter meditates near the part and it basically disintegrates. You’re expected to do this in the midst of battle or the boss reclaims the limb. While this makes the experience a little harder since taking these limbs takes time, it can be managed relatively well. As you learn the movements and predict the attacks the demons use, you can roll out of the way relatively well.
Despite the grandeur of the Oni (boss) battles and their attacks, the experience always feels a like something is missing. You lock the camera on them, maybe use the demon vision here and there, dodge roll, attack, absorb parts, and repeat. There are many hours of action RPG goodness but the appeal can get old relatively quick. Changing up the weapon types does revive the action for a moment, but a couple of missions of use drains that excitement.
While the wealth of the game lies in the post battle activities, weapon creation, weapon upgrades, and such, the actual combat ends up feeling like there should be dozens of baddies roaming the plains rather than the 5 or 6. While this hunting genre is popular in Japan where the Vita experience is relatively strong, there may not be enough in this Monster Hunter clone for the North American market.