To see Omega Force to develop a game such as Toukiden is quite interesting. Despite their decorated history focusing on musou games such as Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and the recently enhanced port of Bladestorm, Omega Force dives into the action role playing genre. Toukiden: The Age of Demons was released in June 2013 in Japan and February 2014 in North America and Europe, exclusively for the Playstation Portable (in Japan) and the Playstation Vita. The game was a hit in Japan and an enhanced port, entitled Toukiden Kiwami was developed for the two Playstation handhelds as well as the Playstation 4 (only in the west). It can be safely said, then, that playing Toukiden Kiwami has been an enjoyable experience, bringing in excellent Monster Hunter style gameplay with a few twists that keeps it fresh and exciting.
The story focuses on the protagonist, created by the player. They are a Slayer, protector of the world, known as Nakatsu Kuni, against the Oni (demons of the game world) threat. Eight years before the start of the game, the Underworld, the home of the Oni (demons), emerged to the world of man. For seven days and seven night, the first Slayers fought hard to save humanity. Despite saving a small haven, many villages were destroyed. The event was to be called the “Awakening”. Your Slayer has been brought to the front lines of the never ending threat as it moves closer to the last safe haven for humans Utakata Village. The main story is five chapters long, with two epilogue chapters, but Kiwami adds another six for a total of thirteen chapters. I expect the story to be basic, so I wasn’t surprised. But the main storytelling isn’t in the words spoken by the characters.
The main story takes place as missions. The mission objectives usually boil down to defeating a certain amount of Oni, finding and slaughtering a particular large boss Oni or defending waves of Oni. Some are also fetch quests or praying at small prayer stones. The mission highlighted in red are main story missions, which are required to progress through the story. The missions are what one would expect in an action role playing game focusing on slaying monsters. There are also Quests, mini missions which are focused on fetching materials on the battlefield. These quests are requests from the various characters in Utakata Village. Completing them increases the affinity rating between the protagonist and the non-playable character. All missions and quests are handled by Yu, the mission vendor of Utakata Village.
Combat takes place on segmented maps connected by gates, similar to Monster Hunter. The protagonist has three attacks: light, heavy and special. They can also evade but can’t block for some reason. Odd not to include blocking in an action RPG. Each action, including evading, running and attacking, expends stamina. It’s easy to drain quite a bit, so it’s essential to keep an eye on the stamina meter and expend responsibility. Of course, heavy and light attacks can be chained into a combo. It can be both satisfying and boring at the same time. The combos do mix up the combat, allowing the player to defeat the Oni in various manners, but I’ve been spamming the light combo most of the time and it does the trick. Of course, the smaller Oni don’t really pose much of a challenge.
Toukiden Kiwami offers a decent collection of weapon styles, including longswords, dual blades, bows, spears, clubs and rifles, the latter two new for Kiwami. Each weapon offers a different gameplay experiences. They can also hold the spirits of previous Slayers known as Mitami. Each Mitami is found after slaying certain Oni and offer abilities, both active and passive, for the player to use in battle. Each Mitami are separated by their purpose, such as attack, defence, healing and spiritual. As they level up (only to a maximum of three), they offer more passive abilities, such as increased attack, increased defence and so on. It adds to the fighting style of the player by augmenting their weapon with a Mitami that fits with how they will tackle the situation.
All missions require companions so there are several AI Slayers available for non main story missions. For the main story missions, companions will be locked as the story requires. The AI is pretty good, offering decent support in terms of your companions and offering a fair but difficult challenge from the boss Oni. In addition to be able to give the AI companions free will, the player can command them to deliver an all out attack, use healing and support abilities or call for an AI companion by the protagonist’s side. They are also available for a new attack called Onichigiri Kiwami . Using the Unity Gauge, this attack can be used to destroy multiple parts of a boss Oni, making the fight a little bit easier if it hits.
In an interesting game mechanic, players have access to the Eye of Truth, activated with the options button. The Eye of Truth reveals weak points for boss Oni, which is essential to chip away as it’s the only way to truly damage the boss Oni. It adds another element of strategy to the boss fights as it means the player needs to focus on certain parts before attacking the Oni’s health. Slayers can also purify fallen Oni to obtain materials for crafting and selling at the shopkeeper. The purification process can also recover stamina quickly and it’s necessary to defeat boss Oni as weak points can be rejuvenated, prolonging the boss battle.
However, I do find the character creation to be quite atrocious, especially after finding Bladestorm: Nightmare’s character creation system to be quite extensive and it was developed by the same studio. To only be able to choose a pre-made face, hair style and colour and name when creating my protagonist makes means it’s harder to get invested heavily into the character. Putting detail into creating a character is essential for me and not being able to sculpt the character’s face or any other aspect feels hollow. It does make it up, somewhat, when it comes to weapon style. There is a variety of weapons to choose from to fit any style, whether it is getting up close or attacking from afar.
The visuals won’t push the boundaries of the Playstation 4 but they are quite mice to look at. I thoroughly like the design of Utakata Village. It’s rural town design feels like a safe haven, despite the threat of the Oni approaching it. The Oni are well designed, especially the boss Oni. Each has details that define it’s play style and character. Character models are decent enough and so are the battlefield. The soundtrack is beautiful. Hideki Sakamoto does an excellent job capturing the mood and feel of each environment and battle with his music. I can let my Slayer just stay in Utakata Village so I can hear the track that’s playing.
Omega Force has done an excellent job with Toukiden Kiwami, despite some similarities with games in the same genre. The combat throws in some new ideas, while the visuals and the music deliver for a enjoyable experience. The story may be quite basic but it’s expected to be. The new content does make this the preferred version to pick up and with the Vita to PS4 connectivity, it’s easy to transfer from console to handheld and vice versa. However, despite being a great game, it’s still one for those who are fans of the action RPG genre. It’s familiar enough to jump in but it also offers something new for those who want something different.
Rating: A Large Demonic Spider/10
Toukiden Kiwami was sent to us by Mindscape Australia, publishers of Koei Tecmo games, for the purpose of reviewing. The version reviewed was the Playstation 4 version. Toukiden Kiwami is out now, only on the Playstation 4 and the Playstation Vita, at all retail and online outlets where video games are sold.