Tokyo Xanadu review code provided by publisher.
The only down side to localization is that a game can take quite a long time to make its way to the West. The end result is worth the wait, with only a few outliers to contradict that statement, and Tokyo Xanadu is one worth the wait. Tokyo Xanadu tells the story of Kou Tokisaka as he begins his second year of high school. While juggling a couple of part-time evening jobs, he finds himself one evening amid a rather peculiar scenario with a member of his class. A creviced gate opens, and classmate Asuka Hiiragi enters it. Spurred by the circumstance, Kou jumps in after her and gains his first exposure of another realm. He soon learns that he is of a special group of people that can perceive this other realm, a realm which is an embodiment of human emotion.
Sound familiar? Xanadu takes some inspirations from other games, Persona being one of the more passive ones, but the one modern franchise that Xanadu shares the most with is one of Nihom Falcom’s major titles, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (ToCS). Dialogue, menus, and graphical style all mimic Trails of Cold Steel, but that’s not really a bad thing. Overall aesthetic fit an attractive presentation, especially on a handheld, while keeping to its own, more modern setting. These commonalities are much more visible early on, but soon the game begins to differentiate itself with how much more detail the game world has, not to mention how much more refined it looks. ToCS has a good look to it, but buildings and characters tend to have jaggy edges that become highlighted while in motion, but Xanadu is more visually refined.
There is one drawback to the visual quality, and it begins to surface in dungeons. Unlike ToCS, combat is active rather than turn-based, showcasing more of an action style within the confines of the narrow paths that the dungeons take. Due to the narrow corridors, the camera tends to misbehave, zooming in even closer than it already is, thus disrupting autolock and the ability to autolock the camera in the first place. Then autolock is more like a camera focus rather than a character lock, so even if you have a lock on the target, you still have to aim all your attacks manually. So, there’s not much reason to try locking in the first place. Xanadu is not the first game to suffer from camera issues when coupled with targeting, but not having actual targeting makes things almost condescending; incidentally, fighting without targeting is simplistic enough, but I can thank Dark Souls for refining that skill.
Each enemy displays its weakness, and the game leaves it to you to pick the character that can exploit those weaknesses. Kou can swap with more elements further into the game, but the rest of the characters are rather locked in with their strengths. Each character has a long and a short range, which also fall into exploiting weaknesses as some enemies are weaker to range attacks rather than close quarters. Indeed, going through the game with whomever you please is easy enough, but each dungeon is scored, and thus rewarded, by how quickly and efficiently you clear it. This includes exploiting weaknesses. Performance in battle is coupled with completing side and main quests, with better results yielding better items and equipment.
Kou’s elements can be altered by equipping different element stones in his Soul Device. From there, similar elementals can be equipped into it for stat gains and extra benefits. ToCS fans will recognize how this looks, but the effects are passive bonuses rather than added abilities. As mentioned earlier, Kou is the only character in your roster who can be changed to all elemental types, but the others have enough flexibility with their elemental options to make them decent combatants. The simplicity of this end of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Granted, there are plenty of elements to find in-game to help customize player stats, but the results only affect damage numbers rather than how attacks look and feel.
Combat itself is not perfect, but it still holds your interest. Frame rate can dip below the standard 30 frames per second when things get too close or too built up, but move sets are accessible and responsive for all characters. Combos slow down in these instances, and keeping up combos becomes harder, but fights are generally straightforward, so the inconvenience that comes from the performance dips can be counteracted; that’s to say that this fact should not be denoted, but rather the problem is one that can be managed enough to do what needs to be done. In fact, combos are the same for each character, even though they all use different weapons. This may sound shallow, but it does put a focus on countering enemy types rather than acclimating to each character, making the game easier to pick up, with the only real depth coming from the enemy make ups only.
Tokyo Xanadu is a high school drama with a great deal of character development, dungeon crawling, and some RPG elements to keep things interesting to RPG aficionados. The downside to all of this is that there’s just enough to do what needs to be done (a la clear out dungeons of enemies and move on), but there’s very little variety in it. Accessibility is the name of the game with Xanadu, a mantra that has its own appeal to the right person, but those looking for something much deeper will only find intrigue in having more enemies to fight along the way; it’s a worthwhile note to say that enemy variety is refreshing enough to keep moving, and their general aesthetics become good indicators of what their elemental weaknesses will be. Expect a slightly above average action-RPG package in handheld form, and you’ll be in for a good time with Kou and company.