Tecmo Koei’s famed developer Omega Force gives us Toukiden: The Age of Demons, a PlayStation Vita-exclusive looking to dethrone their fabled Warriors franchises. Taking lessons from the Warriors archetype, but adding some new flavouring to the feast, is it more of the same or does that extra spice of a new IP bring something original to bring non-Warriors fans into the fold?
The game’s story mode is based on a group of people called Slayers, whose main job is to defend their villages and society from the oni (demons). As you continue with the story you will meet several interesting main NPCs who are also slayers, as well as Kikka, a shrine princess central to the story. It is a standard "defeat the demons to save the world" kind of place, except these demons are on the brink of winning.
When first starting the campaign, you can customize the look and name of your character. Although the choices are slightly limited in what you can do, it is still a nice feature to have. The game has multiple side missions that unlock by going through the campaign. The bosses are a lot of fun and can be quite interesting. The limbs of the boss can be cut and sliced off giving you items that are used to create new weapons and armour. After so much damage, the fights get harder as the monster will change its attack pattern or sometimes will change into a different form or stance entirely. But this is where things go a little downhill. Expect to fight the same boss over and over again, not just for farming but also in the storyline.
The main hub of the game is the village, which has a few places that can be visited, like the blacksmith, guardian tree and purity pool. It might feel like it is bare bones but Toukiden is not a traditional RPG and thus is just enough for a game of its type.
Due to the focus on grinding for materials in the game like Monster Hunter or White Knight Chronicles, Toukiden has many ways to help procure said materials outside of combat. The guardian tree gives them after a daily donation, a pet tenko (cat) can be sent on missions, and they can also be bought at the store. These materials can be used to make various weapons and armours, like swords, gauntlets and bows at the blacksmith, or use them to complete side-quests.
Mitama are another item you can be awarded in battle. They are the souls of fallen warriors, consumed by the oni as described through the game’s story. Each one has different special abilities that can be used in battle, like attack boosts or special attacks. The better your weapon and the more slots you get on it for equipping more Mitama. They also level up, getting more powerful as time goes on.
The game has very beautiful environments, like forest and snow levels for example. Every stage is very different adding to the sense of exploration and freedom in the game. One flaw is the game isn’t open world. The battlefield is a bunch of interconnected areas. Each mission determines which of the areas are available to be traveled to. Additionally, the levels are constantly reused, taking away from the shine of those beautiful environments. The character models have a lot of detail in them that keep them from looking blocky, making them look really good for a portable title. Some of the enemies could do with some extra body detailing and more unique models instead of seeing new colour versions of the same creature, a la NES-era.
Combat is very simple. It’s like Dynasty Warriors through and through, just not as fast-paced because of the lack of enemies on the screen. The lower enemy count means better AI though, as they don’t just stand there and look pretty. Toukiden also uses a "second sense: which allows the player to see enemy’s health bars and find hidden items on the battlefield. Likewise, your AI teammates are better than average, collecting items, tanking and healing you without needing to be commanded. No matter how good the AI is however, it is never as good as having a real online player with you.
Toukiden has a fully online co-op mode which allows you to do the main missions and side quests with up to four players. If you don’t have four friends around or not a huge fan of playing with random players, you can do the online missions with the AI. Each human just replaces an AI essentially. The lobby system is also pretty good, though you have to leave the lobby for certain things like upgrading your Mitama which can be a pain. When playing with a friend, he or she will become the host of the lobby until you come back, which ensures a seamless transition instead of mass bootings. It would have been better for them to add NPC shops into the lobby to streamline the game even more, but it isn’t much to complain about. The game also features ad-hoc mode, allowing you to play multiplayer offline with other Vita systems nearby.
Overall, the Toukiden is a lot of fun but can be quite repetitive. The storyline adds to the game, and the fact that the game can carry on even after you finished the main storyline with a few extra chapters and side-quests adds long playtime. This is a game that will take you several weeks to complete and will have you coming back occasionally to do a few missions from time-to-time after that. It is a very good pick-up and play title unless you’re fighting a boss, which is the only long part of combat.