Review: Toukiden 2

Koei Tecmo made no bones about their influence when they announced and released Toukiden: The Age of Demons for PS Vita a few years back. Sony wanted a Monster Hunter type game, and Koei was happy to get their workhorse developer, Omega Force, on the case. Sure, there were some differences, like purifying the bodies of the fallen demons instead of skinning them, but there was a straight and obvious line from Capcom’s megahit series and this entry. That doesn’t mean it was a bad game, though. While it didn’t light up the sales charts, it was respectable enough to warrant an expanded release with Kiwami. That was a bit better with the new weapons and other toys made available for use. The good news that Omega Force has used the previous title as a learning experience and are back to prove the series’ worth with a full-fledged sequel. The better news is that, while not perfect, Toukiden 2 manages to innovate on the tried and true framework in a grand fashion.

Much like the previous title, there is a plot here. A previously secretive group of demon hunters, known as Slayers, have been working in the shadows to protect the people of Japan from the demonic oni. The oni themselves weren’t exactly keen on seeing their broodmates carved into easily concealed chunks and took it upon themselves to do something about it. Beginning in an idyllic Yokohama, the demons set forth, spewing flame and chaos upon the town. Angry at this brazen attack, the Slayers shed their cover and counterattack in the open. Progress was beginning to be made when a promising Slayer, played by the character, disappears from the battlefield. Somehow, the protagonist was moved through time and space, landing ten years in the future at the distant village of Mahoroba. The hero even has amnesia, now. What a novel concept!

All told, the set up to the tale that Toukiden 2 wants to tell is interesting enough. Featuring a mixture on monsters from Japanese folklore, an anime style to the writing and a feudal take on steampunk (Samuraipunk?) technology feels unique at first blush. The storytelling, however, is where Toukiden 2 trips the worst. There are points of conflict that could be interesting if done correctly. The rivalry between the town guard and the Samurai or Insiders and Outsiders in the village’s local jargon, could have been an opportunity to explore some longstanding points that have an analog to the real world, even if a side is never taken. The nature of the human soul could be explored with Tokitsugu, a machine imbued with the spirit of a previously living man. It wouldn’t have been necessary to take a side, but using the organic notes built into the lore could have provided memorable narrative beats. Instead, there are just long periods of generic, anime trope filled dialogue that only occasionally manages to entice.

Players who don’t really care about that and just want a game that allows for violence against demons will have plenty to love, though. Really, the game gets the action done handily. Each of the available weapons have a unique feel, with their own obvious strengths and weaknesses. There isn’t a weapon style that feels like a dud. The regular sword style is a safe place to start, offering a nice balance of speed and damage. Sticking to just this type would be a shame, as there are some fun ways to cause hurt. The razor coated chain whip, the long range of a naginata, and a giant over sized club all feel completely different and fun to wield in battle. The animations of these instruments of destruction are smooth and feel authentic, though this isn’t surprising considering the developer’s experience with the Musou series.

The biggest addition in this sequel’s offensive toolbox comes in the form of the Demon Hand. Each Slayer that takes up residence in Mahoroba Village is provided this accessory by the Professor, and is used to bolster the player’s regular weapon. Basically, the player holds the right trigger takes aim and releases. A large hand will shoot out and grab whatever is targeted, then pull the player forward. This gives the combat a zippiness that this sub-genre of games is usually missing, allowing for quick rescues and even quicker escapes. (“You have fun with that swarm of flaming skulls, Tokitsugu. There’s a glowy spot over here to check out.”) When a meter is fully powered it, it even allows the player to permanently remove a limb from a giant oni, without the possibility of it regenerating.

That latter part highlights one of the coolest things about this game: the battling of giant beasts. Each of the giant monsters have multiple points that can, and must be, removed. See, most of these things are armored. Only through the severing of their limbs can players damage the beast’s core health bar. Typically, these parts regenerate, which makes exercising strategy mid-battle a must. Fortunately, players can switch on a detective mode type vision that lets them see which parts are closest to forcible removal, making coordination a much easier task.

It’s nice that these things are incredibly cool looking. There are giant armored arachnids that are less spider and more “Todd McFarlane Presents Spider Riders but the Spiders Ate the Riders.” Then it clenches up and starts spinning like a whirling top of death. There are striking Japanese takes on Western dragons, ogres that are all stomach and spindly arms and others too numerous to count. Even the trash mobs in the form of the imps are fun to watch as they scamper around.

Toukiden 2 also features a well put together open world that pretty much seamlessly streams, instead of being broken up into discrete sections. Players can run out of the main village and out into the world, exploring to their heart’s delight. Sure, wandering into the wrong area without crafting the appropriate weapons and armor will be a death sentence, but the map feels huge. There is a decent peppering of side content to be found, too, with numerous side quests found throughout the world, and stones pouring out deadly miasma to cleanse, making the area safer to explore. A quick note on the side quests: there are quite a few murder and fetch tasks given. These feel less detrimental than usual, though, considering the player’s incredibly speedy run.

One can’t discuss this type of game without briefly touching upon the crafting. As expected, there are an untold number of different weapons and armor pieces to mix and match, created with the remains of oni as well as other items found throughout the world. Many of the items use the stylings of feudal Japan as their artistic inspiration, with cool looking diversions popping up as the game progresses. Players who love doing the Barbie doll thing in RPGs will have plenty to work with here. There is further customization in the form of the returning mitama, spirits of fallen warriors that can be equipped to weapons. Each of these have their own set of skills, depending on where they are equipped, and level up through battle to become more and more powerful. The myriad ways that players can tweak and customize their characters are sure to invite repeated playthroughs.

Closing Comments:

Though the plot opens the door to some compelling storytelling only to trip while walking in, there are so many other reasons to give Toukiden 2 a spin. This is faster and more action packed when compared to other titles in the genre. It features a truly open world with load times only occurring when first starting up, fast traveling, story transition or game over. Even then, loads are short. The player can explore and quest for hours without ever needing to stop. When taking into account the massive amount of options packed into this title, they might not want to.