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Toukiden Review: Monster Hunter on Easy Mode

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toukiden box

Title: Toukiden: The Age of Demons
Price: $39.99
System(s): Vita
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Tecmo Koei (Omega Force)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Alcohol Reference, Blood and Gore, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Violence

In the absence of official Monster Hunter Vita games, other companies have been stepping up over the handheld’s two year lifespan. Marvelous AQL put out Ragnarok Odyssey close to the system’s launch. Keiji Inafune created Soul Sacrifice. Bandai Namco put out God Eater 2, and Sega has been working on Phantasy Star Nova. Everybody’s getting in on it, even Omega Force and Tecmo Koei, two companies more familiar with Musou titles like Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, with Toukiden: The Age of Demons.

The result is a game that only slightly varies from the Monster Hunter formula. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but Toukiden works.

toukiden

The last line of defense.

Toukiden begins with players learning their character is a supernaturally strong man or woman with abilities that will make him or her a valuable Slayer. (No, this isn’t Sunnyville and there’s no Buffy.) Monstrous and fiendish Oni are attacking innocent people and taking over more and more land, and it’s up to these warriors known as Slayers to drive them back.

For 1,000 years, Slayers have been fighting, and now they’ve been pushed back to Utakata Village, one of the last lines of defense. If this village falls, the demons win. Fortunately, you’ve just come to town to join their ranks and, as one of the few people in the world capable of equipping mitama, souls of incredible, defeated warriors, you may just beat back and defeat the oni threat.

toukiden

It’s all been done before, but at least you’re not alone.

If you’ve played Monster Hunter or Soul Sacrifice before, you’ll feel comfortable jumping right into Toukiden. You choose a character and an initial weapon type, and then set off on missions, taken in the hub town of Utakata, to fight monsters in a pre-determined area. Aside from Missions, which involve fighting both minor and major demons, there are also side quests, called Requests, which will provide an opportunity to earn money and get closer to the game’s various NPCs. If someone likes you, you get better rewards and bonuses, so it’s always helpful to aid people who will be in town or fighting alongside you. Unfortunately, a lot of these quests can get pretty tedious, and can boil down to “kill X number of this particular foe” or “yet Y number of shiny trinkets.”

Battle is quite familiar as well. Toukiden is a standard, third-person action affair. Different weapons have different ranges, with equipment like gauntlets favoring close combat, archers needing their space, and so on. It pays to have multiple weapons, since each has a different kind of strike that enemies may be weak against, but you can get by sticking to just one. I fell in love with the kusarigama, which was a sickle and chain weapon that was great for short and long-range attacks. Once you have a weapon, you whale away at your opponent, occasionally entering Aggressive Mode with the circle button to speed up your attacks at the expense of stamina, until it’s dead. Tapping the touchscreen uses the Eye of Truth, to find weak spots on boss Oni, if you’re having trouble. (You shouldn’t, but it could happen.) When a fight is done, you hold the right shoulder button to perform a Rite of Purification to get items you can use to improve weapons and gear. I told you that you’re recognize all this.

However, there are some differences. As I mentioned earlier, building relationships with some of the other characters is a minor gameplay element in Toukiden. NPC Slayers can be added to your team before you take on a Mission or a Request, which makes the game much easier for people who tend to flail, then fail, at Monster Hunter games. The AI is strong and capable, and I never had a computer-controlled Slayer fall when it was in the party. They’re also quite efficient, and said party members were totally on top of it and there to revive me on the rare occasion I’d die.

Of course, the easiness can also be attributed to Toukiden feeling less strategic. I didn’t notice too many attack patterns with enemies, even bosses. I didn’t need finesse or skill to take down oni. Sheer determination and button mashing were usually enough to see me through. I don’t know if it was because I felt more confident and was playing more, if it was due to having a constant team helping me fight, or if the mitamas equipped were giving me extra strength.

By the way, mitama collecting can be addictive. Sometimes, enemies will drop mitama, which are souls of fallen warriors that can boost a players’ stats and grant certain abilities when they’re equipped. Over 200 are in the game, and by constantly improving your weapon, so you can equip more, and continually leveling up mitama, you can make your avatar godlike. Their support skills can make you temporarily stronger in battle, or their passive bonuses can boost your stats, prevent status ailments, or make it easier to get critical hits.

That mitama collecting, as well as online multiplayer and post-game content, help keep people playing Toukiden. Even though everything can get rather tedious and I felt like I was going through the motions of games I’d already played before, making a new friend, finding some extra souls, or getting a chance to go through a mission with a friend helped keep things fresh.

toukiden

Toukiden is engaging.

I’ll be frank. I normally don’t get into Monster Hunter style games. I’ve tried. Each time a new official title appears, or a clone that seems more promising is announced, I’ll join in the fanfare and pick up the game, hoping for an experience that will change my mind. It hasn’t happened until now.

Yes, Toukiden: The Age of Demons is very similar to Monster Hunter. The only differences revolve around the acquisition of ability enhancing mitama and the potential to have constant companionship from other Slayers. Yet, that was enough for me. Those two minor alterations were game changers for me, and made Toukiden the only Monster Hunter style game I’ve managed to play for over two weeks straight. So sure, Toukiden can be monotonous, with tedious missions and a storyline that feels rather hollow, but the actual gameplay is entertaining and less frustrating than games like Monster Hunter and Soul Sacrifice. If you’ve always wanted to play this kind of game, but couldn’t bring yourself to get interested before, Toukiden is a great place to start.

Site [Toukiden: The Age of Demons]

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