When you think of handheld multiplayer experiences in which you and your friends hunt large and dangerous prey with a variety of wild weapons, one game immediately comes to mind: Monster Hunter. The game based on teamwork in order to tackle the largest of foes has been one of the most popular games available on Sony’s PSP, but as of today, it hasn’t had any entries on Sony’s newest handheld. What are Vita players to do? Wait up on Capcom to release a new entry in the series?
Toukiden: The Age of Demons
Developed by Omega Force / Published by Tecmo Koei
Available on the PS Vita.
*Review copy provided by Tecmo Koei
It seems that Tecmo Koei and Omega Force have come up with a solution to the problem. With Toukiden: The Age of Demons, players can indulge in some good-old, action-packed monster hunting with friends on the PS Vita. But is Omega Force’s newest effort enough to take down the king of the monster hunting genre?
Toukiden’s set-up is quite simple. After an event dubbed the “Awakening,” monstrous creatures known as Oni (monsters from Japanese folklore) run rampant on the earth killing everything in their wake. To combat this threat, a group of individuals known as Slayers have gathered to repel the evil forces, and perhaps stop it once and for all.
What’s most impressive about this monster-hunting game is that the story is actually relevant to what happens while you play. While games like Monster Hunter just show you an intro cinematic and shoo you in missions with no real reason other than to kill monsters, most of Toukiden’s quests have some sort of story attached to it, be it stopping an impending attack, investigating the source of the Awakening, party members and their grudges against certain Oni, and more. While the story isn’t anything that special, it’s great that they added it to every mission to keep things fresh.
The visuals are impressive as well. For being a Vita title, the amount of detail in this Japanese folklore-inspired game is very impressive. Both character models and monster designs are highly detailed, and the wide selection of weaponry and armor looks phenomenal. While the environments aren’t as carefully detailed as the models, it’s still a good-looking game that runs smoothly. I never noticed any hiccups when it came to playing with three other people, so it’s a stable game as well.
Gameplay is very similar to what you’d expect from a monster hunting game. There’s the town hub called Utakata Village, where players experience the storyline thanks to various NPC’s in the game world, and can purchase a wide variety of things with money, such as armor or materials used to build stuff. Then there’s the blacksmith who can build new weapons – provided that you have the materials necessary, or upgrade your existing equipment if they have leveled up on the field. Finally, there’s a lady who can assist on leveling spirits called Mitama, but more on that later. Doing your business in town is easy enough, and thanks to the small number of things you can do there, it isn’t that complicated to navigate, which is good. Eventually, a couple of sections open up in town, but these just grant temporary bonuses to the player.
Going on missions is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time in Toukiden. After a small introductory sequence that’ll familiarize you with the controls, you’ll be able to take on missions in the Slayer’s guild hall. These range from killing a number of small enemies, securing areas in the map, and slaying large Oni on different maps that span various ages in time. While the missions are relatively similar and you’ll be fighting the same Oni over and over again, grinding for materials just so you can get the next piece of equipment or a shiny new weapon is the name of the game here. Thanks to the game’s speedy loading between areas and relative shortness of the missions, it’ll never get boring either.
Combat in this game is fast, flashy, and entertaining. There’s six weapon types in the game, each granting the player unique combos, advantages, and special abilities. Players can wield a sword, two knives, a spear, gauntlets, a chain and sickle, and bow. Learning each weapons strengths and weakness is imperative to succeeding in the game, and thanks to the top-notch controls that are responsive to the touch, you’ll be slaying Oni like no one’s business.
Killing small enemies is pretty easy, but the challenge lies in killing large Oni. These behemoths take a lot of damage to bring down, and can easily decimate an unprepared slayer. Contrary to other monster-killing games however, you’re never alone in this one. You see, in Toukiden, you’ll always be paired with other NPCs in single-player, either of your choosing or not. Sometimes you get one partner, sometimes you get three; it all depends on the mission. Either way, the NPCs – which have fantastic A.I – will do a great job at playing their roles and assisting you in any way possible. Omega Force did a great job with this, and I hope other developers take notice. You’ll never feel alone, and with their help any task is possible, including severing limbs from large Oni.
Large Oni have various appendages that can be severed in combat, which can later be used to create new equipment and weapons. They also act as armor for the monsters, so getting rid of them and purifying them (a special ability that absorbs fallen Oni and converts them to materials) opens up the Oni and exposes them to large amounts of damage. As expected for these types of games, battles with large enemies are wars of attrition, so you’ll be dishing damage and taking it. Luckily, you got another asset on your side, called Mitama.
Mitama are the spirits of fallen heroes that have been eaten by Oni. By slaying these creatures, you’ll occasionally get access to these souls, and in turn they grant your slayer four new abilities. Some Mitama are offense-oriented, granting boosts to attacks, while others can be defensive or grant the use of spells. These unique abilities aren’t unlimited though, so you can’t abuse them in hopes of defeating your foes with them alone. A mix of Mitama use and melee is needed to slay Oni, and the game’s balance of the two makes it one challenging experience.
While single-player is a satisfying experience thanks to excellent teammate A.I, playing multiplayer is where the real fun is at. Toukiden features Ad-hoc multiplayer as well as online, so searching for others is as easy as going online and looking at rooms you can join, or creating your own. While you can occasionally run into a player that fools around and trolls rather than completes a mission, in these cases you can password-lock your room at any time to keep these unwanted slayers away.
Toukiden: The Age of Demons is an excellent game that succeeds in bringing the monster hunting genre to the PS Vita. The monster slaying in this game is entertaining, and the equipment crafting is addictive. It also helps that the A.I. team members can handle themselves in combat and have your back when you need it. If you’re looking for a Monster Hunter-like experience on the PS Vita, then look no further than this game. You might even find yourself liking it more than the competition.