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Toukiden: Age of Demons review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £25
inc VAT

Until a true Monster Hunter game arrives on Sony's handheld, Toukiden fills the void, but it lacks the charm of the game it tries to imitate

Sony’s PlayStation Vita has been crying out for a great RPG, and until Monster Hunter finally makes its way to the console there are plenty of imitators to keep you occupied. The latest is Toukiden: Age of Demons, which takes the familiar hack-and-slash gameplay and drops it into a fantasy setting based heavily on Japanese mythology.

Developer Omega Force, best known for its Dynasty Warriors franchise, has stuck closely to the tried-and-tested Monster Hunter formula. Players split their time between a central hub, where quests are acquired and weapons upgraded, and larger battle arenas. It is here that monsters must be slain and items obtained, so you can turn your quests in and repeat the process. It sounds simple, as well as being quite a grind, and in many ways it is, but it’s the boss monsters which bring the game to life and are where you’ll find the greatest challenge.

With a full party, even the toughest basic enemies don’t really give you any trouble, but the boss monsters can turn into half hour epic battles of attrition as you learn their attack patterns, dodge special moves and chip away at their health. Do enough damage to a particular body part and it will fall off, giving you time to deal extra damage while the boss regenerates it.

Toukiden monster

Some of the boss battles are so big and long that they stretch the limits of the Vita’s battery – this may be one game to consider upgrading to a Vita Slim for. You’ll also be taking on the same bosses multiple times in order to farm the items they drop, as certain combinations must be used to upgrade your weapons and armour. This can be frustrating, as you must harvest their dismembered body parts to receive certain items, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the one you want after a lengthy fight.

Combat is fairly basic, with light, heavy and special attacks, along with simple combos which vary depending on the type of weapon equipped. Once you commit to attack there’s no way to cancel it, so you have to be sure of landing it if you don’t want to get knocked down by an enemy counter attack.

Toukiden boss

Throughout the game you’ll absorb Mitama, souls of heroes killed by powerful Oni, which can then be applied to your equipment to unlock new abilities. There are over 200 Mitama to collect, with each one belonging to one of four magic types; Attack, Defence, Healing and Spirit. These apply bonuses to your character or allies in battle, letting you deal more damage, block certain attacks or heal gradually over time. Each Mitama levels up individually as you use it in battle, earning you greater affinity and extra stat bonuses in the process.

Up to four friends can join you on each quest, either via ad-hoc Wi-Fi or though online multiplayer, although the computer-controlled allies are excellent substitutes. They deal damage, heal you and perform the purification rituals needed to absorb the souls of defeated Oni, and very rarely die at the hands of your enemies. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the frustratingly kamikaze AI of Soul Sacrifice.

Toukiden house

Toukiden is consistently colourful and looked great on our Vita’s OLED display, both in-game and during the many post-quest cut scenes, which use beautifully illustrated character portraits and CG animation rather than in-game models. Minimal changes have been made for the game’s western release; although the text is now in English, the voices haven’t been re-recorded over the original Japanese and the characters are all fairly stereotypical. This works in the context of the game, however. Set in a parallel universe where Oni, Japanese spirits of the dead, are corrupting the flow of time and assaulting your small feudal settlement, Toukiden is inherently Japanese. Whereas Monster Hunter opts for a more generic fantasy feel, the developers have embraced the art style and mythology of medieval Japan.

In other respects, however, Toukiden is rather bland. The characters are all fairly forgettable, the locations are a little samey and by its nature the gameplay becomes a bit of a grind once you start levelling up and wanting better equipment. The pace is perfectly suited to gaming on the move, so we could finish one or two quests on our commute to and from the office, but they rarely ever go beyond killing a set number of enemies or clearing a particular area. We loved unexpected boss battles, but they are interspersed with rather dull quests that do little to keep you entertained.

Whereas other Monster Hunter imitators on the Vita, such as Soul Sacrifice and Ragnarok Odyssey added their own twists on the rinse-repeat formula, Toukiden doesn’t attempt anything new or refreshing. If you’re new to the genre it does everything right, but takes itself a little too seriously and lacks a lot of the charm that kept us grinding through Monster Hunter.



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