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Toukiden 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: March 21, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Toukiden 2'

by Brian Dumlao on May 30, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Toukiden 2 is an action/RPG game that tells the tale of humanity's last stand for survival against demonic, soul-devouring Oni.

Buy Toukiden 2

When Toukiden: Kiwami released on the PS4 two years ago, fans of the Monster Hunter series found it to be a worthy substitute. It also had the advantage of being the first game of its type on the platform. Since then, there's only been one other game on the PS4 to fulfill that giant monster-slaying itch, and that's God Eater 2: Rage Burst, a title that also came with a remastered predecessor in tow. With the market finally getting crowded on the latest PlayStation platform, Toukiden 2 would have to do something to make it more attractive than Bandai Namco's offering. What they've done instead is provide something so different that genre fans would be foolish to not give it a look.

The story starts eight years before the first title in Yokohama. As a Slayer, you're there when the Oni Awakening is happening, and you witness the partial destruction of the city first-hand. Before long, you encounter your first large Oni without any backup. It disappears, but before you have any time to collect your thoughts, an even larger Oni appears, and you're sucked into a wormhole. When you finally come to, you realize that you've been transported to a village very far from Yokohama, but it's been 10 years since the Oni Awakening occurred. With the fight against the demons still raging on and humanity on the losing side, you continue fighting.

Though this is a new set of characters, their personalities remain one of the strengths of the story. They may fulfill many anime tropes we've come to expect over the years, but they're all likeable, and none are a major annoyance. It also helps that they often provide humor that never feels out of place. This time around, the characters are supported with a story that doesn't meander much. Even though the cut scenes can be a bit long, they aren't superfluous. Elements like time travel and village politics are given more importance in the story, and it makes the world feel fuller. In short, you'll be invested in the story this time around.

Like any game of this type, you start by creating a character. The selections for hairstyle are pretty numerous, which makes up for some other areas, like face type, which has a woefully small selection. There are plenty of elements that come with sliders, so those who can get really involved in character creation will have plenty to play with. While you don't have the option to import your character from Toukiden: Kiwami, you can take the character and progress from the demo, if you've played it before. Also, those who have played Kiwami will get a nice bonus if they upload their saves to the cloud.

Once character creation is done, players will notice that the game has undergone loads of changes, even though the core elements from the previous titles remain intact. The first comes from your village, which like before, acts as your central hub. While everything you need is clustered together, there's certainly more room to explore the place, making it feel like a real village. Even though you'll rarely explore the areas beyond your road and the Professor's house, the expansion is certainly appreciated.

Progression in the campaign is also very different from before. While you still have access to a mission board, they're more like side-quests than main missions. Main quests tend to happen more organically, as you'll given a story-related mission immediately after a cut scene. Like the story, the flow from one mission to another is smooth enough that you'll have to force yourself to take on mission board quests for fear of breezing through the lengthy campaign.

The rest of the changes are pretty major, enough that they drastically change the flow of a monster-hunting game. The first major change is your arsenal. Many of the same ideas from the first game make a return here, like the Mitama, spirits of famous Japanese warriors from other time periods that are infused in your weapons and armor. Depending on what you use, you either get increased defense, attack power, or the ability to control the battlefield via things like clones to distract the Oni. All of the weapon types from Kiwami return here, along with two new ones. The sword and shield combo adds some defense to your repertoire, while the chain whip makes you feel like Kratos or a Belmont, since you can swing it wide to catch multiple enemies in one hit.

The Demon Hand is the real star of this portion, even though it is more of an accessory than a weapon. Initially, the hand is more of a traversal device, similar to Bionic Commando's arm or the devices in Attack on Titan, as you can grab on to the environment and pull yourself toward a spot. It also gets used on Oni, as you can pull yourself toward them so you get into the fray quicker. The Demon Hand can also be used to grab elements on the field to chuck them at enemies or infuse them into your weapons. Demon Hand powers up a meter that allows you to do some real damage on the larger Oni. You can also aim for a specific body part and rip it away from the Oni, saving you from having to hack away at the giant beast.

The combat was already solid, and the great AI on your partners puts the fighting a cut above most other monster-hunting titles. The addition of the Demon Hand makes the fighting faster and more vicious. It's like seeing a pack swarm on large prey, and it's a terrific addition that suffers from some minor control issues. Once you get into aim mode, the game only pays attention to left analog stick controls and ignores the camera work from the right analog stick. A better comparison would be if you took the thumbstick controls for a modern console first-person shooter and swapped it out mid-game, so you can only use a single analog stick N64-style to control things. You'll get used to it eventually, but that change in control schemes can be jarring.

The other big change is in the new open-world setting. You're still sent to specific areas for missions from the mission board, but the story-based missions set you loose in an expansive world where gates are the only thing that block access. Many of the trappings of an open-world setting are here, from constant fighting to random items hidden in the field to a day-and-night cycle — albeit without a full weather system in place. You can traverse this by foot or use the stones to warp to and from each base to save time. What's new is the presence of miasma in many of the new ages. It acts like a timer in that you can only stay in the area for so long before dying due to poison exposure, and while you can cure it by activating small praying stones, those are few and far between, so exploring those areas needs to be done quickly.

The shift to an open world for the campaign changes things dramatically. Missions from the board that were already relegated to the background become even more marginalized, since you can fulfill some quests by going directly to the world. There are lots of unofficial side missions, including purifying warp stones so the miasma gets cleared away. The game also employs some asynchronous multiplayer in a few ways. There are specific chests in the world where you can dump items and randomly get something in return. As you roam, you'll find lone warriors going on sorties, and helping them in a fight gets them to join you temporarily on the field for more fights that aren't story-related. In some cases, you can even hold on to their player cards to summon them in the future. It doesn't completely fulfill the promise of an MMO-like monster-hunting game, but this does give you a glimpse of what that kind of take would look like.

Still, the open-world focus doesn't negate some of the issues that have been carried over from the first title. Load screens are prevalent between cut scenes, and they last for a while before disappearing, though it thankfully doesn't happen when traveling from one age to another. The introduction of new Oni seems to be paced well, but you will fight lots of the same ones for long stretches of time before a new one comes about. Main missions might have some variety, but all of the side-quests fall into the trap of you killing a set number of enemies or finding a set number of items. The new circumstances make them less dull than before, but the similarities can't be ignored.

Depending on your opinion concerning the open-world take on monster-hunting, you'll either love that the multiplayer feels more traditional or hate that it didn't take the same chances as the solo campaign. Though the missions all come from the campaign, progress is kept separate, so you will need to complete the missions again, either with a group of friends or solo. Completing those missions is also a prerequisite for getting into matches, since your progress gates you, and many online players are going after some high-phase missions. With that being said, the online performance is smooth, and the community size is pretty decent at the moment.

If you were expecting different graphics from the first PS4 entry, then you'll be left wanting. On the one hand, the graphical clarity from the first game is maintained here, even with the new open-world format. The frame rate is locked at 30 fps, no matter what's happening on-screen, and the camera seems to only misbehave when you're stuck between a cliff wall and an Oni. Character and monster designs are great, and while the game isn't swimming in particle effects, it can still look mighty impressive. You'll be reminded that this was an upscaled Vita or PS3 port due to a few things. Texture work on some objects can appear muddy, and there's no anti-aliasing. Also, while most of the animations are fine, they're more simplified during cut scenes, as mouths don't move and turning in place doesn't seem natural.

Beyond the different pieces used for the score, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that any changes were done to the audio. The score is still orchestral, with a soundtrack that can be best described as sweeping with a larger selection of pieces than before. The voices are all in Japanese, and the delivery is just as good as you'd expect from professional anime voice actors. The effects could still stand to have more impact, but they sound fine in the grand scheme of things.

Toukiden 2 does so many things right not only when compared to its predecessor but also when compared to the sub-genre as a whole. The addition of new weapons is welcome, but the Demon Hand makes combat and traversal feel much faster than before, making up for the lack of a deep combo system. The open world makes the experience feel more epic, since you don't always have to rely on missions to get some action, a fact that's strengthened by the lessened reliance on the mission board mechanic. The story remains engaging, and although the presentation could be better, it is better than most other games on the platform. Toukiden 2 is certainly one of the better monster-hunting games, and fans of the genre would do well to check it out.

Score: 8.5/10

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