Toukiden: The Age of Demons Review

Gaming

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Toukiden: The Age of Demons
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Price: $39.99 – Available Here

Overview
While the PlayStation Vita has a number of exceptional titles in its library, including RPGs, visual novels and other types of games, there is a certain type of game many people have been hoping for but still haven’t received. Now Omega Force, the team best known for their work with the Dynasty Warriors series, has stepped in to try and fill that gap with Toukiden: The Age of Demons by giving gamers something refreshingly different to play. Now the question is, were they successful in this task?

Story
In the world of Toukiden, demons, or as they are called in Toukiden, Oni, are a constant threat to mankind. Humanity has been struggling against these powerful enemies and only the elite Slayers are capable of defeating these monsters and purifying the land. Players take the role of a fresh Slayer that is assigned to protect the small town of Utakata, one of the last bastions of defense for humanity that is right on the front lines.

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Despite their precarious position, the village is protected by a priestess named Kikka capable of putting up a powerful barrier to protect its residents and give the Slayers a chance to recover between missions. However when the Slayers begin to realize that the previously disorganized Oni have begun attacking in waves and using elements of strategy to put the village at risk, the fight for survival becomes harder than ever.

Toukiden: The Age of Demon’s storyline starts out pretty strong and the cast of named characters that occupy Utakata have some interesting backgrounds and hints of a story, none of it is really explored to any major length. It is possible to grow a bit closer with allies by completing side missions and fighting alongside them but many of their developments are story oriented and even then the story doesn’t expand much further than simply slaying your way through the ranks of countless Oni to protect the village from its current threat.

Gameplay
As a Slayer, players have six different types of weapons they can bring into combat; a sword, dual knives, a spear, gauntlets, a chain & sickle, and a bow and arrow set. While players can find themselves preferring a certain weapon type over others since each set has different attack patterns, special abilities and power attacks, sometimes it is necessary to change your attack patterns to fit your opponents.

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You see, when players are preparing to set out on a mission, which is accepted in Utakata Village, they are often told or shown a picture of what type of enemy they will be mostly facing off against. While smaller Oni are less threatening and can usually be dispatched with any type of weapon, the larger far more dangerous Oni will require not only team work to take down but some preparation as well since some weapons fair better against certain types of large Oni than others.

Swords, gauntlets and other power weapons are great for dealing large amounts of damage but many of their attacks are low to the ground while a bow and arrow, dual knives, or chain & sickle provide a variety of attack options. The reason this is important is that large Oni are the most difficult challenge that players will face off against as they not only can unleash devastating attacks, but they are extremely resistant to punishment and hacking off limbs or other pieces of their body is required to weaken and ultimately defeat them.

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That doesn’t even touch upon the fact that each Oni has a certain type of element that they are weak and strong against, which means to prepare for some of the tougher battles players may need to tweak their equipment to properly face their foe since Toukiden does not pull any punches when it comes to enemy difficulty. This is alleviated somewhat by the fact that players resurrect themselves a small number of times without failing and with the help of Mitama.

Mitama are the trapped souls of heroic figures from Japanese history that have been consumed by the Oni and can only be freed by the player slaying these Oni. Many of the Mitama players collect will be from storyline enemies, though normal Oni have a very small chance of dropping one as well. These Mitama can be equipped to weapons and each one comes with different stat boosts as well as four abilities that can be used a number of times in battle. These abilities range from attack boosting, to healing, to trapping, to all kinds of different elements as there are over two hundred different Mitama in the game that can be leveled up through continuous use.

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Speaking of leveling up and equipment, as mentioned before it is important to make sure you are properly prepared for your fights in Toukiden and to do this players will need to forge new pieces of equipment using items acquired from defeated Oni as well as upgrade their current equipment to strengthen themselves against the powerful Oni. All equipment is strong against certain element types and upgrading weaponry can also add more Mitama slots, allowing for additional stat boosts that aid the player in battle.

You will not face the Oni alone, though there are a few missions that do force the player into this challenge, as many story missions will allow the player to take up to three fellow Slayers with them into combat and most of the time they are up to the player to decide. The ally AI is relatively intelligent as they will be quick to assist a player in need and will also target weakened large Oni, however they are usually pretty poor at coordinating their attacks on specific body parts.

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This is where the online or ad-hoc multiplayer comes in. Players have the ability to team up with three other players to complete various missions online, a number of which are only available online, which allows for a more cohesive fighting unit capable of defeating enemies a bit easier than with the AI as not only are players more likely to be better equipped but will know an enemy’s weaknesses right from the start. Also loot is given to every player in the game and not singled out, making it a fun way to battle without sacrificing item gathering.

There is a reason for that last point and unfortunately it isn’t a good one. Repetition is a very major problem with Toukiden. There are a fair number of enemies to face off against but the number of large Oni types are fairly limited and while it might be interesting to fight against one the first few times, by the tenth time these foes can be seen as more of a chore than anything else. The same can be said for the game’s mission types which always fall into the kill a certain number of an Oni type, slay this large Oni, or clear an area. The game feels like it falls into a crutch at times like this where repetition becomes a major hindrance to the amount of time the player will want to sit and play at any given time.

Visuals & Audio
While the PlayStation Vita has always been a very capable handheld in the graphics department, few games have been able to harness that power as well as Toukiden: The Age of Demons manages to. There is an extensive amount of detail on every character model and all of the various pieces of equipment that the player acquires. The Oni are just as detailed, though again they suffer some repetition and palette swaps, and the environments are absolutely gorgeous.

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The voice work in the game is Japanese only with English text but this isn’t too much of a problem as the voice work is nicely handled and fitting considering how steeped in classic Japanese artwork and architecture the game is. As for the background music, the battle themes are fitting and generally make battles as enjoyable as they can be, though they tend to take a back-seat to the action.

Overall
Toukiden: The Age of Demons offers an exquisite looking action game where players can take on numerous Oni of all different sizes with either three other AI or three other players. There are even times when players face off against two large Oni at the same time, forcing the player to always think on their feet and prepare themselves using the extensive equipment customization system. A few poor design decisions and repetitious gameplay do hinder Toukiden from being an excellent game, but it is still a highly enjoyable title with a few shining elements that make it worthwhile.

8-0-capsules-out-of-10
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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