Toukiden: The Age of Demons Review (PS Vita): “An attempt to slay the demons that plague the Vita”

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Toukiden is not your typical hack-and-slash Japanese demon-killing learning experience and innuendo ridden game – but then again what is? Toukiden takes a multitude of different games we have come to love and mixes them together to create a melting pot of action. Does this melting pot give a delectable flavor complete with a sultry aftertaste you’ll keep coming back to? Or will it result in a lackluster essence giving a residual bitter sting?

Story: 4/5

Toukiden takes place in what can only be assumed as middle-aged Japan, however the overall time frame of the game takes place over a few hundred years. This is because Toukiden uses real-life characters with small bits of information about their lives to attempt to teach us something about history. Much like the Dynasty Warriors series, this is a unique and interesting concept, but ultimately falls short delivering only small pieces of intriguing information which then gets altered to fit within the contents of the game. Never fret however, as Toukiden isn’t based around any of these stories; it actually has a fairly curious path of its own.

Eight years ago, the mysterious land of Japan was overrun by a mysterious horde of demons, called Oni. These Oni appeared almost out of nowhere, consuming people’s souls and wreaking havoc across the land. A few individuals were able to hold their own against the demons, calling themselves Slayers and attempting to take back their beloved homeland. You play as a Slayer, a unique one at that, capable of bonding to multiple spirits that have been consumed by the Oni, only to be released by defeating them. These spirits are called Mitama and are the same characters based off of real people. You use these Mitama in your quest to eradicate the Oni from Japan, slaying them one by one.

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Don’t worry however; you’re not alone as you have a whole crew of different allies to choose from to aid in your quests. Each ally has their own story, which you will discover as you progress throughout the campaign. Most are attempted tear-jerkers riddled with small innuendos and some pretty awkward comedy. Even so, I found myself trying even harder to destroy a boss when I knew it had taken everything from my friend.

In the end, the story doesn’t exactly stand out as incredible, but it does deliver more than most games of this nature. The logic in the game actually makes sense and characters really have some feeling to them if you open yourself to enjoying the small take-aways between missions. I will admit that just as the story was starting to get repetitive, it shook things up on me in a pleasant surprise to fuel me further into the battles. But really, you’re not playing this game for the story. Like any hack and slash rpg – you’re playing to kill sh—hhhhtuff.

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Gameplay: 4/5

Where Toukiden really shines is the focus on teamwork incorporated into its gameplay. There are four slots for slayers in each quest and working together is absolutely essential. Thankfully, the game supports a completely integrated online mode complete with separate quests from the main game (you can also choose to tackle these solo if you wish). Each slayer can equip themselves with three main components: a weapon, armor and mitama.

The weapons in Toukiden took some getting used to, but after using each one consistently, I found that they were extremely well designed. You can choose from a sword, capable of inflicting major damage fast; knives, delivering focused damage quickly at any range, height or area; spear which is an extremely precise and powerful weapon; gauntlets which are nothing short of overpowered hammerfists capable of weakening a demon for others; a chain and sickle which keeps consistent damage at a safe range until you want to get up close and personal; and a bow which delivers deadly area attacks from afar.

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Armor plays a pivotal role in keeping you alive. Each is equipped with resistances (sky, earth, fire, water, wind) and for the first time in a while, I felt that the resistances actually made a difference. Certain armor combinations will also give you minor boosts such as defense, attack or precision strikes; but since you have no way of figuring out which combinations give boosts (other than full matching sets) you’ll be stuck guessing.

The real boosts come from equipped mitama. Each weapon will allow you to socket 1 to 3 Japanese figures, each holding locked powers waiting to be discovered. Mitama offer a wide variety of boosts which unlock as you level them up but their primary use is for their skills. There are multiple types of mitama: attack, defense, luck, speed, deceit, healing, spirit and special. Each has four limited skills you can choose to use which vary from attack boosts to invisibility areas, to recovering ally’s health and stamina. Using these wisely in a group is extremely essential to completing a mission. As there are no items you can bring into battle with you, you’re limited by what skills you can use. Choose a deceit mitama and you’re out of luck for healing (except that each mitama has one healing skill no matter what). Choose a defense mitama and you may never get that attack boost you need at vital moments.

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Using these three types of equipment conscious of what you are fighting is vital to success and should not be taken lightly – a form of strategy often lost in action games on this level of detail. So once you’re geared up and you have your reliable buddies with you, it’s time to take it to the battlefield. Missions usually consist of you tracking down a large boss Oni across a sectioned map. Once you’ve found that Oni, it’s not as simple as merely attacking it to kill it. Each large Oni has a defensive spirit gauge which you will need to whittle down before you can actually damage them. You can go about doing this sporadically, by attacking it wherever you feel, or you can use your mind’s eye to locate breakable points on the Oni. Attack these areas (usually limbs or horns) and they will break off, largely reducing the spirit gauge and bringing you closer to inflicting real damage. Also, this leaves that destroyed part vulnerable, with the ability to inflict more damage for the rest of the battle. As an added bonus, most breakable parts will fall off and lay on the ground, allowing you to purify them and collect a reward which you can use to build armor or weapons. You’ll have to be quick however, as the Oni will attempt to reclaim its lost part before you do!

Due to the spirit gauge, battles can last a very long time as constant damage needs to be dealt in order to keep the gauge at bay. A highly coordinated team however would have no problem focusing on a part, destroying it and wreaking havoc only to repeat the process and have the monster defeated in no time (all the while collecting parts for everyone – what one person gets, we all get!). This means that playing by yourself can be a long and tedious process, especially when farming specific monsters – which you will do. A lot. This is in part because some items needed for weapons or armor are very rare, but primarily because there are only a handful of large Oni to face. The game slowly introduces you to different Oni, but by the time you’ve reached the end of the story, you’ll realize you’re just seeing re-skins of previously fought foes. Re-skins are not necessarily a bad thing, they allow the developers to increase the difficulty with a known enemy so you have some sort of base to go off of – it’s a way of increasing the player’s skill. However, a larger repertoire of monsters should be had before re-skins are introduced, and sadly Toukiden falls suspect to this majorly. Not only does this create a very repetitive game, fighting the same monsters over and over due to the lack of options, but it also limits the amount of equipment you can create, ultimately reducing the game’s replay value.

Nonetheless, the gameplay is satisfying and even more gratifying when playing with others which should help reduce the monotony. There’s nothing quite like heading out with three friends to completely dismember a giant demon.

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Graphics: 5/5

The Playstation Vita is a powerful machine, and we really have yet to see many games that take advantage of that. Luckily, Toukiden is just on that line of awesome. The visuals do their best to “pop” as much as possible, though it is set in a real-world appearance, setting some limits to the extremes we’ve seen in other games. However, this doesn’t take away from the experience. The more lifelike visuals make the details of the monsters, characters, armor and weapons all more riveting. Even small bands, shapes and specifics in equipment will show and remind you that you are playing on a superior device. While I wanted more from the element effects on weapons, I can’t deny that I was able to pick up on them and many other visual effects mid-battle, while all the madness was still going on. There are many “mood changes” throughout playing and you can easily experience that just by noticing the slight offsets created by the environments.

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Sound: 3/5

The soothing music in the town and battle music are wonderful at creating different emotions throughout the gameplay. However, weapon effects, monster screams and other miscellaneous sounds tend to fall short of what I desired from the game after seeing the visuals. There’s nothing quite like hearing the same repetitive *shink* noise coming from every weapon as you use it; or listening to the same monster’s roar over and over to really remind you that you’re just playing a game. More variety is definitely welcomed, but at least what is there is quality. Keep in mind that the characters all speak Japanese – but even though I don’t know what they’re saying, I could tell what they were thinking. I really don’t recommend a high quality headset to accompany your Vita for this game, but stick to the standard speakers on the Vita and you should be fine.

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Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Overall, Toukiden is a quickly addictive but potentially limited experience. The ability to team up with other real players is an absolute must, as cooperative gameplay is strongly suggested. Just don’t plan on collecting too much in the way of armor and weapons, or at least plan on spending a lot of time farming the same monsters.

Pros:

-Cooperative gameplay
-Well thought out weapons and skills
-Strategy required to really succeed

Cons:

-Little variety. In everything.
-Quests can take a very long time

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Toukiden: The Age of Demons! Copy reviewed on PS Vita.

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  • Dagger_32

    Oh man, why did you have to post this?

    The game looks fantastic. Very nice review. I might end up picking this up sooner, rather than later.
    (Really though, good job on this review, it is all professional and shit. Not that I would expect any less, I love the format, and the 16/20= 8/10)

    • VengefulTorture

      Thanks! I whipped it up this past weekend as fast as i could lol. I’m hoping i hit all the points i wanted to; though really it could’ve went like this:
      “Looks like MH, plays like MH. Not MH.”

      I think you should grab it, i need more hunting buddies and honestly this game really depends on that (for a number of reasons)

  • TheDude79

    Great review! Sounds like this game is most enjoyable when played with others. I think I’m going to wait to see how many people on my friends list get it! Thanks!