Toukiden: The Age of Demons Review

toukiden-featured

My first monster hunting game was Monster Hunter on the PSP. I didn’t like how hard it was, or how long it took, or really anything to do with it. It wasn’t that the game was bad, it was just ‘not my thing’ at the time, and in a way, not my thing now. However, titles like Soul Sacrifice and Gods Eater Burst have me hook, line and sinker, and with that in mind, I decided to give Toukiden: The Age of Demons a go.

The strongest reaction to this game I’ve had thus far is ‘meh’.

Tecmo Koei need to change their art style, or their engine, or whatever it is they’re using to reduce what could be interesting character models to soulless mannequins and monsters to the doodling of a bored teen. Their games end up having the same problem that Final Fantasy started having at FF X in that they’re graphically competent but utterly artless – aesthetics might not be everything, but hell, ‘visually interesting/engrossing’ are phrases for a reason. It’s not like they can’t do it either – look at Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.

**

Hello big ass spider.

Unfortunately, this sense of uninspired competence permeates throughout Tookilookiden. I tried to explain it to someone the other day, but couldn’t really find a way to get past ‘it’s a monster hunting game’. When asked what made it different from other, more recognisable titles like Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice and Gods Eater Burst, I struggled immensely. I’m not saying it’s not different, because it definitely is, but only because of what it lacks rather than what it provides.

You are a new hunter to the village of [insert name here], and the monsters (oni) are wrecking things up because of something something time and space converging something, and the village is protected by [magic], and the clock is ticking on humanities survival. You are the [chosen one] and there is just something super dandy about you, and you will save the day by fighting monsters. There are supporting characters, whose names are [something] and have [cliche characteristics that anyone who’s even heard of anime will be able to spot are bland].

See, here’s the thing – monster hunting games are like MMO’s or RPG’s – you go out, you kill the thing, you get items or grow levels or whatever, and there needs to be incentive to continually carry out the cycle. In the case of something like Monster Hunter, because the cycle is vicious, and battles are hard, the thing that keeps you going is the minutiae and the challenge. You might have to collect butterflies or catch fish, and you might be fighting one enormous enemy for an hour. This enemy will run away at times, and you gotta haul arse and catch them. It puts the ‘hunt’ into ‘monster hunting’. With something like Soul Sacrifice, there is a story-based reward – you fight the thing, you get told more of an interesting and trippy tale.

Tokipokiden, on the other hand, gives you almost nothing. You get to upgrade your weapons and armour, and the story is so utterly mindless I can almost guarantee you will skip it. Monsters are incredibly tedious to fight, and from the lowliest oni (with such inspirations as a balloon thing made of fire and an imp) to a giant spider, none of these creatures ever feel like the pose a threat. They all have that same, ‘weightless’ quality where you know that all they are is an obstacle to hit, rather than a monster to slay. At no point am I nervous, at no point do I feel as though my play-style matters.

And that’s probably the games biggest problem – the thing that makes this game ‘different’ is the mitamas. They’re souls of warriors who have been devoured by oni (seriously, every single one of these guys, when collected, will say ‘oh I was fighting and I got swallowed whole! every, time), and you equip them to the weapons you wield. They give you a different range of skill sets – a strength mitama will allow you to cast a spell to hit harder or to gain life after hitting an enemy, and so on with things like speed, and magic, and defense.

However, besides these elements all having different colours, it’s almost impossible to tell what difference they make in battle. If you don’t look up what each of the different moves do, I doubt you’d notice what the effect of what you were doing was, and this is a huge let-down in a genre where that is the only thing that speaks to your style.

**

“I’m bored already”

Other than that, the only way to distinguish yourself is your weaponry. Feel free to choose from sword, sickle, gauntlets, pike/spear and bow. They have light, heavy and special attacks. I am yet to find a tactical or strategic reason to switch up these attacks besides not dying of pressing square too many times. Also, I’m falling asleep just writing about it.

I am hesitant to call Topliklopikenden a bad game, because there’s nothing particularly bad about it – mechanically its sound (besides some issues with the lock-on aim) and it has enough monsters and plot to be serviceable. If it was a cafe, it’d be the kind of cafe where you have to pick your own food up at the counter – more focused on delivering what it has to as opposed to providing some sense of service and experience.

  • PS Vita

The Verdict

If you’re after a monster hunting game, there are better titles out there. Definitely try before you buy.
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