Sweet As Syrup: Toukiden 2 Review

I’ve made it no secret that I love Japanese games, especially ones that play like Monster Hunter. These Monster Hunter “clones” are one of the reasons I started this blog, and to this date dominate the subject of a ton of my posts. So, I thought today I’ll go back and revisit a series I haven’t touched in nearly 2 years. Today I wish to discuss the new Toukiden game, Toukiden 2. Is it better than the original? Did it change anything? Are the fox creatures still cute? Find out in this review!

Also, I’d like to give a shout-out to moco1982, who’s website you can find here. Moco was the one mentioned this game to me, and he’s the reason I got it. I originally had no plans on getting a new Toukiden game, but after both buying and play it, I am extremely glad I did!

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I’m getting some MMO vibes from this…

Background Information

Toukiden 2 was an action RPG made for the PS Vita, PS3 (In Japan only), PS4, and PC. It was released in Japan mid-way through 2016, and was recently released in North America just last month. The game was developed by Omega Force, a company known for their work on Dynasty Warriors and its many spin-offs. The game was published by Tecmo-Koei and is the company’s second attempt at a Hunter-like game series. The company’s first foray into the genre was with the lesser-known title “Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce”.

Plot

The game starts off 10 years before the plot of the main game. You are a soldier, under the command of the great general Kuyo. During an attack by monsters, a gigantic demon appears and sends you tumbling through time into the current day. You arrive a few years after the events of the first game, in a brand new village. The village you’ve arrived in is dealing with various problems, including in-fighting between “Insiders” and “Outsiders”, as well as the ongoing threat posed by the Oni.

Not long into the game, you are introduced to the enigmatic Professor and her machine doll known as “Tokitsugu”. While the game boasts many varied characters, I found these two to be the most interesting and entertaining. I especially love the Professor and her overtly eccentric nature. He was such a blast to have as a supporting character, especially compared to a lot of the bland characters that showed up in the first few games.

While I liked the general setup of the plot, it left a lot to be desired in the long run. The first half of the game presents the in-fighting between the town’s two main factions in a rather realistic and unique light. Their rivalries felt like they had a purpose and showed the two clashing ideologies very well. The problem is that halfway through the game, suddenly a generic antagonist shows up. You can tell he’s the villain and your ultimate threat.

All of this interesting in-fighting and politics gets shoved aside for a generic “Let’s save the world” plot line that feels like they copy-pasted it from the last game. The game’s starting quarrel is resolved haphazardly at the end, while the new plot takes center stage. It feels like the game writers wanted to do two different plots, and both of them got mashed together into this unidentifiable substance.

While I did enjoy that first half of the plot, the forgettable second half really soured the mood for me. It’s not an overtly long main questline, so I never really felt like I stuck trudging through the second half all that much. I feel the game’s plot is just so-so, with two different arcs of varying quality. However, the plot of the game is only one part of the whole package. How does the gameplay hold up?

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Shusuke will forever be remembered at that one guy who got eaten by a giant lizard. Upon his tombstone shall read “Tastes like chicken!”

Gameplay

Toukiden 2 is a game that may be deceiving at first glance. One may think that this is just another Monster Hunter clone, since all of the trappings are there. After all, this is a tird-person action RPG with a focus on slaying monsters and gaining new materials to craft weapons and armor. However, if you thought this was just another generic clone, you’d be mistaken.

Toukiden 2 manages to not only improve on the last two games, but also make some great additions to the genre as a whole! The game now boasts a fully realized open-world! You can now venture across the countryside in order to slay monsters, which is much appreciated. The game starts off by only giving you access to a few sections of the open-world at first, but they gradually open up as you play through the game.

The open-world is littered with a ton of side-quests and different events. Sadly, a lot of the side-quests are just meaningless fetch-quests. Sometimes, you’ll find a quest that does expand the lore a bit, but those are few and far between. Some side-quests can feel a bit tedious as well, especially the one at the start of the game which sends you out to look for three brothers, all scattered about across the land.

One annoyance that I found with the new open-world system, is the “Miasma” system. You see, early into the game you are sent into the Other-World. This is a dimension where demons reside, and as a result it’s filled with deadly miasma. Too much of it will instantly kill your character on the spot. Normally, this is easy to work around. You’ll usually have enough time to get to where you need to be long before the miasma takes you. On top of this, there are ways to purify your body and slow down the miasma gauge.

So, what’s the problem then? The problem comes with the exploration of the Other-World itself. You see, the game doesn’t have any real indication that you are about to go over your miasma level, aside from the gauge itself. This means you need your eyes trained on the corner of the screen at all times, which can get annoying. This can be especially troublesome if you’re running through an area where the miasma is high and run out of stamina. You see, when the miasma meter turns red, your stamina loses its regenerate. This means that once you enter these areas and are far enough in, you won’t be able to run back out in time to save yourself. This can make exploring the Other-World quite a chore.

The open-world also introduces special events called “Joint Operations”. During these missions, you’ll stumble across a Slayer or a fox-like creature known as a “Tenko”. After doing these Joint Operations, you’ll be joined by either of these beings. Slayers will only follow you temporarily, but will act as a fifth party member of your team. This can help in more difficult battles, when needing a fifth party member feels like a necessity.

Upon being rescued, Tenkos will leave the field and go over to your house. At that point, you can feed them and even change their voices or pelt color. They can even join you on missions, though they can’t actually attack anything. You can even equip them with Mitama that will give you extra bonuses in combat. Joint Operations are something that I felt was overall fairly rewarding. They were nice little instances that let you acquire temporary allies, or even adorable pets. I especially liked the changes made to the Tenko system, who were originally only there to gather items in the first two games.

That begs the question, who gathers items for you now? Well, in this game you are given Machina Dolls. They are like the Tenkos from the first game, but have the ability to be upgraded. At the start of the game, Machina Dolls will be nearly useless. They will fail missions 9 times out of 10, unless you fully upgrade them. This means a lot of material farming if you want your Machina in tip-top shape. Speaking of farming, the game mostly avoids this. Aside from upgrading Machina, I never really found myself farming for items and materials all that much.

Now, let’s discuss the main selling point of this game: The combat. The combat remains mostly unchanged from the past 2 games. There are a few new weapon types, and each new weapon gains a few new attacks. Battles still playing in the third-person, with you and 3-4 allies going up against monsters of varying sizes. The game sadly doesn’t introduce a whole lot of new bosses. Sure there are some mini-bosses, and about a dozen new bosses, but the game still feels lacking when it comes down to opponents. This is even more annoying when you take into account the fact that a lot of bosses from Kiwami didn’t make the cut.

Some of my favorite monsters from Kiwami, such as Metagnost and Mynx are noticeably absent. This is even more annoying when you realize that most of the cut bosses are available only as DLC. Worse still, they are only available in purchasable missions, and never appear in the open-world itself. While the game does introduce some new bosses, the variety just feels lacking.

What does add variety is the various weapons and ways to approach combat. With 11 different weapon types, it’s not hard to find something that will fit your play-style. The developers took this one step further and added in a sort of sub-weapon called a “Demon Hand”. The Demon Hand allows you to latch onto enemies and pull them towards you, or smash them into the ground. The Demon Hand can lead to some great combat tactics and feels like a fantastic addition to the game!

Another new feature added to combat is that you can now completely destroy the limbs of giant demons. While it’s true that in previous games you could chop the limbs off of an enemy, they would create a translucent duplicate that acts as a replacement. This meant that no matter how many limbs you cut off, they would simply grow back. However, with the Demon Hand, you can now completely eradicate the limbs of an enemy demon! It’s almost kind of heartbreaking to watch a giant demon spider flail about with no limbs. Then you remember that these demons have exterminated a fair portion of the human race, and all of that pity just disappears.

Last thing I want to talk about is the hub-town. This place is gigantic, and I love it! It’s got some unique looking buildings, but also houses a variety of fun and interesting NPCs. Activities from previous games are all available here, such as the Pool of Purity, or the various item shops available to player. There isn’t a whole lot for the player to do here, but the fact the player needs to use the services provided here gives you an excuse to return back to town when you can.

I generally felt the gameplay was a step up from the first two games. While combat remains mostly the same, I found the addition of things like the new weapon types and Demon Hands to be a welcome change. The open world introduced by this game feels vast and unique, despite the fact that it feels woefully underpopulated in terms of unique monsters. The miasma system can also be a nuisance at times, as well. Generally though, I felt that the game really shined in what it was trying to accomplish. It’s an open world RPG where you hunt monsters, and I feel it delivered on those elements despite its shortcomings.

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Howl’s Moving Castle, eat your heart out!

Visual Stimuli

The game looks pretty good, primarily on Vita. I haven’t played the other versions, so I’m basing all my opinions off of this iteration. Honestly, everything looks pretty good and is well-designed. Faces can look a bit weird at times during CGI cut-scenes though. The Professor’s face in particular always looked strangely alien to me during these scenes, as if we weren’t meant to see her in such detail. I can’t really put my finger on it, she just gives off an uncanny valley look.

The music is decent, but it’s nothing that will really stick with you after playing the game. There’s nothing super heart-pounding when it comes to the soundtrack, nothing that really feels too grandiose. It’s good enough that its easy to listen to, but it’s more than likely none of it will get stuck in your head.

The game uses the Japanese audio track, and they do their job very well. I especially love Tokitsugu’s voice and how well his voice actor emotes. Oddly enough, I’m glad this game series doesn’t have English audio. It feels natural to have all of these Japanese characters speak in their native language. Characters are well designed and look nice, with lots of them varying wildly in appearance. There was never a character in the game that I felt looked exactly like the other. Likewise, I enjoyed the visual flair given to each piece of armor in the game. This allowed the armors to look very different from each other, and made them feel wholly unique.

The game runs pretty well most of the time. It caps at about 30 frames per second on the Vita, and runs smoothly with little lag. I have noticed several glitches or bugs in the game, but nothing game-breaking. A glitch that really annoyed me was one that made it so characters don’t appear right away. You have no idea how annoying it is to go to the blacksmith, only to have him mysteriously absent with no explanation.

While the game does have some performance issues here or there, it wasn’t anything that soured the mood too much. Designs were varied, even if some of them looked a bit awkward during CGI cut-scenes. All in all, I felt the production values for this game were great, despite the shortcomings. Koei and Omega Force will definitely have to polish the game up more for when they eventually come out with Toukiden 3.

 

In Conclusion

The game was good, and a definite improvement over its predecessors. It adds an open world, some new gameplay mechanics, as well as some elements to help crafting be less of a chore. However, it does have some graphical issues and bugs, a lack of new and original bosses, and a story that’s too short and unfocused. The big question is this: Is this game as sweet as syrup? I find it hard to say if it is or isn’t. It’s a great game, but it certainly has issues.

I enjoyed my time with the game and still play it, but I still have trouble saying that it was as sweet as syrup or not. I recommend this game to people who like Monster Hunter or games that play like it. I especially recommend this game to people who always wanted to play an open-world version of Monster Hunter. However, I feel like people who don’t play these kinds of games may not get as much enjoyment out of them. In short: Great game, but difficult to recommend.

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