Toukiden 2 Review
It seems like decades ago now, playing Toukiden on my PS Vita. The game was one of the knock-off Monster Hunter clones that swarmed to Sony's handheld after Nintendo claimed the Monster Hunter series as its own, but it was actually pretty good. Heavily Japanese in style and tone, the game was a lot of fun for the first dozen or so hours. After that, grinding extremely long battles for monster parts and seeing palette-swapped enemies allowed me to put the game down and move onto something else. Now that the sequel has arrived on the PS4, it's time to revisit the series and see how this second entry shapes up.
The story here, though full of gaming tropes, is actually decent, and certainly an improvement on the first game. A group called the Slayers actively protects their lands from oni, aka giant devils and monsters. It seems that during a fight in the town of Yokohama, a promising new Slayer goes missing. Skip ahead ten years and that promising Slayer, you, reemerges to once again battle the oni. Did I mention amnesia? Because, of course, you've got it. Imagine for a second that games reflect real life; everyone would have to live like Guy Pierce in Memento to deal with a mass outbreak of memory loss. Anyway, the story begins as you wake up in Mahoroba, a simple town that will become your base of operations as you fight oni and regain your memory. While the setup is good, the story spends most of the time on the bench as the game focuses on the fights themselves, and the dialogue... yikes. Whether a localization problem or a bad script is to blame we'll never know, but the dialogue is so cheesy and trite it almost makes you wish there was no story at all. So I guess we take one step forward with the story, and a step back with the dialogue.
You remember how I mentioned I played the original game on Vita? Yeah, so you can imagine the presentation improvement between what I was used to and how things are now on the more powerful PS4 console. The graphics and sound retain the feel of the original, but pumped up to 11 with HD visuals and a super smooth framerate. This isn't the game you use to show off the power of the PS4, but it's such a marked improvement over the original that it still gets a thumbs-up from me.
Really the biggest change from the original is the way the game is played. Instead of having a Monster Hunter-style hub where you take quests, craft and buy items, you have a completely open world to deal with in this sequel. This makes the game feel more like a traditional RPG than a hunting RPG, but it's a refreshing twist on the formula I actually enjoyed. There are also side-quests now as well, though most of them are "go here, kill that" or "bring me x item". While fetch quests usually leave a bad taste in my mouth, these were actually a welcome distraction and provided some decent rewards.
The other main addition to the game is the Demon Hand. This piece of equipment works with whatever weapon you may be using, generating a giant hand to pull you toward (or away from) anything that might be too close for comfort. This speeds up gameplay considerably and really adds a sense of environmental mastery to the fights and exploration. It can even be charged up and unleashed on an oni, permanently removing one of its limbs or parts.
Oh, I didn't mention that? The way the monster fights are handled is that you are tasked with removing limbs and appendages to cause damage and harvest items. This was a cool gimmick in the first game, but with the Demon Hand in the sequel, it becomes even more entertaining. There is something that is unbelievably satisfying about hacking off a number of a giant spider's legs before using the Demon Hand to remove the last one and finish the fight. And since items are harvested from oni to make better gear and weapons, figuring out what to cut off and which enemy to battle next adds a strategy component that drives you to keep playing.
By speeding things up with the Demon Hand and turning genre conventions on their head by making the game open world, Toukiden 2 succeeds in so many areas where the original had failed. The dialogue is absolutely awful, but the story is another nice addition and sets the game apart from its contemporaries. Though I tend to think hunting RPGs are a much better fit for a handheld than a console, Toukiden 2 still impresses in ways the original game never foreshadowed. If you are a monster hunter at heart and want to try something a bit different, you could do a whole lot worse that Toukidan 2.
Final Rating: 78% - For those who are monster hunters at heart.