Thursday 27 February 2014

Toukiden: The Age of Demons

Before it’s release the hype around Toukiden: The Age of Demons was that it was going to be the PS Vita's Monster Hunter, with some going as far as to say that it would bolster the PS Vita amid disappointing sales. It was clear that the hand-held needed a must-have title, and with an actual Monster Hunter title hitting Japan sometime this year, it needed that must-have title now. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite sold 5.41 million copies on the PSP, and remains the highest selling entry in the franchise, so I guess we can't blame Toukiden for attempting a Monster Hunter impersonation. Then again, as far as impersonations go, this does it pretty damn well.

Developed by Omega Force who are most widely known for their critically acclaimed Dynasty Warriors series, Toukiden: Age of Demons has landed on the PS Vita. Toukiden is set in a fantasy world that borrows heavily from medieval Japan. The plot focuses on Oni Slayers, demon hunters whose sole reason to exist is to kill demons. After demon activity begins to increase, the player, taking the role of a new Oni Slayer recruit, is sent to help with the problem. Your mission is to kill the demons outside and around the small village of Utakata, and ultimately prevent the demon menace from destroying the mortal world.

Much like Monster Hunter, Toukiden is a third person hack-and-slash game with a heavy emphasis on customization. But before you set out into the hunting areas, the player is introduced to the village. This village is your centre of operations between hunts, and is the only truly safe location in the game, much like the safe haven that was the Save Room in Resident Evil. The most important aspect of the village is that this is where you will find and accept missions, which naturally focus on hunting a particular demon. These hunts come in many forms too, with some aimed at hunting small minions, while others require the player to face off against huge, hulking strong foes. Also accessible in the village are the vast customization options. They allow the player to tailor their armour, skills and weapons according to their own taste. Beyond the nicely in-depth character creation tools at the start of the game, there are enough weapons and amour in Toukiden to make your character look somewhat unique.

But the real meat of the game is in the battles. Using a simple lock-on, evade and attack formula, on the surface Toukiden doesn't seem to be doing anything new. However, there are six types of weapons (Long Sword, Twin Blades, Bow, Spear, Gauntlets and Kusarigama) with each style having its very own move-set. This opens battling up into a very multi-layered and ever changing experience. Furthermore, by drawing mitama (souls) from dead foes the player is able to upgrade certain abilities back at the village, with these often proving vital during certain battles.

The player can also choose to team up with a group of fighters either consisting of AI or real players connected via ad-hoc. This is when the game truly shines, as there's nothing quite like working together to take down a huge demon during a boss battle. A smart player will go for the demons limbs first, cut them off, stop them from regenerating, then and only then go in for the kill. This dismemberment mechanic is incredibly fun, and beyond the expected enjoyment there is to be had with cutting off these demons' limbs, it can also get quite tactical.

Visually it isn't the best on offer in the PS Vita's library, but it looks pretty great throughout, especially during the epic boss battles. From the safe village of Utakata that you'll find yourself just resting in from time to time, to the hunting grounds that are littered with imaginatively designed demons, Toukiden looks lovely on the crisp, bright PS Vita screen. 

Overall Toukiden pretty much rips off Monster Hunter- and that that's OK. At least it rips it off in an interesting way, which ultimately makes for a fun, challenging and excellent portable experience. Add this to the ever-rising pile of why you should consider buying a PS Vita.

Toukiden: Age of Demons slays the competition and is awarded 4/5[]

Denis Murphy

Toukiden: The Age of Demons at CeX

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