Although far from original, Toukiden: Age of Demons proved a solid adversary for those games it had looked to mimic. It also proved that developer, Omega Force, could conjure up a new game series without having to lean on its well-established Warriors franchise.
For those unfamiliar with Toukiden, this is Koei Tecmo’s answer to the enduring popularity of Monster Hunter. With Capcom’s power-selling series gradually losing steam, at least having abandoned the home console space, there’s a landgrab underway with Toukiden 2 leading the charge.
As much as we liked the original game and its later port to PlayStation 4, there was something missing from that base formula. Despite its approachability and action-heavy combat, neither of these gave Toukiden the killer edge it needed to truly stand out. Like many new games entering this particular subgenre (God Eater, Soul Sacrifice, and Freedom Wars to name a few) it focused too much on emulating Monster Hunter instead of improving in areas where Capcom’s trailblazer had continued to fall short.
This time around, however, Omega Force has managed to expose its rival’s weak points. Instead of playing it safe with a cookie cutter sequel, the studio has gone away and seriously evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of, not only Toukiden, but the entire monster-hunting genre itself.
In response, Toukiden 2 shelves the archaic, often exhausting, segmented level design for a seamless open world. Now, instead of wading through setup menus, empty environments, and a barrage of a loading screens, players can cut straight to the action. Some constants remain, however, such as the need for a hub town. It’s here, in Mahoraba, where players can create and upgrade equipment while interacting with a growing cast of NPCs.
Pass through the main gates and you’ll enter Toukiden 2’s hunting grounds, a sizeable network of biomes cleverly stitched together. While there’s a bevy of story missions and side quests to be getting on with, players are free to do whatever takes their fancy. If you need Bladetail components to forge a new rifle or helmet, for example, you can simply make your way over to one of its various spawn points on the map.
At its core, Toukiden’s combat system is still fast-paced and frenetic. While smaller Oni act as fodder, larger demons require a bit more skill and coordination to bring down. Whaling on them with a series of basic and special attacks will just about work though there are plenty of advanced features to play around with. Chief among these is Toukiden 2’s Demon Hand. This new addition to the slayer arsenal can be used like a grappling hook, latching onto enemies and traversable terrain. In doing so allows players a variety of aerial options, adding a new layer to each of Toukiden’s weapon classes.
Speaking of weapons, there are now eleven different types, each with their own powers and movesets. Alongside originals such as the bow and club, slayers can now pick from the naginata, rifle, chain whip, and sword/shield. As you defeat Oni and cross off missions, a growing stockpile of materials can be channeled into creating or improving these weapons as well as armour for your character. There’s a welcome sense of depth to this system, allowing the more meticulous slayers to dig deeper and play around with certain stats and abilities. Raising attack and defence seems like an obvious choice, though some will also look to optimise advanced stats such as dexterity, aegis, and elemental affinity. Working out which Mitama – spirit-like beings – to equip adds yet another layer of customisation with hundreds of buffs to choose from.
Having that option there – to play casually or dig a little deeper – is perhaps what I find most appealing about Toukiden 2. Although there’s a slight learning curve, it’s easy to nail down the basics then mess around with whatever advanced mechanics and systems you find useful. The considerable buff given to AI party members also goes a long way, helping to speed up slightly duller portions of the game. They prove particularly useful when it comes to larger battles, and can even be ordered about using a simple command system. In fact, they’re so proficient that I never once felt a desperate need to search online for other players.
Compared to Age of Demons, there have been notable improvements to both visuals and performance. Although hardly breathtaking, there’s an aesthetic diversity to the range of environments you’ll explore and enemies you’ll fight, with the occasional eye-catching design or landmark. What’s more impressive is how everything has been neatly condensed into a sprawling open world with nary a loading screen in sight. It’s a welcome technical stride for the series, though one that puts the PlayStation Vita version of Toukiden 2 a step behind its PS4 and PC counterpart, unless you consider portability key.
In short, Toukiden 2 is everything a sequel should be. Instead of lazily expanding on the original game, which would have been so easy to do, Omega Force actually went back to the drawing board, completely reinventing those parts that needed work. By streamlining much of the dull admin and encasing the game in a larger open world, Toukiden 2 manages to break free from the pack. As a result, it’s easily one of the subgenre’s best entries to date and one that, in some ways, is preferable to Monster Hunter.
Versions tested: PlayStation 4 Pro, PlayStation Vita