I have a really odd relationship with games like Monster Hunter, Ragnarok Odyssey, and more that centre around going out on quests and hunting down monsters, with little-to-no plot or significant writing. You just hunt, because it’s fun. Typically, I find myself buying games like these and only playing them for an hour or two at a time every other month. That seems like a waste of money, but it never feels that way to me. I only enjoy these games when I am in a very certain mood, as they truly are a game in its purest form, not bogged down by blockbuster cutscenes and long-winded stories. However, Toukiden: The Age of Demons has really changed that for me. Taking place in an almost alternate universe where demons have spread across the Japanese-inspired world and plunged it into chaos, you play as a hunter new to the game’s village, tasked with protecting it from the Oni (demon) hordes.
While this sets up as your atypical hunter title, the game quickly shows you that there really is a single-player campaign with an albeit simple, but welcome plot. Most of the plots focus is on the characters you meet along the way, many of which join your party and are able to be taken out into the different Ages (re: environments) on quests, missions, etc. After a pretty unnecessarily difficult tutorial, you are automatically thrown into the game and soon find yourself not having to venture out alone. Unlike other monster games, this is definitely not a solo adventure. A huge problem I found with most games like Toukiden was the difficulty and sometimes just the simple massiveness of the game’s bosses, which can be overwhelming for someone who doesn’t have friends they can hook up with and play alongside. Toukiden eliminates that disadvantage by not only allowing for AI partners early on, but also having a solid online multiplayer experience. Featuring its own missions and quests, you can absolutely join complete strangers and hunt together, should you so choose. Of course, human partners will always have an advantage over AI-controlled party members, but the AI are written well enough that anyone should be able to easily conquer even the largest beasts with a little bit of wisdom and patience.
As for the how-to of slaying the Oni, Tecmo Koei has done a great job of melding together a simple, yet deep combat system. Anyone familiar with games like this will automatically jump in good to go, but it’s not so hard and complex that someone brand new to the genre can’t figure it out. In the end, it all comes down to mashing buttons over and over, while timing dodges and managing stamina at the same time. It may sound like a lot to process, but the game’s difficulty gradually increases enough so that you’ll always be ready for the next big boss. Each of the mostly stereotypical weapons, including only one projectile type, have a special move that builds up over time and are quite useful in the many boss fights. As for the lengths of these battles, even the very first true boss you encounter can last a little over ten minutes, not because it’s hard, but because it tests everything you’ve figured out so far. An interesting unique aspect of Toukiden is how you can activate a special mode that lets you see the different body parts you can destroy on a large Oni, at the continual expense of stamina. Most of the time, knowing and continuously attacking the same body parts is crucial to slaying the bigger creatures.
However, the uniqueness mostly ends there. It is clear to anyone that knows Monster Hunter that this is an almost cut-and-paste copy of it. From everything to how the game plays to how it looks to even certain sound effects and the fact there are friendly animals that help you out (foxes here), everything feels and breathes Monster Hunter. If it wasn’t for an actual plot with some fairly interesting characters, I would think it was another entry in that hit franchise. However, for Vita owners looking for that true and pure monster slaying experience, Toukiden is well-worth the price tag. The content found here will keep you busy for hundreds of hours, especially with the ability to play at anytime with other people online and the DLC that will be released over time.
While almost everything about Toukiden screams average and been there, done that, Vita owners and monster slaying fans will find a solid game with tons of content, online and local multiplayer, depth, and a little bit of its own twist on the genre. Even if you’re a beginner, this is absolutely the best entry point out there into the monster slaying phenomenon. It might not be the best overall, but it does give a natural experience that teaches you how to understand and play the game to the fullest through, well, playing it. Just don’t forget your hunter friends, AI or otherwise.
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