A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this article.
With the success of Monster Hunter and its many sequels, it’s not surprising that there would be imitators. Following in the footsteps of such games as Ragnarok Odyssey, and Soul Sacrifice was Toukiden. The first entry, Toukiden: Age of Demons, was set in feudal Japan, pitting players against Oni as opposed to dinosaurs and beasts. What do all three of these title have in common? They were all on PS Vita, however only one got a remake on the PS4, and that brings us to Toukiden: Kiwami.
Toukiden: Kiwami is a port of the Vita version on to the PS4. The game, developed by Omega Force (known for the Dynasty Warriors series), puts players in a Japanese setting, trapped within the realm of demons. The village of Utakata exists to repel the demons back and hunt them down. Their mission is to prevent another cataclysmic event like The Awakening from ever happening again. Constantly under siege by Oni—evil demonic spirits, the slayers inhabitants of Utakata must fight claw, tooth and nail to remain safe from the demonic influence of the Oni and preserve life, acting as the final defense of the realm of Nakatsu Kuni.
As you move up in the ranks of slayers, more story is revealed to you, and the characters become close friends, aided greatly by taking them into battle. You will learn about each character’s personal plight and develop relationships with them that will affect gameplay—all purely platonic of course. You will gain extra abilities and there’s even a mechanic to help you strengthen bonds with them—however it only works on the same gender as your character.
The story is told via quite well-rendered cut scenes, and the requirement in some cases to track down a specific character and talk to them. This can be a pain, as times they’re a bit tricky to locate, and there’s no other way to advance the plot. Luckily there’s not many places to search. The characters are all fairly likable and the game is subtitled—sorry guys, Japanese dubs only. You’ll find yourself invested in the story likely more so than the gameplay, at least I found that the case.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward, borrowing rather heavily from Monster hunter while also managing to retain its own identity. You take on the role of the Slayers, hunting down and dispatching the Oni. This is done via hack and slash action, as well as fairly fluid controls, combat and special abilities you can experiment with. The movement of your Slayer in the game is something that is far improved over the Monster Hunter series. Even if you miss, you’ll be able to cancel your combo quite easily and with minimal stamina loss. Heavy combos cost more stamina than light combos, but ultimately you won’t be running out of stamina much while running around. Most of your stamina will go towards spirit attacks and dodging. You can lock onto the monster, targeting them with your magic or your weapon attacks.
Spirit attacks need to be focused into your blade and there are two levels of focus—red and blue. The blue level of focus is slightly weaker, but will allow you to stay in that mode, hacking away far longer before it runs out. The red focus level requires you to hold the button longer to activate it and stamina will run out faster. It is, however, beneficial if you wish to lop off one of the Oni’s limbs post-haste. On the subject of Oni limbs, in Toukiden: Kiwami you can view the health of the demon at any time by pressing the start button. When in this mode you can see the status of the Oni’s extremities—horns, arms, legs, wings, tails etc. The health status of each limb is represented via color with white being full health, yellow about midway and red meaning dismemberment is imminent. Upon removing the creatures limb, it can then be harvested for crafting materials, with one caveat. Demon limbs are evil and must be purified. You must stand there and purify the limb yourself, or your party members will help out occasionally—though it’s best to command them to keep attacking.
You can command your team during combat to carry out certain orders. “Aid” will cause them to provide healing, purification aid or buffs, while “Free” causes them to do their own thing, based on AI predispositions. The “Attack” command causes them to go all out with focus attacks and demolishing everything in their path. This is best chosen when the creature’s limb is close to being removed while the “Follow” command is best used if a character is low on health. You can get them to back away from combat while you or themselves heal them up. Mastering these commands is key to winning some of the tougher battles in the game, and the AI is surprisingly helpful.
The final ingredient to the combat system of Toukiden: Kiwami are the Mitama—lost souls. Upon beating story bosses and completing other special qualifiers, you’ll be rewarded with Mitama. These are the souls of foes that lost to Oni and have been their captors since. Mitama provides you with various spells, buffs and abilities ranging from increasing the number of a certain stocked spell, increasing stats, improving a specific fighting style or providing boosts to your attacks. Mitama can be trained, and fused with weapons later on in the game to enable some devastating combinations. You’ll just have to experiment with everything in order to find what works.
There are many different types of weapons to choose from—somewhere in the vicinity of over 20. I chose boring old samurai sword, but there are scythes, chains, large maces, daggers, short swords, pistols, rifles, glaives and other polearms. It’s very diverse and all of these can be upgraded by acquiring certain materials from Oni and the environment. There’s set armors, and all sorts of customization available to players who happen to get bored of one type of weapon. The weapons and armor are upgraded from the materials you collect on your journeys. This is done by using focus vision to reveal items that would otherwise be hidden without it. There’s gleaming spots all over the maps that show where there’s an item to collect. The really valuable materials can, sadly, only be collected one of two ways. You must sever and purify a demon’s parts, or you can leave it up to chance when you dispatch your standby party to previous missions to hunt for you. More common materials can also be acquired from feeding the Guardian tree or feeding your pet Tenko as she digs in the different maps for you.
The combat is where the game differs from Monster Hunter. It is far faster paced, and more fluid allowing for mistakes, as well as just generally being more forgiving than Monster Hunter. Some fights will give you some trouble, but you’re unlikely to die more than 8 times in the entire game. That being said, online play allows for some really tough hunts, as do the insane amount of side missions available after you complete the game’s story. Online is pretty bare however, with not many people playing and when you do find someone, they will likely be far higher than you or just not want you in their game. It can be frustrating.
Graphically Toukiden: Kiwami is a port of a Vita game, Age of Demons and it looks fantastic. The graphics are stylistic and very inspired by feudal Japan, however, it doesn’t look like a Vita game and in my opinion is on par with the PS4’s native graphical fidelity. Textures aren’t washed out with very few jagged edges and the shading is more than acceptable. The set pieces are quite vibrant and colourful—shame that there are only 5-6 different locations and most of the Oni are pallet swaps of earlier bosses. Still, there is no denying that this is the best looking Vita to PS4 port to date. The game runs smoothly, and there appeared to be no slowdown of the frame-rate even with more than one boss on the screen at the same time.
The sound design of Toukiden: Kiwami is somewhat hit and miss. While most of the dialog is voice acted, it is also in Japanese, forcing you to read subtitles—not a dealbreaker, but it may be for some. The voice acting seems decent enough, with characters voices fitting their physiques, as well as conveying the right emotions at required times. Musically, Kiwami is nothing all that special. The music fits the feudal setting, but with all the grinding you’ll have to do to get a complete set of armor you want, you may in time come to hate it. There’s only a few tracks and nothing really stands out or jumps at you. The most memorable music is during story bosses, but even that can drag a tad. The sound effects are great however and weapons sound how they feel. From a blade being sheathed, a limb being removed, or your pet Tenko coming to aid you in battle, Toukiden: Kiwami sounds correct.
Toukiden: Kiwami is a good example of why developers do high definition ports. It not only looks great but also brings several new things to the tried and true Monster Hunter formula. The two play quite differently and, apart from certain tangential aspects, are great in their own way. There are loads of optional stuff to do upon completion of the story and while the combat may bore you a tad towards the end, it’s a solid title with a decently written story pushing you to finish it. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for the next Monster Hunter fix. While it may be easier, the optional stuff really ramps up the difficulty, and there’s honestly something here for everyone.