Having never played a Toukiden title previously, when our good friends at Koei/Tecmo emailed us a code for Toukiden 2, I was both interested and eager to play. As a fan of Monster Hunter, this was right up my street, but did KT successfully create a rival to Capcom's hugely successful "Dino-Buster" or is Toukiden 2 just another Monster Hunter wannabe?
As a fantasy title set within a somewhat technologically advanced Feudal Japan era, Toukiden 2 is Omega Forces answer to Capcom's Monster Hunter series. Like Monster Hunter, you begin by creating your character (this can be male or female), selecting your starting weapon and then jumping straight in. The character creation is a lot more advanced than Monster Hunters', but not as deep as Dark Souls or Skyrim for example. Still, it's a nice addition to a game of this type and allows for some pretty interesting and diverse appearances.
Toukiden 2's story is far grander in scope than anything Monster Hunter has to offer, giving you a much greater sense of purpose as to why you're out on these Oni killing missions, while you'll find that getting to the bottom of your role and discovering what exactly is happening to the world will be your main motivation for playing.
There are a total of eleven different weapons to choose between, each with their own unique combos and play styles. To upgrade and create new weaponry or armour, you'll need a set amount of materials and money. To gain new materials you'll need to go out into the wild, battling creatures as well as the poisonous Miasma - A fog-like cloud covering the entire map. The Miasma will slowly kill you, but you do have to be out in it for a considerable amount of time before this even begins to pose a problem. These Miasma spots can also be cleared via purging stones, making the area safer to travel through once more.
Much akin to Monster Hunter, you obtain your materials and currency by completing missions, selling unwanted goods and slaying the many types of creatures out there. Unlike Monster Hunter however, the creatures you face here aren't re-modelled Dinosaurs, but are instead Oni - Demons of the Spirit Plane. Once slain, you'll need to absorb their corpse to reap the full rewards. The materials gathered will then create weapons and armour sets with characteristics of the creature they originally came from. You can then upgrade and even re-forge your weapons into better, nicer looking versions which each come with their own pros and cons. During fights you'll also need to absorb body parts you've successfully torn from your foes. This prevents them from regenerating that specific body part and gives you some of their materials. Enemies can still fight without these parts, but will be solely reliant on their weaker, spiritual counterparts.
Check out the Knife gamplay below:
As you progress through hunts, quests and the story itself, you'll come across a number of different Mitama. Mitama are the souls of fallen heroes from years past and each grant you specific powers depending on what slot you have them equipped to. There are three slots available and whatever you have equipped in slot 1 will give you your in-combat abilities, which usually encompass a healing skill, along with different offensive and defensive abilities. Some even allow you to teleport, but each has their own cooldown time after each use, so it's best to be tactical in how you use your skills. Equipping Mitama in slots 2 or 3 generally give you passive abilities, but again, each Mitama has its own set of skills and abilities, depending on the slot you equip it to. So, one that might not be very good in slot 1 could be amazing in slot 2 or 3 for example.
Keeping in line with the spiritual mythos woven throughout the game, you're also in control of two other powers - Spirit Vision and the Spirit Hand. At the press of a button, Spirit Vision allows for you to follow tracks you couldn't otherwise see, as well as monitor the status of a Boss - e.g. the closer to red its limbs/parts are, the closer that specific part is to coming off. This leads me to the Spirit Hand - Though more of a full arm than an actual hand, this allows for you to traverse the environment with relative ease and even absorb elements (found at mana points throughout the world) into your attacks. To do this, simply target the spot and grab it with your Spirit Hand to instantly absorb the element, giving all of your attacks an elemental boost of that type for a set amount of time.
As mentioned earlier, you can use Spirit Vision to monitor the status of your opponent and for me, the most satisfying thing to do was to pull myself towards the Oni, perform an aerial attack, land and then rip the weakened body part clean off of the creature. This can only be done when the opponents limb is in the red (seen only through Spirit Vision), but allows for you to perform a devastating stun attack, which usually involves slamming said creature viciously into the ground. It's brutal and incredibly satisfying to watch and also gives you a decent amount of time to lay into the now floored Oni beast.
Check out this Animé short for the game by Studio 4°C (the studio behind the animated Berserk movies):
Although the village is your main hub within the game, you can teleport from place to place via teleport stones and re-stock on your abilities via shrines dotted throughout the open-world environment. Then, whether you play on or offline will determine whether you're aided by actual players or Ghost Data that successfully mimics their play style. Like Monster Hunter, you can choose who to venture out with at the village hub, so if you're offline you'll get story characters accompanying you and if you're online you can have friends and other players from around the globe joining in with your hunt. In addition to this, there's also cross-play between the PS4 and Vita systems, which is a welcome addition and is something Capcom would be foolish to miss out on if they ever decide to release a console based Monster Hunter title again.
The music is incredible and will feel very Final Fantasy-esque in places. The artistic direction is also lovely and yet I still feel that the Feudal Japan setting is Toukiden 2's greatest selling point. I love Demon mythology. I'm a huge fan of Devil May Cry, Onimusha and Ninja Gaiden, so pretty much anything with Demons will appeal to me. I've put countless hours into many of the Monster Hunter titles and love the series, but spend more time at home on my main console than I do with handhelds. As such, I can easily see the Toukiden series becoming a true rival to Capcom's Monster Hunter titles. It does so much right and so little wrong, improving on an already thrilling formula. The visuals should have you hooked from the start, while the story is interesting enough to keep you playing for hours on end. With cross-play and a fairly decent (if a little convoluted) tutorial, Toukiden 2 is a lot more accessible than Monster Hunter and with a difficulty nowhere near as steep as the latter, Toukiden 2 is balanced enough to welcome casual Slayers (Hunters) and still successfully offer a challenge to the more hardcore players out there.
Toukiden 2 is out now on PC, PS4 and Vita.
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