Toukiden 2 sets the player in a highly stylised post apocalyptic world. The player is thrown instantly into the action after a surprising in-depth character creation screen. Seriously, even choosing a voice and its pitch is an option. Once the player initially takes control, they are exposed to the initial attack of the Oni. A demonic horde threatening to wipe humanity from a feudal Japanese style world gets off to an almost unhindered start. The player is then mysteriously teleported in time and space to Mahorobo Village. So begins the story of a Slayer trying to regain his memory and find a place in his new life among survivors.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koie Tecmo
Avg Game Length: Undetermined at time of writing with no sources yet available
After the second pre rendered cutscene of the game, the open world becomes available to the player. Cartoonish villages, characters and fairytale beasties await. While the opening scenes may appear quite dark, the art style and script lands this title firmly in the “light hearted” category. With this central focus on tone comes an odd feeling of Zelda. Stylised writing pops up upon discovering new areas and characters are quirky. This gives the player a fuzzy nostalgic feeling, dependant on their age.
Here’s Hoping You Have A Better Memory Than Me
When first exploring Mahorobo Village, different types of vendors are explained to the player. It is in the Armourer’s, Merchant’s and Restaurant’s menu screens that it soon becomes apparent the depth of RPG mechanics Toukiden 2 is playing around with. Shortly before diving into expansive lists of options, the game will display a tutorial screen.
Oddly, this is the starting point for any avenues of potential confusion. Not an avenue we’d like at the start of a videogame. The problem here is that these tutorials are paragraphs long. Instead of explaining menu screens as we use them, we’re presented with a lot of information at once. As a result, closing that tutorial and going into these huge menu systems can be overwhelming and off putting. This being at the start of the game, could lay a negative foundation for the rest. A very dangerous issue for Toukiden 2. Forget any information from that last paragraph? Well it’s gone now, you’ll just have to figure it out!
Toukiden 2 Is Not Afraid To Present Everything It Has To Offer From The Get Go
As players will have learned from the initial setup of their character however, there is tons of content lying in wait for them. It is on the other side of these long tutorials that they will learn, given the patience, there are plenty of tactics available for them to experiment with. While weapons don’t specifically have all that many combos, there are a heck of a lot of them. From sword and shield, to rifle, to lance, to sickle and chain. Each offer different pros and cons with different move sets. Finally gaining a rounded understanding of each is a rewarding feeling. A sense that you have bested Toukiden 2’s attempts to swamp you with options.
A Plethora Of Options Can Combine Into Intricately Laid Plans In The Right Hands
Where things have the potential to get interesting is mixing all of these options up amongst a party of either NPCs or player controlled characters. As showcased in the initial cutscene, teamwork is indeed encouraged. When fighting lesser Oni, this doesn’t seem all that apparent. It almost seems pointless as any one group of foes can be easily bested on your own. Yet, when larger Oni get involved, teamwork is essential. Evidently, these arena style dodging, weaving and attacking boss fights are an area that Toukiden 2 gets to show off what it’s really designed for. It almost feels like lesser enemies are dotted about purely for XP filler between one boss and the next. Of course, any RPG is set up in this way. Yet these lesser Oni rarely offer a challenge, affording them little credibility or presence.
How to go about defeating larger Oni also has a process. The whole team could bash away at combos all day long and get nowhere. Planning attacks out on the fly is necessary to pull body parts off the Oni and purify them. Fail in this and the Oni will totter along and stick it back on like a piece of lego. This was an interesting mechanic but can be frustrating in some scenarios, setting the whole team back to square one despite their efforts. Still, applying tactics properly makes for a noticeable change in how to bring a large Oni down. You’ll then be rewarded with a new Mitama, a warrior soul dedicated to serving you in battle. Some apply passive and ongoing effects, while others apply buffs during combat, adding to playstyle flexibility yet further.
Needless Micromanagement Of Positioning Threatens Player Immersion
While of this sounds very good on paper, how does it all handle? Landing a solid combo or taking care of crowd management can be satisfying… when you can land them. You see, should the player or their foe move slightly out of the narrow attack radius of your blows (I mostly used the sweeping attacks of sickle and chain), they’ll hit nothing but air.
This forces a cancellation of a combo just for micromanagement of movement. Different directions of attack can be adjusted mid combo but this clunky mechanic cannot be relied on in a pinch. This is not a major issue but regardless, may dent any immersion the player had for the game prior.
Sadly immersion is threatened yet further with the odd sound design for western audiences. Namely in the voice acting and dialogue. First off, all voice in the game remains in Japanese so get your reading glasses on. As always, I say this is never a bad thing. Personally, I love hearing Japanese even if I don’t understand it. It’s a beautiful language.
Yet, in the case of Toukiden 2, entire lines of dialogue go unvoiced. Sometimes for several lines at a time. Suddenly, silence is broken by a sporadic line of spoken Japanese. I’m left wondering if this is purely a linguistic trade off of syllables or just lazy sound design. Team mates will also natter away while exploring the world and this gets no subtitles at all. Leaving Western players feeling a little excluded from what Toukiden 2 has to offer.
Toukiden 2’s Fairytale Lands Offer A Great World And Story To Tell But Struggles To Convey It Effectively
As a reviewer, I had to stop and ask myself if I was having fun here. As an anime fan, I enjoyed the almost fairytale Last Airbender feel to the story. With that, comes a style of narrative where the player will be more exposed to a back-and-forth reading of character texts than actual cinematics. Given the strong following for this kind of presentation in games, deciding on whether or not this is for you depends purely on your tastes as a gamer.
Everything you’d expect from a J-RPG is here from resource collecting to crafting and improving your character. Yet Toukiden 2 falls short on the presentation of its world with only a few memorable characters to hold it up. Combat offers plenty of tactical avenues and new things to learn. Yet the execution of it often feels sloppy and unintentional and the rest of your team tend to mop up before even getting stuck in. There are moments where Toukiden 2’s obviously deeply thought out RPG elements kept me addicted. However, in the end, this wasn’t enough to keep me in the intriguing yet poorly presented world.
If J-RPGs are something you only try out now and then; if you are a gamer is that is more firmly rooted in other genres, there’s a chance you won’t enjoy this game in the way the developers intended. On the other hand, if you have a developed taste for J-RPGs and enjoy a good grind with rewarding character development, this game will be worth your time. It’ll doubtless make you feel right at home with established conventions of the genre.