Famed for franchises such as Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, developer Omega Force and Tecmo Koei bring a new IP to the PlayStation Vita. Toukiden: The Age of Demons slashes its way onto the handheld and leaves in its wake a trail of destruction that obliterates other games in the genre with its beauty, longevity and gameplay mechanics that meant, at times, it was hard to put this ‘hunter’ game down.
You are cast as a Slayer, and the main aim for the game is to hunt down and kill different types of ‘Oni’ demons to protect the village of Utakata. You accept missions in the village, which serves as a central hub for the game. I found that there wasn’t much to do here bar upgrade your Slayer’s equipment and save your game. But that is no bad thing when the world outside the village walls contains a wealth of items and demons for you to spend endless hours chasing, hunting and slaying.
The controls are straightforward and simple to pick up, with a lock-on button for those that require it. The intuitiveness of the controls simply helps to suture you into the slaying, not once did I find myself pulled away from battle because of a mistimed button press or a convoluted combo needing entering.
Although the missions do lack variety, they are perfectly paced for short, pick up and play sessions which is ideal for a handheld game. If you are looking for something that takes a bit more of your time, you can explore each mission deeper, so long as you stick within the 60 minute time limit. The sporadic battles with the larger Oni are also time consuming, but this is not an issue when the battles offer up a grand sense of scale and spectacle.
There are six arenas that you will do battle in, each of them split up into smaller, numbered areas. Each arena contains multiple types of terrain, and varying types of weather, from sandstorms to snow! The arenas do all look kind of similar, and each one does leave you with a sense of emptiness as such vast spaces are filled with few enemies and less collectibles.
That is only a small gripe I had whilst playing the game, and the lack of on screen enemies is made somewhat sweeter by the games beauty. Toukiden: Age of Demons is a great looking game, arguably one of the best looking games to grace the Vita. Each character is finely detailed, and the Oni look even more hideous and grotesque due to this. The character animation is also perfect, with Slayers traversing arenas with the elegance and grace of a Japanese warrior and Oni slithering and sliding across the field as you would imagine the demon to do if it was a real creature.
The various Oni that you come across during the game all look the part, each one looks as demonic as the next, and although battles can become a myriad of button bashes they are rarely a chore. I particularly enjoyed the variety of the attacks each of the larger Oni had at their disposal, this not only gave each battle its own personality, it meant that myself as a player had to adapt my style of play accordingly – adding a welcome challenge.
The Japanese-centric style of the game is also prevalent in Toukiden’s audio. The music is of a traditional Japanese style that will rise and fall in tempo depending on what is happening in-game, this adds to the overall atmosphere, and you can be sure that once the music picks up an enemy of almighty proportions is heading your way. The game’s voiceover is only available in Japanese, with English subtitles underlining what has been said. Personally, I do applaud the decision by Omega Force to stick to the Japanese voiceover, as I feel it adds to the overall feel of the game. In regards to the story that is being told between all the battling, it is of a standard fare and doesn’t really add or detract from the gameplay, apart from justifying why you are fighting the Oni, its only real purpose is to interlink the missions you undertake.
The three AI companions that accompany you through the main story do so brilliantly, always a help and never a hindrance, they only add to the monster-hunter feel of the game and will always rush to help revive you should you need it during some of the bigger battles you face. If AI companions are not to your liking, there is a multiplayer mode that runs alongside the main story.
Multiplayer is accessed by interacting with one of two blue shining stones. One can be found in your house, the other located just outside Slayer HQ. Here you can play through 150+ extra missions, all based on missions that you will have completed in the main story. You can do this through Ad-Hoc multiplayer, Online and even in Single player with AI companions filling the extra slots if you are unable to take Toukiden online. The online multiplayer plays just as great as the single player game and any items earned whilst slashing and scouring in this mode will come back to the single player game so that you can upgrade and improve your character as you see fit.
In case you are wondering, it is not only the Oni that are monster in size, the game is spread out over five lengthy chapters, with extra ‘Advanced Hunting’ chapters available that really challenge you. Each mission’s difficulty is ranked with a star system, however I found that the ranking rarely made much difference to the skill required to win the battle. The only thing that did ramp up the difficulty in the later levels was that the game would throw more than one of the large Oni at you at once. This at first appears overwhelming, but with patience and perseverance these battles offer a welcome challenge to the at times mindless button bashing.
Toukiden: The Age of Demons is a perfect companion for the PlayStation Vita. Even on a handheld, the game’s overall feel is that of epic proportion. From the sheer size of the Oni that you spend all of the game hunting and defeating to the amount of time it will take you to fully master its ways, this is a big game that is a welcome addition to the ever growing list of must own games for the system. Even if the story is a little non-descript and the missions can get a tad repetitive at times, with missions that can take minutes to complete but hours to master, Toukiden is a beautiful game that we can be proud to have on the PlayStation Vita.