Toukiden 2 follows on from previous entries in the series with the Oni still running ravage throughout Japan. You take on the role of a Slayer, the warriors who are tasked with protecting humanity from the wrath of these evil demons.
Opening in a battle to defend the city of Yokohama against an Oni onslaught, an encounter against a huge demon sees the protagonist sent forward in time to the village of Mahoroba with all of their memories lost in the process. The Oni are still bringing hell upon humanity in this time, but there is not only the vile demons to worry about but also the suspicious intents of some of the residents of the seemingly quiet village. It’s an interesting twist that ensures the game’s narrative isn’t all about killing Oni (though that does pretty much make up the most of it).
Of course, a game like Toukiden 2 isn’t driven by the narrative, but rather killing loads of demons and feeling like a bad ass whilst doing so. Thankfully it’s the most enjoyable aspect of the game, with the combat mechanics taking centre stage from start to finish.
Anyone who has played the ‘Toukiden’ series in the past (or alternatively the ‘Monster Hunter’ franchise that inspired it) will know what to expect from combat in the game. For the most part it feels like your typical hack and slash title, with button mashing aplenty as you take down the game’s smaller foes to build up to showdowns with the more intimidating and powerful boss Oni. Admittedly these encounters still typically boil down to the player simply mashing buttons and avoiding attacks from the enemy, though Toukiden 2 spices things up a little by allowing the player to focus attacks on each individual limb of your foe.
Focus attacks on one specific limb of an enemy and you’ll damage them, eventually giving you the ability to tear those limbs away and leave your foe in a weakened state. It’s a fun way to even the odds against the often gigantic Oni, whilst it also shows the signs of conflict; it’s satisfying to see your enemy bear the scars of all the slicing and dicing you’ve inflicted upon them. Be wary though because most enemies can regenerate any missing body parts, though at least you’ll know they have a more sensitive area that you can focus on throughout the rest of the battle.
Taking out these body parts doesn’t stop battles being epic affairs though, with some showdowns against boss Oni lasting well over the ten minute mark. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of diversity to the encounters. Sure, you can work at the limbs, but they all grow back – albeit in a weakened state. It just means you’re doing the same things over and over again, with the button mashing nature of the game growing more and more obvious when you’re doing it against the same enemy over a longer period of time.
At least there are plenty of different weapon types to use to take down the Oni, with eleven variations available in all. Whilst a lot of them feel the same from a gameplay standpoint (you are button mashing a lot after all), some of them do feel a lot more unique in design. You’ve got weapons like the Chain Whips that’ll appeal to ‘Castlevania’ fans with their quick-paced rangey attacks, whilst the huge Clubs are a lot slower but deal massive damage. You’ve also got the Gauntlets that allow you to out-muscle an opponent when fighting up close and personal, though those who prefer battling from range are equipped with Rifles and Bows that ensure you’re kept at a safe distance. It’s certainly worth trying out all of the different weapons in the game because they all offer something unique in their own little ways – some might be more effective against specific enemies too, so switching them around is certainly the most efficient way of tackling Toukiden 2.
The only real beef I had with the choice of weapons was the lack of attacking variation they came with. Whilst each type of weapon feels significantly different to one another, when crafting a variation of the same type it merely gives you a power boost. The attacks that each weapon starts with are the ones you’re stuck with throughout the whole of the game, with no special moves coming with the more powerful variations of the weapons. It’s a minor complaint, but when you’re constantly button mashing your way to victory a few extra moves would’ve added a bit more variety to Toukiden 2’s combat mechanics.
At least Slayers have an extra trick up their sleeve with the addition of the ‘Demon Hand’, a glorified yet powerful grappling hook that can give you the upper hand when taking on the gigantic beasts of the game. A quick button press is all it takes for it to quickly zip you around the battlefield, with the ‘Demon Hand’ able to attach to enemies and objects in the environment to sling the player around with ease. It can be used to get to enemies who are a bit more evasive with their fighting style too, or it can be used to quickly get out of reach of a monstrous attack from one of the less versatile but much more powerful Oni.
It adds a new element to the game that was missing in previous entries, with the ‘Demon Hand’ giving you a more effective use of the range of a battlefield, in turn encouraging more strategic showdowns against the enemies of the game. Alternatively, it can be used to attack too, with a fully charged ‘Demon Hand’ able to take out one of the enemy’s limbs in one blow. It might seem a small addition to simply read about, but goes a long way in giving ‘Toukiden’ players a new way to handle their enemies.
Toukiden 2 features a huge open world for the player to traverse across, giving you a real sense of freedom to explore exactly how you please. The world is full to the brim with side quests to complete, resources to gather, and secrets to uncover too, showing there is a hell of a lot more depth to the game outside of the standard story missions. It all flows together seamlessly though, really giving off the vibe that you’re a part of this living, breathing world as opposed to one that’s broken apart into convenient segments.
It’s an enjoyable way to explore and makes you feel like the pursuit of enemies is actually part of a real adventure as opposed to just being an objective in a level. It really makes you feel like you’re hunting Oni down and living up to your role as a Slayer. That being said, you’ll want to be careful – it’s a dangerous world to explore and that freedom to trek into the deadlier areas early on can see your poor Slayer meeting a quick end.
One thing that did annoy me though was that navigation pointers were a little difficult to follow, with the only real sense of direction on offer requiring the constant opening and closing of the in-game map. Naturally this is something that you’ll adjust to as you learn more about the ins and outs of the game world through progression, but it can be a little tedious to begin with.
Besides completing quests and taking down the Oni, there’s plenty of crafting to be done to create new weaponry and equipment. It gives an incentive to not only take down the Oni but explore too, making the prize of some new equipment all the more satisfying to create – who doesn’t like having the best toys to play with, after all?
Whilst playing alone is certainly enjoyable, Toukiden 2 is at its most enjoyable when played with friends. You can team up with up to three other players in online co-op, with all of you working together to take down the hulking Oni. I’ve found that it typically plays out in one of two ways: you either strategically plan a means to utilise everyone’s abilities and work together as team, or you just mash buttons together until the enemy is no more. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.
Disappointingly, there is no option to explore the open world with friends, with multiplayer instead limited to specific missions. I think the MMORPG style open-world would’ve been complimented by the ability to explore it with a friend, but it wasn’t to be. It’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you were considering getting the game for multiplayer purposes only; you’ll still have plenty of fun, but without the sense of discovery that’s ever-present in the single player mode.
Don’t go into Toukiden 2 expecting a visual master class; the graphics take a bit of a downgrade with the game being developed with the Playstation Vita and even the Playstation 3 (well… in Japan anyway) in mind. That’s not to say that they’re bad by any means, but rather that they’re not up to the high standards set by video games developed solely for current gen hardware.
You’ll notice it from the very start of the game when you design your character, with the somewhat bland models on offer not strikingly dashing in any shape or form. It’s noticeable on a technical basis too, with pop-in a common occurrence in the environment and some NPC character models taking a few moments to load in. Despite this, Toukiden 2 still manages to have a great sense of style; enemy and environment design is top notch, so the game remains aesthetically pleasing even if the graphics as a whole are pretty underwhelming.
Gamers who want some demon slaying action will have a lot of fun with Toukiden 2, especially with its wide variety of weapons and great showdowns with the gigantic Oni. Tearing their limbs away is incredibly satisfying too, whilst being able to do it all online with friends will ensure you’re kept hooked to the game for a long time.
During that long time you’ll begin to notice the flaws of Toukiden 2 though, with things like the lack of variety in gameplay mechanics, the underwhelming visuals, and the fact that progression is limited to simply being more powerful as opposed to feeling like it beginning to creep through. They’re fairly minor issues and won’t stop you having fun, but when all combined together they show the cracks in the game’s otherwise competent button-mashing formula.
Still, as a whole Toukiden 2 is a lot of fun and improves on the series in a variety of ways. It’s far from the perfect ‘Monster Hunter’ rival that the game wants to be, but it’s still the best alternative for Playstation gamers.
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: 21/03/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation Vita, PC