Toukiden 2 (Playstation 4 Review)
Ever since I first watched Jurassic Park, I’ve always wanted to punch a dinosaur in its big stupid, smug face. Seeing how a towering T-Rex bullied its way through the park and tore everything in view asunder left me wanting to go toe-to-toe with something of such stature. So obviously, I should have ran arms wide open towards Monster Hunter, but there was a catch. I didn’t have a Nintendo console. Fortunately, I now have a system and game that marks both of these essential criteria with Toukiden 2. It’s on PS4 and I own a PS4. Simple.
After missing out on the original, Toukiden: Kiwami, I was worried that jumping in with Toukiden 2 might prove difficult in relation to the narrative, but I needn’t worry because selective amnesia is a wonderful thing.
Toukiden 2 opens with a momentous battle between the player and the mysterious Oni (demons) attacking your village. This battle would latterly become ‘The Awakening, until the skies open and our hero is displaced in time. When you come to your senses, you gradually find out that what has happened on that fateful day which killed everyone, bar one sole survivor from the village. Ten whole years have passed since then. From here, you are helped through your recovery by Mahoroba’s resident scientist, The Professor, and become involved in village politics. As the story progresses, you will learn the true meaning of ‘The Awakening’ and chip away at your selective amnesia, all while dealing with Maharoba Village’s inner politics and the divide that exists between those who inhabit it. All amnesia tropes aside, there is something interesting between your character’s recovery and the Mitama, warrior spirits trapped in the world, that he discovers throughout the campaign. The only real issue I had was that exposition could run on longer than the missions they related to, and even though it is possible to engage in both sides of the village’s discourse, I had no real impact.
The narrative might have had a larger impact on me were it not for the general look and feel of Toukiden 2. With various clipping issues in some scenes and the fact that in comparison to other more recent titles from Koei Tecmo it looks rather dated, I found it hard to fully invest all my time. Story is often delivered through large swathes of text boxes and during gameplay, making it hard to fully absorb. This becomes especially apparent during fights where players discuss some plot relevant issues or just general chat to provide a better understanding of the world. Due to Toukiden 2 only having English subtitles, a conscious choice between survival and paying attention to the story was more frequent than I would have liked.
When it comes to battles, you will need to be dialled right into the combat and ensure you engage larger enemies accordingly, making the most out of your abilities. As a Slayer, you will have access to a great many weapons ranging from polearms to rifles. Each one of these weapons handles differently, to varying degrees. For the most part ranged weapons, like rifles and bows, will require you to sit back and take aim, whereas everything else will have you in thick of it. Clashing steel with rock hard Oni legs. All of these weapons serve one purpose; to kill Oni. This is pretty much the entire premise of Toukiden 2 and throughout the game, you will have to systematically destroy their appendages and ultimately seal their fate, both literally and metaphorically. As a Slayer, you will be required to seal away Oni limbs and other body parts by praying next to them upon removing them from the enemy’s frame. Doing so will seal that limb off permanently, preventing the Oni from regenerating any damaged parts.
Cutting off limbs isn’t easy however, and you will definitely need help. Alongside a team of three other Slayers, you can imbue your weapons and abilities with Mitama. Mitama will dictate what kind of buffs you can assign or magic you can cast. Depending on the type of Mitama, you can do anything–from summoning elemental spirits to aid you, to buffing damage for a brief period of time, or assign debuffs to enemy Oni. And then you have the Demon Arm, Toukiden 2’s newest addition. The Demon arm lets Slayers grapple onto enemy targets and deliver devastating blows, or propel themselves towards the enemy for a barrage of aerial strikes.
The amount of variety present in the combinations of weapons, Mitama, and team structure seems overwhelming, but the reality is far less impressive in scope. Unlike the Warriors series, this combat lacks any real nuance. More often than not, it felt like my chosen weapon had little to no consequence and my approach remained the same, with the exception of using ranged weapons. The only real reason to switch out equipment was if you hadn’t invested in Toukiden 2’s weapon and armour upgrade systems.
Much like many action RPGs, equipment is imperative to your survival. This is even more relevant when it’s the only real way of making progress in Toukiden 2, as there is no experience or levelling system to increase your Slayer’s base stats. The process of finding materials and completing quests to unlock more possibilities is a long-winded and rewarding one. Given enough time and farming, you will eventually build your equipment to a point that it is imbued with various elemental traits. If you are into excessive grinding and have the time, there’s definitely a lot of possibilities open to you by creating the copious amount of weapons on offer and reforging them over time. Unfortunately, time was something I did not have and doubt I ever will have for Toukiden 2.
Toukiden 2 could have been a gateway drug. It could have stolen away countless hours from my other vices. Yet the fact that my progress online with friends had no impact on the offline components and their general structure meant that I was often lonely in running around the massive sprawling map of Toukiden 2. There are some really interesting elements buried deep between the long walks and repetitive monsters, but I feel that I was never invested enough to stay a little longer and find out just what they were. Perhaps Toukiden 2 can learn from its mistakes and when it finally manages to shake the shackles of the previous generation (Toukiden 2 was released on PS3 in Japan), it will truly shine like it deserves to.