It’s nothing new to state that Capcom’s Action/JRPG hybrid Monster Hunter franchise is beyond that of a big deal in Japan.But even with its eastern popularity, the series grew a huge western fanbase as well as it broke new ground with its unique style of gameplay. Naturally, this led many developers to try their own take on the newly formed sub-genre. Though these titles piggyback off an established formula, it’s exciting to see how developers play with the mechanics these games use to differentiate themselves from Monster Hunter. Koei Tecmo’s Toukiden franchise is one such series that takes the Monster Hunter formula but adds a new spin. Toukiden 2 delivers on the genre even further by making more noteworthy changes to the blueprint despite a few small failings along the way.
The plot of Toukiden 2 picks up two years after the events of Toukiden Kiwami, an expansion of the original PlayStation Vita title. Players once again take on the role of a custom created slayer tasked with defending humanity from oni. The protagonist finds themselves misplaced in time while defending a city during an event called “Awakening,” that resulted in a wave of oni bringing chaos to the land. The story does a good job of introducing the world by explaining the lore and terminology, making it easy for newcomers to jump into the game without having played the first. The player is soon found by a professor and her robot assistant and taken to the game’s main hub world, Mahoroba Village. It is quickly revealed that 10 years have passed since the “Awakening” and Mahoroba has been surrounded by a thick miasma with oni roaming the areas outside. After undertaking the simple trial to become an official slayer for the village, the player accepts the professor’s request to help eliminate the oni and the surrounding miasma while trying to discover the mysteries of the power that brought them through time. I found the cast of characters met in the early beginnings of Toukiden 2 to be entertaining enough, if not a bit two dimensional. Conversation options allow players to strengthen their bond with different characters, unlocking bonuses along the way. This encourages players to spend as much time with their favourite characters as possible, also allowing them to learn more about each character.
The introduction of Toukiden 2 began quickly, teaching the bare minimum of combat, though, it’s not all that different to other games of the genre. Weak and heavy attacks can be chained together to create different combos. You can run and dodge in the form of a roll at the cost of stamina, and abilities are usable by equipping Mitama, which are unique to the series. They actually play a role in the story as Mitama are spirits of deceased heroes, obtainable by defeating certain enemies, usually large bosses. By holding R1 and pressing another button, players can use a number of abilities held by each Mitama equipped. Mitama can also be leveled up through combat as long as they are equipped, allowing additional skills to be learned.
At its core, however, Toukiden 2 is a hack n’ slash which is functional but repetitive. Most enemies would stay in one place while I wailed on them with the same combos over and over, occasionally knocking me away with an attack or trying to distance itself from me. Closing a distance was never a problem though thanks to one of Toukiden 2’s new features, the “Demon Hand”. Early into the game’s story, players are given access to the “Demon Hand”, an invention by the professor. After the tool is given to players, holding R2 creates a giant hand that players can use to hook onto objects and enemies, small or large. This made it easy to traverse the land, close gaps between enemies, and pry larger enemies’ limbs off their bodies. Reminiscent of Freedom War’s “Thorn” mechanic — which worked similarly — this was easily one of the most enjoyable aspects of Toukiden 2’s combat.
This ties into Toukiden 2’s biggest change to the hunting style JRPG genre and one that I hope other developers adopt in the future. Rather than warping to specific areas that serve as hunting grounds from the main hub, Toukiden 2 shifts to a seamless open world style. Hunting grounds from the previous game return from the first game and can be accessed through “Mission Mode” but players are free to enter and exit Mahoroba Village as they please. This feature is by far the greatest element to Toukiden 2. I loved being able to head out whenever I wanted to find a certain oni in order to get the material I needed for a new sword instead of repeating a stage just to get that oni to appear in the first place. An open world also allows for more organic quests and storyline elements to occur.
During one of my first excursions into the world outside the village, I found a man in the forest, pretending to be dead after stirring up a horde of oni while trying to collect some nearby materials. The man begged me to leave him alone and not to try taking the material until the oni settled down so naturally, I picked up the material right away, leading to a fight with the riled group of monsters. The man thanked me for helping him with compensation afterwards, joking that what I did was a bit foolish in the first place. Another had me help the shopkeeper in the village by clearing the trade route of a large oni that only attacks at night. Eliminating the oni allows the shopkeeper to stock better items in his store. It’s small events like these that make quests given in the game flow better, letting you see the effects these oni have on the villagers and how your efforts better the situation.
Toukiden 2’s open world isn’t without its flaws either though. All the quests boil down to simple fetch quests or running to the location, defeating the enemy and returning for a reward. I know that this type of format is expected of the genre but it would’ve been nice to have things to do besides fighting in such a large world. Another problem I’ve found is that the environments don’t seem all that varied. I’m almost 10 hours in and I’ve only gone from a forest to a slightly different forest. That makes Toukiden 2 even more frustrating when the game forces players to repeat tedious tasks. After defeating an oni players can hold R1 near the enemy’s corpse to purify it, resulting in the gain of materials that can later be used to create new weapons and armor. The problem with this is that purifying an enemy takes around 4 or 5 seconds and you need to be standing within a close enough range for it to work. In most cases this means going to each enemy after defeating a group and purifying them one by one, an act that becomes very tiring after doing it for the 50th time.
The online multiplayer of Toukiden 2 subtracts a lot of what I enjoyed most about the game as well. Mahoroba Village serves as the lobby for a group of slayers but with only the mandatory NPCs being present such as the blacksmith. Players are no longer able to leave the village until a group mission has been selected where they are then teleported over to the set area and let loose to defeat whichever enemy the quest requires. I know this is generally the way these games are played but it made the game feel noticeably empty and ultimately, boring. Toukiden 2 didn’t feel like a very difficult game to start so with the addition of three extra allies, combat became even easier than it already was. Playing offline offers much more of a unique experience than playing online does and if necessary, I can bring A.I companions with me who I can even give orders to.
Overall, Toukiden 2 isn’t a bad game but there are enough flaws to stop it from being what could’ve been a great. I believe fans of the hunting style action RPG will easily get the most out of this, enjoying what they already love about the genre as they’re introduced to Toukiden 2’s new ideas. If you’re not already a fan of this type of game however, it’s unlikely that this title will be the one to change your mind.