Have you ever wanted to play Monster Hunter on your PS Vita? A Monster Hunter that was designed for the PS Vita and not the PSP? Without having to import it from Japan? Well, it looks like you now can thanks to Tecmo Koei’s ‘Toukiden: The Age of Demons’ which came out for the PS Vita on February 14th.
This was a title destined to drift by me completely until I saw a couple of screenshots and a short video on Tecmo Koei’s Twitter feed which immediately set off my “Hey, isn’t that just Monster Hunter?” alarm. So I dug around a little more and discovered that it’s developed by Omega Force who are responsible for the Dynasty Warriors franchise, so I considered that an excellent start. Then I discovered the demo and popped it onto my PS Vita.
Sure enough the gameplay is pure Monster Hunter, with a few exceptions. Square, Triangle and combinations of other buttons set up your combos and positional moves as you slash your way through monsters on the battlefield with a selection of weapons like swords, gauntlets, spears, bows, ball and chain and so on. Weapons and armour can be upgraded back in your village base at the Blacksmith using materials found on the battlefield or looted from corpses. You have a home in the village for storage, monuments you use to join ad-hoc or online multiplayer missions, shrines that give you quests and that you can donate money to in return for boosts. So far, so very, very Capcom. Even the map system is straight out of Monster Hunter, each map being split into numbered areas and colour-coded to make it easy to work out where to go next.
I mentioned exceptions. It’s Monster Hunter with a Demon skin. The world is under threat from Oni, demons that absorb human souls. You play as a Slayer and take on Missions and Quests back in your village then go out and complete them. Most are fetch and kill, but the difference is that you can choose which party members from a selection of NPCs to take with you, and they’re all very helpful. Some do all the fighting for you whilst you run around gathering, others will revive you when you’re down, they’ll all loot corpses for you in their free time to let you get on with more important things.
The major difference is weapon slots into which you can insert ‘Mitana’, souls of historical Slayers that occasionally drop from monsters slain. Each Mitana is one of eight different types: some add Defence; some add Attack; some are for Healing; some are Magical; others are Devious; and each one comes with its own set of skills and boosts which the player gains by adding a Mitana to their weapon. Customisation gets even more in-depth when you consider that each weapon can have up to three slots in it, you’ll get a boosts from all three Mitana in each of your slots but only the skillset of the first Mitana equipped. Want some more depth? Mitanas can level up, NPCs gain affinity with you, after a certain point in the game you’ll gain your own ‘fox-spirit’ pet, and you can even take time out to relax in the local rockpool.
Another big difference is that you can change your vision by pressing Select whilst in the field to see things that you normally can’t, like hidden healing and skill points, gathering points and boss weak-points. This seems just a little on the superfluous side as it doesn’t seem to be used for anything else, but still, it’s there. I guess there might be more to it in the full game but currently it just feels like a time-waster to make the player run around each zone twice to collect stuff. Some use is made of the PS Vita’s front touchscreen and rear touchpad too. You can tap the onscreen map to enlarge it, assign certain combos and views to different sections of the rear touchpad, but that’s about all I discovered.
If you’re a fan of all things Japanese then I’m sure you’ll love Toukiden, it’s heavily influenced throughout from the original voice-cast (it’s all spoken Japanese in the demo), imagery, music, lore, cutscenes and the types of interactions you’ll be having with the various characters. This immersion is slightly torpedoed out of the water when it’s mentioned that your village base is in ‘The Midlands’, quite a poor choice for English localisation as all it did was make me think of the Black Country and wonder why everyone didn’t have Brummie accents.
The demo lacks a few things that Monster Hunters usually enjoy like the ability to climb vines (all the action I’ve seen takes place on single-level areas with the odd bridge/ramp here and there), mine/harvest (you just press X next to a collection point), slice bodyparts from dead corpses (just hold RT and your inventory absorbs them) and so on. However, the demo itself is very generous, offering the entirety of the first two ‘Acts’ to explore and most in-game systems to play around with and get used to, over 10 hours of gameplay there alone. You can also carry over a lot of stuff to the full game if you upgrade from the demo, so it’s not time wasted.
Be warned though, you’ll cruise through the first 9 missions and various quests like a knife through butter thinking “this is too easy, I don’t need to upgrade or pfaff around with skills” and then you’ll get your lazy ass handed to you, deservedly so, just like I did. Boss Onis are, well, boss. But this also means that farming materials for upgrades is pretty easy too, so you can go back and cream his ass nice and quickly when you’re better prepared.
I think the main thing missing is Monster Hunter’s humour, no cats or spit-roasts here in the demo at least, but if you’re a big fan of going out and slaying things, customising things, building your character exactly how you want to and levelling lots of stuff up, Toukiden should keep you going for a long time. And of course the biggest plus of all? It’s developed for the PS Vita, so it looks gorgeous!
Developer: Omega Force
Games Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platform: PS Vita
Genre: Monster Hunter