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Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

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Quick Take: Hunting Monst--uh--Demons on the go.

It’s rare that a game will come out and literally take an entire region by storm. A game that brings people–even complete strangers–together. A game that literally saved a fledging hand-held game system, and created a whole new sub-genre of gaming before it was all said and done.

And when a franchise like that happens, there are bound to be similar games that come along and try to recreate that magic in a bottle.

Toukiden: Age of Demons, from developer Omega Force and publisher Tecmo-Koei, is one of those games.

Now, while the similarities to Capcom’s sublime Monster Hunter franchise are very evident all throughout, Toukiden does tend to separate itself in two very important areas. One, it looks fantastic, and two, there is a story–as loose as it is–that ties the whole package together.

Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

Toukiden: Age of Demons focuses on Oni (Japanese for ‘demon’) hunters called Slayers that are fighting a losing battle against an onslaught of ridiculously huge demons that have appeared from inside the earth and are systematically destroying the world. The player creates a new slayer who gets assigned to a village called Utakata and joins in the effort with other “demons who slay demons” as they are called by Yamato, the village liaison, to defend the tiny mountain locale.

The created slayer has the option of over six different weapons, each with its own strength and weaknesses. They set out on menial quests at first–usually slaughtering a set number of smaller Oni, but as the game goes on, the demons get bigger and bigger, and soon, players will find themselves battling huge monstrosities that require systematic dismantling of each limb in order to take them down.

Adding to the slaying fun is the Ritual of Purification. As the player downs an Oni, or even severs a limb from the larger demons, they must perform the Ritual of Purification, which converts the fallen demon to an item or resource, and in the case of the bigger demons, ensure that the limb doesn’t grow back. And they can grow back.

Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

As with other games in the genre, the player can be constantly upgraded, in both weapons and armor by using the materials acquired and performing the Ritual of Purification. This adds so much replayability as there are always better weapons and armor to craft to tackle the newer and bigger demons that need to be killed.

Slayers can also attach the souls of fallen warriors called Mitama. These souls give stat boosts like higher attack and longer health. There are eight different stats that can be buffed, and Mitama can level up, becoming stronger as the game goes on.

While the gameplay is pretty standard for the genre, the level of customization is pretty deep. The player acquires a home in the village and Utakata has various citizens and services, such as a blacksmith and an item dealer, who can help the slayers between missions. You even get your own little mystical fox/squirrel thing named Tenko that lives with you and can be sent out to scavenge for materials.

Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

Toukiden: Age of Demons looks amazing for a handheld title. The PlayStation Vita’s 5″ OLED screen simply shines with the Oni-slaying goodness. The front touch screen is used in unique ways–such as to bring up the Eye of Truth, which allows the player to see the status of the Oni they are fighting, as well as hidden items or prayer nodes in each location. The rear touch screen can be configured to fire off multi-button combos with simple swipes. It’s incredibly intuitive.

The two joysticks are very beneficial when attacking the larger Oni, and special attacks and rites can be accessed by pressing the R trigger and then hitting a corresponding face button to activate. It keeps the action flowing without having to pause or go to a submenu.

Toukiden: Age of Demons has a full-featured multiplayer component with both local ad-hoc and online battles with up to three other slayers. The matchmaking is pretty adept at teaming up slayers with different weapons, when applicable, which keeps battles from becoming complete sword-fests.

Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

Toukiden has full voice acting, but in the native Japanese with text localization only. Some of the acting is top shelf, including a ridiculously sultry shrine maiden named Shikimi, and the gruff blacksmith named, Tatara. Of course, there is also an annoying young Japanese girl slayer, but that’s to be expected in a game like this. Most to the village’s slayers are based on very broad archetypes. And it works here.

It would be easy to dismiss Toukiden: Age of Demons as a simple knockoff of a more popular franchise, but in so doing, you’d miss the point. This is a great game with deep customization and load of replayability. Some of the larger Oni are true tests of skill and there is always something to do, whether it’s a simple gather quest or online slaying with complete strangers. Tecmo-Koei is also promising future DLC support, which will include more missions, bigger and badder Oni, and some killer weapon and armor sets.

Toukiden: Age of Demons looks beautiful and the play control and story keep bringing me back for more slaying. I hope that this is the beginning of a new franchise, as the mythology here is ripe for exploration–and exploitation, and I am definitely a fan.

Toukiden: Age of Demons was reviewed on PS Vita using a code provide by publisher Tecmo-Koei. It was released exclusively for PS Vita on February 11, 2014.

Shop for Toukiden: Age of Demons at a discounted price from Amazon.com.

Toukiden: Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunting, Only With Demons

SCORE: 4.0 out of 5

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