Toukiden Kiwami is Monster Hunter in everything but its name. The quest structure, level layouts, combat mechanics and weapon specializations are all identical to Capcom’s niche monster slaying phenomenon. Originally released on the Playstation Vita last year, Toukiden Kiwami has now made its way to next-gen hardware with improved visuals, twice as many demons, two new characters, an extended story mode and a plethora of new equipment. Players who enjoyed the recent Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS should pick up Toukiden Kiwami in a heartbeat. However, the same can’t be said for everyone else. Instead of improving upon Monster Hunter’s formula, Omega Force has decided to follow Capcom’s path too closely. I personally have never been much of a Monster Hunter fan, so to gamers like myself, Toukiden Kiwami does little to diversify the genre.
To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a criticism. Like Omega Force’s Warriors franchise, the intended audience is going to cherish what Toukiden has to offer. Slaying gargantuan demons with an arsenal of spectacular weapons and special attacks is a joy. The combat is smooth, and most of the large enemies require strategy and skill. The differences between Monster Hunter and Toukiden Kiwami are subtle and probably only noticeable by eagle eyed genre aficionados, but its in those subtleties that Toukiden finds its individuality and uniqueness.
"Players who enjoyed the recent Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS should pick up Toukiden Kiwami in a heartbeat. However, the same can’t be said for everyone else."
Toukiden doesn’t impress right away. After spending a few minutes (or rather seconds) with the game’s barren character creator, your hero is tasked with protecting his village from swarms of invading demons. As with all Monster Hunter titles, the plot in Toukiden is practically nonexistent. This makes it difficult to sit through the countless lines of mundane dialog. Considering Toukiden’s Japanese medieval setting, the narrative feels like a wasted opportunity. At least with Omega Force’s Warriors franchise, the characters, while cheesy, are genuinely interesting and diverse. Toukiden’s inhabitants are banal anime stereotypes, and your detached avatar doesn’t do the story any favors.
Fortunately, Toukiden is about demon hunting and not about deep storytelling. It’s about exploring vast landscapes and honing your skills. Each weapon handles differently, and the key to success lies in finding the right tool that complements your playstyle. Where Omega Force’s Warriors franchise focuses on mowing down thousands of enemy soldiers, Toukiden’s pacing is more methodical. There are usually only a handful of foes onscreen at once, but they take more than just a few swings to take down. Once enemies are defeated, they need to be purified by holding R while standing still in order to cleanse the land. Players also have the ability to use The Eye of Truth, an X-Ray type of vision that reveals hidden treasures and exposes bosses’ vulnerable parts. After defeating demon bosses, players are granted with Mitamas (souls) that are equippable to weapons, granting slayers various bonus effects.
"Sadly, gameplay outside the boss battles can be a real chore. Revisiting the same areas over and over becomes monotonous, and the grind-oriented gameplay loses its appeal after a while."
You’re accompanied by AI allies when venturing out. You can order your teammates to attack, charge, assist or gather. This gives missions a sense of camaraderie, but it also helps with pacing when trying to clear areas quickly. AI slayers are surprisingly competent. During intense boss battles, they inform you when the Unity Gauge is full, allowing your team to perform a powerful group attack that destroys multiple demon parts in one strike. At least two slayers need to be adjacent to each other for the attack to work. Using the Eye of Truth, you can identify a demon’s weak spots and have to chip away at it until the creature's defenses are lowered. If you destroy a demon’s body part but fail to purify it, it regenerates during combat until proper purification is completed. The boss battles are Toukiden’s highlight. The demons are beautifully designed and relentlessly tough. Taking down a creature that’s twenty times the size of your hero is undeniably satisfying.
Sadly, gameplay outside the boss battles can be a real chore. Revisiting the same areas over and over becomes monotonous, and the grind-oriented gameplay loses its appeal after a while. The maps are vast, but the individual areas are small and empty. It also doesn’t help that each section is interrupted by loading screens. Your hero’s home base, Utaka Village, is an unexciting place. You can feed and play around with your pet Tenko, talk to fellow villagers and inquire special quests, or you can watch selected NPCs bathe when entering the cleansing area. Toukiden suffers from the same sense of detachment as Monster Hunter. Playing with other gamers via multiplayer certainly makes the grinding more fun, but it’s hard to become invested in Toukiden’s universe, unless you’re solely enamored by the demon hunting.
"Aside from a few exceptions, genre fans don’t have too many titles to choose from, and in that regard, Toukiden Kiwami succeeds."
Toukiden Kiwami boasts a gorgeous art direction, but its technical limitations don’t compliment the art style well. This may be an HD remake of a Vita title, but frankly, it looks no better than a last-gen release. Character and demon designs are impressive, even breathtaking at times, but the desolate and derivative environments underwhelm. As a result, Toukiden’s looks unpolished and incomplete. Like Omega Force’s disappointing Bladestorm: Nightmare, Toukiden barely taps into PS4’s hardware.
Toukiden Kiwami isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s only geared toward Monster Hunter fans. There is nothing wrong with crafting games towards a niche audience, but if you’re hoping for something even remotely different or new, Toukiden isn’t the game for you. On the other hand, there aren’t too many games like Monster Hunter out there. Aside from a few exceptions, genre fans don’t have too many titles to choose from, and in that regard, Toukiden Kiwami succeeds. Toukiden finds itself in the exact same situation as every single Warriors release. It’s a love/hate kind of deal. For me personally, I still prefer Warriors’ absurd wuxia action and over the top characters.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4