【Toukiden 2】 Review 2017-08-15 03:59:41
Getting into Toukiden 2’s co-op experience isn’t entirely easy if, like me, you’re a newcomer to the series. While the game’s story is new and has little tie-in (outside of a couple returning characters and mentions to the previous village) to the last game, it feels like there is some assumption that you’ve played Toukiden when it comes to the actual action. The first hour or so of playtime is devoted to a series of story missions that double as a tutorial for some of the new features, like the “Demon Hand,” but there’s an underlying sense throughout that you already know what you’re doing and just adding this new info on top of that.
Even the character creation menu seems to assume some familiarity with the Toukidenseries. You’re asked which of the 11 different weapons you wish to use with little explanation given as to the different attack techniques (Slash, Thrust, and Crush) mean or why you might choose the spear over the chain and sickle. Once you get into the prologue mission, you’re provided the basics for how to attack and use special weapons, but not every weapon is straightforward and some require a little more finesse/understanding to use properly. Add to that an array of special abilities provided to you based on which Mitama you have equipped (an important system that is not adequately explained in the tutorial missions), and it’s all a bit overwhelming. That being said, it’s worth sticking things out through that first hour until you’re given free reign about Mahoroba Village (the hub town/main base for Toukiden 2) and you gain access to additional tutorial missions via an NPC. These tutorials cover all the different weapons and Mitama special abilities, including how to properly use them, and are an invaluable resource for new players.
While the fun of playing the game with friends stems from working together to bring down oni, the core of that experience stems from the builds and, in a way, roles you can create for your group via the Mitama. Mitama are the souls of famous Japanese historical figures and heroes (think Oda Nobunaga and Hattori Hanzo) that confer bonuses to your character via “Boosts” and determine what special skills you can use in combat. Those Boosts encompass an array of passive abilities that make your special skills more effective, or increase your overall health/defense/attack, or even give you certain attack bonuses with certain weapons. For instance, the Plunder Mitama has special abilities that will cause oni body parts to instantly purify when they get removed, while the Attack Mitama increases your overall damage. With over 200 Mitama to find in the game, too, there are a lot of Boosts to be had and they combo in some pretty interesting ways.
Whether you’re playing single-player or co-op, you’ll be using your weapons and Mitama to face off against supernatural creatures known as oni. Every oni in the game has its own set of unique attacks, strengths/weaknesses, and materials you can acquire from successfully hacking off a limb and then “purifying” it, which in turn lets you craft all kinds of weapons and armor. Removing parts from the large oni is also important as it exposes their “life force” and makes it possible for you to kill them. As you progress the story campaign, or the separate co-op missions, the oni get tougher and more dangerous, and require even greater coordination to take down. Though the campaign is a single-player only affair, it’s worth playing through, both because there are some campaign-specific Mitama to acquire and because the story touches on some interesting and surprising topics, like nativism vs. immigrants. All of the gear you craft, money you earn, and Mitama you acquire from the campaign will carry over into the co-op missions (and vice versa).
The co-op missions, called “Slayer Missions,” are completely separate from the single-player campaign, and even the single-player Slayer Missions. Before you can select a co-op mission, though, you have to progress through the story enough to be given full access to Mahoroba Village, and then you have to set up a co-op lobby/HQ by using the Portal Stone. Once the lobby is created, you can speak with the appropriate NPC to take on one of these tasks. The co-op missions are divided into different phases, 12 total, with the requirement to complete certain ones (indicated with red text) before you can advance to the next phase. These missions are the main selling point to Toukiden 2: teaming up with a group of friends and taking down larger foes, one body part at a time. You can fill in empty player slots with A.I. companions, who take care of themselves pretty well and are fairly skilled at hacking off oni limbs, but nothing beats getting a group of four friends together to work out a strategy for felling a mighty foe.
These missions vary greatly and increase in difficulty with the phase number. Lower phases have players facing groups of small and medium ones, or perhaps one large oni. Things start to escalate around phase 4 when you start facing off against two or three large oni at once. From phase 7 onwards, “Expert” versions of the large oni are introduced as well, which are tougher versions of the ones you’ve previously fought with some new attack patterns tossed in there to keep you on your toes.
Along with the co-op missions, there’s an endless mode and a challenge mode (available in both single-player and co-op) available to test your oni-slaying capabilities via the “Ruin Exploration” missions. The endless mode lets you and your oni slaying crew tackle an unlimited number of floors (and oni) with the option to call it quits every five floors. Every floor pits you against a random oni, or group of oni, so you never know what you’ll face. The one guarantee you have is that it will get harder the further you go and that if your group should ever get wiped out, you’ll lose all of the materials you’ve earned thus far. There’s a definite risk/reward balance to be struck with “do we go another five floors, or take our winnings and go home?” The challenge mode is capped at a max of 10 floors and, again, every floor pits you against random oni. The difference between this and the endless version is that you have to complete all 10 floors before you can leave. Both of these modes provide some great variety to the co-op play and really ramp up that feeling of need to strategize and work together as you don’t have the luxury of knowing what you’ll be going up against ahead of time.
Despite the campaign and open world aspects of Toukiden 2 being limited to single-player only, there’s a lot to do within the co-op only side of things. It’s also a lot more fun to strategize and plan out your build with a group of friends than it is to do that alone. Thanks to the “Ruin Exploration” missions, too, there’s more to do than just grind for materials/gear, though it’s hard to avoid some of that once you start getting into the “Expert” oni missions. Of the handful of Monster Hunter style action-RPGs games I’ve played, this is the one I find myself drawn to the most; the one I enjoy picking up and playing, even if it’s only for a couple of quick missions.
The story mode of Toukiden 2 pulled me in and kept me moving through the world, wondering what my next threat would be and which new friends I would find to help fight the foes. It’s a great world that I quickly became engaged in as I fought my way through the exciting single player and fantastic co-op.
The story, in single player, is very involved; pulling the player through events that span time and space. However, it never feels overly complicated, as each layer of story development is carefully added on with well-timed pacing, letting the player feel as though they understand what is happening in the world around them. As you kill the monsters throughout the campaign you are steadily given new monster-killing NPCs, known as Slayers, to fight alongside. Paired with generous amounts of loot, the game feels welcoming, letting the player experiment with everything from weapon types and their elements, to crafting exciting and powerful armor.
It is with great joy that the best parts of the game translate so well to co-op. In co-op, instead of progressing the story, you go to another player’s game or let them join yours, completing missions together and working through the game’s dungeon mode. However, the enticing piles of loot still flow, which can be used for building and upgrading weapons as well as armor in both single player and co-op. The co-op also has an independent system of progression, meaning that the more time you and your party devote to slaying Oni, the more exciting and dangerous bosses you will continue to face.
When it comes to the act of combat, co-op shines bright as well. When you are given NPC Slayers to work with, they do an exceptional job keeping up and fighting hard. However, with friends and other players, you can coordinate attacks, working harder and smarter towards removing the ever-challenging body parts of your Oni foes. The chemistry created by a thoughtful party of Slayers was something I was excited about each time I was able to play co-op, it allowed me to experiment with different weapons, armor and Mitama while still able to enjoy combat due to battle savvy teammates.