The Monster Hunter series is one that takes a lot of time to get into. Usually, those proficient in the series need a few runs before they become completely familiar with it, which is understandable – it’s not exactly newbie-friendly, and while it’s an excellent game (especially for multiplayer) it scares away potential players for that same reason. That’s why when a game comes along that delivers a similar experience without the bluster, you tend to sit up and take notice. Toukiden: The Age of Demons is one such game, delivering a bargain Monster Hunter experience for Vita owners going through a bit of a drought when it comes to viable software for their handheld.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a fantastic surrogate for anyone looking for a similar outing for Sony’s little device that could ignite a new addiction – especially given Nintendo’s lukewarm multiplayer support across all consoles.
In Toukiden, you’re charged with creating your very own slayer to be born into the world, infiltrating a living, breathing universe teeming with Oni to be slain. It’s an engrossing world that’s a welcome alternative to the Western fantasy worlds that MMOs seem to have become mired in over the last few years. The narrative itself is barebones, but the universe itself is promising – if there were ever to be a sequel, it would be worth expanding upon the annotated bits of dialogue and what otherwise amounts to the filler that exists between missions.
It makes sense that the narrative takes a backseat to individual growth, though, when you consider this is a world built to satisfy solo and group partying. You and your character (and friends, if you can gather them up) sojourn out into the world to face off against the massive Oni waiting to grind your bones into dust. But there’s one caveat: you don’t have to sit around and wait for real, live human friends or even online acquaintances to join the game lobby to get your adventure going. You can set forth with three AI slayers who are more than happy to grind along with you, competent enough to know when to go on the offensive and when to back off.
While the missions themselves are rather rudimentary splits between Monster Hunter and Soul Sacrifice’s third-person “zones” and loading screens, they’re little more than window dressing for the main draw: the towering boss battles. Stumble upon a larger-than-life Oni and you’ll be in the match for the long haul, with these larger trophy monsters taking anywhere from one minute to 45, depending on how prepared you and your party are. Chaining attacks, outfitting you and your companions with optimal equipment, and tailoring your play style to each individual monster is the key to victory. You may find you’re handier with a long sword than a spear, or twin blades over a long bow. Whatever it takes to Purify minerals, you’ll end up doing it, as while combat itself is addictive, so is collecting materials and upgrading components.
As accessible and engaging as Toukiden is, however, there are a few issues. It doesn’t exactly make full use of the Vita’s astonishing capabilities, and there is no English dub track. If you’re not a fan of dubs, this obviously won’t be an issue, but for some this is a make or break experience. The Japanese voice cast, however, is excellent, and a lack of English audio isn’t a glaring oversight, but a puzzling one given the propensity to localize these types of things and offer dual tracks these days.
It’s pretty cut-and-dry whether or not you should play Toukiden: The Age of Demons. Those diehard Monster Hunter fans who may be questing without a Nintendo console will find it an appropriate substitute that works well with or without real-life friends. While it may not soar to the same heights as Capcom’s blockbuster franchise, interested adventurers should definitely look into it – especially if you’re looking for a reason to keep your Vita out and not collecting dust anymore.