The process of localizing a video game can be complex and lengthy, especially today. Try going back and playing Final Fantasy VII, for instance; that’s a classic game, but the translation is by no means up to snuff by today’s standards. Today that’s less common, and modern games brought over to the West tend to be a little easier to swallow…but again, the process can take a while, and that can have interesting ramifications. Case in point: Nihon Falcom’s Tokyo Xanadu.
Kou Tokisaka’s got a rough life: go to school, work at any of a number of part-time jobs afterwards, sleep and repeat. It gets even rougher when Kou stumbles into another dimension and discovers that one of his classmates, Asuka, is part of a secret society dedicated to fighting otherworldly monsters known as Greed. It’s not long before Kou ends up joining this fight himself; by utilizing a mysterious inner power, he’s able to call upon a supernatural weapon to battle against the Greed. Now he has to balance his life as a high school student with his life as an occult monster hunter.
Does that sound familiar? Perhaps it might remind you of a game with a very similar premise released a couple months ago. Yes, Tokyo Xanadu feels like it’s trying really hard to be Persona, and with Persona 5 having come out very recently it’s going to come off as, uh, very “inspired” by that critically acclaimed title. The interesting thing here is that Xanadu’s actually a much older game, having originally been released in Japan in 2015. It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if this game’s release timing was determined in an attempt to pick up players who had just finished P5 and who were looking for more of the same sort of game. If someone made a Persona game about secret societies rather than thieves (as in P5) or murder mysteries (as in P4), they might come up with something that tastes like Tokyo Xanadu.
That’s not to say Xanadu necessarily plays like Persona. This is an action-RPG with a much heavier emphasis on the action side of things. Your characters wield various weapons called Soul Devices, which all have goofy names and aesthetics; Kou has a whip-blade that works out somewhat like Kratos’ Blades of Chaos from God of War, Asuka has a sword used for quick attacks and dodges and so on. You’ll beat up foes in fairly simple engagements, paying attention to a rock-paper-scissors elemental triangle to attack weaknesses and avoid resistances. it’s not the most engrossing gameplay; you’ve got melee combos, ranged attacks and a short-lived super mode, and that’s about it. Dodge and smack your way to victory. There’s some limited amount of character customization, but this is a hack-and-slasher through and through.
Outside of combat, you’ve got sidequests to work on and stats to build up…again, somewhat like Persona. Interestingly, I’ve also seen this game compared to Trails of Cold Steel, and upon reading that I noticed that quite a few of Tokyo Xanadu’s animations and assets seemed to be reused from that title – it’s one of those “once you see it, you can’t unsee it” things – so it might even be called a Trails clone rather than a Persona clone. It’s not bad-looking by any means, the text didn’t give me heartburn and the voice acting was acceptable, so there’s nothing technically wrong with Xanadu aside from the typical Vita framerate woes, but, well…
The fact of the matter is that this game owes a lot to other games, by which I mean it owes a whole lot to other games and doesn’t feel especially original at any point. That’s not the end of the world, but it does mean that the sort of player who’s into this kind of game is likely going to be familiar with what’s being offered here, especially since Tokyo Xanadu is a sizable chunk of a JRPG at around 40 hours. A lot of those players are going to be coming down from the sugar high that was Persona 5, and they might look down on Tokyo Xanadu as a result…but on the other hand, if you loved that game, you want more and you’re willing to accept a title that doesn’t quite live up to those lofty heights, then there’s less amazing games you could play. Just look at Mind: Zero for instance. Tokyo Xanadu beats the pants off that one.