There are a lot of factors that have contributed to the PlayStation Vita’s subpar performance on the market; Price tag, Proprietary memory cards, Timing. But I don’t think that, at this point, anyone can say that it’s because of a lack of games – there are games aplenty. That is, unless you’re talking about one game in particular – then you might be onto something; one of the biggest blows dealt to the device’s welfare was the loss of Monster Hunter.
Very early on in the beginning of this handheld generation, Capcom revealed that Monster Hunter would be coming to the 3DS. Great, awesome. But wait, it’s Nintendo-handheld exclusive – and that includes not only the new installment in third gen Monster Hunter, but the fourth as well. I literally cringed when I heard the news. We’re talking about a series that had four million-sellers on the PSP, all occupying spots in the top 15 best-selling PSP games, including the top spot. This franchise single-handedly kept PSPs flying off the shelves in Japan well into the current generation.
Enter Tecmo Koei, a company that is more than ready to opportunistically fill the void with Toukiden: The Age of Demons.
First things first – Toukiden isn’t Monster Hunter. It is a monster hunting game, but it has its own sense of style and its own direction. Those looking for a clone will probably be disappointed. But if you’re looking for something somewhat similar in the same general area of the gaming landscape, it may tickle your fancy.
Toukiden has that usual Tecmo Koei flair, meaning a keen art style shrouded in slightly outdated graphics. Fans of their work on the Vita will find that its consistent in that regard when compared to Dead or Alive, Dynasty Warriors, and Ninja Gaiden. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t suffer the performance issues of Ninja Gaiden, thanks to development being based on the Vita itself.
In terms of gameplay, it’s a bit of grind. Players will have to plod through many a mission taking out x number of a certain monster of small stature. These misions are a bit of a snore, never putting the player in real danger. The carrot on the stick is the promise of battles with the larger Oni, which are difficult and satisfying. Players will attempt to identify weak points and dismantle the creature by targeting specific body parts and using an absorb ability to destroy them once severed. I had a blast with these, despite the lack of terrain navigation that Monster Hunter fans are accustomed to.
The level up system levels up not the character, but the souls of legendary warriors from Japanese history and Tecmo’s own fiction, collected by defeating Oni. These souls will provide the player with various abilities to utilize in battle – some defensive, some offensive. The weapons and armor themselves level up as well, gaining experience through use, allowing the player to have them fortified.
Multiplayer definitely makes the game better. I’ve found that I’m okay with playing Monster Hunter alone, but I almost exclusively prefer to play Toukiden online with friends. I did encounter some weird lag issues from time to time, where an enemy and a friend would appear to be engaging each other from long distances. But for the most part, it works well. Battles with the large Oni are a lot of fun with multiple friends all bearing different abilities and weapons.
If you’ve got a monster-hunting itch that needs to be scratched, give Toukiden: Age of Demons a try. It’s not the best game of all time, but it’s a suitable substitute for hunters in need.