Cabela’s Big Beast Hunter
The Monster Hunter series may have been a mainstay on the Playstation Portable, but the series’ original fanbase has been left in the cold since Capcom’s beloved beast-busting series has moved onto the bountiful hunting grounds of Nintendo’s flagship platforms. While recent releases like Ragnarok Odyssey, Soul Sacrifice and Freedom Wars have looked to deliver a similar experience on the Playstation Vita, they’ve been met with largely mixed results, unable to eclipse the towering shadow of their inspiration. Now, Toukiden: Kiwami brings its blend of monster hunting to the Playstation 4 and Vita with its eyes set on bringing big game thrills to eager hunters looking to bag and tag some mammoth beasts.
Not quite a sequel, this supercharged update to last year’s Vita-exclusive Toukiden: Age of Demons offers a wealth of new improvements over the original game including a further fleshed out story, new weapon types, and a boatload of massive new monsters to tackle in exhilarating, combo-based combat. Developed by Dynasty Warriors developer Omega-Force, this fast-paced hunt offers a wealth of content that’s sure to scratch that Monster Hunter itch, so long as you can look past the game’s admittedly repetitious nature.
Toukiden: Kiwami takes place eight years after an event called “The Awakening”, in which an army of Oni emerged to overrun the land of Nakatsu Kuni. Players assume the role of one of the few survivors to escape their ravaged homeland and find refuge in the Utakata Village. One of the last bastions of humanity, Utakata Village survives on the frontlines of the raging war against the Oni with the help of the Slayers, a group of warriors who work to confront the Oni forces head-on in defense of mankind. Players join the ranks of this elite group with the ultimate goal of eradicating the hellish demons once and for all.
One major sticking point fans of Monster Hunter and its ilk can agree with is the storytelling typically takes a backseat in other games in this genre. Developer Omega-Force bucks this trend with Toukiden: Kiwami, admirably weaving a tale that makes you actually care about the events unfolding in Utakata Village, in no small part due to the game’s solid writing and likeable cast of characters. Each chapter of the game feels almost episodic, setting up a main objective for the Slayers to overcome, and there’s a surprising amount of dialog to keep the player engaged in the game’s narrative in-between hunts. Each chapter is typically capped off with a nicely detailed CG segment as well, further fleshing out the game’s major story segments.
Of course, while a solid narrative is certainly welcome, the meat and potatoes of Toukiden: Kiwami’s package is found when taking on gigantic beasts in the vast wilds of Nakatsu Kuni. After accepting a mission from the Command Center, you’ll assemble a party of hunters – or join up with up to three friends in cooperative play – and set out into a variety of imaginative environments as you hunt your hulking quarry. Most stages play out with you battling hordes of cannon fodder as you attempt to find the stage’s resident big baddie. Once you finally encounter these mammoth monster the gloves come off as you and your party attempt to topple the towering beast. Developer Omega-Force’s experience with the Dynasty Warriors franchise is immediately evident in these moments, as the game’s fast-paced and tight combat feels fantastic and fluid as you unleash barrages of attacks on your enemies. Oftentimes the best way to bring down these large “boss type” monsters is to hack at their limbs until they collapse, allowing you to dive in with a massive volley of attacks to build up power stocks. When your power stocks are filled you’re able to execute devastating special moves, dealing some serious damage to even the biggest of demons, some of which can take nearly a half hour to vanquish.
Unfortunately, while the combat feels great the limited amount of moves available per weapon does make combat feel stale a bit prematurely. You can augment your abilities through Mitama, the fallen souls of warriors that offer new abilities, but these spectral enhancements aren’t quite enough to offset the monotony that creeps up during the game’s more long-winded encounters. Thankfully, Omega-Force has provided Slayers with a wealth of weaponry to tackle to beat back the Oni threat, so you’ll have plenty of toys to experiment with to keep the action fresh. Players will find the typical swords, spears, twin daggers, and bows at their disposal, each feeling wildly different from one another when taken on the field. Of course, there are a few new weapons thrown in the mix for Kiwami as well to spice up the combat.
The rifle is the ranged addition to the Toukiden arsenal. Allowing players to sit back from a safe distance and throw lead at their foes, this powerful weapon is great for targeting specific weak spots of a monster, allowing you to focus your effort on limbs and other vulnerable extremities to safely bring your opponent to its knees as your party rushes in to deal the heavy damage. You can even load a mixture of different ammunition into your magazine, such as powerful explosive AOE rounds and debilitating shot that negatively impacts your enemy’s stats, helping you level the playing field. While it’s fun to use, it’s disappointing how easy it is to simply hang back and unload on your foes from a safe distance, as the enemy monsters will typically focus their attention on your gathered teammates, leaving you free to plunk away to your heart’s content.
The Naginata is another new weapon that manages to spice up the combat. This deadly melee weapon works as an amalgamation of the existing twin dagger and kusarigama weapons, which is sure to be a favorite of technical players with its balance of speed and power. However, it’s worth noting that the Naginata absolutely devours your stamina, leaving unskilled players at the mercy of their adversaries if they’re too reckless in their offensive. The last new weapon to round out Toukiden: Kiwami’s list of new weapons is the spiked club.
This mighty cudgel is pretty self explanatory, offering devastating mid-range power at the expense of speed. When you feel like forgoing maneuverability for the sake of smashing skulls, this is a fantastic choice for pounding demons into the ground like fleshy nails.
Simply put, the number of weapons in Toukiden: Kiwami is staggering, and as in any good “hunter” game you can salvage monster parts to upgrade them into even more ridiculous weapons and armor. This mechanic is as addicting as ever, ensuring you’ll replay missions over and over again to collect the pieces you require to craft the game’s most prized gear to outfit your Slayer. On that note, it’s a crying shame that the game doesn’t feature a greater variety of monsters. Though these beasts are impressive to face and awesome to look at the first few times, they repeat with such high frequency throughout Toukiden: Kiwami’s lengthy campaign that they lose nearly all of their impact, becoming a mere exercise in repetition after you’ve clashed swords with them the umpteenth time.
Online cooperative play works well to breathe new life into these tired fights, offering a quick and seamless experience as players join friends to tackle the game’s fiercest monsters. Online play is fast and smooth, and putting together the perfect party to topple a challenging Oni is immensely satisfying, and honestly makes the game’s more protracted battles infinitely more entertaining.
Toukiden: Kiwami may not raise the bar for the Playstation 4 with its visuals, but the wild and imaginative monsters and landscapes of Nakatsu Kuni look fantastic and vibrant, especially when considering the game’s cross-platform roots. More imporantly, Kiwami runs bleeding fast, even at its most frantic, offering particle-filled melees that perform without the slightest hiccup, even when battling screen-filling bosses. We can’t help but salivate imagining just how stellar a sequel designed specifically for the Playstation 4 would look. But handheld port or not, Kiwami is certainly an eye catcher.
While the visuals look great, Toukiden Kiwami also features a fantastic soundtrack full of lush, traditional Japanese pieces and epic war marches that pull you into the on-screen action. The game sports a solid Japanese language track as well, offering a surprising amount of quality voice work throughout the game’s campaign.
Toukiden: Kiwami is a welcome addition to the Playstation 4 and Vita’s library. Offering a staggering amount of fresh content for series veterans, developer Omega-Force and KOEI Tecmo have delivered a solid Monster Hunter substitute for Playstation Gamers. Featuring brisk and fluid combat, solid multiplayer, an instantly addictive crafting system, and smart refinements over the 2014 original, Kiwami is a highly entertaining hunt well worth undertaking, just as long as you can overlook its somewhat repetitive nature.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: Vita (Reviewed), Playstation 4; Publisher: KOEI Tecmo; Developer: Omega-Force; Players: 1-4 (Online); Released: March 31, 2015 ; MSRP: $39.99 (Vita) $59.99 (PS4)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Toukiden: Kiwami provided by the game’s publisher, KOEI Tecmo.