Toukiden: The Age of Demons was and still is a great adventure on the PlayStation Vita, but it's been made a bit obsolete by its follow-up, Toukiden: Kiwami. Not quite a sequel, Kiwami includes the entirety of the original game, plus a slew of new chapters which continue the story after the events of The Age of Demons. As such, it's a robust package that's perfect for people who haven't sampled the first release, but better still is the fact that Kiwami also manages to successfully build upon what came before it, providing gameplay tweaks across the board.
Essentially, this is a re-release that's topped off by a lengthy end-game campaign. If you think of it in the same vein as Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, you're on the right track. By the end of the original, your custom made character had thwarted the demonic oni hordes, and you were basically the saviour of the land. Kiwami's new content kicks off after the finale, and includes a new storyline, new monsters to slay, new characters, new mitama, new equipment to forge, and three new weapon types to play around with.
If you've already sunk dozens of hours into the first title, you'll probably be glad to know that you can transfer your save data over to Kiwami, and you can begin exactly where you left off. What's more, if you've totally forgotten the plot, you can elect to carry over your character progress – including gear and mitama – but jump back to the beginning of the story, an ideal option for those who shelved the original before getting stuck into the narrative.
New players, on the other hand, will have to start everything from scratch, slogging through the entire original release before moving on to the expanded plot. And, if you are a newcomer, know now that it'll take you at least 30 or so hours to get there. Indeed, there's a staggering amount of content to wade through, but again, that's what arguably makes this the perfect starting point.
For those who don't know, Toukiden tasks you with slaying demons – or oni – in a mythical, almost post-apocalyptic world that's heavily inspired by feudal Japan. You play as your own customised slayer – a warrior that specialises in killing fearsome beasts – and it's up to you and your allies to keep your cosy little village safe. The storyline and the characters are never amazing, but it's a solid, if predictable plot, and it ties in nicely with the gameplay. The cast, meanwhile, start out seemingly generic, but grow to be very likeable as things progress.
Taking your varied buddies into battle, the game follows an obvious Monster Hunter-style formula, but it does just enough to make it its own. Selecting from a list of missions split up between chapters, you'll be tasked with slaying a particular beast, or beasts, across several different maps. It's a pretty release, with an attractive art style and some lovingly crafted monster designs, and each area sports its own weirdly compelling colour palette.
Weaker, small oni can be felled in just a few hits, but the bigger beasts are what Toukiden is all about. These sometimes colossal creatures feature in fights that can last over half an hour as you whittle down their health, but thanks to the title's satisfyingly weighty combat, it never feels like too much of a slog. The reason that the larger demons seem so resilient is because they'll only reveal their true forms after they take a beating, and they become engulfed in a shadowy second skin. In this form, you'll finally be able to deal damage to their actual health bar.
The problem is, of course, that big baddies tend to hit rather hard. Combat, therefore, revolves around knowing attack patterns, and moving in to do some damage only when you know that you can. Fights are pretty dynamic, too, as you can lop the limbs off your aggressors, which may weaken certain moves. For example, you can focus all of your attention on an oni's right arm, eventually cutting it off, which might stop it from dealing out such devastating punches.
It's not quite that easy, though, as your foes will try to regenerate their missing parts if you leave them lying on the battlefield for long enough. To stop this, you and your allies will need to purify the pieces by standing near and holding down R1 to initiate a purification circle. The more of you that gather around, the faster it'll be purified, but it's usually a good idea for at least one person to try and keep your enemy busy as the others stand there, almost defenceless.
Indeed, it's very much a team effort, especially when you have to deal with more than one giant demon. Fortunately, the artificial intelligence is more than competent, and your pals will almost always look after themselves, and you, if need be. Sadly, there are missions that require you to work solo, and although few in number, they tend to showcase the release at its worst. Without a capable party backing you up, battles against big foes can seem to drag on for an eternity. It's not that being alone is particularly difficult – after all, if you know your adversary's attack patterns, you'll generally be fine – it's just that actually chipping away at your enemy's health bar becomes tedious when no one's fighting alongside you.
Solo gripes aside, the combat's enjoyably accessible, and offers everything that it needs to in order to keep you interested. The first release featured six weapon types, each with their own playstyle, and Kiwami introduces three more, which newbies can make use of from the very beginning. All of them are good additions, and each fill a gap in the initial selection of armaments.
For starters, the naginata is a polearm that's like a cross between the sword and the sickle or dagger movesets. It's an incredibly fun weapon to use, as it's very combo-based, allowing you to hit multiple body parts of bigger oni with each swing if you manage to keep your combo count up without being hit. The naginata also boasts a parry, which, when timed correctly, completely negates your foe's offensive. Time it just off, though, and it drains quite a bit of stamina, but it's still a technique that more advanced players will likely adore.
Next up is the spiked club, the heaviest weapon in the game, but also one of the most deadly. You aren't able to dodge roll with it equipped, so you'll have to make do with a slight sort of sidestep movement, but the raw power is arguably worth the disadvantages that it brings. It's got good range, and quickly builds up your destruction meter, which allows you to let loose with a super move that's guaranteed to sever a limb if it hits. So, like the naginata, it's an armament that veterans will probably get the most use out of.
Finally, we have the rifle; a long range weapon, it joins the bow in this department, but It has a bit more kick to it, and it's far more technical. Not only does each different rifle hold a varying combination of ammo types, from explosive rounds to piercing projectiles that go straight through your enemies, you can even re-order your bullets and throw grenades for various additional effects. It's definitely one of the more difficult weapon types to master, but it makes for a satisfying payoff when you're shooting big uglies squarely in the back of the head.
Alongside the fresh armaments are new mitama types, too. Essentially souls of historical warriors, your equipped mitama determines your overall playstyle, and finding the right one for you is a rewarding process. Kiwami throws in two additional categories: support and plunder. Support, as its name suggests, focuses on buffing allies with boosts to attack, defence, and health regeneration, while plunder makes it much easier to purify and destroy giant oni's body parts. Neither new class is particularly exciting, but they add a bit more variety to the pool of abilities already on offer.
There are other gameplay tweaks to be found elsewhere, however. The addition of a team gauge in battle gives you another offensive option, as you can deplete it to use an especially destructive team technique that cuts off numerous demon limbs in one massive slice. The peaceful Ukataka Village has changed as well, sporting a new seasonal look, and boasting a few extra features that'll help you develop your character faster.
Not only can your fluffy Tenko companion now carry a mitama with it on its quests, granting the accompanying spirit experience points while you're off doing your own thing, but you'll also have the ability to send an ally away on another mission if they're not in your active party. This means that you can stock up on specific materials, and it's certainly helpful when you're in desperate need of bits and pieces so that you can craft a shiny new set of armour. Both are small additions, for sure, but they're thoughtful all the same, and help alleviate the grind for better equipment.
As if that wasn't enough, new mission types are on hand to freshen things up, too. Emergency missions pop up now and again, and task you with putting down a randomised giant oni, while infinite missions are randomly generated, and offer increasingly difficult battles that rage on until you're defeated or decide to quit. The latter also provides a much greater chance of nabbing rare mitama.
Shockingly, there's actually a bit of an unforeseen twist here, in that Kiwami's biggest improvement is its story. The Age of Demons set things up well, introducing the world, its inhabitants, and the situation, and the new post-game narrative does a surprisingly great job of expanding it further. It's still not an amazingly deep or engrossing plot, but it introduces characters, themes, and scenarios that make proceedings seem much more interesting. By and large, it's a satisfyingly competent story, and a one that's bolstered by your own involvement, standing at the centre of the narrative as a now legendary and respected slayer.
There's already a heck of a lot to get through if you're playing the release alone, but there's even more when you team up with others. A whole separate mission list exists if you want to join up with friends or strangers online, and while they're not really any different to the single player selection, teaming up with fellow human beings obviously allows for much more tactical experimentation when it comes to mitama types and weapon combos. They're also a good way to farm yet more materials, all while making new buddies in the process.
So, how does the game look on the PlayStation 4? Well, as we've said, Toukiden's got an eye-catching art direction, and it already looks nice and crisp on the Vita's display, but everything appears a notch better on Sony's newest console. Lighting is far more impressive, adding depth to the environmental visuals, and textures are drastically improved in places, particularly on armour. Some cool-looking effects have been applied to attacks as well, with sparks and spurts of black oni blood being highlights. By and large, you can still tell that it's a port of a Vita title, but overall, it holds up well, and it runs incredibly smoothly to boot.
If you missed out the first time around, Toukiden: Kiwami shouldn't be avoided. The expanded storyline provides a great backdrop for the property's addictive gameplay loop, and a wealth of new content, coupled with some thoughtful tweaks and additional features, gives returning players more than enough reason to renew their slaying license. Koei Tecmo's creation is starting to truly blossom with this enhanced re-release, and we can't wait to see where it goes next.