The sequel to Koei Tecmo's medieval Japanese monster hunting game is finally here so grab your demon hand and let's fight some oni.
After choosing some basic features for your character, you play as an unnamed protagonist who's thrust in the middle of a battle fighting hordes of oni (demon-like monsters). You don't have any context as to where you are but you can sense that something big is happening. Once you meet up with some other characters and start to get your bearings, you're picked up into a storm cloud and tossed into your new base of operations, the slayer village of Mahoroba. Here, you'll meet all sorts of folks as you try to explain who you are, where you're from and how you know so much about the great battle you fought in that supposedly happened a long time ago.
There's a tense political landscape in Mahoroba where the Guards and Samurai are in a constant battle for power. Guards are insiders who have protected slayer villages since before The Awakening (the event that you partook in ten years prior). Samurai are outsiders who joined forces since the event although both sides share the ultimate goal of protecting villages from the oni that started showing up since The Awakening. This tension between the two sides of old and new constantly presents itself in conversations between characters and how they interact. Seeing as you have no background in what actually happened (other than experiencing it without any context), there's a constant feeling of being stuck in the middle of it and just wanting everyone to get along.
Toukiden 2's gameplay emulates a monster hunting game where you are given quests that ultimately involve tracking down certain oni and killing them. To aid you in your fight, you can pick from an ever-changing selection of party members that include a mix of samurai and guards alike. The characters each have a distinct personality and style which keeps the conversations on your trip interesting but there isn't a ton of chemistry between them. The professor is one of the more interesting characters you'll meet as she's a young lady who's developing the demon hand. As you're introduced to new people who join your party, everyone gets their own demon hand to use in battle. The professor insists on it to further her cause of perfecting the device, allowing her to gather data and try out new abilities. She is quite chipper and this provides some levity to the dark undertones of the story.
The demon hand mixes up the process of battling oni and exploring otherworlds with its array of abilities. When you're running through an otherworld (an area where time and space have been warped to create alternate versions of ages in medieval Japan), you can use the demon hand to reach otherwise inaccessible areas by aiming the hand at a cliff and using it as a boost to get to the top. You'll also use it to grab Geopulses and fling them at enemies, reach hidden collectibles high up in trees and grab and throw objects to destroy them. In battle, the hand can be used to grab the enemy and pull yourself to it (especially useful when battling large oni that jump around the battlefield) as well as perform special moves that knock down foes and expose their weak spots.
On top of the abilities the demon hand provides, slayers themselves have the ability to purify enemies and allies. When battling large oni, the general goal is to pull off pieces of their bodies and purify them in order to prevent them from regenerating. Accomplishing this with your party members can be quite a rush as you attempt to purify the body parts while the demon is charging at you. The more party members purify at once, the less time it takes. However, if you don't purify it in time, the creature will respawn the body part and you'll have to start again. Another ability they possess is using the Eye of Truth. This adds a blue filter to the display which allows you to see hidden markings that can help track down an oni.
As you traverse the world, you'll find characters that give you sidequests. These actually have an interesting variety to them such as asking you to defeat a certain oni or find specific items, treasures or people dotted around. If it wasn't for the sidequests, the gameplay would become very one-note with you simply leaving the village to slay an oni each time you take on a new duty.
Items and upgrades can play a large role if you want them to. Otherwise, you'll get along just fine sticking with one type of weapon and buying the newest equipment whenever it's available. In order to upgrade, you have to collect items that are dropped from oni. When you equip new gear, the character model actually changes to show that they're wearing it. I always appreciate this as it adds another reason to change up your party's armour if you like playing with your their appearances like I do.
Visually, Toukiden 2 looks like a good quality PlayStation 3 game. The time period represented doesn't allow for a huge variety in style but the villages and ruins have a good level of detail that keeps them attractive while exploring. The overworld itself (where you'll spend most of your time) can feel a little sparse and dull. Sometimes, there are huge spaces between anything interesting and you'll find yourself using the Stormrunner ability to quickly travel past these areas and reach something more meaningful. It's not completely boring to traverse but it's not impressive either. The audio is much the same as it basically consists of traditional Japanese music to set the tone of medieval Japan. In the North American version, there's no English voice acting which is a bit disappointing as it always pulls me out of conversations when I try to match the tone of someone speaking in another language with the text that I'm reading. Purists may appreciate this but having a choice would have been much better.
Toukiden 2 manages to stay interesting by providing a wealth of abilities that can be used in exploration and fighting. However, it doesn't do a ton to break apart from its mostly one-note formula of traversing large open lands in order to find and take down oni.
- + Slayer and demon hand abilities keep battles with large oni interesting
- + Intriguing political landscape adds tension
- + Sidequests help mix up the gameplay
- - Duties basically consist of the same thing over and over again
- - Graphics and audio aren't hugely impressive
- - Only a handful of interesting characters