November 16, 2015

Tokyo Xanadu Review

Posted in video games tagged , at 7:32 pm by riulyn

Tokyo Xanadu is a Nihon Falcom action RPG that just released in Japan on September 30 of this year and was just finished this morning by me. If you want the short summary, it is basically a game more about variety then being complex or deep story-wise or gameplay-wise. It’s an overall solid, enjoyable (at least for me and what I can tell of the Internet) experience but it is definitely not a game changer in any way (unless the sales were good enough that another company will make a game with a similar mashup, which I’d totally be in for). Hopefully non-Japanese speakers can see a localization of this game in their preferred language sometime in 2016!

The game basically is broken up into chapters that go like this: “introduction” to the scenario – free time to do quests and spend time with other characters – story progressing [dialogue + dungeon(s)]. So let’s talk a bit about the story first.

The main character Tokisaka Kou is a 2nd year high school student at Morimiya High School, which I believe is supposed to be a fictional suburb of Tokyo. He’s not in any school clubs but instead is a work-a-holic in the sense that he likes taking lots of part-time gigs at different places. On the way home from work he spots the class representative Hiiragi Asuka being followed by two hoodlums. He’s off to “rescue” her when suddenly a red “gate” appears and the four of them get transported to a “strange” world (not sure how best to translate the term) and Kou somehow is transported to a different part of the world and when he finds Asuka again he sees that she can kick major ass against these strange world monsters called “Greed”. “Red gates” with powerful Greed start appearing more and more and basically you can kind of figure out where the plot is going. I would say an obvious plot is not necessarily a bad thing; the game feels episodic at first and everything wraps up except for one hook which then becomes the real deal.

The side content is decently developed. It’s more unfortunate, perhaps, that there is no way, at least to my knowledge, to see all of the “character bonding episodes” in one playthrough, as the amount of free time you get in a chapter is usually less than the number of character episodes available. There are up to 4 (I think) “character bonding episodes” per character. Doing these scenes gives you and the character you bond with an increase in their soul points (if they are a playable character), which does let you and them do better special attacks when the soul level goes up. Otherwise it’s not that important gameplay-wise. Even if you don’t do a character episode with them, they also gain soul EXP through participating in battle and through story progression.

Besides the character episodes, there are obvious subquests that you find reported in NiAR (basically your “library” system) and others you unlock by talking to people around town. There is a whole section, in typical Falcom fashion, dedicated to the known tidbits you’ve unlocked for each person of interest. To actually fill out the whole thing probably requires at least 2 playthroughs, because some of the entries are character episode-dependent.

Oh, I forgot to mention that there are 3 personal stats you can work on – knowledge, bravery, and “good-will” (not sure how to translate that last kanji). Reading books and answering correctly during story events increases knowledge. Battling increases bravery. Completing subquests increases good-will. I only happened to max out bravery, so I don’t know if something happens in game when you max the others.

In terms of battling, there are some elements that are reminiscent of Ys games but it’s really just a straightforward action system. You have two types of basic attacks – “physical”, close-up basic attacks (circle button) and skill attacks (square button). The skill attacks comes in 3 varieties. Press lightly and you “shoot” magic out towards the enemy. Press a long time and you have a massive damaging “physical” attack. This is necessary to use when you need to break certain barriers or walls in order to progress through a dungeon. Press lightly when you are still in the air after jumping and you fly towards your target with a “magical” attack. This is necessary for some of the platforming mechanics in the game. You have a X-drive gauge that allows you, when full, to get a boost for a short time. You also have a special attack gauge that allows you, once full, to unleash an attack causing mass damage to all surrounding enemies and eventually you can get aid from a buddy to make it even more damaging. Your other basic commands are jump (X button), avoid (R button lightly), dash (R button held down while moving), lock target (L button), change between fighting characters (triangle button), change between current fighting character and support character (right D-pad), item menu (left D-pad), reset camera (up D-pad), use X-drive (down D-pad). Yes, you don’t have the ability to guard, but you can double jump.

The battle system is geared for cycling between three characters and using the character with the enemy’s elemental weakness and pummeling everything quickly and efficiently. There are 5 elements in the game. Fire, Water, Wind and Earth/Electricity have their obvious order (Water beats Fire, Fire beats Wind, etc.) and then there is the Dark element that is its own thing. You don’t have to worry about knowing this info; if you lock onto an enemy you’ll see its elemental weakness. Also, if you land attacks against an enemy’s elemental weakness, the damage numbers show up in yellow instead of white.

Compared to other action RPGs I have played, the goal of the first part of each dungeon is to complete it fast, taking little damage, getting all the treasure, and defeating enemies with their weak element. Getting good scores on these attributes gives you a good rank at the end of the first part. I personally like this system. There’s an incentive to do well and you don’t spend time rehashing areas (unless you want to due to subquests, etc.).

I do think, though, that the normal difficulty is easier than normal for any Ys game. In general the bosses are easier. You also have the support mechanic that gives you more ways to regen HP. Also, you get way more items then you even get in Ys Celceta for Vita and it wasn’t hard to have more than 30 healing potions on hand just from dungeon crawling. I really only had to retry a battle because I was trying to skimp too much on items and I wasn’t doing my best at avoiding attacks. I felt like there were only a few boss battles that felt quite difficult for that time because you were suddenly having to deal with a lot less space to maneuver and an enemy that had a wide range or a very damaging attack (aka one hit takes 1/3 of your HP or something like that). In general, compared to Ys and some other action RPGs I’ve played, there’s a lot of close-quarters fighting, even in the dungeon part.

So after all this text I have hopefully explained how the game works in a manner which allows you to judge whether mechanic-wise this game could be enjoyed by you. As for actually rating each part, I think I said it best above – it’s a system of variety with not so much depth or complexity. Characters are diverse, both in personality and in fighting-style, but they do fit common tropes. The story is episodic and has predictable structure, which I think is a benefit because it doesn’t force you to deal with as much filler as you do in games like Persona. It’s not a deep or life-changing experience; it’s probably too happy for the realists out there. I think, though, it’s nice to have a system that gives you just enough to not be the same for too long but also doesn’t challenge you to think too hard.

Except for some of those kanji that are used… Yes, Japanese-level wise the game is not harder than usual. It’s just the usual bit of uncommon kanji that I guess Falcom is famous for using. The voice acting is solid (in my opinion) and there are enough exclamation point hints to help you even if you don’t know exactly what to do. I think it’s a doable game for someone with intermediate Japanese knowledge who’s good at picking up vocab in context or is willing to use a dictionary as much as necessary (I’m the latter). I don’t think there’s enough depth to this game to warrant buying it just for the battle system, though. Wait for Ys 8, whenever that comes out. Yes, this game did make me wish I had Ys 8 instead at times, just because the battle system was simplified (I want the skill variety like in Celceta and Seven), but the story and characters were enough for me to have a good time as well as increase my Japanese vocabulary. For those of you interested in this game but not Japanese learners/speakers, I’d say it’s worth waiting for the game to be localized to your native language in order to enjoy all of the game’s mechanics.

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