The Monster Hunter games have a massive following in Japan, but European players haven't always had a close relationship with the series, perhaps because it requires a lot of work and grind. The Far Eastern charm continues to grow nevertheless, which is why the series has attained a certain cult status, and many studios have tried replicating its formula in their own projects, copying and transferring its structure to new settings. God Eater 2: Rage Burst, Lord of Arcana, and Toukiden are all examples of this, and each has had varying success. Omega Force has taken on this task once again, trying to take the Monster Hunter concept to a new level with Toukiden 2, but unfortunately the Dynasty Warriors developer isn't best known for innovating, and that's a trend that has seemingly continued here.
Toukiden 2 starts out in terrible fashion, and your journey begins without introduction, as you're thrown straight into a gloomy city which has been attacked by the so-called Oni. As a result of the attack it has been completely destroyed, but that's not the worst part; after the fight appears to be over, you're sucked into a portal by a demon, and when you come to, ten years have passed and you learn that mankind no longer exists in the form you previously knew. The remaining population has become entrenched in safe zones, but even in this difficult time not all of them can pull together.
Despite being a stranger to the people of the village you're now in, you support them in this time of trouble, and eventually gain allies and friends. Outside your protected settlement lies the Otherworld, a territory surrounded by toxic miasma, and people can't withstand this fog for long, so an expedition to this realm comes with certain dangers. Since the mighty Oni are often the source of the miasma, even the best-equipped warriors won't visit the Otherworld very often, so you'll need to prepare. You can do so by using the spirits of powerful personalities, called Mitama, which are an important element of Toukiden 2, and although at first glance they seem like an awkward addition, after a time they become one of the main themes of the story.
The world of Toukiden is expansive, with its varied and distinct areas, and we discover these environments gradually, learning their secrets, and eventually finding a way to push back the Oni. The map offers little variation in terms of activities, but we can always collect things and fight monsters to get materials, which works very well, especially because our AI comrades do so much by themselves, and it's only with the most powerful demons that they need our help.
The monster design reminds us of ancient Greek mythology, with enemies that look like classical creatures such as the Chimera, but overall the designs are uninspired and poorly implemented. None of the demons are particularly eye-catching, and the animations are particularly bad. While the Oni design doesn't offer any innovation, at least Omega Force succeeds in introducing new bosses all the time. If Toukiden 2 had a decent combat system, then the game would have a lot of potential, but unfortunately it falls flat in this key area.
Omega Force doesn't deliver a fine monster slasher in Toukiden 2, and at best you could call it a lukewarm brawler. As is the case in Monster Hunter there are plenty of weapons, all equally well rendered and with extensive side effects, but at the end of the day these are totally irrelevant because Toukiden 2's gameplay remains infinitely dull and monotonous. In each fight your team of mercenaries pummel massive enemies for some time until they tip over (which they do very regularly), thus granting you the opportunity to inflict more damage. If you're lucky, it won't bounce back up, otherwise you have to repeat this procedure again and again.
Just like in the Monster Hunter series it's important to cut off the body parts of the big Oni, and once you separate them from their corrupted bodies, you must then cleanse them to add them to your inventory. This must be done very quickly, though, and it's therefore helpful when several NPCs join together for this task (or other players if you're online). The demons regenerate severed body parts after a while, so a lot of damage must be done swiftly to permanently immobilise a creature.
A key feature of Toukiden 2 is the Demon Hand, because with this machine you're able to overcome the Oni's power, and thus after a while it becomes an important story element. In battle you use the device to pull yourself towards enemies or attack certain limbs, and in theory the Demon Hand is a very powerful tool for skilled players to overthrow large Oni. In practice, though, the mechanics are so terrible that it simply can't be used efficiently. When we used it while aiming, for example, our character remained in place (both analog sticks control the cursor at the same time), so we were unable to follow a moving target.
Each class has three attacks, some of which can be charged or combined, but in the end it doesn't make much difference which technique you use to beat the monster during combat. Button mashing often feels like the way to go. Active skills and passive abilities were introduced to deepen the combat system, but the lack of challenge negates any need to deal with these features. Many attacks don't hit their targets even when the camera is activated, because your character isn't at the right distance, which doesn't help. As you don't do anything beyond fighting, it should have worked flawlessly, but unfortunately this isn't the case.
What Toukiden 2 does really well is distill the Monster Hunter concept down into a more a simplified version. Capcom lets us grind every possible type of material to exhaustion in their games, but in Toukiden 2 this idea is stripped down to the essentials. For example, there's an item that acts as a wildcard, allowing us to replace any object with another, and if a similar system was in Monster Hunter Generations, it would have saved us the ten hours we once spent searching for a specific insect.
Customisation is a big part of Toukiden 2, and the character creation is exemplary, as there's over 70 different hairstyles and more than 50 nose models to choose from, before they disappear behind a helmet (we must also mention that the facial hair doesn't look particularly great). We just wish the developers had put a bit more variety in the design of their world and its inhabitants, instead of adding further facial models. NPCs are typically Japanese and absolutely satisfactory, as is the writing in the game, but the overall presentation and the gameplay are below average, which is a shame.
Generic quests and below average gameplay mechanics and story make Toukiden 2 a very dull experience, one which successfully reproduces the Monster Hunter formula only in part, leaving important elements by the wayside to the detriment of the experience. It's a shame Omega Force couldn't make it work, but at least there are some good ideas shining through.