Have you ever wanted to punch a giant spider in the face so hard that its limbs fly off? Toukiden Kiwami might be for you. Kiwami is an updated version of the Dynasty Warriors developer’s hunting-action game, Toukiden. As a fan of the genre, I put Toukiden through its paces to see how it holds up to its contemporaries.
Now full disclosure: I didn’t play the original version of Toukiden. I’m approaching this game merely as someone who’s familiar with other hunting games like Monster Hunter and Freedom Wars, so this will be less about the new Kiwami content and more about the game overall. The main attraction of this Kiwami release is that it basically doubles the content in the game, adding new monsters, weapons, and more. Of course since I was a Toukiden newbie, it was quite a while before I saw most of it.
If Monster Hunter scared you off due to its complexity, you may find Toukiden Kiwami more welcoming. Preparation for battles is pretty simple: you pick a Mitama (a spirit of a Japanese hero) which serves the purposes of both items and passive skills, ready your armor and weapons, maybe say a prayer at the shrine, and then you’re good to go. There’s way less prep time than one might expect in a game like this, and it’s just one example among many that paint Toukiden Kiwami as a much more straightforward experience. It may not seem like a big deal, but this differentiates the game significantly from something like Monster Hunter.
Honestly, I think Toukiden Kiwami is too convenient. While the game indeed feels simpler, it lacks a lot of the nuance of Monster Hunter games as a result. Nothing demonstrates this better than being able to check the health of your target by pressing the start button. At a glance it might seem like a simple convenience, but it’s a pretty telling aspect of how the encounters in Toukiden are designed.
There are very few indicators of progress when fighting the game’s big monsters. They don’t run away or move into different areas. They don’t show subtle signs of weakness. Instead of any natural indicators, almost every monster has access to a “second form” of sorts when they get low on health, where their moveset either changes entirely or they have one powerful new attack. That’s about as complicated as it gets, unfortunately. Whereas Monster Hunter has a lot of cool touches that feed your intuition about how well you’re doing, Toukiden simply gives you a health bar to check like a watch. “Oh, I guess it’s dead monster ‘o clock!”
That’s not necessarily game-ruining, but I feel the sacrifices they’ve made hurt the monster encounters overall. By their nature hunting games want you to replay the same fights over and over for materials to make better equipment. Because of this, games like Monster Hunter try to make no two hunts feel exactly the same, and they try to convey that through monster behavior and the environment. In comparison, the hunts in Toukiden are much more barebones.
As I mentioned earlier, monsters don’t move around to different areas when you fight them. It doesn’t really matter, though, because I rarely felt like the areas made a big difference. There’s no thrill of a chase, no strategies for fighting in different areas. The monsters fight with fairly limited patterns too, making the experience feel less like you’re fighting a fearsome foe and more like you’re wailing on a solid wall of meat until it falls over. Rinse and repeat a million times until you get the armor, weapons, and Mitamas you want. There’s nothing to really differentiate each encounter, no “I’ve never seen the monster do that before!” moments, and that makes the all-important grind kind of boring.
That said, I do like some of the touches that Toukiden Kiwami has to offer. There are a ton of really neat weapons that you won’t find in Monster Hunter, like punching gauntlets and the kusarigama. Some simplifications I don’t mind are the Mitamas as a way to represent your skills and purifying as a replacement for carving monster parts. I really like the Japanese aesthetic in general; it’s pretty distinct from the competition and makes for some really cool looking monsters. While there’s not exactly a ton of them, the monsters seemed to get increasingly cool looking and that pushed me towards wanting to see what I would fight next.
It takes a while to get to them, however.
The game starts very slow, at least if you’re focusing on the single player. Before you even get to fight the giant monsters, you’ll have to do quest after quest of clearing out the smaller, more negligible enemies that litter the environments. Once you do take on the giant monsters, be prepared to fight them repeatedly, and not because you’re working on an armor set you really want. Toukiden constantly makes you refight monsters you’ve already beaten in new missions, with only slight variations like the map being more open or your hunting partners being restricted. It’s one thing to make you fight monsters under different conditions, but the conditions Toukiden presents you with are so negligible that it all just feels like blatant filler. The missions do eventually get better, and sluggish starts definitely aren’t new to the genre, but I feel like Toukiden Kiwami’s goes on especially long.
Toukiden Kiwami uses its slower pace to focus heavily on its story, for better or worse. I think the concept is neat: demons have been devastating the land and consuming the souls of various Japanese historical figures. Your character teams up with individuals called Slayers who fight these monsters. Each slayer gets paired with one of their own Japanese hero souls, known as Mitama, which gives them special powers. Your guy is special because he can communicate with a whole bunch of Mitama, and thus it’s up to him to save the world from the demons. It’s as good of a set up as any, but one that tends to fall to the wayside as the game focuses more on individual character arcs.
Your comrades are a surprisingly big part of the single player story. The majority of your time outside of missions is spent talking to them, both to build on their back stories and to open up access to the next mission. While the character arcs are serviceable, I don’t think they carry the game as much as the writers probably wanted them to. I honestly can’t tell if there’s a lot of filler missions to accommodate these character stories, or if these stories were written to accommodate the excess of filler missions. Either way, it’s not a very interesting experience.
I don’t think Toukiden Kiwami is a bad game, but it feels like it was made specifically for people who felt burned by Monster Hunter, for whatever reason. The problem is that I love Monster Hunter, so I ended up missing all of the nuances of those games a lot more than I appreciated the simplicity of Toukiden. In terms of variety and depth it’s a noticeable step back, even with all of the added Kiwami content. I did enjoy some aspects of the game, particularly the weapons and all of the neat touches of Japanese culture that permeate throughout the monster designs and the Mitamas. It wasn’t enough to carry the game for me, though, and personally Toukiden Kiwami isn’t something I see myself going back to in the way I do other hunting games.
Food for Thought:
1. My favorite weapon to use was the punching gauntlets. I just really love the idea of punching giant monsters in their big dumb faces.
2. While the single player story paces itself very slowly, the multiplayer quests generally only require you to fight the big monsters to move onto the next set of missions. I really prefer that kind of structure because progress feels more dependent on the player’s skill rather than the game arbitrarily trying to soak time out of you with filler missions. If had access to more people to play the game with, the multiplayer would have definitely been where I spent most of my time.
3. Some minor spoilers about one of the slayer companions: A key part of Hatsuho’s backstory was that she mysteriously disappeared one day after getting sucked into some kind of demon dimension vortex. I looked up more information, and apparently she spends that time hanging out in a spin-off mobile quiz game. There’s probably more to it, but I’m amused by the idea of a major plot point in someone’s backstory involving banishment to the Quiz Dimension.