The deleted scenes from Kong: Skull Island look better than the real thing.

Short Cuts: Toukiden 2

PC, PS4, PC, Vita •

You can say you were there, but the fact remains whether you were, like, really there. I packed a PSP from Day One, and while I built a portable library deemed by esteemed colleagues to be the UMD equivalent of the Royal Navy, I never quite grokked Sony’s portable software saviour. Monster Hunter. Responsible for atrophied extremities numbered in billions, the talons of Capcom’s fantastical neolithic beast-mincer never found true purchase in my soft, sallow flesh.

But I think, years later, I might have found friendship in a genre descendant. Something clicked here. The formula has been shaken up, a story has been injected, and it’s by those Dynasty Warriors folks. It’s Toukiden 2.

And it’s pretty good.

Elevator pitch. A mish-mash late Edo Yokohama is beset by colossal demons, the vanguard force of a cataclysmic event called the Awakening. Human civilization crumbles. Fast-forward a decade, amnesiac protagonist irrefutably ensuring you get everything explained to you by helpful townsfolk. Time to split some Oni wigs.

If you’ve never played a hunter game before, they’re an interesting breed of action game. They draw comparably to pocket MMOs; doling out low-level quests like killing X amount of goons for experience and items, huge emphasis on co-op play, crafting and forging weaponry, vacillating between the home base and the great outdoors with its static herds of increasingly nuggety zugs to trounce. And so on and so forth.

They’ve also become largely the domain of the portable system. Monster Hunter didn’t start on the original Sony handheld, but it certainly found its home there. Names like God Eater, Soul Sacrifice and Freedom Wars crop up, and they’re all actually pretty neat, but Toukiden 2 fits my bill.

Trading beauty for portability (Vita version)

Combat across the myriad of customisable weaponry — swords, naginata, bows, arquebuses and the like — is fast and no-nonsense. I don’t have the time to commit an hour to battling nor its requisite scheduling for co-op, so taking my AI buddies into the mix for a brisk bash is the kind of refreshing twist the genre has needed. Toukiden 2 does have all the features for online co-op, to be sure, but I certainly found no deficit roaming with NPCs.

Players can customise their brutality by assigning Mitama to different attacks. These are buffs and overdrives that can sauce up attack speed, or draw a little health replenishment with every strike. You can even summon creatures to do a little heavy lifting. There’s also a widget known as the Demon Hand — but of course, given your occupation — that acts as a supernatural grappling hook. On the Vita, you simply tap the screen where you want to shoot the thing and, THWOP, you’re zipping towards that demonic behemoth you hooked.

Toukiden 2, creating nightmares since March.

Given the size of the larger enemies, their illuminated weak points and encouragement towards lopping off limbs, learning how to gain altitude and sustain the hurt via the Demon Hand is essential.

There’s a lot more nitty-gritty to play with, such as Mitama development and arms crafting. The latter is usually a massive turn-off, a facet bogged down in gopher-work that has never really wrung my dopamine teat. Here though? I don’t know. The loot requirements don’t feel unnecessarily fractured, just a few articles for the majority of recipes. Like the combat, crafting isn’t dominated by tiring, drawn-out processes. Unless chasing specificity, the bulk of your arms components will often be harvested by running missions for a lot of the game.

Toukiden 2’s big draw for fans of the genre is the open-world. No more solely parceled ‘levels’ triggered at a mission board, although those are in attendance too. As you roam about, with the thankful addition of an endless dash trigger, you’ll come fast-travel nodes to make traversal even more zippy. Ravines, plains, mountain ranges, ethereal forests hidden villages and stout fortresses. Missions tend to unlock the over-world piecemeal, but once a few sorties have flipped the latch, there’s never a shortage of places to go.

Even Gygax didn’t try to mesh that many animals into one creature.

That said, beyond the mobs of beasties and baddies, the world itself could do with a little more life or moving parts. This minor gripe could be leveled at pretty much every other hunter, but as Toukiden 2 pushes story far further than any other of its contemporaries, it would have been nice to see a little more about the terrain. This is mitigated somewhat by joining NPC fighters found mid-combat in the open world, or snooping around thither and yon for a wealth of collectibles, so it’s a mere blemish on a fine visage.

Toukiden 2 is a grand package. As a way to burn up a commute, the game is terrific. Snappy mission length, sprawling game world, sharp and customisable combat, great addition of competent AI partners and a hefty payload of content. I’m finally there.

Demon-strably good.

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