Have you played the Trails of Cold Steel games? Well this game is pretty much that game but in a different setting, and with different characters, which is not such a bad thing, because the cold steel games are legendarily good. In a way you can think of Tokyo Xanadu as a successor to all the systems, menus, and graphics that were perfected in the cold steel series. I’d even be willing to call it cold steel 2.5 if they’d let me.
So why are these games so similar? It’s simple really. Most of the similarities between the Cold Steel games and Tokyo Xanadu are due to both games sharing the same developer, Falcom. In truth, Falcom have used most of the elements that they used in the Cold Steel games to tell a new story set in a fictional suburb of modern-day Tokyo called Morimiya City. This setting also features modern elements like smartphones and social media which help make the game feel a lot more familar.
It is in this seemingly normal modern city we are introduced to Kou Tokisaka, a reserved 17 year old boy with some really expressive eyes. A lot of what Kou says is emphasized by the ways his eyes contort, and I like that a lot about his character. I think he’s cool, and it’s not just because of his eyes. Kou is also a very capable protagonist with enough interesting eccentricities to him to draw you in. It also helps that he is not a generic silent type protagonist that usually come packaged with JRPGs. Though I grew up liking the empty slate type of character, I eventually began to dislike them in favor of characters with more personality that develop over the course of the game, characters like Kou. After Kou you are then introduced to Asuka Hiiragi, a 17 year old girl from Kou’s class who happens to have the ability to fight these strange monsters known as Greed.
These creatures exist in another world, but they sometimes come over to Morimiya City to snatch unsuspecting people. Greed coming in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes. They are also unaffected by conventional weapons from the real world; only Soul Devices made from spirit particles can hurt them. These Soul Devices are weapons made from a persons soul that can be uses in battles against the Greed. Entering their World is made possible by Eclipses, or special gates between the two worlds that can only be seen by ‘The Qualified.’ When we first meet her, Asuka is one of The Qualified, but as you would expect from a game like this, Kou soon becomes one as well after one of his friends is snatched by Greed.
I found the overall game structure to be very similar to the Persona games, in that you are a student that does ‘student things’ half of the time, while other times you get to visit labyrinths, and fight lots of creatures. During the school sections you are able to interact with other characters in the school and city, to build relationships, and learn more about them, again similar to the Persona games.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
What Tokyo Xanadu does is that it takes elements from great games and it implements them in a great way, while also improving on some in it’s own way. One of the tiny features that this game absolutely captures well are the doors. Now hang in there with me on this one, I promise this is not a error, I am in fact talking about doors. When walking through doors in this game most just swing or slide open to let you through, and yes this is something small, but it’s the tiniest things that can make or break an experience. In a lot of similar games the player is required to tap a button to prompt this type of scenario, which isn’t too hard to do, but automatic doors are just more intuitive.
Xanadu also improves on other aspects of the school/dungeon style gameplay. Its battle system being one of the highlights of this game is so spectaculars. It’s seamlessly implemented without the need to load into battles once in a dungeon. When wondering a dungeon the player will be confronted by different types of Greed at random who are strong against certain types of attacks, while being weak against others. Your characters also have this same strength/ weakness system, and so the developer used a creative way to make this battle system much more dynamic than it already is by making it possible to switch between characters in your party on the fly. The way this is done is so responsive that you are able to get quite tactical while using stellar action elements.
Each character also has three different types of special Skills at their disposal – shooting, aerial, and power abilities. Shooting being long distance, aerial being mid-air, and power being charged up attacks. As you progress further into the game you will gain more party members with their own play-styles, which keeps the gameplay fresh no matter how long you play.
You can also customize each character’s Soul Devices from the settings screen, where you can modify each device using the items and raw materials picked up throughout their journey. This will allow you set your main weapon attribute, as well as learn new abilities and strengthen existing ones.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love the battle system in Tokyo Xanadu….. A LOT!
Graphically, Tokyo Xanadu isn’t pushing the limits of the Vita hardware, but it doesn’t need to. A game like this just needs to look good while running buttery smooth, which Xanadu manages to achieve effortlessly. The graphical style and character design is very similar to the Cold Steel games, which I like a lot. Characters are detailed, yet colourful in an anime style kind of way, and the developers have extended this attention to detail to other characters in the city, so that everyone seems like a unique individual that would exist in a real city.
As for those that are wondering… Yes, this game plays on the fanservice tropes that have become synonymous with this genre. Characters important to the plot are introduced by the camera panning around them, the most noteworthy being the female characters who all seem to have these incredibly short skirts that leave little to the imagination. ?
Hey don’t judge me. I’m a healthy male, and I’m not ashamed of my desires, just listen to an episode of Ecchicast, and you’ll understand. ? Although the game does have fanservice it is subtle enough that it isn’t done in a tasteless, or shocking way. It’s part of the game that I think fans will like, and those that don’t like fan service will be OK with.
The game doesn’t have any English voices, but the Japanese with subs were perfectly fine for me. The character dialog is compelling, and the interaction between Kou, and his friends is cordial in slice of life kind of way. It’s sort of like you’re playing a really good anime.
Tokyo Xanadu is easily my favorite JRPG I’ve played this year, and dare I say it may even rival the great Persona 4 Golden…
…Wait… Wait…. Wait… I know you Vita fans can be very defensive of P4G’s status as the best Vita game ever made, but if you play Tokyo Xanadu I think you may be swayed to think that this is the best game on the platform, and in the end does it really matter what is the best Vita game? No, what matters is that we get to have two of the best JRPGs ever made… wait scratch that, two of the best games ever made on Sony’s little wunderkind.
Tokyo Xanadu will also be available later this year for PS4 and Steam as an upgraded port known as Tokyo Xanadu eX+.
The copy of Tokyo Xanadu used for this review was supplied to us by the game’s publisher Aksys Games.