More than Meets the Eye: Tokyo Xanadu eX+ Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - December 22, 2017
More than Meets the Eye: Tokyo Xanadu eX+ Review

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ might look very familiar to some gamers. The original Tokyo Xanadu was released on PSVita a couple of years ago, with the “eX+” being added for the remastered version recently released for PlayStation 4 and PC. Even beyond the typical remaster-induced déjà vu, however, similarities still abound between Tokyo Xanadu and its contemporaries; a group of high school students wielding magical weapons to fight monsters in a quaint Japanese town is a premise that’s been done before, most notably in the prestigious Persona series. To dismiss Tokyo Xanadu eX+ as a mere knock-off would be a mistake though, as an overly familiar exterior hides very satisfying gameplay.

Tokyo Xanadu casts players as Kou, a high school student who spends his free time balancing friends, work, and crossing over into a parallel dimension to kill monsters after he discovers his latent spiritual powers at the beginning of the game. Much of the game is spent recruiting similarly gifted classmates to your cause as an overarching plot takes form in the background. Admittedly, the game is a bit slow, and the lack of player choice in most of the scenes set in Kou’s school or at one of his many part-time jobs can make these sections feel longer than they really are. Still, there are some bright spots. The cast of characters all fit established genre archetypes rather neatly, but they’re usually entertaining nonetheless. Side missions are often item hunts set around town or in previously-explored dungeons, but the rewards for completing them make them worthwhile. And while some of these sections can drag, they are at least backed by a great soundtrack. Ultimately, these combat-light sections of Tokyo Xanadu are the weakest parts of the game, but they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination.

Where this game really shines is in combat. What starts out as a simple matter of chaining together basic attacks and dodging when appropriate soon gives way to a system of elemental strengths and weaknesses, cross-character combo attacks and no less than three recharging meters all tied to different special moves. In short, Tokyo Xanadu is an absolute blast to play once the story recedes into the background and players are free to fight through the numerous dungeons, most of which have unique themes and level designs. The combat here is actually so good that I went out of my way to level grind, attempting to clear dungeons in the fastest and flashiest manner possible. This did lead to me being overleveled for most of the game, however; on normal difficulty, Tokyo Xanadu isn’t particularly difficult outside of a few bosses, and healing items drop frequently and are cheap to buy. Unless you plan on plowing through the game without returning to previous dungeons to grind, a higher difficulty setting is recommended if you’re looking for a challenge.

So, what’s new in the “eX+” edition? For starters, the game has gotten a visual upgrade. Tokyo Xanadu eX+ looks good, even if some flat textures and stiff animations make it clear that this game wasn’t designed with a large screen in mind. The game has a very pleasing (if somewhat generic) aesthetic that does a lot to mitigate technical shortcomings, and some of the art direction in later dungeons is truly great. Tokyo Xanadu eX+ also reportedly has a much-improved translation compared to its PSVita counterpart. I never played the original, so I can’t say for sure just how much better it is, but the new translation is solid, and while there are a few instances of characters using awkward phrasing or referring to another character using ambiguous pronouns, I saw no significant blunders that made the game hard to follow in my time with it. Also included with this release is access to some cosmetic DLC that cost money on the Vita, as well as a brand new, sizable “After Story” that adds a few hours of content to the game. Depending on how much returning players liked the original release, there are enough improvements and extra content here to warrant considering coming back for another go-round.

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s good at almost everything it does. The action is great, the story is serviceable, and the art design and soundtrack are strong throughout. Some plodding school life scenes and pushover enemies aside, the game is easily some of the most fun I’ve had with an RPG in recent memory. If you’re looking for a game with all the trappings of a JRPG, but with punchier, real-time combat, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ delivers.

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