Beware the Eclipse: Tokyo Xanadu Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 09, 2017
Beware the Eclipse: Tokyo Xanadu Review

The Vita has a funny way of finding itself back in my good graces. After I’m ready to write it off after my experience with Drive Girls, I find myself drawn right back in thanks to Tokyo Xanadu. Tokyo Xanadu is a bit of an oddity as, despite this series being more than thirty years old, it’s only the third title in the series to be localized for a Western release. I missed out on the second localized entry since it was exclusive to the N-Gage, so this will be my first time playing a game from this series since Faxanadu on the NES.

The story of Tokyo Xanadu revolves around a second-year high school student named Kou Tokisaka. One night after leaving his part-time job, Kou sees what looks like one of his classmates and decides to follow her. When he sees her being harassed by a pair of delinquents, he tries to come to her aid just as a strange portal appears. When she is enveloped by the portal, he rushes after her and finds himself in a strange labyrinth. He explores the labyrinth and finds the girl, Asuka Hiiragi and the two delinquents surrounded by what appear to be monsters. Asuka uses her Xiphone to produce a weapon and quickly vanquish the monsters when she notices Kou, he collapses and she tells him he won’t remember any of this, and he soon awakes in his bed thinking he had dreamed the whole experience.

He struggles to remember what had happened the night before, but he simply can’t aside from a strange feeling of deja-vu when he sees Asuka. The next day, one of his closest friends his taken by one of these portals and he finds Asuka once again. After pleading with her to let him enter the portal and assist with saving his friend, they find themselves surrounded by monsters when suddenly Kou is surrounded by light and a weapon appears in his hand. When Asuka realizes he is a Wielder like her, and reluctantly allows him to assist her with her excursions into the Eclipse.

Each of the chapters of the game feels like a self-contained episode, almost like an anime series with the overarching plot of the mystery of the Eclipse. Over the first few episodes of the game, you are slowly introduced to the game’s supporting cast as the player is introduced to each of the characters and the mechanics of the game. The game will likely draw a lot of comparisons to Persona 4: Golden, which was a popular title in the early days of the PSVita. However, while the setting and the Eclipse are similar to setting and certain plot elements of Persona 4, their similarities aren’t enough to say that Tokyo Xanadu is outright copying Persona 4.

The plot of Tokyo Xanadu is interesting with an air of mystery that has kept me coming back to the game to discover both the mystery of the Eclipse and to learn more about the game’s cast, which was a welcome change after some of the games I’ve played on the Vita recently.

As a story-driven action RPG, Tokyo Xanadu makes the most of the Vita’s hardware while also offering an experience that’s tailored for a handheld. The main gameplay experience has the player guiding Kou, or one of his teammates, through Eclipse dungeons and fighting off monsters. While the combat starts off fairly simplistic, as you progress through the game you’ll find more depth added to the combat thanks to new mechanics and characters. Combat becomes an absolute joy a few hours into the game and I found myself trying to chain together long combos and hold them together for as much of a dungeon as I could. This is helped along with enemy placement and breakable objects which can help you keep your combo going in addition to dropping valuable items and money for your adventure.

Combat is further enhanced through the use of your Soul Device’s Grid System. Using the Grid, you can equip items called Elements which allow you to further increase your stats or give you added damage or status effects. These start out fairly simply but offer up bigger parameter increases and a wider variety of effects as you progress through the game’s story. Finally, each of the dungeons will award for you with a letter grade upon finishing each dungeon. These ratings are affected by a number of factors including your completion time, which percentage of the dungeon’s enemies were defeated, how many treasure chests you found, your highest combo and others. These ratings go up to an S rank for each dungeon and encourage you to replay dungeons not only for the additional experience but also to obtain higher ratings and best your prior scores.

While combat makes up a bulk of the experience, it isn’t all that Tokyo Xanadu has to offer. When you around dungeon crawling, you’ll find yourself living the life of a typical high school student. Much like the recent Legend of Heroes titles or Persona 4, you’ll find much to do during the downtimes in order to keep yourself busy. Events with friends or party members are a great way to not only strengthen your party members but also flesh out the world and the characters who inhabit it. Most of these scenes are fairly short and during downtime you are able to save at any point, helping with the portability factor of the game.

While it’s an eclectic mix of styles, Tokyo Xanadu finds a great balance between the action scenes and the game’s downtime. While I found the events with friends and party members to be very similar to Persona 4 Golden, Tokyo Xanadu doesn’t feel nearly as time intensive when it comes to these aspects. It wants you to experience the story while offering a fun and engaging gameplay experience that I found very enjoyable and I soon found myself immersed in this world and wanting to learn all I could about the characters and lore that surrounded it.

Falcom is no stranger to the Vita at this point, and its time developing for the system shows through with Tokyo Xanadu. Character models and backgrounds look great and the dungeons are varied enough to keep the game from feeling too repetitive. Falcom was also smart in keeping most of the dungeons and city setting in more enclosed environments, so I never noticed an issue with draw distance or texture popping thanks to this. Frame rates are also consistent throughout, with the game keeping the onscreen action just intense enough to keep you invested while not bogging down the hardware.

The game itself uses an anime ascetic, and they really run with that when it comes to the presentation. At the start of each chapter, an anime-style opening plays complete with a theme song to really run the episodic nature of the game home. Thankfully, the the game itself is very nice to look at and offers a nice palette that compliments that game nicely, which shows the contrast between the real world and the world of the Eclipse. It’s a style that will likely turn off some, but at this point in the Vita’s life, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t use the Japanese style, then I’m afraid that you’ve chosen the wrong system.

The audio presentation also does a fantastic job of setting the game apart, offering a more relaxed feel when you’re in the real world and a more rock infused sound when you’re battling monsters in the Eclipse. The game’s sound effects are just as fitting, and the game does offer a vocal track, it is only in Japanese. The voices fit the setting well and all seem to be well acted. Of course, if you’re put off by the vocal track, you can always them off and simply enjoy the music.

Tokyo Xanadu was a game I waited too long to play. I really enjoyed the setting and characters the game offered and it was topped off by an amazing presentation, but I still wish I’d played it sooner. With the upcoming enhanced version of the game, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ for the PlayStation 4, I hope that more people are willing to give this little-known Falcom title a try. While it’s far from a perfect game, and some may be turned off by the anime ascetic, those who are willing to play the game are in for a treat.

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He is a senior editor at Kulture Shocked. A seasoned gamer, Zach has been playing video games since the early 90s and have owned everything from the NES to the Xbox One. Aside from video games, Zach is a nerd of all trades and dabbles in everything from collectible card games to Gunpla.

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