Tokyo Xanadu is an action RPG that has already seen a release on PlayStation Vita and has now been enhanced for PlayStation 4 and PC. The Vita version got a slightly earlier release than the other two platforms because it contains less content, or as Falcom would rather have us think, the PS4 and PC versions contain extra content. This is why the latter releases are called Tokyo Xanadu eX+. Whilst the majority of this review will apply to all versions of the game, its worth noting that some features will be missing from the Vita title.
On the surface Tokyo Xanadu seems very much like a copy of the later Persona titles. The focus is on a group of school kids who fight in another dimension to save friends and family; the game even takes place over the course of an academic year. A better comparison would be to say that this is a blend of Persona and another Falcom series, Trails of Cold Steel. Players are not forced to play out each day over the course of the year though, as the game skips over periods of time where nothing notable takes place. Days that play out are usually split into free time and investigation sections. During free time sections the player is able to interact with any of the available cast and play out their sub-stories. There is a limit on how many sub-stories a player will be able to see during free time and the game even points out that not all can be viewed on a single play through. Time, and by extension the story, will only advance when the player wishes.
Whilst other flagship Falcom series have a fantasy setting, the events of Tokyo Xanadu occur against the background of a fictional suburb of modern-day Tokyo called Morimiya City, and contain modern elements like smartphones and social media. Players are able to explore areas of the city during free time as much as they wish, though only the relevant sections are available whilst the story is moving forward and the character are investigating the mysterious gates that appear across Morimiya. Each part of the city has various shops to visit and there is a quick travel feature that lets the player quickly move between them, other areas, and dungeons that have previously been cleared.
The menu screen is a smartphone app and can be customised as such. New wallpapers and voices can be bought during the game to add a personal touch to menu screens. Quests are received each chapter through social networks, though as with Trails of Cold Steel, there are additional quests that can be found if a player speaks to the correct people in each chapter. If requirements are met then the player may even get extra sub-stories about some of the supporting cast. Important info about any of the characters in the game can also be seen from the phone menu in case the player forgets which of the lesser characters they have helped through the game.
Combat in Tokyo Xandu is fairly fast paced. First off, the dungeons are timed. Players are awarded a ranking upon completion that depends upon a number of factors, one of which is how long it takes them to complete everything up to the boss room, and whether that is below a recommended time. Secondly players need to kill a large number of monsters in the dungeon. This helps with the third factor, whether monsters died to their elemental weakness. Breaking objects, collecting treasure, keeping a combo running, and taking no damage round out the requirements to get the best rank for a dungeon and will earn the player bonus bonding points the greater the rank is.
To keep the pace up there are a number of different attacks the player can use. Characters usually specialise in one of three attack types; Physical (melee), Magical (ranged), or Flying (aerial). Up to three character can enter a dungeon, and some may be required to participate, so some consideration needs to be made to weapon elements. Weapon cores can be swapped out to change elemental damage at a save point, but will not otherwise affect a characters play style. Power attacks can be used to take a large chunk of health off in one go, but leaves a character vulnerable during the attack. EX skills allow the character to pull off a powerful attack without being harmed. X-strike is a super attack that later allows and additional character to join in once their bonds as strong enough. X-drive invites a second character to assist with regular attacks during combat. This may seem like a lot of different attacks to remember, but rotating through all the different styles will allow their gauges to fill up faster than just relying on the most powerful move over and over.
Story dungeons each have boss waiting at the end. This is usually a powerful element-neutral enemy that has an attack pattern that can be observed and learnt. Failing that, a player can brute force bosses with a mixture of grinding and an abundance of items. Older dungeons can be replayed for experience and loot, or just to try and get a better rank. Items dropped from monsters can be used to upgrade a characters weapon and unlock additional slots to fit gems. The system seems to have been ripped out of the Trails series and used over again for Tokyo Xanadu. Previously completed dungeons have no bosses at the end, but instead have a roulette wheel to spin that will award extra items depending on how lucky the player is.
Despite Falcom making the move to PlayStation 4 with their titles, the game engine still looks like it was designed for a PS3. Perhaps this is due to the game also releasing for the Vita. Future Trails titles will fully make the transition without a Vita version, so Tokyo Xanadu seems to have been caught in the middle of a shift in hardware. This should not be taken to mean that the game looks bad, in fact the game runs smoothly on the PS4. The problem is that some of the environments can feel a little sparse and lacking the extra details that might be found in a game developed solely for a more powerful piece of hardware.
Tokyo Xanadu may not have the same kind of memorable tracks that the likes of Persona has, but there are a few stand out tunes that get stuck in ones head for days after a play session. There is a large amount of voice acting in the game, but it is only in Japanese. No option for English voices exists, even as DLC. As mentioned earlier, the smartphone can be custimosed with one of five voices from the fictional idol group SPiKA that features heavily in the game. This adds a little extra variety to the dialogue during a dungeon when the same lines can be repeated by the characters several times.
Playing the eX+ version of the game means that there is a fair amount of extra content over the Vita version. To start with, after the completion of each chapter there is a side story chapter that will shift the focus away from the main character and follow one or two of the main cast in a short story that usually culminates in a dungeon. These dungeons seem to have had more thought put into them than those found in the main plot. Whilst they do not really offer anything extra in terms of challenge, they are not as straightforward as their main story counterparts. There is also a post-game chapter after the epilogue of the game. With extra voiced dialogue, skills, and characters, it does make Tokyo Xanadu eX+ the definitive version of the game for people who want the ‘complete’ experience.
Tokyo Xanadu is a JRPG that lives up to the Japanese part. Fans of Falcom’s other titles will feel right at home here as many elements of the equipment have been carried over from other past titles. Similarly, anime enthusiasts will enjoy the intro screen that play at the start of each chapter like the beginning of a new episode. Lack of English dubbing may be a problem for some people, but its not unheard of for games with a Japanese setting. The quick nature of the battle system means that dungeons rarely take long to complete and short grinding sessions can be had even on the PlayStation 4. There are multiple difficulties for people who want a challenge, or those who just want to experience the story.
Title: Tokyo Xanadu eX+
Genre: Action Role-playing Game
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 8 December, 2017