Tokyo Xanadu

Japanese developer Nihon Falcom is known for their roleplaying games containing fantasy settings, namely Ys and The Legend of Heroes. Thus, it was a bit of a shock when they announced a title with a more modernistic and realistic setting, Tokyo Xanadu, which has roots in the company’s fantastical Xanadu pantheon. It definitely isn’t a perfect game, but is a worthwhile experience, one which PlayStation Vita owners (and, more recently, those with PS4s preferring to play the game on their televisions, given some added content in that particular incarnation) shouldn’t pass up.

Tokyo Xanadu features a methodical structure similar to Atlus’s Persona games, where the player divides time between scholastic life and dungeon-crawling. The academic aspect, however, is rarely critical to success in combat, which has a strategic element where each character represents a few (eventually) selectable elements, against which enemies are strong or weak. Before players begin each dungeon, they can select two characters who actively fight foes and one support character who may do things like heal, and luckily are able to see the elemental affinities of the dungeon’s adversaries.

Once players begin a dungeon, one character at a time fights in real-time combat, with the player able to switch between the two active characters at any time as needed, in case different foes require divergent exploitation of enemy weaknesses. While the strategic element of combat is welcome, it might have been nice were players able to use more characters in battle, given the size of the playable cast by the endgame. Furthermore, enemies in dungeons necessary to advance the storyline (which can’t be departed) don’t respawn, necessitating the player keeps multiple save files in case they need to grind. Despite these flaws, battles generally shine.

The controls are generally agreeable, with a journal keeping track of the main storyline, easy shopping, and whatnot, although some sidequests have poor direction, and saving in dungeons is restricted to checkpoints, with save opportunities sometimes being far apart, and cutscenes being unskippable, some of which, particularly towards the end of the final chapter, can be lengthy. Most of the time, though, if the player would rather read the dialogue than wait for the voice acting to catch up, they can manually skip the text. Overall, interaction isn’t perfect, but definitely has its strong points.

The narrative is perhaps the low point of Tokyo Xanadu, although the characters contain a noticeable amount of depth, with players gaining points in between dungeon treks to spend to get special cutscenes with the protagonist’s allies. However, the plot structure is generally similar to that of the Persona games, dividing scholastic time with dungeon trekking, with plentiful supernatural twists towards the end. The translation is largely polished, and unlike the Persona titles, the localization team leaves out Japanese honorifics that would have otherwise made the dialogue sound horribly unnatural. In the end, the plot’s not perfect, but does have redeeming qualities.

Nihon Falcom’s sound team, as always, provides a wonderful soundtrack, with standout tunes such as the gorgeous title screen theme. The localization team also left the Japanese voicework intact, which makes sense considering the game occurs in Japan, and the voices would have been out of place with a whitewashed voice cast (like in the English versions of the third through fifth Persona games) instead of actual Asian performers who grasped both Japanese and English well. There are times when the actors struggle with English words, as always, and when not all characters in a voiced scene have voices, but otherwise, the game is definitely easy on the ears.

Tokyo Xanadu is fairly easy on the eyes, as well, with a cel-shaded style for the character and enemy models, not to mention plentiful environs that are nice, colorful, and believable. There is some noticeable choppiness during points with massive and/or multiple adversaries, and there’s a general absence of animated cutscenes aside from the main one for the game that plays in between chapters for some reason, but otherwise, the visuals definitely help the game more than hurt.

Finally, playing time lasts one to two days, and there exists plentiful lasting appeal in the form of an epilogue chapter and a New Game+.

To conclude, Tokyo Xanadu is for the most part a solid action RPG that hits most of the right notes regarding aspects such as its real-time gameplay, the more-than-functional localization, the superb music with intact Japanese voices, the polished visuals, and plenty of reasons to come back for more, if desired. There are portions that leave room for improvement, however, such as the limitations of participants in combat, the need on higher difficulty settings to keep multiple save files, the limited saving opportunities in dungeons, the unskippable cutscenes, and most importantly, the lackluster narrative. Even so, Vita and PS4 owners likely won’t want to miss out.

The Good:
+Solid strategic action gameplay.
+Polished localization.
+Excellent soundtrack.
+Nice visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Only two characters allowed to fight foes during dungeon treks.
-Playtime can be wasted in story dungeons if levels aren’t sufficient.
-Limited saving in dungeons.
-Unskippable cutscenes.
-Unmemorable story.

The Bottom Line:
Another enjoyable Falcom game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 8.5/10

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