Toukiden Kiwami and the summer of love.

People foster connections with video games. Sometimes it’s because of excellent game play mechanics. Perhaps it’s an engaging story line. Seeing characters go through trials and tribulations, finding closure at the end of vast story arcs. But sometimes, a video games impact can be felt by just how fun it is. Sure, they have their faults. A story that’s showered in tropes, game play that’s a little rough around the edges and characters that can be stereotypical. But, all of this can be looked past when the fun part of the equation is somewhere in the stratosphere.

2016 was coming around to summer time and I was checking the PSN store. Not really having much in mind, I was having a gander at a sale. Perhaps it was the fact I was heading off to Japan in August but Toukiden Kiwami caught my attention. It did not take long for me to realise this was a monster hunting game, set in feudal Japan. There are some differences to Monster Hunter though. Given its setting, the monsters are classed as Oni (coming in both small and large varieties), and some of them contain Mitama, the lost souls of Japanese heroes. There are many Mitama scattered about the world. These can be used to give the player various skills and buffs, so there are many different possible builds. They also come with little biographies, so it’s a fun chance to learn something. However, like Monster Hunter you get a pet cat that can help you in battle. You can also feed and pet it, which is nice thing to do after a long hard fight.

My previous experience with this genre was Monster Hunter III Ultimate. That lasted somewhere between 4 and 5 hours. I seem to remember lots of tutorial stuff, with some monsters thrown in. But mainly, an abundance of tutorial stuff. And there was a big monster in the ocean. I moved on to other things. This probably puts me in the small group of people who find some solace in Yahtzee Croshaws view of the game. But one thing going wrong doesn’t mean another one will, so I decided, for reasons, to try out the Toukiden demo.

It wasn’t long before I was fighting a giant monster. The game embraced learning by doing (how to target body parts, how to separate said body parts from said body and so on).  I was rather enthralled by this and upon consulting reviews which gave a favourable impression of the game I decided to put down the £15.99 (down from $34.99) figuring why not? If I enjoyed it, it would have been good value for about 90 hours of content. If not, it wasn’t a crippling amount of money.

I finished with 572 hours in the game. That was with the addition of two DLC mission backs. The base game turned out not to be enough. That summer really was Toukiden’s summer. There was one day when the in game counter went from 211 hours to 222 hours. There’s only 24 hours in the day. I was just having so much fun, I kept playing the game. Sure, the game has its faults. The story is very predictable with lots of very obvious foreshadowing. And that’s fine, because the story meshed with the fun game play and got me invested regardless.  The characters have arcs that have all been seen before (lost confidence, searching for vengeance and so on) but they are well voiced (Japanese voices with English subtitles. Because Mid-West American accents would sound very odd in this context), endearing and make for a very nice cast to be around. You can share a bath with them as well, a way of increasing friendship and gaining various buffs. I had my favourites. Particularly Nagi. So many vital heals. They are also incredibly handy in a fight meaning us non-multiplayer people can still have some fun. And towards the mid to late game, enemy palate swaps come up very frequently. It’s almost like a monster hunting version of the Mortal Kombat ninja’s. Actually forget the almost. And forget the like as well. It is Mortal Kombat levels of palate swapping. But the fights were always fun to do, so I could live with that as well.

The combat really was something special though. With only the occasional camera freak out. And learning how weapons worked was a thoroughly joyful process. My first was the bow (there are 9 in total) because I based my character off Kaga from Kantai Collection and for once used to character creator beyond selecting a base model and clicking okay. At some point I switched to rifles and they carried me to the end of the first story arc and for a little while beyond. Then I returned to the bow to see out the second story arc. In the middle of all this was a rather terrible experiment with dual knives, but we’ll return to that in due time.

I felt the urge to use melee weapons. There’s something more cathartic about fighting up close than far away. And so I returned to the knives, essentially starting over. I went back to the beginning bosses in an effort to nail down fundamental skills and once I felt ready, progressed to the middle tier bosses up until the point I mained with the knives. The knives, to echo the theme of this piece, are very fun to use. They can be wielded in such a way that allows climbing of monsters and with enough skill and the right Mitama build (confession: I borrowed one from Game FAQ’s) one can spend the entire fight climbing all over Oni and essentially fighting in mid air. Which is a great deal of fun. And really, the whole thing was just fun. I completed every mission (main story + DLC + phases), killed every enemy, finished every side quest and even collected every Mitama and at least did one of every infinite battle (a boss rush mode essentially). In fact, the basic infinite battle once you are levelled up high enough is a great thing to listen podcasts to.

The summer was coming to an end, and almost inevitably, so was my time with Toukiden. Not out of boredom, not out of dislike. This felt like a natural end. Almost like a relationship with an exchange person. The two of you come together, there’s an instant connection but you are both aware at the end of summer this will end, but peace is made with this fact and the time spent together just becomes that much more special. I knew after the last DLC mission was completed I would be finished with the game, bringing this joyful dalliance to an end. It just felt right. With that completed, I made sure to talk to every NPC in the game. I shared a final bath with my favourite character (Nagi-sama!) before returning to my home and feeding the cat for one last time. And with that, I turned the game off. It has never been turned on since. That was almost a year ago, but I still haven’t deleted the game. There’s a lot of good memories there and I simply can’t bring myself to do it.

Thank you Toukiden, thank you for one great summer.

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