Veteran developer Nihon Falcom is well-known for their long-running Ys and Trails of series, but they’ve also had a number of other series that haven’t been as well-known outside of Japan and have also been out of the limelight for a while. One of those is the Xanadu series, which the developer is now rebooting with the release of Tokyo Xanadu, an action RPG that meshes aspects and themes of both the Xanadu and Ys series together but becomes something quite different altogether in the resulting process. Following the release of the original Vita version by about a half-a-year, does this PS4 port warrant a repurchase by those who played the original?
As with many modern-day JRPGs, Tokyo Xanadu EX+ takes place in Tokyo with the main characters being high school students — if this seems similar to the Persona series you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking so. The protagonist, Kou Tokisaka, accidentally enters an area where monsters called Greeds exist — beings affected by the emotions of people in the physical world. If someone has a especially strong emotion, it causes an Eclipse to form and can even cause a person to be pulled into it. Kou, along with his friend Asuka Hiiragi and others he meets, sets out to help the people of Moriyama City, a fictional city which lies just outside Tokyo, fix their emotions and find out the cause of what’s making these Eclipses to form all of a sudden.
Unfortunately, the story and characters, while not bad, feels generic more than anything else. Revolving your narrative around teenagers isn’t a bad thing if you do it right, as games such as Persona 3 and Persona 4 can attest to, but in Tokyo Xanadu EX+’s case they all feel like generic archetypes such as the protagonist who doesn’t realize the girls falling in love with him, his fond childhood friend, the martial artist who’s entire being is centered around their ability, etc. The recent Persona games do this, but they flesh out the characters to make them feel more alive, whereas in Tokyo Xanadu EX+ they fall flat. The story also tends to meander around at times before it gets going.
If you’ve played any of the recent Persona games since Persona 3, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the core gameplay outside the dungeons in Tokyo Xanadu. Until you recruit all of the party members, generally you follow the same flow where you go to school during the day, and when school lets out you have some free time before you go to your part-time job for that day. Like Persona, you can buy new equipment and items, take on side quests, learn cooking, read books, play various mini-games and complete friendship quests.
That last one in particular is fulfilled by gathering Affinity Shards gained by initially completing the Eclipse dungeons, which you can use to unlock them with. The catch is that these are gated and closed off once you progress in the story, so you need to complete them within a certain timeframe. All in all the non-dungeon gameplay mechanics are a nice light relief from the dungeon grind and help to break things up where needed, but it ends up not feeling anywhere near as smooth as how its implemented in the Persona series it’s obviously trying to emulate.
This sense of a lack of smoothness is further made aware to the play in the new side-chapters exclusive to the PS4 port that take place between the main story chapters. There’s some minor differences, but they all follow the same routine: talk to people and progress the side chapter until an Eclipse appears, at which point you enter the dungeon and complete it. These diversions are forced unto the player, so there’s no way to get around the extra padding time-wise due to their inclusion. There is also post-game content, which while neat due to the timeframe in which it occurs (Halloween), but this is more for the fans of the Vita version than anything else.
Thankfully, the dungeons and specifically the combat do have that Falcom flair to them you’ve come to expect, with some caveats coming from a new entry, of course. Similar to the recent Ys entries, it utilizes third-person point-of-view action RPG mechanics with you bringing three characters into a Eclipse and controlling one of them at a time. Each character has a specific weapon, called a “Soul Device”, and element they are attuned to. There’s a handy elemental guide that appears when you lock-on to an enemy, also. Characters also have differences in how their attacks work, as some are close-range while others are long-range. Additionally, others are slower while others are faster.
The one catch with the three-member party limit is that often times later in the game you’ll have 4+ elements in a given dungeon, and since item drops are determined by hitting an enemy with its weakness, this is a detriment. Additionally, the difficulty seems weirdly scaled as the “Easy” and “Normal” difficulties are what many average action RPG players would consider “Very Easy” and “Easy” — “Hard” honestly is more akin to “Normal” unless you’re an absolute newcomer to the genre.
Graphically it’s a pretty decent game. It isn’t a standout on the platform to any degree mind you, but each area does have its own unique look and feel to it. The music is the same high standard fans have come to expect from Falcom, with some minor Persona-like influences sprinkled throughout for good measure while feeling original. There’s also quite a bit of voice acting, although it’s all entirely in Japanese.
Considering this is the first outing for the new direction of the Xanadu franchise, Tokyo Xanadu sets a decent bar for the series but there’s still a number of issues that could be fixed. While the Vita version wasn’t perfect by any means, the “pick up and play” ability inherent to handhelds made playing through the game easier for those who have a busy life. The PS4 version, on the other hand, doesn’t have this being on a console and unnecessarily pads out the game for the sake of having “more content” as a selling point.
For newcomers, I’d recommend the original Vita version even with its lack of the PS4 version’s additional content, due to its handheld nature and respecting the player’s time. Hardcore fans will enjoy the new content, but for everyone else this is unfortunately below the standards we’ve come to expect from Falcom.Tokyo Xanadu EX+ was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Aksys Games. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Looks better on the PS4 due to being on a console.|
|While not the best riff on the Persona franchise, the gameplay loop (outside of the new content) is enjoyable enough.|
|The new side-chapter content feels like unnecessary padding.|
|The new post-game content is interesting, but most players likely won’t see it due to the padding added prior in the main game.|
|It feels subpar compared to what we’ve come to expect from Falcom.|