Toukiden: Kiwami PC Version Impressions

Toukiden: Kiwami PC Version Impressions

I couldn’t resist.

I knew that Toukiden: Kiwami was going to be a pretty crap PC port. Or at least, I knew that it was going to have to be pretty bloody spectacular to make up for its £50 price tag, and I figured it was unlikely to even be an acceptable port. (Although I’m told it’s not quite that ludicrously expensive in other regions; Europe in general is shafted, but in the States it’s $59.99, which is a slightly-more-acceptable £40).

On the other hand, I also didn’t want to pay £50 just to prove to myself that, yes, it was going to be a naff port.

And then I did it anyway. Sigh.

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Before we get into the nitty-gritty of whether or not it’s worth £50 (spoiler: it isn’t) and whether or not the port is any good (spoiler: it isn’t), I should probably explain what Toukiden: Kiwami is. This could get a bit confusing. Bear with me.

Toukiden: The Age of Demons was a 2013 game released on the PSP and Vita. It got an updated re-release – Toukiden: Kiwami – which upped the number of enemies, added more characters and bits of equipment, offered several new weapon types, and expanded the story. That was released on the Vita and the PS4 back in August 2014 in Japan, and March 2015 in the west. At the end of June, it came to PC.

I don’t want to say it’s a Monster Hunter clone, because I don’t like using the word “clone” unless large sections of the game have pretty much been ripped off wholesale, but it’s definitely a part of the same genre. It is a monster hunting game that is not Monster Hunter.

You traverse large-ish maps broken up into smaller areas and beat up small, generally quite weak enemies. Occasionally, you get to fight a giant monster, which is the interesting part of the game. These brutes usually require you to learn their patterns, figure out how to exploit those patterns using your weapon type (which is generally quite slow and, in Dark Souls fashion, attacking leaves you very exposed), and whittle them down bit by bit and limb by limb. Often in co-op!

So let’s fire it up and see how the PC version fares, shall we?

toukiden kiwami settings 1

Er. Okay, let’s click the button at the top which looks like it changes the language to English, and…

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That’s better. What you’re seeing there are the slightly bizarre resolution options, which I’m going to assume are something along the lines of the rendering resolution and the display resolution. Other than that, in Graphic Setting, we have…

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A surprising number of options. I mean, sure, it’s not a huge amount, but it’s more than was offered by Batman: Arkham Knight. That’s got to be worthy of some praise, right? I doubt this is as intensive as that, though, so let’s whack everything up to full. And before we get started with the game, let’s have a look at the readme.

readme
Dodge/Dive/Pick Up/Pray sounds like an alternate version of the Five D’s of Dodgeball.

Uh oh. Okay, so ReadMe.txt has been formatted badly and is inserting random letters instead of what I assume are meant to be dashes/bullet-points and quotation marks, but the really worrying part is the keyboard controls. WASD to move? Fine, good, great… and then there’s the rest. Just as an experiment, I’d like you to try putting your hands in a position where you can comfortably and quickly hit all of those keys. They’re not the worst key-bindings I’ve ever seen – I mean, they’re unorthodox, but barring the obsession with the Shift and CTRL keys they’re not too uncomfortable – but they’re hardly what I’d call, um, natural.

Obviously, you’re meant to play it with a gamepad, but this would be a terrible impressions piece of the PC version if I didn’t at least try the keyboard and mouse controls. So, having completely failed to commit them to memory, let’s unplug the gamepad and get the game started.

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As a result of seeing one of the Tenko in the rather lovely intro sequence, I have been too overwhelmed with OHGODIWANTONE to remember any of the controls. This doesn’t bode well.

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Okay, I’ve made it to the main menu. Before we get started with the game, let’s take a look at the in-game options.

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Wow, that’s… that’s actually not bad. Most of these ports with graphic settings in the launcher do so because they don’t have them in game; it’s a bit of a surprise to see pretty much the exact same options in the game itself. Equally, keys are freely redefinable, and there are plenty of little adjustments to be made in the settings. I hesitate a little to say it, but… I’m a little impressed. That’s actually pretty damn good. Well done, guys. 10 points for that.

Now on with the horror.

First: I’m removing one point for using Backspace as the “go back a step” rather than Escape.

Second: I’m removing 10 points for having the gamepad buttons listed as the CONFIRM or BACK options, even with a gamepad unplugged, and this is going to come back to bite us hard shortly.

Third: minus several billion points for the mouse implementation, because not only is the mouse not used at all but the game doesn’t appear to know what a mouse is. You can see the mouse cursor on screen, but the game will not interact with it. By this, I mean that if you do actually click, you will have clicked on whatever’s behind the game window, usually minimising the game in the process. And maybe accidentally opening another program. Or starting a video call in Skype. Both of which I did, by accident, because I couldn’t get my head around the fact that the game was really doing this.

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Welcome to character creation. This is potentially the hardest part of the game, and not because you’ll be spending an hour making everything look just right. If you can’t remember the keyboard controls and do not have a gamepad, you’re going to be screwed harder than an iron cabinet.

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So it’s A to confirm, and X to backspace, except that nowhere does the game actually tell you what those buttons are, because everything is listed as “Attack 1” or “Perform Ritual of Purification.” Random experimentation by mashing my face on the keyboard eventually led me to discover… actually, I’ve already forgotten. I think L was “confirm”? And ; was “backspace”? And backspace was “quit without saving changes”? I can’t even remember. I just remember staring at the screen for about five minutes trying to input a name.

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Oh for fuck’s sake. Okay, I think P might also be “confirm”, as well as at least one other button. Which one was backspace again?

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Well obviously it’s the bumper buttons to change saturation, because what the hell else would it be? Something on the keyboard? Pah!

A few more minutes of rolling my face up and down the keyboard led me to discover that the left bumper is apparently left Shift, and the right bumper is… no, it’s not right Shift. No, it’s not CTRL. It’s the spacebar. Left Shift and the spacebar.

Fuck me.

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And of course it’s Y to play the voice and the right-stick to rotate the model! What the living fuck else would it be?! And naturally they’re bound to… I can’t even remember. I just don’t care anymore. F7 and Home, for all I care, although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t quite that blindingly idiotic. I think the right-stick might’ve just been WASD, which could’ve been a lot worse.

Gosh, I hope things improve once I actually get into the game.

Let’s have a quick look at the biggest spear in the world, and then we’ll just start playing, because I’m not wrestling with the character creation controls any longer.

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Why, that spear’s almost as big as my… love of double entendres. (Alternate jokes about how long and hard it is, or the last time I saw someone handling something that big, are available on request.)

Onward, to the game!

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The game opens with a glam rocker being a patronising dick, which is actually pretty high on my list of entertaining ways to open games.

And then…

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No shit I’m surprised. I was halfway through an intro and then I’m suddenly dumped into a fight with a giant monster.

Related:  Samurai Warriors 4-II marching to Steam in October

Side fact: the intro and all animated scenes play at 60FPS. The game plays at 30FPS. Not a big surprise, but sad.

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Oh Christ. And before you ask: no, as far as I can tell, you cannot check or change the controls in the middle of play. In fact, because co-op multiplayer is such a big thing with this, you can’t even pause in the middle of play. And that little wheel in the bottom right? Yeah, that’s important, so you’d better figure out what X, Y, A, and B correspond to pretty quickly.

Toukiden: Kiwami is… unpleasant to play on keyboard. It would be slightly more pleasant if you could use the mouse to control the camera, but you can’t. Thankfully, binding the camera keys to Q and E means that you can move while turning the camera without too much hassle, but in terms of brain use it still feels a bit like patting your head while rubbing your stomach. I don’t know why; maybe it just feels odd, mentally, to control my movement and the camera with my left hand?

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So, after finally figuring out that my primary attack button was L (I think) and ; let me dodge (I think), I actually managed to play. A bit. But… look, this is not a game that should be played on keyboard. Mouse and keyboard? Yeah, you could probably make that work. But keyboard alone? No. God, no. It’s a horrible trip back to the early days of 3D gaming when people had no idea how manual camera controls should work, and they’d come up with horrific ideas like “hold down one button to switch to the camera mode, and then use the arrow keys to rotate it.”

While we’re talking about the camera, I’d like to point out the default controls according to the readme file: Q and E to pan the camera left and right, and R and F to pan it up and down. It’s like playing an Amstrad CPC platformer.

Thankfully, about halfway through this tutorial fight, the game apparently decided I’d done well enough that I was allowed to proceed into the game itself.

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I’m tired after performing fucking keyboard acrobatics to fight a monster.
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yes yes please yes i will never say anything bad about gamepads again

Okay, that’s enough of a control test. I’m going to quit out, plug my gamepad back in, and play properly now.

What I can say is this: no, you should probably not play Toukiden: Kiwami without a gamepad. It’s possible, sure. I’m fairly certain that you can even get used to using nothing but the keyboard – I mean, people have beaten Dark Souls with dance mats and guitar controllers – but it’s also true that it’s hardly the optimal experience. Hell, it’s not even a particularly good experience; you might get used to the controls (especially after doing a bit of rebinding), but I’m damned sure you’d still be fighting with them even a dozen hours in. Controls that you can use are not the same thing as good controls – good controls feel natural and comfortable, like extensions of your hands. Or extensions of your will, if you want to force that wank-hat firmly onto your head.

With a gamepad, though, everything feels a lot more pleasant. It’s not amazingly fluid or anything, but then this isn’t really that sort of game – most weapons are slow, and judging range and timing is a large part of it.

I’d like to note that the game manages to look rather lovely. Again: not spectacular, and you wouldn’t use it as a showcase of how good games can look, but it’s nice. Pleasant. Solid. Have a look at some of the shots below.

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What I Did On My Holidays: Fantasy Japan edition.
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Still want one.
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Not so keen on having one of them, mind.
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Or any of them, even with the rather lovely filter for the EYE OF TRUTH mode.

The game itself lies in that nebulous land of being kind-of-mostly-okay. It’s certainly got a lot of content; it’s just that a fair bit of that content isn’t spectacularly interesting. Most of the time you’re fighting against smaller monsters that don’t offer much of a threat, and either completing sidequests or grinding for materials to upgrade (or create new) gear. It’s never bad, but it’s really all about the boss battles against the giant Oni, which are team-based wars of attrition that can easily last for upwards of 20 minutes.

So you complete story quests, and grind, and upgrade your stuff – all of which is compelling and inoffensive, albeit not exactly fun – and then you get into a fight against a giant monster, which is usually great. If it was around £20 or £25 – which, incidentally, is about what the console/handheld versions cost if you shop around a bit – I’d tentatively suggest giving it a go.

But it doesn’t cost £20 or £25. It costs £50, and that’s a rather sizeable problem when very few PC games retail for that much, and most of those aren’t updated re-releases of two-year-old games. It’s a big update, I’ll grant you, and it’s one that adds more content to the game than just a few extra monsters and higher-resolution graphics, but if you’re going to release a game on PC a bit late and you’re going to whack a more-premium-than-most price tag on it, it had better be bloody flawless.

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I’ve told you before: winking when you’re wearing an eyepatch doesn’t work.

And Toukiden: Kiwami is not flawless. Putting aside the keyboard problems, it’s got a number of bugs that shouldn’t really be in a released game (like “Windows 8.1 and NVIDIA cards break the game“, or “the game crashes if you get more than one Mitama as a reward“, neither of which are exactly uncommon), it’s got no support for resolutions above 1920×1080, it’s got a 30FPS cap, it apparently believes that the computer mouse is a mythological creature, and there are a quite a lot of people complaining that it’s incredibly poorly optimised.

Credit where credit’s due, though: they’ve been patching it on a pretty regular basis, and I’m always happy to see that a game hasn’t been released and then abandoned. But a lot of these problems are unlikely to ever be officially fixed. I doubt mouse support will be patched in, or resolutions above 1920×1080, or a higher FPS cap. The latter, in particular, would probably break the game (although the most recent patch removed a bug that caused the game to run faster than 30FPS, and fixing that “problem” actually annoyed people).

I think, unfortunately, that this is a case of a company that doesn’t really know what to do about the PC, trying to do something about the PC. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I can picture Koei Tecmo demanding a PC version because apparently that stuff sells pretty well in the west, and a team that doesn’t have much experience with coding for PCs (or playing on PCs) is then forced to put a port together in a bit of a hurry. Then Koei Tecmo priced it the same as the console versions, because… well, that’s the price of the game! Which indicates that they don’t understand that PC games tend to be cheaper, and console games tend to be discounted quite rapidly by the retailer, and PC gamers are choosy enough that we like more than a bare-bones port.

So here’s my recommendation. If you have a gamepad, and if Toukiden: Kiwami is discounted by maybe 50% or more, and if you’ve got a rig powerful enough that poor optimisation won’t trouble you, and if it continues to get patches… then it might be worth a punt if you fancy something Monster Hunter-esque, because really, it doesn’t have much competition. It’s not going to win awards but it’s a solid, well-made game – the sort of thing that a few people will remember fondly in years to come, and others will genuinely love – and it deserves an awful lot better than the rather inept treatment it’s had ever since it was announced for the PC.

£50, though? Not a chance in hell.



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