JRPG fans know the impact the Persona series has had on the JRPG scene, with many similar titles popping up left and right like a bunch of spore-bearing mushrooms. this game is one of those mushrooms, featuring many similarities that are almost too on the nose. But Nihon Falcom has been in the game for over 36 years and have cultivated their own distinct JRPG flavor, one that they've fused with the Persona formula with tremendous success.
Tokyo Xanadu is an action-RPG developed by Nihon Falcom for the PlayStation Vita and is now available on the PlayStation Store.
You play as Kou Tokisaka, a high school student swamped with part-time work. One night, at the end of his shift, he notices a girl from his school being tailed by two creeps. As he attempts to save her from what might, he finds himself in a situation he can't even. A dimensional crack opens sucking them all into a bizarre world. Kou later finds out that he's a 'Wielder', someone who can see the tears in reality and wield a powerful Soul Device. These circumstances lead to him getting mixed up with an underground organization called 'Nemesis', who makes it their business to seal otherworldly gates that bridge our world and the Eclipse. It's a realm populated by monsters called Greed that feed off of negative human emotions. He now has to balance his school, friendships, and part-time jobs with sealing gates and saving the people of Morimiya City.
Does the premise sound familiar somehow? It should, as it's pretty much the plot to Persona. Seeing as how Persona set the standard for lifestyle JRPGs, the similarities are easily forgiven. Think Spaghetti Westerns. Though they were a dime a dozen, fans of the genre eat them up just to satisfy their hankerings. Tokyo Xanadu takes the narrative structure of a Persona game and injects it with a passable story and moderately likable characters that are just enough to sate anyone's high school lifestyle JRPG cravings.
Much like Persona 3 had their Evokers and Persona 4 had its glasses, so too does Tokyo Xanadu has an object of interest in the form of Xiphones. These are smartphones that can somehow do all sorts of crazy things like tune-up Soul Devices and… cook food? The Xiphone is also where you take up and complete requests from the townsfolk, which rewards you with gems that can only be found inside the Eclipse, which is supposed to be secret from the general public. You can also use it to purchase items while in dungeons and even upgrade your equipment. How all of this is possible, I don't friggin know and the game's best excuse for it is to have the main character acknowledge it then shrug it off. "I don't really know how I can send my food ingredients over to a friend's phone and have it cooked for me in 2 seconds but whatever."
You also never stop running into people that know about the Eclipse. I mean, seriously, is there anyone in this town that doesn't know about it?
The most obvious similarity Tokyo Xanadu has with Persona is the whole high school simulation element. You typically start your day in class, occasionally participating in school activities. There's was even an event where you had to help a friend answer a question after being called on by the professor. I haven't played Persona 3 or 5 but this scenario felt like it was straight up lifted from Persona 4.The friend even closely resembles Yosuke's slacker demeanor.
After class is your free time where you can explore the whole town before clocking in at one of your part-time jobs. The areas are much larger than those in Persona 4 and there's usually a bunch of sidequests and friendship events that you can complete. When night falls and all that's said and done is usually where the fighting starts.
Combat is where the similarities with Persona end and the fun really begins. Nihon Falcom infuses Tokyo Xanadu with their own iconic brand of action. I consider myself a fan of Nihon Falcom's Ys series and I can definitely feel it's combat system influencing Tokyo Xanadu's own.
You can hit enemies with a combination of ground, aerial, and ranged attacks. You can lock-on to enemies and dodge incoming attacks even while in mid-air. Each enemy has a certain elemental weakness and each character specializes on a particular element. I found the default control scheme too awkward, thankfully you can remap your controls in the options menu at any time. Even then, there are certain controls that feel redundant, like for instance, why didn't they just assign the lock-on and center camera function to a single button.
Only one character fights at any given time and you can switch among two other party members with the touch of a button. Well, one of two buttons. The third slot is reserved for support. Characters placed in the support slot can gradually recover health. Pressing the Triangle button swaps your active character with the secondary and the right directional button switches your active fighter with whoever was in support. Matching your active fighter's proficiency with an enemies weakness is both satisfying and necessary, but swapping between secondary and support characters can be quite frustrating as your party members get all jumbled up. Eventually, I got used to it but I still found myself pausing from the fight just to tag in the right party member.
Everyone shares levels so it's up to each piece of equipment to increase an individual character's attributes. More importantly is each character's Soul Device, their own unique weapon type; kind of like their own persona. These soul devices can be upgraded and equipped with elemental gems that increase certain attributes. Eventually, you'll also be able to swap a Soul Devices core, allowing you to change its elemental affinity in combat.
Graphics and SOUND
There's nothing particularly stylish about Tokyo Xanadu's visuals, but the graphics and its overall performance are quite impressive considering that this is a handheld game. The illustrations, however, are high-quality and the same goes for the occasional animated sequences. The game's audio is entirely in Japanese, with conversations occasionally being voice acted, but I've noticed more than one instance of poor translation.
The soundtrack is also okay, but it bothers me how similar it is to Persona. Particularly the music that place in your free time. Perhaps they were counting on it to sound familiar enough to sell the feel of a high school simulation that Persona did so well. The visuals are slightly better in dungeons. Connecting attacks against enemies are immensely satisfying, and the effects are stylish enough to still give a clear visual cue on how the effectiveness of an attack.
There's not much to say about Tokyo Xanadu's visuals other than it looks and runs very well on the PlayStation Vita. A PlayStation 4 version of Tokyo Xanadu is also in the works. It would be interesting to see how that would turn out since the game offers enough to be considered fit for a console game.
Tokyo Xanadu takes a familiar genre, rips out its turn-based system and jams in an action RPG formula that's both refined and fun as hell. Fans of both worlds have the most to look forward to, while action RPG buffs who couldn't care less about lifestyle JRPGs might find Tokyo Xanadu's solid combat system buried under layers upon layers of mundane high-school simulation that barely even captures the same charm the Persona series has.
|+ Highly entertaining combat system||– Too similar to Persona|
|+ Top-notch animations||– Slow pacing|
|+ Remappable controls||– Redundant controls|