Tokyo Xanadu eX+ Review — Picking up the Pieces
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ adds extra story and an improved battle system and it ultimately makes the game much better.
Leave it to Aksys Games to add one more Falcom developed title to 2017 with Tokyo Xanadu eX+ for PlayStation 4 and PC. If you haven’t already, please check out my review of the original Tokyo Xanadu that released on PlayStation Vita — this will give you a good idea of the differences between the two titles.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ boasts improved gameplay and story content compared to its former Vita counterpart. However, after spending almost 40 hours with Tokyo Xanadu, I was afraid that I would feel burnt out or experience fatigue with the dungeons and battle system. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case as Tokyo Xanadu eX+ provides enough compelling story content to make it an entirely different game altogether while offering new experiences, even to those who have already played through the Vita release.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ begins with the cool, calm, and composed Kou Tokisaka as he clocks out late from his part-time job. Interestingly he spots a classmate, Asuka Hiiragi walking around on her own, but with bad company following her. Thinking that she’s in need of his assistance, Kou pursues the group only to find that Asuka can handle herself, but also that a strange portal to a different world appeared next to her in the alley. After being pulled into the portal, Kou discovers that this is a place called the Eclipse and forces have been fighting against these outbreaks for some time now.
After these events, Asuka must explain her mission as a member of Nemesis, a group of people that have banded together to put a stop to the Eclipse. Now, I know this premise doesn’t sound all that unique, but the game pivots the focus away from the Eclipse outbreak and instead hones in on the relationships of Kou and his classmates as they discover more about themselves and the world around them. However, that doesn’t mean the mystery of the Eclipse takes a back seat; instead, everything unfolds together, but at a steady pace.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ leaves nothing to assumption with every chapter of the game receiving a bonus chapter that expands on the original story. Perhaps omitted from the initial release due to the size limitations on the PlayStation Vita cartridge, some of these story scenes are necessary for the player to truly connect to these characters.
Often times, these extra missions will be tackled without the presence of Kou which allows the characters to speak openly about how they feel towards him. It gave me a chance to learn more about their backstories and what bonds them. In retrospect, Tokyo Xanadu on the Vita lacked a lot of this character development and relied mostly on the player to fill in the blanks about their past through a few critical points in dialogue.
Also in Tokyo Xanadu eX+, we get a chance to play as the White Shroud. Being that this is an important plot point in Tokyo Xanadu eX+’s story, I’ll just say that this character is quite fun to play as in battle. White Shroud might be alone in a dungeon full of monsters, but having the power of light allows them to cause elemental damage to mostly all of the enemies. The White Shroud storyline is mysterious and dark, which makes many questions come to fruition, but over time the game slowly reveals all. This added layer of story and gameplay does end up making the game feel complete and well rounded. It also breaks up the repetitive story structure that the Vita version had an issue with.
Here’s where I feel like Tokyo Xanadu eX+ rolls out new content nicely. The developer probably had an idea that some fans have most likely played through Tokyo Xanadu on the Vita already. So because of this, the new content is delivered after the chapter ends, which makes it easy to figure out what content is new and what has already been played.
The story of Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is long, descriptive, and full of personality, something that Falcom fans should be used to by now. While playing through Tokyo Xanadu eX+, it came to a point where I just enjoyed the character interactions with each other more than what would be considered the actual game. It’s also possible to skip any of the story scenes in case you want to just get to the new content.
For new players, it would be difficult to notice these differences, which will allow them to have their own experiences. Since I’ve played through the Vita version, I came in with higher expectations to determine if this version of the game was worth a second playthrough. As I touched on before Tokyo Xanadu and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ are not entirely the same game and provide different experiences within the same story. I’d also like to add that although Tokyo Xanadu is missing these extra missions, I don’t think anything less of it.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ pretty much nails the action RPG battle system, which was already reasonably decent in Tokyo Xanadu. What suffered most about its handheld counterpart was the framerate would drop when a lot of action was going on at once. Falcom seemed to take advantage of the more powerful hardware, and it shows in the updated mechanics. In battle, players can use an extra ability that calls in a partner to release a string of power attacks. This attack can be used to clear out enemy infested rooms or to cause a significant amount of damage to bosses.
Additionally, players have access to their previous magic abilities and an Ex skill that are accumulated in battle. To enjoy Tokyo Xanadu eX+ it is crucial to appreciate the game’s dungeon crawling and battle system. The controls are incredibly responsive, so if you fail to dodge an attack it is most likely your fault, reminiscent of the more recent Ys titles. Returning players will notice a few new enemy types that shouldn’t be taken lightly because the difficulty of the game seems to have been balanced differently, which makes the new dungeons less of a walk in the park then what you might be used to.
The most rewarding part of every dungeon is the boss battle at the end. This is where players are required to use all of their knowledge of the battle system and use it to take down an enormous creature. Often there is a rhythm to these battles, but the beasts do switch things up once they reach an aggravated state. I will admit that I died a lot on the bosses, but thankfully there is a retry feature and a save point before the battle to get me right back in the action.
Other features can be found in various options such as visiting Kou’s room where he can activate event scenes depending on his relationship with other characters. Also, there is a nifty character viewer where you can pose and dress the characters and take snapshots of them.
When it comes to the soundtrack there is nothing like listening to this game through television speakers. I already thought that the soundtrack was fantastic on the Vita, but coming through a nice sound system created a nice experience. Falcom has a knack for choosing the best tracks to fit any given situation and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is no exception. Also, I should add that Tokyo Xanadu eX+’s resolution is improved and looks impressive on the more powerful hardware. This includes the colorful attacks and skills used in battle all running at 60 frames per second. I also understand that Tokyo Xanadu eX+ isn’t the prettiest looking game on the PlayStation 4, but that doesn’t hold it back from being great.
Some elements that hold Tokyo Xanadu eX+ back are is the camera can be annoying to deal with in battle as it zooms in and out depending on how close the character is to a wall. Also, I wish Falcom took further advantage over the more powerful hardware and added variation to the dungeons; even the new dungeons seemed repetitive. Additionally, there are some reused bosses in some of the new dungeons that came off as lazy on the developer side to change the color of the boss and have the player fight them all over again.
The best part about Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is that it doesn’t have a long lineage of titles that came before it, so it’s approachable to new players. This is a game that expertly mixes classic RPG systems for modern players. I stated before that after playing Tokyo Xanadu I had played one of the best RPGs on the Vita, and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ has carried that title to the PlayStation 4 and PC. With the added character scenarios and events, it was much easier for me to relate and get attached to these characters after I better understood their situations. Furthermore, the extra dungeons and boss battles were icing on the cake.
Those jumping into Tokyo Xanadu eX+ for the first will find that the wait well worth it. On the other hand, fans who have already played the game will discover a large variety of new events to play through as well as a much-improved battle system than what they remember. I had a great with Tokyo Xanadu eX+ and now I’m left with the new post-game quests that will probably add many more hours to my play time.