EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Toukiden Producer Kenichi Ogasawara

Given the popularity of the Monster Hunter games, especially in Japan, it’s hardly surprising that other game developers would make similar hunting action games. But Toukiden: The Age Of Demons — which Tecmo Koei America have released for the PlayStation Vita — manages to differentiate itself by not having you hunt monsters. Well, not the same monsters as in those other games. We’ll let Kenichi Ogasawara, Toukiden’s Producer, explain what that means.

Toukiden cut arm

 

Let’s start with the basics. What is Toukiden: The Age Of Demons?

Toukiden is a hunting action game in which you’re in a party of four and have to slay Oni. It was made by our Omega Force team, and it actually came out in Japan last June.

So what makes it different from other hunting action games such as Monster Hunter?

There are a couple thing that make it different. For one thing, this is the first to use a Japanese-inspired world. The enemies are Oni, which are well-known demons from Japanese folklore.

Is it based on a specific Japanese folk tale?

The story and the world isn’t based on a specific Japanese folk story. But there are parts that were inspired by specific stories. Like this image [points to the box art], this was inspired by a popular story about a samurai who went after an Oni that was terrorizing a village, and stopped him by cutting off his arm.

And that’s another thing that makes Toukiden different; you have to cut off parts of the Oni’s body and destroy them. The Oni are known for being very powerful creatures in Japanese culture who can regenerate limbs that have been cut off. So just attacking the Oni doesn’t do much. You can’t just randomly hit them. To really defeat them, you have to destroy parts of their body. To do this, you have to damage parts of their body until they’re vulnerable, and then your attacks will really do damage and wear down their hit points.

Doing this doesn’t just injure them, though. Like this Oni [points to the box art again], he has really sharp claws. But if you cut off his arms, he can’t make these huge attacks with his claws. Similarly, if there’s an Oni that runs really fast, you’ll want to cut off its legs, which will make them fall over, since this will makes them vulnerable.

Toukiden box

Also, when you cut off a limb, you need to completely destroy it to prevent the Oni from regenerating it. To do this, there’s a purification process in the game. If you purify a part you’ve cut off, the Oni can’t regenerate it. This will also give you materials you can use to power up your weapons an armor.

Though when you do fully destroy an Oni’s limb, you’ll still see a remnant of that limb on the Oni, and you can attack it, which will do lots of damage. It can also still attack you with that limb, but it only does a little bit of damage to you. Think of it like you’re breaking off the Oni’s shell to attack it’s true life force, the spirit underneath.

Is this idea of the shell and the spirit part of the folklore of the Oni?

It’s a little bit of both. There are stories of Oni who survive after having their arms cut off, but they’re not as strong as they were before.

When you do get into a fight with an Oni, is there a way to tell which of their body parts you should concentrate on?

If you tap the touch screen, it changes the view to a mode that shows you what parts of the Oni are damaged and thus vulnerable. Anything that glows from white to yellow to red, those are the areas to attack.

Is there any limitation to how often you can use that vision mode?

You can’t use it the whole time. When you use it, your stamina decreases.

These kinds of games are typically played with other people…

True, but another thing that makes Toukiden stand out from other hunting action games is that others are more about multiplayer, and the story is kind of secondary. But for Toukiden, while it has multiplayer as well, it also has a strong story mode and characters that have their own personalities and are their own roles in the game. They actually have a role in the story and help move the story along.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t sound like the story mode is just a glorified training mode for multiplayer.

You’re correct. Toukiden’s single player mode will take you about thirty-five hours to complete. And once you clear the story, you’ll actually unlock extra stages in single player. So there’s just over a hundred missions in total.

Toukiden 01

If you level up your guy in single-player, can you then bring them into multiplayer?

Yes, you can use your character in both.

Do you have different kinds of weapons?

There are six types of weapons. What makes the game different is that the types of attacks they can do are a slash, thrust, or crush. But each weapon can only do one or two of these kinds of attacks, and each Oni is only vulnerable to a certain kind of attack. So it’s a bit of trial and error to figure out which weapon will be effective.

In addition, we also have these things called mitama, the literally translation would be “soul.” Each mitama has a special skill attribute that you infuse into your weapon, and you can equip up to three, with one being active and the other two being passive. Think of the active ones as how, in an RPG, there’s professions. One mitama makes you more of a healer type, while another can cloak you so you can be sneaky. As for the passive ones, there are some that will increase your attack speed, others that help your defense, things like that.

Are these mitama are only effective when you’re using that specific weapon?

Right. Though it’s not that a certain weapon type can only use a certain mitama type.

But they’re tied to a specific weapon, not your armor, which you always have on.

That is correct.

Looking at the mission select menu, I saw that there are a number of chapters, and a number of missions within each chapter. Do you have to complete all of the missions in a chapter to unlock the next chapter?

No. Within a chapter, the missions that are listed in red, those are the ones are necessary to move the story forward. And those chapters are revealed in order.

In addition, there are missions in black, and those are optional. But there are times when you’ll have to do some of the black ones to unlock the next red one. Though you don’t need to do every black mission to unlock the next chapter, or do every mission to finish the game.

How many different playable characters are there?

You create your own character. There are also six non-player characters, and you can bring up to three of them with you on any mission. You don’t have to, but it does make things easier.

Do you have to micromanage them?

You don’t give them any orders. Though each of them are equipped with different weapons, and different mitama, so it’s important to pick the right one for each mission.

Oh, so it’s kind of the Miles Davis school of management: pick the right person for the job and then let them do their thing.

Exactly.

Toukiden 04

I have one last question. Hunting action games are big in Japan and big on the PlayStation Vita. But the PlayStation Vita isn’t very big in America, and we actually prefer to play with other people over the Internet. Given all that, why did you decide to release Toukiden on the Vita in the U.S. as opposed to on the PlayStation 3?

When Toukiden came out in Japan last year, we made it for the Vita and the PSP, it was made for portable systems. And we haven’t really thought of porting it to the PS3, it didn’t cross our minds.

Though while it’s traditionally been the trend to play such games via local multiplayer in Japan, it’s actually changing, and we’re seeing more people playing online multiplayer. So if it comes time to think of the next Toukiden, we may look at it as something for both Vitas and consoles.

 

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