"Tokyo is even better on a second visit"
Game remasters are often a great way to experience a great game again, years after its initial release. In most cases, I use these releases as a way to see if my memory matches up with the modern reality. In the case of Tokyo Xanadu eX+, I played the original version when it was released on another platform only a few months ago. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit then, but is a new coat of paint and some extra content enough for a double dip?
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is the expanded PS4 remaster of Falcom’s Vita action-RPG, Tokyo Xanadu. The "eX+" suffix alludes to not only upgraded visuals and frame rate, but some pretty substantial additional content that helps fill gaps in the original game. It doesn’t hurt that publisher Aksys has used the extra few months to clean up the admittedly dodgy localization the Vita version received, either.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. For those just joining us, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is the latest game in Falcom’s long-running franchise. In the past, the series was known for devious dungeons and hardcore combat. In this latest iteration, Falcom has chosen instead to deliver a more Persona-esque experience by setting the game in a modern day Tokyo and focusing on the relationships between the high school students facing a supernatural threat.
The narrative opens with regular student Kou Tokisaka as he moves between part-time jobs to support living on his own. Not long into the introduction, our protagonist begins dealing with a supernatural threat called the Eclipse, which caused a massive earthquake and killed thousands of people some 10 years prior. Now it is seemingly gearing up to cause another such disaster. Over the course of the 30-hour story (give or take a few), Kou will learn the secrets behind the Eclipse and discover how he’s connected to it all.
The original release on Vita was certainly good enough for a Falcom release, but it was missing a lot of the characterization found in their other releases. With eX+, Falcom has corrected this oversight by adding side chapters between every main chapter. These help to expand the back stories and motivations of each party member, while also exploring the relationship between humanity and the Eclipse. The additions provide a lot of much needed context that kept me, a returning player, interested in the narrative for a second time through.
If you’re just coming off of Falcom’s excellent Ys VIII, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ will feel familiar. Both games are action-RPGs that ask the player to focus on combos and dodging to get the most out of combat. Where Tokyo Xanadu differs is that almost every character is slower and, as a result, requires a little more strategy when taking on the monsters of the Eclipse. Every party member has access to basic, heavy, charge and air attacks. By combining these attacks with elemental advantages inherent to the three characters players are allowed to bring into dungeons, the game creates a more thoughtful action-RPG experience that hearkens back to the deliberate action featured in Xanadu Next. The new title never quite reaches the high established by its predecessor, but it admirably carries on the spirit while also making itself more accessible to a broader audience.
The real treat in Tokyo Xanadu, however, is the promise of a boss encounter at the end of each dungeon. These enemies start off pretty basic, but later evolve into truly intimidating foes with tells that will test players’ reflexes and observation skills. The new content in particular features some of the best bosses Falcom has recently created, even exceeding some of the excellent encounters found in Ys VIII.
Much like in the Persona series, the narrative is interrupted every so often with a dungeon that players must clear. Unlike the ones featured in Persona, however, these dungeons are short affairs that will only take about 10 to 20 minutes to complete. The labyrinths are never very complex, but they offer plenty of interesting combat scenarios. Later dungeons even introduce some fairly devious traps. A good example is how one dungeon has platforms floating on lava that requires players to jump across, then later ups the stakes by positioning swinging pendulums between platforms. It’s never too punishing, though, and dungeons introduce new obstacles frequently enough that it never starts to feel monotonous.
In addition to the added story content and new dungeons and bosses, the move to 60FPS really benefits Tokyo Xanadu eX+. The game still looks like a Vita game, even more so than Ys VIII, but the upgraded frame rate makes combat much more fun. I can remember the Vita version feeling like a slog at times, but the added speed was just what Tokyo Xanadu needed to remain consistently engaging throughout the experience.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ at times feels like more than just a simple remaster. The added story content and dungeons help to make it feel like a big, juicy action-RPG. The added frame rate and fidelity work wonders on the feel of the game, as well. A few months ago, I advised players in my original Tokyo Xanadu review that interested parties wait for this release. That advice still stands. Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is the definitive version of a great Falcom action-RPG. If you did pick up the Vita version, however, it’s just as easy to recommend this improved reworking. While not quite reaching the heights of Ys VIII, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is another worthy addition to Falcom’s legendary catalog of greats.
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (December 09, 2017)
Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.
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