2017 was my favourite year for the PS4 so far, there were so many amazing games which I instantly fell in love with. I’m a massive JRPG fan and 2017 brought us gems such as; Nights of Azure 2, Kingdom Hearts collection remasters, NieR: Automata, Persona 5, FF 12: the Zodiac Age, Atelier Firis, Blue Reflection, Ys VIII, Dark Rose Valkyrie, Digimon World: Next Order and Tales of Berseria among many others on the PS4. There is one game that stood out among them all which instantly drew me into its world and wouldn’t let me go until I had completed it three times. This game is Tokyo Xanadu eX+ on the PS4. Developed by Falcom and published by Aksys Games back in December 2017
This game had me engaged from the start with gameplay elements from games such as Persona 5, Ys VIII (Same developer), Akiba’s Beat and even a bit of the Tales series thrown in as well. Since completing the game three times I went ahead and purchased the PS Vita version to see what the differences are and I’m happy to say that the PS4 improves on everything, which I’ll get into in my review. So, come with me and see why Tokyo Xanadu eX+ was my PS4 game of the year 2017 and why I gave it a perfect score…
First things first, as with any of my reviews for games which are best played yourself due to the nature of their story – be it secrets, twists or emotional scenes – there will be a lot I miss out in terms of the story. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me over on Twitter but here I want to keep it as spoiler-free as I can. The following story info goes through the prologue and the first chapter – which is the first 10-15 minutes of the game.
2015 April — Morimiya City Tokyo, Japan — On this day “His” reality was torn apart.
Our story begins in Morimiya City (a fictional place which is based on actual locations in Tachikawa City) when we first see our protagonist, Kou Tokisaka, leaving his temp job at the N-Bar in the entertainment district of Houraichou. He is about to make his way home when he spots a fellow classmate, Asuka Hiiragi, wondering around. This instantly makes him curious as it’s late at night and not really the kind of place a girl like her should be at a time like this. He promptly takes chase and follows her to see what she is up to, this turns out to be a great decision as Asuka soon runs into a couple of thugs under a bridge who begin to hit on her. As they continue to pester her, Kou steps up and shouts to them, commanding them to leave her alone – this only makes them angrier as they begin to turn their anger towards him. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a rip-like portal appears behind the individuals and pulls in both of the thugs and Asuka. Without even thinking, Kou instantly runs into the portal himself to save her from whatever it is that just sucked her in.
The portal took Kou to another plain, another universe, another dimension which was momentarily crossed with his world and thus created a gateway. Once he regains his composure, Kou realises that he is within a maze-like dungeon with no way back and only one way forward, he heads forth in order to find Asuka and also find a way out of this nightmare for the both of them. Upon finding Askua, he realises she is more than capable of taking care of herself – she is in a room under attack by strange beings, Askua summons a phantom weapon and proceeds to take down each and every one of the enemies which attack her. After a brief battle, she shows Kou the way out and they both end up back where it all began, under the bridge. Askua informs Kou that he will be okay, then she performs a ‘Men in Black’ style memory wipe on him – I guess she wanted to make sure her secret remained a secret.
The next day, Kou attends school as usual only something is strange, he can vaguely remember events that happened the night before even though Asuka had wiped them from his mind. He decides to blow off his friends and follow her once again in order to query the events of the previous night. At first, she refuses to acknowledge what he is saying until they both end up inside another portal after yet another part-time job – These Japanese kids will work anywhere for money! Once inside, Kou awakens his Soul Device (weapon) and the two of them proceed through the dungeon slaying all of the creatures they encounter and even their first boss, a major Greed. The game then proceeds to the first side-story of many which allows you to learn more about the story and the background of various characters and the events that are happening.
From here on, you will gain allies who will both help you in the real world and some who will accompany you into the portals and fight along-side you as you aim to find out what the cause of the events are, save numerous people from the Greed (creatures within the portals), and build relationships with all of your playable characters. The main game is comprised of seven chapters and a bonus chapter, which is unlocked upon completion (exclusive to the PS4 version) via a story which will easily take you 70-90 hours to complete on your first go. I’ll go into more detail below but this world is also similar to Yakuza in that there are mini-games, arcades, collectables, completion lists and quite a lot of humour thrown in with the serious stuff. If you like what you read so far – consider buying it as it only gets better from here on out!
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ will feel very familiar to anyone who has played Ys VIII as both games are by the same developer and control in pretty much the same way. The biggest praise I can give here is the fully re-bindable controls – you rarely see this in most games these days and the fact you don’t was the main reason I went out and bought myself a PS4 Pro Revolution controller, so I could remap the buttons to my choosing per game. This game allows you to change anything you want to in the settings so you can experiment and swap buttons around until you find what works for you.
You have access to a common set of actions at your command, but each character which you can control has their own variation on a few of these. You can; do a standard attack, jump, perform a skill attack*, perform a stronger attack*, use items, dash, evade and perform an X-Cross Strike*. All of the items marked with an asterisk are unique per character with the X-Cross, later on, involving another character as a secondary attack at the same time. You can also take up to three people into the portal at a time. You can change between these three at any time where one will be placed into the ‘support’ slot (these will regen health and come help you when you perform an ‘X-Drive’ attack) and the other will be in the reserve slot where they won’t do anything other than await being chosen for play.
The controls feel solid and I can’t complain about them at all. It took me a while to get used to the Support and Reserve slot as, by default, Triangle will swap the playable character with the support one and R2 will swap the playable character with the reserve. So you have to remember which button is for which – I often got confused but that’s just me! Also, you can only use these attacks and even your jump whilst you are within the Portals or within a fight with an enemy, you can’t use them during normal gameplay – but you can still run around which is a great time saver.
Free-time and NPCs
If you have played any Persona game before then you will be familiar with the character progression and friendship bonds. Kou has three profile statistics/characteristics: Intelligence, Fearlessness, and Generosity. As you play through the game you will have the chance to increase your Intelligence by reading books, become more fearless by engaging enemies, and completing side missions by helping others increases your generosity. The only function of these, as far as I’m aware, is a PSN trophy and you get a reward from your grandfather every time one of these aspects levels up.
Another mechanic which is similar to Persona is the friendship bonds you must create and nurture. On your first playthrough, you are given ‘free time’ before you go to work (the game runs on a day-based system like Persona where certain things will happen on certain days – if you miss it then you can’t go back) and you are given a set number of ‘affinity shards’. These shards allow you to interact with one of your companions and spend time with them. It’s impossible to hang out with everyone on your first playthrough so you must choose who you want to hang out with. Once you have hung out with a certain person enough, you will get a picture from your colleague and this unlocks a new mini-cutscene and an item before the end of the game. Once you have completed the game and start a New Game+, you are given more affinity shards during your free time. This allows you to successfully get everyone up to their maximum friendship on your second playthrough.
One of the ‘requirements’ for the platinum has come straight from their other game, Ys VIII. You must complete all food, item, enemy, portal and friend pages of your journal – or in this case, your NiAR (a phone/tablet type device). The majority of those are self-explanatory but the friend page is a strange one. You gather information on people everytime you talk to them or complete an action for them, everyone as in all of the 70+ NPCs as well as the companions who accompany you on your adventure. So, you must talk to everyone multiple times at every opportunity and even go back on yourself and talk to the same people again if you have just done something for someone else. This was the trophy which took me the longest as it requires you to complete literally everything and not miss a thing – luckily enough, the info on who you have and haven’t gathered info on carries over to NG+ with you each time so you can just keep trying until you have everything.
To be honest, though, there isn’t a reason you wouldn’t want to talk to the NPCs as they all have their own personality, not one of them is a clone of another person, and they sometimes have good information or items for you to use as you fight the Greed. Nobuo is my favourite, he is a fat Second-year student who is always hungry – if you see him, be sure to give him one of every food you have discovered as you learn to cook.
Once you enter a portal, you are taken away to a maze-like dungeon. There are 60 portal in total if you include the free DLC one and the six which are unlocked in NG+. They start off simple with an obvious beginning and an end with nothing special other than a horde of Greed to destroy. Later on, you will have ones which require you to think as you use switches and teleports in order to find your way around and the final ones are very long and crammed with very powerful enemies. You receive a rank when you finish a dungeon so you want to try and finish them fast, kill all enemies, take a little damage as possible and collect all of the treasure chests. Word of advice, it’s impossible to collect all of the chests or get all S-ranks on your first playthrough (if going for the platinum) so don’t worry about that until your second play.
The enemies in the dungeons are called ‘Greeds’ – they come in all shapes and sizes from a small ‘disembodied eyeball that never loses track of its prey’ to ‘a Greed the feeds on negativity and has been driven insane by the capriciousness of human emotion’. Most of the dungeons also have a boss at the end, a much bigger and stronger Greed than the ones you encounter throughout the level. One such example is Dark Avalon who is ‘a headless cavalryman with dark armour. With its giant spear, it sends souls directly to hell’. Once you have defeated a Greed they get recorded in your NiAR and you can freely see the bio, stats and even what items they are prone to drop but most importantly, what element they are weak against.
Each of your characters not only has their own attacks and specials but they also have an element in their Soul Weapon. If you attack one of the enemies with a character they are weak against then you will get a bonus in terms of end-dungeon points and also a boost to the damage you inflict. If you are playing on Calamity or Inferno difficulty then you need to take note of what the enemies are weak against as that will be the difference between life and death for you. I love the enemies in this game – there are a total of 392 for you to face off against and slaughter, each with their own unique look and attack style. We aren’t looking at a ‘Pokemon Gen 3’ where the vast majority of enemies/Pokemon were just evolutions and different colour pallets – the majority of these are unique.
What would a JRPG be without it’s collectable and side missions? I’ll tell you, it would be the same only not as tedious trying to find them all! Tokyo Xanadu eX+ has many of each of these and in parts, it feels like it’s trying to be Yakuza at times! Regarding the collectables, you have items you can purchase to improve your bedroom (this triggers special events), toys from those egg machines on the street (which are RND but a full set can be used to trigger events), Books (used to increase Wisdom) and Recipies (used to learn new things to cook). These all take a while to collect but you are rewarded with items and events upon doing so.
Houraichou, the entertainment district, has an arcade called ‘Oasis’ where you can go in, exchange money for game-tokens and play a few different mini-games. You have a UFO crane game (Not as good as Yakuza’s one but it’s functional and works fine), a card-based game which is similar to Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering, and a fishing game. Each of these can be played as many times as you want in order to earn more coins which you can exchange for items. You can also enjoy a bit of competitive skateboarding in the park and there is even a swimming mini-game hidden in the school 😉
The game is broken up into seven chapters with the PS4 version having an additional chapter post-game as well. Each of these chapters has their own set timeline and side-missions. These can be anything from wearing a pair of trainers and fighting Greed creatures to test how good they are, to getting a caffeine energy drink for a shopkeeper. These missions are also sometimes hidden and require you to explore in order to find them – that’s both good and bad, good because it adds exploration into the game, bad because you can reach the end and think you are at 100% when you aren’t. Completing these missions will unlock events, give you items and reveal more about the story. Some of them also offer slight cosmetic changes later on as to who you see and what characters are still alive.
Personally, I enjoyed the missions offered in Tokyo Xanadu eX+ as there were only a few fetch quests and a lot of them were original and different. Missions such as; a swimming event, a treasure hunt, retrieving items from the portals and even tracking down a person of interest. These are all optional as well, you are only required to complete all of these if you are going for the platinum – in that case, you must complete them all in a single playthrough as completion on these doesn’t carry over into the next play.
Graphically the game looks awesome. It’s so clean and detailed at the same time – Sure, the assets look basic in areas and all of the Japanese writing on the buildings have been left the same and not translated but that’s fine – the core gameplay with the characters, enemies, dungeons and special effects all look great. I also own the PS Vita version, which I bought after playing through this PS4 version which I was given to review, and both versions look the same. They have done a great job either having Vita assets and presenting them in HD on the PS4 (as the PS4 version came out last) or originally having HD visuals and downscaling them on the Vita. I really can’t falter the graphics, as I hope you can see by the screenshots in this review – all of which are from my PS4 Pro via the share option
Also, I just wanted to add that the cutscenes are beautiful. The vast majority of them are drawn anime-style cutscenes which look amazing and fit perfectly into the game. The others are in-game cutscenes with also work as well as you’d expect.
Audio-wise, the soundtrack is excellent. I bought it on iTunes after a few hours of playing the game. It has a Persona 5 feel about it along with Akiba’s beat and trip. The characters are all fully voiced – in Japanese. I’m someone who plays a lot of Japanese games so this doesn’t bother me but I do know some people refuse to buy non-English dubbed games – if this is you, please don’t let this put you off purchasing the game as the subtitles are easy to read, funny, about 99% grammatically correct and it doesn’t impact on the game at all. Everything else in the game sounds great – I really can’t say anything bad about either the look or sound of Tokyo Xanadu eX+
PS4/PS Vita differences
Now, I know some of you will be wondering what the differences are between the PS Vita and the PS4 versions due to there being a price difference between the two and the fact Ys VIII, from the same dev, also launched with a different version on the Vita with a few things removed and altered. I’ve not played a lot of the Vita version yet but this is the info I found online in regards to the differences:
PS4 Version has:
• 1080p at 60fps
• There is a ‘side story’ after each chapter now – this gives you more insight into the main cast
• There is the After Story I mentioned – this is a new chapter with about 4-6 hours of gameplay
• You can now play as the White Shadow and a new version of Asuka
• New dungeons
• New enemy types
• A new difficulty called Calamity (which is very hard and required for the platinum)
• A time attack mode
• A Boss Rush mode for taking on the bosses (accessed from the main menu)
• A new page of NPCs to interact within the NiAR
• Other changes within the game for balance and progression.
As you can see, you do get quite a lot in the PS4 version which you didn’t in the PS Vita version – although, If you only have a PS Vita then I would still highly recommend it as even without the above points, the game is rock solid and a great game to play.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is easily my favourite game of 2017 regardless of it only coming out in December. If you like Persona and enjoy the break up of action with social elements such as getting to know your colleagues and walking around doing day-to-day stuff whilst preparing, then this is the game for you. To put it into perspective, Persona 5 took me 241 hours to platinum, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ took me 196 hours to platinum – so it isn’t quite as long and it is possible to complete it faster if you skip things, but where is the fun in that? I wholeheartedly recommend this game to all JRPG fans on both the Vita and the PS4, although if you are in Europe then you may find it hard to get a physical copy unless you import from America – that being said, both versions are available digitally on the PSN store now
Tokyo Xanadu eX+£54.99
- Great story with a really compelling after-story (on the PS4)
- Combat is solid with each character possessing different attacks and elements
- The soundtrack is great, really captures the games that influenced it
- The anime cut-scenes fit in seamlessly with the main game
- The variety of enemies, dungeons, weapons, costumes, items, games, NPCs, playable characters etc.. is great
- Voice dub is only in Japanese (not an issue to me but may be to someone)
- Platinum tracking can be hard as there is a lot of things to do/collect (again, not an issue for me but it will take a while)
- Hard to find physically