Nowadays, most game companies just play safe with the same old ideas, so I must praise Falcom for their attempt at a new IP! And, YES! This is absolutely the case for Tokyo Xanadu! Contrary to popular belief, this has NO connection to the Xanadu series, whatsoever. But how much original can Falcom get with this new IP? Did they deserve all that praise?
A great earthquake hits Tokyo, leaving most of the area devastated and taking many lives in the process. Now in 2015, 10 years after the incident, people live peaceful lives, but many mysteries are still lurking in the shadows of Morimiya City, as there are many secrets to be unfold regarding the truth about the disaster.
Tokisaka Kou is a student who urges to become independent. Even though his parents are working overseas, they provide him with enough money to live at ease. Nevertheless, Kou insists at making his own money by taking on many part-time jobs, and even took a liking to this life style.At a certain night, he tries to save one of his classmates from a group of delinquents, only to get involved in a fight against creatures of another dimension. He eventually awakes the spiritual weapon known as “Soul Device”, and decides to fight alongside Asuka to help protecting the city in order to “protect his daily life”.Hiiragi Asuka is the mysterious transferred foreigner student. She seems to act nice towards everyone, but she has a very cold and serious side when dealing with cases related to parallel dimensions. She is considered the Ace of the secret organization “Nemesis”, excelling in many areas. This gave her the bad habit of taking all the risks onto herself by never depending on anyone. However, when Kou and his friends become reliable allies, they are finally able to change her.Ikushima Sora is a tomboyish childhood friend of Kou’s. She loves Karate and is considered a genius. She develops her own Soul Device to save her senior from the Karate club. She later decides to follow Kou’s steps by helping Asuka to fight against the invading creatures.Shinomiya Yuuki first comes as a very mischievous shut-in hacker who cares for nothing in this world, but when his lovely sister is in peril, he suddenly becomes desperate and his feelings give birth to his own “Soul Device”. After witnessing his schoolmates going so far to help rescuing his sister, he convinces himself that “school wasn’t such a boring place, after all!”Takahata Shio is the classic “big guy with a big heart”. Feared by everyone in Morimiya Academy as the “supreme delinquent”, he’s actually working hard in order to make amendments for his past mistakes. For the sake of his old friends, he also acquires his own Soul Device.Hokuto Mitsuki is heir to the powerful Mitsuki group that runs the city from the shadows as the main family behind the Zodiac organization – A group of aristocrats who try to take benefit from the parallel dimensions phenomena. She tries to cooperate with Asuka, but their organizations are not in good terms. She finally becomes a powerful ally to the group thanks to Kou’s interference.Kugayama Rion is part of the now famous Idol group “Spika”. She studies at the same Academy as Kou, although she rarely comes to school because of work. She gets shocked when she finds Kou is not a fan of hers (or of any other idol group either, for that matter). Therefore, she dedicates herself to “convert” the boy into an idol fan-boy. Ironically, since Kou doesn’t worship her like everyone else, he becomes the closest she has to a normal friend who treats her equally. Her singing voice seems to have some strange influence over people…
Themes & Plot Analyzes
Nowadays, it’s pretty clear how huge of a success Persona 4 was! Not only it got many spin-offs and two anime adaptations, but it also has influenced many Japanese game companies to develop their own “Persona 4-like” RPGs. Games such as MIND≒0, Conception 2, Sen no Kiseki and even Fate/Extra CCC are heavily influenced by that Atlus title (while some titles directly rip-off some of its characters or elements). Tokyo Xanadu is yet another RPG to use this popular formula, or at least it was what everyone thought at first…In the end, Tokyo Xanadu was much less “Persona 4-like” than I expected. It incorporates most of Falcom’s favorite tropes: A world filled with conspiracies, a guild of vigilantes who help the common folk, a group of aristocrats who try to manipulate everything, the military who usually stands neutral, secret organizations with convoluted plans, a group of inquisitors working for the church, FF7’s materia-like magical stones…And even a protagonist who uses an unusual weapon (Rean from Sen no Kiseki being an exception). There was even a point where I suspected this was actually connected to the Kiseki universe, somehow (that was not the case, though).Unfortunately, the Persona 4 elements are still there, though. They are just being poorly used! For instance: Shin Megami Tensei tells about Gods competing against each others by giving many trials to the humanity. In Persona 4’s case, the TV world was a dimension created by prejudice, rumors, misunderstandings and simple desire. That world tested the true nature of those who ventured into it, pitching them against their own “shadows”. “To test humans”, that was the ultimate purpose.But let’s go back to Tokyo Xanadu now and ask the big question: “What is the reason behind the great disaster from 10 years ago?” Nothing, really! It just happened! That’s right! The “parallel dimension” and its monsters are never properly explained. No one knows its real origins or purpose. They are there just to feed on people’s negative emotions in order to spread terror. The creatures don’t have a mind of their own, which also means they don’t have a clear objective. This made the main plot feel pretty underwhelming! Maybe Falcom is saving those explanations for future sequels, which is not a good excuse!Everything else that is not related to the “parallel world” can still be interesting to a certain degree. It’s a bit disappointing that “intrigues between powerful organizations” is nothing new to Falcom games and that feels a bit out-of-place in this real world setting, but at least it’s still well-written…for most part, anyway.The biggest flaw to this plot comes from the many NPCs connected to those powerful organizations. They are all living in the city since the very beginning of the story, and yet, they do nothing to save the day from those monsters, even though they are all way stronger than the protagonists themselves. It feels like the writers included those characters in the last minute, or maybe they were not THAT important in early stages of development.The way how the writers deal with the “secrecy” of supernatural elements is also odd! In the Kiseki games, the existence of magic and monsters are common knowledge, this was not to be the case in Tokyo Xanadu. Even though Asuka is constantly erasing people’s memories “MIB” style with a “neuralyzer” app on her cellphone, it feels unnecessary because, by the end of the game, the number of NPCs who always knew about the other world easily exceeds those who knew nothing about it. Maybe this was to make some NPCs feel more special, but consequently, this made the central element in the plot feel banal!The plot structure can also be quite repetitive! Most chapters have the same following elements:1- Kou and his friends have a normal school day, until someone in class start talking about a suspicious new event that seems to be connected to the supernatural.2- A person is abducted to the parallel world. Most of times, this person has no negative emotions or fault in the matter. Being just a damsel in distress.3- Someone related to the victim wants to help, but it has none of the special powers to do so, until suddenly, a light coming from its chests becomes a magical weapon by chanting an activation spell.4- This person will immediately join the party, and after a boss battle, the victim gets successfully rescued and “neuralyzed” (if possible).5- Everyone become friends, and they go back to their normal daily lives…at least until the next chapter.This formula starts to change a little by the final chapters, but still…At the very least, the characters are pretty charismatic. They are probably this game’s main strength! I bet most people will strive to finish Tokyo Xanadu just to see what happens to them at the end. Which is really a shame, given how unsatisfied I was by the end of my playthrough.There’s also a serious problem with the way those writers depict “a normal Japanese teenager living in the real world”. He’s always talking in a very dramatic and hot-blooded way, and everyone listening to his chuunibyou lines act like it was the most normal thing for someone to say. Nobody talks like that! It seems those writers think they are still working on Legend of Heroes.There’s a “social-link”-esque system where Kou form deeper bounds with his friends. This doesn’t change the endings in the slightest, though. You only get a special conversation before the (not really) final dungeon. Those special conversations have no romantic implications to them, which doesn’t give you the feeling of progress (most likely because the writers already have a canonical shipping in mind). This should be rather disappointing for those who love Dating Sims.
I bet the prototype for this game was just a modified Sen no Kiseki build with Rean running around in a dungeon while using field attacks that can actually hurt his enemies, instead of just stunning them, because that’s exactly how the gameplay in Tokyo Xanadu feels like!The physics, speed and camera proximity are the same, and other party members can’t act together, so you need to change the attacker while the rest of the party keeps in stand-by. Of course, there are many additions to make this work more like an action RPG, like a dodge and a jump button, a command for magic spells and a special gauge to make you temporarily stronger, which are pretty common-place for games of this genre. Maybe even a little TOO common!The action is not as fast-paced and frenetic as Ys. Likewise, the world is not open and full of alternative paths, either. Therefore, you don’t get any gimmicky ability to open new routes or to explore enemy’s weakness. Boss battles are simple brawls in a circular arena, without any trick involving new abilities or different environments to defeat them.Each character has an element affinity and a unique type of weapon with different strengths. Kou is the all-arounder, while some of his allies may move faster, hit harder, have stronger magic, or a better range, the difference between them and Kou’s attributes are insignificant, so I see no reason why you shouldn’t main the guy.You can’t change weapons, but you can change special stones to give new abilities or to burst your attributes. Those work pretty much like the Orbments from Legend of Heroes, but aside from those, you can also upgrade your special attacks for a certain price at specific shops. On the subject, you can exchange crystals you gather in dungeons for yens, similar to Legend of Heroes (did you notice the pattern?)During his quest, Kou will have three virtues constantly measured for each of his actions: Wisdom, courage and benevolence. You raise wisdom by reading books and by making the right choice during certain events; You get more courage every time you clear a dungeon (more points for higher ranks); And finally, you can raise benevolence (and sometimes, a bit of the other two as well) by completing side-quests during your free time. You can check those attributes by talking to Kou’s grandfather. Collect 8 stars in total to unlock the real final chapter, and subsequently, the true ending.By the way! Most side-quests are rewritten side-quests previously found in Ao no Kiseki and Sen no Kiseki, so…this means that it’s just like Legend of Heroes! YAY!
Many assets are reused from Sen no Kiseki, like texture, animations, 3D models and more. To give even more similarities, the character designer was also confirmed to be the same (although his name is not listed during the credits roll), and he did an ok job, but sadly, certain characters lack a bit more of…creativity!Some look too much like certain Sen no Kiseki characters, but others look similar to characters from this same game! Like Sora, who shares the exact same generic short blue hair and tomboyish style with the idol Akira! I wonder if they are being limited by how many different visuals they can depict with their simplistic 3D models.Morimiya is a ficcional setting, but it was based on the real Tachikawa city, and they have done some pretty impressive job! Locations really feel like a real modern Japanese city. This world is rich in details, much like other Falcom games. NPCs even have their own little character-arc and will say different things at certain points in the story.What really doesn’t impress are the dungeon designs. Aside for a couple exceptions, all of them look the same: old temples! This is a huge waste, given that the plot implies that parallel worlds are created by people’s negative feelings and their surroundings. Therefore, I was expecting that the world formed by the director of an art gallery would be filled with disturbing art pieces coming to life. Or maybe the dungeon that emerged with the whole school could be a bizarre version of the building, with teachers and bullies turned into monsters.Nice ideas, huh? Well, at least it’s much better than the boring temples that you will be forced to explore throughout the game! I wonder if this is because they are making those dungeons only by recycling old assets from Sen no Kiseki as well…Animations are mostly reused from Sen no Kiseki, without mentioning that the Falcom staff didn’t got any better at animating stuff, either. This means that everyone still move like robots! Which is specially awful during the live concert of the idol band Spika. I’m not a big pop-idol fan, but at least I know they are supposed to make energetic and cute choreographies, but here, they just walk around the stage while exchanging some smiles with each other. Naturally, the attack animations used by your playable units don’t look any better, either!
Voices & Music
There are a fairly popular cast of skilled voice actors. Toriumi Kosuke – who voices Shio – is by far the most famous seiyuu in the cast, but the highlight goes to Numakura Manami, who voices Rion and also (supposedly) sings many songs together with her fictional group Spika, including the opening theme “seize the day” (although Spika gets official credits for it). I have to admit that this song is pretty catchy. Also, kudos for the girl who screens like a Banshee at the beginning. It gives me the chills!Aside from a couple songs recycled from Sen no Kiseki (again!), the soundtrack is all new and pretty catchy, as always, thanks to Falcom jdk band’s brilliant compositions. My only nitpick is that sometimes they want to emulate the sound of an electric guitar, but the result is a very poor midi noise.
Generic character designs, repetitive plot, recycled assets, unimaginative dungeons, battle system lacking creativity and many missed opportunities are the main problems in Tokyo Xanadu, but this is not a bad game, by any means! I had lots of fun playing it.There’s over 50 hours of different stuff to do and collect and I could feel accomplished by doing most of that. Besides, compared to the shit I’ve been playing recently, this is like GOLD! But honestly, if you enjoy Falcom games (specially those from the Kiseki franchise) you will most likely love this game, too. And I love them very much! But the fact is: It could be so much better!