Jump into the Eclipse
Tokyo Xanadu ex+ is more than just a Vita port. It’s an upgrade that takes the action JRPG/social simulator by Falcom and expands upon it with new mechanics, story elements and difficulty modes to go along with its facelift. This is as far as I’ll go with comparisons between the two versions as I’ve never played the Vita version of Tokyo Xanadu. Bear in mind, also, that this is one of few Falcom games that I’ve played in recent time. I say this because one of the first things that popped into my head when the game took me through its first few hours was: “This is Persona”.
Indeed, when it comes to the majority of its elements, from narrative and world structure to a lot of its core mechanics, Tokyo Xanadu ex+ wears its inspirations firmly on its sleeve. That’s not to say this is a bad thing. Marrying social simulation elements to a JRPG is what the Persona series is worshipped for. But this comparison only runs skin deep.
An Idealized Place
I don’t usually put much thought into the dramatic and convoluted titles Japanese studios choose for their games. Something about the word Xanadu – which I had to look up – and the game’s world intrigued me. In essence, the word alludes to a world filled with splendor which is in reference to the beautiful sunset that struck Tokyo 10 years before the events of the game.
Tokyo Xanadu and Persona’s worlds are similar in that they both take place in Tokyo and there’s another world that exists in parallel to the one occupied by humans. This is where the similarities end. Where Persona’s alternate world is influenced by human emotion and behavior, Tokyo Xanadu ex+’s is one where the horrors that occupy it are actual physical creatures.
As mentioned earlier, the game takes place 10 years after a massive earthquake struck Tokyo. The story follows Kou, a high schooler who lives alone and works odd jobs to help keep himself busy. After witnessing his classmate and exchange student Asuka Hiiragi getting harassed, he decides to step in only to find himself sucked into the realm of the Eclipse. It’s then that the curtain is lifted before him when Asuka materializes a weapon and fights off creatures called Greed. After obtaining his own weapon, he helps Asuka defeat an Elder Greed and from here the story of saving the world takes off.
As a summary, this may not do much to distinguish Xanadu from Persona for you but there is quite a bit of difference in world-building as well as character development. For one, every character in Tokyo Xanadu has a face, a name and a bit of story to them. You encounter no faceless NPCs when you walk around the various locations of the Tokyo outskirt of Morimiya. In some ways, Xanadu’s world feels more alive. The side stories and character interaction beats also seem to have a lot more meat on their bones compared to Persona’s social connection building.
Not A Visual Gem
I’m not going to beat around the bush. When it comes to graphical fidelity, Tokyo Xanadu ex+ is definitely not a PlayStation 4 caliber game. While the upscaling makes the game look like an anime spectacle in static images, in motion you can tell this was a game ported from an underpowered console. On the flip side, the game does run at a silky smooth 60 fps which makes up for its stiffer animations.
In combat, the game does look and feel a bit better and that is thanks to the variety of attacks and abilities you have at your disposal across your party. While you might expect that the lower quality animations would feel bad during action sequences, they actually work quite well as you’re encouraged to stay in motion, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies.
The soundtrack of the game isn’t bad and does have some catchy tunes. What it does lack, however, is variety. I wasn’t expecting iconic levels of music like in Persona 5 and 4, but a few more songs during social bits and combat would have been welcome to break so of the monotony.
The Fun Switcheroo
Where Tokyo Xanadu ex+ truly shines is in its gameplay, particularly its combat system. This is also where the game completely deviates from the Persona series by favoring action combat over turn-based. While in dungeons, you control a single character which you can swap at any time with the press of a button. You’ll gather a large roster of characters as you play the game but you’ll need to choose between 3 to form your party.
Switching between characters is vital and what really made the combat for me. Each of your party members has an element they specialize in and you’ll have to use the ones that enemies are weak against in order to maximize your damage. Each character has a normal attack, a shooting attack, as well as special abilities like EX skills, Aerial attacks and the all-powerful X-Drive.
Apart from dungeon crawling and fighting, Tokyo Xanadu ex+ offers up a variety of activities and minigames, especially after Chapter 3 hits. Similarly to Persona, you’ll have the ability to hang out with your friends that will help power Kou’s various stats up. Playing minigames will earn you rewards, such as items and augmentation materials that can be used to improve your party’s gear.
To get completely real with you, Falcom isn’t attempting to hide Tokyo Xanadu ex+’s similarities to the beloved Atlus series. Nor do they have to. The game takes a lot of the familiar formula and improves upon it while also tacking on a fun combat system that you’ll love playing around with. Underneath its more old-timey exterior, Tokyo Xanadu ex+ hides a fun anime style story with plenty of character development and great narrative moments. Definitely don’t skip out if you’re looking for a JRPG to play.