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Tokyo Xanadu, What happens when Trails of Cold Steel Goes Action (Review)
#1
This is a review I've been meaning to do for a while, and since I wrote that Monster Hunter review, I kind of feel in the mode to do it. So let's get to it. 

For those that aren't aware, Tokyo Xanadu is an action RPG from the creators of The Legends of Heroes series. Games in this series include the ever popular Trails in the Sky, and the currently running trilogy still waiting for it's final game to release in the West, Trails of Cold Steel, a game series that starts off playing a lot like a Persona title before becoming it's own vastly different series, and for the better might I add. 

While we here in the West wait for that final game, Aksys games, much like in the east, gave us Tokyo Xanadu on the PS Vita, where the Trails of Cold Steel did most of it's sales leading into the third game. However, unlike in the East, Westerners had to basically beg and scratch in order to Tokyo Xanadu in the west, and I have to say, for all that work, I almost wonder why A, we did it, and B, why we had to. Tokyo Xanadu, whether it means to be or not, is a perfect way to advertise for Trails of Cold Steel, and the reason for that is, is because it's basically exactly what would happen if the current trilogy became an action RPG instead of turn based. 

Before I get exactly into why, let me take a second to set up Tokyo Xanadu for you. The basis of the game is this, monsters that live in another dimension have long since gained the ability to attack humans in our world, but ever since a cataclysmic event some ten years prior to the start of the game, have had easier access to humans, and have been attacking them rampantly, leading to their eventual death if they aren't saved by those with the ability to enter the monster world and defeat those who would kidnap humans. After these few differences from the Trails of Cold Steel series are established though, it's pretty clear to see this is the exact same game in every regard that it can be.  

It's honestly a weird choice to make the games so similar because they are different genre's of RPG's, but the resemblance is uncanny. For starters, it's really quite hard to establish any kind of difference between the two's series' appearances. They look almost exactly the same. While it's not uncommon for a game series by the developer to look somewhat similar, take Kingdom Hearts looking as much like Final Fantasy X as it could for an example, those two series still make a solid effort to look different, but that is not the case with Tokyo Xanadu to Trails of Cold Steel. This is disappointing to say the least, because one of the best elements of Trails of Cold Steel was how different it looked compared to most other RPG's, but that look becomes tarnished when you see it appearing in another series, in almost the exact same way. I could honestly put two images of either game side by side, and if you hadn't played both of them, you would hardly know the difference. In fact there are some images that are so similar, some fans may not be able to tell the difference, and that's just not a good thing. 

I wish I could say combat was vastly different from one series to the next, but that's hardly true. In the Trails of Cold Steel games, each enemy type and each ally has an aversion to certain attacks that can be done to one another. This is done not only to change up combat, but also to encourage players to use every party member at some point, even at times when the entire party is together. In Tokyo Xanadu, a similar system is put in, where each party member has a special attack type that they are that's effective against other types, so when you enter a dungeon, stats are given to you that show what the types of enemies you will encounter. This will help you choose what allies to take with you, again trying to encourage you to try every party member out, much the same way that trails does it. Also like in Trails, for various reasons, certain party members won't be available to you at all times, making you play as certain characters, but it feels so similar that it's attempt to try and spice up combat is lost unless Tokyo Xanadu is your first time playing an Aksys game that is like this. Thankfully, to balance this out, a rating system for dungeons is done here, similar to that of Trails, but better here. It awards you for knowing the dungeon layout, knowing where enemies are, and knowing the fastest ways to get through them. The rating system is Tokyo Xanadu is vastly superior to the one in Trails, and I hope for the third title in this trilogy, that somehow that system is implemented. 

Story beats sadly are also taken from the first of the current Trails trilogy. In the first game of that series, someone you once thought of as an ally has been working for the enemy all along, which also happens in Tokyo Xanadu, but sadly, this is one element they share that is downgraded in the latter series. While most other elements borrowed from Trails to Xanadu are pretty close to being on par with one another, this one comes off as lazy because the reveal of how betrays you is done so poorly in one game, but not the other. Sadly, it's Xanadu that gets the short end of the stick here, which is quite the letdown considering improved story telling should be an expectation with a company that has such quality work under their belt. The story itself for Xanadu is different overall than Trails, but it's also very typical, and ends very typically to boot. The characters themselves aren't horrible, but the fact that I can't remember any of their names off the top of my head doesn't bode well. Also, most of characters in Xanadu I can look at and say that I've seen them in trails already. They try to disguise this fact by having one of the characters who like one Trail's character act like another one, but it's still pretty obvious that they didn't so much in the way of trying to change the characters up at all. There are some genuine character moments for Xanadu's characters but they are few and far between.  

All in all Tokyo Xanadu for the PS Vita suffers from a lack of identity, even though it's combat is highly fun and addictive, and it's rating system for dungeons gives you plenty of reason to go back and learn the dungeons for better rewards, effectively eliminating the feeling of grinding, which does become needed towards the end of the game. That said, if Tokyo Xanadu was going to imitate any Aksys games titles, I'm glad it was Trails of Cold Steel, because it's a fantastic series. However the lack of identity for the game cannot be overstated. That why my rating for the PS Vita version of this game, is a 3.5/5. It's a great title, even more so if haven't played any of the more recent trails games for the Vita or PS3, but unless you are a die hard fan of that style of game, Tokyo Xanadu can be easily skipped over. Hopefully the PS4 version, which will have more dungeons and story, will buck the habits of the Vita version, but if it doesn't there's no harm in skipping this game entirely, you'll experience just about everything that's worth it from Xanadu in the trails games, and done better no less.
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