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Developer Nihon Falcom has earned a niche fanbase thanks to its Ys and The Legend of Heroes franchises. Tokyo Xanadu combines elements of those two into a new property, with action-focused combat in the vein of Ys and a social system and story structure reminiscent of the recent Trails of Cold Steel games. While this amalgamation sounds promising, the mashup fails to provide the refinement of those series, and struggles to carve out its own identity. This doesn’t mean Tokyo Xanadu is awful, but it’s not remarkable either.
Tokyo Xanadu takes place in a fictional area in modern Tokyo. You play as Kou, a young man whose life takes an interesting turn when he discovers an interdimensional portal to a world called The Eclipse. The portal feeds off negative emotions (like jealousy, greed, and anger) and pulls victims into this alternate dimension overflowing with monsters. Kou, alongside other classmates who have been affected by The Eclipse, set out to discover the source. Outside of a few twists, the plot is mostly lackluster and predictable. The exposition is a slow burn, requiring a lot of patience to get to the reveals, which even then aren’t worth the wait.
The real highlights are the characters and the relationships you build with them. Tokyo Xanadu’s social system lets you choose which characters you want to get to know better in your allotted free time – a process that is almost identical to the one Trails of Cold Steel. Tokyo Xanadu relies on many anime stereotypes, such as the childhood best friend and the otaku, but some characters have intriguing story arcs. Even the tropey characters aren’t as one-dimensional as they first appear. For instance, the otaku has a complicated family life, and I enjoyed watching him mature as he worked through it. Additionally, building friendships also benefits you on the battlefield by enhancing your special moves’ power, adding incentive to focus on your relationships.
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Hanging out with friends and exploring Tokyo’s sprawling cityscape is fun, but you also spend a lot of time dungeon crawling. The Eclipse has numerous portals locked away, each with its own big bosses to take down. Tokyo Xanadu is an action/RPG, focused on exploiting enemies’ elemental weaknesses. You enter dungeons with your three-member party, but only control one character at a given time. Thankfully, you can swap between them on the fly to take advantage of their unique elemental strengths and fighting styles. I appreciate the varied characters who fence with finesse and snipe from afar. You’re also never beholden to one attack type, since every character has charged, ranged, and aerial strikes in addition to dodging and jumping to avoid incoming attacks.
The fast-paced combat provides a wide variety of strategies to take down enemies. However, the precision for dodging and jumping is frustrating, especially considering the awkward camera. The dungeons are pretty standard and generic, focusing mostly on finding switches to access new areas. The structure rarely changes, so you always know what to expect, which gets old quick. At the very least, dungeons are short affairs and don’t overstay their welcome.
My biggest frustration is the platforming, which allows little-to-no room for error. If you stumble, you’re often punished by falling into a pit of poison or forced to backtrack. The platforming sequences get more demanding later, and they’re not fun challenges; they’re just plain aggravating and made we want to walk away from the game. I enjoyed the challenge of boss battles much more, since they force players to pay attention to patterns and strike at opportune moments.
While Tokyo Xanadu has some enjoyable elements, it suffers from its monotonous dungeons and predictable story structure. I look back fondly on some of the characters, and Nihon Falcom still has wonderful skill at constructing a believable and welcoming world. In the end, though, Tokyo Xanadu’s flaws hold it back from standing out and being memorable.