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Game Info:

Tokyo Xanadu eX+
Developed By: Nihon Falcom/Ghostlight (PC Port only)
Published By: Aksys Games
Release Date: December 8, 2017 (June 30, 2017 for Vita version)
Available On: Windows, PS4, PS Vita (non-eX+ version only)
ESRB Rating: Teen for Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Ghostlight for allowing me to participate in the PC version beta!

Ever since playing my first Ys game, I have been following Falcom's works with great interest. Every game so far has been one that I have enjoyed immensely. Having played most of their western releases by now, Toyko Xanadu ended up being not quite what I expected, and mostly in a good way.

I think it has to be said that if you are familiar with previous games with 'Xanadu' in the title, like Faxanadu or Xanadu Next (which is an excellent game that we reviewed here), then go ahead and ignore any expectations that this game is related in any way but name. Xanadu Next was a proper sequel to the classic games; Tokyo Xanadu is very much its own thing – but certainly a product of modern Falcom and the kinds of games they make these days, though with a notably different feel.

Tokyo Xanadu takes place in a fictional suburb of modern (2015, to be exact) Tokyo where the protagonist, Kou, is a second year student at Morimiya High School. While the setting is quite different than the typical fantasy Falcom game, there is still a rather uncanny resemblance to another Falcom series called Trails of Cold Steel with its graphics and high school setting, as well as some Persona thrown in for good measure. While the first chapter or two felt a bit too close to Trails, it wasn't too long before the feel of the game grew on me and begun to really feel like its own thing.

Like both Trails and Persona, there is a city/town mode, where you explore the school, and eventually much of Morimiya, and get to talk to NPCs, solve quests, and spend affinity shards (similar to bonding points) to get to know your close friends better (at the cost of some of your other friends). This is also the time to buy equipment, power up your characters, do your part time job, and other things which then lead to an episode in the Eclipse.

The Eclipse is an alternate dimension that only spiritually sensitive people, as well as select others, know exist. It's filled with demon-like creatures called greeds, and the seemingly random openings have been happening with more and more frequency, which eventually happens to our happy protagonist, as well as his soon to be partner, Asuka. While she is not happy having to tell another about what is going on, she soon resigns to her fate as he manifests a spirit weapon which he is able to wield to assist her. Others eventually join you as the scale of the conflict grows, and as usual, a bunch of (mostly) high school kids are tasked with saving everyone.

Tokyo Xanadu eX+
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent story and characters; very entertaining action; a ton of content and decent replay value
Weak Points: Some translation text issues remain, especially late game; minor bugs remain in the PC version
Moral Warnings: Action violence; magic is used by the player and enemies; there is a hidden spiritual world that only a small number of people can see; quite a bit of foul language, with words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', '*ss', and 'sh*t', with some faux words like 'effin'; God's name in vain used (God, god, Jesus) as well as some references to Cthulhu; local religions described, including a slightly altered version of Christianity (they call it quasi-polytheistic); tarot cards present, and some references to Ouija boards; some sexual references, with discussions of breasts, porn stashes, and similar things; swimsuit DLC is extremely revealing with massive cleavage; a couple of homosexual non-player characters; fake drug discussed and used (not by the player); alcohol and tobacco present and used on screen (not by the player)

Entering and exiting the Eclipse manifests in the form of spirit gates, which eventually open in many places throughout the city. They often have a dark and foreboding aura about them, with hexagrams and other symbols swarming on them. Once you enter, inside is where the vast majority of the combat takes place. This game, unlike Trails but like Ys (and Xanadu and Zwei, which are also Falcom action RPGs), has battle that takes place in real time, where you slash up enemies with your weapons. You can also do a power attack, a ranged attack, and a flying attack. These utilize a combination of the attack, special attack, and jump buttons to do their thing.

Combat is very fast paced, not unlike an Ys game (though not quite a fluid as one). Standard attacks are basically 'free' to use as you like, but power attacks, ranged attacks, and flying attacks use a quickly regenerating meter that goes up as you move around and perform normal attacks. These do much more damage, sometimes many times more, depending on the character and load out. Like always, there are ways to spec out your characters to optimize for various kinds of damage.

One of the ways that the game keeps things fresh is by giving enemies specific elemental strengths and weaknesses. This not only makes you keep switching characters, but certain master cores, which is how you assign elements to a character, also grant bonuses, which can help tweak your character. Kou can use any element, while everyone else is locked to one of two elements. At the beginning of each dungeon, you can see what the elemental weaknesses of each upcoming greed is, so you can properly plan your party. And, you can switch out character with the press of a button, so you can easily kill one enemy with one party member, and switch out to hit the next one instantly.

Bosses are very fun and genuinely challenging. There is a bit of an uneven difficulty curve early on in the game, but by chapter three that is mostly all sorted out. Each tends to take place in a rectangular or circular arena, and you can run, jump, or dodge your way to avoid getting stomped. Dodging grants you a small invincibility frame, which can really come in handy, though there is nothing like Ys' enemy stun mechanic. It's otherwise very similar.

While I hate to mention other Falcom games so often during this review, it's really hard to avoid it, because the game itself does so. For example, Kou's weapon is called a 'Raging Gear', which is almost a direct rip from Zwei II's Anchor Gear. It even moves in the same way. Towa is a clear allusion to one of the same name from Trails of Cold Steel (though her last name is different). Several other Trails characters, like Rean, Alisa, Fie, and others have cameos in various in-universe anime, manga, video games, and action figures. Adol from Ys is visible on posters and signs. Gurumin and other Zwei II characters and trinkets are littered around the toy stores and other places. To point out every reference to other Falcom games could easily be a novel unto itself.

Despite this, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ manages to set itself apart in ways that makes it truly special. To start with, the characters each experience growth, and you come to love them all. Kou is one of my favorite protagonists now, with his combination of realism and genuine selfless spirit that is truly endearing. Asuka goes from closed and reserved to truly caring and kind. Each of the other characters are so well written that you truly come to care about each and every one. The storytelling is also excellent. The endings (there are three different kinds of endings) are all great and heart-felt.

The eX+ additions is another highlight. Not only does it add a solid 30-40% more content, but it's great. Early on the flow does seem a bit disrupted, as the first chapter side story introduces things without explanation that the main game has not yet, and the boss is a massive difficulty spike for that point in the game. Overall though, it's great, as it really helps you get to know the other characters much better. And the post game content, in particular the After Story, is really great. Tying up loose ends in such a wonderful way, and then leaving room for a sequel as it does brought me much joy as good endings do.

Despite all of this, no game is without its flaws, and this is no exception. For one, the localization, while mostly well done and with plenty of character, does still have the occasional issue, especially late game. A few of the interface icons were left in Japanese, which only was a real issue with Kou's character stats, as you have no idea what they mean unless you refer to the built-in help. Of course, anyone who plays this game for any amount of time will notice how so many characters sure do love to *chortle*.

Tokyo Xanadu eX+
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10-/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 61%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

I noticed a bug in the PC version where if a scene uses one of the non-level musics, it will not start over the next time it is called upon. This is mostly not a big deal, but when I played through two different endings without exiting the game first, it was jarring hearing one ending without any music to accompany it. Also, borderless window display mode works well enough, but the frame pacing is noticeably worse than than exclusive fullscreen mode.

On the moral front, there is plenty to talk about. The requisite fantasy violence is present here as it often is. It's not unusually bloody or gory. Most PG-13 curse words are used fairly often, which includes words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'b*tch', '*ss', and 'sh*t', with some faux words like 'effin'. There is also plenty of uses of God's name in vain, saying things like 'god', 'God', and 'Jesus', including combinations with the above curse words. Curse word use is common, though not to the point where it feels out of place. The occasional reference to Cthulhu did feel out of place, however.

There is plenty of occult spiritual content to go over. The entire concept of a spiritual underworld that only the specially gifted can see is obviously occult-like. The gates between worlds are dark and menacing, with hexagrams littering them. One of the characters uses hexagrams to cast his spells. There are references to local religions, including temples to said religions. Ancient animist gods are also referenced, and noted to have power. Christianity is actually shown in a reasonably positive light, with Christian characters, but it's referred to as a 'quasi-polytheistic' religion, which is likely a sin of ignorance rather than intentional blasphemy. Tarot cards are present, as is a reference to Ouija boards.

One of the plotlines revolves around a fictitious drug, and its distribution and effects. Alcohol is served to adults in your presence, and you take a part-time job as a bartender. Another character is shown smoking tobacco. One woman is a hostess. You also become on good terms with the local Yakuza (though Kou never really feels completely comfortable around them).

From the sexual content perspective, there is also much to talk about, though they in many ways did exercise restraint. For one, there are no explicit sexual relationships of any kind. Kou is a gentleman through and through (almost to a hardheaded fault), though a friend of his is a bit more forward in that respect. The girls are wearing appropriate clothes almost all of the time, unless you buy the swimsuit DLC, in which case very little is left to the imagination (including massive cleavage). I was happy about how, despite every opportunity to do otherwise, they did a great job keeping most of the girls' underwear hidden, even when doing somersaults right in front of the camera while wearing skirts. (The only exception to this rule is Rion where underwear is briefly visible.) There is the occasional midriff visible, and enemies with lots of visible cleavage.

But that is not to say that there is nothing to be concerned about. There is a clearly effeminate male homosexual character in the town, and most men are clearly bothered by his presence. He makes statements that can definitely have at least some sexual overtones. Also, one of the girls in the school has a clear lesbian crush on several of the more attractive girls at school. There is also anime-trope level breast size discussions among the girls while visiting the hot springs.

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ really snuck up on me. I knew that I would enjoy it, as I tend to do with Falcom games, but if 2017 wasn't one of the best years of modern gaming in recent memory, it could have easily been my personal game of the year. Instead, it lives in the same year as Persona 5, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Ys VIII. Nevertheless, it's a fantastic adventure that should not be missed, despite some roughness around the edges, and of course appropriateness issues that should always be considered carefully before any purchase.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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