Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tokitowa - Weekend Impressions

We've been playing Tokitowa -- the HD Animation RPG -- for the past few days.  I took a risk in buying it based on the fact that it used big 2D sprites for all the characters and monsters, while still holding to a modern-style 3rd person perspective in 3D environments and battles.

What could possibly go wrong?

And the battle system is kind of nice.  You control one playable character against one monster in real time, switching back and forth at will to either gun or sword range.  Enemies tend to hit hard enough to make watching for their unique attack patterns an important part of the game, and change their patterns depending whether your are at ranged or melee distance.  At this level, Tokitowa has an appealing way of making a game out of fighting monsters, a trick many RPGs fail to even attempt.

Yet at almost every other level, Tokitowa is just fucking around.  The first hour or so made us question whether or not it should be classified as an RPG or as a visual novel.  This for the way it locks the player into a string of conversations with a harem of anime tropes with a few opportunities for input, just to make sure that you always feel like you're really earning your bad ending.

The 2D animation, i.e. the only reason anyone is paying attention to Tokitowa, is only partly a good idea.  The sprites are generally big, expressive, and nicely detailed.  Unfortunately, they are also on pretty short loops, even the main character, meaning that you'll see the same movements with tiresome frequency.  This is made worse by the developer's apparent need to run some sort of animation whenever one of the main cast is speaking.  A hair tossing animation might not seem so repetitive if it were not, in fact, repeated at every opportunity.

I think it's unfair to fault the game for not producing infinite animation rather than merely lots and lots of it, but there are definitely problems with the way it fails to hide the corners it cuts.  Another minor yet jarringly obvious example of this is the way the extended cast often perform one thing they weren't animated to do: turn around.  There are front-facing animations, back-facing animations, and nothing in between.  One second you're speaking to someone's face, then in the next frame his back is to you as he addresses someone behind him. I'd like to think that a better developer would have given some thought to how they could work around that limitation rather than highlight it.

Even as it stands, this sort of thing wouldn't be a problem if the rest of the game were able to support the rough edges.  So much of the game consists of trivial fetch quests, an irritating supporting cast, and a story that is (so far) pretty weak.  To the game's credit / as if in admission of these shortcomings, all town/worldmap traversal is done by pointing to a location and warping there, and all treasure chests, quest items, story triggers etc are marked on the map.

This all makes it mercifully easy to rocket through the parts of the game that involve going someplace and figuring out what you should be doing there.  In general, I'm strongly in favor of streamlining typical RPG mechanics in order to shift the focus of gameplay elsewhere, so long as the focus is then on something better than physically walking to a town, talking to NPCs, or shuffling through menus to execute an attack.  What Tokitowa winds up focusing on, though, is its 2D animation hook, the conversations that drive the story, and its battle system.  The hook quickly wears out, the story is either uninteresting or wearisome, depending on whether it is a main or side quest and who you're talking to, while the battle system, again, is pretty ok.  If they had just made a game in which you fight monsters, they could have saved everyone a lot of time, and maybe even used their resources to make some great-looking battle animations instead of just pretty good ones.

All in all, I give the first 10 hours or so of Tokitowa three horny dragons out of a possible 8 hours spent in a fucking room drinking tea with idiots.


AppleTreesRTall said...

As a spectator to this game, simply put- it blows. I gave up on it within the first hour. I had better things to do, like watch -real- anime.
Who am I kidding, I was trying to catch up with The Voice. Still, way more entertaining than Toki to Towa. Someone please get this game out of our home D:

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