JRPGs seem to have hit a peak as of late with the release of Persona 5. Granting new and interesting experiences for players as well as keeping things on a level enough basis not to go past the point of obscurity. With that in mind, how is it that long-running franchises like the Xanadu series have become so formulaic that even if you were to try something new the end result would ultimately be the same? Perhaps this gives away my opinion on Tokyo Xanadu eX+ early, but hang on to your butts, there’s more where that came from.
I must say, despite some nice-looking visuals and gameplay mechanics, Xanadu’s biggest downfall, at least for me, is predictability. The amount of titles I’ve played in the JRPG category where someone who’s attending school is thrust into a life-changing event (typically fighting monsters beyond the veil of time and space) and then is put right back into the school life without even the slightest hint of panic on their face has started to make me question that things have gotten a wee bit samey with this subgenre. It’s also samey in the sense that the characters are just literal cutouts of other JRPG characters; there’s the geeky one, the shy one, the comedic relief, and the nonsensical main character who all make up a lovely family of mediocrity. Honestly, there’s just no depth to be found with any one of these “heroes”. All of their story arcs could be summarized in one sentence or less, which I’m not sure if I should attribute to bad storytelling or bad characterisation. Probably both, all things considered.
On a more positive note, I mentioned above that I enjoyed the visuals and mechanics that Xanadu eX+ had to offer, which is very much true. Despite being a port from the PS Vita, Xanadu manages to make the leap to PS4 comfortably without having any glaring technical issues. Now that being said, it’s not so much a technical issue as a level creation issue, but there is a case of repetitive level design in some areas of the game, but I’m not going to knock the title any points for it as it works with the overall feel that Xanadu is trying to go for, which is either wholesome or unnerving.
Moving away from design however, how does the gameplay itself hold up? Well, all in all, the combat mechanics feel solid and responsive. In terms of style, free-flowing combat is the main gameplay aspect that this title falls back on, which I welcome with open arms. I feel as though having something such as turn-based combat would break up the sense of space and, ultimately, freedom. Going back to combat mechanics though, as the main character there are different abilities for you to choose from depending on your level. Some abilities are more effective than others, while others are not effective at all. In the case of not being very efficient, the player will have to switch to another character in order to use their abilities in a fight. I actually really enjoyed this aspect of the game as it gives you the chance to manage other characters and work out a strategy that works best for you. Unfortunately, the characters themselves can only hope to be as entertaining.
The last thing I’ll discuss in regards to Xanadu is its story progression. Now, this may be the first time that I’ve encountered this, but the overall plot that Tokyo Xanadu offers is honestly made better by the quick pace and lack of storytelling. I mentioned earlier that the characters and game were fairly predictable, but it’s as if the developers knew that when making the title so they did a 180 and went “listen, everybody knows how this type of game plays out, let’s just skip to the interesting bits.” This is something that I can’t even begin to describe my excitement towards. Honestly, if your game is predictable, get to the predictable stuff faster.
So with all that in mind, is Tokyo Xanadu eX+ I title that I would recommend? Eh. It has its pros and cons, as well as some nice surprises and half-hearted ones. In the full spectrum of things, I would say if you like playing this type of JRPG then by all means go for it, there’s nothing that will take away from the experience but nothing that will add to it either. If you don’t like this type of thing, just wait out for something better. May as well keep playing Persona 5.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
In the full spectrum of things, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is a title that offers just enough to be considered entertaining, but not so much that it tries to excel in its genre.