"Playing with a PS4 controller, Tokyo Xanadu feels like a fun action RPG and has the potential to be excellent."
Tokyo Xanadu is connected to Nihon Falcom's older Xanadu series in name only. The older Xanadu games were challenging fantasy RPGs and pioneers of the action RPG genre, the most recent of which was 2005's Xanadu Next (released in North America in late 2016). Tokyo Xanadu is a different beast entirely, starring a group of Japanese teenagers trying to uncover the truth behind a mysterious "Other World." Tokyo Xanadu landed in Japan in late 2015 on the 30th anniversary of the original Xanadu, and western audiences get to play the original Vita version and the enhanced PS4 and PC versions later this year.
Two RPGFan editors played the Tokyo Xanadu demo behind closed doors, under the guidance of an Aksys Games localization editor. The demo provided was an early game dungeon in the Japanese PS4 version, with two playable characters: Kou and Asuka. Kou wields a whip-sword and can use fire elemental attacks, while Asuka wields a rapier and can use ice attacks. Players control one character at a time, and may switch them on the fly. Asuka is swifter than Kou, but has slightly less range and damage on her weapon. Both characters can cast ranged spells (resembling rapid fire gunshots more than traditional RPG magic), but spend a resource meter in doing so. Normal attacks build the meter, while spells and special moves spend it. Targeting enemies with L1 displays their weakness as a color in addition to positioning the active character to lock on.
Eventually, Tokyo Xanadu has several playable characters with different playstyles and elemental attacks — striking monsters with their proper elemental weaknesses while avoiding big hits are keys to success. Perfectly dodging enemy attacks slows the creatures briefly, providing an opportunity for free hits, similar to the dodge mechanics in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. The action in Tokyo Xanadu does feel similar to a recent Ys game, but with a third-person camera view and only one character active at a time. Fans of Ys should feel right at home with Tokyo Xanadu's combat, which I found smooth and lively. There were occasional camera issues in cramped areas and corners, but the imperfect camera is far from a deal-breaker.
In the Tokyo Xanadu story, a massive earthquake struck Tokyo 10 years prior to the game's beginning, and since then mysterious monsters called "Greeds" have been prowling the streets of Tokyo at night, when the real world and "Other World" occasionally overlap. The dungeon in the demo resembled a large stone tower, with a fairly straightforward path only deviating towards treasure chests or switches to unlock gates. The story objective was unclear (it was all in Japanese, which I cannot read or speak), but I was lead to believe that Kou and Asuka were attempting to rescue a civilian or another student trapped in the Other World's labyrinth. Kou and Asuka looked like a cool duo of Japanese RPG heroes, but I couldn't get a feel for their personalities or story roles in the brief dungeon-only demo.
Tokyo Xanadu resembles a Persona title in its visuals and gimmicks. The main characters are all high school students who wear their school uniforms in combat, there is an extra-dimensional world of dungeons and monsters accessed via supernatural means, and one of the main characters on the box art is a teenage pop idol. The setting is a fictional ward of Tokyo, and school activities and shopping in the city are part of the gameplay when you aren't exploring dungeons. No word on the presence or absence of Social Links or Confidants. I like the look of Tokyo Xanadu's cast, and also enjoy the Persona series a great deal, so this is merely an observation, not a complaint.
Tokyo Xanadu's PS Vita version launches very soon, but that wasn't the version I played. Playing with a PS4 controller, Tokyo Xanadu feels like a fun action RPG and has the potential to be excellent, but I only scratched the surface of the game in a brief Japanese-language demo. Aksys Games could have a cult hit on their hands if the rest of the game lives up to its energetic, flashy combat.