Tokyo Xanadu eX+ Review

From Cliche to Cult Classic

With a name like Tokyo Xanadu eX+, I wasn’t even sure what to expect from this game. I know what some of those words, letters, and symbols mean, but not in this context. That said, I am at least familiar with Nihon Falcom, being a fan of the Trails games, and the PS Vita, being an avid fan of that as well. So, I’m happy to report I ended up having a pretty good time with this port from Vita to Switch, even if it felt like watching every Shounen Anime ever.

 

What Is Tokyo Xanadu eX+?

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ screenshot showing an animated scene of a teenager riding an escalator towards the camera
This anime intro playing before each chapter certainly added to the ‘anime cliche’ vibes

 

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is an action-RPG from Nihon Falcom that tells the story of a bunch of Japanese high school students (doi) in Tokyo (further doi) who become embroiled in a mysterious dark world of typical JRPG dungeons that you can get into through glowing doorways. Along the way, more and more of your friends get drafted into the fight until you’re all defending your town from a demonic incursion.

In terms of gameplay, it’s pretty action-oriented but also relatively simple. There’s the typical array of moves from dashing to dodging, and there are two different types of regular attacks: physical and ranged. By combining these button presses and using them in different ways (long hold vs tap, etc.), you also have a heavy-ranged attack that shoots you forward and a heavy melee that deals high damage. There are also the obligatory super moves where you can use the power of friendship with your party to produce a super laser or something. Basically, it just deals a bunch of damage to your enemies.

 

How Does it Feel to Play?

Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ screenshot showing a character standing in a purple dungeon with a strange device on his right arm
“Yup, That’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I ended up in this crazy situation…”

 

Despite my mentions of cliches and the flippant nature of my explanation of the controls, I ended up enjoying the gameplay of Tokyo Xanadu eX+ immensely. The gameplay is pretty fast-paced, but because you usually swap between at least 2 different characters, if not 3, the simple controls never feel repetitive. You’re also encouraged to swap by the different elemental match-ups between your various characters and the various enemies.

If you’re getting bored with one playstyle, you’re likely to unlock a new character who you’ll enjoy more, or you’ll already have someone unlocked and just need to swap your characters around. Combined with the decent upgrade system that is somewhat based on the orbal system used in Trails, you’ve got a combat system that is simple to understand but allows you to pull off some incredible moments if you know what you’re doing.

 

Story Time?

Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ screenshot showing three students sitting at their desks
Props to the developers for not giving the main characters the ‘protagonist desk.’

 

The story of Tokyo Xanadu revolved around Kou, a high schooler attending his local city high school in an alternative version of Tokyo that survived a devastating earthquake in 2005. He’s a workaholic who has jobs all over town, and one late night he accidentally ends up catching his classmate, Asuka, entering another world to fight monsters. This awakens his own latent powers, and together they start going all over town finding gates and destroying monsters.

I have to admit, as someone who has seen more than a few different shonen shows, the game starts out feeling a bit cliched. Most of the characters you meet can be categorized as various anime archetypes. There’s the childhood friend of the opposite gender who everyone jokes should be Kou’s girlfriend. There’s the ‘womanizer’ character who is about as funny as Bernard Manning and twice as creepy, the effeminate soft-spoken boy, and of course, Tsundere Class Rep. Effectively, when you start out, you might as well be playing anime cliché bingo.

 

Story Not the Strong Point

Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ screenshot showing a one-eyed gollem with red and black skin
Menace Ogre is what they called me in high school.

 

All that said, the characters do eventually go into more interesting depths (well, most of them. That womanizer one has no chance of being saved.), and honestly, the clichés mainly seem to serve as an excuse to have some awesome gameplay without requiring an insane amount of complex setup or characterization. Once the gameplay has you hooked, the story and characters start to develop a bit of depth, and in the end, I found myself wanting to continue both for plot and gameplay reasons, so hats off to the devs on that score.

It’s not like it’s the perfect game, mark you. There’s a decent amount of ‘jank’ that makes this truly feel like the mid-tier JRPG that it truly is, but it’s easy to move past. If you’re into these sorts of games, such as the Blue Reflection series (which we’ve reviewed before), then it’s more than likely not going to bother you, and honestly, for a game that’s a decade old and was made for a PS Vita handheld system, it’s not a bad looker in terms of animations, really.

 

More Than Just Combat

Tokyo Xanadu ex+ screenshot showing a grey-jacket wearing student standing in a school hallway near a window
“Damn it. I wanted to visit my terminal granny, but I’m all out of affinity crystals. Oh well. Guess I’ll say goodbye at the funeral.”

 

One element that Tokyo Xanadu eX+ borrows from other famous JRPGs (cough, Persona, cough) is that you will spend half of your gameplay time in ‘free time’ before you head to your various after-school jobs. During these times, you can hang out with friends, explore optional side dungeons, and upgrade your characters/buy items. You do have a limited number of ‘friendship crystals’ to spend, with each one being spent so you can hang out with someone, but it helps you to become more closely attached to the characters you end up picking.

It’s also fun to find quests in the overworld, and you have to go out into the world itself to find them. You’re not always given direct answers as to where you need to go for each mission, so they really require you to explore. This is good because you’ll also want to do that to find optional dungeons, collect hidden items to upgrade your character and unlock special character events. The game also seems pretty psychotic about telling you when you’re going to progress the story, so you can be sure you won’t miss side content. A nice touch.

 

Graphics and Audio

Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ screenshot showing a strange dark fairy creature with an open head
Weirdly, this was also one of my nicknames, but it was in university this time.

 

The game’s soundtrack is pretty enjoyable for game music, but it’s not likely to be added to any of my ‘game music playlists’ anytime soon. While it sets a decent tone and pace for both combat and story moments, it does little to separate itself musically from other games set in contemporary Tokyo.

Visually, it’s a similar story. The graphics are what you would expect from a game that was made for a handheld system in 2015, but now it comes with the obligatory HD tarting up that we all expect from a modern port these days. While it certainly won’t be winning any awards for originality like some of the company’s other works, the enemy design is varied enough to be interesting, even if it is a bit weird that the enemies’ weaknesses aren’t tied to their visual design at all.

 

A Note on the Port

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ screenshot showing three characters sitting in a traditional Japanese hot spring
This ‘definitely necessary’ and ‘not-at-all fan-servicey’ scene fits right in alongside the alt DLC costumes that have your high-school-aged characters dressed in skimpy outfits. The game just wouldn’t be the same without it.

 

So, this release is a Nintendo Switch port based on the Windows edition of the game. This eX+ edition features extra story content, as well as all the DLC that was released for the original game. For the most part, this game feels right at home on the Switch, and it runs just about as smoothly as the Vita version did. The only minor issue I found was that sometimes, in sleep mode, I did suffer from a single crash, but diligent saving made it less of a problem.

 

Summary

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ screenshot showing two younger characters sat next to each other in the back seat of a car
“Sorry Shiori, I only had 1 affinity crystal left, and I really wanted to unlock Asuka’s Ult.”

 

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is a great port of a Vita JRPG that is getting a second chance on PC and consoles. This Switch version runs beautifully and fits right in alongside many of the platform’s other titles. While it certainly feels like a game from a mid-scale developer, the jank is honestly welcome, and the gameplay is fun and engaging enough to actually carry some of the game’s worst points. Just don’t be shocked if you groan as the various characters are initially introduced.

Developer: Nihon Falcom

Publisher: Aksys Games

Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4

Release Date: 25th July 2024 (Nintendo Switch)

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