Touken Ranbu, a clash of swords

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From the game companies Nitroplus and DMM comes a new browser game of manly proportions — Touken Ranbu. Termed as the counterpart of the warship girls of Kantai Collection, this is a game of personified swords. 

The general plot of the game is that in the year 2205, evil forces have altered the path of history, and as a Saniwa sage, you have the ability to bring inanimate objects to life in order to correct the changes in history. The main purpose of the game is to collect and battle with famous historical swords, each with a distinctive personality and backstory. Starting out, you’re given a choice starter, which are all the uchigatana type. The first starter sword I picked was Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki (“Come, let us seize the world!”), a weapon that once belonged to Sakamoto Ryouma. Later, as you gather materials and beat maps, you will be given the opportunity to smith and gather random weapon drops. This can be frustrating if you have a particular sword in mind, or if you want to “collect them all.” There are other types of weapon characters, but swords comprise the majority. 

The battles are pretty streamlined. It is possible to play with just the swords that you personally enjoy the design of and still do fine. It’s definitely worth spending time familiarizing yourself with the menu as some of the interface is a bit unintuitive, like when trying to swap swords between different teams. Forging, going into the armoury to boost your sword team’s stats with troops, refining, and doing internal affairs-related chores are just as important as playing PVP exercises (no permanent damage), and expedition battles (heavy damage and sword loss possible) for EXP. The game also auto-suggests strategies, but as you get to know your team’s strengths (range, leadership, mobility, life points, etc.), you can choose patterns better suited for your team.

The character art designs vary greatly, which might be a bit disconcerting for someone that wants a common style between all the swords. The game also has voice acting, as the swordsmen will yell attacks or insert comments when appropriate. The swords themselves sometimes have insecurities and dark histories, as they have seen countless deaths and trauma, sometimes including those of their owner. Depending on the combination, there are “Recollections” about certain battles, where the swords will remember their past masters, and an extra cutscene will trigger.

But why play a Flash-based browser game where you collect swords that look like pretty boys and handsome men? Perhaps it was the pretty artwork and charming music, which was what drew me in at first; but the more I played, the more invested in the battles and backstories I became. I suppose you can say it is a time-waster as the maps are relatively repetitive. I’ve probably spent more time looking at fan art and reading about the historical contexts that all the swords came out of, and it’s been a fun gateway into history. 

But hey! Give it a shot for some “light” fun on the side, as repairs and smithing without tokens can take a few hours, or maybe you’ll become a history buff like Mayaya (a reki-jo) from Princess Jellyfish after playing this game.