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GamesCom 2017 Impressions: Bandai Namco

Everyone keeps telling me that anime is a mistake. But, somehow, everyone still loves to buy games that are largely influenced by Japanese animation. Is it just love, and people simply refuse to admit it? With this in mind, I couldn’t ignore Bandai Namco’s very strong anime presence at this year’s Gamescom and I went straight to their booth. With high hopes, I examined Bandai Namco’s lineup, so I’ll tell you if you should keep them on your watchlist or throw their titles away.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

This is by far one of the most anticipated fighting games revealed this year, if not the most anticipated. And as a big Dragon Ball fan since the original series, there was no way I could pass up a dedicated playing session. The fighting community is celebrating FighterZ as the perfect Marvel vs. Capcom replacement and I honestly can see why; the feel and gameplay is very reminiscent of Marvel vs. Capcom, and as a fan of Capcom’s recurring fighting series, I instantly felt at home with FighterZ. Tagging in partners feels the same as in Marvel vs. Capcom, as does the use of light, medium and heavy attacks and aerial attacks. And it’s very easy to execute satisfying combos. However, I think it’s a lot faster and more energetic and, unlike Marvel vs. Capcom, you can power up your special meter and fire some KI blasts at your opponents. Moreover, how you launch opponents into the air is also different yet it still feels really great. Another very neat mechanic occurs if you press all of the action buttons. This activates the “Sparking!!!” technique which can push your opponent away from you. As a Dragon Ball fan, I found this very charming. However, I have to admit, I’m not a fighting game expert, but I can confirm that Dragon Ball FighterZ is very beginner-friendly.

Regarding the characters, I think I didn’t play enough to properly tell most of them apart. Sure, some are heavier or have short-ranged attacks, but honestly, many felt quite similar to each other. However, I wouldn’t put too much weight into this complaint since the time I spent with the characters was very limited and I still need to figure out some of the other hidden mechanics. But from all the characters, I had the most fun with C18. I couldn’t properly figure out how to summon C17 in her attacks but I enjoyed her speedy playstyle.

I went straight to Bandai Namco’s booth in the entertainment area to play FighterZ again after my appointment was finished. I’m still as hyped as before and the upcoming modes Bandai Namco showed me are very promising. I, unfortunately, can’t tell you more, but I can at least advise you to keep an eye on Dragon Ball FighterZ. The hype is real!


Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

Surprised to see this title in our preview article? So am I. To be honest, when I was offered this play session, I didn’t know it was a new Sword Art Online to begin with. So I bit the bullet and here I am, playing a Sword Art Online game. Did I like it? Well…

As you can tell, I’m not really familiar with the Sword Art Online universe and I only watched one episode. But according to the game’s lore, Fatal Bullet is based on the anime’s shooter game “Gun Gale Online.” You control one Sword Art Online character in a post-apocalyptic setting. Bandai Namco describes it as a mix between tactical third-person shooter and RPG, and I think this describes the game pretty well. I had the option to play as either Kirito or Sinon and both offer different playstyles. Sinon is very weapon-focused and you can shoot down enemies better from a distance. With Sinon, you’ll get a more typical shooter experience since she can also snipe down her enemies with a headshot. But if you’re not too invested in shooters, Kirito offers you a lightsaber as his main weapon and you can directly slash down your foes. If you’re in trouble, you can escape with a grappling hook to a higher place. Alternatively, you can use this tool to take advantage of the environment to more efficiently strike down your enemies. And to be honest, the grappling hook mechanics were kind of fun and I often found myself searching for a platform to use my hook. But the positivity stops here because, overall, I think the game is below average in this state. The idea to merge the RPG and shooter genres is nice and all, but the gameplay suffers a lot from a very bad framerate. And while the 3D models look nice, the environment and enemies look very boring and dull. I was told the development team chose that setting to work on an interesting environment but all I can see are low textures on a dry landscape littered with generic enemy designs. Since this is, like any other Sword Art Online game, targeted to the series’ fans, I think only that demographic might have fun with this title. I surely was not impressed and I hope Bandai Namco at least works on its performance.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

And now to our last anime-esque game, which is actually not really based on an anime property. Yet it still looks extremely similar, doesn’t it?

That’s because former Ghibli Studio artist Yoshiyuki Momose is responsible for the character design, just like he was for the first game, and you can still feel the influence from one of the most beloved animation studios. I would usually talk about the graphic and sound design later, but I can’t stop myself from expressing how beautiful and gorgeous Ni No Kuni II looks. The characters are so well animated that I was instantly immersed in this wonderful world of wonder and mysteries upon starting Revenant Kingdom‘s demo.

Are you worried that you would have needed to play Ni No Kuni II’s predecessor to fully enjoy its story? Fear not, because I was told it will stand on its own. There might be references here and there to the first game, but you don’t have to be concerned that you won’t understand the plot.

So I praised the style, but what about the gameplay? Since I never got the chance to play the first Ni No Kuni game, I can’t draw any comparisons between them. But from what I played, I really liked Revenant Kingdom. On the overworld, you take control of a chibi version of the main character. You can explore the map and the enemies are visible, so you don’t have to fear any random battles. As soon as you touch one of the monsters, you’ll instigate an action-based battle where you have to face your enemy with direct attacks like in an Action Game, kinda similar to the battle mechanics in the Tales of series. You can cast spells and special attacks like in your typical RPG, but that’s not everything. In battles, little critters called Higgledies are offering you their assistance, and you can either order them to attack the enemy or use them to give your attack a significant boost.

It’s pretty much your Action-RPG standard and Ni No Kuni II doesn’t try to revolutionize RPG standards. But it doesn’t need to since it works really well and I enjoyed it.

One of the major elements of Ni No Kuni II is building your own kingdom and finding new allies to join your realm. You also have to fight against other kingdoms that are unrelated to the story. Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail but the way you expand your kingdom is solved in a really cute manner that may give off Pikmin and Fire Emblem vibes.

Overall, Ni No Kuni II looks stunning and is on track to be one of the best RPG titles slated for next year.

And that’s it for my Gamescom coverage of Bandai Namco’s lineup. I think Bandai Namco has a strong early 2018 lineup (with a certain exception), and gamers and anime fans alike can look forward to some really great games! Also, thanks to Bandai Namco Germany for letting me try out their 2018 lineup in their Business Booth!

Big thank you to Cart Boy for the very helpful edits on this articles!