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NYCC 2014: Namco Bandai Roundup

At this year’s New York Comic Con, Namco Bandai brought a variety of games for con-goers to experience. Here are some of the highlights from their roster.


Dragon Ball: Xenoverse

I have a long, storied history with Dragon Ball games that I will not get into right now. That said, I will say that since 2007’s Budokai Tenkaichi 3, I feel that there hasn’t been an entry in the series that I felt was truly satisfying and fun to play. Xenoverse might be the first Dragon Ball game in a while that recaptures that spirit.

Xenoverse places a new twist on the series’ lore by integrating   elements from the Japan-only Dragon Ball Online. Players can create an original character (which can be one of the many different races in the series) that works under a version of Future Trunks as a member of what they’re referring to as the Time Police. Your goal as this new character is to travel back in time to correct events in the Dragon Ball timeline that are being altered by evil forces. For example, an early event has Goku and Gohan being killed at the hands of Raditz during their first battle.

Gameplay-wise, Xenoverse seems to be combining elements from the Budokai series and the Tenkaichi series. The camera follows behind the player character, similarly to that of the more recent Dragon Ball games. This gives the player free reign to fly around the environment as he or she chooses. Combos are executed with a combination of regular and strong attacks, along with the famous energy blasts and transformations Dragon Ball is known for. Combat still provides the amount of flash that you’ve come to expect from the series. Some elements seem to be early in development. For example, the camera – which has been an issue in most games in the series – has a hard time keeping up with the frantic action, and sometimes gets way too close to the player or enemy characters. There were also multiple situations where enemies would teleport out of the way of my attacks, leaving my character in awkward-looking animations.

That being said, the combat system had a surprising amount of depth. I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the combat much further, but combining specific attacks and linking them with special moves seems to be key. Overall it remains a hybrid of Tenkaichi and Budokai by retaining elements of what made both games work. While there are still some kinks in the presentation, this could be one of the more effective games in the series in recent memory.

Digimon: All Star Rumble

This year, in order to celebrate the (15th?) anniversary of Digimon, Namco Bandai has been working on Digimon: All Star Rumbe, an arena fighter featuring the series’ most popular characters.

The gameplay is similar to that of a game like Power Stone. Players can select a character, ranging from newer Digimon like Shoutmon, to the classic Digimon like Agumon. After character selection, you can choose booster cards that can increase a Digimon’s health, power, or give them a boost of special attack energy.

Each character has basic, strong, and ranged attacks that can be linked together to form combos. As players run round the arena, occasionally there will be special icons that pop up that give you certain abilities or boosts. One ability I received made it so that every time I attacked an enemy, it turned into the slime type Digimon known as Numemon. Another power up I received gave me full meter that would allow me to Mega Evolve.

One of the things that slightly disappointed me about my demo was that it seems like standard Digivolution is skipped over; they go straight to their strongest forms. While on some level it’s satisfying to play as War Greymon and Metal Garurumon, some of my childhood favorites, it would have been even more satisfying and strategic if they included some of the other forms.

While I was initially excited by the premise of the game, I walked away less interested than when I walked up to the controller. Gameplay was hectic, yet clunky. I often didn’t have a full grasp of what was going on. I did eventually get a feel for how the controls worked, and when I did I was surprised by how the combo system works. I was able to string the light, strong and ranged attacks together to deal pretty decent damage to my opponents. Unfortunately, this didn’t really amount to much as each match devolved down to mashing attacks until you get enough meter to transform into the Mega form and reap the benefits.

After a few matches I realized that this might not wet my appetite for a satisfying Digimon game; however the similarities to the hectic nature of games like Power Stone might intrigue some fans. Digimon All Star Rumble releases November 11 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Tales of Hearts R

Tales of Hearts is a game that I’ve always wished would come to the United States. Ever since its initial release on Nintendo DS, I’ve been interested in its cast of characters and unique battle system. While we are finally getting the game in the form of the re-mastered Tales of Hearts R, part of me wishes we were just getting the original.

Tales of Hearts R, which will be releasing on Playstation Vita, takes a lot of the elements of the original Tales of Hearts and puts a traditional twist on it. The original game featured a pseudo-2D/3D art style, and side scrolling 2D combat which was reminiscent of the earliest games in the series, like Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny. What made the original so interesting was the smooth and action-packed combat which allowed the player to seamlessly combo attacks together as long as you had the meter to do so. This game uses that formula to an extent, but goes for the traditional TP system as opposed to the refilling meter of the original game. Also, you have full 3D movement, which complements the new polygonal graphical style.

On that level, the game looks great on Playstation Vita, though some of the charm of the original is lost in the shuffle. I did notice that the cities and events are still accurate to how they play out, though later there are new scenes and characters that were added specifically for the Vita version. During my time with the game, I explored the overworld and battled with a variety of enemies. Fans of the Tales series know what to expect, but Heart’s combat seems to have an emphasis on aerial combos and using skills that allow players to have more fun performing combos in fights. Playstation Vita owners and potential Playstation TV owners can look forward to Tales of Hearts R’s release in November.

Tales of Zestiria*

Tales of Zestiria unfortunately wasn’t on the show floor for us to play, but Namco Bandai’s Tales of series panel did share some interesting details about the upcoming Playstation 3 entry. Zestiria looks to return to the series roots by re-establishing itself in a fantasy medieval world, as opposed to the pseudo-futuristic hybrids in entries like Graces and Xillia. The protagonist of the series, Sorey, is being referred to as a Shepard according to the trailer. Details on that are scarce, but it might have to do with the spirits that accompany him on his adventure. These spirits take the form of human-like characters and are part of the main hook of the game, which involves a fusion between Sorey and his spirit companions.  Using this fusion, Sorey combines with his allies to perform special attacks. These attacks give him different weapons, such as a bow and arrow, or a giant sword.

The main battle system has seen a revamp as well. As you roam around the vast environments, you encounter enemies and – for the first time in the series – transition directly into combat instead of being transferred to a new arena. Basic combat seems to mimic that of Tales of Graces, where you fight from a behind the back perspective.

All the Tales games have some sort of theme, and they revealed that the theme for this game is passion, which perhaps will be seen in the characters or plot. The themes are usually the backbone for the character development, as well as the overall story so we’ll find out in time how that manifests. Tales of Zestiria releases in the summer of 2015 for Playstation 3.

Lords of the Fallen

Disclaimer: I have never played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. I generally understand the appeal of those games, but never have I played one for myself. As I watched those in front of me online playing I could only make one comparison – Dark Souls. In fact, it seemed so similar to me that I was having a hard time picking out the differences. Lords of the Fallen is the type of game that rewards patience and continuously tests the player.

If it wasn’t clear, the game has many elements of the Souls games.  Medieval characters? Check. Stiff and slow movement? Check. Extremely strong enemies? Check. Even things like the stamina bar and health potions are reminiscent of the Souls games. To be fair, I had a good time playing, even if I spent most of the time dying. People weren’t lying when they said that there is a very good sense of satisfaction from figuring out how to conquer the game’s challenges. From my short time with it, I did feel a sense of accomplishment every time I was able to conquer an enemy.

After speaking with a few con-goers, Lords of the Fallen, while being acknowledged as a Souls clone, differentiates itself by not punishing the player as harshly as its competition does. While you do lose experience when you die, there are more saves and checkpoints available that ensure that the player doesn’t lose as much progress.

I must say that after playing I felt defeated. However I would really like to play more to figure out the battle system and to figure out what strategy would ultimately work against the enemies that took me down so many times. Lords of the Fallen releases October 28 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.


 

Comments

Nick DiMola Director

10/27/2014 at 12:29 PM

It seems like Lords of the Fallen has really shaped up into something great. I definitely will have to check that out when I get some spare time to scratch my itch for more Souls.

Well, that and the DSII DLC I still have yet to get to.

Cary Woodham

10/27/2014 at 08:22 PM

Bandai Namco has been very supportive of me in my nearly 20 years of writing game reviews.  So I'm glad to read this.  Great feature.

I never could get into Dragon Ball Z, but I did like the original Dragon Ball cartoon.

The Digimon game sounds interesting and I hope I get to review it.  Clunkiness or not.  I reviewed a bunch of old Digimon games when I used to write for The Dallas Morning News.

The main reason why I'm looking forward to Tales of Zestria is that I read Go Shiina is doing the music for it, and he's my favorite video game music composer.  Normally, they have some othe guy do all the Tales music, but Go Shiina did the songs for Tales of Legendia so I'm glad he's coming back to do this one as well.  Go Shiina also did the music for Mr. Driller, Gods Eater Burst, and many songs in the Ace Combat and Tekken franchises.  I wish I could meet him someday.  I'd have him sign my imported Tales of Legendia soundtrack!

Did they have any Pac-Man stuff there?

xDarthKiLLx

10/28/2014 at 01:01 PM

i've been reading around the Net that Lords Of The Fallen is like Dark Souls without the difficulty.

I suppose we shall see....

leeradical42

11/01/2014 at 11:14 AM

I really enjoy the Tales games so im definitely looking forward to theseCool

KnightDriver

11/04/2014 at 03:37 PM

That Tales game does look gorgeous and would be a good addition to my PS3 library.

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