E3 2018: Bandai Namco’s betting big on anime

As it’s become E3 tradition, our appointment with Bandai Namco this year started with an hour-long presentation that featured almost all of the games on display at their booth, with looks at the newly-announced Jump Force game that’s coming out in 2019, as well as the console port of last year’s Divinity: Original Sin 2, dubbed Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition and SoulCalibur VI. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown turned out to be surprise reveal that closed off their presentation, and to all intents and purposes, it looked like a solid Ace Combat game from the trailer that played.

Afterwards, we headed out to the hands-on demo stations for some of the games featured in the presentation, as well as the remaining titles in Bandai-Namco’s catalogue, which included Code: Vein, a Souls-like game with heavy anime influences and lots of climbing up and down stairs, and My Hero: One’s Justice, a 3-on-3 fighter based on the anime/manga juggernaut My Hero Academia, a series based on kids coming to grips with their super powers by studying in a special superhero school, all the while dealing with all sorts of crazy threats. As a mild-to-normal fan of the latter franchise, I’m definitely hopeful that it’ll turn out to be as good of a fighting game as the numerous Naturo titles have over the years. It certainly looked awesome, thanks to the cel shaded visuals.

The Switch version of the recently released Dragon Ball FighterZ was also on display, and it frankly looked fantastic on the tiny Switch screen, as well as on the HD TVs in docked mode. It seems that the art style used in the game translated very well to Nintendo’s less technologically powerful portable console, which is great news to everyone who was holding off playing that until this version was released. My only worry is that the Switch directional pads won’t quite cut it for the precise move combinations that an extremely busy fighting game like Dragon Ball FighterZ can be at times. I’ll be sure to report back on those worries after having even more time playing it once it’s out on September 28th. It’s worth noting that it was later announced that this version of the game will include unlockable characters Goku and Vegeta SSGSS (God mode Super Saiyan versions of Goku and Vegeta from Dragon Ball Super, I assume?) along with a digital copy of the SNES game Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden by pre-ordering Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Callum and I played a bout or three of SoulCalibur VI, and it’s sure a SoulCalibur game in all aspects of what it means to be one. Lots of flashy moves, exaggeratedly proportioned female character models and of course, guest fighters, which in SoulCalibur VI’s case is Geralt of Rivia from CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher franchise. As we’ve seen in previously disclosed videos, Geralt brings a lot of his core witcher skills to the ring, like his sign spells such as Aard, along with both of his swords and most importantly, the ghostly sounding female chorus musical backup. In terms of gameplay, since I’ve missed most of the recent editions to the series, I felt a little lost at first.

I’ve had plenty of experience playing the Dreamcast version of the first SoulCalibur, but little else besides that. SoulCalibur VI brings similar reversal and counter systems as its brother series Tekken, most notably Tekken 7, in the form of a few distinct moves that you can pull off by pressing different button combinations that are universal to all of the game’s characters, but vary in terms of how useful they are depending on the fighter you’re using. I’m a big Maxi fan, so I was glad that his reversal moves proved to be damn good against Callum’s Yoshimitsu. We’ll know more about SoulCalibur VI soon enough. It’s gonna be released on October 19th, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. We should have a review to accompany it!

Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition was next on my list of games to try out, and it proved to be very much worth my time. I’ve spent a few hours playing the first game’s own Definitive Edition on PC, and the sequel’s felt just as tight and responsive on a controller as its predecessor’s. I played a mage character and helped her escape a dungeon level where she was trapped at the start of the demo. The combat encounter I faced when trying to rescue some prisoners turned out quite chaotic, and uhm… my enemy ended up exploding in a gigantic puddle of blood. Still, even with all the gore, Divinity’s trademark witty dialogue managed to come off as charming and ridiculous as usual.

Before starting out, I was able to create a new character from scratch, and just like the original version of Divinity 2, I was given the choice between several preset background stories, as well as the choice of starting a character out with a clean slate. According to the Bandai Namco rep overlooking my demo, regardless of your character choice, the other choices that you didn’t go with eventually pop up in your adventure, which proved true during the presentation’s look at the game. I’m really looking forward to giving Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition a shot, and thankfully I won’t have to wait too long, since it’s coming out in only a couple of months, August 31st, on both Sony and Microsoft’s boxes.

I ended up only watching the crowd play Jump Force, and as a fan of ⅓ of the franchises that made an appearance in the show floor demo — not including Death Note, which only showed up during the trailer, right at the end — it was still cool to see some of my favorite fighters duke it out in the middle of Times Square. All the character models look eery due to the realistic shading given to their cartoony appearances, but the fighting itself looked like a lot of fun. The demo only featured Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto characters, but I expect to see more Shueisha and Shonen Jump properties pop up in-game. My hopes are that some Saint Seiya and Yu Yu Hakusho characters make an appearance, but given their relative obscurity in the US, I won’t be holding my breath. Still, there’s always the chance. Jump Force is still a little ways til it sees release, so don’t expect to play it until next year.

And that closes off the time Callum and I had with Bandai Namco at E3 2018. As expected, Bandai Namco is betting heavily on anime franchises for their upcoming releases. We were hoping to see something related to Dark Souls at their booth, but we’re gonna have to be content with the stuff that Sucker Punch, Sony and Tecmo are cooking up, I suppose. Expect to see more coverage of some of the titles I talked here about as they approach release.

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