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Jeremy Jastrzab
23 Sep, 2011

Namco Bandai Pre-TGS 2011 Event

PALGN Feature | Want us to see the games? Display them before the show!
While E3 in Los Angeles may be the biggest of the annual video game events, it can’t beat Tokyo Game Show for the unique infusion of Japanese geek culture and exotic gaming flavour. While covering this event is a must for any budding gaming writer, Namco Bandai found that the best way for us to see their wares was to invite us out to their head office, located near the seaside suburb of Shinagawa. And just as well it’s located near the sea… because the humidity of a Japanese summer can be a killer! Following a presentation from one of the head honchos of Namco in the US, which included some light-hearted and fun trailers and a talk from one of the producers of Soul Calibur, we got to play musical chairs with Namco’s upcoming relevant titles, with a mix of interviews, panels, demonstrations and hands on time.

Come and play.

Come and play.
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Here are some of the titles that we got to check out:

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations

The guys at CyberConnect 2 seem like a very jovial and passionate bunch when it comes to creating their games. Well, you probably have to be when you’re dealing with licenses such as .hack and Naruto. While we have a full preview for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations coming shortly, a couple of things that stood out from our session with CyberConnect 2's CEO was just how much collaboration there has been with the development and animation studios, the difference in feedback between Western and Japanese audiences, and how happy and open he was to talk about various aspects of the game. In the very least, these guys are definitely fans of the source material that they’re working with.

Talking about my Generation.

Talking about my Generation.
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Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi

Unlike a license such as Naruto, Dragon Ball Z has long finished its soap opera serial and the games are unable to feed off any new materials or story lines. The same story line can only be recycled so many times - just as the recent Raging Blast titles have painfully shown. For the first time since the inception of the Tenkaichi moniker on the PS2 in 2005, the title looks to have some genuinely new aspects to show off.

There was a ‘story’ mission and a ‘versus’ mode on offer for our hands on time. The story mission was the first to show off some of the newer elements, as the fight between Goku and Oozaru Vegeta (from early in the Saiyan saga) was re-enacted. The battle took on a more scripted approach, where you had to avoid Vegeta’s attacks – and dash in for a few quick hits. After a little while, the game switched into an extravagant quick-time event, with lots of flashes and cinematic flair. Almost out of obligation, the demo ended on a cliff hanger.

The versus mode showed that the game seems to have moved away from being a traditional fighter or wrestler (like the other Tenkaichi titles), to something more akin to rock-paper-scissors. Basically, going into each clash, the players each pick an input and the dominant one wins. For example, you can aim big ki blasts left or right, and if the opponent picks the opposite direction, they will dodge and counter as opposed to taking the hit. During our play time, we didn’t really get to see how the characters will differentiate from one another, or gauge the longevity of this newer system. That, and we’re not expecting the story to be different, but the more scripted approach could make it more palatable. While hectic and a little difficult to translate, it actually did seem like the game would more accurately capture the spirit of Dragon Ball Z than past traditional fighters.

Can the real DBZ stand up?

Can the real DBZ stand up?
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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

We got to have a chat with the producer of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, so a full preview will be up for the game later in the week. Aside from this, we also got some hands on time with the multiplayer mode, taking the anticipated ‘Close-Range Assault’ mechanic for a spin. Having been given some handy tips by one of the developers on hand, I proceeded to annihilate the competition in the multiplayer deathmatch, which was populated by other CPU players if there wasn’t a real person around... but they wouldn’t allow a photo of this magnificent achievement.

Stay tuned for more on Ace Combat soon.

Stay tuned for more on Ace Combat soon.
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Tekken 3D: Prime Edition + Tekken Hybrid

In the Tekken room, our barefisted fighting fix came from two sources: Tekken Hybrid and Tekken 3D: Prime Edition. Well actually, the former was the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue due to be packed along with the CG movie, Tekken: Blood Vengeance. The Prologue will only contain characters and levels from the movie, meaning only four playable characters (think beauties and beasts...). Otherwise, this glorified demo is meant to show off some of the extended tag combo mechanics, and a ‘stage gimmick’ feature that will allow players to, for example, break through walls and continue the battle in another part of the level.

Clearly, this Blood Vengeance movie is something that Namco Bandai is proud of, as it comes packed into Tekken 3D: Prime Edition, for the 3DS, as well. The 3DS version seemed remarkably easy, as players with very little skill in fighting games were getting through the demo arcade mode barely breaking a sweat. This could have been helped by the fact that four special moves for each character were mapped into touch screen. The 3D effect was reasonable in what it was trying to do, without forcing obscure views, but wasn’t anything remarkable. Still, everything else seemed to be in good order.

There is no Panda is this game...

There is no Panda is this game...
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Soul Calibur V

There were two big new features being pushed with the TGS presentations of Soul Calibur V. Firstly, the producer spent a lot of time explaining the new critical attacks and their commands. Secondly, the new quick step was touted, where you could quickly dodge either away from (up) or towards (down) the screen. Some of the developers were commenting on how these new additions had really had a significant impact on the tactics of players. So, there was a lot more dodging going on throughout the bouts. Interestingly, the players on the right hand side of the room seemed to win all the battles that we played through… until the producer stepped in and showed his subordinate who was boss…

The boss is showing him who is boss.

The boss is showing him who is boss.
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Armoured Core V

With Armoured Core V, we were treated to some hands on time with an early single player mission, before being given some panel time with the game’s producer. It was interesting to hear the difference in naming decisions behind Ace Combat and Armoured Core V. Where as the developers of the former wanted to break away from the numbered titles to give the game more appeal outside of the established fan base, the developers of the latter felt that it was important to keep the numbered titles, for continuity and to instead rely on expansion of features and tweaking of mechanics to increase appeal.

While Mech titles seem to be popular by default in Japan, to help make the game more accessible outside of their home country, the producer detailed that the title will have a lot of multiplayer content, both competitive and co-operative. As fans of the series will know, the game is big on customising the player’s mech, and this title takes things further by allowing players to trade parts and items while in co-op mode. It was explained that this could be an experienced player helping out a newer player.

Two other aspects of the game that were talked about. Firstly, a ‘garage’ mode has been included, where players could view their own created mechs. This mode has apparently been in demand for some time. Secondly, the simplification of the control scheme was touched on. This indeed made a difference, as despite the language barrier, the game was definitely easier to control than its predecessors. Finally, the producer mentioned that this Armoured Core title has had the biggest budget pumped into it from all the games in the series so far.

Mechs are cool.

Mechs are cool.
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Dark Souls

As of writing, Dark Souls was very close to a Japanese retail release, so the final retail version was on show. And for the first time, it was playable on the Xbox 360. Suffice to say, the remorseless brutality of the spiritual predecessor is definitely intact, along with the highly specialised mechanics and game systems. To maximize game time, the cut-scenes were skipped, but the premise seems to be similar – go save the Kingdom but mind your step… The final version of the game sported some very impressive details and had a very distinct sense of style. The first area often seemed like it was leading players down the garden path – making them think “hey, this isn’t so bad” before an often customary brutal awakening. And the game is interspersed with a very wicked sense of humour.

Heh... you're screwed.

Heh... you're screwed.
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Shinobido 2: Tales of the Ninja

Since the first title was pretty much a bomb, it’s a surprise to see this title revived for the upcoming PS Vita. And after the developers expressed the difficulties faced in finishing the title in time for the PS Vita launch, expectations are set quite low for this unexpected sequel. However, they also spoke of how the PS Vita now gives them enough input devices (re: buttons, pads and screens) to really make the game control just how they wanted it to, as opposed to working around the limitations imposed by the PSP.

With no knowledge of the first title required, you play a character named Zen, and the story will have several branching paths. The path that you take will depend on the missions that you end up picking, which in turn will lead to different endings. There was no hands on time (yet), but the video presentation gave a good idea of what to expect, particularly as the game is concentrating on being a stealthy experience.

The next Olympic sport.

The next Olympic sport.
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From the gameplay mechanics on show, whenever an eye icon appeared on the screen, it meant an enemy was in sight. The colour of the icon would change depending on the enemy’s alert status, but the icon was placed at a point on the screen where it was easy to reach and touch. Doing so would direct the camera towards the enemy in question. Now the back pad was used to switch to and control a first person perspective, which could be used to fire your grappling hook or to throw a projectile.

The variety of assassinations was actually quite impressive. You had traditional styled assassinations from sneaking up from behind to death from above. Then you had some more flexible ones, such as assassinating an enemy behind a rice paper door, from around the corner or by setting a trap such as a bomb sushi. Finally, a new mode called ‘Zendoku’ could be activities that would act like bullet time and allow you to target and assassinate multiple enemies at once.

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