Recently, me and Clarice had the rare opportunity to visit Bandai Namco’s London offices in order to get an exclusive hands-on with some of Bandai Namco’s upcoming titles; from the highly anticipated Man of Medan crafted by Supermassive Games, to My Hero One’s Justice, to Soul Calibur 6 and JUMP FORCE, we had the entire day to really get a feel for these titles and to report back with our feedback!
One thing is for certain, the environment around the Bandai Namco offices is absolutely lovely, and my personal dream development office – Whilst we were only granted access to a few areas, namely the foyer, showcase area and two conference rooms, the entire office was clad in Bandai Namco goodness – Each conference room named after different Pac-Man items; Tekken 7 Arcade Cabinets lining the corners of the showcase area; a massive skull statue celebrating Man of Medan, two whole cabinets filled to the brim with collector’s items (A lot of which were signed…!), and, most importantly, two life-sized statues of Kazuya and Jin. It was absolutely surreal entering this practical dream-scape.
Now, before we begin, it should be noted that all of the builds that we played were E3 / Gamescom builds of each title – As such, some prominent features and characters were missing (Such as Aizen in JUMP FORCE, Azwel in Soul Calibur 6 and more); with that out of the way, let’s begin!
Man of Medan
Man of Medan honestly surprised me, highlighted as the ‘unannounced game’ at this showcase, I was rather happy to see a new IP from the developers of Until Dawn – Whilst Until Dawn brought back campy horror, Man of Medan seems to be trying to usher in the atmospheric horror once more; our demo consisted of a small, 20 minute play session near what can be assumed to be the second chapter of the game – A group of rich friends have decided to pay their way into exploring an abandoned WWII fighter ship filled to the brim with paranormal abnormalities and spooks around every corner – Whilst the scares in this short demo were rather reliant on jumpscares, the tone and ambience of this slowly decaying metallic military corpse is certainly a strong one, and leaves a lasting impression.
One sticking point with Supermassive’s projects has been it’s consistently accurate and realistic motion capture; whilst Until Dawn did have it’s flaws, namely with wet textures like blood and sweat, Man of Medan seems to have learned from the mistakes of it’s predecessor, and has lead to Supermassive creating what I would call some of gaming’s best looking motion capture models. Characters move with a certain weight and with realistic movements; emotion is conveyed with a very real presentation, and the voice acting was nothing short of great – It feels very much like interacting with a live action film, much like Until Dawn was, however this time it feels all the more real.
Whilst we haven’t seen enough to gain a lot of insight into the plot, one wish that I have for Man of Medan, that Until Dawn failed to deliver, is for it to have meaningful alternative endings – Something I call the ‘Higurashi Effect’ – Confuse your players, have them theorise, and make the True Ending all the more difficult to decipher from the fake ones – Having a definitive source for everything in the game makes the preceding suspense fall all the more flat, and the additional lean on theorising ramps up the feelings of uncertainty and danger throughout every environment.
Soul Calibur VI
One of the biggest titles at this showcase, Soul Calibur VI was presented in local multiplayer only, with access to the cast of characters before Azwel’s announcement – Yes, that does mean Geralt… I must say, either Bandai Namco got a hold of the original model for Geralt out of The Witcher 3, or they’ve done an impeccably good job of replicating the original design – Regardless, Soul Calibur VI introduces the familiar and accessible combat of the Soul Calibur franchise to a new generation, with gorgeous environments, animations and particle effects – Critical Edges are far more impactful and flashy than in Soul Calibur V, and with them comes an added crunch to each hit; unfortunately we weren’t able to get a hands-on preview with Character Customisation, however we did get enough time to play a match with each of the available characters, executing all of their Critical Edges; so far, my favourites have to be the new boy Groh, Yoshimitsu, Ivy and Taki, with Geralt coming in sharply at 5th place.
One thing I did raise at the event was the surprising ease of access for Critical Edges, which instead of being activated through a series of complex button presses, is now simply activated by a single tap of the R2 button; this, to me, is a slight downgrade as I would have preferred the more complex Finisher commands to have that skill gap, so to speak, between those who can successfully execute them and those who can’t, however it’s also not a bad thing that Bandai Namco are making Critical Edges more accessible to new players. Perhaps a matchmaking setting could solve this?
Reversal Edges as well feel a bit underwhelming, being a basic game of rock-paper-scissors between two combatants with a somewhat standard amount of damage taken off the losing side; I’m a bit unsure as to how Reversal Edges could be improved in the future, but one thought would be to add a buff of some sorts to the winning player, which could be stolen off of them by losing a following Reversal Edge.
Either way, I’m extremely excited for the next entry in the Soul Calibur franchise… I just wish it could come to the Nintendo Switch!!
Ace Combat 7
Having only played a few piloting games before (Namely Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII and IL-2 Sturmovik), Ace Combat 7 came as a rather nice surprise to me; with a surprisingly awesome OST, interesting premise and easy-to-learn, hard-to-master gameplay, Ace Combat 7 looks to be a good entry point into the franchise for newcomers.
During our demo, we were given around 10 minutes per mission to go wild; as part of an expendable suicide squadron, our team’s task was to either destroy enemy encampments and turrets, or escort a fleet of allied jets to a safe landing point – The first was set in a rather flat, empty environment with targets littered literally everywhere, where the second was set in a dramatic, foggy, mountainous environment that lead to me crashing more times than I could count – This wasn’t due to the controls, but rather due to my own poor planning in the fog.
On the topic of controls, the game comes with two different control schemes – Standard and Expert – Standard ensures that your turns aren’t excessive and can be easily predicted, whereas Expert applies a roll to your turnings, and makes them extremely sensitive – Something I feel could be mitigated with a flight stick.
All things considered, Ace Combat 7 was fun, perhaps not quite my cup of tea, but something I’d definitley love to experience in a full flight-sim setup with VR (If support for VR is ever planned).
II-II Memories Retold
Another of the shorter but more experimental indie titles, II-II Memories Retold tells the story of two young men who are unwillingly forced onto the battlefield of World War I, and cross paths numerous times towards their individual goals – One seeks to capture and photograph the horrors of war and to return to England a hero to impress his sweetheart, whereas the other seeks his son, part of a lost squadron feared dead, and to return to his home and family.
The entire game is rendered in a surprisingly unique art style, with each colour and asset shown like a paint stroke, much like old blotch paintings; rest assured, there are 3D environments to explore, characters to interact with and collectibles hidden in each locale; the game is fully voice acted, with it taking place over numerous chapters – One interesting point is that the main English protagonist, Harry, is voiced by Elijah Wood!
Other than this, however, II-II Memories Retold’s art style does come with a few detriments; for one, personally, I found the art style gave me a bit of motion sickness and dizziness, something I haven’t really experienced before in a title like this – It may be due to how the paint strokes are animated, but it’s still something to note.
My Hero One’s Justice
One of the ‘big three’ games presented at Bandai Namco’s offices, My Hero One’s Justice aims to bring the action and charm of the anime and manga series to gaming consoles for the first time – My Hero One’s Justice faithfully replicates the art style of the anime in 60fps, with manga-like particle effects and graphical design; in terms of gameplay, My Hero One’s Justice brings Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm style gameplay to the lush environments of Musutafu and other iconic areas, faithfully recreated for fans to enjoy – In the demo, we got access to Midoriya (Deku), Bakugo, Todoroki, Aizawa, All Might, Iida, Uraraka, Yaoyorozu, Toga, Shigaraki, Dabi and Muscular, all of which had their own unique combos, however these all felt relatively flat to be honest; positioning and direction was a bit of an issue with characters running up walls, dashing in midair and floating towards one-another; a bit of a disconnect from the more realistic movements of the cast (Outside of their Quirk abilities), where characters like Aizawa could easily float and stand in midair to unleash combos – It felt a bit odd, to say the least.
Overall, whilst the sort of Naruto UNS gameplay may not be a great fit for me, I can see a wealth of relevant and fun content for fans of the anime and manga.
Finally, we have JUMP FORCE, or rather, Shonen Jump’s 50th Anniversary celebration in videogame form – The game pits popular Shonen characters together in an all-out brawl for supremacy upon a realistic art style and aesthetic – As a huge Bleach fan, I was eager to hop in and try out Ichigo and Rukia’s Manga forms once and for all… And I’m not going to lie, I was rather disappointed. Frame rate issues plagued this version of the build, with it constantly dropping past 20fps, combos are simple and easy to learn, with not much depth to them, and the specials, whilst recreating iconic moments from the show, all feel a bit flat – The characters cross the uncanny valley of looking totally anime with realistic textures and skin tones, which doesn’t match the original designs much at all… Especially when Goku’s hulking muscles look more like a plate of octopus tentacles.
Not just this, but a lot of what made these attacks iconic is lost in the translation to realism – Ichigo’s Getsuga Tenshous are no longer deeply clad in colour or depth, but rather simple flaming laser beams of a fixed colour, even when he enters his final Horn of Salvation form and uses his Bankai – The maps all feel rather isolated too, with us only having access to four maps, Hong Kong, Tokyo, the Matterhorn and a realistic interpretation of Namek; Namek especially felt like it was just a standard map that had a Dragonball reference thrown into it for the sake of calling it Namek, even featuring a totally out-of-place Statue of Liberty, possibly referencing Planet of the Apes; the whole thing just felt off, and made me kind-of wish that we just got a new J-Stars instead… But again, this is just my opinion.
So that was our exclusive insight into Bandai Namco’s hottest releases this (And early next) year! Please do let us know your thoughts down below on all of these titles, and what you think of Bandai Namco’s offices!