Hi folks! Welcome to the first installment of Sage’s Gaming Corner! I’m Sage Ashford, and because I’ve got way too many hobbies for my own good I decided to try and start up a gaming-focused column here on Comicon. This is going to be pretty free-form; sometimes I’ll be talking about big news in the gaming world, others I’ll be discussing issues inside the community. This week, we’ll be looking at some of the best games to come out of Tokyo Game Show!
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In September, Japan holds its annual video game expo, the Tokyo Game Show. This year, the event ran from the 21st to the 24th, showing off some of the biggest games Japanese developers have to offer the gaming industry for the next year. There are a few too many to cover them all, so instead we’ll focus on the ten biggest titles to make an appearance out of the convention. I’ll give a rundown and then fill in my personal thoughts on each game as we go.
Zone of Enders VR
Zone of Enders was a cult classic series initially released on Sony’s Playstation 2 console in the early-2000’s. Created by Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, fans loved it for it’s fluid action combat and unique mecha designs, but the series’ low sales meant it never got a chance on the much more expensive HD consoles that would come after the PS2. So obviously one of the biggest surprises of TGS was when they announced the PS4 would be receiving an enhanced port of Zone of the Enders 2 for PS4. The port comes with VR support, and is done as a joint-project between Konami and Cygames, a developer mostly known for their mobile game titles.
Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of remakes than ports, as I’m a bit of a graphics geek. Not to the extent that I need perfectly crafted 4K graphics, but enough so that looking at a PS2 game for me these days is a little difficult and immersion breaking. Still, I’m happy this classic title can get a revival on a newer system–hopefully it can find new life as a Virtual Reality title, and we can get a proper sequel in the future!
Dynasty Warriors 9
There was a time when the Dynasty Warrior series was as regular as Call of Duty is today. Games 2 through 5 all launched on the PS2, after all. But as developer Omega Force approaches the double-digits with this franchise, they’ve slowed down on it, choosing to bring their unique “Musou”-style gameplay to other franchises like Zelda and Fire Emblem, among others. Fortunately, they’ve put the time between installments to good use, as Dynasty Warriors 9 seems much improved–featuring a massive open-world that can be traversed on foot, horse, or boat, and over eighty playable characters, Dynasty Warriors 9 looks like it’ll destroy players’ free time when it comes out next year on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
As interesting as this new version of Dynasty Warriors sounds, the combat still looks just as tedious as ever, as players defeat dozens of characters with only a handful of sword strikes. And since the combat is the very thing that makes a Musou/Warriors game, I think I might be done with the franchise.
Code Vein has been referred to as “Anime Souls” almost since it’s debut, and for good reason. Despite the game’s blatantly anime-inspired art, the combat and gothic world it’s trying to set up is clearly a riff on From Software’s popular Dark Souls trilogy. Set in a world where humanity has long passed and all the remaining people have turned into vampires, you play a customizable character on the eternal search for blood. Creepy.
Souls-type games have never been my thing, but from the reactions I’ve seen online, this game looks like it might satisfy that itch–if it can get its combat system to be as responsive yet punishing as the Souls series.
Left Alive was easily the biggest surprise of Sony’s Pre-TGS game conference, and one of the biggest parts of the TGS itself. Making good on a two year old rumor of Square-Enix working on a Front Mission game, Left Alive is a title set in the same universe as Front Mission, but utilizing action-based gameplay rather than the turn-based strategy title Front Mission had always been known for. Players will control three different protagonists (shown above) through several different levels, either through stealth or gunning down every opponent they come across. The latter might be a bit harder than expected though, as the giant “Wanzer” robots Front Mission is known for are littered through the stages as obstacles you must either sneak past, destroy, or control.
Without a more detailed look at this game, I can’t decide whether I’m excited or not. As a long time fan of Front Mission and tactical/strategy-RPGs, the change in gameplay styles is annoying to say the least. Worse, instead of at least letting players control robots for most of the game, they’ve ditched the Wanzers as well, instead advising players to figure out “how” to pilot them, and otherwise leaving them as mini-bosses and stage bosses. That’s a bit ridiculous for a series known for its robots.
Monster Hunter World
There was some initial pushback when the latest follow-up to Japan’s popular Monster Hunter franchise was announced for the Playstation 4, moving back to home console for the first time in years. Some believed it would be the downfall of the series, while others believed this would be a blatant grab for Western attention and would see massive changes to the gameplay. But since then, Capcom has shown off several different videos revealing that the unique gameplay that made Monster Hunter such a hit is still very much intact, and the company just took the opportunity to make the most of the massive success that is the PS4 to bring the title into the HD realm.
Featuring what seems to be an actual attempt at a story, along with an enormous world filled with various zones players can seamlessly transition to, Monster Hunter World is shaping up to be the perfect evolution of this franchise. Fortunately, fans don’t have to wait long as this game launches worldwide on January 26th, 2018.
I’m still a little iffy on this title personally–Monster Hunter has the kind of combat that either draws you in or pushes you away, and when I tried it on the Wii U the game moved too slow and methodical for my tastes. When I was told “that’s the point”, I realized that not every franchise is for everybody. Nothing wrong with that, as I’m sure this game will do great with or without me.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
After years of being a struggling franchise in the West, the Yakuza series finally happened on a hit when they launched Yakuza 0 this January. Though fans had always known how great the series was, the rest of the gaming world was suddenly introduced to this world’s over-the-top fight scenes, quirky side quests with interesting characters populating a tiny, fully explorable city, and a gripping story about honor and the bonds between men.
Since then, SEGA has been doing a perfect job of creating a nice entry point for new fans, remaking the first Yakuza title last year as Yakuza Kiwami. Off the success of that, later this year in Japan (and likely sometime next year for us Yanks) they’ll be launching Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of the second series using the studio’s new Dragon Engine.
This game looks absolutely gorgeous, and after spending over twenty hours in Yakuza 0, I can’t wait to dive back into the world with Kiwami, this, and 6. Though I’m almost certain to go through them in the wrong order, since Kiwami 2 is easily over a year away for us. Still, I’m addicted to the world of Kazuma Kiryu and solving the problems of Kamurocho, so there’s no way I turn this game down even if I do play them all out of order.
Fist of the North Star
When SEGA’s Yakuza Studio announced they were going to reveal their new titles for the next couple years, everyone assumed they just meant a sequel to the franchise their studio was named after, along with perhaps a remake of Yakuza 2. What no one expected however, was for the studio to announce they were working on a game based on the popular Fist of the North Star anime series. Still, if any studio could do it justice–it’s almost certainly this one. The constant random battles and brutal battle system of the Yakuza series fits this shonen franchise almost perfectly. Add that Yakuza and FotN are probably the “manliest” series in their respective mediums and this feels less like an idea out of left field, and more like a dream come true.
Still, while I absolutely love when an anime series gets a proper video game like this, Fist of the North Star isn’t quite my style so I’ll save my money for Yakuza Kiwami 2.
Arika’s EX Layer
Video game developer Arika is probably best known for their Street Fighter EX series, a group of Street Fighter games that briefly took the franchise into the world of full 3D. But the EX series hadn’t been touched in years, so it was easy to write off Arika’s debut of a “new” fighting game in that vein as an April Fool’s joke–particularly when it was announced on April Fool’s. But later the company would confirm the game indeed exists, taking the original characters Arika made for the EX branch of the Street Fighter series and branching them off into their own unique game. At TGS, they revealed another one of those original characters: Doctrine Dark.
This game is easily one of the prettiest fighters I’ve seen all generation, alongside Tekken 7 and Mortal Kombat X. Still, I’ve got roughly the same skill with fighters as your average three year old–and if you were placing money on a match between us, I’d tell you to put your money on the three year old. So neat as this looks, this is another pass for me.
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3
Falcom’s Legend of Heroes series is one of the longest-running Japanese RPGs. Counting Cold Steel 3, the most recent incarnation spans roughly eight titles that all take place in the same universe, taking place in different countries across the same continent. The series is respected for its long-running narrative and the sheer amount of detail shoved into the moment-to-moment gameplay. NPCs have their own little mini-stories that play out over the game as you speak to them, and there’s always some hidden secrets to find that only the most eagle-eyed and meticulous players (or those with guides *coughs*) could ever hope to catch.
I played Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 1 last year, long after the PS3 generation was over–and it still managed to become my game of the generation. The writing isn’t revolutionary, but it’s superbly well-executed, with each part of the world feeling distinct and having its own reasons to exist independent of whatever the characters in the story are doing. It feels reminiscent of the golden era of PS1 J-RPGs, only with better production values and a few quality of life improvements like maps. Though I’ve not played Cold Steel 2 just yet, I’m confident that Cold Steel 3 will be a worthy successor to the Trails franchise. Already out in Japan as of September 28th, 2019, it’ll probably only be slightly over a year before it makes it Stateside.
Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was first announced at Sony’s Playstation Experience conference in December 2015. A sequel to Level-5’s Studio Ghibli-inspired original, the game is probably one of the few high budget J-RPGs the industry has left. Simply stunning on a visual level, the game follows Evan Tildrum, a young prince trying to reclaim his kingdom after a coup. Taking place in a massive open world, the game lets you go where you want as you try and rebuild your kingdom–literally.
With jawdropping visuals, a fun-looking battle system, and a likable cast, I think my decision on whether or not to get this game was made long ago. Hopefully it stands up to the hype its built when the game launches on January 19th, 2018.
It’s hard to argue against the idea that Tokyo Game Show is a shadow of its former self. While the expo initially competed with E3, gamers and journalists alike are surprised when things of note manage to surface here. But this year they made quite the splash, announcing a few new titles while offering updates on many old ones. It’s a solid effort from Japanese developers in a world where gaming is changing rapidly every week, leaving what was once impressive in the dirt. I hope we get to see more of most of these games very soon.