E3 2016: XSEED Booth Hands On and Interview with Kohta Takano

xseed hands on

XSEED was, both last year and this year, one of my favorite booths to visit. They have a wide variety of games and some very personable and friendly staff. This year I got to try Touhou Gaiden: Scarlet Curiosity, Exile’s End, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. I also spoke with Kohta Takano about his upcoming game Akiba’s Beat.

First off, Touhou. I’m only vaguely familiar with the Touhou universe, a cross media property that sprang up from a collection of indie bullet hell SHMUPS. Going in, I assumed that Scarlet Curiosity was one of those bullet hell SHMUPs. It’s not, it’s more of an action RPG, but its developers have made sure to include some bullet hell SHMUP aspects to the game.

On a base level, Scarlet Curiosity reminded me a lot of the recent Ys games. It’s an action RPG from a slightly angled top down view with twisting and winding levels filled with enemies. The player character (and I’m sure I’ll get crucified for not remembering which Touhou was the lead) has not only regular attacks but a variety of flashy special attacks.

The bullet hell comes into the picture from the enemies. Many of them attack with patterns of bullets and just getting close enough to attack them can take some skill. The boss I fought in the demo was able to employ several different screen filling bullet patters.

It’s an interesting hybrid and the game worked mostly well. The game is a doujin (indie) game and the small development team shows. Scarlet Curiosity was fun enough but it did feel like it lacked one final layer of polish. Still, there aren’t many Touhou games getting official translated releases so I imagine fans will be happy to have this.

Touhou_ Scarlet Curiosity - 04Touhou_ Scarlet Curiosity - 05

The next game I tried was Exile’s End, another indie title. This game reminded me a lot of Axiom Verge, as it is also a Metroid-inspired game, which means a 2D game that combines platforming, shooting, and lots of exploration.

I didn’t grow up on Metroid like some gamers though, so I don’t have quite the nostalgia for them that some players have. From my point of view, Exile’s End didn’t have a whole lot to set it apart. Maybe by design, the pixel art in the game felt a little drab and uninteresting and I felt at least a little bit like I was fighting the controls.

That said, the exploration was nice and even in the short time I was playing the game it seemed like there were plenty of secrets to find. I also liked it a little more once I realized I could switch weapons. The handgun was a little dull but the assault rifle I also had made me feel more powerful, so long as I kept its limited ammunition in mind.

Metroid fans are a pretty ravenous bunch, and Nintendo seems content to continue ignoring the classic formula for it. For the people who want more of that formula, Exile’s End may be a game to keep an eye on.

Exile's End - 02Exile's End - 01

After that, I tried out The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. This is, of course, the sequel to Trails of Cold Steel which released earlier this year. I haven’t yet played Cold Steel so I’m not too familiar with the characters in this game nor how this game might differ from the first.

The combat is a very tactical turn-based system. Characters have, of course, normal attacks but they also have several types of special attacks. There is a minor positional system in the game, so some of those special attacks may be able to hit multiple enemies depending on how the battle has played out. Party member characters can also partner up. Once they have, those partners can follow up each other’s attacks in battle.

I liked what I played of Cold Steel II, though it was a relatively small chuck with fairly overleveled characters. Falcom, the developer, has a good eye for RPGs and my experience with Cold Steel II backed that up. I do worry about the story, if it depends too much on the first one. But I suppose that would be an easy concern to mitigate if I could ever clear the first game out of my backlog…

The Legend of Heroes_ Trails of Cold Steel II - 10The Legend of Heroes_ Trails of Cold Steel II - 09

Finally, I also played a level of Fate/EXTELLA. Vaguely related to the Fate/Stay Night franchise, and a successor in some odd way to Fate/Extra on the PSP, Fate/EXTELLA didn’t really feel like it had much to do with any of its extended ties. Which may be a good thing, because the combat in Fate/Extra was excruciating to me.

EXTELLA throws most of that away, only keeping a few characters, and is instead much more akin to the Dynasty Warriors games. The player character (in the demo it was the same Saber Nero from Extra) has to hack and slash through waves of enemies to win.

There are, of course, captain characters. These not-quite-mob-level enemies comprise the defenses of the areas of the game. Beat them, and the player’s side will take over that area. Take over enough areas, without the enemy retaking them, and the enemy side’s leader will jump in to take on the player.

The combat is mostly mindless mashing but there was enough to the combo system to keep it fun. In the demo, Saber Nero could transform into a more powerful form for a short period of time and had several more powerful attacks available to help her. The final game will have other playable characters too, of several different classes.

One thing I really liked about EXTELLA was the art style. The game was beautiful with a lot of bright and vibrant colors that help accentuate the on-screen action.

Fate_EXTELLA_ The Umbral Star - Nero_06Fate_EXTELLA_ The Umbral Star - Nero Form Change_01

Before I left XSEED’s booth, I also had a chance to talk with Kohta Takano about his upcoming game Akiba’s Beat. Note, the interview was translated from Japanese and has been edited slightly for clarity.

So, can you tell me, in broad terms, a little about Akiba’s Beat?

Kohta: So the story takes place in Akihabara. The people there have so many delusions in their mind and one day the delusions start invading reality so the same day keeps repeating. So the characters have to start exploring the delusions to find out why it’s happening.

Is this related to Akiba’s Trip at all or a spiritual successor?

Kohta: It’s a bit of a spiritual successor but story wise it is kind of different. There’s Akiba’s Trip and Akiba’s Beat and it’s the same kind of Akihabara style but it’s a different kind of route.

Will we still see a lot of the same kind of nods to otaku culture or anime fans?

Kohta: The delusions each have themes. So they mostly come from Akihabara stuff like anime or idols or maids or other kinds of otaku like music fans.

Are these a bunch of individual delusions or are they all melded into one?

Kohta: Both. So there are some delusions from one person and others are from many people. Melded into one delusion.

So will you be going into the delusion of a specific character, like a player character, to help them out with their fears? Is that within the scope of the game?

Kohta: So some people will be saved by destroying the delusions but some people will be really unhappy by destroying their delusions. So characters will have to think about what they should do; if they should destroy delusions.

What kind of combat are we looking at? Does it have the similar kind of over-the-top combat from Akiba’s Trip.

Kohta: It’s real time action battle and you can have for party members and one guide character. You can switch around between the characters and fight enemies. It’s different than Akiba’s Trip but still real time.

What would you say are the big selling points of the game?

Kohta: This information hasn’t even been talked about in Japan yet but each character has headphones and they put on their headphones to listen to their individual music. If you play well with that music you get a big boost to the character. That’s a big point in the game.

Any games you’ve seen here at E3 that look exciting to you personally?

Kohta: So I haven’t had time to look around because I have been in the interview room but I was very surprised about the Atlus booth. I was amazed at how popular Persona is, even in the States.

Do you keep in mind any overseas fans or do you design the game mostly for Japanese game fans?

Kohta: I didn’t really consider that for Akiba’s Beat. It has to be very Japanese. I want to present a game made by a Japanese person about Japan. But I hope a Western audience can enjoy a Japanese.

Do you think there’s anything we can learn about Japan from the game?

Kohta: The delusions are related to Akihabara and famous stuff so players can learn from playing the game and characters dialogue. They have references to anime and culture so players can pick up pieces from the dialogue.

Any last thing you think fans should know about Akiba’s Beat?

Kohta: The game takes place in the same Akihabara as Akiba’s Trip but it’s a different one. We wanted to do something we couldn’t do in Akiba’s Trip like action RPGs and swapping and the scenario is longer. And with the headphone stuff, there are many vocal songs and we hope the players will enjoy them.

When can we look forward to playing the game?

Kohta: In Japan the game will release in fall and in the US it will be available in the winter.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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  • Jbumi

    If you like JRPGs (especially from the PS1 & 2 eras), you should definitely play Cold Steel. It was the best JRPG released last year.