E3 2017: Hands-On at Bandai Namco

Bandai had a rather good showing at E3 2017 this year. Between the surprise of DragonBall Fighter Z, which was announced just a few days before the show started, and the previously announced games like Ni no Kuni II and Ace Combat 7, Bandai’s lineup was strong. I went hands on at Bandai’s booth with those three games plus Gundam Versus.

First, Gundam Versus, which is the latest game in the long-running giant robot franchise. I’m not particularly well-versed in the Gundam series but I did enjoy my time with the recent Vita Gundam game. Gundam Versus felt like a minor evolution of that game. The overall feel was similar and it had a slightly expanded selection of Gundams to use which are pulled from the full range of Gundam eras.

The demo set up was a 2v2 match with AI opponents/ally and it played well enough. Though the mechs controlled like one would expect a huge robot to, slow and clunky, there were plenty of ways to briefly boost or fly around the stage. Keeping an eye on the boost/fly gauge seemed to be integral to doing well.

As one might expect, the Gundams had an array of ranged and melee weapons depending on the specific Suit. Plus each unit had a couple of special attacks to help turn the tide if used correctly. Overall I enjoyed the couple matches I played. The game will probably be a good way for fans to jump into some of their favorite Mobile Suits and duke it out.

I also went hands-on with Ni no Kuni II, one of my most anticipated titles going into the week. Set in the same world but following a completely new cast of characters, Ni no Kuni II is about a boy who becomes king after his father’s death. Being inexperienced, a coup soon follows and he must build up a new kingdom of his own.

One thing I noticed immediately was that the action RPG combat has been streamlined a lot. There are no monster-gathering or raising aspects anymore and the player is just directly controlling the party (controlling one character at a time, with the ability to jump to others, though this ability was disabled in the demo). However, to keep some of the tactical aspects of the combat, the game introduces the higgledees, which are small elemental spirits that help out the party in battle.

Casting certain spells near the higgledees will boost those spells and can give the player the oomphf they need to stun an enemy. The bit of the game I played was only a boss fight and stunning him out of his attacks was important to keep my team from taking damage. Higgledees can really help turn the tide of the battle.

As with the first game, the graphics are fantastic. Though famed anime studio Studio Ghibli isn’t involved with this game, the graphics still feel inspired by their films. Going to the PS4 has afforded the game even better lighting and graphic fidelity, making things like spells and effects much more striking.

I was already excited for Ni no Kuni II but getting my hands on it just affirmed that excitement. While I enjoyed the monster-collecting aspects, the new combat is also very fun and the game seems to be going in a good direction. I’m eagerly anticipating sitting down with the full game.

Bandai also had Ace Combat 7 set up, both in VR and non-VR forms. Naturally, I opted to jump into the VR version which was running on PSVR. The demo consisted of a single mission, taking off from an aircraft carrier to engage a few mysterious aircraft.

The game looked really good, with a full cockpit that the player sat in. It ran smoothly too and I never felt myself getting sick. Granted, the demo wasn’t very long and it usually takes me half an hour or more of VR to start feeling it. Still, things seemed smooth enough that it shouldn’t be a concern for anyone who can play games like Eve Valkyrie.

The jet controlled well too. Almost too well, as a couple times I managed to stall the aircraft while flying around in the clouds without something to signify I was turning too tight! Gunning down enemy aircraft was satisfying and the ability to look up and around to find foes is one of the best uses of VR.

Ace Combat is a series I’ve only played a handful of times but Ace Combat 7 seemed pretty impressive. I’m definitely interested in picking it up now, especially because of the VR component. I’ll just have to remember to not decelerate and turn so aggressively when I do…

Finally, I also played a bit of DragonBall Fighter Z and it ended up being one of my favorite games from the Expo this year. Developed by Arc System Works, who works on the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, the game was an absolute blast and it looked great to boot.

Fighter Z is a 3v3 fighter with a lot of similarities to Marvel Vs Capcom 2 and 3. Players pick three fighters and while controlling one character they can call in back up characters either for a single attack or to tag in. From there it’s just a matter of beating down the opponent’s three characters before they do the same to yours.

As one might expect, the game controlled very tightly. There are three basic attack buttons, A, B, and C, plus a special button which fires energy blasts. Plus, there were buttons to control each assist character. Numerous dual button combinations were important to the game though and on the default controller layout, some of these were tied to the trigger or shoulder buttons.

One command that seemed very strong was the Dragon Rush ability. This caused the character to quickly dash to their opponent, kinda like the ability from Arcana Heart. This was great not only for gap closing but for extending combos after attacks which knocked the enemy into the air or across the stage.

Though the game seemed pretty combo heavy, like many Arc games, the basic combo structure was pretty easy to grasp. To make it easier to learn three characters, many characters have similar movesets and combo chains. The game didn’t seem particularly execution heavy either, which should make it easier for DBZ fans who are not fighting game aficionados to get into the game.

Still, Bandai stressed to us that Arc was making DBFZ with the intent to make a hardcore fighting game out of DragonBall. The series has a ton of fighters to its name, but a lot of them are considered to be fairly casual by the crowd that plays games like Street Fighter. DBFZ could help span that gap, offering an experience for fans to get invested into while also being a strong fighting game…

I loved what I played of the game and this is a game I’m eagerly anticipating. Sadly, the game is supposedly only about 20% finished and is slated for 2018. However, there is supposed to be a beta later this summer which should help whet my appetite to beat the saiyan snot outta people.

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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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