E3 2018: Hands-On at Bandai Namco

Bandai Namco’s lineup at E3 2018 seemed to focus mostly on two things: anime and fighting games. During my time at the booth I was able to get my hands on four of their titles: Jump Force, My Hero One’s Justice, Soul Calibur 6, and Code Vein. It was a good thing that I went to the appointment with Wyatt because three of those games are fighting/versus games.

Jump Force was a bit of a surprise out of the Microsoft press conference. Not only because the platform isn’t typically known for anime games but also because the game itself was a surprise. Shounen Jump, a manga magazine, has no lack of crossover fighting games but this looks to be a big one.

The lineup shown consisted of two characters each from One Piece, Naruto, and DragonBall Z (while the trailer teased Death Note and Bleach has been announced since E3). Players pick a team of three characters and can swap between those characters, though they only have a single health bar overall.

Gameplay reminded me a lot of the Naruto fighting games. It was very fast and very flashy, with 3D movement in a large arena. That said, the combat felt a little shallow to me. The game seemed to focus more on transformations, characters teleporting all over, and crazy super moves than anything else. It’s possible that this early build wasn’t a perfect showcase but I did walk away from the game significantly less excited than I was when the game was announced.

Also weird was the art style in the game. Rather than go for the typical cel-shaded style that most anime games use, Jump Force instead looks slightly more realistic. This kinda varies because they’ve also tried to make the characters look like they do in manga and anime so some of the disparate elements look odd. Luffy, from One Piece, was especially odd with his large eyes that don’t jive with the style of the game.

Also in the 3D anime-fighter camp was My Hero One’s Justice, based on the My Hero Academia franchise. Interestingly, this game also has the player picking three characters for their team, however One’s Justice uses two of the characters only as support. The main fight is played with the point character while the other characters can be called in for assist attacks.

Compared to Jump Force, I thought One’s Justice played a little better. It felt more smooth and like I had more agency over my character’s attacks rather than just watching spectacle. It of course still has crazy, over-the-top attacks in it but the base gameplay was there. Maybe not great, but for an anime tie-in game it was good enough.

Playing with your favorite Hero Academia characters is the main reason to get a game like this over a more well-established fighting game franchise and this game does provide a decent roster. It’s obviously focused a lot on the characters who get a lot of screentime in the show like Deku, All Might, Bakugo, etc so it won’t necessarily have everyone’s favorite.

One thing that worried me going in is how they might handle some of the characters with odd powersets. Someone like Uraraka, who can reduce the gravity of objects she touches, can use their power in interesting ways in the show but might not adapt well to a fighting game. They’ve done a decent job adapting these characters/powers and at least applying their power to some of the special attacks, even if the basic moveset of punches and kicks isn’t particularly backed up by the show.

Overall, One’s Justice seemed fine. As an anime adaptation, it’s a decent way to play the popular Hero Aca characters, even if it only offers moderate gameplay appeal for the gameplay itself. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be on the level of a competitive level fighting game.

Speaking of competitive level fighting games, Soul Calibur 6 was also playable at Bandai’s booth. The latest game in the popular 3D fighting franchise, Soul Calibur 6 is the first main line game since 2012 and the series’ debut on the current generation of consoles.

Though I’ve played the games in the past, I never got into them too much so I’m not sure of all that was changed here. But what I played of Soul Calibur 6 was certainly impressive, with some familiar faces and moves in the game. The controls felt good with moving and attacking being smooth and easy. Even with only playing a few matches, I could tell this early build was already pretty polished.

Among the fighters was the crossover fighter for this entry, Geralt from the Witcher series. Of course I had to play as him at least once and it was interesting playing as a character who had some access to magic in the otherwise weapon-based fighter. Hopefully he doesn’t end up being too overpowered but if close range characters can deal with Kilik’s long reach, they can probably find a way to deal with Geralt’s few long range attacks too.

The game was also beautiful, with very detailed environments and characters for a non-final version of the game. The way weapons clashed and characters moved were all fluid and fun to watch. The Soul Calibur series has been popular in the past and this entry looks to be doing right by the franchise.

The final game I played was the only one that wasn’t a multiplayer game, at least not in the demo on the show floor. Code Vein has been much hyped since its announcement, at least in certain corners of the internet, as another title in the Dark Souls-like genre of games. Albeit a title with a lot more ‘anime’ than the western fantasy trappings of the Souls series.

And Code Vein, unlike some other comparisons in the game coverage circles, certainly deserves the comparisons as many of its mechanics feel very familiar to Souls. It is, of course, a 3rd Person action game and some of the trappings like dropping your gathered currency when you die and tough boss fights are present here. But with some added special moves and ranged attacks that I spent the time of the demo trying to get used to.

The biggest change Code Vein boasted was a helper character. In the demo, I had an AI controlled follower who was helping me out as I made my way through the level. There were even a few different characters to choose from, each with a different weapon and therefore set of attacks and strategy. One partner for example, had a large rifle and was a beast at helping me take out enemies at a distance. At least until she let the boss get too close.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly impressed with Code Vein. It could have been that I was jumping into a midpoint of a game without time to get used to all of the controls but it seemed overly complicated but still lacking in some ways. It just never felt more than just okay to me but hopefully this is an early build that will improve as it matures. It was recently announced that the game has been delayed a few months so hopefully that’ll give the team time to polish things up.

In summary, I’d say Soul Calibur 6 was the winner of Bandai’s booth this year with My Hero One’s Justice as a follow-up, at least for fans of My Hero Academia. Jump Force and Code Vein were less impressive to me, but definitely have room for improvement. I’m hoping we’ll see that improvement so we can get our One Piece vs DragonBall on or play some anime styled Souls-like.

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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