Tokyo Game Show 2018: Bandai Namco's Jump Force Brings the Action

by Callum May,

Tokyo Game Show is a way for both the press and fans to get their hands on many of the much anticipated titles to be released in 2018 and 2019. However, due to the crowds at TGS, even on the business day, it can be difficult to get a chance to sit down with all of the games available to demo. Thankfully Bandai Namco has a Pre-TGS event allowing foreign games press to jump the queue and get some quality time with their most anticipated upcoming titles. Here are some of my impressions.

JUMP FORCE

Following on from Spike Chunsoft's release of J-Stars Victory VS+ in 2015, Shonen Jump is marking its 50th anniversary with Jump Force. In previous Jump collaboration titles, characters have been brought into a shared universe where they find an excuse to do battle, but Jump Force's premise is a lot more down-to-earth. Literally. Coupled with Unreal Engine 4, a rich cast of Jump heroes are rendered with realistic textures and shading and plopped into the real world.

It's a strange aesthetic to get used to and appears to work better for some characters and worse for others. For example, Yugi can feel off-putting when you couple the grittier skin textures with his large hair and cartoonish eyes. The worlds themselves look stunning, but the blend of anime and realistic visuals is a continuous struggle. One of the elements used to bridge this gap is a dizzying motion blur applied to most attacks. This is clearly a 3D actualization of the 2D speed lines we see in both Shonen Jump manga and anime, but in practice, it can be difficult to watch.

This is particularly disappointing because the game actually plays really well. Putting the motion blur aside, the sense of speed and impact in each of the hits makes the combat particularly satisfying. Special attacks are easily executed, each of them having a particular relevance in the character's history. In the demo, I played with Luffy, Blackbeard, and Frieza and each of their moves reflects their in-universe skills. For example, Blackbeard has one special attack where he is able to use the power of the Tremor-Tremor Fruit from the Marineford Arc.

Jump Force offers the perfect level of fanservice for fans of Shonen Jump titles and it rises above previous Jump collaboration titles, but many viewers will not only find issues with how some characters appear, but also with how they move across the screen.

ACE COMBAT 7 VR

I've played several types of VR games, but I've always been adamant that a flight game that truly felt like you were soaring through the skies would be the most euphoric use of the technology. And after playing the TGS demo for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown's VR mode, I was right. With no UI and a locked first person view, all of the information that you need to know is inside your cockpit. If there's a fighter jet to your right, all you need to do is turn your head and look towards them.

Outside of that one time that I managed to nosedive into the ground immediately after lifting off (forgot about the inverted controls!), Ace Combat 7 VR was majestic. The familiar issues with resolution in VR are still present and the technology is still not able to build a fully immersive experience, but there was still a distinctive feeling of freedom that you won't find in other titles. To emphasize this, the VR mode even includes “Free Flight”, encouraging players to fly around the landscape at their leisure.

My time with cite>Ace Combat 7 VR still hasn't convinced me to buy into the expensive hardware, but it has proven that some VR experiences aren't just a gimmick. The integrated user interface and the ability to look around your immediate area are integral parts of the VR mode that I hadn't expected myself to be so captivated by.

GOD EATER 3

God Eater is switching gears for its third release! Set over 10 years after the events of God Eater 2, the staff affirmed that this is a great entry point for new players, with little required knowledge to play. In the battle to fend off the Aragami and fight for humanity's survival, the new “Ashland” threat has driven the remaining forces underground. Now, instead of heroes, the new “Adaptive God Eaters” are treated like slaves and forced into battle with the Aragami. It's a lot of jargon, but the premise has a lot of appeal.

There's also been an adjustment in the production. Both God Eater 1 and 2 found their way over to the west as a part of the “Burst” and “Rage Burst” titles and the Bandai Namco staff mentioned that as a part of the overseas response to these titles, they made it their goal to improve the graphics in this latest entry. God Eater 3 is the first game to not be released on portable consoles first, making its way to the PS4 and PC. Additionally, God Eater 1 and 2 developer SHIFT were too preoccupied with the production of Code Vein and so Bandai Namco opted to continue production with Marvelous, citing their experience with the Soul Sacrifice titles.

The demo we played emphasized the introduction of the new type of creature, the Ash Aragami. As well as the series norm where your character is able to devour parts of monster to enter a Burst Mode, the Ash Aragami can devour you and enter into Burst Mode themselves. This particular creature will go from its standard four legged form to a glowing two legged monstrosity.

Having played a few SHIFT games and plenty of Monster Hunter titles, God Eater 3 seems to linger between the two. Attacks do feel like there's more weight to them than in God Eater 2: Rage Burst, but it still never seems to get close to the satisfaction involved in taking down a monster in a Monster Hunter game. However, the appeal to the series is entirely different from the sillier tone of a Monster Hunter title and so it'll be interesting to see how the gameplay ends up coupling with the story, something we weren't able to demo.

ONE PIECE: WORLD SEEKER

There's certainly no shortage of One Piece games out there, but it's clear that One Piece: World Seeker is seeking out a more engaging impression. This time, the focus appears to be more on delivering the sort of story you might expect to see from the manga, rather than retreading old ground. The game starts with Luffy being captured and brought before the technological genius warden, Isaac. Meanwhile, the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates work to break him free. They succeed and Luffy jumps off the edge of the prison to the island below, revealing that he was in a floating sky prison.

It's an interesting world and the staff explained that the Marines had rebuilt the island after a war destroyed it. Therefore, half of the island feels indebted to them whilst the other half yearns for the return of their traditional ways. Story-wise, this could be one of the most engaging One Piece games yet.

As for the gameplay, however, it's a mixed bag. Luffy's moves are recreated in 3D with a loving attention to detail, which makes it satisfying when you land a punch on the enemy. Unfortunately, it can be hard sometimes to even land that punch in the first place, as there is no lock-on button. During a battle against Akainu, the flame effects occasionally obstructed the screen to the extent that I couldn't even see where my character was. The developers have promised that these issues will be fixed for the official release, so fingers crossed.

OTHERS

These are some of the games that I played, but didn't have extended impressions on:

With memories of playing Soul Calibur IV with friends, I was very eager to see how Soul Calibur VI felt to play after all these years. Moving over to the Unreal Engine 4 has changed a lot of things graphically, but the gameplay is still just as satisfying as ever. There is still no greater feeling to me than executing a perfectly timed attack and throwing your opponent off the stage. During my time with the game, I opted to use Cervantes (the character I used back in IV) and newcomer Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series. Geralt wields his sword with the same sort of weight as he did in his original games and feels almost unchanged in hisSoul Calibur cameo form. Whilst most of the differences to Soul Calibur VI are the new visuals and characters, the “Reversal Edge” mechanic is a great addition, even for newcomers. Acting as the correct counter to a vulnerable attack, a “Reversal Edge” can be a showstopper as it plays out in slow motion.

Katamari Damacy is back with Katamari Damacy: Reroll! Announced during the recent Nintendo Direct, there unfortunately wasn't much to show of the remaster at Tokyo Game Show. Starting at your smallest size, players of the demo will only get to see their ball roll up to just above 10cm within the allocated time. It's very clear from playing it that this is strictly a remaster, rather than a remake, since it uses the original models from the PS2 game, but here, the colors have more definition and the bright fun aesthetic is a lot clearer.

11-11: Memories Retold was an ambitious game in several respects, but whilst there are several really commendable aspects, it can struggle to make an immediate impression during the demo. The animation of the game is formed through a series of different paint-brush strokes based on a 3D concept developed at Aardman Animation (primarily known for Wallace and Gromit). It is a genius style of animation that is a pleasure to watch, but during my time with the game, I found myself wondering whether it works as well when you play the game. The more time you spend with it, the more you feel like everything is just slightly out-of-focus and distant. It becomes more difficult to relate to the characters that way.

The game's director has talked about “going beyond entertainment” and unfortunately that makes it difficult to judge from a simple demo (with Jump Force music drowning out some of the dialogue), but those who want to experience this story of peace during wartime (featuring Elijah Wood) may be able to appreciate some of the more divisive creative decisions.

This is the first part of our coverage of the hands-on demos available this year. Check PART TWO for coverage of Kingdom Hearts III, Devil May Cry 5, and more.


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