Tokyo Game Show 2018 Part Two: Kingdom Hearts III, Devil May Cry 5, and Moreby Kim Morrissy,
There were plenty of cool new games to check out at this year's Tokyo Game Show. After years of wait, plenty of fan favorite game series returned this year, not least Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry. Here's the lowdown of the major demos available, curated for anime and JRPG fans.
The first numbered Kingdom Hearts title in 15 years was arguably the most hyped title at Tokyo Game Show this year. Although the Kingdom Hearts saga has expanded the scope of its story and cast with various sequels and spin-offs, Kingdom Hearts III brings the player back to the game's roots: you play as a boy named Sora, who travels to various Disney worlds with his friends Donald and Goofy. If you have any memories of the earlier Kingdom Hearts games at all, this is going to be a nostalgic experience.
Although footage from the Pirates of the Caribbean and Frozen worlds were streamed during Tokyo Game Show, the demo build for visitors to play was identical to what was showcased at E3. You can play through a short section of two worlds: Hercules (a returning world) and Toy Story (a new world). Both demos showed off new gameplay features for the Kingdom Hearts franchise. In the Hercules world you run up a mountain to take down the boss, while in the Toy Story world you pilot a toy robot. It's in the DNA of Kingdom Hearts to constantly experiment with different gameplay styles; these innovations were easy to grasp and felt very much at home for me.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts III is the classic Kingdom Hearts action role-playing game experience, only even bigger and more beefed up. The graphics are now so good that the cutscenes feel like they're happening inside a Pixar film. And the gameplay is flashier now, too, as Sora is equipped with more finishing moves than ever before. This does threaten to throw off the balance of the combat, though, as you can pretty much spam the triangle button for a cheap victory. Hopefully, that's just a case of the demo showing off all the neat stuff, while the actual game retains the satisfying combat.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
Another classic series returns at Tokyo Game Show. This time, the wait for a new numbered installment for Devil May Cry was 10 years, which was long enough for its cool aesthetic and fast-paced action to immediately stand out from the crowd again.
Earlier demo builds showed off Nero, who uses Devil Breaker arms with various abilities attached. These arms are discarded when you use their special ability or use it to break away from an enemy. Although the demo gives you plenty of Devil Breakers to pick up from the ground, you can't select which one to use at any given time, which makes it hard to use each ability to their full strategic potential.
The Tokyo Game Show demo build gave players the first opportunity to control fan favorite character Dante. He's a more consistent character to use, as you can change his main weapon at any time. The demo has almost all of his weapons unlocked, but it starts you off with his motorcycle, which he has split into two parts and duel-wields as if they're two giant battleaxes. The motorcycle hits a large area around you, but it's also slow to swing, making it hard to stack combos. Given that the game actively encourages you to pull off consecutive combos by ramping up the intensity of the music and giving you more in-game currency as your combat grade climbs, you probably won't be using the motorcycle too much in actual combat. It's still a neat gimmick, though.
The story of Devil May Cry 5 promises to delve into Dante's past. It will also introduce a third playable character, whom the devs have said is very different from Nero and Dante. Although the new additions to Devil May Cry 5 have been a mixed bag so far, let's hope that the final product will deliver. At the same time, the series doesn't really need any new gimmicks. At least from the demo, the look and feel of the game is still as stylish as ever, and that was always the main appeal of the series.
EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 5 & EARTH DEFENSE FORCE: IRON RAIN
I'm putting these two games together because they have the same basic premise, just with a slightly tweaked focus. Earth Defense Force games are, to put it bluntly, crazy. You play as a paramilitary force that takes down giant insects and monsters straight from a cheesy kaiju film. The appeal of the games lies in their simplicity, as the controls are some of the easiest to pick up among third-person shooters.
Earth Defense Force 5 is the classic EDF experience. The demo actually offers quite a lot of content, and even after half an hour of play I didn't reach the end of it. You start as a civilian at a secluded military base, but when the monsters start attacking, you're quickly forced to become a soldier. The campy fun is on full display as you rain bullets on the giant ant monsters while an officer beside you blithely asks, “Are you a tomato sauce or ketchup person?”
Iron Rain, on the other hand, tones down the camp considerably. It throws you right into the action and has an overall grittier presentation. The graphics are also higher resolution, and there's a higher frame rate. It's clearly an attempt to revamp the Earth Defense Force games to appeal more to Western tastes, but I wonder if it loses the charm of EDF in the process. The giant monsters are still there, but without the cheesy dialog the game feels like it's taking a ridiculous premise too seriously.
The much-anticipated Yakuza spin-off Judge Eyes (a.k.a. "Project Judge") stars former SMAP idol/Howl's Moving Castle's lead voice actor Takuya Kimura as a lawyer once famous for freeing a murder suspect — until that suspect killed his girlfriend. Now the disgraced lawyer is a hard-boiled private eye on the streets of Kamurocho. The Tokyo Game Show demo takes the same Story mode segment that's already available in the Japanese PS Store demo, and adds Drone Race and Sugoroku mode segments.
The beginning of the Story mode segment will makeYakuza fans feel at home, as the protagonist Takayuki Yagami takes a break from his case to beat up some thugs — for the unforgivable sin of being rude to him. Then Judge Eyes sets itself apart with some investigative gameplay as Yagami positively IDs a person of interest and tails him through the back alleys. With Yagami finding cover using signs and ducking behind cars, the game feels less Yakuza and more stealth.
The second part of the demo allows player to race a flying drone through the winding maze that is Kamurocho. Before Judge Eyes starts to feel too alien to Yakuza fans though, Judge Eyes brings back one of the franchise's favorite mainstays: quirky, surprisingly diverting mini-game side quests. The Sugoroku mode segment is loosely based on Japanese dice board games, with a twist — Yagami is playing the mini-game in a virtual reality arcade. So, Yagami may roll the dice and win a prize ... or he may land on a "Battle" space and have to mow down virtual foes with a railgun.
The Tokyo Game Show demo build for Kill la Kill the Game: IF includes two new playable characters: Gamagōri and Sanageyama. These characters are bigger and heavier than Ryuko and Satsuki, adding a mix of play styles to the game. Gamagōri in particular is a counter-puncher who gets stronger the more damage he takes, much like Raven from Guilty Gear Xrd. The game overall still feels alienating to those seeking a competitive fighting game experience; the frame rate is choppy in an attempt to replicate the anime's style of limited animation, and the Ketsui system introduces an element of pure luck to a battle's outcome. Speaking purely as an anime fan, however, the game's look and feel is shaping up nicely.
Catherine: Full Body is a remake of the original Catherine game but with extra story content and characters. The gameplay in the demo (which is a puzzle platformer that involves pushing and pulling blocks) is virtually unchanged. However, the addition of a “safety” mode does make the game easier for players who just want to get to the meat of the story, as it removes hazards and the time limit. As much as the demo teases the new story developments, however, it also ends just when Vincent first encounters the new character Rin. So there's not a lot to say about this remake just yet.
Fans who enjoyed the Minecraft-style Dragon Quest spin-off should enjoy Dragon Quest Builders 2, which looks to be more of the same. This time your character starts on a ship doing odd jobs for the monsters on board, which is a charming scenario that I wish I had more time to enjoy. The demo ends shortly after introducing all the basic mechanics, so I didn't get to experience the addictive fun, but I played enough to be confident that the essential formula is unchanged. Much like any Dragon Quest game, really.
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