Tokyo Game Show 2017 Demo Impressions: Monster Hunter World, Little Witch Academia, And More
posted on by Kim Morrissy
It's that time of the year again when you can catch a sneak peak at all the coolest new games in Japan. I was lucky enough to be able to try out some of the demos available at this year's Tokyo Game Show, and can confirm what others have suspected all along: Monster Hunter World is fantastic, Ni no Kuni II is hype, and Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet looks to be a distinct improvement over the previous SAO games.
Below are some more detailed impressions of each demo I played:
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
It's amazing what a difference the hardware can make. For the last few years, Monster Hunter games have been on handheld consoles, and while the franchise has always been known for its lush and detailed settings, the whole world really comes alive on the PS4 like never before.
The attention to detail impresses me most about this new game. Each map has its own ecosystem. You can see bugs of all shapes and sizes crawling along the forest floor, herbivores grazing in the fields, schools of fish swimming through the waters. If only there wasn't a time limit to defeating the monster - one could definitely have fun just observing the wildlife in the area.
The gameplay itself is familiar to anyone who has played a Monster Hunter game. You play in teams of four to take down powerful monsters and use the spoils to make better equipment. I enjoyed the combat, although the campaign in the demo went by really quickly. The time limit was twenty minutes, and my team defeated the monster in just over half that time. Given that the grind of gradually whittling down a stubborn monster is considered one of the distinctive elements of this series, I wonder if speeding up the action will be more of a priority in this installment.
LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA: CHAMBER OF TIME
Now this is cute. I'm not sure I'd play a full game of this, but I was absolutely charmed by what I sampled.
The best thing about this game is the 2.5D aesthetic. The characters look just like they do in the anime, but with more depth. The animations are particularly on-point - they are just as cartoonish and stylish as the anime, but there's also a sense of logic and consistency to the cartoon physics. When Akko runs, her limbs move in an exaggerated manner, and when she stops mid-run, she waves her arms and takes a while to skid to a halt. From a controls perspective, this takes some getting used to, but it does make the experience more memorable.
The gameplay itself is fun too. You traverse a side-scrolling map, blasting enemies with magic as you go along. It's all pretty easy to get the hang of, and there's a kind of retro charm to it, but it's also rather basic. The success of this game will depend on whether it introduces elements like combos and buffers that bring more depth to the combat system. What was shown in the demo would not be enough to keep me engaged in the long-term, but I do expect that the full game will display more interesting features. In any case, I enjoyed the demo a lot.
NI NO KUNI II: REVENANT KINGDOM
Out of all the demos I played at TGS, Ni no Kuni II was my favorite. I've never played the first game so I can't compare the two, but I immediately fell in love with this game's beautiful art and engaging battles.
It helps that the demo released to the public shows off a substantial amount of gameplay. I could choose to play one of four scenarios, each highlighting a different key feature of the gameplay. I did a lot of battling in the demo I played, but it was impossible to get bored of the combat. The battle system is fast-paced and user-friendly, with plenty of room for quick-thinking strategy.
What makes the combat system in this game distinctive are the “Higgledies”, the little Pikmin-like minions that follow you around and assist you. They can cast healing spells and buffers on you, but you have to step on them for their effects to work. Maintaining a keen awareness of your surroundings is essential for boss battles, and makes Ni no Kuni II more than just a “hack and slash” RPG.
I should also mention that, although the Studio Ghibli name isn't a selling point for this sequel, the same Ghibli veterans worked on the art and music. It should go without saying that the game looks and sounds amazing.
SWORD ART ONLINE: FATAL BULLET
Out of all the fictional games Reki Kawahara has created, Gun Gale Online arguably functions best as a game in its own right. It encourages character customization and co-op strategies in ways that the Aincrad setting never did. Based on that knowledge alone, I had tentative hopes for Fatal Bullet.
The good news is that this game incorporates all the elements of Kawahara's Gun Gale Online that would be fun in an actual video game, while adding new elements to build on the novel's foundations. You can play as Kirito if you want to, but you're not stuck with him. You get your own character that you can customize as you see fit. It's a third-person shooter (inspired by The Division and the Destiny series, according to the game's producer), but there's an original story and RPG elements too.
The demo mostly delved into the third-person shooter elements. I liked it, even though shooters honestly aren't my thing. Getting a grasp of the controls was difficult, mostly because I was thrown straight into the thick of combat without any tutorial. I did eventually get the hang of it, but I do hope that you face more human-like enemies in this game. The enemy AIs don't appear to be very smart, so it makes me wonder if the gunslinging will get repetitive as the game goes on.
METAL GEAR SURVIVE
I never knew that the Metal Gear Solid series was about surviving waves of zombie attacks.
Despite the inherent ridiculousness of this setting, and despite the fact that it farts in the face of all the interesting themes the franchise is known for, the Metal Gear Survive demo was entertaining. It's basically like Call of Duty: World at War's zombie mode in the sense that it's a co-op shooting game where you fend off zombies. You also get a short amount of time between waves to resupply and complete sub-missions, so it's not all just a zombie slaughter fest.
Beating up zombies is fun, but the concept isn't exactly original, and I didn't see anything in the demo that makes this game stand out in particular. In the demo, at least, you get way more time than you need to prepare for each wave, so you're mostly just left standing around for minutes on end. From the moment this game was first announced it was obvious it would be no Metal Gear Solid, but I'm not even sure that this will be a good zombie survival game in its own right.
DANMACHI: INFINITE COMBATE
I'm going to assume that the visual novel elements are a bigger focus than the dungeon crawler elements in this game, because even though the demo revolved around the dungeon crawling, everything about it felt like an afterthought.
Mostly, I'm just baffled at how bare bones the graphics look, even for a PS Vita cross-release. I assume the chibi characters were more of a stylistic choice than anything, but the dungeon design in the demo was bland, special attacks feature barely any animation, and there's little to no variation in the monster attacks. You're playing this game mostly for the 2D cutscenes, and this games knows it.
ITADAKI STREET: DRAGON QUEST & FINAL FANTASY 30TH ANNIVERSARY
I'll keep this one short. Itadaki Street is basically just Monopoly, which means that it's not a good game unless for some reason you like party games that take hours to get anywhere. There's a casino minigame to spice things up, but all the games are decided by a dice roll without any interactivity from the player. Even the thirty-minute demo I played felt far too long, and my partners bailed out halfway through.
To be fair to Itadaki Street, it's not a game that's suited to the frenetic pace of TGS, and if you actually do like Monopoly, you should find this game at least mildly enjoyable. It's also got a bright and cute aesthetic. But mostly I'm just so, so glad that you can play as a chibi Kefka the Clown.
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