Hands-on game impressions by: Isaac Inglis
Events for Gamers has been looking at Bandai-Namco a fair amount in the last few months, but as it happens, the company has had lots of new and updated mobile game titles to talk about. The Japanese-headquartered developer and publisher also brought several more new games and related content to GDC 2018, through a quality event and presentation focused mostly on the anime-to-game franchises. Let’s take a closer look at the event and games!
Held at the Temple Nightclub, (a quick hustle through the rain from San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center,) where many a GDC party has been held before, this time it was the daytime venue for a showcase, demo areas, and networking space. Here, dozens of journalists from different publications, as well as staff, partners and various VIPs from brands associated with Bandai-Namco. Off to each side was seated demo areas, roped off during the presentation then opened thereafter.Mounted prominently behind everyone a camera that was live streaming the event. Coffee, water, and lunch were served, at least during the duration in which I was present for the presentation and showcase.
The presentation was MCed by BandaI-Namco’s PR Director Denny Chiu, showing off mobile versions of Sword Art Online, Naruto X Boruto, One Piece, and Dragonball. Among the demos, was the notable highlight of jumping out of games long enough to tease the new Dragonball movie coming up, with Dragonball Unit Director SHUEISHA and Dragonball Super movie producer, Norihiro Hayashida. The movie is a reimagining of Goku’s — and the familiar characters around him — origin story, with the design of the characters being redone after two decades of building off the classic look. As a bonus, a fresh trailer for the Dragonball Super movie was also shown. The movie will see a global release on December 14th, and it will tie in with the upcoming game too.
When all is said and done, it’s all about the games. Here’s our hot take on the mobile games that were the underpinnings of this event.
Sword Art Online: Integral Factor: Derived from the Sword Art Online (SAO) anime core premise (a character playing a game online where players die in real life if they die online) and lore, this game also features stories never before seen in the original series. But the player’s choices affect the overall story arc in the canonical version of the storyline. The gameplay can be conducted in multiplayer and around the world. Selecting the facial features and clothing to help define your character when starting out and adjusting the skills and weapons characteristics, like most RPGs, are part of this version of SAO. The backgrounds are a blend of the familiar and new, which should please fans who are sticklers for those kinds of details.
Sword Art Online “celebration avatars” with special costuming, represented in the demos, will be available for all upon release.
Naruto X Boruto Ninja Voltage: This cross-over ninja-world anime has crossed over to the realm of mobile games, released in early November last year. Since launch, it’s earned over 10 million downloads, with a blend of action, strategy, and story-driven role-playing. Raid battles are now available as a new special feature of the game, which was formerly a test-run feature. The Boruto character, Mitsuki will shortly join the game as a playable character, joining up with Sarada Uchiha, a character addition from last month.
Hands-on: Naruto X Baruto: Ninja Voltage plays surprisingly like a 3rd person view dungeon-crawler with user-made “Bases” to break into. At first play, the action is snappy and easy to understand. While most of the Bases I encountered were pretty basic to take on, the potential combos that a high-level player could put together show a lot of potential to be exciting. In addition, they have added a Raid Battle mode that pits you and your friends against a massive boss foe. It’s an interesting change-up from the Base gameplay, but it still fits the look and feel of the game well.
One Piece: Bounty Rush: The newest of One Piece mobile titles, this game is an action-focused team battle type of game, the first of its kind. Gameplay is carried out in real-time PvP multiplayer. The game style is about collecting as many coins as possible, and the one who captures the most wins. Simple? Not quite — Aside from fighting the other time, there are NPCs and boss characters trying to get in your way. Players can pick from five different character types: the speedy Fighter; buffing and healing Supporter; the long-range attacking Shooter; the attack vs. speed-balanced Swordsman; and the tank-like Warrior.
Hands-on: One Piece: Bounty Rush controls similarly to Naruto X Baruto: Ninja Voltage, but feels smoother to control and has a simple and engaging gameplay loop. You start by finding stat-boosting items to build your level and strength, then begin hunting down mobs in the area to collect Berries (the One Piece universe’s currency), occasionally encounter a boss character to show up and defeat, which gives you a large boost in Berries. However, if you’re feeling daring, you can rush the opponents base to smash up their treasure chest to steal Berries from them.
The only downside was when playing 1v1, should you die while defending your chest, you spawn in at a lower level with no invulnerability period and it makes it very difficult to prevent the theft of all your Berries.
I spoke with Yoshinobu Takabayashi, Chief of the Overseas Marketing Team of One Piece: Bounty Rush, and he explained that, currently, the multiplayer is limited to online multiplayer and there are no current plans to enable local multiplayer via any other connection mechanism.
Dragonball Legends: Based on the well-known anime and manga series, this iteration of the franchise in game form features card combat game-style, and here’s some of the players to choose from: Nappa, Pan, Piccolo, Frieza in his first form, Vegeta, Super Saiyan Goku, with many more to come. Look for another Saiyan character from a different timeline than Goku’s in the game as well. Expect 3D animations and fully-voiced characters throughout the duels, with one-touch combos fighting moves to make it easier for anyone with any finger dexterity to play. One of the main features Bandai-Namco stressed about the game was worldwide PvP play.
In each PvP match, players bring six potential Dragonball characters in your “portfolio”, but as a player, you bring three characters to the fight. Color-coded cards are available as an option to enable different types of actions for each character, and the character cards feature energy charge and drain, which is essential to the outcome of the game. Because of the PvP aspect of the game, there will be multiple tournaments around the world to determine the best fighters in the Dragonball Legends game, after the summer release of the game.
Hands-on: Dragonball Legends plays like an interesting take on a mobile fighting game. Like many mobile fighting games, it uses a screen-swipe in exchange for any joystick-style control. The cards that periodically appear the bottom of the screen guide the attack options, and definitely the timing, in addition to the power meter governing what can be spent on attacks. Don’t expect to block like you can in a traditional fighter, but instead dodge to avoid incoming attacks. If the opponent connects with an attack, it can be turned into a multi-hit combo that can do some devastating damage, and there’s not much a player can do about it. Quickly using a defensive card is really the only way to escape the combo. Because of the focus on one-handed or even one-fingered control, it’s important to note the game currently favors right-handers, but the game design team is working on a way to flip the controls and stat display so a left-handed player can be equally comfortable playing the game.
Visually, what can be said? this game is faithfully, recognizably Dragonball, compressed into mobile form. It’s what most fans would probably want from the game, the environments, and the characters in combat.
If you want to get a sense of what it was like to be at the event, you can check out the archived feed of Bandai-Namco’s event at GDC, with even more info you can use to plug into their games and respective communities.