E3 promised a number of hot ticket items, so when Bandai Namco invited me to go hands-on with a few games at their office, I thought about committing to the joke by turning up in a singlet and some shorts- how else could I handle the heat? My professional integrity and the Australian winter said no to that idea. While wearing suitable attire, here’re my first impressions of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
 


 

Release Date: November 10, 2017
Game Type: Role-playing
Developer: Level-5
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a JRPG developed by Level-5. It follows the journey of a young boy, Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum of the cat tribe (no, really, stay with me) as he strives to become King. First, he needs to find a Kingmaker, then he needs to find a Kingdom to rule over. Unconventional approach, Evan, but props to you for dreaming big. It’s yet another iteration of the Hero’s Journey archetype, but the game trailer would suggest that the predictability of the plot doesn’t make the game any less engaging.

The demo I played through featured two sections of the game – Longfang, Lord of Flame, and King’s Cradle – Trial of Courage. I jumped into each of these sections with little to no context regarding the plot or timeline, and no gameplay tutorial – so these are essentially my first impressions of the gameplay and presentation.

One of the most interesting and alluring aspects of this game is the use of a variety of artistic styles. In cutscenes, there is clearly a studio Ghibli influence (though they are not directly involved this time); In boss battles and within safe zones/towns, the characters look as though they have been ripped straight from Dragon Quest; In the wilderness, the characters have a Chibi-like design. Across all styles, the art is high quality. The styles mesh well together and complement the orchestral score and British voice acting (for the localised version).

As far as gameplay goes, Ni No Kun II appears to be a conventional JRPG for the most part, though combat is action-based this time around as opposed to turn-based. Both sections I played through seemed to be Boss Battles. Both were fairly standard affairs. While you try to whittle down the health bar of the monster using your close-combat and long-ranged attacks, the monster is caught up in performing their own attacks in a predictable pattern. Once their health bar was low, their attacks became more powerful, and their combat pattern would change. Assisting you in these battles are your two human party members and some Pikmin-like minions called “Higgledies”. Higgledies can be called upon to heal party members, deal damage to foes, or protect party members from attacks when nearby. It’s a neat new feature for the Ni No Kuni series, and one that adds an extra element to battles and the battlefield.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom strikes me as the kind of game that any JRPG fan could sink 50+ hours into. It has classic written all over it. Someone needs to get on to the graphics department about the Higgledie-themed loading icon though… otherwise, the game may be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
 


 

Release Date: TBC 2018
Game Type: Fighting
Developer: Arc System Works
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One

The announcement of Dragon Ball FighterZ at E3 2017 seems to have been met with metaphorical, and maybe actual, joyful fist-pumping from both the Dragon Ball Z and fighting game communities. Stylistically similar to the older Marvel vs. Capcom games, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a dodge, roll, and a jump far away from the Xenoverse games – definitely for the better.

Dragon Ball FighterZ is a 2.5D fighting game that features 3v3 battles – 1v1 at any given time, with the ability to switch between fighters on your team. I went hands-on with a demo that included a fighter roster of Vegeta, Goku, Gohan, Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu (though images of Trunks recently leaked online), and two battle stages – World Tournament Arena and Planet Namek.

The only fighting games I have played recently are Tekken 7 and Mortal Kombat X. Though they may be more complex in artistic design, the simple Dragon Ball skin of this (essentially) Street Fighter-esque game is very appealing as it is clean and easy on the eye. The fact that it re-awakens memories of weekday-morning Cheez TV viewings is also a positive. I’m clearly not a fighting game fan, but this is the fighting game I would have on my shelf if I ever wanted to button mash with some friends.
 


 

Release Date: TBC 2018
Game Type: Combat flight simulator
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is an action-arcade flight video game that follows the story of Avie (yes, a little heavy-handed with the naming) and serves as a sequel to Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. In the special demo that I played, I was thrown straight into the third chapter/mission.

After being caught up on the complex political climate, I was shown a top down view of a digital fictional map with markings for enemy and allied fighter jets. My mission was relatively simple – destroy all the enemy fighter jets. And the gameplay was too. Fly around, dodge the occasional missile, and shoot some planes (within the one-second window you often had to score a hit).

Honestly, I don’t see how the bulk of this gameplay has progressed from the coin-operated joystick, two-button flight games I played at truck stops as a child. So obviously the production values are vastly improved, but the gameplay seems just as repetitive and dull. Someone said that this game is an acquired taste. I think that’s a kind and more diplomatic analysis. I imagine this aspect of the game would be much more engaging in VR (unfortunately, I was unable to play the VR version).

For the standard console version, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown would have to have a strong plot to make up for the lacklustre aerial combat. The 5-minute cutscene at the beginning of the game introduces Avie as a strong, independent female aviator growing up in a world of rapidly changing technology and an unstable political climate. It gives me hope.

Ellis Longhurst

Ellis Longhurst

Staff Writer at GameCloud
When not patting cats, eating excessive amounts of fruit, and failing the Battlefield 4 tutorial, Ellis spends most of her time cycling around the inner west of Sydney and blatantly disregarding Professor Oak’s words of advice. Oh, and writing... Ellis is GC's eastern states correspondent!
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