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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  • James

    Fuck this guy, he has no idea what he is talking about in regards to Ace Combat 7 and sounds a damn video game elitist. Your opinion is fucking shit mate, go pound sand.

    • SlyCooperFan1

      >>> “and serves as a sequel to Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation.” – I guess you weren’t able to do more than 15 seconds of research to find out that this is not fucking true.

      As Tiberus said below, Bandai Namco has been saying this in their marketing, and it makes sense since many video game reviewers and journalists were introduced to the series from Assault Horizon, so to help differentiate it from that, they’re specifying that it takes place in the same realm as AC6 by indicating it’s a sequel to that game.

      • James

        Fair enough point.

      • Zap Rowsdower

        If that’s the marketing Bandai is putting out, it seems… just not right. I can understand wanting to differentiate between Assault Horizon and the numbered series, but why not say it takes place in the same world/universe/whatever as AC 6? We’re returning to Strangereal, not Miami or Tokyo.

        • SlyCooperFan1

          If you want to discuss Bandai Namco’s marketing tactics, that’s a topic for somewhere else and another time. Don’t blame this article for just spreading the same information Project Aces is spreading everywhere else.

          • Zap Rowsdower

            The same information? This is the first mention I’ve ever heard of 7 being a sequel to 6. I never saw that kind of information on the Ace Combat wiki (that you lead and where you do fantastic work) or the Reddit (that you are a part of as well).

            I’ve been following news of 7 since I first learned of it. Not Facebook (including videos), Twitter, Reddit (particularly the All Info thread), and the wiki.

          • SlyCooperFan1

            Please, I’m begging you, for a moment, stop thinking like an Ace Combat fan.

            Think like an average gamer who has never heard of Ace Combat. How are you supposed to say “Ace Combat 7 takes place in the same universe as Ace Combat 6 and all of its prequels but has no technical story relation because Ace Combat 6 was Emmeria and Estovakia and Ace Combat 7 is none of them and it’s really a sequel to Ace Combat 04 even though –” etc. etc. etc.? You don’t, because you wouldn’t understand it without having more intimate knowledge of the games.

            Saying “Ace Combat 7 is a sequel to Ace Combat 6” is a logical statement, because yes, AC7 takes place *after* AC6, and yes, they take place in the same universe. No, they don’t involve the same countries, but why should they confuse the general public with too much information just to get in-universe info out there? It’s pointless from a marketing standpoint, and if they really tried to explain it that much, they’d lose potential sales from newbies who don’t know anything about Ace Combat.

            Speaking of all of that, I’m going to make a video, because this comment section is disgusting and I hate looking at it.

          • SpeakerOfWords

            What’s your Youtube channel? I’d be keen to give this video a watch.

          • SlyCooperFan1

            It’s been a couple of days, I was advised against making one by other members of the community because this issue wasn’t worth blowing out of proportion.

  • James

    I write a review of a review about how shitty this “game reviewer” is because she can’t bother to do any research, try, or get the name or picture right in the article, and you remove it because it makes her look bad. Good job. Your (completely) unfair review of Ace Combat 7 will only help to turn potential newcomers away. I hope your proud of the bad job and the damage that you’ve done.

    • TiberusX87

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your feedback. We’ve corrected the image/naming, you are right. Although, according to several official sources, AC7 is listed as a direct sequel to AC6: Fires of Liberation, and that’s what we were told by Bandai Namco too.

      Also, please understand this is simply a collection of first impressions from one writer who attended a hands-on event. It is not our official review of the game.

      Your previous comment was auto-marked as spam by the Discus comment system, and I’ve re-instated it. You’ve got just as much right to have your opinion heard, and we respect that.

      • Zap Rowsdower

        While I wouldn’t say the review is shitty, it does seem off base. It’s one thing if Bandai is saying AC 7 is a sequel to AC 6 but having been keeping up with the news of AC 7 since it’s announcement I’ve not seen anything to suggest that.

        Ace Combat 6 is about a war between Emmeria and Estovakia while it’s been confirmed that Ace Combat 7 is about a war between Odea and Erusia. It wouldn’t make sense to say that it’s a sequel. You might want to recheck the source saying it’s a sequel, even if that source is Bandai, just to make sure of what their saying. If I were told the same thing from Bandai, a surprised double-take would be first on the list of things I would do.

        • SlyCooperFan1

          You’re asking for too much. It’s not their job to decipher every little detail that a game company is telling them.

      • JDS

        Just so you know, you might want to take a look at other articles on this game, because none of them are saying a lot of the things you’re saying.

        I’m not trying to be a rabid gamer of any sort, but this game has a small yet passionate community of fans, and they’re very excited for this game. Seeing new information here that doesn’t correlate with all the other information we have so far — even from others who’ve played the exact same demo — just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. If this was ‘more of the same’, you wouldn’t be getting this reaction.

        As things stand, you either have exclusive information in your hands, or you have inaccurate information in your hands. I think everyone here would like to know which.

        • TiberusX87

          Hi JDS,

          I’ve spoken with the writer who attended the preview event, and she’s advised that when she first went hands-on there was a 5 minute video she watched, from which this information was taken.

          Apparently she couldn’t get to any gameplay after watching it, and she did note that it looked like it was “in-development.” After talking with the PR team, they came back and loaded up a “different demo.”

          It’s possible we may have seen something we weren’t supposed to see, possibly in-development or old and no longer relevant, but she did watch a long cutscene featuring a female protagonist.

          • JDS

            Very interesting! I think you guys may have unintentionally landed yourselves a scoop! Thanks for the response.

          • James

            So you published an article based off incomplete information and not even getting to play the game and only watching a cutscene. Logic. Why do you have the right to call it dull and boring if you didn’t even play it? Was she watching two old guys play chess in black and white on old film grain TV?

          • TiberusX87

            Hi James,

            The writer did play the demo as well. It wasn’t just a cutscene.

            It’s important to understand this was not a preview event for Ace Combat 7. Had it been, I would have sent someone specifically versed in the series to deliver a fully fleshed out feature article directed at fans such as yourself. It was a games showcase, and the above is simply the hands-on impressions from one writer who demoed a bunch of different games. This is not a review. It’s the honest opinion of someone who tried the game and didn’t like it.

            It’s okay not to like something, and I’m not going to censor my writers if they have an opinion I don’t agree with. When it comes time to reviewing the actual game, however, you can be rest assured it’ll be an entirely different scenario. It’s just the way the dice rolled with this preview event and who was able to attend. We don’t have anything against Ace Combat, and I can certainly appreciate the passion all those commenting have for the series.

  • Ernesto Garza Jr.

    Does this lady even play video games?! How could you say Ace Combat is repetitive? Just because you shoot down other jets?! So what else do you want, the game to offer you a back massage and bring you a nice cold beer? You seriously need to play more video games if you want to do reviews on them.

  • SlyCooperFan1

    This is a depressing view of Ace Combat, and I really hope that Ellis Longhurst is either A) not the person who will review Ace Combat 7 for GameCloud Australia when it comes out next year, or B) going to get accurate information about the game and actually giving it a fair play before reviewing it.

    It’s also worth mentioning, for those who may not know, that Ellis didn’t even play the entire demo that was provided to her (or if she did, she didn’t indicate it), as there was a boss battle in that mission that wasn’t mentioned in this post. Her insistence that Ace Combat 7 is a “simple” game with “repetitive and dull” gameplay contradicts the very existence of that boss battle.

    I’d also like to know where Ellis got the “Avie” name from, and which character that is referring to. We haven’t heard this from any other news outlet. The only character names we know are Trigger (the player), Trigger’s friendly pilots Clown, Brownie, and Knocker, and Erusean Princess Rosa Cossette D’Elise. We don’t know anyone named “Avie”.

  • Anon

    Well to be fair Ace Combat is a niche series, don’t expect anybody out of the series to understand it without any external help.

    • R-99A1

      You know what’s sadder? We’re currently at a point where ultra realistic simulators like DCS are more mainstream than the Ace Combat franchise.

  • Ace Combat Fan

    Honestly, if you hate the flight shooting genre why don’t you let someone else talk about it. Also some thoughts about this poor article/review:

    1) “Avie” – Where the heck did this name come from? Because thousands of fans have watched videos on the demo and a couple played the demo during E3 and not a single one has mentioned “Arvie”. Is this some sort of secret that Bandai told you and you only?

    2) “serves as a sequel to Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation” – Not really because the countries involved in AC6 and AC7 are totally different, but I will be fair by saying that this makes sense from a marketing point of view.

    #) “My mission was relatively simple… And the gameplay was too.” – Really? You’ve played one mission in the game and you call the gameplay simple already just because your goal in that mission is to shoot down several enemy aircraft? I think Call of Duty is simple too – you just have to kill people! And FIFA is simple as well – you just have to score goals!

    5) You didn’t mention the boss in that level, AKA the Arsenal Bird. I wouldn’t call it a simple gameplay if I were you.

    6) “Fly around, dodge the occasional missile” – Occasional missile? Once again, you didn’t fight against the Arsenal Bird, did you? Maybe you just think that Ace Combat is just as difficult as finishing the Battlefield tutorial mission that you can’t even complete.

    7) “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.” – ARE YOU SERIOUS??? This is so wrong on all levels I am not even going to comment on it.

    8) “production values are vastly improved, but the gameplay seems just as repetitive…” – Repetitive because of what if you have only played one mission? Did you know that the Ace Combat series has several different missions such as air-to-air battle, air-to-ground battle, air-to-ship battle (probably this is the furthers you will understand), intercept missions, gas-neutralizing missions, canyon flying, low-level/radar avoiding missions, missions to take pictures and lastly – fighting against superweapons. I’ll wait for you to tell me about a flight shooter game that has a more diversified set of missions.

    9) “but the gameplay seems just as dull…” – Flying fighter jets over 2000 km/h, destroying enemies with missiles and guns and diving into huge clouds where you can see your aircraft getting iced is now dull??? I am sure you wouldn’t watch a Top Gun movie because it must be so boring…

    10) “Someone said that this game is an acquired taste. I think that’s a kind and more diplomatic analysis.” – It’s not like the game has survived for 20 years because it offers QUALITY gameplay, graphics, story and soundtrack (I guess you would never know how the soundtrack is important in this series).

    11) “Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown would have to have a strong plot to make up for the lacklustre aerial combat.” – Ace Combat doesn’t need a strong plot BECAUSE of the gameplay, the Ace Combat games ALREADY have a strong plot because it’s is a QUALITY game and you can’t just call the gameplay “lacklustre” because you couldn’t make it to the boss of the mission.

    12) “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.” – You must have seen some exclusive footage because nobody has ever made the comparison between Ace Combat and the feminist agenda given that no other source mentions Avie.

    – Bottom line: If you don’t like Ace Combat or flight shooters just don’t even review them, don’t even play them. Let someone who likes or is at least “neutral” towards them do that because from this article seems more like you were trying to destroy a game that isn’t even out. –

  • Zap Rowsdower

    The Ace Combat review was horribly off-base.

    -All we know of as the protagonist of AC7 is that their callsign is ‘Trigger’ (from the E3 videos of the mission 3 gameplay). No where has the name ‘Avie’ been mentioned except here.

    -AC 7 is NOT a sequel to AC 6 because 6 concerned a war between the counties of Emmeria and Estovakia. AC 7 concerns a war between Osea (protagonist country of AC 5 and Erusia (antagonist country of AC 4). At best (BEST) the claim that AC 7 is a sequel to 6 is lazy. At worst, it’s an outright lie.

    -It’s not difficult to dogfight in an Ace Combat game that doesn’t have ‘Assault Horizon’ in it’s name. Just like a slight modification of the quote from Top Gun: if you can’t use missiles, use guns!

    I find it incredibly disingenuous that a journalist who self-professes to fail the BF 4 tutorial to call the gameplay of ANY Ace Combat game “lacklustre”.

    Ace Combat is such an acquired taste that two of their three PlayStation 2 installments (AC 4 and AC 5) went on to achieve ‘Greatest Hits’ status.

  • Ace2222

    I can understand not enjoying Ace Combat 7’s gameplay, but getting the protagonist’s name and gender wrong? That’s just sad.

    For reference, Protagonist is called Trigger, not Avie. And they’re a guy.

  • JDS

    This has got to be a troll article, right?