Ni No Kuni II and Soul Calibur VI: Hands-On Preview
I always enjoy being invited to the Namco Bandai office. Not just because the crew are always lovely and polite, and not just because they pump me full of sugary soft drinks that get me all amped up (even though both those things are true). It’s not even because the chairs they have in the game room are rocking chairs, which is obviously the superior type of chair. It’s because, in Australia, these guys distribute all my favourite games, so whenever I’m asked to play anything there I just know it’s going to be good. And last Friday was no exception. (Also, you know, while I’m being honest, they have a lot of Lara Croft paraphernalia and that makes me really happy. Who wouldn’t wanna go hang out with Lara for a few hours?)
The games I was invited to check out were Ni No Kuni 2 (a title that really SCREWED ME OVER in last year’s Player2 draft but hey, I don’t hold a grudge) and Soul Calibur VI.
I sat down with another female journo who was there and we had the stock standard conversation I have with everyone before I verse them in a fighting game.
“Are you any good?”
“Sweet, let’s play”
I haven’t played a Soul Calibur title since PS1, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some characters I remembered (including my main gal Sophitia, who I probably only remember because we’re both Greek but whatever).
The new Soul Calibur looks fantastic, but what struck me the most was the fluid combat movements. Every time the characters moved to attack it was almost like a dance. Every move flowed into the next and it just looked so choreographed and fantastic. That image was, unfortunately, shattered when you watch the characters do their best impression of Mr Krabs as they walk backwards or forwards around the ring. The stark difference between combat movements and everything else is jarring, to say the least.
Something I did like about the game though, was the fact that as the fights progressed, characters would look more rattled. Females hair came out of its ties or plaits, armour fell away (and more damage was incurred as a result) and things just started to look messy. As cool as this was, however, my newfound buddy and I could not get this to happen with the males. It was only the females who lost their clothing and armour; which was a bit shit. I’m hoping that perhaps we just somehow failed to trigger it with the men, or maybe it wasn’t included in the build, or maybe bloke’s armour is super glued to them with cement. I don’t know, but I really hope it’s something we see in the final release because half-naked buff dudes are always a pleasure.
Overall, despite the fact I was only able to see two levels and play with a handful of characters, the game looks polished and awesome. It’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on because I reckon it’ll be really promising as it nears its final release.
Next, I moved onto Ni No Kuni 2 where I played Chapter 3 in its totality. I won’t give away much of the story, except that what I saw was hilarious and had me laughing out loud. The second instalment of the game brings back the quirky humour of the first, along with a varied cast of characters who bring their own colour to the cast.
The combat in this game is different to the last, in that its all real-time combat now instead of the turn-based stuff we had in the first game. It flows really nicely, and by smashing the ‘Attack’ button and utilising abilities you can steamroll the bad guys pretty easily. In boss battles, however, mashing one button won’t fly (which is actually fantastic). The one boss battle I endured was hectic because there was so much going on and so many different ways to cause damage and protect myself from the onslaught. It became less about button mashing my way to victory and more about utilising various tactics to keep myself alive and cause the most damage in the most effective way possible.
The game is divided into two different art styles and ‘worlds’. There’s the ‘Overworld’ which is basically the world map. When maneuvering through this your characters take the form of chibi 3D sprites, which are just cute as a button. Then there’s the gorgeous drawn line artwork from the previous game that you see in FMVs and whenever you enter a town, dungeon or battle. The swapping keeps things from getting visually stale, though to be honest, the game is so vibrant and beautiful I’m not entirely sure that would happen anyway.
Both of the games I got to experience at my most recent Namco Bandai visit were gems in their own way, and both are ones I’m really looking forward to seeing when they’re finished. If other games in 2018 are up to this standard then 2018 is going to be a very good year for gaming indeed.