Tag Archive: Namco Bandai


A not-so-Super Saiyan

I was never really big into anime, but like most every other guy back in my day, there was about a two-to-three year period where Dragon Ball Z was near the top of my list of must-see TV shows. Unlike some other obsessions in my life, my Dragon Ball Z love affair was short-lived,  mostly because there really hasn’t been anything new with the series since those days.

Even the DBZ videogames that have been released over the years simply rehashed the same story over and over again. It’s gotten to a point where it’s hard for me to get excited anymore because I know that nothing content-wise has changed. All we’ll see is maybe better graphics or some new gameplay mechanics as we take on Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu for the billionth time.

But Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z was supposed to be different. It was coming after last year’s release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, a film that Battle of Z was supposed to incorporate elements from, and the first new DBZ movie in years. Battle of Z also channels the look and gameplay of Dragon Ball: Zenkai Battle Royale, a DBZ arcade game, so this could surely breathe some freshness in the series for those who only play on consoles.

I’m afraid, however, that my high hopes didn’t pan out. As is normally the case, not enough has changed, and some of the new mechanics do more harm than good.

The new customization features are a perfect example. Not only can you change the color of your favorite DBZ characters’ outfits, but as you beat missions in the story mode, you earn points and special boost cards. These cards can increase your melee strength, HP, Ki blast power, speed, and more. The points can also be spent to also buy more cards if needed.

It starts off as an intriguing way to see whether you can truly make Goku “over 9,000” in terms of power level as you see the direct benefits of what a “+35 melee” card or the like, but by the time you get halfway through the Cell Saga, you’re trying to grind for new cards or points to buy better ones than what you’re given to overcome some really brutal battles.

The worst part about the card system, though, is that it’s random. You may want a melee boost, but you might only collect Speed and HP boosts. Plus, each character can only equip so many cards at a time, so you could have a flood of cards you don’t need as you slowly try to collect the point to buy the card you want or hope you get lucky. It’s an interesting take on leveling up characters and implementing new RPG-like elements into a fighter, but the randomness becomes a grind that gives little to no reward.

Besides this abominable leveling system, the game also fails to deliver enough content revolving around Battle of Gods. The first new movie in over a decade for DBZ gets a single mission in the game. With 60 missions in the single-player mode overall, that’s a pathetically small offering, especially when you make players grind through multiple missions based around the same handful of storylines we’ve been playing through for decades now. At the very least, beating it does unlock Goku’s Saiyan God form as well as two new characters from the movie, Whis and Beerus. But it’s not enough.

Not everything is a disaster, though. From a gameplay perspective, Battle of Z does a fine job of representing its arcade brethren—and the anime itself—on consoles with over a dozen huge arenas and battles that usually are massive in scope. You can also take up to three AI allies into every battle, even if they’re clones of the player character. This leads to some epic re-creations, since the Z Fighters (Goku and his friends) can take on the entire Ginyu Force in one mission. It also opens up some interesting “What If?”-style missions in the single-player mode, like having a bunch of Super Saiyans taking on all four forms of Frieza at the same time. The friendly AI could use some work, and the camera can go a bit wonky when the action gets particularly hectic, but otherwise, the combat’s definitely not the weakest part of this fighter.

When you boil everything down, this still isn’t the Dragon Ball Z game fans want. The single-player mode offers almost nothing we haven’t seen before, and it can’t even be bothered to give us any cutscenes from the anime to tie all the missions—or at least the Sagas—together. A few interesting co-op and team-battle modes on top of the story can make for some online havoc, but it’s still not enough to warrant a Battle of Z purchase by anyone but the most obsessive of DBZ fans.

Developer: Artdink • Publisher: Namco Bandai • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 01.28.14
6.0
Battle of Z had a lot of potential, but like so many DBZ games before it, it fails to capture the opportunity. The unnecessary amount of grinding required to progress through a story we’ve seen a dozen times before overshadows the decent combat.
The Good First DBZ game outside Japan with Goku’s God form, Beerus, and Whis.
The Bad Horrendous camera; customization system makes grinding more bothersome than normal.
The Ugly Remembering why I stopped caring about Dragon Ball Z in the first place.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was a retail copy provided by Namco Bandai for the Xbox 360. .
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Slip slidin’ away

When it comes to arcade-style racing games, few have proven as everlasting as Ridge Racer. Over three decades of existence, the series has permeated nearly every gaming platform imaginable, including mobile. With the franchise returning to a casual platform for the first time since 2010, however, Namco Bandai knew they’d need a lot more than brand recognition to overcome the stigma usually associated with app-based racers.

Ridge Racer Slipstream tries to overcome this by doing its best to deliver everything we’ve come to expect from the series—simply pared down in order to fit phone and tablet parameters. From the second the game starts and franchise mascot Reiko Nagase’s introduction video plays, Slipstream looks and sounds like so many other Ridge Racer games before it, even if it looks like a slightly older game in the series due to the technical limitations.

Slipstream also features a lot of typical arcade-racer motifs, such as made-up cars that require drifting to fill up a nitro bar that can help you speed through the game’s fictional tracks. The titular “Slipstream” feature adds some semblance of strategy: You can gain speed by drafting behind cars, and a special symbol on the HUD appears to let you know just how well you’re staying on your opponent’s tail. In the end, though, it’s all about getting first place after three laps in order to advance through the various tournaments in Career mode.

The game offers a ton of options, not only in how you customize your cars’ look and performance, but in how you handle them as well. Four different control schemes are available—two with the touchscreen, and two by tilting your device. I found using the iPad itself and tilting it all over the place reminded me of the good old days in the arcade when I’d sit in a padded chair in a pod and grab an actual steering wheel. I just wish I’d had a stand I could’ve rested the iPad on, since I got tired of holding it up after a while and had to change the control scheme. I found all the options responsive and accurate when it came to how I wanted my car to handle, though, so it’s all a matter of personal preference, really.

Unfortunately, while Slipstream may offer a lot of options to drive with, there’s not a lot here for you to actually drive. Only a dozen cars and 10 tracks (20 if you count mirror options) are available through the single-player mode’s 108 races. And while the game’s $2.99 price tag doesn’t warrant the numbers you’d get from true console or arcade racers, it’s a bit too measly a number to leave me satisfied.

Besides cars and tracks, there’s also not much to the game beyond single-player. Sure, you can check out time trials and use social features to share with your friends and let them know how you’re doing, but that’s it. The lack of a true versus mode really puts a crimp on the replayabilty.

The worst part about the game, though, is the microtransactions. To be fair, Namco Bandai has designed Slipstream so that players can beat the entire game without spending a single cent more than the initial download price, which is uncommon in racing apps. It just becomes a bit of a chore after only a few races, since the game encourages players to spend money to unlock more cars, more parts, more tracks, or consumables like nitro boosts to help win races. And there is, of course, a two-currency system that locks several of the better cars behind the “premium” (harder to acquire) option. I appreciate the fact that the microtransactions aren’t necessary, but Slipstream sure does try to make it tempting.

Ridge Racer Slipstream is probably one of the better racing apps out there, but that’s not necessarily saying much. The actual act of racing is fun, and the control options are a nice touch—almost everyone should find one they’re comfortable with. The game also pays homage to previous Ridge Racers by maintaining the series’ look and feel. But, like so many other mobile racers, microtransactions can muddle the fun. And with so few car, track, and mode options, it’s easy to tire of the experience quickly. If you’re just looking for something to kill a few minutes a day and don’t mind the grind, though, Ridge Racer Slipstream is a decent value for its purchase price.

Developer: Namco Bandai • Publisher: Namco Bandai • ESRB: N/A • Release Date: 12.19.13
7.0
This app stays true to Ridge Racer’s arcade roots, but the lack of content coupled with the grind of unlocking everything—which is only conveniently alleviated by microtransacations—is a major speed bump in this otherwise smooth ride.
The Good Multiple control schemes appeal to wide range of players.
The Bad Grinding through races to avoid microtransactions. No versus modes.
The Ugly Definitely not race queen Reiko Nagase. Nice seeing you again foxy lady.
Ridge Racer Slipstream is available on iOS and coming later to Android devices. Primary version reviewed was for iOS devices (iPad 2).

In an interview from Famitsu magazine, Tales series producer Hideo Baba shared new information about Tales of ZestiriaSilconera reports.

According to Baba, the game’s main protagonist, Alicia, is last in line to the throne in her kingdom, but that she doesn’t care as she loves her chosen profession of being a knight. He describes her as the type of person who has no problem putting herself in harm’s way if it can help her people or her country.

Alicia’s nature tends to be more serious, but the layers of her character will come through the series’ trademark side conversations and sub-events. She ends up traveling with the optimistic Slay—the male protagonist—but as is often the case with Tales characters, their motivations are very dissimilar.

While Tales of Zestiria is completely different from the recently released Tales of Xillia, fans may see early parallels between Alicia/Slay and Milla/Jude based on this description, at least in terms of personality.

The game’s story will also have a huge focus on dragons, a first for the Tales series. According to Baba, dragons are often depicted as good and evil, and are some sort of symbolic existence to various worlds. Where Zestiria’s dragons fall on the good/evil spectrum is still a mystery.

Baba only briefly touched on the combat system of the game, saying there will be a focus on “sword and magic fantasy,” and it will be an evolved form of the current battle system. He also teased a big surprise with the combat that he hopes fans will look forward to.

While we still have no release date window for Tales of Zestiria, when it finally does hit store shelves it will do so worldwide on the PS3.

Kamehameha!

Admittedly, many of us in the press (and I’m sure some of you out there as well) had the same exact reaction when we heard Dragon Ball Z Kinect announced at Global Gamers Day: instant facepalm. The track record thus far for the Kinect adapting hardcore gaming and geek franchises has been, well, less than stellar and with Dragon Ball Z being another cornerstone of geek-dom for a generation, the shoes that this game has to fill to please its intended audience are massive indeed.

Now, since this is a Kinect game, I guess this is more of a “hands free” preview, but nonetheless, at Namco Bandai’s recent Global Gamers Day, Namco had a chance to put their money where their mouth is. And so shortly after the announcement, I was able to put on an orange jumpsuit, spike my hair (Woo! Woo! Woo!), and relive some of the early moments of an anime near and dear to all our hearts when I jumped into Dragon Ball Z Kinect.

The game is supposed to follow the series from the beginning right up through the Boo Saga and so there promises to be a fair amount of depth in the final product, but we started off with an easier, early battle in Raditz vs Goku (or Piccolo if you’d prefer). Our preview time was brief, only the one battle per person, mostly because each battle was so epic and felt like running a mini-marathon. If you were to emerge victorious, the flurry of constant punches and kicks you had to throw would exhaust even some of the more stellar athletes.

The worst part about this though is that, like so many previous Kinect games before it, the game just did not seem to pick me up as accurately as I would have liked. My punches and kicks all came across fine. But when it came to charging up my Kamehameha or other super moves, the world came to a still as both myself and the computer waited for something to happen. Finally, after several tries, I guess I squatted low enough to charge up Goku’s signature move and I blew Raditz to hell, but hopefully in the six months before this game ships, Namco will be able to tweak things to be a bit more responsive.

Aside from this, the game does come across as something that Dragon Ball Z fans may enjoy as you get to relive all your favorite classic battles. And as you unlock more and more of your favorite characters like Vegeta, Piccolo, Gohan, and Krillin, you’ll get some replay value from mixing and matching story mode battles with characters who may not have been originally involved. Not to mention the art style stays true to the series and the voice acting comes straight from anime itself so the presentation at least is very strong.

In the end though, until proven otherwise, it’s going to be hard to believe that any game released for the Kinect with a hardcore fan base as its prime audience will come in at a power level of over 9000, just due to the casual nature of the system and its controls. So we will just have to wait and see if Dragon Ball Z Kinect can break out of that mold or will simply be the latest victim to this motion-sensor trend.