THE NEW GOLDEN AGE OF ANIME VIDEO GAMES
I need to buy a new umbrella, because it is raining Shonen Jump games! And adding to the downpour, Namco Bandai has just announced two new games at the Tokyo Game Show—JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle and One Piece: Romance Dawn! With Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Full Burst, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, and Saint Seiya Brave Soldiers on the way, this truly is a new golden age for anime-based video games.
But this isn't the first Golden Age...
Back in the early 2000s, anime was red-hot. It was on fire. Everybody wanted to get in on the craze. Rock bands like Linkin Park were using anime in their videos. The Wachowski brothers released the Animatrix, a series of anime vignettes that take place in the Matrix universe, and it sold like gangbusters. Cartoon Network had a ton of anime shows on the air, and they were killing it in the ratings. 4Kids had a Saturday morning cartoon block that was dominated by anime. Anime Expo was bursting at the seams and had massive booths by ADV, Geneon, Bandai, Tokyopop, VIZ Media and several other smaller anime companies. And there were anime video games, boy oh boy, were there anime video games.
Video game companies were trying to get in on the craze and started releasing games based on just about any popular anime. The very first game I reviewed was a Ghost in the Shell game for the PS1. It seemed like a new game based on an anime was coming out every month. Personally, I can remember reviewing Fist of the North Star, Ghost in the Shell, Gundam, Gungrave, Inuyasha, Shaman King, Hajime no Ippo, Full Metal Alchemist, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Lupin III, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery games. And that's just from memory. I'm sure I've either forgotten some or perhaps blocked them out. But like all things that get hot, anime began to cool. Less of it was being shown on TV. DVDs were getting beaten up by online piracy, and companies began to fold or close their American offices. And the constant stream of video games began to dry up.
Except for Naruto. Holy guacamole, there were so many Naruto games released in the States. Naruto is one of those rare anime that was a huge hit both in Japan and the States. And by that I mean it penetrated into non-anime markets. For a while there, Naruto was pretty much mass market and bucked the anime cooling trend. And the games just started flowing from Japan. In fact, at one time, there were three separate companies releasing Naruto games in the States all at the same time! Over thirty Naruto video games have been released in America. OVER THIRTY!!! And I've reviewed half of them! The only series that beats it is Dragon Ball, but not by much. And they've been releasing games in the U.S. since 1997.
Although the glut of Naruto games has dried up, there is one series that not only keeps on coming, but still sells like crazy—the Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Why? It's really good. Many of the anime games I've reviewed were cookie cutter at best. Half-baked cash-ins on popular titles. But not the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Not at all. These games go above and beyond most anime games and also many fighting games. A huge roster taken directly from the anime. A fast and furious fighting system with movement that mimics the fighting in the anime almost perfectly. Insane over-the-top super moves that boggle the mind. And gorgeous cell-shaded graphics that give the series a slick near-anime look. Plus, the games are usually loaded with extra stuff and lengthy story modes. The reason these games are so good is the company that makes them, CyberConnect2, puts their back into it. It's clear, they love the source material and spend the extra time and money to make a superior product.
And that brings us to today. Anime is still popular and millions of people watch it, but it's not as mainstream as it once was. Thus, there aren't many anime video game releases. Well, there weren't...until Namco Bandai started pumping them out again!
And why not? It's never been an easier time to release video games. There are so many channels to release them through, and companies can do it cheaper than ever. In this digital age of downloads, the risks and costs associated with releasing a title have gone down significantly. If they don't have to physically make the games, the discs, boxes, etc. they can save a bundle right there. And if they don't dub it in English, they can save some more cash right there. Video games, especially ones with lengthy story modes, have a lot of dialogue! And big ensembles of voice actors cost a lot of money, but subtitling does not. Also, digital games last "forever." If they have a box game, it sits on the shelves for a few months, then either goes into "used mode" where the game is resold but the publisher does not get any of the profit, or if it's really bad, just plain disappears. But if they have digital games, they can sell them, keep selling them, then after the first wave of buyers is gone, sell it at a reduced price to get a new wave of buyers and so on.
And so Namco Bandai has started a...
NEW GOLDEN AGE OF ANIME VIDEO GAMES.
Here's what they're releasing in the States!
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
This is a souped-up version of Ninja Storm 3 with some additional content added. There's a new chapter, a new character, 100 new missions, 38 new outfits and the graphics have been enhanced. And this will be the first Naruto game ever to be released on PC! If you pre-order, you can get a big 190-page color art book. Burst is coming out in late October.
Saint Seiya Brave Soldiers
Of all the games they've announced, this one is by far the most surprising. While Saint Seiya was a huge hit in Japan and much of the world, it never quite caught on in the States. But there is a small passionate fanbase for it, and they must be ecstatic this game is coming here. Especially since it's being developed by Dimps, the makers of the beloved PS2 DBZ Budakai games. The game is a one-on-one fighter, and you'll be able to fight characters from the Sanctuary, Poseidon and Hades arcs. You'll also be able to level your character and customize their hit points, strength, and Cosmos Power Gauge. And you'll be able to fight others online. You can download this to your PS3 in November.
One Piece: Romance Dawn
If you've ever thought, "Man, One Piece would make a cool RPG!" then this is for you! I've actually thought that, so I guess this game is for me. According to Namco, you'll get to travel to and from famous locales in the One Piece world and take down the bad guys there. You'll also get to level up your characters, and craft items to change their stats and appearance. The game also has a "Grand Tactical Battle" feature that will allow you to choose the way you attack within the active battle system. Not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds exciting. This game will land on America shores this holiday season.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360
This is a team-based DBZ game with a heavy focus on co-op action. You can play with four players and fight with your friends or online. And you can have up to 8-player versus fights in the Battle Royale mode. Yes, I know it's "another DBZ game," but the four player team-based angle should make for some explosive battles. If you pre-order, you can get a special Naruto costume for Goku to wear. This game comes out in March, 2014.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle
Oddly enough, there have been a couple of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's video games released in the States. Even though the series was relatively unknown here, Capcom released two games back in the day. Well, now the series definitely has a fan following and they're hungry for this game! Developed by CyberConnect2, this game shows a lot of promise. Mainly, because CyberConnect2's done such a wonderful job with the Ultimate Storm series. The game features characters from the entire series, which has been going since 1987. Characters will have five different battle styles based on different types of characters from the series. Ripple allows characters to charge their Heart Heat Gauge to unleash Heart Heat Attacks, Mode increases characters' powers but depletes their Heart Heat Gauge, Vampirism can drain Heart Heat Gauge from players, Horseback lets characters fight on horseback, and Stand allows characters to use Stands to help them fight. You can get your JoJo's sometime in 2014.
And so I say, enjoy this new GOLDEN AGE OF ANIME VIDEO GAMES! Enjoy it and support it! Buy these games! Show Namco they've made the right choice releasing them here! ORA ORA ORA!
by Urian Brown