Namco Bandai


In true celebrity fashion, the "surprise guest" for the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 display was growing late to the party by the minute. The sparsely dressed, gleaming eyed booth babe's plastered smiles wavered as they grew fatigued. Some guy with a big rim around his neck continued to waddle around, his purpose not exactly clear. The amassed crowd began to shift in their seats just as a commotion stirred in the back of the stage. Poof! Smoke hissed to cloud the entrance (in a very appropriate manner) of the Doggfather himself: Snoop Dogg. 



It’s been nearly 12 years since we’ve seen Tekken Tag Tournament, Namco’s off-shoot in its fighting franchise, where you could tag team between two characters when facing off against enemies, switching them out with tactics and engaging in some rather creative melees as a result.  We’re supposing that the company preferred the “one vs. one” option for so long, as they demonstrated in Tekken 4, Tekken 5 and Tekken 6.  But finally, we’re getting a return of team fighting madness with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which is set to hit Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this September, with a Wii U release to follow later in the year.


Inversion arrived last week with very little fanfare.  Perhaps it was the fact that it was released during E3, and that Namco Bandai had bigger projects to focus on.  Or maybe it was just one of those games that the company is hoping will be a “sleeper” hit, relying more on word-of-mouth than a multi-million dollar ad campaign.  Regardless, it’s here, and while it definitely has some key moments with its gravity-shifting tactics, its quality never really rises above that of a SyFy made-for-TV movie.  That’s not to say some won’t be entertained, but it could’ve been so much more.


The idea behind E3 was to showcase the latest and brightest games of 2012, but there are always a few games that disappoint us. Some games on our list made serious changes to their formula, and not for the better. Other games took center stage at E3 when they shouldn’t have. There were many games at E3, but here is our top five list of disappointments.


The free-to-play market had a huge showing at E3 and was showcased at Sony’s Online Entertainment booth. Recently SOE converted all of its most popular MMOs into the model, giving new life to D.C Universe while reintroducing fans to the PlanetSide series.


Delays.  They happen quite often.  Just when you think a product is going to come out at the proper time, something happens and forces the studio behind it to push it back a few weeks – maybe even months.  We’re not even to the midway point of 2012 and we’ve already seen significant delays…and no, we’re not talking G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  That movie needed retooling anyway.


Throughout the history of video games, the oldest stereotype surrounding the industry has always been do violent video games affect player behavior and personality. It is a known fact that people who play games are exposed to more violence than the average consumer. From nuking entire civilization to obliterating players online, it’s has become more and more common now that games are more focus on squarely providing violent action. For this reason alone, parents have long held an underlining negative attitude towards the industry and those who stand by it, but is this criticism injustice or have developers gone to far? Should government step in?


Yesterday, at a press event in Las Vegas, Nevada, Namco Bandai unveiled its line-up for 2012, with some interesting new projects, including a Dragon Ball Z game for Kinect and an official release date for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (coming this September).  However, it also revealed what had been rumored for months – that a PC port of the hit game Dark Souls is finally coming this August.  Now, the only question is whether users can deal with the service it’s being saddled with.


I have to be honest, if a series feels like it’s sitting in a rut, going through the same motions over and over with hardly any evolution in gameplay, I actually cheer on the idea of revitalization.  And, boy, was Ridge Racer in need of that.  Ridge Racer V wasn’t a bad game in itself, and Ridge Racer 6 had its moments, but since that point, the series has sat in neutral with its over-drifting system and lack of anything fundamentally new.  Even Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita felt like a half-finished retread, despite its online capabilities.  But the second you pop in Bugbear’s Ridge Racer Unbounded, that mundane feeling fades away.  This isn’t the same old ride around the block.  It’s an entirely new beast.


For all those times we praise certain series for making changes, there are also those instances where we’re wondering why a developer made such changes in the first place.  As great as some of the previous Final Fantasy games have been, many have been hunkering for the classic days of SNES releases like Final Fantasy III and so forth, rather than the big-budgeted Final Fantasy XIII.  Namco, thankfully, hasn’t changed too much when it comes to its Tales franchise, and the latest entry in the series, Tales of Graces F, clearly shows that.  It’s old-school love like we seldom get anymore.


There are games that require you to meet certain criteria to get the most out of them, and then there are “grind fests”, those gaming experiences where you have to toil away at a game, making certain adjustments and completing mission after mission until you get that proper tool that allows everything to click together, making the experience either worth it or leaving you wondering if it was worth the effort.  Armored Core V, the latest in From Software’s long-running mech series, easily fits in the latter category, and rather than being a mech game that provides the kind of mech action that a casual audience can get into, it instead directs its attention to the die-hards that live and breathe customization and working with others to trash the opposition.  There’s nothing entirely wrong with that, except it really limits the game’s appeal.


I just have something to share with Namco right now.  If you really want your anime franchises to stand out as a fighting game, call in Capcom and have them do Dragon Ball Z vs. Naruto.  It’d easily be the best crossover game since the old Jump Superstars games on DS.  Sigh…it’ll probably be a while before something like that is even considered, so for the time being, we’ll manage with the 3D fighters Namco has to offer.  Its latest, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, continues to buck the trend, and, when it comes to its key audience, is quite effective.


When it comes to racing games on the PlayStation Vita, you have a lot to choose from, between the kart racing shenanigans in ModNation Racers, the futuristic action of Wipeout 2048 and the sim Formula 1 madness of F1 2011.  But it wouldn’t be a launch party without Ridge Racer, and Namco has managed to push another edition out the door in time to appease the PS Vita owning masses.  Now the question is, is it enough?


Why am I not a bigger fan of role-playing games?  Because outside of team aspects or any given new features, they mostly play the same.  Cast an attack, prepare for a counter-attack, use a special attack to finish the battle, repeat.  Yeah, there’s story too, but it seems built more for folks that are fans rather than the ones that aren’t.  That said, there are exceptions to the rule, and I’m happy to report that Namco’s Tales of the Abyss remains a good one.