GameZone at the Namco Bandai Games Showcase

Namco Bandai recently showed off some of its upcoming and highly anticipated titles at the Namco Bandai Games Showcase in LA. Because I don't live all that far from the major city, I got the opportunity to drive out there and preview some unreleased titles. Suffice it to say, being stuck in traffic and dealing with all of the law-violating denizens of L.A. was well worth it, because I got a good glimpse at some of Namco Bandai's intriguing titles set for release later this year and in 2012.

The first game I got my anxious paws on was Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact. I had never played a Naruto game before, so I didn't really know what to expect. I was very glad to find myself pleasantly surprised, though. As a fan of the rare 3D beat 'em up, I found the brawling gameplay in Ultimate Ninja Impact to be very satisfying and intuitive. I was delivering effective combos on my enemies through simple combinations and even performing some awesome special moves, which resulted in crazy cutscenes and insane amounts of damage. The screen was constantly filled with opponents, and taking them down was incredibly satisfying. I was told that up to 100 characters could fill the screen, so Ultimate Ninja Impact should make for a hectic good time.

The Namco Bandai representative explained to me that the game follows the Naruto storyline closely, so there's plenty of fan service for gamers who enjoy the anime. Additionally, because this is a PSP game, some individuals may initially think that the controls of past entries in the series might not translate accordingly on the handheld. I was told that this would not be the case, and that the controls from the past console titles would translate smoothly onto the PSP. Though I haven't played any of the past Naruto games, I can easily attest to the fact that Ultimate Ninja Impact controlled exceptionally well.

PSP owners can expect Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact to land on October 18. The game will be available on UMD and for digital download on the PlayStation Network.

The next title I got the chance to check out was Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi. Gamers who have played past entries in the series should know what to expect with the upcoming entry in terms of gameplay. That's not to say there isn't enough content here to warrant some excitement from fans, though. Ultimate Tenkaichi offers high-impact, heavy-hitting fighting mechanics, and it throws in some crazy combos and a ton of style.

The game's story mode should offer plenty of fan service for longtime fans of the Dragon Ball Z anime. What I enjoyed the most was the seemless integration of fights and storytelling. Upon delivering a beating to my opponents, I was treated to some stylish story sequences that offered all of the over-the-top shenanigans and dramatic happenings that Dragon Ball Z is known for.

I was also given a quick briefing on the game's Hero Mode, which is basically a character creator that allows you to build and tweak your very own fighters. Not only can players give their characters a snazzy physical appearance, but they can also make a tough brawler by assigning a number of high-impact moves. If you ever wanted to create your very own Dragon Ball Z character and see how he handles himself within the series' universe, this will be your chance.

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is set to launch on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 25. If you've been following the series closely, be sure to watch out for this one.

I took a break from all the heavy-hitting anime action and decided to check out some mobile games. The first was Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory, an air combat game for iOS platforms. Players must control their air fighters using tilt mechanics in coordination with an onscreen digital analog stick. This took some getting used to, and I never completely got the hang of it during my short session with the game, but I could definitely tell that if gamers invest enough time into it, they'll be able to get the controls down with nary a problem.

As I was flying through the air, I was instructed to reach a checkpoing on the map. Upon reaching the checkpoint, I engaged in an aerial battle against enemy fighters who wanted nothing more than to see me blow up to a thousand pieces. By tilting the iPad and using the onscreen analog stick, I was able to adjust and get those clowns in my sights, ultimately delivering an onslaught of bullets and blowing them to bits. Needless, to say, it was pretty damn enjoyable.

No release date or price point was given to me for Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory, but I was told that the main campaign would feature 18 environments. There will also be a competitive eight-player online component, which should pique the interest of iPad and iPhone owners looking to engage in some air-based combat.

The second mobile game I checked out was Mad Tracks, a good old-fashioned weapons-based kart racer. Unlike Sky Gamblers, this game didn't feature tilt controls and instead opted for a more traditional control scheme. Using the onscreen analog stick and face buttons, I raced through a couple of tracks full of tight turns and aggressive drivers. I also fell off the track … a lot. In my defense, though, I've never really gamed on an iPad, so I was trying to get used to the onscreen controls.

Overall, I would say Mad Tracks will definitely appeal to gamers who enjoy gaming on mobile devices, and with a four-player local and online multiplayer, this will give kart racing enthusiasts something worth checking out. Mad Tracks doesn't have a set release date yet, but it is expected to land later this fall.

Next up, I got to check out a game I've been super stoked about: Tales of Graces f. According to Namco Bandai, this title will stay true to the tropes that put the Tales series on the map, but it will also feature some engaging new elements. Players will be able to control a party of four characters, all of which are said to play differently from one another. Additionally, you'll be able to upgrade different skills as you so choose, which means you'll be able to build a party of characters that differ greatly from one another and serve specific purposes for battle such as magic, healing, long-range offense, and straight-up power.

What really caught my attention in Tales of Graces f was the inclusion of four-player local co-op. RPGs are known for being strict single-player affairs, but Tales of Graces f will invite multiple players to plow through the game's quest as a team. It's cool having a party of characters and being able to control them all, but there's a ton of promise in having your friends right next to you so you can shout at them when they screw up or call for help when you need to be healed.

The co-op component will be drop-in/drop-out, so at any given time, new players can join in to help their buddies. And if one player falls in battle, the computer AI will take over that player slot, which is great because if one player decides not to play anymore (and ditches his pal), player one won't have to fumble between two controls to switch the other player back to the AI.

Like many of you, I can't wait to play the full version of Tales of Graces f. Unfortunately, I wasn't given a specific release date or launch window, but I was informed that the game would hit PlayStation 3 consoles next year.

My time with the Tales series didn't end there, though. Immediately after checking out Tales of Graces f, I got some hands-on time with Tales of the Abyss for the 3DS. As fans of the series will be aware, Tales of the Abyss was originally a PlayStation 2 title, and it is now being remade for Nintendo's current handheld. The game played like a tried and true RPG. As I explored a large overworld area, I frequently encountered different types of enemies. Battles were quick and enjoyable, and slashing away at enemies was a great deal of fun.

In terms of the graphics, Tales of the Abyss is on par with other portable RPGs. The detail isn't too massive, but the added 3D provided a nice stylish touch. That said, I happen to enjoy the 3D effect of Nintendo's portable device. It's highly likely that a lot of other gamers will shut it off completely. Still, it's good to know it's there, and seeing my stats screens pop up in front of my characters was pretty cool-looking.

Like Tales of Graces f, Tales of the Abyss is likely to launch sometime in 2012. Oh, Namco Bandai, you really want to keep us wondering, don't you?

One game I didn't get too much time with but did manage to catch a decent glimpse of was Ridge Racer: Unbounded. From the looks of it, Unbounded seems to be delivering another proper Ridge Racer experience. That said, the urban environment adds a darker tone to the series and will likely provide a different overall vibe.

Visually, the game looks excellent, and it's great to see another good-looking racer headed to consoles. One thing that really caught my attention was the destructibility of the game's environments and cars. That's one of the features Namco Bandai seems to be promoting heavily, and it's good to see some cool physics and particle effects thrown into what will likely be an insane, fast-paced racer.

The last game I took for a spin was Inversion, a promising title that looks to provide a unique spin on the cover-based shooter. In terms of environments and gameplay, Inversion reminded me a lot of Gears of War. Its hook, however, quickly set it apart from the acclaimed shooter franchise. Inversion features a gravity gun that allows you to manipulate the debris around you. By using it on a large piece of crumbled wall, for example, you can employ this debris as cover, while hitting the fire trigger will launch it forward, causing it to act as a projectile. Pretty nifty!

To add to the awesomeness of the gravity gun, I was told that the weapon could also be used on enemies. I tried it out for myself and had a total blast as I watched bad guys floating helplessly, only to be picked off by my co-op partner and I. According to the Namco Bandai rep, there will be three types of environmental gravity forces, each varying in strength, which should provide some interesting results. Players will be able to utilize the gravity gun to create cover for themselves and send enemies slamming down onto the floor. And with the hectic levels that sometimes flip and cause you to explore different areas, you can expect a lot of quick thinking and on-the-go action.

Inversion will feature local and online two-player co-op, as well as 16-player multiplayer modes, which should definitely appeal to shooter fans. The game is set to launch on February 7 next year, so stay tuned for more info as we get closer to launch.

Namco Bandai definitely has some interesting things in store for launch this year and next year. There's plenty of fan service with titles like Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi and Tales of Graces f. And with Inversion offering something new for cover-based shooters, Namco Bandai seems to be doing some notable experimentation, as well. A big thanks to everyone involved for allowing me to preview a few of the company's upcoming games on behalf of GameZone. Oh, and a huge thanks for the delicious complimentary brownies. Those things were delicious!