Namco Ignite 2011 Round-Up

Last week, Namco Bandai held their first annual Ignite event, an opportunity for the Japanese giant to announce brand new titles for the North American and European markets. It was a big deal for the company, as not only did they show off a new title from, well, From Software, they also announced TV and game plans for the newest version of Power Rangers. Of course, the biggest news was all about games. That’s what you care about, I presume. Well, here you are, GameZone’s massive super awesome break-down of Namco’s announcements. Read on for every little thing coming out this year and next.

Inversion – Namco Bandai let journalists have substantial hands-on time with this third-person shooter from Saber Interactive. Announced in 2009, this shooter has been a long time in development, and looks to have a substantial way to go before game is complete. From the demo, players will be able to control a manly blond family guy as he rushed with his comrades through a half-destroyed city. Inversion looks and plays a lot like Gears of War, and with a February 2, 2012 release date, they have a long time to fix some of the problems.

And surprisingly, there were not too many. While the main character may be a little on the generic side (blond hair the exception), the Gears controls worked well, although it did feel a little too loose running around, and the aiming was a little too slow. I presume Saber Interactive will be able to tighten things up in the next year.

However, the gravity mechanics are what showed the most promise. A mixture between the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 and the leash in Bulletstorm, the main character in Inversion can use his gravlink device to send out gravity force to throw enemies up in the air, leaving them mostly helpless. Since the game is about an alien invasion that uses gravity to attack Earth, the player will be using this mechanic a lot. In one area, everyone lifted up at one moment, and the battle shifted over to the side of a building. In an area I couldn’t play, the main character can be seen throwing a car at enemy forces, and using the vehicle for defense.

The final area was the Gravity Anomaly areas. Here, no gravity is present at all, but the cover-based mechanics are still present players will have to pull themselves from point to point, using stable barriers as points to take out enemies. Surprisingly, it looked entertaining. Ultimately, Saber Interactive is at a good point to make sure this is a great game all around. Sure, it’s a little futzy at the moment, but they have a long time to make sure it’s golden. I wish them luck.

Knights Contract – Announced back in May in Famitsu, Knights Contract is one of those titles from Japan that look a little generic, but once in your hands offers something more substantial. I mean it as a compliment, for while Knights Contract initially seems like a generic Devil May Cry rip-off, there’s appealing mechanics at play for a hack-and-slash title.

First the bad news. Knights Contract is, for lack of a better description, an escort mission game. Main character Heinrich, a former witch-hunter, must take care of lithe young witch Gretchen. Playing through the game, I never had a problem with Heinrich dying (as a matter of fact, I don’t know if he can die, just sort of crawl around when injured…), but Gretchen can die easily. For example, in a burning tower, I fell down to the bottom, and I suppose she fell down after me. Seems like she got stuck on something within the environment, and burned up in the process. Oops. However, it’s easy to carry her and heal her up between fights, and she’s generally not much of a problem. That’s good.

What is fun though, are the magical attacks. With the press of the R-trigger, Heinrich can command Gretchen to perform magical attacks. Even at low levels, these look awesome, like massive crystalline thorn bushes and gigantic javelins. These magical attacks can range from massive area of affect spells, to weapon enhancements. Combined with the traditional attacks of Heinrich, there are impressive battle going on. It is a simple system, but it gets the job done great.

All in all, Knights Contract looks to be a fun, B-tier action game. In the traditional fantasy world with crazy fantasy magical attacks, fans of a good hack-and-slash should be pleased as punch.

Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions – Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions was possibly the most exciting and disappointing game that I was able to get my hands on. Unfortunately, it looks like the game may be nothing more than a glorified tech demo, as for now there are impressive uses of the tech inside the 3DS, but that’s about it.

Let’s start with the Pac-Man portion. Called Pac-Man Tilt, players control Pac-Man two ways. First, the circle pad moves him directly left and right, A to jump, and a button on the touch screen to activate any power pellets he may have stored up to eat ghosts that wander around the rainbow-hued world themed like a pinball table. Bumpers and springs will fling Pac-Man around with the L or R-triggers. However, the game also requires the player to tilt the world using the accelerometer, so if you tilt the game right, Pac-Man will run faster to the right, eventually rolling into a ball. It’s an alright platform game, nothing special, but the outright lack of 3D support makes no sense.

That’s right. The Pac-Man portion of Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions does not support 3D.

Thankfully, the Galaga portion of the game does, and it’s actually intriguing. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to the end credits sequence of Super Smash Bros. However, players control by swinging the 3DS as if looking first person through a porthole on a space ship. While I wouldn’t play this game with the 3D cranked all the way up, it was an impressive display of the accelerometer and 3DS effects of the device. If Galaga had a fully featured game, with Pac-Man dropped, it would hold a lot more promise.

Dark Souls – The sequel to Demon’s Souls, a brutally hard RPG from From Software, Dark Souls doesn’t look too terribly different from the last game. However, enemies are still a force to recon with, and players will be traversing and exploring dark forests, derelict castles, and fiery pits within a deep cave. Dark Souls will come to both PS3 and 360, has new characters such as the cute Onion Knight, multiplayer will be similar to the original, and it will be out this year. In other words, it’s a sequel!

Armored Core V – The latest in the Armored Core series, Armored Core V isn’t the best of looking video games. I’ll say it, there’s something boxy about the trailer we were shown. However, what looks to make up for this faux-pas is the rather ambitious MMO approach From Software is taking with the game. Armored Core V will always be online, and players will always be able to act with their friends and enemies through collective missions. If they can tighten up the graphics, I’d be down for the 2012 release date.

Ace Combat Assault Horizon – Announced with a trailer, but unplayable, Ace Combat Assault Horizon is a return to a franchise that has been ignored for the last few years. From the trailer shown, it looks like this could be one of the most exciting versions of the franchise, as Namco Bandai is aiming to make this game much more visceral and in “in-your-face.” Fighter jets will be dog-fighting uncomfortably close to their enemies, and can even do awesome action movie actions like shooting through a building and flying through.

Brain Exercises 3 – While the rest of the world seems to be a little tired of brain training games, Namco Bandai is not. While not necessarily a bad thing, Namco Bandai is skipping past the expected DS/PSP rout by bringing some of the best and most challenging brain training games to mobile platforms, like the iPhone and Android devices.

DualPen Sports – A neat take on the casual sports titles introduced with Nintendo, DualPen Sports is a 3DS title with a special gimmick. Players hold two styli, one in each hand, and they have to use both to perform their actions. For example, the boxing mini-game requires players to use stylus swipes to perform punches, and in soccer, they have to use the left stylus swipe to swing the foot back, and the right to kick forward. While I don’t think everyone will be picking this up, it’s a fun little sports game for the 3DS. The visual effects themselves looked fine for the platform, although this isn’t a ground-breaking game.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 – Previous Dynasty Warriors Gundam games always had a problem. They were either a poor Gundam game, or they were a poor Dynasty Warriors game. Namco Bandai is trying again with this franchise, and the first thing they are doing is making it look much more cartoon-like. All the previous titles, in which the Gundams were more realistic looking, never felt like a proper Gundam game. By taking it into an anime direction, it should appeal to fans of the show. Fingers crossed the gameplay can keep up with the new art direction!

ExerBeat – Fans of Wii Cheer should feel comfortable with ExerBeat. Using the same foundation of players holding two wiimotes and acting out waving motions in accordance to on screen actions, the game is surprisingly fun and stupid. With Wii MotionPlus support and Balance Board support, ExerBeat could actually offer a work out.

Ridge Racer Unbounded – Announced at the event, we didn’t get to see any substantial footage of Ridge Racer Unbounded. However, the CGI cinematic shows Ridge Racer mascot Reiko Nagase driving through a dark alley, only to change cars and drive full throttle into a busy street, slamming a poor taxi. That’s not much, but the trailer does seem to hint at some better crashing mechanics a-la the Burnout franchise. Honestly, it’s hard to gauge from this point, but hopefully it’ll keep Ridge Racer relevant in an increasingly competitive racing space.

Ridge Racer 3DS – The 3DS Ridge Racer title, it’s exactly what you would expect from a Ridge Racer game in 3D. It looks good, about on par with any of the PSP Ridge Racer games. However, I did spend more than a few moments fiddling with the 3D to get it to look just right. Full 3D was too much and had problems with ghosting, but a middle ground seemed to do just fine.

Ridge Racer Accelerated HD (iPad) – For those impatiently waiting for Ridge Racer 3DS and Ridge Racer Unbounded, Namco was quick to show off an iPad version of the 2009 game. Game looks good, uses tilt controls, and plays exactly as you would expect. Ridge Racer fans with an iPad would be smart to pick this up.

TNA Wrestling – TNA Wrestling is an interesting entity. Not as popular as WWE, TNA wrestling has big names associated with it, such as Hulk Hogan and Kurt Angle. Namco is bringing an iOS TNA game for both the iPad and the iPhone, and in addition to simplified controls (punch and kick buttons, as well as context sensitive buttons that pop up) there’s also a substantial create-a-character mode. Looks like a decent wrestling game on the go.

Final Fantasy II (mobile) – An odd member of the line-up of games, Final Fantasy II is yet another port of the beloved RPG. Not just any port, however, this one is designed for play on terrible flip phones and other low-end dumb phones. Yay?

Pac-Man Party – Like Final Fantasy II, Pac-Man Party is a mobile game for low end phones. From the few moments I had with the title, it looks like board game-esque party game staring Pac-Man and the ghosts. The 2D sprites look good, but it’s probably a game most will ignore.

Pac-Man Valentines Day Theme – What is this? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like! Good old trustworthy Pac-Man is back on the iPhone, however, in celebration of February 14, the day single people play around on their phones miserably while couples make babies, Pac-Man will now run around in a red stage. I presume there will be hearts.

Puzzle Quest 2 (iPad) – What’s this? Puzzle Quest 2 for the iPad? Damn skippy, if you don’t know what this awesome puzzle/RPG fusion is, you’re probably just the right person to pick this up. It’s on an awesome pig screen, and probably stands a good chance of being the best version of the game on the market.