Bleary-eyed and restless, I wander over to Bandai's booth. Our appointment was set for 2:00 p.m. and little did I know noon is not exactly two o'clock.
The receptionist takes it all well and good - we've both had a rough week, with plenty of stress left ahead. So after making the most graceful exit possible, I try to kill 2 hours. Not all that difficult.
Round 2: I meet up with our Bandai rep Joon Hwang and realize that I am, in fact still early, albeit by ten minutes. So we chat it up a bit - about the hustle and bustle of the show plus any madness he may have seen on the floor. This is when I'm informed that the guy doesn't get to go out and play that much - his business is to sit in this gloriously air-conditioned room and talk to folk like myself. After the small-talk, I get right down to business:
"So what's up with the Namco purchase?"
"Well...I'll bet you know as much as I do," he replies with a laugh.
Apparently, since the merger is so new, no one from either company knows what is up. Restructuring is still under way and everything is up in the air. So there really is little to ask about the subject - and then we speculate. About Bandai-brand Soul Calibur toys. About Bandai games being developed by Namco. We're being in our element - gaming nerds talking about games, surrounded by games.
The rest of the crew shows up and it's all about business. First up is a demo of Zatch Bell. The game plays quick, simple and frantic with over-the-top specials, supers and a bit of comedy thrown into the mix. There will also be unlockable 'cards' in the game that not only open extra spells and attacks for your characters, but coincide with the TCG of Zatch Bell, as well. Based off the anime of the same name, the game will hopefully draw in the Cartoon Network crowd along with anyone who likes their fighters with a quirky flavor.
Next up is Inuyasha - thankfully NOT an RPG this time around. In actuality, it's a 2-on-2 fighter where a player works with one main character and one support character. What seems so interesting about this concept is that the pairing you choose determines how well the team works with one another. For example, the main heroes (and love interests) Inuyasha and Kagome work splendidly together. Joon also told us that as you play through the game, characters will get progressively better in that set team; so idealistically you'll want a strong natural team to start, and hone their skills as you play through. The game is developed by 8ing, some of the same folk who brought us Bloody Roar. Here's hoping Inuyasha shapes up to something more than just fangirls will be talking about.
Then we're treated to One Piece: Grand Battle, another fighting game based off another popular manga/anime series. There's actually been two previous Grand Battle games in Japan, yet the latest installment is the first to be brought over to the States. After watching a set of fights, it's obvious that anime-based fighting games have a theme; keep it simple, keep it fast and above all else, keep it flashy. Well choreographed finishing moves with hilarious segues ruled the day. Although the core gameplay wasn't anything to snuff at either - shades of Powerstone were abound in the interactive levels and power-up / weapon / cheapskate-intensive environments. The only downer is it's two player is limited to head-to-head matches only.
Before our time with Bandai came to a close, we were also treated to a small trailer of an upcoming PS3 game. We'll give you a hint; the title starts with a "G" and ends with an "undam." If you can't figure it out, then...
Suffice to say it looked glorious, we weren't given any media to show and chances are it (like most of the PS3 glitz shown), was pre-rendered and not a final reflection of what the next-gen hardware will produce.
Nevertheless, the trailer was fun, the guys from Bandai were incredibly relaxed and friendly, and the room was wonderful - air conditioning and comfy seats were the perfect cure to that long day of floor-treading. We'll give you impressions of the games we played at their booth and more through the week!