It’s not often you get invited to a video game event at a whiskey distillery, so when that opportunity presents itself, it’s not something you turn your nose up at. A little while ago, Bandai Namco were kind enough to host just such an event in just such a place and I can confirm that not only was I in attendance, but also that the Jameson distillery in Smithfield is still infinitely superior to the Guinness Storehouse in just about every way. If only more tourists knew.
My sightseeing preferences aside, all that whiskey and ambience did little else but serve as an appropriate backdrop for the folks from Bandai Namco UK to show off their upcoming releases, as well as their plans for the comparatively distant future. I’m happy to report that not only does that future look good, it looks impressively diverse.
The show kicked off with a trailer for recent Dark Souls II DLC, The Lost Crowns, which the team promised was “even more difficult than the game”, killing what little interest I may have had stone dead while drawing excited mutterings of approval from just about everyone else. I don’t know much about the Souls games, apart from the fact that they’re supposedly masochistic beyond all rational belief, but from what I saw on the screen and heard from the audience, if they are your thing, The Lost Crowns will be too.
Following on from that were trailers for Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution and Dragonball Xenoverse, both of which looked equal parts awesome and incomprehensible. Although Dragonball, coming for PS4 and Xbox One, doesn’t have a release date yet and is probably the more eagerly anticipated of the two, Naruto fans only have to wait until September 12th for Ultimate Ninja Storm to arrive on these shores for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Next up was Bandai Namco’s answer to Final Fantasy. Tales of…, and boy was there a lot to talk about there. The lads took the opportunity to remind us all that Tales of Graces f and Tales of Xillia were actually quite good before unveiling a brand new trailer for Tales of Xillia 2, which is set to drop on August 22nd for PS3.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also got a brief, but ever so tantalizing, glimpse at Tales of Hearts R, a PS Vita exclusive of all bloody things, and something the system sorely needs at this point in its miserable, underused life. Before moving on from Tales…, we were shown a logo for something called Tales of Zestiria which is apparently coming in 2015 for PS3 and will be released simultaneously all over the world. Unfortunately that’s literally all we were told so there’s not really much else to say about it. The logo looked nice. And Zestiria sounds like a place where they grow zesty oranges. So I’m already sold.
Almost as if they were afraid of alienating the non-Japanophiles in the audience at this point, Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom and Fallen Skies showed up to reel them all back in, but in a somewhat counter-productive move, what followed was a charming 10 minute presentation on Pacman that unfortunately went on for 30 minutes. To summarize; Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2 comes out in October.
And then we got to the real meat of the evening. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was presented via a demonstration captured live from a dev kit (the same demo we saw at E3), with commentary from a developer at CD Projekt Red. It’s undeniably impressive and genuinely looks like it’s going to give Skyrim a run for it’s money in just about every way you could think of. Unless you’re particularly partial to that dragon language, which they probably won’t be able to use for legal reasons. The lads were also keen to point out that there won’t be any limited/collector editions of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as the standard edition will come jam packed with extra stuff when it arrives for PS4, Xbox One and PC in February 2015.
To close the evening we were treated to a whole heap of trailers for upcoming driving/racing simulator, Project CARS from Slightly Mad Studios. And when I say ‘whole heap’, I mean like, at least 3. Possibly 4. I stopped counting after 3. Thankfully, Project CARS does seem genuinely intriguing. Developed with input from professional racers and fans of racing games, Slightly Mad look set to dominate this particular market by just doing everything at once. Want your car to handle like the cars in Gran Turismo? No problem. Prefer Forza? Whatever you want. The customization options promise to be like nothing racing fans have ever seen before. Add to that the fact that Project CARS will fully support VR headsets when it arrives on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U (yes, you read that correctly) and PC and you’ve got a recipe for a game changer.
Bandai Namco are in a pretty interesting position; in that they’re essentially in every position all at once. There was literally something for everyone at this event (I didn’t even talk about the Disney Channel stuff. Yes there was Disney Channel stuff) and it’s hard to see how having such a wide reach could fail to work in their favor. And let’s not forget the most important thing to take away from all this; the Vita is getting a god damn Tales… game. I’m calling that a win before it even leaves the track.