TGS 2018 late takes: Devil May Cry 5, Jump Force, Kill la Kill the Game: IF, Kingdom Hearts III, Project Judge, and Resident Evil 2

About a month late, but still takes at least.

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

Nearly a month ago now, I hopped over to the Makuhari Messe in Chiba to attend Tokyo Game Show 2018 and played a bunch of upcoming games. There were a ton of hiccups in getting these out as timely previews, which I apologize for. Fighting games had a big presence with Dead or Alive 6, Soulcalibur VI, Jump Force, and Kill la Kill the Game: IF. However, the big stars were Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2, Project Judge, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Due to lines filling up within seconds of the event opening, I unfortunately did not get a chance to play Sekiro.

Here are my late takes on what I was able to get my hands on:

Devil May Cry 5

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

The only Devil May Cry games I have ever played are Devil May Cry 4, which I completed 100 percent and on every difficulty, and very recently Ninja Theory’s DmC Devil May Cry, which many compare to the upcoming Devil May Cry 5 and I stopped playing a few levels before the final boss. Although director Hideaki Itsuno has said he wanted to follow Ninja Theory’s game, Devil May Cry 5 immediately feels like a much more polished and entertaining game. The writing and voice acting seen thus far are with a doubt of much higher quality. The graphics are also visually stunning while maintaining a very smooth and fast frame-rate that I can only assume is 60 because of how well it runs.

The linear level design may be a factor in why the game can look and run so good, but despite DmC being similarly linear Devil May Cry 5‘s levels feel better and more alive. The small but effective world-building and lack of bland demon world are a huge reason why, as is the lack of peculiar platforming and grappling mechanics that were so prominent in DmC Devil May Cry. Level variety also helps, as you traverse through places like the city center with shops and cars, through a restaurant, an outdoor cafe, back alleys, and eventually a church.

Movement has momentum, taking a step to get to full speed, then a half-second to stop, while turning 180 degrees while running causes Nero to do a little slide and have to regain that momentum. It is fast enough to not impede or annoy you, but just enough to feel very natural right out of the gate. Running straight for long enough automatically transitions Nero into a faster sprint. Attacks also feel like they have inertia and weight to them rather than a pre-set mini-cutscene, making combat very satisfying.

While Dante will obviously play differently from Nero, the control scheme from DmC Devil May Cry where you hold L2 or R2 to use the special angel / demon powers is gone, and there is no sign of having to slice up any blue webs to proceed. There were, however, some odd “Niddhog Hatchlings” that I had to take from one garbled mess of flesh to another in order to proceed.

I am far from qualified to break down the combat of Devil May Cry games, and in my 15 minute demo I certainly did not have time to master the controls and combos. You can lock-on, charge your pistol, rev the sword to increase attack capability, dodge, block, grab, and launch enemies into the air. It almost felt like there were less attack or combo options than Devil May Cry 4‘s Nero, but considering I was able to do enough without knowing all the intricacies and did not completely eviscerate the enemies, I firmly believe there is much more to combat than what I was able to do.

The boss with the giant talking demon from the E3 trailer was a fun battle, changing locations from the street, to the rooftop of a church, and smashing down to its interior. Inside the church there were pillars and pews he or Nero could destroy. I was eventually defeated in the church, ending my demo. My death did not feel unfair and the boss felt neither too difficult or too easy. I was eager to further practice combos and take him on again.

The graphics, animation, and lighting are all fantastic. Nero’s jacket flaps around and lighting/shadows make every room burst to life. Sound design is also superb, lending oomf to large smashes and sword strikes, ans the strong motorcycle-like rev of the Red Queen sword seduces you into using it more. Everything feels impactful and exciting in Devil May Cry 5.

Jump Force

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

After playing Kill la Kill (see below), Jump Force felt familiar with its 3D arena fighting. The demo at Tokyo Game Show featured only player-versus-computer mode. Instead of 2D art, the characters are rendered in 3D with an art style that does a great job of capturing the spirit of each of its franchises despite visual differences in their respective works. Gameplay and cutscenes alike run very smoothly with little, if any, frame drops.

Like other popular fighting games, you choose a team of three characters who can be changed during battle at will. Each fighter has unique attacks and abilities specific to their character which helps each of them feel distinct from one another. However, this does not create a sense of imbalance, or if there is one it is not very apparent.

A good amount of thought has gone into roughly equating the power of certain attacks from the different franchises and mapping them to the same input. Of course super-level moves like Goku’s Spirit Bomb and the Bankai of Bleach characters are naturally of similar power (if not the same, I could not measure the health bar). But a normal special attack being a Freiza Death Beam or a Getsuga Tenshou from Ichigo feels fair, from the perspective of fans who like Superman-versus-Goku arguments.

Attack inputs are neither overly complicated nor overly simple. Jumping in and playing with no tutorials or practice is very possible, but a sense of a higher skill ceiling coupled with cooler and more powerful moves being slightly more difficult to pull off is a natural encouragement for players to improve and master the game.

Stages featuring famous locations from several series are very well represented with objects that move and break, but there aren’t so many to get in the way. The high detail of the levels, objects in and outside the playable areas, including tall grass on Namek, make Jump Force a beautiful game to look at. The characters and attack effects all look both amazing and true to their source. Best of all, despite all the fast-paced combat with particle effects and physical stage objects flying all over the place, there is no noticeable hit to frame rate.

The only potential problem with the speed of the gameplay is that sometimes the camera cannot keep up. It was never bad enough to become a problem or put me at a disadvantage while playing, but there were times where the characters would fly out of range of the camera and it would take a second or two to adjust.

It would be nice to have more costumes and there is likely no way Bandai Namco can afford to make as many characters to satisfy everyone, but extremely solid and most importantly fun gameplay should be enough to make up for it.

Kill la Kill the Game: IF

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
  • Publisher: Arc System Works
  • Developer: APlus Games

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

The Kill la Kill the Game: IF playable demo at Tokyo Game Show featured only player-versus-player fighting. None of the story mode or cutscenes were shown. *I played with the booth staff after being told not to play, film, or photograph and mirror matches (both players choosing the same character).* The only apparent reason to me is that there were no alternate colors or costumes in the playable demo.

In my last fight, the booth staff tried to dissuade me from picking Uzu Sanageyama, explaining his defense (as well as Ira Gamagoori’s) is very high. After asking, they explicitly told me the characters are not balanced. Rather, characters have stronger offensive capabilities, defense, and the like compared to others.

The art is faithful to the show and looks as good as publicly released images and videos. However, the gameplay is far from smooth. Without being a technical expert, it is difficult for me to pinpoint where it is low frame rate, incomplete animations, or a combination of both. The frame rate does occasionally drop, especially during pre-match fighter introductions. Perhaps saved for the main story or finished product, none of the iconic tracks from the anime’s original soundtrack were present during the fights such as “Don’t Lose Your Way” or the theme songs of any of the characters.

Stages have some backgrounds / sky boxes to reflect some of the famous battle locations from the show, such as the arena where Ryuko challenges the Three-Star Elite Four members. The playable area for each stage was a flat, invisible box with no verticality whatsoever and no interactable or destructible objects in the arena. The only difference was the background art.

Both players control their characters on a single screen as opposed to a split-screen, with freedom to run about the arena similar to Pokken Tournament. Many attacks have a strong knock-back, sending the opponent flying far away resulting in the need to run and perform distance-closing attacks often, whereas Pokken Tournament had less knock-back keeping the fighters closer together. It would not be unreasonable to speculate the reason for this is to make the fights resemble the high-flying, chaotic action of the show, even if the combat itself is not particularly deep.

The skill ceiling felt as close as the invisible ceiling above the arena. Special systems from other series, such as countering or just-guarding, are not present. There is no lock-on, as any attacks the player performs automatically launch towards the opponent. Combos and special moves are as advertised: very easy to input, requiring no more than pressing two buttons at the same time. This includes the special Ketsui Testament, which is available after you have enough Ketsui meter to engage in an animated clash where a rock-paper-scissors battle occurs. The winner will see their Ketsui level raise. Once high enough, one can perform an instant kill move, but neither I nor the booth staff I faced achieved this during our play.

Kill la Kill the Game: IF is developed by Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time developer APlus Games rather than Arc System Works and it shows. It expectedly does not have the budget or resources that a larger franchise like Dragon Ball would get, nor is it designed to be a competitive game with deep mechanics. Rather, it is intended for fans of the anime to enjoy playing as their favorite characters, which I believe it does a fine job at.

Kingdom Hearts III

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Developer: Square Enix

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

After posing with a life-size Keyblade for photos, one could line up and finally get their hands on the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III at Tokyo Game Show. Two sections were available for play: a cinematic battle versus the Rock Titan in Olympus Coliseum and the Toy Story world, Toy Box, in its seeming entirety. I played both after having mostly avoiding all Kingdom Hearts III gameplay footage.

The smooth-textured design of the characters, enemies, and environments is improved over earlier looks at the game, but requires a little getting used to. There is a weird feeling or sense that something is missing, similar to watching the recent trailers that have no sound effects (even if that is a stylistic choice). The frame rate is smooth regardless of how many particle effects or enemies are on screen though.

Playing the Rock Titan first makes it clear this is a big departure from the past games. This is very likely not the entirely of Olympus Coliseum’s explorable world, but the playable area is a very linear area designed to only for the Rock Titan fight seemingly. You begin at the bottom of a rock face with some basic heartless. Then the oddest feature of the demo shows itself: running up walls. The flat rock face shimmers with an obvious white light that tells the player it is interactable in some way.

Running or jumping into it with no additional button input transitions Sora on to the wall where he begins running straight up. Letting go of the left analog stick will result in Sora falling, so it must be continuously held in the up direction. Boulders tossed by the Rock Titan fall down the face of the wall, forcing Sora to move to his left or right to dodge them. Very little lateral movement is possible, certainly not enough to dodge a boulder, without having Sora make a very hard and abrupt 90 degree turn to his left or right and then continuing up from there. The boulders were too large to attack so I simply took damage when I tried.

Running up the wall feels extremely awkward. There isn’t enough control and not not enough danger to be worth it. Moving to the left or right on an auto-scrolling segment to avoid walls or some other danger is very trite, and the boulders are slow and deal little damage. It’s a clear attempt to make the encounter more cinematic and exciting, but slows gameplay to a screeching halt.

The flat areas where you fight heartless are serviceable. Kingdom Hearts has rarely made complex levels, but here there were a few invisible walls jutting a noticeable distance out from wall textures. Aside from the Rock Titan itself, this linear rocky terrain offers no world or Hercules-specific imagery or theming, and instead feels a bit like a generic wasteland. This compared with the much more intricate Toy Box makes it highly probable this is an area unique to the boss as a special challenge or cup for the Olympus Coliseum.

Upon reaching the Rock Titan you must first strike his feet until its HP gauges hit zero and he falls on his tush, like the first Kingdom Hearts. Instead of manually platforming to his heads as in the first game, you must use the auto-run feature like with the walls. Large, garish sparkles appear at various parts of the titan where you must hold up on the left analog stick to automatically ascend to his heads where you can continue to attack. Rather than run though, Sora glows and magically flips and twirls his way up, perhaps as a response to the negative feedback regarding the original Kingdom Hearts‘s platforming. Personally I preferred hopping up the titan myself instead of being directed with flashy lights and automatically lifted in a magical bubble. The fact these sparkles and Sora’s animation floating up the titan exist suggest this will be reused in other fights. Hopefully not.

At the top you continue whacking away, which leads to a prompt to activate the Big Magic Mountain sequence. Sora, Donald, and Goofy hop into a Disney World-inspired train ride that flies around the titan on a per-determined path while you shoot with R1 and do the finishing attack with triangle. It is reminiscent of the Hydra fight from Kingdom Hearts II where Sora eventually rides Pegasus around slicing at the beast. It is very beautiful and makes for a great action sequence, but as we have seen this used in other places in trailer it appears to be a move that will be reused in multiple locations. The Pegasus sequence versus the Hydra was more of a special moment considering it was world-specific.

Toy Box played out more like a traditional Kingdom Hearts world with loading screens separating playable areas roughly the same size as areas in Kingdom Hearts II. NPCs like Woody and Buzz are present and can be talked to with triangle, a small point but one very familiar to long-time fans. Andy’s Room and the toy store are great recreations that are delightful to look at and explore.

To my surprise, many walls were flashing with the white light I saw in the Rock Titan fight. Even shorter walls such as a the white fence door outside are climbable, or “auto-run-able.” Some may find some use or fun out of the ability to run up many walls this way, but I can’t help but feel its serves little more than a distraction or attempt to add as many features as possible. The shimmering white light on walls is annoying and hurts immersion a bit.

The poor control when running up is serviceable when running up a long distance such as with the rock titan battle, but for a short distance and without the camera changing to be behind Sora it just feels awkward and useless. Flow-motion does not return from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, so it could be speculated this is an attempt to keep some of that movement. While I cannot confirm this, I would think this auto-run feature will be needed to reach higher areas, further taking away from the already minor platforming elements of the series. If it is not an unlockable skill like Glide, it will make high jump moot if it is included at all.

Basic combat is very familiar to the rest of the series. You have the menu controlled by the d-pad (on PlayStation 4) where you can select Attack, Magic, Item, or “Link.” Magic shortcuts can be assigned as usual. Physical attack combos both on ground and in the air feel a bit short, while there seems to be an overabundance of special attacks. It was hard to keep up with all the prompts coming at me for teacup rides, enemy-specific reaction commands, drive forms, shot-lock attacks, and D-links. At least, these are what the different attacks seemed to be like, even if the names are different.

Knowing the series and other choices with the ways this game has been shown and demoed leads me to believe there are unlockable combo extenders and finishers like in Kingdom Hearts II but they are simply not unlocked in the demo, while on the other hand all the flashy special effects are seemingly constantly available for the sake of make good demos to show off. The abundance of them, their specific input styles, and the fast paced nature of the combat was too much for me to get used to and understand how each of them function exactly in the 15 minutes I played, where it seemed almost random. With slow build-up and clear understanding of how these are initiated and controlled I’m sure they will make for a fun and in-depth combat system.

At the toy store there are some toy robot enemies much larger than Sora that essentially requires operating one’s own toy robot. Attacking as normal Sora does chip damage at best, and I actually cannot say if a much higher level Sora would be able to take them down quicker or if the game would still push you to the toy robot. In the toy robot the game turns into a first-person shooter, and the robot has its own health bar which when depleted will destroy the robot but not necessarily kill Sora. This follows the trend of many other aspects of these demos, where it is yet another unique gameplay element that is good to show off to demonstrate gameplay variety, but it was not necessarily fun to use.

It is clear much of the design and work went into the traditional Kingdom Hearts combat, and that much less work went into this toy robot section. It functions fine, but I felt constrained inside the robot and just wanted to get out and use my Keyblade and magic, despite their relative ineffectiveness. Despite being typical non-boss enemies, these robots are considerably strong and take some time to defeat even when piloting a robot yourself (which seems to have rapidly depleting HP, requiring the use of multiple robots).

The art is new but really shines in Toy Box and likely will for the other worlds and their franchise-specific elements. Combat is fun as ever, if confusing with all its systems, though hopefully that will become clearer with longer playtime. The auto-run mechanic to go up walls and floating up the rock titan is very difficult to find any merit in, and piloting the toy robot seems a bit unnecessary, but the latter is more forgivable as it is one-off thing. I have some fear of the developers trying to put in to many set pieces and flashy elements as possible, getting in the way of the core gameplay. But I am hopeful.

Project Judge

  • Platform: PlayStation 4
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

Project Judge, or Judge Eyes: Shinigami no Yuigon as it is called in Japan, is a new intellectual property developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, who is known for the Yakuza series. Similar to the studio’s other projects, Project Judge is unsurprisingly is very similar to Yakuza in gameplay, presentation, storytelling, animation, and just about everything except the name and some investigation elements. Yakuza 0 is the only title I have fully played through from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, so I am unable to compare to any of its other titles.

The playable demo at Tokyo Game Show offered three gameplay options: a snippet of the main game, Drone Race, and VR Sugoroku (a dice-based game). The demo for the main game begins with our protagonist, Takayuki Yagami, in tattered clothing on a Kamurocho street seemingly undercover as a homeless man. Some rowdy street thugs provoke him into fighting and ditching his disguise (which went unused), much to the chagrin of his partner who is in contact via an earpiece. Facial detail, animations, and voice acting are all top notch, and the cinematography in both pre-rendered and unvoiced in-engine cutscenes are identical to Yakuza 0.

Also similar to Yakuza 0, you control Takayuki in third-person in a closed-off space and use different fighting styles. Familiar objects such as bicycles and street signs are positioned about waiting to be picked up and smashed into enemies. The speed of combat and timing required for landing combos and defending are not new.

After the fight, the main objective was to begin searching for a target, although some freedom is allowed to explore. Most areas were blocked off in the demo, but I was able to enter fast food restaurant. Food can be purchased, but I chose to cause havoc by sprinting into people and physics objects. Tables flip, chairs fly, customers freak, and I laugh. Although not accessible in the demo, there are Club Segas around which will likely contain classic Sega games inside, if not a UFO catcher or other mini-games.

Moving on with the story, you are stopped at an intersection of a street and alley to identify the target. You enter the first-person perspective and are given both a sketch of the target and a list of identifiable features to find the target. In this case, some of the options were the presence of a jacket, his hat, facial hair, and the location of the mole on his face. It is reminiscent of the “By the Book” mission in Grand Theft Auto V where you must use clues to identify and snipe a target at a party, but with less freedom and control.

If you suspect someone, you select them. Upon doing so, the game automatically runs down the checklist to see if it’s a match. If there is ever a mismatch, such as him not having a mole, it will fail and you’ll have to continue searching. There is no penalty for selecting the wrong person, making too many wrong choices, or using too much time. In addition, you can not select and analyze every NPC you see—the game will only let you choose from a small set of stationary suspects in your immediate vicinity (again, you’re in first person unable to move from where you are standing). This feature seems like it will be used throughout the game, but I cannot confirm one way or the other if the difficulty will increase or if there will be punishments for incorrect guesses.

When the target is spotted, you begin a tailing mission similar to Assassin’s Creed titles, or very much like the sections in Yakuza 0 where you must guide Makoto while avoiding goons. If the target turns around and looks at you for too long, a restart is required. Maybe Takayuki should not have ditched his disguise earlier. There is no minimum or maximum distance required as long as he is visible on the screen. If he is off-camera for whatever reason, a 10-second timer begins where he will be “lost” upon the timer reaching zero. To stay out of sight, you can manually use the third-person camera to your advantage and peak around the corners of buildings, or press a button to lock Takayuki into a hiding spot behind people or an object, or have him lean against something.

Once the target reaches his destination, a cutscene plays and you enter “Active Search Mode” where you must move the cursor over a suspicious spot and press R2 to investigate. The task at this point is to “find the drone.” Again in first-person perspective looking down a narrow way, there are only about three things you can “investigate,” including a cat. Naturally the drone is in the sky, which begins a cutscene upon checking. Following the cutscene and a scuffle, the game turns into Shenmue with a QTE-based chase sequence. Takayuki automatically runs on a set path while the player must make timed button presses to avoid people and other obstacles. Unlike Shenmue‘s chases, the player does retain minimal control, able to direct Takayuki to his left or right slightly. However, this has no purpose as you cannot avoid the obstacles manually by moving left or right.

You are automatically railroaded into the QTEs, even in situations where it seems easy to avoid. At one point there is a single man in the middle of a wide path who you would imagine would be easy to avoid by moving to the left or right. Instead, the player character is forced to the middle to perform a QTE to leap over the mans head. As expected, missing too many prompts results in the target escaping, forcing the player to redo the chase sequence. Even with a miss or two, the chase can be completely successfully.

After catching the target, another scuffle breaks out with a new fighting style available to try. More cutscenes end the story demo. Drone Race, on the other hand, is a simple mini-game where you fly a drone over the streets of Kamurocho, while VR Sugoroku is a dice-based game that does not actually require PlayStation VR despite the name that might imply it. Based on the real life game of Sugoroku and hosted by a cigar-smoking, dice-shaped cat who speaks in a Hiroshima dialect, VR Sugoroku is one of likely several mini-games to earn money.

Resident Evil 2

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom

TGS 2018 Hot Takes

Having only played Resident Evil 2 once a long time ago, and then watching a “Let’s Play” of it couple years ago, there is not a lot of comparison I can make between the upcoming remake and the original. I chose to play as Leon rather than Claire, where you begin the demo in the police station. Asked to see if the Brad easter egg was still in the game, I tried to leave and find the tunnel. I could explore a small gated area in front of the police station but was able to venture no further to confirm the easter egg’s existence.

Unlike the original, this remake features an over-the-shoulder third-person camera much like Resident Evil 4. Despite this, the horror atmosphere has been retained with excellent lighting and creepy ambiance rather than going more action-heavy. There are no tank controls—movement is smooth and easy—but slow enough to still create tension about escaping or trying to turn around in time. Lighting is fantastic, with great use of darkness, shadows, and flashlights. I may get flak for this, but as someone who never found the original Resident Evil 2 to be very frightening at all, this game is a big improvement.

The police station is a bit of a labyrinth full of puzzles and blocked passages. I cannot confirm how similar or different the puzzles and map layout are to the original, and I did not get to the end of the playable demo since I was looking for Brad and toying with puzzles I was not able to solve yet. However it seems to have a good logical sense of progression. Not so obtuse to confuse players, but not overly simple to the point of feel like a linear series of tedious errands.

Inventory management appears to be similar to Resident Evil 7 by assigning items to the four directional buttons and “combining” ammo or similar item manually. The iconic mini-puzzle of trying to turn and squeeze items into a grid is still gone.

Combat is simple and plays how one would expect. Aiming brings the camera in closer to Leon and Claire’s face where you can then line up a simple white reticule with where you wish to shoot without any auto-aiming.

Aside from the more modern over-the-shoulder perspective and inventory system this plays and feels exactly like a Resident Evil game, right down to picking up notes and watching cutscenes of people being eaten.

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