5. Bleach Versus Crusade
Treasure / Sega, Wii
Treasure are — indisputably! — the greatest minds behind action gaming. Their Bangai-Oh Spirits is perhaps the best game of 2008, and their recent Bleach fighting games on the Nintendo DS have been a joy. Sega recently capitalized on the success of Treasure’s Bleach games by releasing a limp RPG with the same subtitle followed by a “3”. That kind of hurt fans of the Treasure entries, because they’re just so great and the world needs more great stuff. Also, a lot of us were playing those games because of Treasure’s game design expertise, not because of the story. I honestly don’t know who any of the characters are. All is forgiven now that we know Treasure were working on a Bleach fighting game for the Wii all along. And it’s great! It’s 3D, it’s constantly in motion, and there are a bit too many things that you can do — switch to a team member, assist attacks, parries, super-moves. A Sega booth staff member encouraged me to skip the tutorial. I didn’t listen to him: once you know where the game’s coming from, it’s really tight and excellent. The weight and gravity of a Treasure gameplay experience are certainly present. Of all the character-driven 3D fighting games shown at TGS — Dissidia, Castlevania Judgment — this one was certainly the best, if not the hardest one to imagine playing multiplayer.
4. King of Fighters 12
King of Fighters 12’s very existence is precious, gorgeous, and perhaps several other adjectives that end in “ous”. 2008 is being called the “year the fighting game came back”, though for many of us, fighting games never actually went anywhere: we’ve been playing Street Fighter III and Virtua Fighter all along. King of Fighters 12 has some delicious hi-res 2D graphics, some adorable backgrounds with copious attention to detail, and all the classic game mechanics that series fans love. King of Fighters has always been something of an alternative to Street Fighter, preferred by fans who find themselves — uhm, let’s just say “more competent”. With the Street Fighter IV producer claiming that his team took the entire King of Fighters series into consideration when crafting their new game, it’s safe to say that maybe, just maybe, King of Fighters’ time has come. After playing the game, love it as I did, I was very easily convinced that this new game will not convert any casual gamers into hardcore fighting fans — though it might pick up some of the Street Fighter IV runoff, and/or attract plenty of posers who will claim King of Fighter 12 is better than Street Fighter IV without playing either one. I’m not being negative, oh no: posers attract business.
3. Monster Hunter 3
Monster Hunter 3 is going to sell lots of copies in Japan. Morbid bucketloads of copies. It’s going to be, quite frankly, kind of sick. I will not, however, let this stop me from complaining about it: it plays and looks exactly like the PSP versions, the interface is still clunky as hell, and the motion controls feel jerky at best. Basically, you swing the remote to pull out your weapon, and varying levels of attack are activated by holding the controller at a specific angle while pressing a button. I’ve praised Monster Hunter over the years because of the scary-deep level of potential I glimpse on its surface, though Capcom is now treating it the way Koei treats Dynasty Warriors, and I’m afraid it’s officially up to other developers (Sega, et al) to pick up on the virtues of this kind of game design. I mean, it’s Monster Hunter where the only local multiplayer requires you to share a screen, and it’s a Wii game with projectile weapons that you have to aim with the analog stick. I mean, seriously. Either way: hooray for money.
2. Ryu ga Gotoku (Yakuza) 3
Ryu ga Gotoku 3 is coming, and it’s going to beat everyone’s face in. It’s big, and properly budgeted. It looks like Sega — in general — is finally willing to put a little more money into their games, finally ready to step up and be all that they can be, and their stellar presence at this year’s Tokyo Game Show communicated that effectively.
1. Biohazard 5
Capcom, 360 / PS3
I played this on the show floor, and man, it felt just like Resident Evil 4 with much shinier graphics. Then I played it two-player co-op. The rule is that everything is better with a friend, and shinier Resident Evil 4 with a friend is better than probably anything released since, uhh, Resident Evil 4. If the trailer is any indication, the story will be trashy nonsense, and I certainly won’t care about any of the characters or be surprised by any plot developments. Also, the voice-acting sounds completely awful, with weird over-accentuations and stilted delivery. If this is a “throwback” to the way games “used to be”, I can only sigh. If it’s unintentional, I cannot apologize: with all the money they’re spending on the graphics, you figure they’d budget more than $5,000 total for voice acting and script writing. If the dialogue were just a tiny bit snappier . . . ahh, I won’t even bother. It’s trying to be a big dumb B-movie of a game, and it’s succeeding, which I suppose is a lot more applaudable than trying to be literature and ending up Metal Gear Solid 4.