Namco Bandai Games held its first annual “Ignite” press event Wednesday to announce its upcoming game line-up for 2011 and beyond.
The Temple Night Club in downtown San Francisco filled with reporters and game bloggers from around the world as the company presented multiple presentations for a list of titles spread across all gaming platforms.
Using teaser trailers and occasional glimpses at gameplay models still in beta for some franchises, Namco Bandai executives and producers spoke at length (occasionally in Japanese via interpreter) about the companies entire catalog.
The theme of the day was new partnerships as Namco Bandai celebrated deals with Tokyo-based FromSoftware and Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise. FromSoftware unveiled two new titles resulting from the coop with Armored Core 5 and Dark Souls. Namco Bandai will published each title in the U.S.
Armored Core 5 provides more mayhem with the all-out tank and mech action adventure shooter adding visual detail and and new combat units. The sneak preview unveiled cut scenes that looked indistinguishable from live action and hyperactive game play with enough gunfire and explosions to send reverberations through a viewer’s chest cavity.
Core 5 features an interesting wrinkle as it encourages team building online for network play so those groups can present challenges to rival teams. Once designed, custom territories can be served up from one team to another to serve as more challenging missions. The game should arrive by early 2012.
Dark Souls is a third person action fantasy game packing all of the traditional bangs and whistles, including castles, dragons, undead warriors, enchanted forests, underworld hell holes, armored knights, magic, disguised threats, etc. But, the game’s designers (the same team that created Demon Souls) pride themselves on providing endless ways to die and making sure the various levels deny players safe places to hide.
Combining tactical sword play with richly designed, highly explorable levels, the game will be available for the holidays, 2011.
While not stealing FromSoftware’s thunder, Namco Bandai unveiled a new edition of its own, 15-year-old action franchise with the new Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. The trailer and very brief gameplay snippet showed a hyperkinetic myriad of missiles and impacts that could cause an epileptic to stick a wallet under his tongue.
Inversion is an inspired third person shooter using gravity control and manipulation as a manageable gameplay element. It’s a console combat game played in 360 degree – forcing you to shoot literally on the fly if you’re stranded in open space. But, players have to wait a full year to try it with its release date of February, 2012.
Another major theme for Namco Bandai this year is an all-out effort to spread its titles across all available consoles and platforms – including PS3 Xbox360, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, 3DS, iPad, iPhone and (starting this year) devices running the Android OS.
The first games enjoying this widespread distribution will be the redesigns and rebirths of the company’s most famous arcade titles. This year will see Pac-man Championship Edition DX for major consoles and 2010’s Pac-man Party for handheld devices. Finally, both Pac-man and Galaga (which turns 30 this year) will evolve for Namco Bandai’s Dimensions line.
Nintendo Wii, DS, 3DS and smart phones will feature mental agility games in 2011, including Flex Your Brain, Brain Exercise 3 and Body and Brain Connection.
The delayed 3DS will play a big part in Namco Bandai’s year as the company will release multiple titles for the system in time for its premiere in stores. The anime heroine Reiko will return in 3D with Ridge-racer Unbound when it arrives in late March. Ridge-racer HD will also be in stores for the consoles.
A line of more traditional 3D exploiting games for the 3DS is also en route, including sports participatory games like Dual Pen Sports 3D.
Anime fans can also look forward to Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 in Summer, 2011. Namco Bandai executives report that 50,000 fan requests from the U.S. begged the company to bring by fans to bring Tales of Graces F – the anime RPG – to the US market. Those fans will get their wish in late 2011, though there’s no word yet as to which platforms will welcome the title.
The rest of the announcements at the day-long event were left to Namco Bandai’s major franchise deals. The costumed Power Rangers were in attendance to announce a new TV series, Power Rangers: Samurai (coming to Nickelodeon and Nicktoons in 2011). Both the game publisher and Power Ranger parent company Saban announced a cross-promoted, transmedia campaign of new games and toys to promote the show.
And, if you want to dazzle your friends with some shocking trivia, ask them what television series produced the most episodes in history. It’s Power Rangers with more than 750 original episodes.
It was a surreal jump from costumed martial arts against rubber monsters to costumed wrestling against wooden actors in the new smartphone and tablet computer title, TNA Impact Wrestling. All of that promotions’ stars will be included in the touchpad sports combat simulator.
Lest tradition be ignored and everyone forget that both Namco and Bandai emerged into our collective consciousness with stand-up arcade titles, the company will release Tekken 6 for the coin-op market in 2011, keeping that art form alive.