Tecmo Koei may not be the biggest player in the game, but it frequently releases titles that gain a loyal following in the market they are targeting. Sometimes that market can be somewhat obscure. With several games based on Asian myths and history, like the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series, plus properties based on existing Japanese properties, like the new Fist of a North Star game, Tecmo Koei may not be a publisher you are familiar with, but those that are eagerly await each new installment of its properties.
At E3 this year, Tecmo Koei may not have had the biggest booth. They may not have had the flashiest games that stole the show. What they do have are some satisfying games that will appeal to certain fans, and could win over others if they can convince them to try them out.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
If you are big into playing imports, this may be an old game to you. Originally released in June of 2009 in Japan, this RPG is the 11th game in the Atelier series. While not well known in the States, this will be the sixth game in the series to be released in North America, and the first to be released for the PS3, although this game is not directly connected to the previous entries.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is an RPG that follows a young alchemist who is trying to save her workshop. In traditional Japanese fashion, many other impossibly young girls are looking to sabotage her in adorable and bubbly ways. If you have ever watched anime, you will understand and recognize the Japanese archetypes. If you haven’t you will wonder what the hell is going on. This game is not for everyone.
For those that are willing to give it a try, the first thing you will notice is the graphics that look as close to an actual anime as the current level of console technology can possibly generate. It is amazing visually, and anime fans will love it. As for the game, it is an RPG in the most traditional Japanese style. The turn-based combat is standard for the genre, and the alchemy system allows players to spend countless hours mixing various ingredients to create new items. The game looks amazing, and fans of the genre will flock to it.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
(PS3, Xbox 360)
For many fans of anime, the Fist of the North Star series is a classic piece of animation that introduced many Americans to the genre. The story takes place in a nuclear ravaged, post-apocalyptic world where several fighters with superhuman powers roam the land. The main protagonist is Kenshiro, the successor of the assassination art known as Hokuto Shinke, or The Divine Fist of the North Star, and the savior of the wasteland. Basically, Kenshiro punches people and they explode.
The story of the Fist of the North Star has spread over numerous mediums since its origin as a strip comic in 1983. The game sticks to the original source material, and follows Kenshiro as he fights for the right to be the official successor to the Fist of the North Star style, culminating with a battle against Kenshiro’s primary rival, Raoh.
The game uses the Dynasty Warriors engine, which means that you will be facing off against hundreds of enemies all ready and willing to attack your fists and feet with their faces. It is not an extremely deep game style, but it can be satisfying. To summarize the gameplay: you are attacked by dozens of people as you progress through linear levels, and you beat the crap out of all of them. Sometimes causing them to explode. If you enjoyed the anime, and are a fan of the Dynasty Warriors style of game, this title could be for you. Originally released in Japan in March, the American port comes to North America sometime this fall.
(PS3, Xbox 360)
An original IP from Tecmo Koei, Quantum Theory is a third-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world where only a handful of humans have survived. The survivors live in the “Cocoon”, but a living material called Erosion is infecting everything it touches, and eventually forms a living tower that the heroes must destroy.
The game is a third-person shooter that plays in a very similar way to Gears of War, and it evens looks similar. You control Syd, while the AI controls a female partner named Fillena. The combat system relies heavily on cover, and the two heroes can combine attacks for powerful combos.
One of the more interesting and fun additions to the gameplay is that Syd can throw Fillena at the enemy. You just pick her up and chuck her into combat. It rarely gets old. Fans of the Gears of War series should feel right at home, and gamers hoping to try out something new should keep an eye on this game when it is released in fall.
Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll
Although Western gamers most likely have not heard of Zill O’ll, it is huge in Japan. The original game was a Japanese-only release, and while Trinity might appeal more to fans of the series, the game acts as a prequel, and should be able to win fans on its own merits.
The non-linear game follows three heroes as they go on a quest based on a prophecy that states a king will die at the hands of his own offspring. Set in a sword and sorcery world, you play as three characters: a warrior, a swordsman/sorcerer, and an assassin. Throughout the game, you can freely shift between them during game play, while the AI controls the remaining two. With upgrades and unlockables, Trinity combines a third-person adventure game with RPG elements.
One thing that stands out in this game is the look. At first glance the image might seem a bit blurry, but that is intentional. The art in the game is designed to replicate an oil painting, which sets this game apart. If you are looking for an adventure game with a fresh look, keep an eye out for this game when it is released later this year.
Of all the Tecmo Koei games, this is the one that will be on shelves the soonest. Originally a Japanese only game, the PS3 will soon receive this extremely Japanese RPG. Although they share a similar title, this game is not related to Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll, but it does have characters that appear in the Atelier series, as well as the Disgaea game series, another Japanese RPG series that received a limited, but successful release in North America.
This RPG features a colorful cast of characters, and uses a battle system which chains attacks for huge damage. The story is humorous, and the graphics follow an anime style that will appeal to fans, but might turn off others as the bulk of the dialogue takes place in windows with the characters talking back and forth. It is a very traditional way of playing a Japanese RPG, but one that might deter western fans.
If you are looking for an RPG that breaks away from the mold of western RGS like Fallout 3, or one that doesn’t have as serious of a tone as Final Fantasy, this game might be for you.
Warriors: Legends of Troy
(PS3, Xbox 360)
Taking the Dynasty Warriors franchise in another new direction, Warriors: Legends of Troy will bring the series back in time to the Trojan War, and follow the ten-year war from the points of view of both Greek and Trojan soldiers of legend. The names should be familiar, with playable characters like Achilles, Odysseus, and Hektor, and the gameplay mechanics should immediately feel familiar to anyone that has played the Dynasty Warriors, or Samurai Warriors series.
The story will combine elements of the traditional hack-and-slash that will have players square off against dozens of enemies at a time. But a mythological element will add a new level to the game, as the gods will send avatars to fight you, including giant statues and mythological beasts.
Where the Dynasty Warriors series helped introduce the incredibly massively popular Asian epic of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms to some western gamers, Warriors: Legends of Troy might do the same thing for Homer’s epic story of the Trojan War. The game is due out in November of this year.
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