If this generation of console hardware were a pool party, Koei Tecmo would be the guy taking his sweet time wading into the water — just sort of hanging out in the shallow end, barely allowing the water line to go over his knee caps, promising to dunk his head in once his body gets use to the water.
And that’s fine. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 still have a heavy install base that is worth catering to.
It isn’t that the publisher is not courting the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One either, but out of the five first-quarter titles that were shown at a Koei Tecmo press event last week, four of them are updates to last generation games (and the one that isn’t is a PlayStation 3 title). There’s nothing wrong about any of this, but I’m left playing a lot of what if’s in my brain during the train ride home. The armchair publishing strategist in me asks: Why is Koei Tecmo taking baby steps towards the current generation?
Developer: ω-Force (“Omega”-Force)
Platforms: PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Let’s not bullshit ourselves here. The Toukiden franchise is Koei Tecmo’s take on the Monster Hunter series. Hell, even company big wig Hisashi Koinuma admitted as much last year.
At the same time, let’s not be completely jaded about this either. Omega Force isn’t just half-assing out a cheap copy and paste job with Toukiden. Toukiden: The Age of Demons’ success in Japan is a good indication of that. Still, the concepts are very similar:
Players form a party of four characters, each with their own special set of weapons and abilities, who must hunt down large and powerful Oni (A type of demon in Japanese folklore). Oni battles are played out like a cooperative boss fight where beasts are torn apart limb from limb. Cutting off an arm here and a leg there isn’t the end of the job. Players need to pray for the cursed appendage, exorcising the evil from it, before the limb regenerates.
Toukiden: Kiwami isn’t a full-blown sequel of The Age of Demons; it’s more of an update. The first eight chapters are essentially the original campaign in The Age of Demons, which include everything that appeared in that game (weapons, characters, etc.). In fact, if you played through The Age of Demons, you can skip ahead to the newest chapters of Kiwami with your old save data.
What Kiwami does bring is an additional set of missions, weapons, characters, and creatures. Co-op mode is also expanded to be cross-platform and cross-region. Obviously, a PlayStation 4 version was added as well, based off of popular demand from western audiences. Nice to know Omega Force is listening.
Developer: ω-Force (“Omega”-Force)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PlayStation 3 (digital)
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Like Toukiden: Kiwami, BladeStorm: Nightmare is an updated re-release of 2007’s BladeStorm: The Hundred Years’ War. Wait…2007? A game coming out five years later is the game industry equivalent of the Hundred Years’ wait.
For those that can’t remember the games of 2012, let alone 2007, the original BladeStorm is set during the actual Hundred Years’ War. This is when the English and the French waged a long and bloody campaign against each other during the 14th and 15th centuries. Players create a mercenary and choose a side in the conflict. From there, the mercenary can build up units of troops and ride with them into battle, micro-managing their pillage or defense of the French countryside. It’s the sort of “eyes on the ground,” real world strategy/combat hybrid that Omega Force is famous for.
As with all Koei Tecmo historical titles, it is not meant to be taken as an accurate simulation of actual events. Any game containing a scenario where you can rescue Joan of Arc from her real-life burning at the stake is likely going to be suspect to history buffs.
That…and Nightmare’s inclusion of dragons.
Where the original BladeStorm: The Hundred Years’ War content ends, the new Nightmare based campaigns begin. Joan of Arc has gone all Joan of Dark on everybody and is leading a horde of demonic creatures across the land. The mercenaries from both the English and French armies decide to conveniently set aside their differences and forget their century-long impaling contest in order to fight this invading army of fantasy creatures.
As with Toukiden: Kiwami, veterans of BladeStorm: The Hundred years’ War don’t have to replay all of the original content to get to the Nightmare scenarios. It was hinted that it was possible to bring your old Hundred Years’ War save data over to Nightmare as well. Although I imagine the how of this procedure may be platform specific.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dark Sea
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dark Sea was the one title at the event I did not get to hear very much of, which is a shame because it’s the one title that is a full-blown release instead of an update. I’m also a sucker for art direction that can competently handle cel-shading, the shader tech that makes 3D objects look hand drawn. So my eyes kept inadvertently darting over to the flatscreen looping an Atelier Shallie gameplay trailer while trying to hold a conversation with Koei Tecmo staff.
The gist of Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dark Sea’s narrative revolves around the inhabitants of a mythical land that is hit with a major drought (not California). Two budding alchemists, Shellistera and Shallotte Eliminus, deal with the environmental catastrophe in their own ways.
Shallistera, concerned for the well being of her town, attempts to go at the monumental problem head on.
Shallote Elminus, on the other hand, is more concerned with the struggles of every day life. Both characters are playable and offer the audience a different perspective on the troubles plaguing their world.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dark Sea is the 24th entry in Gust’s long running JRPG series. That’s an impressive turnover rate for a franchise that started in 1997. Japanese literate Atelier fans likely have the jump on everyone else with Alchemists of the Dark Sea, seeing as Japan received this chapter this past summer.
Whether this release is simply a standard localization or if it contains any additional content is not clear at the moment. Koei Tecmo did announce a DLC bonus for pre-ordering through GameStop, in the form of three costumes and some music, but it isn’t clear to me if that is truly new content or material from the Japanese release.
Regardless, expect more coverage as we approach the March release date. More than one editor is trying to give this disc a spin.
How’s the water now?
The other two games from the event, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round and Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, release within the week (or in the case of Dead or Alive, yesterday). They round out four out of five Koei Tecmo first quarter titles that are content updates for current generation machines, as opposed to brand new titles from the ground up.
Although we have a developer like Team Ninja, who have alternative reasons for releasing an update other than pleasing the mother ship (pushing Dead or Alive as a legit competitive title) — the overall sense I get is of a publisher that only wanted quick turnaround products for this time of year.
Koei Tecmo’s wading the shallow end makes me wonder if it’s just being cautious about this generation or if they don’t have a big project that is centric to current hardware.