This year Bandai Namco brought an awesome variety of games to the E3 show floor, from souls like games like Code Vein, to beat-em-ups based on anime favorites like the newly announced Jump Force to story games based on the popular anime MY Hero Academia, and of course the next entry in the great weapon fighter Soul Caliber. I got to play them all in a one-hour love fest with one of my favorite companies in gaming. I spent by far the most time with Soulcaliber 6 which was beautiful, amazingly coded, and felt like it would be easily the best entry in to the series since my personal favorite Soul Caliber 2.

Soulcaliber 6:

Right away I walked up to Soul caliber 6. Soul Caliber is a game that’s in my DNA. From Soul Caliber 2 in arcades to Soul Caliber 4 that inspired me to get my first arcade stick its always been one of my favorite games. The 6th official entry in to the series, or at least the build I got to play with, had only about a quarter of the final roster, but I was still able to play some old favorites like Nightmare, Kilik, and Taki, as well as get in time with new characters Groh, and Geralt of Rivia. All of the old favorites felt fresh, and despite this being a PS4 demo, I was able to easily remember the muscle memory from my Xbox days using my old arcade stick. From what I could tell the move sets for Nightmare were still intact, I never played enough Kilki to really memorize his combos but I was easily able to do most of the ones I looked up.

Though the people in the booth told me that story mode would be present (and there is even a trailer for it!) I was not able to access it during my demo. Only VS was available and only against an easy CPU. So I cant say much about the actual core gameplay of a story mode. What I can tell you is that some of what people don’t like about Soul Caliber 5 is still here, but they are also trying to bring back hard-core fans by removing some of the worst offenses and adding some new mechanics. First let’s talk about that block button. Its back, you can block, well, normally now. Block will cancel any animations your currently in, so when your opponent is about to land that hi-heavy attack and your stuck in a soul edge animation you can cancel that and block his incoming pain train. I am also happy to report that 8 way run is back. I wasn’t exactly playing against a skilled opponent, but I let the AI get a few hits in to test that old dodge mechanic.

Killik’s staff has never looked better

Remember how mad everyone was about how guard impact took super meter? Well that’s fixed, so you can now parry most if not all attacks. So, what you may ask is that super meter now used for? Well its mostly for ‘Critical Edge’ attacks, which are sort of like SF5’s focus attacks. Use one to power up an attack that your making. Also new in SC6 is Reversal Edge, a sort of unbreakable combo, that you trigger with a single button press and hold. Each character has their own set, and of course this consumed super meter. It’s a cheap cop-out for players who end up caught in combo’s or a great finisher for when your really putting the beatdown on to an enemy.

Reversal Edge is so called because it can be reversed by a wise opponent, so in that sense its not truly an unbreakable attack. Instead it’s a sort of roshambo where you need to quickly guess what attack an opponent is mostly likely to use, then try to counter with the same button press.

Personally, I am not a fan of this mechanic as classic SoulCaliber games always had no single button combos. I tend to dislike any fighting game that has single button, unbreakable combos, but I’m giving SoulCaliber 6 a pass on this one because you can block the first attack that you use to trigger that combo set and it can be countered. It’s a compromise but one I think I can live with.

The rest of the game looks fluid and amazing, movement on the PS4 pro was so smooth that I almost thought we were playing on PC. I think that fans of the series may finally have what they wanted from SC5 in the sense that classic mechanics are returning along with a few new ones, and a character roster that should satisfy all comers. There is a final mechanic called ‘Lethal Edge’ that I wasn’t able to get quite right while playing, it also consumes super meter, and if done correctly is supposed to launch you opponent up in the air, and slow time allowing you to execute a sick combo on their floating body. So its basically air juggling easy mode. Again I wish this mechanic wasn’t there, but in my fights against easy AI’’s it never came in to play, so until I can use it against a competent opponent I will reserve judgement.

I tried out several characters, beginning with Killik, whose staff animations look superb. He’s a character that flows around his staff kata, and its long reach has always made his viable against even enemies like Nightmare. His reach remains his best feature, and as usual I felt like once I hit my groove my enemy had no chance. I appreciate that about the SC series, it’s a game of momentum, and I think that’s why the new mechanics were added. If a human opponent had taken as much damage as the AI was taking he could have active his Reversal Edge and gotten out of my combos.

Nightmare was as he has always been ginormous, slow, and heavy hitting. The Soul Edge sword her carries is one of the games trickest weapons, but anyone who has mastered it will tell you, that he is the best character in game. His move set was identical to the last time I played him and I was able to easily destroy the bots that we were allowed to play against with out taking a single hit. Again reach played a huge role in every victory. I have never been a huge fan of the way Nightmare plays, and I don’t think SC6 will be changing that, but if he was your main during the SC2 era, I think you are going to feel right at home with this new version.

Groh is a new character, a sort of nightmare light, he also has a demon arm, and he carries a new weapon, a double sided sword. His play style reminded me a lot of the fluid motions of one of my favorite all time characters Raphael (who sadly was not in my demo). He is also able to separate his two swords out from each other, and change his attack style from a heavy to a fast attack. Trailers have also shown him teleporting and using a sort of psudoranged attack in the form of a shockwave. I wasn’t able to access either of those attacks, but I did enjoy his fast sword style.

Overall the game looked and felt amazing. I am pleased to see SoulCaliber returning to its roots, while also still trying some new things. Hopefully fans of both older style SC’s and the much more casual Soul Caliber 5 can enjoy this new entry.

Jump Force:

The Surprise announcement from Bandai Namco this year turned out to be that they were making a beat em fighting game up with some of the most famous characters from the Japanese manga Shoen Jump. In case you aren’t familiar Jump has hosted some of the most famous current and past characters from anime world, including One Piece’s Monkey D. Luffy, Dragon Ball Z’s many sayan’s, Naruto, and even Bleach. Now Bandai Namco is bringing those characters and I hope many more, together to fight in the same world. This is a game that’s going to have a huge built in fan base, which as fat as I can tell is a terrible two sided sword. Fans of series like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece are ravenous for games starring their beloved heroes, but they are also really picky. If a single hair is out of place on SSJ3 Goku, the fanbase has a huge meltdown, so I think Bandai Namco have a pretty high bar her to meet. That being said, what I played was extremely generic, and felt like it wasn’t anything special. You chose three characters (the roster or the demo was limited to 8) and then go in to fight. One thing that a lot of people were surprised to see was just how realistic this game’s art style is. Why you might wonder is an anime inspired game, designed to look so realistic? I have no idea, im not a developer, but I can say that it’s a bit disconcerting. The settings for the fights at least look cool, there’s one that I think is times square and another that’s clearly a snowcapped mountain in our world. Stages are fully 3D, so you can eight-way dodge all you want. What I played of it was pretty generic, but I feel that way about most fighting games. I played as Sasuke, Friza, and Goku, all of which felt fluid and fast. Combat can occur on the ground, in the air, or in between.

Sauskes movements were fluid, and featured a sort of substitution jutsu, and heavy use of Susanoo, and chidori, for both defense and attacks. Special attacks were selected from a sort of wheel that you accessed with the trigger, a totally unique system I have never seen before in a fighting game. The swapping out mechanic is a tried and true method from at least a dozen other fighting  games, and it should enable some awesome combos. Other than that I have little to say about this one, Bandai Namco are playing it pretty close to their chests, but im sure we will see more as it gets closer to release ein 2019.

Code Vein:

When I heard that Bandai Namco was bringing their anime influence to a dark souls style of game I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or worried. I don’t particularly like dark souls style games, but I do love giant anime swords, and I was promised those existed in this world. When I actually got to play the game, I found that it was indeed Dark Souls, but with anime. It had massive creatures to fight, back stabbing, and falling off ledges at the worst possible time. But, its also unique in the sense that it has a lot of useable items and status effecting things. So, its an RPG, souls like, with giant swords, and a story that’s straight out of a JRPG. There was a massive “cataclysm” that caused the world to break, and you the hero must  save the world, or whats left of it.

All of the weapons are quite large

Combat was the same difficult mix of managing stamina, rolling, and trying to not get completely owned that most souls like games have. I didn’t get nearly enough time with the demo to really dive deep in to if gear is going to effect stats, or if your going to have dozen of weapon choices, or even if youll have armor and things to change out, but im guessing we will find out more about that later on. For now, just know this is dark souls but anime, and with giant swords, and probably a better story.

The game is also set to feature something Dark Souls doesn’t have, companions! Various other media have reported that there will be quite a few of these, and that you will be able to switch them out at the games version of bonfires. I didn’t get to see a boss, or really any of the games many other features, but its safe to assume the bosses will be massive, and the weapons even more so.

My Hero One’s Justice

Finally, I got the chance to see the My Hero Academia cultural phenomena video game, My Hero One’s Justice. This is a game that’s going to make fans of the series completely wet themselves. The main mechanic of this game, is unsurprisingly fighting. Again, I’m no expert on fighting games (sorry) but from what I can tell this is an anime style fighter.

In case you don’t know the story behind the cultural phenomena that is My Hero Academia, it’s the story of Izuku Midoriya, a normal kid in a world full of super powered people. Super powers, called “quirks” in this world, can be thinks like making explosions, or being fast, or just being super strong. The main story line from the anime involves the personal growth of Izuku better known as “Deku” in to a hero who will inherit the mantle of the world’s strongest hero, All Might. But, none of that is really relevant because this is an anime fighter.

So, you chose three characters, both heroes and villans were represented in the demo, then you chose a stage, there were 12 fully destructible environments for us to mess around in, and finally you get fighting. Now remember how I said three characters? Well you don’t actually get to use all three, you use the first one you picked and the other two provide “assists” sort of like in the older Marvel vs Capcom arcade cabinets. Its good mechanic, and it works surprisingly well in the context of the world. After all every hero should have a side kick right?

Combat was fast, and honestly reminded me of DBZ fighters (which ironically had a station just in front of this one). I was slamming my enemies in to things, running up to them and smashing them with my fists, and occasionally using a quick to explode, slash, or do other terrible things to them.

The games graphics were faithful to its source material. I basically felt like I was playing in the anime’s tournament ark for most of my demo. There is little more satisfying than seeing All Might in his prime smashing fists with the various villains of the series. The game features full 8 way movement, in fully 3d space, and destructible environments, all good things in a fighting game. Dodging and blocking are extremely important and controls are laid out as such. During my 15 or minutes playing the game, I was able to pick up the controls, but certainly not master them. The game is expected to hit the Xbox One, PS4, and Switch this October.