E3 2019 Hands-On IMPRESSIONS: XSEED Games (Part 2)
Monday, June 17th, 2019
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During E3 2019, Josh and I split responsibility for the titles that XSEED brought to the show floor. While he covered fighting, farming, pinball, and more in Granblue Fantasy: Versus, BurgerTime Party!, Rune Factory 4 Special, and Senran Kagura Peach Ball, I went hands-on with the Switch build of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, the nostalgic Heroland, and the PlayStation 4/PC remake titled Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed. I also did an interview with the two-man development team behind Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, which will be published in a subsequent article.
You can check out Part One of our XSEED E3 2019 coverage here.
Publisher: XSEED Platform(s): Switch, PlayStation 4, PC Release Date: Winter 2019
In Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, Sakuna is a spoiled harvest goddess that is banished to a dangerous island with humans on it that she has to both farm rice in and improve the lives of the people who live there. In this E3 demo, I took control of Sakuna and battled my way across a dilapidated area filled with overgrown grasses, old buildings, and active camps.
Sakuna has your standard quick and heavy attacks that she can use and those are fairly easy to combo together. Sakuna also has access to a set of special attack moves that are accessible once her skill gauge fills up over time. Finally, and most crucially, Sakuna has her Heavenly Scarf that she can not only use to grab and throw enemies with, but that she can also use to grab and pull herself around the battle arena with. I could also launch enemies into one another to increase the damage possible. These combat mechanics are easy to grasp, surprisingly simple to chain, and were insanely fun to mix together in a way to take down multiple enemies at once.
Combat in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is frantic and combo-based. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
About midway through my demo, I picked up new weapons – the one-handed Gold Iron and the two-handed Gold Rake – that only increased Sakuna’s damage further. I also saw that there were slots to change out my garment, my headgear, and my mask, though I only had one option for each slot. This was nothing, however, when compared against the background artistry. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a gorgeous game to look at, and I found myself moving slowly throughout the environment so I could really take in and fall in love with as much of the world as possible. At the end of my demo, I finally took on the skeleton-dinosaur-like boss and I was more than a little amused to see Sakuna say that she was going back home instead of fighting. Sakuna does stick around to fight however, and I found myself quickly fighting for my life. The boss is definitely the showstopper at the end of the stage I played, and I found myself both spamming attacks, dodging moves, flinging myself around the boss via the scarf, and throwing his own enemy spawns back at him to do increased damage. I won, but very barely.
The boss battle at the end of my E3 2019 demo was a lot of fun and took all my skill in order to win. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
Although I did not get to try the rice-making aspect of the game or to put to good use all the ingredients I gathered, I was more than a little impressed with just how amazing and well-paced this demo was. I cannot wait for Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin to come out in Winter 2019, and I know I will be picking it up.
Publisher: XSEED Platform(s): Switch, PlayStation 4 Release Date: 2019
Heroland has probably the most unique concept of any of the games that I played at E3 2019. Heroland is set in a theme park where people pay money to literally be a ‘hero’. This includes fighting monsters (who are employees in costume), find treasure, and take on boss characters. You play as the tour guide for a group of aspiring adventurers who want to take on the Dark Lord. In your role as tour guide, you can tell the players to do certain moves, use items, or otherwise deviate from their basic attack every time your Assistance Meter fills up. At the end of the dungeon, your player’s happiness is determined via ‘likes’.
Heroland was a lot of fun to play. I started in Chapter 1, titled You’re (Not) Alone, which one of the game’s localizers told me was indeed a Neon Genesis Evangelion reference. I was also told that there is plenty of geeky humor throughout Heroland, and based upon the sharply written humor from just this demo, I completely believe it. This is a genuinely funny game to read as the four party members (which fulfill different archetype roles in a classic JRPG) play their way through different events, cutscenes, and battles.
The writing in Heroland is on point, and something that I couldn’t stop laughing at…especially at the party member that is a man who pretends he is only an otter in front of the customers. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
Even though I am only a ‘bystander’ watching the combat occur, and I was only able to give limited assistance when my meter was full, it doesn’t take away from the gameplay. The meter does fill up rather quickly, and the party AI is intelligent enough to usually do the right thing until I help them choose differently. On my demo, I went through nine different rooms in the dungeon (Entrance > Event Scene > Battle > Event Scene > Battle > Event Scene > Boss > Treasure Room > Goal), and there was a story that was told through each room as the paying customer expects to be fighting the final boss, the Dark Lord, as soon as possible and the employees at Heroland have to both placate him and stretch the adventure out. Yes, it sounds weird…but it is surprisingly awesome to experience.
Combat is conducted as an ‘offhand’ affair with four different party in Heroland. You can only change the party members attacks or use items when your Assistance Meter is filled. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
I was told that the game will take about 45 hours to complete one-hundred-percent, and I believe it. Heroland is definitely a side-splitting throwback RPG to yesteryear, and it is a love-letter to that genre to boot. This is definitely a title to keep an eye on for when it launches later this year.
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed
Publisher: XSEED Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC Release Date: Winter 2019
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is a full-on remastering of the PSP game with the Akiba’s Trip 2 engine and a graphical upgrade. In this game, the player takes on Shadow Souls, vampire-like beings, that die when they are exposed to sunlight…which you do by taking their clothes off…as part of the Akiba Freedom Fighters. This game, which fully and accurately recreates Akihabara (according to XSEED) is an eight-hour adventure that is uncut from the original Japan-only PSP release.
My demo started from the very beginning of the game when I get introduced into the Akiba Freedom Fighters and I play through the first mission. The game, obviously, reminded me of a PSP title with how small the areas are and the fact that the backgrounds are fairly flat and not detailed. The combat was fun to experience, even if it was fairly basic, though it turns out that I am terrible at ripping the clothing off of Shadow Souls in order to truly defeat them. The writing is top-notch, however, which seems to be a consistent theme for XSEED, and there were a lot of different dialogue options available for me to pick from. I quickly found myself being drawn into the story that was being set up for me, and the somewhat-naughty innuendo that flowed from it, even if I able to quickly move between the various playable bits in my demo.
As the protagonist, you are turned by Yu, a Shadow Soul. You then join the fight against Shadow Souls, by undressing them in the sunlight to defeat them. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
I am optimistic about this game overall, even if the overall playtime is a bit short. Satoko Mido, who is running the show against the Shadow Souls, is a strong female character who also subverts her role by not surrendering her femininity in the process. This original Akiba’s Trip is a game that was never released here in North America, and I want to see what elements were held over from it and were continued into its already-localized sequel later this year.
Undress Shadow Soul characters to protect the world in a real recration of Akihabara, circa 2012. (Images courtesy of XSEED).
And that wraps it up for our E3 2019 XSEED coverage!
So, what do you think of XSEED’s offerings at E3 2019? Are there any games that you’re especially excited about?