Over the course of this year’s E3 extravaganza, I’ve been made aware of and promised many things. Telltale Games has whispered to me sweet nothings of Batman and The Walking Dead. Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus have shown me dead oceans, disappearing babies, and a clear view of Norman’s fully rendered CGI butt. *Checks box off of bucket list* And I found out, to my boyish delight, that there would be a new entry in the Fate franchise entitled Fate/Extella, The Umbral Star. While my experiences with games stemming from anime and visual novels warns me that this game will be sub par at best, it would take some sort of impossible to overcome act of divine intervention to keep me from buying it. My fanboy blood runs hot, and my hunger for the series can only be sated by spending too much money on it. And that’s probably as relevant a transition as we’re gonna get, because it’s time to talk to you about Attack on Titan, coming to a gaming platform near you.
For those of you with short memories, Attack on Titan was the explosive, break out hit anime of 2013. It took the otaku world by storm, captivating viewers with a gripping, visceral storyline, breathtaking action sequences, and endearing, all too mortal characters. It spawned every imaginable kind of merchandise. It was everywhere. And then it ended. With every passing month my excitement faded as I, and the rest of the world, marched on and left 2013 in 2013. In the time since, there’s been plenty of filler for the starving fan, including a manga/anime series entitled Attack on Titan, Junior High, which basically lays a big, franchise-milking turd on the doorstep of the original series.
But why are we talking about anime on a gaming website, you ask? Because, for better or worse, Attack on Titan is making its way to Playstation, Xbox, PC, and Vita this Fall. Brought to you by the masters of milking franchises over at Koei, the fine people responsible for the once great Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors series of games. And the Empire spinoffs of each individual game. And the Xtreme Legends spinoffs. But don’t worry; they’ll use the same engine and gameplay to keep you from getting disoriented as you hack your way through thousands of hapless little soldier clones and the myriad of games they’re in.
The above gameplay footage of the upcoming AoT title, at first, caught me pleasantly by surprise. It looked a lot better than I had thought it would. One of the flagship characters, Levi, dashed across the field of battle with both speed and purpose, slashing his way through shambling enemy titans. Big red numbers indicating damage output splashed from the wounds. Limbs fell left and right. Covered in his enemies blood he zipped around, carving through just about everything with ease, all whilst talking casually about something or other; I was too distracted by the fast-paced action to read whatever he was saying.
But that was just the first time I watched it.
Going forward with a more critical eye, there are some things that should be pointed out. The environments you see are all quite dull, both in color and imagination. To the game’s credit, the source material is cut from the same cloth, relying on earthy colors and stark imagery to set generally serious tones. Another thing that bothered me a bit was how vertical slices would horizontally remove limbs, which looked goofy a couple of times. The dialogue I had previously not read that sounded kind of cool in Japanese? Actually super boring. The user interface was crammed so full of stuff that it actually obscures the gameplay quite a bit. I’d even go so far as to say all of that stuff they put up there purposefully distracts one from immediately noticing the stale-looking environment or witless enemies who, very clearly, exist for the sole purpose of being massacred by you. Oh, and every time you do brutally murder one of them, something pops up in the middle of the screen letting you know you did, in fact, succeed in murdering them. Thanks for that digital pat on the back, Koei.
The gameplay looks like it could offer several hours of button mashing fun, but it’s difficult to say how long it can hold its appeal. There are a slew of other videos out there that really showcase more of the game, and it looks WAY better than the E3 gameplay trailer suggests. I mean you fly around these maps like a rocket-boosted Spiderman dual-wielding giant swords. There’s gotta be some fun in that, right? If Koei manages to just stay faithful to AoT’s greatest strength, quality storytelling, we could have a surprise gem.
The timing of the release, this Fall, comes as little surprise, as the anime appears ready to resume in the first half of 2017 (although there are rumors of more delays to come, allowing the manga to create more content). This game is one way to get fans back in the mood for a series whose animated core has been asleep for about three years. And, just like how I’m prepared to sacrifice the necessary dollars for Fate/Extella, I expect there are plenty of fans willing to buy AoT for the franchise, alone, regardless of product quality. Let’s just hope that this is more than a timely franchise heat check, because it absolutely could be.