For this edition of Ones to Watch, it’s time that we travel to the weird and wonderful world of Japanese games. There’s a lot of Sega today, but throw in a bit of Bandai Namco and a sprinkling of Arcsys, and you’ve got Yakuza battling, fighter jet dogfighting, tactical warfare and more!
Platforms: PS4 – Release date: 20th March
For years, it been more a question of if we would ever get the next Yakuza game in English, not when. Today, with Sega making a bigger global push for the franchise than ever, that’s thankfully no longer the case. Yakuza 6 is slated to release for overseas fans in just a few months, and while 2017s releases of Yakuza Zero and Yakuza Kiwami serve to show us the beginning of protagonist Kazuma Kiryu’s story, Yakuza 6 is all about the end of it.
Yakuza 6 represents the final hurrah for Kiryu, an aged yakuza veteran who’s been reluctantly forced back into the criminal underworld time and again for nearly 12 years now. On top of being an emotional bookend to Kiryu’s legacy, Yakuza 6 represents a drastic overhaul of the visuals, physics, and gameplay of the Yakuza franchise. Characters and cities look more vivid and realistic than ever before, combat revolves around a more dynamic physics engine, and fights can break out inside or outside of any location in the game.
For longtime fans of the series, Yakuza 6 represents the end of a years long journey, not just for Kazuma Kiryu, but for players as well.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Platforms: PS4 – Release date: Nobody knows!
Yakuza 6 isn’t the only title in the franchise on the horizon for overseas fans, though! Kiwami 2 came out at the end of 2017 in Japan, and it isn’t impossible for us to see it localized within 2018. OK, it’s pretty unlikely, but we can dream!
Much like how Kiwami served as a remake of Yakuza 1 using the then most modern Yakuza engine – those of PS4 debut Yakuza Zero – Kiwami 2 is a beat-by-beat remake of Yakuza 2 using the engine and visuals of the bleeding edge Yakuza 6.
For many, Yakuza 2 is one of, if not the best titles in the Yakuza series, especially in terms of the rich storytelling, fleshed out characters and cinematic cutscenes. It’s a game that hasn’t aged well in the graphics and gameplay department though, so bringing that rich narrative experience into a boiling pot with the jaw-dropping gameplay and graphics of Yakuza 6 is a recipe for major success.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
Platforms: PS4, Switch – Release date: 2018
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is perhaps best described as Arc System Works wanting to make their own Capcom vs. SNK game. Arcsys have a bevy of 2D fighting games in their catalogue, so what if they just took the characters and sprites from a bunch of those games and mashed them all into one big tag-fighting game?
That only makes up about three quarters of the roster in Cross Tag, though. The final bunch of characters are from the American 3D animation series RWBY. Like… huh?
It’s a bizarre mashup of properties, but in a way, the flashy almost-anime characters of RWBY fit right in with the equally bizarre and over-designed characters of BlazBlue and Under Night.
I’m all for insane tag-fighters with huge casts of characters, and I’m always happy to see Under Night get some exposure. BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle delivers on both those fronts, so I’ll be happy to dip into the game when it comes out.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: 2018
With the Dark Souls series seemingly done and dusted, Bandai Namco are looking to keep the good times rolling with Code Vein. The internal team previously behind the God Eater series are turning their hand to the ultra difficult stamina-based action RPG genre that FromSoftware popularised.
With humanity having evolved down a rather vampiric path, you’re a Revenant seeking to find a way to wean yourself and others off the dwindling supply of fresh blood, fighting your way past those that have given into their bloodlust and become Lost.
Naturally, they’re trying to put their own spin on things, so you’ll be accompanied AI companions throughout the adventure, there’s anime stylings to the graphics, and the actual combat itself probably has more in common with Bloodborne or God Eater, emphasising movement over defensive play.
Ace Combat 7
Platforms: PS4 – Release date: 2018
A lot of people argue that a big issue with virtual reality right now is that most of the games released for VR are still short, quirky tech demos rather than full-fledged hours-long experiences. Resident Evil 7 and Skyrim VR both made a great case for a new, complete VR experience in 2017, and Ace Combat looks to do the same in 2018.
For more on Ace Combat 7, check out our preview!
The first numbered sequel in the franchise since the early Xbox 360 days, Ace Combat is a return to form. Dogfights look realistic and tactical, but with the modern flourishes of fire effects, dynamic clouds and missile explosions. Every moment of aerial warfare is marked by haunting beauty.
You can obviously still play on a TV screen, but the idea of going through a classic Ace Combat experience with my own body in the cockpit has been the most tempting reason for finally buying a VR headset I’ve had so far.
Valkyria Chronicles 4
Platforms: PS4 – Release date: 21st March
The very first Valkyria Chronicles came out on PS3 in April of 2008. It was a fresh experience that combined tactical warfare with third-person action, RPG elements, and a unique painterly art style that set it apart from any other franchise.
In the time since then, the franchise has received 2 watered-down PSP sequels and a best-not-talked-about spinoff/reboot/faux-sequel. Finally, ten years later, a proper home console sequel to Valkyria Chronicles 1 is being released.
Everything we’ve seen so far indicates this is all a fan could want out of a sequel to the original game. Sega have promised that painterly visuals and iconic character designs are here, along with the same addictive and challenging tactical combat we know and love. While we got faithful sequels like this on PSP, seeing all of this come together in a high resolution home console release makes it all feel like this time, finally, Valkyria Chronicles is back.
Dynasty Warriors 9
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: 13th February
You could say that if you’ve played one Dynasty Warriors game, you’ve played them all. Omega Force’s seemingly endless flow of hack ‘n’ slash games has run for a long time, and it’s often on the wrong end of some particularly derisive eye-rolling. That might be deserved, but they’re looking to shake things up with Dynasty Warriors 9.
This is an ambitious overhaul with a new open world focus to broaden the game’s scope, more mobility within that and a redesigned combat system. Of course, you’ll still be carving through hordes of enemies, but it promises to be dynamic than the litany of very similar games that have gone before it.
That’s it for this small selection of games, but there’s plenty more to come in Ones to Watch, and another bunch of games from Japanese developers and publishers. Stay tuned!