As usual for E3, I went and visited many of the industry’s biggest publishers and developers to check out their upcoming offerings for 2016, 2017 and beyond. Koei Tecmo had two games to offer at E3 this year: Attack on Titan, a sort of Warriors-esque interpretation of the anime series, and Nioh (or Ni-Oh) which is absolutely not Dark Souls, no sir, it’s completely different in a variety of ways. I spent some hands-on time with both.
Having only limited experience with the Attack on Titan anime (and certainly not the live-action films), I’ll admit that this wasn’t the reason I was anticipating my visit to Koei Tecmo Land. It ended up being surprisingly decent, though. Attack on Titan, for those who aren’t familiar, is all about the efforts of a human strike force to defeat an attacking race of giant humanoid beasts called Titans. These titans are practically immune to most forms of attack and are huge enough to inhibit any issues to defeat them besides. Our heroes need to use a complex harness/wire/jetpack set called the 3DMG, or the Three-Dimensional Maneuver Gear, to fight on level ground and bring the Titans down.
A point is made in the anime about how difficult it is to learn to utilize the 3DMG, and the game faithfully represents this; players I saw who didn’t have the chance to play through the tutorial first ended up fumbling about, launching themselves into walls and failing to take down any Titans. When my turn came up I made a point of learning how to steer and ended up having a much easier time; essentially the game plays out like a combination of Spider-Man and Zone of the Enders, with your character using the 3DMG’s wires to launch themselves around the stage and hook onto Titans for powerful dashing attacks. A Titan’s weak point is at the nape of its neck, so the ideal attack involves swinging up and behind your quarry, then hooking onto their back and jetting in for a lethal strike.
It’s not just about swinging around and slashing away, of course. Jet gas isn’t unlimited and needs to be replaced, while your swords’ blades can dull over time, so like Monster Hunter you’ll need to periodically stop and refresh your gear. You’ll also have to pay attention to conditions on the battlefield, including going to rescue friendly units if they end up in trouble a la Dynasty Warriors. That’s a clear inspiration for this game, incidentally, as you end up fighting fairly large numbers of Titans at once, gracefully swooping about to thin down the hordes. The experience was exhilarating and I’m actually eager to try Attack on Titan when it’s released on August 30.
Ni-Oh, meanwhile, is…well, it’s Dark Souls set in what is apparently Sengoku-era Japan. You control William, a blond samurai whose job is to slay demons but who in actuality will probably just spend most of his time being killed. He’s going to die a whole bunch. So much for saving the world. This all takes place in a gorgeous world reminiscent of the Onimusha games, brought to life through an impressive graphical presentation.
This is a tough game, no question about it. The central mechanic in Ni-Oh is stamina management. While this was also the case in Dark Souls, it’s a much more important aspect of gameplay here. Running out of stamina completely will wear William out, causing you to lose control as he bends over and tries to regain his composure. That, of course, is just asking for a beating, and it’s likely what you’re going to receive should you let the bar drain. To keep your stamina up, you’ll need to properly “end” your attacks and combos, tapping a button when you’re finished to conclude your combo and regain some stamina.
This makes Ni-Oh’s combat feel a little more tactical and weighty and lends a much greater sense of importance to each decision you make in battle. It also makes Ni-Oh really, really hard. With around 45 minutes to play, I wasn’t able to beat one stage. Kind of sad. I hope I’ll be able to do better when Ni-Oh is released later this year.
While Koei Tecmo didn’t have quite as many games on tap as some of the other publishers at the show, they made up for this with quality. Both Attack on Titan and Nioh felt solid and were a lot of fun to play, and I’m looking forward to trying out the full versions of each.
Want more amazing – and totally exclusive! – coverage from the world’s biggest gaming show? Click the colorful image below for more gaming goodness!