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Preview: A quartet of Tecmo Koei titles

I usually try to avoid whirlwind preview sessions during gaming events -- hour-long booth tours that see me bouncing between a handful of titles from the same developer. However, that was the case during my recent E3 time with Tecmo Koei's suite of upcoming titles, a collection which included Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage, Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll, Quantum Theory and Warriors: Legends of Troy.

Given my limited time with each of the aforementioned games, I decided to arrange my initial impressions about them into a single preview. You can check out my thoughts on Tecmo Koei's lineup after the jump.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Tecmo Koei aficionado to recognize the inspiration for Fist of the North Star's core gameplay mechanics: It's a Dynasty Warriors game, through and through. Waves of grotesque enemies swarm the player (or two players, should you participate in the game's co-op "Dream" mode), who dispatches them using basic, albeit totally rad and gory melee combos. Seriously, if you don't punch an enemy so hard that he explodes every thirty seconds or so, then you're playing the game wrong.

I played through one brief mission from the game's Legend mode, which serves as the game's story-driven campaign. If you're a fan of the manga franchise from which the game has been adapted, you'll probably enjoy seeing it come to life in such a graphic manner. If you're not familiar, you'll probably just enjoy punching people so hard that they explode.

Unfortunately, just like in Dynasty Warriors titles past, the combat got repetitive -- which is noteworthy, considering how brief my time with the game was. The full version of the game promises to have additional characters, unlockable skills and upgrades, which may add a bit more variation and thought to what appears to be a fairly mindless (though incredibly stylish) beat-'em-up.

I've heard this game frequently touted as an Action RPG, though if any aspect of the latter half of that genre combination was present in the demo, it never made its presence known. Players control three heroes which they can switch between at will, each filling a particular fantasy archetype: There's the sword-swinging wizard, the hulking bestial warrior and the scantily clad female assassin. Each has two sets of two special abilities, which can be swapped between and customized as the player levels and unlocks new skills.

I didn't see any of that character progression during my demo, though, nor did I see any rich storytelling to speak of. What I did see was a fairly uninspired hack-and-slash title with dodgy controls and extremely repetitive, tedious combat. Tecmo Koei still hasn't announced a release date for Trinity, but from what I saw during this demo, it's going to need all the time it can get.

Surprisingly, the best game Tecmo Koei was showing off at its booth this year was the one that varied the furthest from the "beat up a whole bunch of dudes by stringing together Light and Strong attacks" formula which so many of its other games are based around. Quantum Theory is, at its core, a competent Gears of War clone. Well, maybe not a "clone." I don't remember being able to pick up Dom and launch him at oncoming enemies last time I got my Gears on.

Yes, players will be joined by Filena, a female, AI-controlled companion during the game's campaign, who provides support in two distinct ways:
  1. Players can pick Filena up and fling her directly at enemies, which she cuts down to size with her giant sword.
  2. Players can pick Filena up and fling her above enemies, which she peppers with stun grenades.
Remember when Tecmo Koei's Hiroyuki Yazaki said that Filena was the studio's attempt at reaching out to women by creating "softer" characters in a male-dominated genre? I'm not sure having her sole purpose for tagging along being her ability to be fastball specialed at enemies is going to win over any members of the fairer sex.

Another Tecmo Koei project that's clearly been cut from the Dynasty Warriors cloth, Warriors: Legends of Troy places you in the gladiatorial sandals of a number of Grecian and Trojan historical figures, who must fight through groups of enemies in order to fulfill their respective destinies. Combat's a bit slower and requires a bit more strategy than Dynasty Warriors, where enemies aren't really fought as much as they're mowed.

Appropriately, many enemies travel in phalanxes, armed with tower shields and uninviting spears. You'll have to figure out ways of picking groups of enemies apart instead of rushing into them blindly, which adds a bit more variation to Dynasty's "Light Attack, Light Attack, Heavy Attack, Win" gameplay formula.

I didn't get much of a feel for the story Koei Canada is trying to present with the game -- a retelling of the history of the 10-year Trojan War. However, the representative who guided me through the demo promised that said retelling wouldn't be anywhere near as melodramatic and terrible as the Brad Pitt-fronted film, Troy. For all our sakes, I pray he was telling the truth.

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