If you’ve seen any of our Anime Expo coverage this year, then you already know that AX2016 was filled with great news, surprising announcements, and exciting panels about everything anime. But among the massive, elaborate booths, was a simple and clean space reserved for GameSamba. Strewn throughout the mobile kiosks dedicated to testing their latest games were the obligatory posters and banners, but also adorable hand-drawn artwork of various characters from the beloved Tokyo Ghoul franchise. The layout and atmosphere gave off a very personal feeling; a perfect representation of the studio itself. From the moment I walked up, I was met with a friendly greeting and quickly given an explanation of two of their upcoming games along with a hands-on preview of both.
The first of which was Tokyo Ghoul: Dark War. If you didn’t know that an officially licensed Tokyo Ghoul game was coming to the West, well, now you do. Dark War is an online action-RPG for Android and iOS mobile devices. My 30 minute demo began with Brendon of GameSamba throwing me straight into the game. Beginning in the CCG base, I was free to walk around and explore what is the game’s central hub space. There were NPC’s, including beloved characters like Kureo Mado and Amon Koutarou, to chat with, missions to take, and most importantly, other players online. You can add friends and join together for co-op dungeon missions or stick to just solo-playing. However, I waited for no one and immediately jumped into a solo mission with my preset party of Kaneki, Rize, and Marude. The missions take place in small locations with only a few paths to run down and a short playtime, meant to cater to short bursts of play while on the go. Each mission was the same rinse and repeat of fight several bad guys, move on, fight more bad guys, and finally, a main character boss. While certainly repetitive, it fits the mobile mindset well. The combat was fast, fun, and never boring. The animations and graphics were good compared to most mobile games, especially the kagune.
At the end of each 2 minute or so mission, you are given a 1 to 3 star rating and reward. This is where the heart of the game takes place. Customization is key to Tokyo Ghoul: Dark War, with currency, skills, items, and more allowing you to create your own ultimate team of ghouls and investigators. I was able to experiment with the different characters and the respective four classes, until I had created my own fantasy team of Kaneki, Jason, and Juuzo. The variety really is the highlight of the game, with each character having their own skill tree and equipment to completely make your own. Unfortunately, being a very early alpha, there was a huge unbalance between the ghouls and investigators, with the team working on a solution in time for launch.
Aside from the co-op and solo modes, there is also PVP and a light MOBA mode to partake in. The PVP is your simple deathmatch, while the MOBA mode is a single lane fight, minions and all. Sadly, it was too early to really get a good test of these modes, but they show that GameSamba is really trying to put a lot of content into Tokyo Ghoul: Dark War. In regards to release date, I got nothing more than a vague, hopeful Holiday 2016 date, but we’ll let you know when we have more on this exciting mobile game.
Next up was the puzzle RPG, 18. Also designed for mobile devices, 18 features hundreds of characters that you can collect and use in puzzle-themed battles against monsters in a dream-like world. There are multiple worlds with about 10 levels per stage building up to a boss battle. In defeating the human boss, you then are able to add them to your team. The battles themselves revolve around a Bejeweled-like match game, where you match different elemental circles together to cause combos and damage to your opponents. Weakness and strengths play a big part here, as I quickly found out when trying to use blue circles (water) against a red (fire) enemy. It is turn-based with no time limit, except in specific challenges, allowing for you to think carefully each turn. Every opponent also has a counter that shows how many turns you have until they attack. Each character has a unique ability that you can use every so often, ranging from direct damage to changing the color of a circle to whichever you like, adding a good sense of depth and setting 18 apart from the countless other match games.
You aren’t the only one with powers, though, as bosses mix things up with abilities of their own. The fire boss I fought, in particular, had a knack for annoyingly turning one of the puzzle circles into a bomb that would detonate in X amount of turns unless I pushed it all the way down off the screen a la Tetris-style. It was certainly a challenging and strategic game, as neither my associate nor I were able to clear the boss in our demo. The singleplayer for 18 contains an entire storyline with visual novel-like cutscenes (skippable). Interestingly enough, the aesthetic, UI, characters, colors, dream world setting, and themes of the game just screamed Persona the entire time, which isn’t a bad thing at all. For those interested in this game, you won’t have to wait much longer as I was told 18 would be released within the next month or two. Both Tokyo Ghoul Dark War and 18 will be available for Android and iOS.