When it comes to localizing smaller or lesser known (in the West) Japanese titles, XSEED Games is generally seen as one of the best. Picking up titles other publishers would never go near, looked upon fairly highly with their English localizations, and having many members of staff take a hard-line anti-censorship stance has made the studio a go-to for many fans of Japanese games.
As such, it’s no surprise that XSEED had a sizeable booth at E3 this year, showing off a slew of upcoming titles. A couple of them were Switch ports of currently released titles, Fate/Extella and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. The ones I went to get my hands on, though, were the three upcoming unreleased titles on display.
The first one I tried my hand at was Zwei: The Illvard Insurrection, planned for release on PC via Steam. The demo station offered a number of pre-set save points to start the game at, and after asking one of the staff members on hand which one was the best to play, I ended up in what appeared to be a mid-game dungeon.
I wanted to make Zwei my first demo as it is a title from Falcom, of which I am a bit of a fan. This game is the second in a series, originally released in Japan in 2008. The player takes control of two characters, which can be swapped out at the click of a button: Ragna, a treasure hunter and melee fighter, and Alwen, a vampire princess and magic user.
The portion I played through was very combat heavy with some minor puzzle-solving elements, mostly revolving around how to keep giant spike walls from crushing the characters. Much like other Falcom PC games, Zwei can be controlled completely with a mouse, clicking to move your characters and attack. There was one thing that became a bit of a hassle with mouse controls, though – switching weapons and using items. To do so, you have to click corresponding icons at the top of the screen. I could not find an option to use the keyboard for these functions like in other games. The game can be controlled completely with the keyboard as well, but I’m not much a fan of using keyboard arrow keys to navigate in games.
Despite that grievance, the demo for Zwei was solid. The game feels very much like a blend of Xanadu Next‘s dungeon crawling and gameplay with Gurumin‘s visual style. Having enjoyed the former, I can say that I’m looking forward to this title’s full release.
Next up was Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, a side-scroller planned for release on PS4. The demo here was of a very early build, as this title isn’t set for release until 2018. The game is intended to be a blend of action platformer and farming simulator, but the demo only highlights the platforming portion.
Taking the role of Sakuna, I navigated a beautiful-looking 3D-rendered forest, taking down various enemies with the help of some tutorial popups. Sakuna plays like you’d expect from an action platformer, with a couple of fun twists in its mechanics. Using the right analog stick, you can bat environmental object and enemies around the screen, bowling down other enemies in the way. You can also use Sakuna’s scarf to grab cliffs and ledges to navigate the environment, reminiscent of games like Bionic Commando.
The demo stage was fairly short, culminating in a boss battle that tested some of the scarf skills I learned earlier in the level. Despite having the shortest demo of anything I played at XSEED’s booth, Sakuna was the game I left most impressed with. Its various simple mechanics highlighted here came together to create a whole that was somewhat addicting…to the point I came back to the booth later in the show to play the demo again.
Now, the main reason I was at XSEED’s booth was for our interview with Kenichiro Takaki. As such, there was one demo I had to play: Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Having become somewhat a fan of the series over the past couple years, though, I was intending to play it regardless.
As we mentioned in our interview, Peach Beach Splash steps away from the series’ beat-em-up roots in favor of a third person shooter-style game. In the game, the Senran Kagura girls are taking place in the eponymous Peach Beach Splash tournament – a 5-on-5 bikini watergun fight. The demo featured two modes, story and free-play, and I opted for the latter.
The demo stage was in a waterpark-like setting, with my character of choice wielding a rifle-like watergun that shot a steady stream of water. The weapon was pre-selected for the demo, but the player will be able to customize and adjust their loadouts in the full game.
The battle itself was incredibly fast-paced. Water is, of course, your ammo, which you can refill at any time. You can also use your water supply to glide around the battlefield, which was much faster and more convenient than running. Things did get a bit chaotic, as every character was dressed similarly, making it occasionally hard to tell who was your teammate and who was your enemy. There were also multiple “cards” available at the press of the d-pad which would activate special skills, but I could not figure out exactly what they were supposed to do.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Senran Kagura without some over-the-top sexualization. When you manage to take down an opponent, you have an opportunity before they respawn to fire your gun at their swimsuit, in an attempt to remove it. Doing this, though, didn’t seem to serve any function to further the battle. Overall, though, Peach Beach Splash seems like a solid (if simple) shooter, and the demo shows a lot of promise.
If their E3 booth is any indication, XSEED has a very strong 2017 ahead, pushing into 2018 with Sakuna. After touring the booth, I can definitely say I’m looking forward to everything the studio has upcoming, especially Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin.