Preview: Bandai Namco Is a Publisher Quietly on the Up 1
Image: Push Square

No one really talks about Bandai Namco, but the publisher’s doing a bang-up job. Last year it released Elden Ring, which not only proved a critical darling but also a break-out commercial hit. The action RPG ended up becoming a cultural touchstone for 2022, and it helped underline a really impressive run for the Pac-Man maker.

Preview: Bandai Namco Is a Publisher Quietly on the Up 3
Image: Push Square

Exploring the organisation’s Tokyo Game Show booth, we don’t foresee any of its upcoming titles achieving quite the same success as FromSoftware’s fantasy affair, but it’s got another rock-solid slate of releases on the way. We played three titles in total: Tekken 8, Synduality: Echo of Ada, and Sand Land – but it’s worth noting that My Hero Ultra Rumble was also dated for 28th September at the event.

Tekken 8

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We’ve already talked extensively about Tekken 8 in our various previews across the site, so if you’re looking for a more detailed look at the title, we’d recommend you turn your attention to them. This is your humble host’s opportunity to chat a little bit about the game, though – and guess what? It’s really bloody good!

We were matched against a Japanese opponent who insisted on using an arcade stick, so we were initially extremely worried about the experience. But we held our own reasonably well, and managed three out of five wins, using a different character each time. Generally we gravitate towards King, and he feels as fun as ever here, with his mix of wrestling moves and uber-powerful kicks.

As we’ve mentioned, the gameplay does feel hyper aggressive, and it can feel hopeless when you get caught on the end of a flurry of attacks, unable to escape. On the flipside, however, few moments in gaming feel as satisfying as when you’re the one dishing out the pain. Visually it’s outstanding, and some early build bugs aside – like slow character loading screens – we’re optimistic about this one.

Synduality: Echo of Ada

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It’s rare we go to a gaming convention having never heard of a title from a top publisher like Bandai Namco, but when the organisation asked us if we wanted to try Synduality: Echo of Ada, we were bemused. This is a game that, up until today, this author didn’t know existed. Having played it for 20 minutes, we reckon the jury’s still out.

Synduality, by the way, is a cross-media attempt from Bandai Namco which already includes an anime series on Disney+. A manga series is ongoing, while a novel is due out next week in Japan, at the time of publication. Effectively it’s a mech game set in the future, where you explore a small ruinous sandbox looking for resources known as AO Crystals.

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There are some interesting elements here: you have a Magus, a kind of AI cyborg partner – whose appearance is a pretty anime lady, of course – and the game is designed around building an unbreakable bond between you and said character. You can call on them for assistance at any time, and they’ll point out things in the world you can interact with.

Unfortunately, we didn’t really feel like we scratched the surface on this. Movement of the mech felt pretty fine, but the objectives were quite rote: collecting the abovementioned AO Crystals didn’t exactly get our pulses racing. There’s promise in some of the character designs, but we’ll need to learn a lot more about this one before we add it to our wishlist.

Sand Land

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There’s no doubt that a large part of Bandai Namco’s business model revolves around licensed anime games these days. Among the sea of arena brawlers – we’re still a little upset over that Jujutsu Kaisen tie-in – there’s some genuine quality, like the turn-based RPG One Piece Odyssey. Sand Land looks like another potential one to watch.

This is a post-apocalyptic game inspired by a manga originally created by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest fame. The game has a really eye-catching cel-shaded art style to it, and the demo’s opening starts with a Crash Bandicoot-esque chase sequence, where we were tasked with driving a car forward towards the camera. It’s great fun.

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After that, we were able to explore as Beelzebub, defeating enemies using simple combat combinations and piloting a tank. With such a limited demo – it lasted less than 10 minutes – it was hard to really get a feel for the gameplay structure, but everything looked extremely polished on the PS5, and it struck us as something a little out of the ordinary.

With the upcoming Spy X Anya also adapting another popular anime in a unique way, we’re hoping this is the beginning of Bandai Namco starting to get a bit more creative with its licensed properties. Even though we’re not familiar with the source material, we’re now tempted to read a little bit of Sand Land to see what the manga’s all about, so the demo was certainly successful in that sense.

Which of Bandai Namco’s upcoming games interests you the most? The publisher’s compiled a pretty strong selection of content lately, and its TGS booth is just scratching the surface.