Level-5 has an enormous booth at the Tokyo Game Show this year, rivalling titans like SEGA, Konami, and Capcom. This is significant because the iconic Japanese developer hasn’t really released a noteworthy game since Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. Admittedly, it has kept the lights on with a number of Japanese-centric titles, like Yo-Kai Watch 4, but it hasn’t been relevant in quite a while.
The good news is that its two new upcoming PS5 and PS4 titles, DECAPOLICE and Inazuma Eleven: Victory Road, look like a return to form – and while we’re sceptical of either title hitting their vague 2023 release dates, having gone hands on with them both, we’re confident in the Dark Cloud developer making a meaningful comeback in the near future.
Playing the DECAPOLICE demo on the TGS show floor is honestly an exercise in futility if you’re an English speaker, as it’s entirely in Japanese and extremely text-heavy throughout. However, after pointing out our overall excitement for the game, we were able to swindle a couple of kind Level-5 employees into translating the general gist of the chapter-long teaser to us.
The game is, in essence, a detective title with turn-based RPG elements. The action takes place in DECASIM, a virtual replica of a real-world where clues can be obtained in order to unravel mysteries. Playing on the PS5, it looks absolutely stunning – like an anime brought to life. While we were directed towards a specific crime in a jewellery store, we were told the map could be freely explored.
Much like in the modern Sherlock Holmes games, you’ll gather clues by interrogating people and interacting with objects. This will unlock clues which can then be pinned to a deduction board, allowing you to make connections in order to find the culprit. We’re simplifying for brevity, but there’s quite a lot going on in the game, so there’s lots of storytelling to sink your teeth into.
Once you’ve found the offender you’ll enter into a turn-based RPG-style battle system, where you spend action points on attacks across your party. You’ll need to use a combination of brains and brawns to overcome your opponents, with a colour-coding system helping you to identify which attacks will work and why.
We found the combat lacking in feedback a little bit, and it was hard to tell whether we’d actually issued a command so little was the feedback at times. But this is something that could potentially be fixed – or may fare better in a more relaxed setting, as listening to multiple staff trying to translate while we played did understandably overwhelm our senses a touch.
But the game clearly has real promise, and its art style is exquisite. After being MIA for so long, this is the kind of comeback title that Level-5 must have been looking for. We’re really excited to get our hands on the final build (in English!) and experience everything that this anime detective adventure has to offer.
Inazuma Eleven: Victory Road
Inazuma Eleven will allegedly make its PS5 and PS4 debut later this year, and that’s great news for fans of soccer animes, like Blue Lock et al. We’re familiar with the Nintendo DS titles, although Victory Road plays like more of an arcade-style kickabout than a tactics title. We weren’t able to experience any of the RPG or visual novel aspects, so this was purely focused on gameplay.
And it’s fun – although it could get repetitive! Key battles like tackles, interceptions, and even some dribbles are depicted using short little minigames, where you’ll need to jockey the opponent to block their path or line up your shot from outside the box. These are fun, but we started to see a lot of repetition even during our short hands-on, and we wonder how long the novelty will last.
The art style is sharp and colourful, and it has that over-the-top feel you’d expect from a football anime, where shots are blocked by goalkeepers leaping into the air upon a backdrop of comic book explosions, and the ball sets on fire when you rifle a shot into the top corner. We’d need to see more before we come to any firm conclusions, but there’s reasons to be optimistic for the return of this franchise.
Are you pleased to see the resurrection of Level-5 after so many years in the wilderness? Which of these two upcoming PS5 and PS4 titles are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below.