In the opening hall of the Makuhari Messe this Tokyo Game Show was an enormous, monolithic tribute to HoYoverse, a company fast becoming one of PlayStation’s most important developers. While the juggernaut Chinese studio may not get the same recognition as the likes of Naughty Dog or FromSoftware, its games are absolutely colossal in scale – and to underline our point, the company is registering greater profit margins than the entirety of Sony’s gaming division right now.
Its influence could be felt not just at TGS, but around Tokyo in general – especially in the Akihabara area. For example, we spotted one vendor adjacent to an arcade flogging Genshin Impact-themed pastries. Meanwhile, the fantasy open worlder’s characters could be seen decorating many of the streets, while billboards overlooked iconic photo spots. It’s not just in Japan either, by the way – Ximen station in Taipei is also wallpapered with the gacha’s colourful cast.
But while the organisation’s meteoric rise can be attributed predominantly to Genshin Impact, the developer’s catalogue is expanding. Obviously, Honkai: Star Rail will release on PS5 this coming 11th October, and is already a gigantic hit on PC and mobile. And then it’s got the urban flavoured Zenless Zone Zero cooking, which was confirmed for consoles late last week. We went hands on with both games on the show floor.
Zenless Zone Zero
While there are common themes between Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, we think HoYoverse has done an incredible job differentiating the two. Achieving that a third time was always going to be difficult, however – and yet Zenless Zone Zero has a totally different vibe to the developer’s current two flagship titles.
This feels like a Dreamcast game in terms of presentation, with its colourful, contemporary, vaguely Japanese urban streets. While our demo time was frustratingly limited, we were able to explore the hub area which will presumably form the foundations of the gameplay. It’s all as slick and beautifully presented as you’d expect from the developer, with a ramen vendor and arcades lining the streets.
The music – a consistent aspect acclaimed in HoYoverse games – is absolutely superb, and this hub area feels like it could comfortably expand over the course of the title’s lifespan. We didn’t get to test out the combat for ourselves due to a lack of time, but watching over the shoulder of other attendees it appears to have a similar flavour to Genshin Impact, with constant character switching.
It’s worth underlining that this is a real-time action game, as opposed to the turn-based more tactical action of Honkai: Star Rail. It looks faster and more frenetic than anything HoYoverse has made before – even including the decidedly flashy mobile title Honkai Impact 3rd – and so we expect this to capture the attention of fans of character action games, like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.
Perhaps the only worry here is that it does seem to be taking its sweet time to release. Obviously, the company’s launch energies have been focused on Honkai: Star Rail, but it feels like we’ve been seeing the same content from Zenless Zone Zero for quite some time. We’re told an updated beta is due in the near future, and hopefully this will give us a deeper insight into the release as it edges closer to launch.
Honkai: Star Rail
Having invested a couple hundred hours into Honkai: Star Rail on our phones already, there are few surprises in the PS5 version. However, we’re happy to report that most importantly of all, the game feels right at home. The outing’s stunning visual style scales well to 4K monitors, and the action is running at 60fps here.