It feels like only yesterday that we were wandering the wide open spaces of the NEC, trying our best not to get crushed under the feet of every silly sod dressed up as the Joker. Yes, it is that time of year again, and EGX sprung upon us as something of a surprise this time around. Nevertheless, we have done our due diligence and hope to present you with some highlights of EGX 2018.
Kingdom Hearts III
Without a doubt the biggest draw for a lot of people at EGX 2018, and certainly one of the biggest queues the show has ever had, Kingdom Hearts III made a spectacular showing this year. It was the first time a lot of people have had the chance to try out what is likely to be the biggest game of next year and also one of the most anticipated RPG titles since Square showed off that FFVII tech demo all those years ago.
The KHIII demo was available both at the Square Enix area and the PlayStation area for some unknowable reason. It was the Square area where we got hands on with the demo, although we are reliably informed (because we looked) that it was the exact same demo in both locations, and in the Square area it was available on both consoles. Strange.
Odd decisions aside, the demo was stunning, showing off Sora’s new look with the fancy new graphics, as well as the improved combat engine. Much like KHII.8, everything feels insanely smooth. Gone are the clunky fights of the first Kingdom Hearts and a lot of the gimmicky stuff from the side games too. Now, all of your special attacks and forms are handled with a system similar to reaction commands from Kingdom Hearts II.
The demo included two levels to play through and required about 20 minutes to play through them both. This was plenty of time assuming that you didn’t get stuck and were willing to mostly skip the cutscenes. Fortunately, our philosophy of avoiding story spoilers AT ALL COSTS meant we were skipping cutscenes anyway, so we got to play through both areas to their completion. The two on offer were Andy’s Room and Mount Olympus.
Andy’s Room was a hell of a lot of fun. A typical level (at least we assume so when we compare it to older games), it has you running around a human-sized room as a toy-sized Sora, swatting at Heartless with your Keyblade and performing insane looking, neon-filled special attacks. The first time you summon a giant, glowing pirate ship, you almost go insane from looking at it, but it doesn’t take long for you to get the swing of things (please note: that joke only works if you know that the pirate ship works like a theme park attraction and swings around). The whole thing culminates in what is basically a mech battle segment, which felt a little gimmicky. However, it is nice to know that you at least have some variety during gameplay, which is always welcome.
The Mount Olympus level was a bit more special, mainly being the much touted boss battle against the Lava Titan that has been in lots of the adverts. The fight mainly involves running up walls while trying to avoid giant chunks of falling mountain, which was pretty intense at the time. What this does is show off some of the more interesting elements of the movement system. You can now auto-run up certain surfaces, possibly showing off some of Sora’s enhanced physicality from the last few years of training (like in Dream Drop Distance). It is certainly welcome to see that some of the enhanced manoeuvrability from the 3DS title has made it into the new main series instalment. Needless to say, the whole thing ends with you reaching the titan’s vantage point and smacking seven shades of the brown stuff out of his double faces.
Another highlight of EGX 2018, at least as far as we were concerned, was Jump Force from Bandai Namco. It’s a 3D fighting game that combines the characters from several popular Shonen Jump anime/manga series into the same game. Basically, it’s anime Smash Bros. but with better graphics and a more in-depth fighting system.
The version at EGX 2018 featured characters from One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and Hunter x Hunter. You get to choose three characters for each team and start the process of beating the crud out of each other. We ended up going with Zoro (One Piece), Naruto (…Naruto) and Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z), and we faced off against a selection of the different villains for authenticity’s sake.
Honestly, we didn’t switch to our other characters much, mainly sticking with Zoro, and mainly facing off against Frieza (Dragon Ball Z), although Blackbeard (One Piece) did make a few appearances. The gameplay has a lot in common with some of the other Bandai Namco fighting games, like those in the Naruto series. You have a strong attack and a fast attack and can dodge, etc. You also have special moves, and this is where the game steps things up slightly.
Instead of having one special attack and one super attack like in the Naruto games, you have a variety of specials to choose from. These are all pretty recognisable for anyone who knows the shows the game is based on, and it was a lot of fun to see them rendered in high graphical fidelity. There was also an ‘awakened’ mode (a term taken directly from the Ultimate Ninja Storm series), which gave you access to not only a stronger character temporarily but also your chosen character’s ultimate attack.
Jump Force is yet another game that was filled to the brim with neon. Not that it’s a problem, it just seems to be something of a trend at EGX 2018. There were a lot of games showing off bright sparks and flashes in all of their attack animations. Perhaps this is the new graphical trend that will overtake the use of bloom and brown/grey textures from the last generation? Only time will tell. Regardless, Jump Force is a game that all anime fans will be waiting for with baited breath, and we’re no exception.
As well as that, there were a few other games that grabbed some of our attention at EGX 2018. SoulCalibur VI features some of the best combat in the entire series, and on top of that, it has a pretty massive cameo (from a series famous for its cameos), with Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher series appearing on the roster. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is another game that manages to be filled with wow factor. The combat flight sim has always boasted some insane graphics and gameplay, but the first real ‘next gen’ instalment is set to take the genre by storm with possibly the best flight sim in the past 10 years.
Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee! seems like it’s set to shake up the formula of the classic handheld Pokemon games somewhat in a way that hasn’t been seen since the GameCube releases. If the queues were anything to go by, people seem to be looking forward to it somewhat, even if you don’t really battle wild Pokemon any more. Spyro Reignited Trilogy also managed to pull in a crowd, showing off nostalgic gameplay with one of the most impressive graphical updates since Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy showed us all how it was done.
There’s almost too much to talk about, and if we keep going, this article will be forty thousand words long. In aid of not keeping things too long, let us just say that there was plenty more on display to boot. Hitman 2 and The Division 2 showed off some damn impressive sequels. Black Desert Online is possibly one of the best looking MMOs of all time, and we’re not even sure where to begin with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Destiny 2: Forsaken. Needless to say, EGX 2018 was filled with excitement and wonder, and hopefully it will continue to for years to come.