Bandai Namco may be better known in the UK for its console titles like Ni no Kuni II, Project Cars and the Dark Souls series, but its anime-focused titles are actually some of its biggest successes worldwide. It’s with these connections and exclusive rights to anime properties that Bandai plans to score big on mobile in 2018.
Chances are you’re already familiar with some of Bandai’s anime titles on consoles. The Dragon Ball series of games have always been immensely popular, with Dragon Ball Fighterz being its latest smash-hit. In fact, you can name an anime series and Bandai Namco pretty much produces a game for it that’s done incredibly well. On mobile, however, it’s a slightly different story. One glance at Bandai Namco’s output and you’ll see a slew of titles linked to various anime, few of which actually stand out as a flagship title. This year, that’s changing.
Announced at Bandai Namco’s Mobile Entertainment Lineup Presentation during GDC 2018 in San Francisco, the Japanese company revealed its plans to keep anime fans busy for the year ahead. Of these announcements, Dragon Ball Legends was clearly the biggest of the lot. Having worked in conjunction with Dragon Ball Xenoverse developer DIMPS, Bandai Namco is clearly positioning Dragon Ball Legends as a flagship mobile title as they’ve worked on a pioneering new PvP service powered by the Google Cloud Platform.
With Dragon Ball Legends taking the lead, Bandai is bolstering its other anime offerings with new entries in the Sword Art Online, One Piece, Naruto and Boruto series. Each title is startlingly similar in execution, all of them are team-based 3D action games, the fact that they drill so deep into their respective series means lovers of each anime can find themselves immersed into these virtual worlds on a level they’ve not been able to before.
The first of the three games on offer in 2018 is Sword Art Online: Integral Factor. Having already released in Japan, the mobile online RPG is now coming West and aims to sweep Sword Art Online (SAO) up in a storm of new story, characters and quests. Instead of following in the footsteps of the anime, Integral Factor puts you in the shoes of a new protagonist who’s been swept up into the Death Game of the original SAO story. Alongside your companion and real-life friend Koharu you’ll discover a unique story inside the SAO universe that actually plays out differently depending on your in-game actions.
For a mobile game, combat is actually seemingly in real-time and you can team up with friends and strangers online to take down big foes or enter into PvP arenas. It’s actually wonderfully ambitious and seems more like a game you’d find coming to Switch or PS Vita than direct to mobile. It’s already been quite a big success in Japan and now you can pre-register for it on mobile if you fancy snapping it up when it lands in the west later this year.
If SAO isn’t your thing, worry not as Bandai Namco plans to keep One Piece fans happy too with the western release of One Piece Bounty Rush later this year. Available for pre-registration on the Google Play Store, Bounty Rush is a team-based 3D action battle game for Android and iOS. Interestingly, as one of the first 3D One Piece games on mobile, it’s already caught the attention of rabid fans with its pre-launch test amassing a million participants.
Gameplay revolves around smashing up your environment, computer-controlled players and other human participants in arena-style bouts to grab Berry coins and amass a fortune. The team with the most coins is declared the winner and the whole game is very tightly tied to the pirate nature of One Piece as a series. It’s also not just a straightforward battler free-for-all, in many ways it actually draws upon the MOBA genre by offering up five different character types that work in tandem to create a formidable team.
For One Piece fans, it’s good to know that lots of “memorable and unique” characters from the series will feature in Bounty Rush split across its five character types. Those who sign up for the game now will also receive a slew of in-game goodies to help them get started.
Bandai Namco also revealed that it’s got a whole lot more in store for Naruto fans as it plans to bring a slew of new content the recently released Naruto X Boruto Ninja Voltage. Having launched globally on 20 November last year, Ninja Voltage has already seen over 10 million downloads from fans already with more expected across 2018 as Boruto fandom continues to grow.
The biggest announcement for Ninja Voltage players is the arrival of a new Raid Battle feature that was tested earlier this year. Now released as part of the core game, Bandai hopes that new players will want to become involved in these huge battles against notable foes in both the Naruto and Boruto universes. Fans will also get to play as Mitsuki, meaning yet another new Boruto character joins the fray.
Interestingly, across all four of these new mobile titles, Bandai Namco wasn’t overly clear about how it actually plans to monetise things. It’s obvious that cosmetic alterations will likely come from in-app purchases but, as all four titles rely upon online functionality, could we see Bandai pushing for other microtransactions?
All in all, as mobile games go from a big publisher, it’s looking like 2018 is certainly going to be a big year for Bandai titles. With an increasing interest in anime in the west, the Japanese developer and publisher is in a better position than ever to make the most of this new and interested crowd. Here’s hoping that their ambition pays off.