You may remember in our post about the Xbox One games we mentioned that some of the games playable at the Microsoft booth were closed off in a separate section, due to Japan's very strict age restriction system. Well, as we also mentioned previously, those games happened to be the worse ones in the booth as well. Not that all the games in Microsoft's booth were bad, mind you... just those in the back room.
Fable Anniversary (360)
I was super excited to play Fable Anniversary, a remake of the first ever Fable game; I am a huge fan of the Fable series, and have played every one since the first game on the original Xbox all those years ago. As the original one is a bit hard to go back to and play (10 year old graphics don't really hold up that well, unfortunately), Fable Anniversary was going to be the perfect excuse for me to play the original game again, re-made into glorious HD. Only problem with that is that it was awful.
The biggest problem with Fable Anniversary is that it has been remade in graphics only. They bumped up the polygon count and smoothed it out, which is great and all; graphically, it looks very nice. The only problem is that bumping up the graphics only works when there is nothing else wrong with the game. As amazing as the original game was, it was ambitious for its time and had many glitches and choppy motions from the system struggling to keep up. In the original Xbox this was excusable, as that was the extent of the technology at the time; the fact that these same glitches and choppy motions were in the 360 HD remake is inexcusable. Worse, the frame rate would routinely drop while I was playing the demo, to the point where it was almost unplayable. Honestly, after playing this, I almost wanted to cry. Despite being such a huge fan of the series, I have no intention of buying Fable Anniversary unless they make some major changes, which at this late date seems rather unlikely.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (360/PS3)
Well, what to say about Yaiba...first off, this is not necessarily a Ninja Gaiden game. It is actually a spin-off of the main series, staring Yaiba Kamikaze, who had the misfortune of being killed by Ryu. Just how is Yaiba still alive if he was killed by Ryu? Well, he is some sort of cyborg ninja thing... it really wasn't explained in the demo. And for some reason, Yaiba is fighting against hordes of the undead that have overrun the city. Why? Don't know, wasn't explained either.
The game features a highly stylized, semi-cell-shaded look to its graphics, which is a big departure from the established look of the Ninja Gaiden series. The demo featured only one level, which saw Yaiba fighting wave after wave of zombies, and then more zombies and even more zombies. To say that the combat gets a little repetitive is an understatement, especially considering Yaiba has basically one primary attack (at least in the demo). To add insult to injury, the game likes to style itself after a Suda 51 game (Killer 7, No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw) but just ends up coming off as juvenile and stupid; it lacks that certain something that makes Suda's games go beyond their baser beginnings. Unfortunately, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z has nothing of the sorts.
Strider (360/PS3/PS4/Xbox One)
Nowadays, most people know the character of Strider Hiryu from the Marvel vs Capcom game, while I can remember a time when he was the star of his own classic arcade, NES, and Genesis titles. At Comic-con this year, Capcom felt the time was right to announce that they were bringing Strider back into the spotlight.
If fans were worried that Capcom might nerf Strider's well-known difficulty and fast-paced play, they have nothing to fear from this new incarnation. Just like its predecessors, this one features a running, slashing, back-flipping, and climbing gameplay, along with a difficulty curve reminiscent of the original. The game sports a retro-inspired 2.5D graphic style, as well. Speaking of difficulty, while I will freely admit my Strider skills are more than a little rusty, this new game is hard. In fact, I was unable to finish the demo in the fifteen minute limit. While it does have a somewhat linear level progression to its stages, it does spice things up by adding a metroidvania exploration/back-tracking mechanic into the mix, making it not quite the same as the original games in this aspect. This version still keeps the core of what made the Strider series so fun and enjoyable though, and I'm looking forward to playing it and re-living a part of my childhood.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (360/PS3)
While Castlevania is technically multi-platform, as is Assassin's Creed 4, I played it on the 360, so I put it in this section. Coincidentally, it's also one of the few games in the Microsoft booth I really enjoyed.
Lords of Shadow 2 won't make much sense to you unless you've played at least the first Lords of Shadow, and ideally Mirror of Fate on the 3DS as well. Fortunately, if you haven't had a chance to play either of them, they will both be available to download from the PSN/Xbox Live services this fall (Mirror of Fate was remade into HD for its digital release), so you can go catch up on it. Seriously. Go play them as soon as you can; they are awesome games. Lords of Shadow 2 looks to continue the quality of the series, with you now playing as Dracula with all his powers. The demo I played seemed to be the very beginning of the game, as you play a tutorial level as a horde of holy warriors siege Dracula's castle. In addition to your whip, you also have an ice sword and fire gloves in your arsenal, from the first game, which you can switch between on the fly by pressing the right and left shoulder buttons. You also have a finishing move which can be deployed on stunned/low health opponents, where you can literally drink the blood of your enemies (you are Dracula, after all). The demo was loads of fun, and after going through a few waves of holy warriors, I eventually found myself crawling up the side of a giant mechanical monster, fighting more holy warriors and angels along the way. It is everything the last games were, in the very best way, and I for one am super excited to play it, as you all should be too.