At one point, "Attack on Titan" was the hottest anime on the planet. The story about human survivors besieged by a race of giant humanoid creatures captured fans' imagination. It was essentially "The Walking Dead" starring 50-foot zombies and heroes who battled them like a sword-swinging Spider-Man.
Since the initial season, the popularity has cooled but an upcoming third season and a new game, "Attack on Titan 2," could reignite the fandom. I had a chance to check out latest video game entry to the series at an event in San Francisco and spoke with Hisashi Koinuma, the president and COO of Koei Tecmo Games and producer on the project.
With "Attack on Titan 2," the plot advances beyond the first season and goes into what follows after Eren, Mikasa, Armin and the rest of the Scout Regiment take down Annie in the capital. Because it's a video game, the development team, Omega Force, uses some artistic license by letting players create their own hero who interacts with the rest of the squad.
That move goes hand in hand with a push in "Attack on Titan 2" to give players more characters to control. In the previous title, 10 heroes were available. In this sequel, fans can get their hands on 30. What's even better is that playing as certain character will offer up new wrinkles to the narrative as they tell the events of "Attack on Titan" from their perspective.
Each hero has their own stats divided up among strength, agility, health, leadership, concentration and dexterity. These play a pivotal role in the feel for each character. For example, Mikasa has 105 strength and 120 agility, which makes her quick and powerful when it comes to taking down titans. Meanwhile, Armin has 105 in concentration and leadership making him not as great in physical combat but with more benefits in other aspects of battle.
As for the gameplay itself, "Attack on Titan 2" looks like a "Dynasty Warrior" game on the surface. There are wide open areas and several titans and humans on the screen, but as players fly through the air via the 3D Maneuvering Gear, they'll notice that there are several layers of complexity to combat. It isn't so much about button mashing until a titan is dead.
Mimicking the anime, players have to maneuver around the behemoths, dodging their lunges and swings while finding angles for their own attack. The gear works as expected. Hitting square pulls players forward through the air. The 3D Maneuvering Gears' gas canisters fire out grappling hooks used to zip around trees or low-slung buildings. Hitting R1 targets a titans vital areas and pressing triangle sends the character flying at the target.
Judging by the angle of the attack and the power, players can score damage. They have to be careful though because titans in this sequel are more aggressive than before. They will pluck players from the air and that introduces them to a quicktime event where they have to mash the triangle button to slice off the monster's fingers and get away.
Along with combat, players have to manage their gear. Eren, Mikasa and company have a finite number of swords, gas canisters, health potions and flash grenades. Like in the anime, blades grow dull and canisters run out of compressed air after a while. If they're used up, they'll have to resupply at points through the expansive levels.
Players also earn money through each mission, and those points can be used to buy better swords, armor and other gear.
Lastly, "Attack on Titan 2" features offline and online modes. The online mode is intriguing because it lets up to 8 players battle titans. It turns the fight into a more collaborative process as players try not to get in each other's way when assaulting enemies. From what I played, the project captures the essence of the anime, and it brings them closer to the world that creator Hajime Isayama envisioned.
"Attack on Titan 2" comes out March 20 on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
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