Hands-On: The Best of XSEED at E3 2019

by David Sanchez June 18, 2019 @ 7:41 am

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always made it a point to visit XSEED’s E3 booth. The publisher puts on a nice showing and features a good lineup of quirky Japanese titles. This year was no different, with fun games to be found at every corner. Unfortunately, time constraints meant I couldn’t possibly play every single XSEED-published title, but I at least managed to go hands-on with three promising upcoming games.

Heroland (FuRyu)

One of the most unique games at the XSEED was Heroland — known in Japan as Work x Work. The game stars a young guy who’s just trying to make an honest buck by working at a wacky amusement park. Right from the get-go, you’re introduced to a handful of characters that range from funny to bizarre. The writing is sharp and leans heavily on tongue-in-cheek humor and self-awareness.

When you’re not talking to tourist guides and would-be royalty, you’re acting as a helper character in battles. These auto-battles are turn-based affairs, with your party members and enemies taking turns delivering a walloping both ways. While you can’t directly attack baddies, you can buff your partners’ attacks, heal ailing members in your party, or direct traffic by focusing on certain enemies.

Heroland is very much a dialogue-driven RPG, and this is evident in how the characters interact with one another. The characters all have a whimsical way of talking, even if some of the things they say aren’t always kid-friendly despite the game’s cheery, blocky look. The combination of fast-paced battles and silly dialogue makes Heroland a fun little RPG that’s unlike most of what’s out there.

The game’s lead developers are a total supergroup, consisting of Director Takahiro Yamane of Fantasy Life fame, Mother 3 and Legend of Mana Artist Nobuhiro Imagawa, Writer Nobuyuki Inoue (who also worked on Legend of Mana), and Composer for Shin Megami Tensei Tsukasa Masuko. It’s obvious that Heroland is a labor of love for these developers, a passion project that’s very different than what they’ve previously worked on but influenced by those classic titles.

Heroland is due out on PlayStation 4 and Switch sometime in 2019.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin (Edelweiss)

This isn’t the first E3 for Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. It’s hard to fault the developers for the prolonged localization time when you consider that it’s an independent two-man team toiling away on this project and working hard to bring the ambitious JRPG to North America.

You guide the titular Sakuna across colorful 2D landscapes and hack and slash your way past monsters based on actual Japanese folkloric creatures. Not everything is a daunting beast, though, as you’ll also battle smaller feral creatures that the developers told me are “based on animals Japanese people would encounter” in the wild.

The combat in the game is fast-paced and more arcade-centric than other JRPGs. According to the team, Sakuna is “about 70 percent action and 30 percent RPG,” as indicated by the game’s farming sequences, which have you growing rice crops and cultivating the land with rich produce.

I played Sakuna last year on PlayStation 4, and this time around I gave the Switch version a go. Spoiler alert: Both versions play great, and the game is also due out on PC, so there are plenty options for all you RPG lovers out there. It looks like the Edelweiss duo is wrapping up development and localization as Sakuna is due out by the end of 2019.

Rune Factory 4 Special (Marvelous Entertainment)

Rune Factory 4 delivered a solid farming/action-RPG combination on the 3DS in 2012. The game is currently sitting on a 78 score on Metacritic, indicating a mostly favorable reception. Marvelous is revamping the game for Switch, now titled Rune Factory 4 Special, with updated graphics, new cutscenes, a new difficulty option, and special scenes in the debuting Newlywed Mode.

In terms of gameplay, Rune Factory 4 Special doesn’t deviate much, if at all, from the series’ familiar formula. This is the same great game that was released on the 3DS seven years ago, complete with the fun hack-and-slash RPG action and satisfying farming gameplay. There are also plenty of folks for you to befriend and court, with a colorful cast and solid dialogue options to keep players engaged.

If you’re a fan of the series and you’ve yet to jump into the world of Rune Factory 4, then Special very clearly has a few new bells and whistles to entice you to play it. If you’ve already played the original version on 3DS, you may not need this enhanced remake as the two play mostly identically. That said, even if you’ve already played it before but you just love Rune Factory 4 that much, then Rune Factory 4 Special is a worthy adventure. Watch for it later this year.

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