Gaming Age goes to…The SEGA Summer Showcase

Summer brings the sweltering heat that in my advancing age, I will do anything to avoid. However when SEGA came a calling and invited us to the very swanky space to check out their slate of their upcoming titles…who am I to say no. So I steeled myself for a trip into the city (Manhattan) with the allure of meeting this Joryu fellow.

The event started with a presentation, with speakers representing each title that would be present at the showcase. Once we got through all the speakers we were dispersed to try the titles at the showcase. Some titles were skipped due to their genres being something that I was not interested in (Total War: PHARAOH, Total War: WARHAMMER III Shadows of Change DLC), another will not be discussed due to an embargo that has not passed and one I literally could not play because my glasses prevented me from playing (Samba de Amigo VR). However I did spend time with the following titles, Samba de Amigo: Party Central, Samba de Amigo: Party to Go, Persona 3 Reload, Persona 5 Tactica and the game I was most excited for Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.

Samba de Amigo: Party Central, Samba de Amigo: Party to Go

Samba has the distinction of the title which will be released first (August 29th), so I figured I would finally check out the title with its motion controls (I previously played the title using its non-motion controls at a private preview of the title). While I’m still not as rhythmic as my colleague, I can hardly fault the motion controls for my adequate performance. The game was more or less in its final state, so I’ll save my final thoughts when the full review of the title comes out. I strode over to the next kiosk where an iPad Pro was running Samba de Amigo: Party to Go.

The Apple Arcade exclusive is the version to feature a full story mode where Samba needs to bring music back to the world. I would imagine it would just be an arcade mode and I look forward to putting the mode through its paces when it arrives to Apple’s gaming subscription platform (I’ve been a subscriber since day one…and I keep forgetting to cancel, this title will definitely give my subscription a stay of execution). Touch controls for the title were good, but like controller controls, certain note patterns are harder to execute and having your hand tapping the screen means you are actively obscuring the screen.

Persona 5 Tactica

ATLUS is really getting their mileage with the Phantom Thieves, but frankly any time I see these masked thieves I know I’m going to be in for a fun time. Sporting a new art style that is more akin to a chibi style, we’re following the group to a metaverse that is different from the one they’re accustomed to. The demo featured the tutorial and a skirmish that takes place later in the game’s first chapter.

If you’ve played the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle games, you should feel quite at home with Tactica. Take the field and take down your foes, utilize cover to ensure you’re harder to hit, utilize math and position your characters in a triangle that covers the most amount of enemies and perform your Triple Threat attack to whittle down the forces that stand in your way of returning home.

Don’t let the game’s cutesy art style fool you, this game gets pretty dark, as after brainwashing the rest of the Phantom Thieves, Marie chains up then drags Joker and Morgana behind her spiked up wedding tank. So I can expect some serious and dark things to go down in this game whose color palette is bright and shiny. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Phantom Thieves get out of this mess when Persona 5 Tactica releases on November 17th.

Persona 3 Reload

Persona 4 might get the credit for finally pushing the franchise into the mainstream in the West, but Persona 3 walked so that Persona 4 can run. While it was great to see Persona 3 Portable get released on modern platforms, it seems ATLUS wasn’t done tinkering with the game and Persona 3 Reload might eclipse Persona 3 Portable as the definitive version. Like the Tactica demo, the Persona 3 Reload was split into two portions, exploration of Tartarus and the May 9th operation which takes place on a haunted monorail.

Built off of Unreal Engine 4, the characters on the field look like they literally stepped out of a
Shigenori Soejima (Persona’s character designer who took the lead role in this iteration) drawing. Animations are smooth and the post fight animations are so slick I nearly slipped off the sofa. I did notice the Evoker (the gun-like item used to summon Persona) was changed to make it look less like an actual handgun, while it’s not earth shattering it is a bit disappointing to see.

I have a bad habit of telling whatever staff that is watching that they will be witnessing the worst gameplay and with my first attempt at exploring Tartarus, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. I ran into the tower without taking Yukari and Junpei with me. Needless to say my demo “ended” after one encounter with my inglorious death. My second attempt would last a little longer, climbing the 4ish floors with ease as I used Persona attacks that were strong against those I encountered and managed my party’s health to ensure no one would be downed easily. Tartarus was hued in a velvety blue that just popped so much that if there weren’t any Shadows lurking within it, the tower might be a pleasant place to occupy.

The second part of the demo was a tad more linear and hued in a green that was comparable to its vividness of the colors of Tartarus. Thankfully Yukari and Junpei were already with me…although an errant choice might’ve caused Junpei to run off. Despite missing a member, we fought through the train and eventually reunited with Junpei…and thank goodness we reunited as a group as the lead car of the monorail was being occupied by an icy priestess. The boss fight’s tension was ramped up due to a time constraint and as rounds passed your time limit is decreased further due to the actions of the priestess. Ample usage of Agi (Fire) melted the Shadow away and we were able to prevent the monorail from crashing thus closing out our time with Persona 3 Reload.

While the Persona games never looked bad per-se, I am looking forward to these remakes that make the in-game visuals align more with the images drafted up by Soejima. I’m sure with excellent sales, we can expect a “Reload” version of Persona 4 and at that point you might as well just install a money printer at ATLUS HQ. Persona 3 Reload will put one in the chamber February 2nd 2024.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

*Spoilers Ahead* When Kazuma Kiryu faked his death at the end of Yakuza 6, We all thought that it would be the last time we would be controlling the principled stoic yakuza. It seems just like the western mob, you’re never really out…even if you are out and in Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, you’re back in control of Kiryu even if they’re calling him Joryu. No shade to Ichiban and crew, and with Judgment’s uncertain future…it’s good to get back on the bike (or rather pick it up and swing it at your nearest assailant) and play an entry where there’s no waiting for your turn to come up.

The demo takes place at “The Castle” an adult playground situated on a cargo ship off the shores of Japan, out of reach of the authorities. Joryu and his contact Akame enter and she says to meet him at the arena. As soon as she leaves the scene, some rough looking fellows question your presence at the Castle. Joryu isn’t one to be spoken down to and a brawl breaks out. Despite having numbers on their side these thugs stand no chance against Joryu and his Agent fighting style.

The second of the styles you will have access to in the game, it’s “quicker” than the Yakuza style and you have access to gadgets on each of the face buttons. Of the gadgets, the ones that were most effective in the demo were “Spider” and “Serpent”. Spider is the web-like string that you can fire to capture opponents, Serpent triggers jets in Joryu’s shoes that will allow you to plow through foes to create space. Hornet summons drones, and Firefly is a cigarette that explodes when activated and thrown. I didn’t exactly use these two, but I’m sure with upgrades they will be a vital part of your Agent arsenal.

Arriving at the colosseum I got to register and compete in brawls in front of the clientele of the castle. The demo allowed for one versus many and team fights. Team fights are a first for the series and you can recruit a bevy of characters that fans of the series will recognize, names such as Gary “Buster” Holmes, Mr Libido and if you pre-order the game legendary Yakuza such as Goro Majima! Each of these characters have their own movesets and specials and you don’t even necessarily have to control Joryu in these multi-man skirmishes.

A couple of brawls netted some coin in my pocket so I opted to try my luck at the various gambling houses in the complex. You can opt for western games such as Poker and Blackjack or Eastern games like Oicho-Kabu and Koi-Koi. Mahjong will be in the final title, but it wasn’t in this demo otherwise I would have stayed at the demo station for the rest of the session. I won a couple hands of Blackjack but walked away before the house won their money back and then some. Seeing debtors at the castle are turned into slaves means I need to stay my hand and not go too hard testing my luck.

With some money still in my pocket, I decided to engage in an in-game activity that you might not want to partake in with a polite company present. The cabaret club in this game features live action video of the women you will spend time with. Select conversation cards and learn more about the lady you are paying to spend time with. Answering correctly, order drinks and give them gifts and perhaps you might earn enough affection for something more. You won’t see it but it’ll probably net completion points so just play along, ok!

The final feature offered in the demo is something I’ll probably seldom use. It was rare to get Kiryu out of his signature gray suit with red shirt, however Joryu’s a different man. I was able to swap shirts, shoes and various accessories. While the choices were limited, I walked out of there looking like I raided Kaito’s (of Judgment fame) closet. Satisfied with what I experienced, I’ll be counting down the days until Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name when it comes out November 9th 2023.