Knights Contract Preview
We haven’t yet talked about one of the more promising games that showed up at the Tokyo Game Show: Namco Bandai’s Knights Contract. A third-person, hack ‘n slash action extravaganza featuring two main characters that work in tandem to defeat the denizens of evil, it impressed TGS attendees with its visual realism and potential. Although other similar games received more press during the event – the new Devil May Cry and Asura’s Wrath from Capcom leap readily to mind – we at PSXE feel that Namco’s project could surprise everyone next year. Two things cause us to have faith: the first is the new trailer that debuted at the show, which you can view below. The second is the first smattering of details that could indicate an elite next-gen experience, provided all the pieces fall into place. But first, let’s deal with that video; the level of graphical accomplishment is appreciated…if unexpected.
Granted, the most impressive aspects of the trailer are the cut-scenes, but the gameplay looks fast, furious and quite detailed, and some of the non-CGI scenes are drop-dead gorgeous. It’s difficult to imagine that a virtually unknown game called Knights Contract threw down the visual gauntlet at TGS 2010 but that may indeed be the case. Other titles, like the aforementioned Capcom projects and Mikami/Suda 51’s game, Shadows of the Damned, looked like fun, but didn’t have this kind of graphical quality. In fact, perhaps the only game that topped this one in terms of visuals might have been Team ICO’s The Last Guardian. Beyond the graphics, we get a glimpse of the story, which consists of Heinrich, the big main guy, and Gretchen, the resurrected witch at his side. Apparently, Heinrich can’t die – what is this, NeverDead? – and he has to protect Gretchen, who is unsurprisingly skilled in the magical arts. FYI, you only have direct control over the huge dude with the scythe.
The two embark on a mission to stop the evil Dr. Faust, who is wreaking havoc in a fictional representation of medieval Germany. Heinrich will clearly utilize a vast array of melee skills and combo attacks, which appear to have the speed of a Ninja Gaiden and the fiery flash of a God of War. We’re not yet sure if he’ll be able to utilize other weapons, or if that massive scythe can be used in other ways; i.e., if it can be upgraded to become more powerful and perhaps even ranged (throw that sucker!). Of course, he’s not entirely alone: although his job is to protect Gretchen, he can still ask her to help by casting various spells, and that implies the two should be able to team up against significantly difficult foes. A few reared their ugly heads in that trailer, as well as the short demo shown to the press at the show. In the demo, there was some sort of intimidating flaming horse and chariot that posed some definite problems.
Now, here’s the only part that has us concerned: you can’t let Gretchen die. Heinrich has signed a contract to protect her so if she goes down, you’ll see that dreaded Game Over screen. Personally, I’m not a big fan of babysitting in my video games, and it seems rare that developers get this just right. Two of the best examples of paired heroes so far this generation have been Chris and Sheva in Resident Evil 5, and the Prince and Elika in Prince of Persia, but there have been many other instances of partner failure. So we’re leery of the escorting in Knights Contract. However, perhaps it’s not a big deal…see, if Heinrich can’t die, maybe we don’t have to worry about ourselves, and we simply have to keep an eye on Gretchen’s health. That seems weird, but who knows? Namco said the guy is invincible, so…
Anyway, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. It’s slated to arrive in the spring for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
9/21/2010 Ben Dutka