games / Columns

The Top 8 Bandai Namco Franchise Games: Soul Calibur, Pac-Man Championship Edition, More

July 7, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Soul Caliber

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about Bandai Namco franchise games, specifically some of the ones they either own or license. I don’t have a lot of reverence for some of their own stuff, notably Tekken or Ace Combat, but they still have a long history of different games that should be looked at. Let’s begin:

#8: R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

The old Ridge Racer games never quite clicked for me. It wasn’t until R4 that I began to understand the actual drifting mechanics, especially versus “grip” style cars. I also thought the career mode was kind of interesting, the game looked great, it had good music, and the stupid “Jogcon” thing was more interesting than the usual Dpad or analog stick. Also, if you managed to unlock all the cars, you could drive around inside a Pac-Man car and that was pretty sweet. The later Ridge Racer games haven’t been…great, aside from the PSP ones, but R4 was the sweet spot for me.

#7: Pac Man Championship Edition DX

I never actually played the original Championship Edition, so when I got DX I was really impressed. The big addition DX has, compared to original CE, is the “ghost train” stuff. There are many ghosts that are basically sleeping in the maze and if you get close, they wake up and start following you around. It’s not just one or two, but you can have long line of ghosts that are dozens deep. Once you get a power pellet, they all can get munched on for a heaping of points. It is extremely rewarding since you have to balance keeping the train going while also eating regular dots and avoiding other ghosts. Also, the main menu music is awesome.

#6: Tales of Vesperia

Tales of Vesperia remains a game that I simply can’t finish. At a certain point I just get overwhelmed with side-content and I completely lose track of the actual story. This isn’t a knock against it though, since I still really enjoy the game. It has some really great characters, a fun battle system, and a nice little story. Plus, there’s a side-quest where you get your dog character to pee around the map, and that is always enjoyable. I’ll probably finish it at some point but I’m just drawing it out since I don’t want it to end.

#5: One Piece: Unlimited World Red

This was probably one of my first anime games I reviewed and I really dug it. It’s not a fighting game, but a brawler/adventure game where you play as Monkey D. Luffy as you rescue the different Straw Hat Pirates. One thing I dug is that every character plays fairly differently from each other, Monkey is a stretchy and quick brawler while Nico Robin is summoning arms from the ground to attack foes. There’s also a whole “restoring a town” aspect to the game, where you can help rebuild the island that you’re stuck on, to give yourself better equipment/food. It’s not the deepest game, but it has a lot more going on, gameplay-wise, then something like Kakarot.

#4: Beautiful Katamari

The first Katmari game is great and the second is pretty decent. The third though, at least when it comes to “main” Katamari games, Beautiful Katamari is the one that I really dug. I think the big reason I like it is because the gameplay can get nuts. At a certain point, your Katamari can get big enough to swallow the Earth and you get out into space where you start rolling up other planets and stars. It’s not really that much different from the regular game but it just operates on a different scale than the other Katamari games have tried to reach before. Plus, it’s Katamari, and that is always cool.

#3: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja

I have very specific memories of playing this game. I was at a friend’s place and he had gotten the game, right around launch, so this was 2003. This wasn’t the English version, that wouldn’t come out for 3 more years, but the Japanese version. He also had a modded PS2, so he, I, and his roommate would play it for hours on end. It’s not the deepest fighting game in the world, honestly, every character kind of plays the same, but the game isn’t a strict fighting game. It’s more of a cat-and-mouse game where you are trying to build your Chakra in order to do your special move, while attacking your enemy so they can’t build theirs. You have some items like Shurikens and bombs, as well as the Substitution Jutsu which would replace you with a log, if you got trapped in a combo. It was a fairly simple game but, to me, is practically on the same level as Super Smash Bros, when it comes to party-style fighting game.

#2: Soulcalibur 1

The first Soulcalibur game, specifically on the Dreamcast, is still the best Soulcalibur game. It is damn near perfectly balanced, looks great (even now), almost every character is fun to use, and it’s just simple to pick up and play. The later SC games got too cute with having guest characters and some wonky mechanics, but the first game is still fondly remembered for just being good and basic. It is still my go-to Soulcalibur game to play, which is nice, since it’s been ported around so I can still easily play it and not have to dig up my old Dreamcast to fire it up.

#1: Dragon Ball FighterZ

FINALLY, A GOOD DRAGON BALL Z GAME! I’m not really kidding here, some prior DBZ games have been passable, notably the Budokai series, but none have been actually “good”. Not just good, but damn near perfect, since Arc System Works actually developed the game and they are renowned for making good fighting games. It captures the spirit of the anime perfectly with city-destroying blasts and a ton of great action. It is an actual legitimate fighting game, on the level of a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, full of technical gameplay that can get very challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing. Even for casual fans though, the game has enough DBZ stuff in it to make them smile and that is an impressive feat.

For comments, list your favorite Bandai Namco franchise games and why.

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Top 8 Nintendo Franchise Games