Bandai Namco is bringing the God Eater franchise over to Western shores after more than five successful years in Japan. And they do so with a two for the price of one sort of deal. If you pick up God Eater 2: Rage Burst you're also getting God Eater: Resurrection - the updated original at no additional cost.
"Five years ago we released the first God Eater on PSP," says series producer Yusuke Tomizawa. "After that the phenomenon of God Eater has happened. It just started as an action game, but people really liked the action element, and they liked the universe, they liked the characters."
What is God Eater then? The long and short of it is that this is a game that is similar to Capcom's immensely popular Monster Hunter series, that's set in a post-apocalyptic future where a group of people "God Eaters" take on monstrosities known as the Aragami. In fact the God Eaters are infused with DNA and powers from the Aragami to allow them to fight these monsters.
It's an action-RPG where you run around in a group, either with AI-controlled characters or your friends, through ad-hoc or online play. Collecting loot, beating up progressively more difficult enemies, and levelling up are all part of the addiction that turned God Eater into a success.
The key difference between this and Monster Hunter, at least according to Bandai Namco themselves, is that God Eater has more of a story focus. These are rather huge games offering more than a hundred hours of action for eager eaters. The franchise that has generated sales in excess of 3 million copies in Japan, has spawned anime, mangas and lots of merchandise. God Eater is a big deal to Bandai Namco and it's obvious they've thought long and hard about how to best transfer this game over to Western audiences.
"One of the biggest reasons for the success in Japan of hunting games in general is the co-op gameplay of local connection, not online connection," says Tomizawa. "That is something that caught the heart of Japanese fans."
Local multiplayer on handhelds simply isn't as big over here, but naturally there will be online play to make up for that fact.
No-one will mistake God Eater: Resurrection for a game that's been developed primarily for PS4. It looks the part of an upscaled PS Vita title and no amount of high resolution textures can hide that fact. God Eater 2: Rage Burst does look more advanced, but the underlying geometry and movements clearly underwhelm on the hardware. As Bandai Namco wanted to allow for cross-play on PS Vita and PS4 it was not possible to dramatically change the experience on the more powerful hardware. That's not to say the games don't have merit or can't be enjoyed, just don't expect this game to look anything like contemporaries like say, Horizon: Zero Dawn or on the other side of the console divide, Scalebound.
The two games are connected through the setting and characters. The first game is set in 2071 with the sequel taking place three years afterwards. In fact, the series producer urged players to try and play them in sequence even if God Eater 2: Rage Burst is the more advanced game when it comes to both visuals and mechanics.
God Eater 2: Rage Burst offers a couple of key gameplay improvements. This includes the Blood Arts abilities (over 400 variations available) and the Blood Rage features that let's you bet on yourself, and as you beat a certain challenge it unlocks a temporary skill. Looking at the two games side by side it is readily apparent that Rage Burst is the more dynamic action experience with deeper and more varied gameplay.
It's difficult at this point to predict whether Bandai Namco made the right call in introducing Western audiences to God Eater in this fashion, or if they would have been better off in starting things out with the inevitable third game. A third game that may look more at home on a PS4. But perhaps given the story focus we're better off being able to play the first two chapters, and at least we're not being made to pay full price for both.