This week we are on the show floor at the 2023 Tokyo Game Show. With that comes new content from the biggest publishers in Asia, including Bandai Namco. Among the games that have been brought is their reverse transmedia experiment SynDuality. More specifically we played their upcoming Action RPG SynDuality: Echo of Ada.
I almost jokingly refer to SynDuality as “reverse transmedia” as Bandai Namco is taking a different approach to your typical transmedia property. SynDuality is being leveraged as an IP across games, manga, action figures, and anime at the same time as a new product or IP. Typically you would see an IP become successful across one media type, then grow out to other industries. With that said, it seems like Bandai Namco is trying something new but will it pay off?
How Does SynDuality Play?
At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, we sat down and played SynDuality: Echo of Ada. From a gameplay perspective it feels like a classic Armored Core game, meets Tales of Arise (both Bandai games). Unfortunately, it does not seem to top either. Out of the gate, you will prepare your mech, once you sortie, you are transported into a semi-open world. From there you will collect resources and battle waves of enemies.
Playing the game feels natural, when you first put the controller in your hand, you will notice it plays just like you would imagine. The left stick is a speed burst, the left trigger is to aim down sights, the right trigger shoots, and the top face button performs a weapon swap. The gameplay is typical, and perfectly fine when in combat and traversing around.
Where SynDuality: Echo of Ada falls short is where Bandai Namco would want the game to be its strongest. The universe feels dead and lifeless. There is a colorful female protagonist and some colorful enemies but, they are surrounded by dull dark design elements. The atmosphere has contrasts where two or three things on the screen pop and everything else looks bland. Just imagine if a game like Splatoon had a level inside The Last of Us. While that is an extreme exaggeration, nothing in the art direction in SynDuality feels complementary.
SynDuality Will Not Be The Next Big Japanese IP
If Bandai Namco wants this to be a successful transmedia property, they are going to need to hit on the characters as well as the universe or lore. With that said another area where the game falls short. If you hate when the character you play talks to you the player, by talking to themselves, you are really going to hate SynDuality. Admittedly, I do not speak or read Japanese so I am missing all of the context here but the female protagonist you play as speaks at nearly every moment of gameplay. The vast majority of it feels like a commentary on your actions. Which provides nothing meaningful. Quickly you will notice how she never stops talking as you perform tasks. Hopefully, this is just something in an early area of the game, although that was not the sense that I got.
Maybe Bandai Namco sees what is wrong here and tries to salvage what works. SynDuality: Echo of Ada has been delayed out of its 2023 release window to a yet-to-be-determined date. The team needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. I would start with the name as even Bandai’s own internal materials are not consistent. It is referred to as SynDuality, Synduality, and my favorite Syn Duality. We will have to wait and see how things turn out next year. Currently, it is targeting a release on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.