Buddy Mission: BOND | Review | Switch - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, April 30, 2021

Buddy Mission: BOND | Review | Switch

Buddy Mission Bond kind of came out of nowhere. Originally unveiled during the October 2020 Partner Direct, gamers were introduced to this new IP that was being developed by Koei Tecmo and published by Nintendo. New IP? Nintendo behind the game? Sounds like a shoe in for the West, right? Well, as things stand right now, Buddy Mission is language locked to Japan. With that being the case, if you don’t know Japanese, you might be wondering if the game is worth taking a look at. We are here to talk about that and a whole lot more.

I just want to start out by saying I’m not going to go heavily into spoilers on Buddy Mission. At this point, I’m still making my way through the story mode. There are a number of main missions as well as side missions to choose from. If you’re wanting to know what this game is about and how it plays, well, you’re definitely in the right place. With that out of the way, let’s go ahead and dive in. 
Buddy Mission: BOND is an adventure game and is somewhat similar to games in the Ace Attorney series, minus the court cases. Here, players start out by playing as police officer Luke Williams, as he works his way through the ranks. Over time and through a variety of circumstance, you will meet up with several other characters throughout the experience. Three of these will become your “buddies” - Aaron, Mokuma, and Chesley. 

Aaron is a renowned diamond thief who is…a bit rough around the edges (figuratively and his clothes quite literally). He nicknames Luke “doggy” early on in the game and plays off of that throughout the game. Mokuma is the star of a stage show called “Ninja-jan.” While he basically is a ninja, he would rather spend most of his days drinking and pursing women. He serves as sort of a comic relief. Chesley is a master thief that feeds off of the rich, powerful and corrupt. He’s a bit of a psychopath when it boils down to it, but at least he’s polite about it. 
All together, these four form the group “Bond” and are working together to snuff out the criminal activities of the mysterious group Discard. Discard is responsible for a number of murders, crimes and general malfeasance. Each member has their own reasons for wanting to see the group go down and they all eventually make their way to the glamorous Mikagura Island to make it happen. 

Buddy Mission is set up as a series of manga. You won’t see this when going through the missions for the first time, however, you are able to go through each episode freely after completing them. They are laid out as issues of manga, complete with cover art and short explanations of what is going to unfold. It was a really nice touch. The side missions and bonus content is also available in a similar, visually pleasing fashion. 

Missions themselves are typically laid out in the following fashion - a series of dialog, a “Search Mode” to hunt for clues, choosing “buddies,” investigating a map to look for more information, “infiltration” style missions where you have complete control of the characters and then some wrap up dialog. There is sometimes a bit of variation to this, but by and large, these are the kind of things that you will be doing. 
Like I mentioned, Bond is full of tons and tons of dialog, most of which is spoken. While a majority of the time, you will just be along for the ride, there are times that you will need to respond to questions or interject in conversations. These often lead to gains or losses in a “Hero Meter” that can be seen on the upper right hand corner of the screen. This meter is used to determine your final mission rank (more on that later). This will either go up or down based on whether or not you answer questions correctly or if you find find ways to combat a conversation appropriately. 

The map serves as a way to investigate and track down additional information that will help you complete missions. Before heading out, you will need to choose which buddies you will take along with you. There are a limited number of moves to make on the map to track down everything you need to know to proceed with the infiltration section of the mission. Being story based, you’ll be chatting a lot with people at the different locations looking for helpful information.
When you find yourself in conversations, you will at times be prompted to initiate something called “Critical Talk.” Here, you are tasked with choosing the right character for the situation at hand. For example, if you’re talking to a well mannered, law abiding citizen, Luke is a good choice to get the information you need. If you’re talking to a thug, Aaron might be best to beat it out of them. Some of the areas require specific characters to obtain information. For maps that have multiple rounds of movements, you can change out your party in an effort get what you need.

Buddy Mission offers several options that will help jog your memory. A full look at the most recently spoken dialog can be viewed with the press of the Y button, while deeper hints that recall previous conversations can be accessed with R. Not only this, but you can also save or load games at nearly any time throughout the experience. This comes in handy if you feel like you made a mistake with the dialog or if you just want to see a different outcome. 
There are segments of the game that use a more “game-like” engine here. These sequences, usually consisting of some kind of infiltration of specific areas, are more or less limited free roaming locations, featuring 3D polygonal graphics with a cel-shaded look. You can move around your character freely, position the camera and even do a few different actions. These are somewhat limited, however, and mostly case sensitive (i.e., if you go up to a door, a button press will initiate a door opening sequence, or the vault over things, you need to press the B button to kick off the vaulting animation, etc.). These parts are fun enough, but clearly not the focus of the game. With that said, they do come across as a bit of a weak point of the experience in my opinion. 

At the end of each mission, you will be given a ranking based on how well you did. This is based on quite a few parameters - for example, how “hero-like” your behavior was, how effective you were with questioning and answers, etc. If you manage to net high ranks (usually A or S), you will unlock bonus short episodes and missions for the characters. This could be an inspiration for some to go back and play through the missions multiple times in an effort to unlock everything in the game. Just to note here, too, missions themselves can take anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour and a half (depending on how fast you can read Japanese). Things here might seem a bit formulaic, but I found the actual content and conversations pretty enjoyable overall. 
If you would like to see more about HOW to play Buddy Mission, I would suggest checking out my Quick English Guide for the game here. If you opt to try out the free Japanese demo, it should be able to help you get through things. 
Visuals & Sound
You can tell that a lot of care and effort went in to Buddy Mission: BOND on the visual front. The character design in the game was handled by Yusuke Murata, the same artist behind popular manga series One Punch Man and the American football based manga Eye Shield 21. The game sports a manga/anime style visual aesthetic that permeates the game. With the majority of the experience consisting of dialog, this comic book aesthetic can be seen everywhere. Comic panels, sounds being written out and more help let the player know and realize that this is basically a living manga. While the visuals might not be to everyone’s taste, I found them to be enjoyable throughout the experience. Things are sharp, animations, while minimal, look great, and the game runs at a smooth framerate throughout. 

The segments that have you controlling the characters in semi-open 3D environments offer a different kind of look, like I mentioned previously. All of the Bond members are shown off as full 3D models. While things do run without a hitch for the most part, the environments that players will find themselves in are a bit small and on the limited side. It kind of makes sense given that the game is focusing mostly on the story here with these being more or less a nice, small addition to the overall experience. It works fine visually, but there are limitations. 
Buddy Mission features a pretty bombastic soundtrack with numerous jazz inspired pieces and themes. On top of this, things here are fully voiced for the majority of the game. Several high profile Japanese voice actors are featured here and do a pretty bang up, believable job portraying their characters. 

If you’re looking to play this game right now, just know this - the barrier of entry is pretty high. To make sense of the story and even to know what to do next requires some kind of working knowledge of the Japanese language. I think that you COULD get through things by trial and error, but it would take a lot of patience and you would be missing out on the story, which is the main draw here. Still, if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to check out the free demo on the Japanese eShop. We do have a quick English guide available (like I mentioned earlier), so that might be able to help you make it through the demo and get some enjoyment out of it. 

As for the game coming to the West…Well, at this point, we have learned that another pretty hardcore Japanese adventure game/visual novel is coming to the West with Famicom Detective Club. While that is happening, it seems that Buddy Mission will kind of be left out in the cold in my opinion. I think there’s some appeal here, and some people would dig it. At the same time, it’s a very niche genre that just might not make sense financially for Nintendo and Koei Tecmo to fully localize. 

Buddy Mission: BOND is a cool game that needs to come out in the West. While I think the appeal will be limited, there is a certain subset of gamers that would find this game appealing. It can be a bit formulaic at times, but I think the unique story, setting and characters help it stand out. 

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