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Bandai Banks on Anime
Top producer of anime-based games unveils star-studded lineup
 
With anime finally busting through to mainstream audiences, Bandai is poised to profit from its position as the leading publisher of anime-based videogames.
 
"This year, Bandai will make a number of great anime properties come alive on next-generation console systems," promised Marketing Manager Linda Shannon.
 
Leading the pack is .hack, Bandai's serialized RPG for PS2. The first chapter, INFECTION, hit stores this past February and immediately rocketed into the top-10-overall sales charts. MUTATION, due out this month, has garnered some strong reviews in the gaming press. And .hack fans are already eagerly anticipating OUTBREAK (part 3) and QUARANTINE (part 4), both of which will be on display at E3. Also in the lineup is Lupin the Third, due out this fall on PS2. One of the biggest manga and anime stars in Japan, Lupin was recently added to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim schedule. Bandai hopes to capitalize on Lupin's growing popularity with this lighthearted sneak-em-up. Boasting a diverse mix of puzzles, action, and stealthy bits, Lupin the Third also features exclusive 3D anime movies along with voice work by the actors from the TV series.
 
On GameCube and Game Boy Advance, Bandai is showcasing Ultimate Muscle, another popular anime series and toy line. The GameCube title Legends vs. New Generation lets four players go head to head in heated wrestling action. The game also includes 20 characters from the TV show, along with voiceovers from the TV actors.
 
Bandai won't be neglecting its established franchises. Digimon Rumble 2 will be out on GBA this September, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space is set to release on PS2 this October. Encounters is especially exciting for Gundam fans because it features mobile suits created by famed mech designer Hajime Kotoki.
 
With a lineup focused solely on anime, is Bandai concerned about whether its titles will cross over into the mainstream? Not at all. "Inuyasha is a good case in point," Shannon said. "Even though we brought the title to PSX, thanks to the strength of the brand among anime fans and the great fighting engine, the game is selling very well."
 

 
-By Gary Steinman
 
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