Geek Interview: ‘Synduality Echo of Ada’ Leans Into Final Fantasy, Star Wars, & Mechs

The sci-fi genre has long explored the intricate dynamics between artificial intelligence (AI) and humans, taking the form of various novels, shows, and video games. From the early days of American writer Isaac Asimov to the current landscape of Black Mirror and Detroit: Become Human, the topic continues to pique interest as technology in the real world becomes more sophisticated and intertwined with AI. 

Geek Interview: Synduality Echo of Ada

Joining the fray, Synduality Echo of Ada is Bandai Namco’s take on the recurring theme, with some fresh gameplay touches in tow. The looter-shooter thrusts players into the futuristic world of Amasia, where they take on the role of a Drifter who makes a living by collecting a rare resource called AO Crystals, and face off against xenomorphic creatures known as Enders, as well as the other player-controlled Drifters. Accompanying them are their AI partners, Magus, guiding them through battles, missions, navigation, and the like.

Instead of zeroing in on the conflict between both sides, the game leans more towards fleshing out the possibilities of a human-AI collaboration, keeping in line with its tagline, “I’m with you.” It’s an execution that evokes déjà vu as much as it oozes a touch of novelty, with game director Yosuke Futami revealing the influences for the project: Final Fantasy VI, Zone of the Enders, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, and Japanese sci-fi light novel “The Stories of Ibis” (“Ai no Monogatari”). 

“The premise of the Magus being like a magic user came from FFVI, [which] was the first sci-fi game that I played when I was an elementary school student. For Zone of the Enders, I thought about having mecha forms for the AI operator,” he shared in an interview held during Thailand Game Show 2023, referring to the Viola A.I. character in Hideo Kojima’s classic series. Based around mecha combat in space, it follows Leo Stenbuck, one of the few survivors from his colony after it was attacked by BAHRAM, the military force led by Viola. 

Geek Interview: Synduality Echo of Ada (2)

Similarly, the Synduality Echo of Ada experience involves suiting up and piloting robots. As Drifters, players are accompanied by their Cradlecoffin, an armed vehicle used for traversal and combat. The Magus, of which there will be a lot to choose from, will be customisable as well, from assigning a sex to increasing the cute appearance factor. 

The overarching idea, however, seems to take more heavily after “The Stories of Ibis.” Told as a collection of short stories from the perspective of the robot Ibis, it culminates into an ending that reveals how its species cared for the humans and wanted them to live in peace, rather than fight for its survival. 

Meanwhile, the story structure is rooted in Star Wars: Episode IV. “We have elements of the same world; there are going to be scenes from the previous world that fell apart, and then there’s the world during the collapse. That’s the part I’d like to express for the game,” said Futami. 

It’s important to make the distinction, because the Synduality universe extends beyond just one medium. Much like other original Bandai Namco titles like 2021’s Scarlet Nexus, it’s a mixed media project that spans an anime, a manga, and a video game. While increasingly common, the practice is still fairly niche, so the director turned to one of the earliest and most popular examples in the industry: Mobile Police Patlabor. 

The series, which ran from 1988 to 1994, is known for using mecha not just for police or military purposes, but also for industrial and municipal jobs. To that end, the story follows the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and its fleet of Patrol Labors (“Patlabors”, as opposed to patrol cars) to combat crime and deal with accidents involving Labors, robots that are employed in heavy construction work. It spawned a manga, a TV series, three feature-length movies, two light novel series and more, with the manga following its own continuity and the movies, separate.

With Synduality, there’s the third-person shooter Echo of Ada, the anime Synduality: Noir, the manga series Ellie, and a spin-off novel Kaleido. According to Futami, the different mediums allow for more creative storytelling exploration, explaining, “I want to express different things for each platform – for example, the anime has different stories than the games. Despite being set in the same world, it works better in terms of conveying the animation and staging of movement, but for the game, it’s [more] about the action.”

This amalgamation of specialised and mainstream influences has moulded Synduality Echo of Ada into a less familiar experience. The upcoming adventure features PvPvE (player versus players versus environment) elements, which pits players against one another and the enemy AI. However, the director is quick to reassure first-timers and newcomers that there are heavy penalties for PvP in the game, and how there’ll be a big separation between the PvE and PvP play styles. 

Essentially, these characteristics serve to ease the transition into a brand-new environment and offer a more forgiving learning process, keeping in line with Futami’s description of the game’s world – that everything is falling apart, but there’s still a glimmer of hope.

Synduality Echo of Ada is releasing sometime in the future for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam.