TOKYO--To help build hype going into next week's Tokyo Game Show, Microsoft held a press briefing to announce new Japanese titles for the Xbox 360. Hosted by Takashi Sensui, general manager of Xbox Japan, the event gave the audience a chance to check out some of the island nation's top development talent for the 360, which trails far behind the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 in sales.
The first game shown was Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey, which was given a December 6 ship date in Japan, followed by releases in January in Asia and February in North America and Europe. Executive Producer Hironobu Sakaguchi appeared on stage to show off the game, which is 95 percent complete and currently undergoing final fixes and polishing.
Though it won't be playable at TGS, Lost Odyssey will be available for hands-on play at a special presentation in November. The latter event will also feature appearances by the game's writer Kiyoshi Shigematsu, illustrator Takehiko Inoue, the announcement of the game's voice actors, and a live performance by the game's music composer, Nobuo Uematsu.
Sakaguchi played a real-time demonstration of the game, which started off with the protagonist Kaim walking out of a small house on a cliff, accompanied by a woman named Seth and a man named Janssen. As the group walks on the cliff, the weather changed: Rain covered the game's camera view and fogged it out, showing how the Xbox 360's power can be used to make very natural effects.
The scene then switched to a large, elegant dining room with a young nobleman wearing golden armor, possibly a lord, having a meal. As the maid serves the man, a large solider barges into the dining room past guards trying to stop him. Surprised, the young nobleman knocks his bowl of soup over, off the table. The solider then throws a rat at the soup: After it takes a few licks, the rodent turns into a monster from a poison in the broth.
Stunned at the assassination attempt, the young nobleman expresses his gratitude to the soldier and goes into a long monologue about how his country is starting to split into two factions. Then, as the solider walks out of the dining room, he hands money to a maid outside, hinting that the whole incident was a setup.
Switching back to the scene at the cliff, Sakaguchi showed Lost Odyssey's battle system by fighting a few enemies. The game looked relatively similar to Final Fantasy X's battle screen, with a turn indicator on the lower left-hand corner and a menu screen that consisted of the traditional set of options: attack, skill, magic, and item. One of the enemies attacked with poison, and the effects looked very similar to the Final Fantasy series as well, with the characters covered in green bubbles. When the player attacks an enemy, a circle appears onscreen and slowly shrinks to target the enemy, doing extra damage.
The demo ended with Sakaguchi's party reaching a boss and getting annihilated with a powerful attack.
The biggest announcement of the day was Ninja Gaiden II, which will be published directly by Microsoft as an Xbox 360 exclusive. When the game's title card was displayed and the series producer and Team Ninja head Tomonobu Itagaki appeared, Xbox fans in the meeting hall's balcony immediately started cheering.
"Our goal in Ninja Gaiden II is to create the world's premier action game, just as Dead or Alive 4 was the premier fighting game when it was released for the Xbox 360 launch and remains so to this day," said Itagaki. "That's also our goal for creating Ninja Gaiden II, and we're putting a lot of effort into it."
"When we were creating the original Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, we used the hardware to its fullest, to extract every drop of power," Itagaki continued. "As a result, there were about 10 to 20 features that we wanted that we weren't able to implement in the game. With Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360's next-generation hardware, we're able to implement features that we weren't before. As you can imagine, there's no greater thrill for a developer."
"Please enjoy the world's best action game running on the world's most powerful hardware, the Xbox 360," concluded Itagaki, as he cued a real-time demonstration.
The Ninja Gaiden II demo featured eight stages on the select screen. Itagaki had originally planned to do a demo in a Japanese castle stage, but changed his mind at the last minute due to leaked screenshots showing the level. Instead, he picked another stage called the "Aqua Capital" that seemed to be modeled after Venice, with canals running through the city of stone buildings.
Itagaki started off by panning around with the game's free-moving camera, giving viewers a chance to check out the city's detailed buildings. Then enemy ninjas pounced from the rooftops to attack Ryu Hayabusa, the game's ninja protagonist. Wielding a large sickle, Ryu dismembered, decapitated, and quartered his foes in a huge cloud of blood spray. Interestingly, the enemy's bodies didn't disappear after they were killed, leaving a pile of limbs and viscera on the ground as Ryu wiped his blood-encrusted sickle clean.
Switching weapons to two swords, Ryu then fought through a marketplace, later using Ninjutsu skills to annihilate his enemies via bloody explosions. Going through to an open square, he was greeted by armored ninjas with submachine guns and soldiers wielding rocket launchers.
Next, Ryu faced Gargoyle-like creatures. Switching his weapon to a pair of iron claws like those of comic book character Wolverine, Ryu ripped through the monsters, spattering green blood and goo across the floor. The demo ended with the appearance of a boss monster, with the screen going black after a title card saying "Ninja Gaiden II - vengeance begins 2008."
Lastly, Sensui reappeared on stage. He announced that Infinite Undiscovery, announced at TGS 2006 as being solely developed by tri-Ace (Star Ocean series, Valkyrie Profile series), is now a collaboration between tri-Ace, Square Enix, and Microsoft. The game will be produced and released by Square Enix, with tri-Ace working on development and Microsoft lending financial support. The companies are currently in meetings about how to make the game play more like a next-generation role-playing game, and to make it more action-oriented. The logo design has also been reworked a bit.
"RPGs have the largest user base in the Japanese Xbox 360 market," said Sensui. "With Square Enix's experience and knowledge on RPGs, tri-Ace's development power, and Microsoft's technology, we hope to release an excellent title."
According to the game's director Hiroshi Ogawa, the concept behind Infinite Undiscovery is "Discovery and Impact." He explained, "Infinite Undiscovery incorporates various human senses inside the game such as eyesight, smell, and sound. By using those senses to make new discoveries and by interacting with them, the player can create various results that impact the game."
Ogawa didn't go into much detail about Infinite Undiscovery, since it's still early along in development. Judging from a short trailer that was shown, the game takes place in a fantasy world where the moon is disintegrating, bringing dire consequences to Earth. No release period has been announced yet, though Ogawa hinted that the game should be released in the "not-too-distant future."
Following the announcement concerning Infinite Undiscovery, Square Enix producer Akitoshi Kawazu appeared on stage to present The Last Remnant, currently in development for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3.
A new trailer was shown, but Kawazu had the unfortunate news that the game will not be playable at the Tokyo Game Show, as was announced back in May. The Last Remnant is slated for a simultaneous release in North America and Japan, though no ship window for the game has been announced.
Other games shown as trailers during the briefing included Devil May Cry 4, Ace Combat 6 and Beautiful Katamari (Namco Bandai Games), Sangoku Musou 5 (Dynasty Warriors 6, Koei), Viva Pinata: Party Animals, Project Gotham Racing 4, and Halo 3 (all Microsoft).