Microsoft lays out Japanese game plan

Xbox 360 Media Briefing in Tokyo brings new Silpheed, Culdcept games; Pac-Man and Galaga headed for Xbox Live Arcade.

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Microsoft is working hard to keep the Xbox 360 in the game in Japan. The latest effort in the ongoing campaign to establish a beachhead in the Far East was a press event held today to trumpet the company's successes to date and get exposure for upcoming releases.

According to an Impress Watch report, new Xbox Japan head Takashi Sensui opened the event with fighting words, saying, "Xbox 360 is the only next-gen console right now, and it will be the best game machine for years to come. On top of that, it's easy to exploit its capabilities to produce high-quality next-gen games."

Sensui went on to promise that Xbox 360 would succeed in Japan, reminding the audience of Microsoft's record in the PC operating system market. After rallying the troops, Sensui passed the mic to representatives of firms with Xbox 360 games in development.

Developer Tri-Ace, known for its work on Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean, announced that it is working with Microsoft Game Studios on a new, as-yet-untitled Xbox 360 game. While details were scarce, it will be a role-playing game, and Tri-Ace suggested that the action will be real time rather than turn-based.

Square Enix and Game Arts took the stand next to announce Project Sylph, an Xbox 360 exclusive the companies are developing together. This wasn't the only shooter announced for Microsoft's console today.

A Bandai Namco executive announced that Galaga and Pac-Man would both be coming to Xbox Live. He noted that the re-creations of these arcade classics are so faithful to the originals that old patterns and timing still work. Like other Xbox Live Arcade games, Pac-Man and Galaga will feature global scoreboards for worldwide competition.

The Bandai Namco exec then moved on to talk about full-scale retail games. He referenced the recently announced shooting adventure game called Zegapain XOR, and showed off screenshots of the giant robot game. That was followed up with the announcement of Culdcept Saga, a Live-enabled game that will be the latest entrant in the popular Magic-meets-Monopoly game franchise that had previous installments on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation, and Dreamcast.

Taking time out from development work on a clutch of Xbox 360-exclusive RPGs, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi gave a progress report on a number of projects under way at his Mistwalker development company. His first game, Blue Dragon, is on track for a 2006 release. Sakaguchi says the game is playable and his team is currently focused on game balance and presentation. Sakaguchi's second game, Lost Odyssey, is slated for a 2007 launch.

Mistwalker is also working on a third Xbox 360 game entitled Cry On, and he admitted that between the three games, his team was working at--or maybe over--its capacity. Bringing three Sakaguchi games to its new platform is a considerable coup for Microsoft, and it will be interesting to see how his games affect Japanese sales of the console when they launch.

The press event closed with a look at the Xbox 360 Blue Limited Edition: 2006 FIFA World Cup console, and a demonstration of the hotly anticipated Ninety-Nine Nights, set to launch in Japan on April 20.

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