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Spot On: Microsoft's Tokyo JRPG event

Namco Bandai and Square Enix show off the next wave of Japanese RPGs for the Xbox 360, including Tales of Vesperia, Last Remnant, Infinite Undiscovery, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope.


TOKYO--Though the Xbox 360 hasn't sold well in Japan, Microsoft has once again announced a new wave of role-playing games developed by some of the island nation's biggest names. During an event today in Tokyo, Microsoft updated the press with news on its latest JPRGs, which will follow in the footsteps of Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

After opening remarks from Xbox Japan general manager Takashi Sensui, Namco Bandai Games producers Tsutomu Gouda and Yoshito Higuchi appeared on stage to make announcements regarding Tales of Vesperia. The game is now officially dated for Japan on August 7, priced at ¥7,800 ($73). The Vesperia series will make its way to North America in August as well, with an Asian release slated for sometime this summer. However, European gamers will have to wait until sometime next year before experiencing the Tales series for the first time on Microsoft's console.

Tales of Vesperia's opening sequence was shown for the first time during the press conference, and it featured full animation drawn by Studio IG. The producers also played a real-time demonstration that showed the game's hallmark anime-style graphics, which were displayed with sharper character outlines thanks to the 360's high-definition capabilities. A demo of the game will be released on Japan's Xbox Live Marketplace in June.

In Japan, Namco Bandai will be launching a variety of tie-ins to accompany the launch of Tales of Vesperia. The game's soundtrack is slated to hit on August 20, and Namco Bandai will also honor the occasion by debuting a monthly magazine dedicated to the Tales franchise, Tales of Magazine. The first issue will hit alongside the game's launch, and the second issue will arrive on October 10. Namco Bandai expects additional issues to arrive on the 10th of every month thereafter.

To accompany the game's launch, Microsoft in Japan also plans on offering a special Tales of Vesperia hardware bundle that will retail for ¥37,800 ($352). In addition to an Xbox 360 console, the bundle includes: Tales of Vesperia, a copy of the game's dialogue script, an original faceplate, and a special DVD. Those who preorder the game will also receive the same DVD as the one in the bundle.

Following Namco Bandai, Microsoft Game Studios' Fumihiro Yamauchi appeared on stage to announce that Fable 2 and Mass Effect will be released in Japan for the Xbox 360. Fable 2 will be released in Japan this year, whereas Mass Effect has not yet been dated.

The biggest announcement at today's conference came from Square Enix producer Yoshinori Yamagishi. Yamagishi took the stage to announce that Star Ocean 4, officially titled Star Ocean: The Last Hope, will be released on the Xbox 360 in 2009. Similar to previous installments, the game is being developed by Tri-Ace. Only trailers were shown at the conference, but producer Yamagishi commented that Star Ocean 4's development is well underway and, in fact, is already at a playable stage.

Star Ocean 4 will be a prequel to the Star Ocean series. The game takes place in the year S.D. 10, not too long after 2064 A.D. when the civilized world is annihilated as a result of World War III. The game will explain how the Star Ocean universe came about when humanity voyaged into the ocean of stars to search for a new place to live. According to Yamagishi, the game will be more sci-fi oriented than previous installments, and reflects inspiration drawn from American films and shows in the genre such as Star Trek.

When asked later at a roundtable interview whether the game will be an Xbox exclusive, Yamagishi commented, "We can't really say anything yet. Will it be coming out in the PS3 as well? The answer to that is that there's really nothing set at the moment. We can't say right now that it will or won't come out. It could go either way. The only thing that we can confirm right now is that it's coming out first on the Xbox 360." Yamagishi noted that one of the primary reasons for the game being a 360 exclusive was that Microsoft's development platform was available significantly before that of the PS3.

Following the Star Ocean 4 reveal, Square Enix producer Hajime Kojima appeared on the stage to announce that Infinite Undiscovery will be released almost simultaneously worldwide. The game will be shipped in North America on September 2, in Europe on September 5, and in Japan and Asia on September 11.

Infinite Undiscovery is developed by Tri-Ace and plays as an action RPG with seamless shifting between the field and battle modes. Kojima ran a real-time demonstration of an early part of the game and showed off one of the game's main concepts, which is called the Situation Battle. Taking advantage of the environment is essential in Infinite Undiscovery, and the player will be required to respond to the situation at hand, which sometimes changes in real time. In one demo, the player was seen being chased by a dragon; as the dragon breathed fire, some of the rubble on the ground broke away, allowing for the player to strategically flee ahead.

Closing out the event was Square Enix's Last Remnant. The game's producer, Nobuyuki Ueda, appeared on the stage to announce that the multiplatform game will be released on the Xbox 360 first, with a simultaneous release slated for Japan, North America, and Europe this winter. Further details on the game will be unveiled at the E3 Media & Business Summit and Tokyo Game Show later this year.

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