Microsoft officials have held a press conference in Japan to announce new titles for the Xbox 360 and reveal the first footage of other games recently unveiled in the Japanese press, as well as the first public appearance of new Japanese Xbox head Takashi Sensui.
Amidst rumors of a re-launch for the console in Japan, where it has so far performed even worse than the original Xbox, the announcements were relatively minor when taken individually but as a whole do represent an identifiable increase in Japanese developer support for the system.
The most significant new title unveiled at the event was an unnamed role-playing game by developer Tri-Ace, developers of titles including Star Ocean
and Valkyrie Profile
. Few substantial details were revealed of the game though, bar that it would include a significant real-time element – a feature that may be more of a sop for Western audiences than Eastern. Square Enix also announced a new game in the form of arcade shoot ‘em-up; Project Sylph
, to be developed by Game Arts. However, connections between it and the title Silpheed
by the same developer were left undiscussed.
Although consumer magazine Famitsu had already reported the existence of the titles the most significant level of new support for the Xbox 360 came from Bandai Namco, beginning with anime tie-in Zegapain XOR
. The game appears reminiscent of Konami’s Zone of the Enders
, has Xbox Live support and is due for a summer release in Japan. Footage was also shown of an unnamed Mobile Suit Gundam title that made significant use of a first person perspective. A new Xbox Live enabled version of the company’s board/collectible card game series Culdcept
was also promised.
Bandai Namco will also support Xbox Live Arcade with versions of coin-op classics Pac-Man
featured heavily at the press conference. Support for the service was also promised from prominent Japanese publishers including SNK Playmore, Konami, D3 and Yuke’s. Indeed Microsoft portrayed the Xbox Live Marketplace as one of the few success stories for the Xbox in Japan, with 52,000 Japanese downloads – proportionally the most of any territory.
Despite vague rumors about a Final Fantasy
spin-off title in 2007, the highest profile games at the conference remained those from Final Fantasy
creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Mistwalker studio. Brief amounts of new footage for both Blue Dragon
and Lost Odyssey
were shown, with the former due for release at the end of 2006 in Japan and the latter some time in 2007.
These titles would appear to remain Microsoft’s best chance of attracting a significant audience for the Xbox 360 in Japan, with the conference’s other announcements unlikely to change many Japanese consumers' opinion of the format.