TGS: Booth Round-Up - Microsoft, Xbox 360 On Charm Offensive

This first in a series of live Gamasutra reports focusing on the major companies' exhibits at the Tokyo Game Show looks at Microsoft's presence at TGS, which is, unsurpri...
This first in a series of live Gamasutra reports focusing on the major companies' exhibits at the Tokyo Game Show looks at Microsoft's presence at TGS, which is, unsurprisingly enough, wholly focused around the Xbox 360, due to launch in Japan in early December. Microsoft's stand is divided into three main sessions, with a big screen in the center of the booth running the same well-constructed video reel showcased at both the pre-TGS Xbox 360 conference and at Robbie Bach's TGS Forum keynote. Elsewhere, at one end of the booth, an 'Xbox Living Room' area emulates what it would be like to play your Xbox 360 in a rather swank apartment setting, with Ninety-Nine Nights running on a widescreen HDTV and handsomely padded couches to sit on, all to play up the 'lifestyle' part of the Xbox 360 proposition. However, the majority of the stand consists of Xbox 360 units dotted all around, with as many as 8 playable units for each game. Probably the most popular title was the aforementioned Phantagram/Q?-created hack n' slash game par excellence Ninety-Nine Nights, which is awesome-looking, with particularly fine depth of field effects and an extremely impressive amount of characters onscreen at once - though, as previously noted, its gameplay is not exactly revolutionary, being very Dynasty Warriors (or Phantagram's Kingdom Under Fire series, if you prefer). Another major area of interest for the Japanese attendees was the Final Fantasy XI area, where several costumed and be-tailed models were holding sway around a set of PCs running FF XI using Xbox 360 controllers - Beta testing on the Xbox 360 version of Square Enix's MMO is promised to begin in December, and thus, despite the ruckus, there was relatively little new to see here. Going round the booth otherwise, impressions were generally good, with smoother framerates than the E3 showings (particularly for Need For Speed: Most Wanted), and graphics a significant step above current Xbox visuals - though not, perhaps, the quantum leap that some lust for. Nonetheless, there were some other standouts: Namco's Ridge Racer 6, though nothing new from a gameplay standpoint, had eye-opening draw distances and subtle lighting, showcasing the signature RR graphical style very well. Capcom's Dead Rising brings the George Romero-styled noise with multiple characters and satisfying action, too, although the game's sharp edges perhaps don't look as 'next-gen' as some of the other more filtered titles. Electronic Arts' Need For Speed: Most Wanted was also looking sharp, with improved framerate and impressive smoke and lighting effects - the Xbox 360's ability to carry out full-screen effects is very evident here. Unfortunately, a third racing game on display, Atari's Test Drive Unlimited, showed none of the flair of the previous two, with jagged graphics and an extremely, borderline embarrassingly sluggish framerate. Counting down the other major titles: Rare's Kameo had some neat Metroid-style ball sequences and great fur effects on one of the lead characters, but still looked a tad unwieldy; From's Enchart Arm is a turn-based RPG that is fine for Japanese launch, but will not interest greatly in the West; Activision's Call Of Duty 2 is a good-looking conversion which controls reasonably for a console FPS, and From's Chrome Hounds is a mech game with arcade-like, almost MechWarrior-style mechanics, and average to above average visuals. Overall, Microsoft's booth was nothing other than well-executed. It may not have converted the non-believers, and some of the major Sakaguchi-related RPGs may be too early to show, as well as other notably missing titles like Project Gotham Racing and Perfect Dark Zero. But, judging by the attendees, there is interest in the Xbox 360 in Japan - the question is how to turn that interest into sales over the long-term.

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