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What Can the 360 Eastern RPG Bonanza Provide Us?

A few weeks ago Microsoft held a press event in Shibuya, Japan called “Xbox 360 RPG Premiere” in an attempt to once again garner the attention of the Japanese audience. Early leaks of information pointed towards a generic showing of a few Square Enix titles, but the event was much more than anyone expected. Developer after developer walked onto the stage and proclaimed quasi-exclusive relationships with Microsoft and pulled the veil on their latest titles. More importantly, Microsoft finally seems to have a tangible grip on what the Japanese market wants and desires from consoles and developers.

The path of Microsoft’s newest console in the eastern world can be described as nothing more than a failure-ridden journey. The launch, in particular, was both sad and hilarious. Streams of pictures flooded the gaming media, each one pointedly showing Japanese video game vendors looking bored, with entire shelving ranges of 360s behind them. Some of the news was even grimmer, as these same vendors who could not move the consoles, began slashing their prices to no avail. It was iconic of every Western console to Japanese reception, and the reason why Microsoft is still pursuing that elusive praise of their market space.

Finally, with the conclusion of Xbox 360 RPG Premiere well beyond us, a few questions haven been answered about Microsoft’s awareness of the market, but not what we can hope to receive in the United States as a result to this new education. Each game announced at the conference has unique qualifications, all of which should round Microsoft’s Eastern portfolio quite well. Yet, what do all these games mean for us at home? Let’s explore.

Namco-Bandai was the first publisher to hit the floor, and they proudly showed off their upcoming title, Tales of Vesperia. On the surface Tales of Vesperia looks surprisingly more mature than what Namco-Bandai typically offers its players. The story takes place in a medieval land under the iron grip of tyranny. The pauper protagonists Yuri and Flynn crave the escape from the squalor of the slums. Both young men eventually decide to join the empire’s military efforts to achieve that goal, but quickly find themselves at odds when confronted with theme of justice versus duty. Details are shaky, but one can surmise that the boys’ relationships probably fall apart, creating a fairly dynamic situation.

In addition to the story elements maturing, it seems as though Namco-Bandai desires its battling system to go through the same motions. In what can be described as an increased interface of Eternal Sonata, players will find themselves in meter heaven. Several different sets of attack chains are going to be present, each one building momentum until players may have a chance to eliminate enemies in mere seconds. Additionally enemy encounters will still be shown on-screen, and rumors of cooperative play have been sneaking around for awhile.

The best news is that Tales of Vesperia is both US and Europe bound. The date, which has been fairly stable, is August 19. From all indications, Tales should offer players a decently fresh experience. The real key to what it has to offer lays in its visual prowess. Namco-Bandai is crafting a very stunning and wonderful piece of visual art. By forsaking photo-realism, the developer was able to create some fairly captivating imagery. Unfortunately, Namco-Bandai has chosen to go almost head-to-head with Silicon Knight’s Too Human in terms of release date. Even worse, US and European players will not have an opportunity to nab the special edition Tales of Vesperia 360 package, which includes the game, special faceplate, and art book.

After Namco-Bandai stepped off the stage, Square Enix came in with a flash of its typical RPG publishing glory, with very proud developer named tri-Ace at its side. The first game the duo presented was the long-awaited prequel to the Star Ocean franchise, Star Ocean – The Last Hope. The presentation was a bit mum on the details of the title, but revealed an interesting trailer stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster. It was composed of pieces of the other games in the series, and towards the end flashed these lines of text:

"AD 2064. Humanity made its third and most costly mistake. World War III. Weapons of mass destruction deployed with impunity, razed the land in the blink of an eye. People believed it's the end of the world. Planet earth was dying. So humanity began to search for a new home in space."

"AD 2074 first contact. SD0001 first warp. SD0010 -- first official SRF mission. The first official SRF mission ventures forth into the great Star Ocean."

Star Ocean – The Last Hope was promised to be more science fiction based than previous builds of the series, and a special emphasis was put onto the space vehicle that the presumable party of protagonists will utilize to cross the galaxy. The Last Hope should give 360 players the same taste that Tales of Vesperia will, except this time it is in space.

The next game shown was Infinite Undiscovery. Silly name aside, this Eastern RPG looks as though it is ready to give both traditional and casual players something to chew on. The demo at the show consisted of actual segments of the game being played live. One of the most interesting aspects of Infinite Undiscovery is just how real-time based it will actually be. Not only will battle be handled completely on-screen with little transition, but also, item usage and equipping will be totally in real-time, possibly making for some great on-the-fly decisions. The demo also seems to point towards a seriously action-based RPG, which is significantly different from every other title shown thus far.

The title is famously set for a worldwide release in early September this year, but has since experienced some snafus in terms of shipping dates. Those problems aside, it definitely looks as though Infinite Undiscovery will give 360 players an opportunity to explore a much more fast-paced Eastern RPG that can hopefully live up to what Square Enix and tri-Ace have shown thus far.

The very last title shown was the Unreal 3 Engine powered The Last Remnant, developed and published by Square Enix. Last Remnant is an interesting project visually, conceptually, and commercially. This game is the product of Square Enix’s first time leaving its own confines of development and reaching for a different engine. Past the technical side, The Last Remnant has a few decent story components to it.

The game focuses on a dashing young lad named Rush Sykes, who appears to favor the blade. In Rush’s world, there exist items called “remnants.” Remnants are exceedingly powerful magical devices, apparently equipped with some lucrative powers (the kind people kill each other for). The trailer also showed Rush surrounded by other fellows, each individual character appearing to offset the other quite nicely.

In terms of our collective plate, the Last Remnant will give us a more traditional turn-based experience, minus random battling. Even though the game is due out later this year, Square Enix has been quite short on the details of the gameplay itself. One could only hope that it will echo the grimier, sharp look of the screenshots.

After The Last Remnant, the lights shut off and everyone was able to wander home. Microsoft probably ended up stunning many in the East with their new, advanced portfolio. But was it too late in the game for Microsoft to attempt to captivate the Japanese audience? Consumers of consoles want the best possible software to reach their platform, regardless of region. While it may have been nice to have this line-up with its original console, it is still safe to assume that this can only mean great things for both Microsoft and RPG enthusiasts.

The benefits from having these titles are vast. Tales of Vesperia is offering superb visuals, a new mature-laced theme, and hopeful action elements. Star Ocean – The Last Hope is sure to possess the same chaotic item-creation and fighting elements that made the series popular, while Infinite Undiscovery looks like a beautiful blend of action and RPG concepts. The Last Remnant looks fantastic and may have a few new elements that the majority of us will not be able to predict.

Really every video game player across the globe will reap the benefits from Microsoft’s latest foray into the Eastern market. These titles may not have hit the console, or have been localized as quickly or concurrently without the behemoth’s backing. This event and Microsoft’s newfound flexibility has provided gamers with the best possible situation – too many games.
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About Brad Nicholsonone of us since 10:27 PM on 06.13.2008

I'm Brad Nicholson. I've been around, but Destructoid is where my dawgs at. You can see my work here, at MTV, at Giant Bomb or other great places around the Internet. I also run a podcast called The Electric Hydra and work out a lot in my spare time. Yeah. I keep busy.