[360] Microsoft do do do Japan

First, we got to see the add-on HD-DVD player in action, and its pop-up menus and overall fidelity on the big screen were certainly impressive. More impressive to us was that you'll now be able to use video chat while watching a movie, which is great if you want to watch it at the same time as a far-away friend.

We also glimpsed trailers and gameplay footage from some of the upcoming Japanese-developed 360 games, including Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and Trusty Bell: Chopin's Dream, an RPG that seems to take place in a quasi-Victorian setting.

The headliner of the conference, however, was Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who took the stage to show off two games from his Mistwalker studio - Lost Odyssey, which looked amazing, and Blue Dragon. We'll bring you much more from both these titles when we catch up with them on the show floor this weekend.

We also got to see an Xbox Live Arcade presentation which showcased some of the Japanese games that are slated to hit the service soon. The first announcement was Yie Ar Kung Fu, an arcade fighting classic that will be exclusive to Japan. Other classics (and soon-to-be classics) glimpsed included Gyruss, Contra, Fatal Fury 2, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Lumines Live.

Overall, the conference was underwhelming - no bombs were dropped, and we didn't really hear anything we didn't already know. Even so, it's good to see that Microsoft's refusal to give up on Japan will at least result in more cool games for UK Xbox 360 owners down the road.

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.