Microsoft - going big in 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 or just be an asshole to other people who are trying to watch it in the room with you.

We also glimpsed trailers and gameplay footage from some of the upcoming Japanese-developed 360 games, starting with Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, a bouncy sequel to the bikini-riffic Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball that looked mind-blowingly beautiful and roughly three times as stupid. Expect tugs-of-war, hip-checking competitions, volleyball, Jetskiing and lots of other excuses to watch hot girls with enormous breasts that wobble in different directions.

We were also shown footage of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition's multiplayer matches, which appear to play out like Bionic Commando would if it were a third-person shooter. Then we got to see Trusty Bell: Chopin's Dream, an RPG that looks like anime would if it were 3D, and 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 new games from his new Mistwalker studio. The first was the stark Lost Odyssey, which looked so amazing that we've decided it deservesits own preview.The second was Blue Dragon, a more cutesy RPG with childlike heroes and character designs by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball Z). Centered around a group of characters who summon ghostly monsters to help them in battle against an evil, purple-skinned super-scientist and his robot horde, it actually looks to be more consistently enjoyable than Lost Odyssey. We'll let you know for sure when we see both on the show floor this weekend.

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.