Microsoft's Festival Du Shmup
High scores, but not with those lovely Xbox event attendants.
One of the things that totally baffles me about the current generation is how Microsoft managed to make the Xbox 360 into the ultimate shmup system. Raiden, Shooting Love, DodonPachi -- if you want to play a 2D shooter, the only place you can do it is on the Xbox 360.
I have a number of theories about why this is (they're all conspiracy theories surrounding all that stuff -- true or not -- that you might have heard regarding Sony's harsh stance of 2D games and shmups and what-not). But, I won't share those theories here. Instead, here's a look at a kind of even that only Microsoft, with its shooting prowess, could pull off.
That's the reception area of the Xbox 360 Shooting Festa event. Held Friday evening from 18:00 to 20:00 in a small event room of the massive Fujisoft building in Akihabara, this event offered shooting fans a chance to play Xbox 360 shooters ahead of release, show off their skills in a tournament, and hear two major forces in the genre speak.
The event was pre-registration only. I actually saw Microsoft turning a few people away from the event (a couple of foreigners who were speaking something other than English when they rode the elevator up with me). I didn't do a formal count of people, but I'd estimate it at around 50 or so. It appears that there were quite a few no-shows, though, likely due to the sudden rain.
Microsoft's head of Japanese Xbox 360 3rd party relations Atsushi Yoshiwara (pictured to the left in the above shot) kicked things off with a short speech noting the number of Xbox 360 shooting titles. The list, pictured in the right shot, included games like Geometry Wars, which most players probably don't associate with Japanese shmups, but also had all the Raidens and Shikigamis.
By the way, in the above list, the green tagged items are package releases and the yellow ones are Xbox Live Arcade releases. It seems that most shmup companies favor traditional packaged releases. In fact, all the package releases in that list (except for, possibly, Senko no Rondo, fall under that category).
After Yoshiwara left the stage, the friggin' hot MC (whom I hope was just a hired model, otherwise my calling her friggin' hot would be very unprofessional) made the first surprise announcement of the day. Bandai Namco will release Blitz Games' PowerUp Forever on the Japanese Xbox Live Arcade service on the 10th. This title was previously announced for overseas markets on both PSN and XBLA. A Japanese release was never announced. But now, Japan seems to have the upper hand, as a release date hasn't been specified overseas yet.
The first main stage event followed: a score attack tournament for Dodonpachi Daioujou Black Label X, a title that was once scheduled for release on the 25th but, a couple of days back, saw a sudden delay to a general Winter date. Masaki Sakari, producer at publisher 5pb. took the stage and provided a brief description of the game.
Like the event itself, this tournament was pre registration only, although a bunch of people didn't show up (again, this was probably due to the rain) so Sakari and the hot MC started taking on-the-spot registration. A few additional people joined in, and we were left with this group of 12:
(actually, upon further inspection, that's just the pre-registered group... I didn't get a shot with the three on-the-spot registrants).
The tournament was held on four kiosks, with three rounds of four players each attempting to clear one stage of play using the X mode, which is newly added for the 360 version.
In the end, a couple of players totally dominated. Mon managed 2,829,659,250 points, edging out RadiantSilver's 2,570,700,480 points.
The prize for winning the tournament was originally announced as a Fighting Stick EX2 from Hori and the winner's score attack footage being posted for download to Xbox Live Marketplace. But Microsoft had a secret prize to add to this. Watch as Mon, who'd totally kept his cool until that point, learns that he's about to get a set of five Xbox 360 shooters.
Phase 2 of the event turned the attention to Death Smiles, an arcade to home port for the 360 being published in Spring 2009 by Cave. Cave's head of game development Tsuneki Ikeda (center of the below pic) and Death Smiles character designer Junya Unoue (right) took part in a talk session lead by Famitsu Xbox 360 editor-in-chief Munetatsu Matsui (left).
Hot topics included the chance of additional shooting support for the 360 from Cave. Ikeda said that additional support depends on how things go with this first offering, but that Cave hopes to provide more shooters for the system. He also said that there were many candidates as the company's first title for the 360, but they went with Death Smiles because they felt that its side-scrolling system would match well with a home television.
Unoue said that Death Smiles represents the first time he paid attention to the concept of "Moe," which is something he used in the creation of a new character for the 360 DoDonPachi. You're going to have to look up "Moe" on Wikipedia for yourself, as I have no idea how to explain it.
Following the short talk session, Inoeu took the stage to himself to provide a recap of the new elements for the 360 version of Death Smiles, which he called "Death Smiles 1.1." New features include an updated power-up system and the ability to control your magic with the right analogue stick.
He also provided the second major story for the day. Death Smiles Mega Black Label, the latest arcade entry in the Death Smiles series, will be released for the 360 in the form of download content for Death Smiles. The content will arrive in Spring 2009, presumably around the same time as the package game.
The Death Smiles announcements weren't done yet, though. Probably the biggest surprise for the day was that the 360 version of Death Smiles would be making its playable debut. Pretty much every person in attendance lined up to play the game, forcing Microsoft to limit play time to just five minutes. In exchange for the wait, and for making the trip out to Akihabara, Microsoft gave players a special Death Smiles mug.
While the stage events were going on, attendees were free to try out Xbox 360 shooters, new and old. Upcoming titles on display included Shooting Love 200X, Dodonpachi, Ketsui, Shooting Love 200X, and R-Type Dimensions -- all available only for the new system of choice for shooting fans.
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