Last week Microsoft revealed that it had tempted Hironobu "Father of Final Fantasy" Sakaguchi to commit his Mistwalker studio to develop a pair of Xbox 2 RPGs. Today, the company took another step toward boosting its stock in the Far East by announcing that Yoshiki Okamoto, president and CEO of Game Republic, and the near-legendary Tetsuya Mizuguchi, of Q Entertainment, have both signed on to produce exclusive titles for the next-generation Xbox platform.
It does not appear, however, that the two designers will be limiting their entire output to the Xbox 2 platform, as some may fear glancing at headlines.
As a former Capcom executive, Okamoto-san has of course been involved with Xbox before - Capcom being one of the few Japanese firms to lend support to the console in its current incarnation - but Game Republic is still a feather in Microsoft's next-gen cap regardless, and there's no question of how important Mizuguchi-san's involvement will be to hardcore gamers around the world who have come to love his distinctive work, which includes the likes of SEGA Rally, Space Channel 5 and Rez.
Microsoft, for its part, argued that the announcement underscores "a growing preference... for the next generation Xbox platform" among developers. Peter Moore reckons "Gamers will be riveted by the experience enabled by such creators when given the proper canvas and tools."
Okamoto-san, whose previous life included spells on Street Fighter and Resident Evil, amongst other things, said his goal "is to make completely fresh and riveting experiences that gamers have never had before," and like Sakaguchi-san last week he said that he felt with Xbox 2 he could "turn this vision into a reality".
Mizuguchi-san, meanwhile, said that he hoped to graduate from games that brought "ultimate fun" to games that would "give gamers the most emotional and thrilling gaming experience possible - joy, thrills, sympathy and speed". To us at least, Mizuguchi-san and Sakaguchi-san's shared emphasis of "emotion" in describing their goals for next-gen Xbox titles in the last week is an interesting and Microsoft will hope symbolic reflection of the rhetoric surrounding the launch of the industry-leading PlayStation 2 four years ago, when the "Emotion Engine" was the hype du jour. Xbox 2, which Microsoft hopes to launch in late 2005, also faces a similar period of isolation to the PS2 as the only next-gen format on the market before PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution appear in 2006.
"The power and advanced technologies of the next-generation Xbox platform will enable winning games with powerful emotions, high-quality graphics and sound," Mizuguchi-san concluded. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but with names of this calibre on the credit list we can at least say that Japan will be waiting to see this time around, too, rather than just staring on indifferently.