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MS to publish Tecmo's two towers

Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive Online join the European line-up.

Microsoft Game Studios confirms today that it has signed on to publish Tecmo's Xbox exclusive Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive Online titles in Europe during 2004. In the words of Xbox EMEA platform director Michel Cassius, "They join a strong portfolio of Xbox titles coming this year such as Halo 2, Kameo, Fable, RalliSport Challenge 2 and Sudeki."

Ninja Gaiden, widely tipped to arrive first, is the next-generation resurrection of one of Tecmo's most esteemed early day franchises, in which ninja Ryu Hayabusa seeks revenge on the Vigor Empire and its master the Holy Emperor for the death of his clan and the theft of the magical Ryuken sword. Set over 16 stages, it's a game built around the amazing versatility of a ninja's arsenal, with acrobatic moves, spectacular combat and massive enemies, judging by the presentation we saw at E3 last year, which culminated in a giant skeletal dragon showdown. Good news too is that Ninja Gaiden will benefit from multiplayer modes (whisper it, co-op?) and even "an innovative Xbox Live mode".

Dead or Alive Online meanwhile (still a working title) is expected to split the original two Dead or Alive game over a pair of discs, with a perfect rendition of the Saturn original on one and a completely overhauled Dead or Alive 2 by contrast on the other one, boasting plenty of Xbox Live features obviously, as Tecmo aims to deliver the first truly massive online beat-'em-up after Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO failed to capture the imaginations of Live owners back at the beginning of 2003.

Release date info for both titles is still scant, with neither game appearing on Microsoft's recent schedules. In fact, the platform holder is being remarkably coy about release dates at the moment. Amazon takes a stab in the dark though with a May 12th date for Ninja Gaiden and May 7th for Dead or Alive Online. Then again, the last date it had for DOA Online before that was October 31st 2003, so take both estimates onboard with an ocean of salt.