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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK
Videogames shine in high-definition era
By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News website, Tokyo


Gran Turismo HD

Some of the most anticipated video game titles have been on display at the Tokyo Game Show, in Japan.

The high-definition age of video gaming is underway as Microsoft and Sony showed the best of their games for the coming months.

We pick out the titles generating the most buzz as the next-generation battle starts in earnest.

BLUE DRAGON (XBOX 360)

Blue Dragon
Blue Dragon is a key title in Microsoft's battle to crack Japan

It's impossible to miss Blue Dragon at this year's Tokyo Games Show (TGS).

Almost everyone has a bag over their shoulder, given out at the main train station or on the Microsoft stand, emblazoned with the blue beast.

From Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, this Manga-style role playing game (RPG) represents the first of many Xbox titles aimed at the Japanese market.

It revolves around a young boy named Shu and his friends as they battle the evil Nene and an ancient race of humans to save the world.

The title of the game comes from the main character's ability to control his "shadow" that appear as a Blue Dragon. Other characters have shadows of different mythical beasts.

With a focus on narrative rather than gameplay, the title is at time frustrating for gamers not used to RPGs.

However, the vibrant, colourful world and cute animated characters provide a mesmerising experience and an accessible insight into Japanese gaming culture.

FINAL FANTASY XIII (PS3)

Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy is one of the world's most popular videogame franchises

Although it is still a long way from being released, Final Fantasy XIII has been causing a commotion at TGS.

The long-running Final Fantasy series has a special place in gamers' affections here.

Only a trailer for the latest instalment was on show but it was enough to draw huge crowds to the Square Enix stand. One and two hour waits to get into the closed theatre are common.

Fabula Nova Crystallis, or the "the new tale of the crystal", encompasses three games: two for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and one for mobile phones.

This hugely anticipated title looks stunning on the trailer and could be the game that that persuades many gamers to part with the cash needed for the PS3.

METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS (PS3)

Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear Solid 4 is expected to drive PS3 sales

The trailer for the hotly anticipated MGS4 contains the line: "Some legends must die", perhaps confirming that this will be the last outing for main character Snake.

The MGS titles have been best sellers on the PS2 and this new game for the PS3 does not look like it will disappoint.

The trailer shows Snake using his octopus camouflage that changes colour and texture like an Octopus, allowing him to blend into the background.

In one scene his suit melts into a hotel wall's flock wallpaper as he sneaks up on enemies and in another he disguises himself as a statue on a plinth.

The grizzly hero also shows off some new moves, including rolling towards the enemy in a barrel.

This title will probably not be released until 2007 but the in-game footage from this trailer should be enough to whet most gamers' appetites.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (Xbox 360, PS3)

Sonic
The blue hedgehog returns in Sonic for next-gen consoles

The return of the blue hedgehog provides a fast-paced title worthy of its predecessors.

The first next-generation console title from Sega does not radically tamper with the original sonic format, and that proves to be a good thing.

The game still involves racing through lush landscapes and urban decay at breakneck speeds, collecting rings and fighting robotic foes as you go.

Dizzying manoeuvres on waterslides and steep slopes sees Sonic using the whole of the screen.

There is now the option to play as Sonic or as his new pal Silver, who forgoes speed for telekinetic abilities.

Silver knocks out enemies not with a somersault but by levitating boxes and throwing them at the bad guys.

All of this action adds up to make this reversion of an old favourite a hugely enjoyable title with gameplay that does not disappoint.

DEVIL MAY CRY 4 (PS3)

Devil May Cry 4
Gothic title Devil May Cry is a global best-seller

At one point during TGS there was a two-hour queue to play Devil May Cry 4, showing the level of interest in this sequel.

Dante, the main character in previous games, is replaced by new character Nero in this stylish and atmospheric sequel.

Nero comes equipped with double-barrelled pistols and sabre to take out the demons of the underworld.

There are also new features including a combat system that sees Nero's right arm extend to grab enemies from far away. Once hooked, you can reel them in and finish them off with any number of combination moves.

The gothic architecture and lighting of DMC4 set the tone for the game perfectly and the attention to texture and detail is impressive.

The gameplay of this slasher title is at times repetitive and the demo did not hold too many surprises.

However, DMC4 it is still in development and the team behind it still have another year to prove this is a worthy successor to the popular first three titles of the series.

LOST ODYSSEY (Xbox 360)

Lost Odyssey
Lost Odyssey was showing in Tokyo

The demo of Lost Odyssey, the second RPG for the Xbox by Hironobu Sakaguchi, starts with a dramatic battle scene between two huge sword-wielding armies.

Visually it has an epic film-like quality. As the battle progresses and casualties mount the scene cuts to the main character, Kain, a millennium old warrior.

As you take control of the character the transition from cut scene to play is seamless, and the quality of the graphics continues.

Like Blue Dragon, the gaming is menu-based, meaning that you must choose the correct action or object for Kain before it can be used.

This can be frustrating at times as it interrupts the gameplay, but is part and parcel of a lot of the RPG genre.

The sequence ends with a meteor impact that destroys Kain's opponents in a flood of realistically rendered molten rock.

Sakaguchi has said that a lot of the game will be seen through Kain's dreams and memories, but whether the demo sequence on show was one of these will not be known until the game is released next year.

GRAN TURISMO HD and RIDGE RACER 7 (PS3)

Ridge Racer
Ridge Racer 7 enters the high definition age

Showing in 1080p high definition at TGS, these driving games are visually stunning.

Both cars and landscapes are modelled with incredible attention to detail.

Ridge Racer 7 has had some problems at TGS running on the PS3, but the game is still incomplete.

The gameplay of both titles is not vastly different from their predecessors. GTHD for example is effectively a PS3 version of the PS2 game. Gamers will have to wait for GT5 for an entirely new experience.

However, both feature new customisation options. RR7 allows gamers to tinker with their cars and adjust the car's ride and even the interior of their cars, while GTHD exploits the PS3s online capability, allowing gamers to buy new cars and tracks.

More than 700 cars will be available for download, and when you are told that each one takes the equivalent of 6 months to make you realise why they are not all released with the boxed game.




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