For the Asians who care, the XBox is battling back

After years of failing to penetrate the Korean game market with its Xbox console, someone at Microsoft must have finally thought, “Hmm, maybe Koreans don’t like what we’re offering.” Maybe.
Although there is a hardcore community of Xbox players in Korea, the numbers don’t compare to the hundreds of thousands of people here who engage in massive multiplayer role playing games or multiplayer online racing and arcade games over the Internet using their PCs.

The domestic release of the Xbox360 was a relatively quiet event, compared to the commotion made in the United States. But the company finally decided that if you’re going to compete, you have to act competitive. In other words, you have to have the software that buyers want.
So when Microsoft Game Studios asked Lee Sang-youn, chief executive at Phantagram, to develop its next game, its request was very specific: A game that would appeal to Asian ― namely Korean and Japanese ― players. Phantagram is well-known for its “Kingdom Under Fire” series.

The result of that request is “Ninety-Nine Nights,” officially released here last Thursday exclusively for the Xbox360. The project was done jointly with Japan’s Q Entertainment and its famous game developer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The Japanese developed the game’s storyline, opening movie and its soundtrack, and directed some of the movie clips within the story. The Koreans worked on the main “body” of the game, including character design, graphics and programming.

The game itself is a fantasy action role-playing game with Japanese anime-inspired character designs and extremely high-quality graphics. At a quick glance, it looked like a hyped-up version of a typical fantasy online game. Players can choose one of seven characters and play both the human and the goblin side of an engrossing campaign comprising short missions.
“We tried to cater to what Asian players like. Asian prefer more field action, for example, and you’ll notice that the characters are reminiscent of those from the Final Fantasy series,” Mr. Lee said.
While the game may look familiar, it takes place mostly on large battlefields and involves engaging dozens to hundreds, even thousands, of enemies at the same time rather than facing off in one-on-one combat. Of course, you must train your character, learn certain skills and acquire special weapons or armor to be able to cast explosive spells or perform swordplay that can knock off large numbers of enemies with a swipe (or two).

This “mass battle” element is what sets the game apart from others, because the type of 3-D visuals and smooth, versatile camera play that are involved in the continuous massive battle scenes are not something that any other game engine can technically support. Tech freaks, prepare to squeal.
One thing that I thought was funny, however, (and not just with this game) was that when the player swings around his or her weapon, or sets off a “bomb” among the tangled, fighting mass, none of his or her allies are hurt. Now everyone knows that if you did that in real life, you’d kill all your own team members too. How ideal.

by Wohn Dong-hee for JoongAng Daily

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