A Look Back at Flashback (Super NES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Flashback: The Quest for Identity and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

We live in an age in which software exclusivity defines not only the relevance of game consoles but also nature of the entire video game industry right down to the many varied communities of very avid fans (and fanboys).

While the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) and Sega Genesis each had their own exclusive games back in the 1990s, there was one particular game that was made for and released on not just one, not two but rather on more than fifteen different platforms – both consoles and computers – starting with Amiga way back in 1992. That game is none other than Flashback: The Quest for Identity which I first played on our Super NES back in 1994.

The cover of the game box.

For the newcomers reading this, Flashback was a 2D side-scrolling adventure game in the form of a cinematic platformer (note: similar to Prince of Persia and Out of This World) with a strong flavor of science fiction. It was cinematic in the sense that all the in-game animation were rotoscoped resulting unique smoothness combined with hand-drawn backgrounds and the computer-generated cutscenes were used in key parts of the game as the story progressed. Flashback on SNES in America even came with a Marvel Comics-published Flashback comic book and on the rear of the SNES game box were the words “The first CD-ROM game in a cartridge!”

A Flashback remake was released in 2013, followed by a port of the original game released on Sega Dreamcast in 2017, and a remastered version got released for varied platforms in 2018.

I got to play that game at a time when I have not even started playing Final Fantasy II (AKA Final Fantasy IV), Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI) and other great role-playing games (RPGs) of the Super NES. I also remember that Flashback was a nice change of pace for me after playing Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Flashback: The Quest for Identity, released on Super NES in 1993 by U.S. Gold and developed by Delphine Software International.

The start and options screen.

Early story

The story begins with Conrad running away from two armed persons chasing him. He flies away riding a solo vehicle but those chasing him (riding a huge vehicle) managed to get close and blast his vehicle causing to crash into the forest.

Sometime later, he wakes up and accidentally pushes a mechanical cube to fall down. He climbs down to reach it and activates it. The cube displays a holographic video of himself telling him that he recorded it without remembering it. As Conrad watches, he learns that he must contact a friend named Ian who can explain important things to him.

After viewing the message, Conrad sets off to find his way out of the jungle and somehow get to Ian in New Washington…

Game design and quality

You have to pay close attention to what’s going on, what items do you have and what the in-game prompts tell you.

This game is not your typical fast-paced, action-oriented 2D side-scrolling adventure in which you move from left to right to progress. As it is a cinematic platform game by design complete with very specific controls, players will have to be patient, adaptive and strategic in order to learn how exactly you can control your character, what moves will be executed (and when to execute). For one thing, the very fluid 24 frames-per-second animation on your character limits you in terms of control as timing is required.

To do things properly, you have to execute specific controls. To ascend on a lift, you press Up and the Y button. To do a small jump, have your character stand still and then press Up and Y button. To go down on level (on foot, no lift), stand by the edge of a level then press Down and Y button. To run and hang on to a higher floor automatically, have your character stand still, press Right and Y button, press Y button (once your character moves) and watch him pull it off. With controls like these, the usual 2D platforming approach is out of the question. In my experience, these controls are indeed challenging but never impossible to learn and eventually I got proficient with the controls as I played more.

The in-game animation for the characters are very good and there is also a sensation of weight with your character. Falling straight down from a very high place is a big no-no.

Apart from character controls, you don’t just move Conrad from one screen to the next…you also should do key objectives along the way apart from engaging in action scenes (read: shooting). That being said, you must watch out for icons that appear on screen when your character steps on a particular spot that requires interaction. For example, if you stop by a terminal, an icon will appear serving as a prompt to start the interaction. Another example is when your character steps on the same spot as an item located at which you can pick up once prompted.

More on the action on the screen, you will encounter armed enemies as well as high-tech machines (including floating drones). To overcome them, doing straightforward shooting is not recommended as you have to be strategic before firing a shot. You have to learn how each enemy or machine moves, how much physical space is available right there and how you can maximize your limited time and space to overcome them. In fact, you will also be compelled to take advantage of whatever seconds you have while the enemies’ animation (between moves) take place. There will also be times when you need to have your character armed with the gun before jumping to a lower level where an armed enemy is located and on the lookout. Coming down armed gives you an advantage to shoot first at the enemy who

Considering the 24 frames-per-second animation, you will have to time your moves carefully, especially during moments when you face an armed enemy.

Apart from shooting, you can also use grenades which requires opening your inventory to select a grenade and then do your timing and calculation of the distance in order to pull of a successful throw and explosion. You can also throw stones to distract enemies or to apply weight on key platforms in order to open mechanical doors.

With regards to the quality of gameplay, Flashback is enjoyable but only if you get over its rather high learning curve with regards to the controls which themselves serve as the game’s advantage and even as a disadvantage. In addition to being patient and strategic, you will really have to pace yourself, think more and get used to the rather slow pace of the game in relation to its cinematic platformer design. I should state that as you keep progressing, there will be places, or new obstacles or new enemies that will compel you to change your tactics in order to overcome them. Anyone who is used to playing 2D side-scrolling games the fast and easy way might find the high learning curve and pacing of Flashback a turnoff but if they are willing to learn, adjust and pace themselves, only then can this game’s gameplay be really enjoyed.

Cut scenes like this move at a sluggish pace which shows the limitations of the SNES and cartridge technology.

As for the visuals, the obvious highlight here is the 24 FPS animation which is the result of rotoscoping and careful visualizing (note: observe those alien humanoids who morph into moving blobs). The rotoscoped animation, however, would not have been that effective had the quality of the art used for the backgrounds been made of lower quality. I can say that the background artworks here look pretty good even by today’s standards. The standout among them were the background artworks of Morph’s home planet which really looked very alien and creepy at the same time. What hurts this particular version of Flashback is the lackluster (read: choppy) frame rate whenever the computer-generated cinematic cutscenes (obviously they were meant for more powerful PCs) play which, in my experience, took me out of the story. There were also bouts of slowdown during the gameplay, especially when you encounter enough enemies that were animated sophistically.

With regards to narrative, Conrad is literally your avatar to learn, discover and interact with the many elements of the universe he is part of. There is obvious influence that the game makers took from the movie Total Recall as they crafted Conrad to be someone who lost his memory, moves on to regain it and do a lot of things as he realizes his true purpose and what is really at stake. Unlike Total Recall’s protagonist, Conrad himself is not too interesting mainly due to the way the in-game story was structured. Just play as Conrad and do what needs to be done to complete the game.

When it comes to understanding the narrative, you will have to do lots of reading. You will spot and read the short description of the prompts that appear. You’ll also have to read the on-screen text whenever your character talks with someone during the levels of the game. And there are the captions shown during the slow animated cutscenes.

Conclusion

The background artworks during the late stage of the game are great and truly creative with science fiction in mind.

I can clearly say that Flashback: The Quest for Identity on Super NESis fun and engaging mainly to those who are willing to adjust themselves to it. If you don’t have patience, if you are not willing to think while playing, if you cannot pace yourself and if you are not willing to learn all the specific controls of the game, then you should not be playing Flashback. It is a cinematic platformer and that should tell you that you will need to adjust to enjoy it.

Overall, Flashback: The Quest for Identity on SNES is recommended.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Wolverine #75 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, comic collectors, 1990s culture enthusiasts and fans of the X-Men! We go back to the year 1993 when the 30th anniversary of the X-Men was celebrated with the 6-part Fatal Attractions storyline. Already I reviewed Uncanny X-Men #304 (Part 3) which was not worthy of the X-Men’s 30th anniversary celebration. X-Men #25 (Part 4) meanwhile was not only great but also shocking and had a years-long impact on X-Men comics.

So now the focus is on the 5th chapter of the Fatal Attractions storyline handled by the Larry Hama-Adam Kubert team on the Wolverine monthly series of the time. With those details laid down, here is a look back at Wolverine #75, published by Marvel Comics in 1993 with a story written by Larry Hama and drawn by Adam Kubert.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins in outer space. Carrying Charles Xavier, Wolverine, Gambit, Jean Grey, Rogue and Quicksilver (who participated in the dangerous mission in X-Men #25), the X-Men’s jet (piloted by Bishop) struggles mechanically as it was not designed for space travel. Worse, Wolverine is under very serious condition and the medical unit has been operating in full capacity dealing with his intense trauma.

In an attempt to alleviate Wolverine’s psychic trauma, Charles Xavier and Jean Grey enter his mind and discover that there is a world full of pain and horror. They see visions of a restrained Wolverine (from his Weapon X days) being attacked by Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike. Xavier explains that they are at the epicenter of Logan’s most suppressed cataclysmic memories which were clearly triggered by the physical damage Magneto inflicted on him (see X-Men #25).

As the X-Men’s jet attempts to enter Earth’s atmosphere, its exteriors heat up dramatically shaking everyone inside. This complicates the situation on stabilizing Wolverine…

Quality

The other X-Men team members at their headquarters expressing worry and concern about the situation of their teammates struggling to come back home from space.

To be clear, this story continues the events of Fatal Attractions but with a bit more focus on Wolverine (compared to the earlier chapters of the storyline that is). There is no real battle between good and evil at all. It’s really all about Wolverine struggling to survive just as his teammates struggle to arrive home.

Before the stories of this comic book and X-Men #25 happened, Wolverine has often been portrayed to be very tough, brave and a walking machine of violence which has been reflected in other X-Men stories told in video games and movies. In this very comic book, Wolverine has been presented to coming close to death. This means Logan, at this particular stage of the history of the literary X-Men, was at his most vulnerable state. In my experience, this was both alienating and shocking to see.

With regards to the writing, Larry Hama did an excellent job with pacing the story from start to finish. Right from the beginning, the story pulls you into the X-Men’s tough situation and as each page gets turned, the tension as well as the suspense builds up until the execution the climax. Along the way, the comic book not only portrays Wolverine struggling on the edge, it also works to make you care more or be more concerned of him. Oh yes, the shocking moment near the end of this comic book remains very shocking and you who read this should read and see it for yourselves.

Conclusion

Wolverine at his most vulnerable state.

By today’s standards, Wolverine #75 (1993) is still a very great comic book to read. In fact, I can say it is not only one of most defining chapters of the Fatal Attractions storyline as well as one of the most significant X-Men comic books of the 1990s, it is indeed a true illustrated literature classic ever published by Marvel Comics. In retrospect, this comic book marks a major turning point in the life of Wolverine who is still one of the most iconic characters in all of superhero literature. All of these were achieved thanks to the creative team of Larry Hama and Adam Kubert (whose are here was great and stylized at the same time). Hama succeeded in writing the continuation of the Fatal Attractions storyline while balancing all of the exposition and still putting Wolverine in the center. That itself is a very great work of writing.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Wolverine #75 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $60 while the near-mint copies of the signed-and-numbered edition and the newsstand edition cost $300 and $180 respectively.

Overall, Wolverine #75 (1993) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Secret of the Stars (SNES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Secret of the Stars and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, video game enthusiasts, fans of Japanese role-playing games (RPGs), 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts, fellow geeks and video game collectors!

If you were already a gamer who enjoyed playing games at home with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) back in 1995, chances are you heard about the buzz about the hot RPGs that were released for the console at the time. Square released Chrono Trigger (which is now a classic) and Secret of Evermore while Capcom released Breath of Fire II.

That same year, Tecmo (the company best known for Dead or Alive video games) tried to score well with RPG enthusiasts and other SNES-owning gamers of North America by releasing Secret of the Stars which itself turned out to be the English-language version of the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) Aqutallion.

This RPG caught my attention when I read about it in gaming magazines. After completing Final Fantasy II (actual title Final Fantasy IV) and Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI) on the SNES in 1994, there was a period several months when I was not able to play another RPG and had to settle with other types of games (note: I had a lot of fun with Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). In the 4th quarter of 1995, I finally obtained a copy of the Tecmo-published RPG.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Secret of the Stars (or Tecmo Secret of the Stars as presented on the game cover).

The cover of the game.

Early story

The story begins with a young lad named Ray who gets oriented with some people at the house of Mrs. Sonya. By merely asking a question, she reminds him about his personal search for a crest which once belonged to his father. Sonya also revealed that their island has been hit by several earthquakes which caused many wild animals to arrive.

Ray travels to the nearby town talking with the locals who gradually update him about what has been happening. Someone reveals to him that a journeyman arrived and talks about something called Kustera and Aquatallion.

Ray meets with the journeyman named David who is a native of Kustera. After reminding Ray that his father was the great Aqutallion, he emphasized that an evil being called Homncruse is a major threat to everyone and must be stopped. He tells Ray that he must seek out the crest of the stars to become an Aqutallion warrior and be able to defeat Homncruse.

Ray gets urged to go to the mountain to find the crest…

Quality

Imagine yourself arriving in this town for the first time. Which place should you visit?

To put things straight, Secret of the Stars has the basic elements of turn-based role-playing that involves the heavy use of menus for item management, fighting, defense, item use and others. The most unique game design feature here is the ability to switch between parties as the game goes on but what is clear is that the party involving Ray is the default party.

On the creative side of things, the concept about Ray being the chosen one to protect his people, lead a group composed of individuals to not only fight evil beings or monsters and achieve goals on quests (read: this includes going through personal trials at different sites in order to receive additional powers) and take on Homncruse and his evil agents has always been generic and the overall game design reflects that as well. Being the protagonist, Ray is clearly the most developed character but the same cannot be said about Tina, Cody, Leona and Dan who are all uninteresting.

Red slime? More like purple!

The production values of this game are clearly sub-par and the weak Japanese-to-English translation is only the tip of the iceberg. With the exception of the monster and enemy designs, Secret of the Stars looks like an 8-bit game and really stood out among 16-bit RPGs of its time when it comes to field of inferiority and primitiveness. The level designs lack creativity and the location background art lacked variety. When it comes to the story, its concept was interesting at first but there really is not much depth to it nor are the characters worth caring about.

What really defined this game is its slow-pacing in terms of interactivity. Adding even more to the sluggishness of the game are the slow movements of your character (representing your party) on-screen and the rather high rate of random battles. There is also a lot of grinding (defeat enemies in lots of repetitive battles to gain experience points to level up) required and the sad thing is the level-up is not very rewarding especially when you take into consideration the many enemies or monsters who are often strong with high hit points each.

The sluggishness and tedium are so bad, Secret of the Stars really turned out to be more of a chore than an actual fun game to play. It is so bad, the game’s unique feature of allowing players to control the 2nd party (Kusterans) became even more tedious and pointless to do. It is so bad, you will care less about the story of Ray, and you will prefer to ignore the other characters even more. It’s so bad, you won’t care anymore about Ray’s quest and the danger Homncruse has on the people.

Conclusion

Do you know someone named or codenamed Badbad?

Secret of the Stars was a bad RPG for its time and clearly it was a waste of money. On my experience, I ended up being very disappointed not only because of the game’s quality but also because of an absence of fun and the fact that my time playing it became a big waste. For me personally, this JRPG was definitely the worse SNES experience of 1995. It seems like the game developers made this game to literally torture gamers.

Overall, Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars should be avoided!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men 2099 #4 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, fans of the 2099 universe of Marvel Comics, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the X-Men 2099 comic book series by focusing on the 4th issue. Following the single storyline told in the first three issues (including the unexpected death of a certain member in issue #3) which ultimately made clear why the X-Men of 2099 exist and what their place is within an America that is totally different from what it used to be during the time of Charles Xavier and his X-Men. As such, the stage was set for more exploration and new creative directions with Xi’an and his band of nomadic mutants.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at X-Men 2099 #4, published by Marvel Comics in 1993 with a story written by John Francis Moore and drawn by Ron Lim.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Bloodhawk exploring a deserted, radioactive facility in the middle of New Mexico. Having a reptilian skin protects him from radiation which only adds to his personal obsession of waging a war against developers and corporate entities that he accuses of defiling the natural environment.

Suddenly, a tough female with white hair and white skin grabs Bloodhawk by the neck and by touching his head with her left hand, she triggers a bolt of agony on him. Bloodhawk then loses consciousness.

Meanwhile in Nevada, Xi’an and his X-Men salvaged whatever equipment they found at the Nueva Sol Arcology which was their haven before Synge’s enforcers invaded and ruined it. In response to Shakti’s comment that it would take months to restore the facility, Xi’an says that the time for gatherings has passed as he believes that their path lies on the road emphasizing travel to new places.

While his teammates are outside, Henri uses a computer inside the facility retrieving messages. He receives a video message from his old friend Jordan Boone who informs him about a major project called Valhalla and he was going to do something outrageous…

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Neuro-tech, the captured X-Men, Luna and the Theater of Pain.

When it comes to narrative, I should point out that this comic book serves as a prelude to The Fall of the Hammer 2099 crossover storyline and it does a good job setting key members of the X-Men to get involved.

As an X-Men 2099 story, John Francis Moore further developed the personalities of most of the members (with Timothy Fitzgerald being the center as he slowly becomes Skullfire) and showed more of the culture within the team under Xi’an’s leadership and strict points.

Other than the focus on the mutants, a notable feature of the story is the introduction of the Theater of Pain which includes a radically intriguing masked villain who runs an operation that involves abducting people, using machines to feed on their minds and access the most painful personal memories which in turn is digitally channeled to an existing linked live audience feeding their minds. In essence, mental torture and intrusion of the mind are introduced. I should also state that the Theater of Pain here plays a major part in the story of X-Men 2099 #25. This issue also introduces Luna who eventually gets linked with Skullfire and becomes part of the X-Men.

More on the Theater of Pain concept, I found the painful flashback sequences a clever method used by the writer to emphasize selected moments from the past of Bloodhawk and Skullfire which added to the character development of this comic book.

Conclusion

One step showing Timothy slowly becoming Skullfire.

X-Men 2099 #4 (1993) is well-written and it is a significant part of the 35-issue monthly series. For one thing, it shows the start of the transformation of Skullfire’s personality, the direction Xi’an and his mutants are taking, and the start of a build-up that led to the significant events of X-Men 2099 #25. There is a lot here for X-Men 2099 fans to enjoy from start to finish.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of X-Men 2099 #4 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $30 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $90.

Overall, X-Men 2099 #4 (1993) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at What If #46 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, X-Men fans, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! It’s time to revisit the What If monthly series of comic books of Marvel Comics that lasted from 1989 until 1998. The old comic book I’m about to review involves the X-Men, Cable and more.

Before starting with this newest retro comic book review, I should state that I was never a fan of Cable even though I read lots of X-Men-related comic books that included him. When I think of Cable, I immediately think of the New Mutants and X-Force comic book series.

You must be wondering what has Cable and the X-Men have to do with the old What If issue I’m focusing on. We can all find out in this look back at What If #46, published by Marvel Comics in 1993 with a story written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Tod Smith.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins inside a tavern in New York’s famous Central Park. Inside, Charles Xavier, Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey have a discussion about mutant matters until a small saucer-shaped device flies inside and disrupts everything with its sonic frequency. Suddenly a second flying saucer comes in, touches Scott’s shoe and explodes powerfully killing him, Jean and Xavier. Others got injured by the explosion and the tavern ends up burning.

Outside the tavern, Cable is seen running away and someone points at him as someone who must be responsible for the bombing. As it turns out, the deliberate killing of Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey was the result of a division between Cable’s New Mutants and the X-Men in connection to the recent return of Xavier from deep space.

Quality

A brawl between the mutants.

I’ll start with the story Kurt Busiek came up with. This one explores an alternate time in which Charles Xavier returned to Earth (after escaping from the Skrulls in deep space) only to find the X-Men in disarray which compelled him to restore things the way they were. This is not to be confused with his return in the canon storyline of the Muir Island Saga.  

That being said, Busiek explored what would it be like had Xavier tried to resolve mutant matters not only with the team of mutants he founded but also with other teams such as the New Mutants (already led by Cable), X-Factor (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Archangel) plus several other mutants. I really liked the way the mutants reacted to Xavier given his long absence from Earth, how his dream matters and turned out irrelevant to them as individual mutants, and if he still has what it takes to lead them. In some ways, Xavier looked like a politician trying to convince his constituents that his vision is still the best for them and their interests.

What really made the story running was the start of the division between the mutants when Cable rejects Xavier and points out that the X-Men founder’s devotion to appeasement is dooming mutants. All of these led to the shock opening scene and in terms of writing quality, it was all justified.

The scenes that happened AFTER the burial of Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey literally raised the stakes for the rest of the comic book. I don’t want to spoil further plot details but I can assure you all that Kurt Busiek’s script is very sold and there is so much to enjoy here especially if you are knowledgeable enough about the X-Men and the other parts of the Marvel Comics universe (note: the Avengers, Stryfe, Freedom Force and Fantastic Four also appeared).

Visually, the work of Tod Smith looks a bit rushed. His art here is not bad but I felt it could have been better had there been more time to polish his work. In fairness to Smith, his drawings on most of the characters still made them recognizable and he showed pacing with regards to the panels and angles used. I should say he does a decent job showing multiple characters fighting each other simultaneously.

Conclusion

If you were a mutant, would you follow Charles Xavier or Cable?

If you ask me, What If #46 (1993) is pretty entertaining and engaging to read thanks to the strong writing as well as the daring exploration of how the comic’s main story impacts others within the Marvel Comics universe. It has drama, action, intrigue and most notably it explores a new concept about how the X-Men would turn out after the death of their founder. It also raises questions on whether or not the X-Men are doomed without Charles Xavier’s presence.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of What If #46 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $40 while the near-mint newsstand edition costs $120.

Overall, What If #46 (1993) is recommended.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men Adventures #7 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, X-Men fans, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today, we take a look at the topic of slavery and its connection with the mutants within the universe of Marvel. To be more specific, slavery was emphasized in one of the episodes of the popular X-Men animated series which itself had a monthly series of comic book adaptations – X-Men Adventures!

With those details laid down, here is a look back at X-Men Adventures #7, published by Marvel Comics in 1993 with a story written by Ralph Macchio and drawn by Chris Batista.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins in Genosa, an island nation where mutants are designated as slaves constantly monitored by armed personnel of the state. X-Men team members Gambit, Storm and Jubilee are forced to do hard labor as they have been rendered powerless (with high-tech collars on their necks). Along with many other mutants, they are working on a key infrastructure project of the state.

As soon as the local authorities deactivated the collars of the slaves, Storm immediately attempts to escape by flying. Immediately, the collar on her neck got reactivated which neutralized her powers and caused her to fall down to the water below. As soon as she climbs up on a rock to rest, a cable wraps itself on her right leg. Suddenly, a huge Sentinel rises above the water and pulls her…

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The money shot!

Like the TV episode it was based on, this comic book does a decent job of portraying slavery and oppression with mutants in mind while avoiding the very sensitive topic of racism. To see Gambit, Storm and Jubilee portrayed as much more vulnerable characters is a nice change from their usual portrayals. While the story has a strong slavery theme, it also sheds light on the ongoing, secretive development of the Sentinels program which clearly emphasizes the growing danger that await not only the X-Men (the prime target of Trask and his team) but mutants in general.

When it comes to the art, Chris Batista did a nice job drawing not only the characters (all recognizable) but also their surroundings, the Sentinels and the framing of action scenes.

Conclusion

Gambit, Storm and Jubilee as slaves on Genosha.

I personally find X-Men Adventures #7 (1993) somewhat fun and slightly engaging to read. As this is an adaptation of the X-Men animated series episode about Genosha and mutant slavery, it clearly has a strong wholesome approach to its presentation. That being said, its depth is actually limited as it presented its themes with younger readers and new X-Men readers in mind. Unsurprisingly, the action is limited and was portrayed to avoid violence. If you want a more serious and grittier portrayal of Genosha and mutant slavery, you should read Uncanny X-Men #235 to #238, and the X-tinction Agenda storyline.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of X-Men Adventures #7 (1993) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $30, while the near-mint copies of the newsstand edition and the Greek edition cost $90 and $200 respectively.

Overall, X-Men Adventures #7 (1993) is satisfactory.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Sega Saturn, PlayStation)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? video game and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

If you have been reading my Macross-related articles over the past few years, you should know already that I deeply love watching Macross: Do You Remember Love?, the classic anime feature film co-directed by Noboru Ishiguro and the legendary Shoji Kawamori.

Like many other entertainment franchises in Japan, Macross also has video games based on its stories and concepts. During the fifth generation of video game consoles, Bandai released in Japan the video game adaptation of the 1984 anime movie on the Sega Saturn in 1997 and the Sony PlayStation in 1999. That game was titled The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? and I played that 2D side-scrolling shoot-them-up game a lot during the time when 3D polygons was already the standard.

Considering its age, it is easy to wonder if the game is still fun to play by today’s standards and if the game is something that Macross fans can enjoy a lot. We can all find out in this look back at The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Sega Saturn version in 1997.
Sony PlayStation version in 1999.

Early story

The story begins at sea. A Valkyrie piloted by Hikaru Ichijyo (the late Arihiro Hase) launches from the aircraft carrier Prometheus to join his teammates Max and Kakizaki led by Roy Fokker (Akira Kamiya). Suddenly a powerful beam of energy from above hits the aircraft carrier clearly showing that their world is under attack by the Zentradi.

They proceed to South Attaria Island where they immediately engaged the Zentradi forces that ravaged the city and causing trouble for the SDF-1 (Macross). After defeating several Zentradi elements, the remaining Skull Squadron forces flew to the Macross (which just launched into the air) which executes a space fold just moments before even more laser blasts from the Zentradi destroyed the entire island.

Sometime later deep in space, thousands of civilians managed to adjust to living inside the Macross. As Lynn Minmay’s (Mari Iijima) first concert happens inside the fortress, Hikaru, his teammates and many other fighters engage in a mission against the Zentradi…

Quality

Just like in the movie!

To comment on the quality of this old video game, I’ll focus on gameplay and presentation.

As far as gameplay goes, Macross: DYRL is essentially a 2D side-scrolling shooter literally designed to be grand not only for Macross fans but also for gamers who enjoy its design and its type of gameplay. You play as the hero Hikaru who pilots an advanced fighter plane that can also transform into an armed fighter with legs (GERWALK mode) and also into a full-sized, human-like robot (Battroid). In fighter mode, you move fast and are able to fire rockets or use your default gun. In GERWALK mode, your speed is slower but you have improved mobility that can be crucial for combat. In Battroid mode, your speed is reduced further but you are somewhat stronger and more precise when it comes to shooting enemies.

Still on gameplay, the game developers really pushed the envelope in terms if immersion as there are lots of moments in which the enemies will not only face you on your 2D plane but also move around you from the foreground to the background. Without having to do anything further, your character will be able to auto-aim and shoot at your enemy whether in the background or the foreground. Essentially, this makes the game a 2.5D shooter.

This is a fine example of you (in your 2D plane) firing at your enemy in the background.
In key parts of some levels in the game, the UN Spacy will send a shuttle to release supplies to help you replenish your shield meter.

The controls are relatively easy to learn and get adjusted to. More importantly, the controls are very responsive and they are ideal when it comes to precision on moving your character around as well as trying to shoot at specific targets.

This game was designed with several levels for you to complete essentially moving from left to right. As evidence of the game developers taking liberties during its adaptation of elements from the 1984 animated movie, several levels have boss fights for you to participate in and win in order to progress. These boss-type enemies are noticeably absent from the movie and yet they were designed to integrate into the film’s concept and also expand the concept about how elaborate the Zentradi are when it comes to their war machines against Earth. The boss-type enemies (note: they are clearly polygonal and yet they fit in well with the 2D sprite elements) are huge machines designed for space battles and there were boss fights in which some of them move into the background (which sparks moments for your character to fighter towards the background). When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), the boss-type enemies are not really that sophisticated with their movements although a few of them have attack patterns that will push you to be more evasive and more strategic.

Before starting a level, you can select your weapons that can function depending on your personal preference on taking on the enemies.
Lots of great visual effects and 3D movement add to the challenge.

With regards to challenge, some parts of this game took me a few repeats before finally improving myself enough to make it to the next levels. The visual elements of the game also added to the overall challenge as seeing 2D sprites move around you 3-dimensionally.

Speaking of 2D sprites, it is clear that this game was designed to be heavy with 2D visual elements while 3D polygons are used sparingly (note: the boss battles mentioned above). As this is a side-scrolling game, the game makers clearly made lots of sprites of machines, space ships, Zentradi battle pods and other figures that Macross fans would easily recognize. The good news is that each 2D sprite was made with multiple frames of animation (complete with frames meant for 3D movement) and were made to really resemble the cinematic artworks which ultimately results making them really look lively to watch on-screen!

As for the presentation, I can see that the game developers Scarab paid great attention to the details of the animated movie to make The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? fun and engaging for gamers in general while also becoming strongly relevant and delightful with the people who love Macross. For example, the game starts with a cinematic prologue composed of brand-new animation cels mixed with elements of 3D polygons and in my view, it fits in nicely leading to the actual cinematic opening of the movie from 1984. The cinematic prologue was meant to expand the film’s overall concept and other story expansions happened in subsequent parts of the game (such as the all-new mission told in two levels).

Observe the Zentradi surrounding Roy Fokker on his 2D plane, the foreground and background. This is a 2D sprite-heavy showcase!
The game developers paid close attention to the details of the movie and presented the visuals using video game graphics, 2D sprites and really nice in-game background artworks!
Surprise! You as Hikaru get to fight Milia temporarily before her memorable fight with Max happens!

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? came with selected animated sequences and still images from the 1984 movie’s very own footage meant for in-game storytelling (note: you still have to watch the movie for the best immersion). As there were some original scenes made for the game with expanding the film’s concept in mind, there are a few computer-generated animation sequences and even brand-new animated cels (note: very clearly they were drawn by people different from the ones who drew the film’s footage) showing some character moments.

When it comes to the audio, this game is clearly a labor of love with Macross fans in mind. Much of the music, songs and sound effects from the movie (as well as from the 1982-1983 anime TV series) were integrated into the game which made it very immersive for Macross fans. As for the voice actors, fans will hear the voices of their favorite Macross characters performed by the late Hase, Iijima, Kamiya, Mika Doi (Misa Hayase), Michio Hazama (Captain Global) and more. While some of their recorded lines from the movie were reused (especially Hase who died in 1996), others recorded new lines for their respective characters for the new cinematic footage as well as key parts in the game.

The art of Lynn Minmay for the new anime footage was clearly not drawn by the people behind the 1984 anime movie.

What I love best about the presentation is that the game developers replicated selected scenes from the 1984 movie using in-game graphics and art along with music, sound effects and the lines of dialogue! As a Macross fan myself, the immersion was pretty deep as I played the game and witnessed those special moments from the movie played within the in-game presentation.

Conclusion

Enjoy looking at this.

I can declare out loud that The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? is indeed the best Macross video game I have ever played as well as the best adaptation (note: other than film) of the classic movie from 1984. This game, which excellently used 2D sprites and 3D polygons all throughout, was very clearly made to delight Macross fans while giving gamers something very enjoyable and memorable to experience. For the best immersion, it is highly recommended to watch the movie before playing this video game. Truly this video game has aged well!

Overall, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Sega Saturn, PlayStation) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men 2099 #1

1993 was a special year for X-Men fans. It was the year Marvel Comics celebrated what was back then the 30th anniversary of the X-Men which explains why they released not only a lot of X-Men-related comic books but also issues with hologram cards on the covers of specific issues of X-Force, X-Factor, X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur. While superhero movies were not that many at the time, fans had the X-Men animated series to enjoy on TV.

Along the way, the comic book speculator boom continued and Marvel Comics exploited the trend as its creators worked to expand what was back then their still-young 2099 lineup of comic books. This led to the release of X-Men 2099 #1 in the 2nd half of 1993, the comic book of which I bought on a weekday during a short visit to the comic book store in BF Homes, Parañaque.

RCO001_1469507978.jpg
Cover of X-Men 2099 #1.

Before exploring a bit of the story, let me share that in my personal analysis, releasing X-Men 2099 #1 the same year as the 30th anniversary celebration of X-Men made sense even though the contemporary X comic books made no real story reference to the mutants of 2099. Back in 1993, an undisclosed amount of money was spent to promote, distribute and sell comics and merchandise in relation to the anniversary celebration. I’m confident someone behind the scenes at Marvel thought it was a smart idea to debut the X-Men 2099 series at a time when the X-Men brand was very strong among collectors.

Now on to the comic book.

Written by John Francis Moore and drawn by Ron Lim (with ink work by Adam Kubert), X-Men 2099 #1 opens with Timothy Fitzgerald/Skullfire alone and uncertain visiting a large, abandoned facility in the Nevada desert called Nuevo Sol. He stands in front of a large gate with an X marking. After a bumpy introduction with Junkpile, Tim enters and, to his surprise, there he finds a large gathering of people partying despite the deteriorating conditions of the place. He meets Tina/Serpentina who tells him that he is welcome and their gathering attracted mutants, and “nomads and fringers.”

“In Nuevo Sol, you’re not just some corporate bar code, sorted and filed like a product. Here, everyone has a name. Everyone’s equal–no matter where they’ve come from,” Tina tells him.

RCO007_1469507978~2.jpg
As Tim discovers Metalhead, so do the readers.

After the subsequent for-the-readers introductions of Eddie/Metalhead and Shakti/Cerebra, the narrative moves to Las Vegas where a horse-riding Noah Synge (an old man who “ruthlessly controls the greater Nevada syndicate”) gets confronted by Xi’an/Desert Ghost who tells him that his men (of Synge) continue to kidnap members of the nomad tribes for his decadent amusements. In other words, it’s an accusation about human trafficking.

After a harsh exchange of words, Xi’an shows to him his left, creepy looking fist telling him that the red market will fall, that the Synge empire will crumble and that if Synge seeks to hurt the affected people, he (Xi’an) will make him suffer.

Xi’an touches a short stone wall with his left hand which makes it crumble within seconds (as he walks away). This is all I have to share about the plot and if you want to know more, you better get and read this comic book.

So you must be wondering what I think about the quality of this 1993 comic book. When it comes to storytelling, it is well written, entertaining and engaging. John Francis Moore’s script really is good even by today’s standards. Moore managed to carefully introduce not only the X-Men of 2099 but also the supporting characters and the bad guys properly all within 23 story-and-art pages which is a very hard thing to achieve. While the writing was challenging, Moore managed to us symbolism to show “good versus evil”, especially with the conflict between Xi’an (representing the oppressed and the powerless) and Noah Synge (who, by today’s standards, is a caricature of the cruel and rich person).

Tim meanwhile symbolizes the reader’s perception. As he discovers Nuevo Sol, readers feel and see what he perceives. His discovery of the place, the culture and people serves as the eyes of us readers.

When it comes to the art work, this one shows that Ron Lim exerted a lot of effort to give the X-Men of 2099 a unique look of their own without taking any visual inspiration from the contemporary, mainstream X-Men of the 1990s. While it is easy to criticize Lim for the quality of art, we must remember that he worked on a whole lot of other comic book for Marvel back in 1993. During that year, he illustrated The Infinity Crusade which featured a whole bunch of Marvel’s superheroes and many other characters in each comic book. Could you imagine the headaches and stress an illustrator has to go through drawing so many characters in a comic book limited series?

Ron Lim also helped visualize what Nevada looks like in 2099 which is a nice change from the super futuristic, towers-filled New York City. In terms of society, the X-Men 2099 series further showed that America’s wilderness or the abandoned places are filled with outlaws and living there can be even more dangerous for people to do when compared with living in New York under the watch of Alchemax.

This old comic book, which has a solid cover with foil and a price of $1.75, also has a 15-page Marvel 2099 promo which includes a 2-page X-Men 2099 “coming at you” portrait by Lim. The promo includes short previews of the other 2099 feature characters and it also serves as a reminder that X-Men 2099 is part of the same universe with them.

Overall, I declare X-Men 2099 #1 is still a good, old comic book worthy of being added to your collection. Its financial value is not that high right now and the X-Men 2099 themselves pale in comparison to Spider-Man 2099 (easily the most popular 2099 feature character of them all) when it comes to today’s comic book environment.

What you have to keep in mind, however, is that X-Men 2099 #1 just might gain a boost in its financial value if ever the mutants of the future make a big comeback as part of Marvel’s official announcement that it will revive the 2099 line of comic books this November! Granted, X-Men of 2099 had appeared in X-Men comic books in the past few years but the revival of the 2099 line will be a more suitable place for readers to discover them in this age of social media and smartphones.

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The X-Men of 2099.

Financial value aside, X-Men 2099 #1 is engaging and entertaining, and it has that 1990s charm to it.

X-Men 2099 #1 is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At Freex #1

I want to say that I am a fan of Marvel’s X-Men. Given the long publication history as well as how many creators – most notably Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio – defined and redefined them through the ages, the X-Men for me is the best superhero team comic franchise from Marvel.

Back in 1993, Malibu Comics launched a new line of superhero comic books called the Ultraverse and there I was inside a comic book store along Presidents Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque one time struggling to decide which of the many Ultraverse launch titles displayed to buy with my very limited budget. As I was very fond of the superhero team dynamics of the X-Men, I bought Freex #1.

Freex1
Cover of Freex #1.

Written by Gerard Jones with art by Ben Herrera (inked by Mike Christian), Freex #1 introduces Ray/Boomboy (a guy who lived hidden from the public due to his abnormal body), Valerie/Pressure (a very bitter lady who could produce steam or plasma out of sweat), Lewis/Anything (a guy who could reshape his body), Angela/Sweetface (who has several fleshy tentacles from her body) and Michael/Plug (a digital escapee).

The comic book emphasizes the five individuals’ respective struggles with not only their abilities but also with being social outcasts. This eerily parallels Marvel’s X-Men in more ways than one. The big difference is that the Freex do not have a mature adult to guide them nor do they have a large estate to hide and live in. Clearly the Freex are in a desperate situation to survive and realize their destiny.

In terms of storytelling, the pacing is fine and for the most part character development or spotlight was noticeably invested on three of the five Freex which is understandable since the comic book had only twenty-five pages of story and art. In terms of spectacle, there presentation is nice and the action scenes nicely reflect what the characters could do.

Freex2
Valerie Sharp’s flashback.

Going back to character development, I find Boomboy’s back story to be the most interesting. Due to his rock-like appearance, his family had no choice but to hide him in the basement for an unspecified number of years. Unsurprisingly he became very lonely and he dealt with loneliness by reading a book about a certain literature classic.

Due to his high consumption related to his abnormal condition, Boomboy’s family realized that feeding him was too costly and they found a place where he could be transferred to and receive special care. Thinking that he would end up like a slave at the new place, Boomboy naturally rebels and forcefully leaves the house causing damage.

For the first time, Boomboy explores the suburban exterior while causing people nearby to panic as he looks like some monster to them. The uncertainty for him ended when Lewis meets and welcomes him.

Freex3
It truly is very hard to be social outcasts.

Very notably, Boomboy claims that “Huck” (actually Anything) saved him and went on to really believe in him.

Being an X-Men fan, I noticed that Freex has some similar themes with Marvel’s superhero team in the sense that there is a group of individuals with special abilities (or abnormalities as some would call them) who are noticeably rejected by members of the local society they live in. Valerie said it correctly: So we are here, right? Living in some locked-up squat, stealing to eat with the cops all over us!

Valerie’s words captured the desperate situation of Freex. They don’t have a mature leader to look up to. They cannot go back to where they came from. They cannot reunite immediately with the people who care for them. They are already rejected by the local authorities.

Overall, I find Freex #1 as engaging as it was when I first read it way back in 1993. It has aged nicely with its fine mix of drama and spectacle composed with a more mature audience in mind. If you are a comic book collector looking for 1990s concepts or if you want something similar to the X-Men or even DC Comics’ Teen Titans, then I recommend this comic book.

It’s too bad that Marvel bought out Malibu Comics and shut them down. As of this writing, Freex and the rest of the Ultraverse characters and concepts are all in limbo and remain unused by Marvel for decades now.

Freex4
Freex with a stronger superhero look they adapted later in their short-lived comic book series.

Still I can imagine the unlikely scenario that Marvel Studios (under the orders of their parent company the Walt Disney Company) would revive someday the Ultraverse properties in a limited way without cannibalizing their very own superhero properties already in use in movies. I think Freex would make an interesting animated series or as a video game or as action figures. Truly there is still good entertainment potential with Freex similar to the other Ultraverse franchises.


Thank you for reading. If you found this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version