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 Top Gear (SNES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Top Gear 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.

Remember back in the early 1990s how impressive the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) was when it comes to fulfilling your early expectations of the enhanced gaming experience aided by new technology?

Super Mario World was astounding the first time I got to play it on our Super NES. The same experience too I had with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

And then there was our first Super NES racing game titled Top Gear (not to be confused with the popular motoring media franchise) developed by Gremlin Graphics and published by Kemco.

The game cover.

Concept and Game Design

Top Gear is a car-focused racing game that had over thirty tracks and creatively emphasized the global locations in it. The very meat of the game is its global tournament in which you need to finish at least in 5th place in order to qualify to join the next race.

Creatively, each race has courses that vary in distance, the sharpness of turns (as far as 2D graphics allowed), number of laps and, strangely enough, have certain obstacles that can distract or even surprise such as stones, iron plates and even trees.

Before choosing a car, you must pay attention to the maximum speed, acceleration, tire grip and fuel consumption.

On the player’s side, there are cars offered and they vary in terms of maximum speed, acceleration, tire grip and fuel consumption. Cars also have nitro which come in limited amounts and can be used to give you a boost

For its visual presentation, Top Gear is strictly a split-screen game even during times you play only single-player. In my experience, split-screen is more lively to watch when playing against a fellow human player.

Quality

I can say clearly that Top Gear was highly enjoyable to play, and it was more fun 2-player sessions. On the very gameplay itself, I enjoyed the high-speed challenges that include overtaking other cars on the road while trying to climb up the rankings enroute to the finish line. Speaking of challenges, the aspect of managing your fuel supply while dealing with speeding and overtaking others is memorable and there were times when my car ran out of gas and stopped because I was not able to make a pit stop during the race.

The pit stop itself can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on situations. If you are low on fuel and you still have a long way to go, you need to refuel at the pit stop. However, the more time you spend on the pit stop, the more your opponents traveled catching up with you or increasing their lead over you. There were also memorable times when I had sufficient fuel and my opponent had to refuel at the pit stop. While opponent was refueling, I just kept driving and used the nitro to increase my speed and keep on moving forward.

Split-screen all the time, even when you play single.

Going back to the fuel management aspect, there were times when my car ran out of gas and stopped. Suddenly, an AI-controlled car from behind hit my car and gave me some forward movement. There were a few, unexpected times that my gas-empty car got pushed enough to cross the finish line.

Visually, race courses are limited in the sense that the game only shows split-screen views. You always have a road to travel on which can suddenly turn left or right depending on the race course. What adds visual variety are the surroundings specifically the elements on the sides of the road (examples: the desert environment Las Vegas, the snow of Sweden, the rain forest trees of Brazil) and background art (example: the metropolitan view of Tokyo). Sprite scaling is limited but that is understandable given the limits of the Super NES. Even so, the feeling and look of 3D is sufficient.

Night driving in 2D.

While the sound effects of cars bumping, tires screeching and engines are satisfying, what really stood out is the soundtrack which, for the most part, is energetic and even encouraging enough to keep me and my friends playing. Barry Leitch produced the music and due to the lack of time provided to him, he had to literally recycle and arrange his other musical works from Lotus games.

Conclusion

One car still racing on the road with low fuel, the other car is in the pit stop refueling.

Top Gear was truly a well-made game and it succeeded not only in delivering a true console generation upgrade over our NES for console racing but also created lots of bouts of fun for me and my friends. In my experience, this Kemco-published game was the first true gem of multiplayer on the Super NES. Even by today’s standards, Top Gear remains unique and still is very enjoyable for anyone who loves 16-bit, 2-dimensional console racing.

Overall, Top Gear 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 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

Classic game Zombies Ate My Neighbors plus sequel coming to Xbox on June 29, 2021!

Yesterday, I learned about the most surprising news related to my personal interest of Xbox gaming. It’s not about the reported new game of Bethesda (which has been fully acquired by Microsoft) and not about The Coalition’s latest developments.

Rather it’s about a pretty notable game (plus its sequel) from the 1990s that I completely missed out on. The big surprise to me was that it will be released soon for Xbox One and Xbox Series S and X owners to enjoy.

That game is none other than Zombies Ate My Neighbors and its sequel Ghoul Patrol. Both games from the 1990s will be released for Xbox on June 29, 2021 for $14.99!

For those who are not familiar with either game, here is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Ken Humphries (Senior Producer on the two games)…

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

The 2-player function is a popular feature of the game.

Hey, where’s that scary music coming from? Yikes! It’s Zombies Ate My Neighbors, where you appear in every demented horror flick ever to make you hurl ju-jubes.

What are Zeke and Julie, our two wholesome teenage stars doing in a 16-bit game like this?! Trying to save the nice neighbors, cheerleaders, and babies from a fate worse than polyester!

Who could put this slice of suburbia in such goose-pimply hysteria? Zombies, relentless chainsaw maniacs, mummies, evil dolls that just won’t die, lizard men, blobs, vampires, giant ants, martians, and more.

One of many levels in this game.

Will these crazy kids survive the night? Find your way through 55 horror-filled levels like a grocery store gone bad, a shopping mall awry, a mysterious island and your own back yard. Don’t miss “Weird Kids on the Block,” “Mars Needs Cheerleaders,” and “Dances w ith Werewolves.”

You can fend off the freaks with a virtual candy counter of weapons like uzi squirt guns, exploding soda pop, bazookas, weed wackers and ancient artifacts. Also grab power ups-o-rama like secret potions and bobo clown decoys. Does this game ever end?!

Ghoul Patrol

Nothing like facing an over-sized enemy in Ghoul Patrol.

Zeke and Julie, our intrepid teenagers, visit the Ghosts and Ghouls exhibit at the city library, where they find an old treasure chest containing an ancient spirit book. Naturally, they cannot resist reading it. Suddenly, a horrific snaggle-toothed spirit emerges.

Now, this snarling phantom and his dastardly minions are infesting Metropolis and slithering their way into the history books, where they plan to rewrite history with their spooky ways. Only you have the power to go back in time to de-spook an encyclopedia of zombified historic dudes.

Were you able to play this game back in the 1990s?

Terminate, with prejudice, using crossbows, ping-pong ball machine guns, Martian “Heatseeker” guns, and more.

Vaporize garbage can ghosts and ninja spirits, rescue bug-eyed librarians and wigged-out pirates, dodge flying books and adolescent-eating plants!

The features for Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol are as follows…

NEW FEATURES

Save Feature: Quickly save your progress in either game and continue your adventure wherever and whenever you want

Museum Features: Watch a video interview with one of the original Zombies’ developers or explore numerous galleries containing game art, previously unreleased concept images and marketing assets

Soundtrack: Listen to the entire soundtracks for both games in the included music players

2 Player Mode: Play the game with two player local co-op

• Achievements: Track your game progress with a set of achievements covering both games

To put things in perspective, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was released in 1993 published by Konami (game developed by LucasArts) for the Super NES (SNES) and the Sega Genesis. It was not a big commercial success but it proved to be a hit with the critics of the time (plus the writers who published their reviews of it years later). Zombies Ate My Neighbors gained a cult following as it not only had enjoyable gameplay, its visual style was appealing, it had lots of visual elements related to pop culture (notably horror genre elements), a memorable soundtrack and more.

In a 2006 article published by IGN, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was described by Lucas M. Thomas as “a comical 16-bit template for the new Xbox 360 release, Dead Rising. And like that game, this one arms you with a pretty bizarre arsenal. Weed whackers, exploding soda cans and flying silverware all make an appearance to help you, or you and a friend, put a hurt on these living dead.”

Ghoul Patrol was released in 1994 for SNES, published back then by JVC (Japan Victor Company) with the development done by LucasArts. Like its predecessor, I never got to play it back decades ago. In addition, I never even saw a copy of the sequel at retail during those days.

As I never got to play Zombies Ate My Neighbors back decades ago, its upcoming release for Xbox is a very delightful surprise for me personally. I will order this (along with Ghoul Patrol) very soon.

If you are interested to order in advance Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol for your Xbox One or Xbox Series console, click here.

In ending this piece, posted below is a video retrospective on Zombies Ate My Neighbors published by GamerThumbTV plus a retro review by Cinemassacre. Be mindful of potential spoilers.

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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 SOS (SNES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing the 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.

Back in the 1990s when cable TV was not yet popular in the local community I lived in here in the Philippines, I got to watch on free TV a late night showing of the old movie The Poseidon Adventure. That movie, which included Gene Hackman and other stars, was about a huge passenger ship that got capsized as a result of a huge wave that hit it so hard. The survivors in that film had no choice but to band together and find their way out through countless obstacles.

That creative concept was reused by game developer Human Entertainment for a video game I played on the Super NES (SNES) a few years later…SOS (titled in Japan as Septentrion).

Released for the SNES in 1994 by Vic Tokai, SOS was an adventure game that had players take on the role of one of four characters (each with a different story plus different endings) who must escape the ship within sixty minutes in real-time. Along the way, the player must avoid obstacles, get to the hard-to-reach places and escape the ship before time runs out.

How good or bad the game is, you can find out in this look back at SOS.

The misadventure begins on the Lady Crithania with the disaster.

Early story

The story begins in the luxury passenger ship called Lady Crithania. Depending on which character you choose, Capris is an architect who has a sick sister; Luke is a crew member of the ship whose superiors don’t take his warnings about harsh sea conditions seriously; Jeffrey is a doctor who is traveling with his wife and Redwin is a counselor who is traveling with a family.

A cut scene emphasizing the story of one of the characters.
This is what the ship looks like after the disaster. At this point, the struggle for survival truly begins.

Regardless of which character was selected, a massive wave hits the Lady Crithania so hard it got capsized. The interiors suddenly turned upside down causing lots of damage and deaths. The protagonist is challenged with the chaotic interiors, obstacles, interacting with some survivors and reach the boiler room to survive.

Gameplay and Quality

As it is a 2-dimensional (2D) game, SOS is a side-scrolling adventure with some platform gaming elements mixed in. You can have your character move and jump most of the time with the occasional action of helping passengers (by means of reaching) travel with you (with some commands to communicate with them). While the design made sense, playing SOS always turned out to be a tiring chore and a test of patience due to the lack of precision when it comes to control response.

Adding further to challenge is the occasional shift of the capsized shift which changes the angles of the interiors which instantly alters the difficulty on moving around and jumping to the essential platforms (to progress to the next place). The shifting was visually done using the SNES’ Mode 7 feature. For the newcomers reading this, Mode 7 is the graphics mode unique to the SNES which enables scaling and rotating of the background image. While the sprites and 2D art in this game lacked punch, it is the Mode 7 feature that really added some quality to SOS’ visuals temporarily.

The more survivors you help and take with you to the very end, the better the ending will be.
You can also swim through flood sections.

More on the difficulty, the artificial intelligence (AI) programmed for the survivors that you can choose to rescue is pretty low which leads to a lack of response whenever your character calls them to follow you to get to the next level and survive. Not only were there times the other characters did not respond, some got even stuck in tight places.

As this game has 1-hour countdown in real time, making a mistake is costly. For example, you jump but fail to reach a crucial platform and fall down into the abyss and die will lead to your character respawning but with a noticeable amount of time reduced. Considering the lack of precision on controls and other factors, this made SOS challenging and frustrating to play.

If only the other survivors were more responsive to your calls…

And then there is the challenge to get the best possible ending you could by means of rescuing as many other survivors as you could and reach the very end with them. To put it this way, if you decide to be completely self-centered, disregard all the other survivors and make your way to the end without them, will result a really bad ending. You rescue more and make it alive with them, then the ending will get better.

Conclusion

If you fall and die, your character will respawn but with an amount of time reduced.

SOS has a very nice concept of adventuring that focuses mainly on survival and involves no combat and certainly no clear enemies to encounter. It is just too bad that the flaws of this game made it more frustrating to play and very few people will actually get to enjoy it.

If you own a working SNES and you are thinking about buying an existing copy of SOS, I do not recommend buying it with your precious money. Better rent it instead.

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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

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Resident Evil 3 Remake (single player)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing the video game Resident Evil 3 Remake and doing 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.

Even though 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was a side-story and its concept was smaller in scale compared to the acclaimed Resident Evil 2 (1998), I still had a lot of fun with that game and its key features made it very worthy of replaying. Like last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake, RE3 was remade and shortly after it became available on April 3, I got to play it, finished it three times and I should say I also had fun with it.

You must be wondering…how much fun is the Resident Evil 3 Remake? Is it anywhere as deep as the remake of RE2? Does this new game honor the legacy of its original counterpart from 1999? Is it worth the full retail price? Let’s start with this game review focused mainly on the single-player story campaign.

Early Story

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Raccoon City ruined.

The story begins on September 28, 1998 with Raccoon City getting infested with zombies as a result of an outbreak of T-Virus (directly connected with the events that led to Resident Evil 2). People have no choice but to run for their lives as the police struggle to save civilians. Meanwhile, Jill Valentine is inside her apartment making moves to leave the city since the city police force don’t believe her story about what happened at the Spencer Mansion (Resident Evil).

After answering a phone call from a very concerned Brad Vickers, a huge human figure (Nemesis) covered in dark material suddenly breaks through the wall and attempts to kill her. Jill fortunately fights back and after enduring a few close calls, she manages to get away from the monster and out of the building.

She makes her way to the street where she meets Brad Vickers and together, they face an onslaught of many zombies. After barely getting inside a joint, Brad (who got bitten by a zombie) struggles to keep the door closed and urges Jill to run away to survive. Now on her own, Jill has to find ways to survive and get out of the zombie-filled Raccoon City

Gameplay

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An encounter with Nemesis is often intense.

Like last year’s big budget remake of RE2, RE3 Remake is a 3rd person shooter mixed with exploration, item management, problem solving and the like. As required to move the story forward, you will control Jill to collect items, manage them carefully with the limited space for carrying, fulfill objectives and meet characters at key points of the story. Along the way, you will encounter zombies, grotesque monsters and, of course, Nemesis.

There are some notable differences from RE2, however. The most obvious difference is that RE3 remake was designed to be somewhat faster-paced (note: it’s not like the characters you control really run fast) and more action-oriented in terms of shooting as well as evading. In obvious tribute to the 1999 RE3, this game allows you to dodge attacks from zombies/monsters/Nemesis. If you succeed with perfectly timing your dodge, you will be granted a few seconds (with some slow motion) to immediately fire back at the enemy that you evaded.

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If you damage Nemesis enough, he will drop a supply case which often contains a very useful item. 

Unlike RE2 remake, the personal knife does not degrade and therefore it could be used as many times as you want. However, when a zombie grabs you to bite you, there is no prompt to use the knife to fight back and avoid getting bitten (this particular function was normal in RE2 remake). Another new thing in this video game is the presence of item boxes which you can “open” by shooting or using a knife to break it.

Because the in-game environment of RE3 remake includes the ruined streets and alleys of Raccoon City, you get more spacious places move around. Of course, this means more zombies occupying certain spaces for you to kill or strategically pass by. With the street-and-alleys set-up, there are a few red barrels that are explosive (you can destroy many zombies with one blast) and a few generators that electrocutes and stops monsters (even Nemesis) to shoot at.

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The return of the Hunter Beta is a welcome challenge!

When it comes acts and action, Jill gets to fight using the knife, grenade, flash grenade, handgun (including the burst gun), shotgun, magnum and the grenade launcher while Carlos uses the assault rifle (apart from the knife, grenade, flash grenade and handgun). Jill can evade, enter tight spots and use the lock pick while Carlos can do the defensive strike. For the most part, the controls are responsive which is good.

In terms of gameplay, RE3 remake is faster and more action-oriented counterpart to RE2 remake.

Presentation

As far as production values are concerned, RE3 remake is more cinematic and has improved visuals technically and artistically. For the visuals, the photo-realism has been pushed forward more by the game developers on the characters, the monsters and their in-game environment. The protagonist Jill Valentine looks very lifelike and with model Sasha Zotova’s likeness used, she sure beats Gears 5’s heroine Kait when it comes to photo-realism and looking very human. The facial expressions are top-notch and I love the way how in-game lighting showed its effects on the environment on the characters.

The photo-realism and impressive facial animation are not limited to Jill, obviously, as other characters like Carlos, Mikhail (who was made to look older this time), Tyrell and the villainous Nicholai (who was made to look younger and slimmer than his previous version) really look great. On top of that, the voice acting is excellent across all the characters. That being said, Carlos now sounds more mature and believable as a person which is a tremendous improvement over the voice of his original version in 1999.

And there is Nemesis, the one over-sized bio weapon that targets members of S.T.A.R.S. Nemesis was redesigned with photo-realism in mind and he sure looks monstrous, especially in the later stages in the game. Compared to his original version in 1999, Nemesis is very strong, can use weapons of his own, uses a tendril to pull Jill to him, can actually leap ahead of Jill and even mutate zombies on the spot. Another noticeable difference that’s been dividing fans of the original RE3 and this game, is that Nemesis in this remake is limited to scripted events in key locations and as such, he is not the constant stalker that Mr. X was in the RE2 remake. In the RE3 game of 1999, Nemesis would randomly appear and run after Jill. That’s not the same experience in this remake which is disappointing.

Another disappointment I have state here in relation to encountering Nemesis (and other monsters) is the absence of live selection sequences which was a defining feature of the original RE3. Once you encounter Nemesis in this remake, it’s either you avoid and outrun him, or you can fight him and strike him hard enough to stop him temporarily (and make him suddenly drop a huge equipment case for you to pick up). You encounter the Hunter Beta or the Hunter Gamma or the Pale Head zombie, it’s either you kill them or they kill you. Without the live selection sequences, there is really no variety in the encounters.

When it comes to the in-game environments and the overall story structure, this game is noticeably shorter and locations are noticeable smaller and more linear. This is another disappointment because the ruined city environment failed to live up to expectations as it was designed to be limited in terms of places to visit and explore. Even the ruined city environment in 1999’s Resident Evil 3 has literally more locations to explore compared to this remake. Also don’t expect to see the city park, the city graveyard and city clock tower from the old game to appear as explorable levels here.

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One of many in-game zombies players will encounter.

The game designers apparently knew fans would notice what places from the old game are lacking, and so they heavily expanded exploration in the medical center and they even included a secret passageway into a certain underground facility which made the game still feel fresh.

On the story structure, RE3 remake followed the concept of the original game but made a major twist which really caught me off-guard the first time I finished this game. It’s a nice twist and I never imagined that I get to use a specific character (note: as with the old game, only Jill and Carlos are playable in select sections) visiting a notable location.

When it comes to the presentation of the characters compared to the 1999 game, I can say that Jill is pretty much like her past version but says some lines with sarcasm and makes clear to Carlos that she’s tougher than she looks. Having played the past Resident Evil games, I can tell that this remade Jill Valentine is struggling with the frustration over the mission at the mansion since her superiors refused to believe her (note: lack of evidence and the destruction of the place). Ultimately, this remake succeeds in telling a very defining story about Jill which added more to her status as an icon of the Resident Evil franchise as a whole.

Carlos meanwhile is a more believable character thanks to not only the above-mentioned improved voice acting but also because of better writing. As for Nicholai, he’s more motivated by greed and mentions working for an unnamed client. He’s the type of character who annoys you and makes you wish he would be killed. Mikhail does not change much apart from looking older but Tyrell’s role here is heavily expanded.

Horror? Unsurprisingly this game has some elements of horror but nowhere does it come close to what was presented in the RE2 remake. It’s an action-oriented game after all but that’s not to say it’s the mindless, blazing guns festival like Resident Evil 5.. Also I should mention that there are very few puzzles here.

Conclusion

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We gamers want more value for our money, Capcom!

Resident Evil 3 remake is action-packed, engaging and a fun video game to play even if you are not a fan of the long-running video game franchise. It has very high production values and the best cinematic cut-scenes in any RE game to date. What prevents this game from achieving excellence, apart from having a smaller concept compared to RE2 remake, is that the game is rather short and there is only ONE ending. This makes this game’s replay value much lower when compared to the original RE3 of 1999 which had more than one ending and references to other RE characters displayed (each time the 1999 game got finished). Sure the remake rewards players with points for fulfilling challenges and allows them to use the points to acquire post-game stuff in the in-game store, but this does not make up for the short length and single ending.

If there is anything Capcom should do to boost the replay value as well as the overall value of this remake, it’s for them to produce and release a story driven DLC (downloadable content) to expand the story campaign and add an additional ending. By now, the game makers should realize they missed several opportunities to deepen and make the remake great.

Overall, Resident Evil 3 is recommended only when its price is at least 50% off.


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 Aerobiz Supersonic

When it comes to playing economic simulation games, I enjoy playing them on the personal computer (PC) using the keyboard and mouse. Back in the mid-1990s, there was one particular economic simulation that I played on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES or SNES) and found it to be very enjoyable and easily to play with using the console’s control pad.

That game was Aerobiz Supersonic, a simulation about the airline industry developed and published by Koei for both the Super NES and the Sega Genesis. Here is my look back at this old video game from the 1990s.

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The cover of the Super NES version of the game. Its art and style is really nice to look at.

Concept and Game Design

In the game, you get to play the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an airline and your goal is to beat your rivals in the global air travel industry. How to achieve the goal and succeed? There are tasks that need to be accomplished such as buying commercial airplanes (that include such real-life companies like Boeing and Airbus) for use, establishing flight routes, securing slots in airports worldwide, selling tickets and filling up each flight with as many passengers as possible, achieve profitability and finish the game’s imposed time period ranking #1. Adding zest to the game’s challenge is the selection of a certain era of world history that include 1955-1970 (the dawn of jets), 1970-1990 (the Cold War era), 1985-2005 (the present era) and 2000-2020 (the age of continued flight advancement).

Within the game, time passes by means of clicking a certain on-screen button that ends the player’s current turn. Of course, before pressing that, the player has to set things in motion like sending a representative to a certain overseas airport to negotiate and secure slots (which takes months to complete), set the ticket prices, buy a new airplane or two, etc. The game even allows players to micro-manage their airline like adjusting internal spending (salaries) or adjusting the quality of their airplane and services. Also nice is the option offered for players to buy a hotel or resort, a theme park or a travel agency that can bring in additional revenue.

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The airport slots, local businesses, economic and tourism details per city displayed.

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Visit an airline and choose from one of many models of airplanes to buy.

There are other small details that need paying attention to such as the economy and tourism meters of each city displayed (note: a higher tourism score means the city is more attractive to travelers), the population, etc. Also noteworthy is the current state of relations between your home nation with the nation of the city airport you are trying to establish routes with which can affect your business.

When the turn ends, a series of events will happen showing what happened around the world, how your company fared in the competition during the lapsed time period, and, occasionally, a random event will occur that most likely will affect your business (examples: the Olympics hosted by a city helps draw in additional passengers or the 1970s oil crisis raises the cost of your operation).

Regarding the game’s imposed time period for competing with the artificial intelligence (AI) opponents, the period is twenty in-game years.

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This is part of micro-managing your business in the game.

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After the end of each turn, news and updates not only about your company but also your competitors are flashed.

Quality

Being used to playing simulation games on PC, I found Aerobiz Supersonic to be very enjoyable, addicting and easy and efficient to play (in terms of controls). Considering the above-mentioned gameplay options (buying an airline, sending a representative, etc.), they are pretty easy to adjust using the Super NES controller although there were a few moments when I accidentally pressed the button putting into motion a different option.

Gameplay aside, this game has a whole lot of charm with its visual presentation. You launch a brand new flight route, the game shows a short animation sequence of the jet taking off. You buy an airplane, you will see a short animation of it entering your facility once it arrives (complete with a visual design reflecting the model). You conduct a board meeting, your company’s officials are present making reports to you and you get a series of choices to make on what to do next. A historical event or a global development occurs, you get to see original art reflecting them (example: a nation joins the EU with people wearing suits and neckties together in a formal ceremony). You make a move to buy slots at an airport overseas, a company official will have his or her face shown talking to you. When looking at the regional map, you see lines connected between cities (highlighting the establish flight route you made) and there are icons of airplanes flying between them.

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Random tourist hot spots get highlighted as you keep playing.

More on the aspect of starting the game, I like the options offered for me to select which city shall serve as my airline headquarters. Among the many cities included, there are cities of my native Philippines namely Manila (the international destination) and the nearby city of Cebu. I still remember how delighted I was to see my native Philippines included in the game, complete with Asian character designs to reflect the company and its region.

Conclusion

Ultimately Aerobiz Supersonic (which was actually a sequel to Aerobiz) is a gem of a console economic simulation released at a time when 2D sprite gaming was still the standard and 3D polygonal gaming was just about to make an impact on the global video game console market. Back then, 2D side-scrolling action/adventure games, sports games and role-playing games (RPGs) were so common on the Super NES and Genesis combined and the idea of enjoying economic simulations on consoles was highly unusual. Aerobiz Supersonic is proof that economic simulations can come with a lot of depth, deliver a good amount of strategy and can be highly playable and enjoyable on consoles.

If you want to enjoy this game, it can be quite difficult to do because you need to acquire an existing copy of the game as well as a fully functioning Super NES or Sega Genesis. As of this writing, there has never been a re-release of Aerobiz Supersonic (note: in line with legitimacy, I will not consider those browser versions or file sharing of ROMs) and it is not even included on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. There’s not even a version made for smartphones.

Now if only the executives at Koei Tecmo Games would consider revisiting Aerobiz Supersonic with today’s consumers in mind.

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You can choose what kind of plane, how many planes, how many flights and how much you set the ticket prices whenever you start a new flight route.


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

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Twenty-one years ago, I had a great time playing Resident Evil 2 on the original PlayStation console. I enjoyed the first Resident Evil on the same console in 1996 but it was the sequel that turned me into a fan of the game franchise.

A few months ago, Capcom released the remake of Resident Evil 2 (which I bought for Xbox One) completing the promise they made way back in 2015. Sure details of the game were kept in great secret until E3 of 2018 (when it was first previewed) but I can tell you from my experience that the long wait was indeed well worth it!

Before I go on, let me share to you that while just about everyone called this new version of RE2 a remake, for me it is more than that. I personally would call it a remake with expansion.

Now I can discuss the game

Gameplay and Presentation

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Shooting in 3rd person.

The way this game was remade and expanded, Capcom’s team did a great job to modernize Resident Evil 2 a lot. This is not a carbon copy of the 1998 game design done with 3D environments and a 3rd person view (over-the-shoulder) for the 8th console generation. The developers went the extra mile adding some new challenges and gameplay features that just might inspire other game developers to follow suit.

At its core, RE2 Remake is technically a 3rd person adventure game that carefully blends horror, action and exploration combined with suitable storytelling split into two sides. When you play a new game, you get to choose either Claire or Leon. Once you finish the game, a “New Game – 2nd Run” option comes up which allows you to play the other character on the other side (or scenario) of the main story that you just finished.

While the 1998 game had pre-rendered backgrounds presented in 2D (which makes sense with that game’s outdated tank-like controls), this game has every environment in full 3D which you can freely explore and revisit. As you control your character with a 3rd person view complete control of the view (that allows you to look around), the developers used shadows and darkness in many parts of the game to ensure an atmosphere of horror and suspense. There is nothing like walking down a very dark corridor with your flashlight not knowing what’s ahead of you.

Of course, there is the classic Resident Evil challenge of solving puzzles and item management. There are also these containers where you can put your items into for safekeeping and the good news is that identical containers in other locations instantly carry those stored items.

As this game deals with zombies, the game developers went all out on making each zombie and monster very detailed and grotesque to look at. The 3D artists seem to have studied anatomy while the in-game physics handlers ensured that whatever part of the zombie’s body gets hit by a bullet, it gets the corresponding damage. The zombies are scary and grotesque and compared to their 1998 counterparts, they are tougher and more dangerous to deal with. With regards to the monsters, the standout is the Licker which in this game is much more dangerous even if you have lots of ammunition. The Licker is capable of jumping a great distance towards you with a lot of speed to boot. The Licker can push your character down on the floor when you least expect it.

More on the monsters, the 3D art on William Birkin is incredible! It’s as if the game developers took a close look at the 1998 William Birkin (much lower polygons back then), watched John Carpenter’s movie The Thing for inspiration and then made the modern William Birkin look more monstrous with photo-realism in mind! The more mutated Birkin got, the more incredible the visual detail and scare factor got!

The most defining gameplay challenge is exploring the police station with Mr. X (a Tyrant) walking around searching for you. He walks around obsessively and can go into most rooms although he cannot enter the room with game saving devices (typewriters). Mr. X is very dangerous and each time he appears, the tension and fear run up high forcing you to get away somehow. As long as Mr. X is in the game, you must listen carefully to the ambient sound (note: raise the volume of your sound system or that of your HDTV) to watch out for the sounds of the steps he takes. The louder the steps, then it means his presence is very near you.

As expected, guns are the main weapons to use and eventually you will get to use a shotgun (for Leon), a machine gun (for Claire), grenade launcher, flame thrower and others. This is not a straightforward shooting game however. Zombies are tough as they take a lot of bullets to put down. This will force you to get the most out of each shot as the impact per shot is directly affected by the quality of the aiming which itself goes down as your character moves. To get the best aim, your character has to stand still and when you fire, you better hope that the zombies (which constantly move) do get hit. Sure you can move and fire at the same time but you won’t get good results in return. Forget about doing the Gears of War tactic here. Just pace yourself, be strategic, then aim and fire.

Your character gets to use a secondary weapon in the form of a combat knife or a flasher or even a grenade. Imagine your character is armed with a secondary weapon. If an enemy grabs, you will be prompted to use the secondary weapon to damage (or push back at least) the enemy and allow yourself to keep your distance away without getting hurt.

When it comes to survival, the classic gathering and mixing of colored herbs are back. Taking inspiration from 1999’s Resident Evil 3, the game allows you to create new ammunition by combining items needed for creation. As the items are varied, you can decide which kind of ammunition to make. Speaking of which, the amount of ammunition in this game is pretty limited and this will compel you to conserve bullets and make the most out of what you have to survive.

On the aspect of exploration, the locations in the 1998 RE2 are back but they have been expanded even as key locations from the old game were recreated in 3D. The police station seems bigger to me this time but the standout zone of exploration is the dark and gritty sewer (which puts the sewer in the 1998 game to shame). There are a lot more places to explore and the good news is that there is something worth collecting when visiting those places.

As for the deep underground science experiment facility, the game developers made the place really looked like it was used for work by the employees. There were lots of equipment around that were not presented as mere in-game decorations but rather they gave me a clear idea that work was done previously before disaster struck. There was even a sleeping quarter for stay-in employees which really looked lived-in.

Storytelling (warning: mild spoilers ahead)

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Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.

A zombie outbreak struck Raccoon City. Near the city, Claire Redfield (who’s searching for her heroic brother Chris) and Leon Kennedy (a rookie cop on his way to the police station) incidentally get together after having an early confrontation with zombies at a gas station. As they got into the city, an out-of-control truck hits their car (which they got out off in time) and separates them. Claire and Leon make it to the police station only to find out that it is hazardous with zombies and corpses inside. From this point on, they have to figure out what is going on, who is responsible and how they could escape and survive from the ruined city.

As this game is a remake, it is no surprise at all that the original script from the 1998 game was not reused but rather this new game has a new script inspired by it. The intention was to reintroduce not only the characters but the game’s core concepts to a modern gaming audience who, by today’s standards, are very used to watching very cinematic cut scenes in their video games.

The dialogue is lengthy and for the most part the voice actors performed nicely on delivering the drama (and the expository dialogue) and bringing the characters to life. The script captured the essence of 1998’s RE2 mostly but there were a few noticeable differences that bothered me.

For one thing, I noticed that Leon Kennedy in this modern game does not really take charge of his situation and even gets fooled and manipulated by Ada Wong who poses as an FBI agent. By comparison, Leon has a subtle but notable taking of responsibility (and taking charge) of the situation in the 1998 RE2. Remember dialogue in that game with Ada telling her that they cannot progress if she does not let him take charge? Remember the scene when the jailed journalist was told that if he wanted to survive, he would have to leave with Leon?  Those character traits of Leon taking charge against the odds really happened back in 1998. The remake’s Leon is more gullible and naive by comparison. Was this a deliberate alteration done by the script writer? We don’t know yet but the difference of Leon’s personality is noticeable.

Next is the lack of strength in the way Leon and Claire reacted to the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. The scene where they get together for the first time at the exterior of the police station showed them being too casual (not that concerned) of their situation. Their exchange of dialogue felt better suited in a romantic movie. By comparison, their portrayal (getting reunited after the initial separation) in the 1998 game was more convincing.

Next, I have a problem with the way Claire decides to fight the heavily mutated William Birkin in their 3rd fight. It’s just not convincing in relation to the entire situation of the outbreak. Even though Claire Redfield has no military training (she knows self-defense only), she decides to risk her life fighting him completely disregarding the need to quickly save Sherry (suffering at this point) and escape with her. This scene is clearly another one of those “because the game requires it” situations. By comparison in the 1998 game, Claire reacts naturally with silent fear each time she sees William Birkin.

Apart from the differences between RE2 1998 and RE2 2019, there were these inaccuracies regarding the narrative of the game. Supposedly, regardless of which characters were used on each side of the main story, the core story’s events took place in close proximity to each other if not at the same time. This however does not explain Annette Birkin’s appearing in BOTH sides of the main story specifically in the moments leading up to the 3rd boss battle with her mutated husband William. She appeared in Leon’s side of the scene and also in Claire’s side of it. Was there a clone of Annette Birkin made behind the scenes?!

And then there was Mr. X who in the main story appears to hound both Leon and Claire respectively. What happened to Mr. X during Claire’s side of the story goes into direct conflict with Mr. X being the final boss in Leon’s side. I can only speculate that there were two identical versions of Mr. X in the story which the game developers never bothered to explain.

Conclusion

This remake of Resident Evil 2 is indeed a great game to play and I sure got my money’s worth having finished the single-player campaign a total of six times (focusing on the scenarios) even though there is a lack of zapping (which the 1998 game featured) and the narrative lacks precision when dramatizing the two sides (scenarios) and emphasizing the little details between them. The other game modes like The 4th Survivor, The Tofu Survivor and others add value on the side but for me, the real stuff of the game is the single-player campaign.

It’s not a perfect game but it is great enough for Capcom to keep me interested again in the Resident Evil game franchise. I hope that secretly they are working on a full 3D remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (which has a visual clue in the RE2 Remake).

RE2 Remake redefined survival horror as much as it modernized the core concept of the 1998 game. In terms of survival horror gameplay, this game is the definitive model on how to do it. Forget about the debacle that was Resident Evil 6 because RE2 Remake is the one to play.

Resident Evil 2 Remake is highly recommended even if you are not an RE fan.


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