A Look Back at Suikoden II (1999)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Suikoden II (English version, released in 1999) 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.

Even though I have not played that many Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) on consoles over the past several years, I am really excited about the upcoming RPGs that will be released on Xbox Series X and the future JRPGs I am looking forward to are Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising developed by Rabbit & Bear Studios (led by Yoshitaka Murayama).

Who is Yoshitaka Murayama? He created the memorable Suikoden (AKA Genso Suikoden) RPG franchise during his time with Konami, specifically the first three games. I myself played and finished Suikoden on the original PlayStation in 1996 and it was a lot of fun thanks to the combined efforts of Murayama (who did the scenarios and game direction) and his teammates such as Junko Kawano (who did the design), Miki Higashino (who did the music along with four other teammates) and some others.

Then in 1999, the sequel to Suikoden was released and I can never forget the day I bought it at a local game store and rushed home with a lot of excitement to start playing it on our then aging PlayStation console.

So you must be wondering…how did I find the sequel? Was it an improvement over its predecessor? Did Murayama and the key creators do better than what they did in the first game? You can all find out in this look back at Suikoden II, published by Konami for the PlayStation (PS1).

The cover of the North American version of Suikoden II.

Early story

The story begins with two youngsters – Riou (your character whose name can be modified) and Jowy – who are close friends since childhood now serving the Highland Army as members of their youth brigade. They spend time in a military camp in the forest as a peace treaty between two great forces is pending (note: Highland has been in conflict with the City-State of Jowston).

As some soldiers expressed desires to go home once the peace has been finalized, Riou and Jowy are ordered by their commanding officer Rowd to go back to their tent and sleep. However, a surprise attack happened which alerted them. As soon as the two close friends left their tent, they are shocked to see parts of the camp burning. Their officer Rowd informed them that their enemy is responsible for the attack and deliberately broke the peace agreement. Riou and Jowy are told to take the mountain path to the east and save themselves before it is too late.

Fearing that they might get ambushed in the woods, Jowy tells Riou that they should return to camp. Upon returning, they quietly witness the unexpected presence of Highland prince Luca Blight who gets briefed by Rowd. As it turns out, the attack on their camp was not committed by the opposing forces but rather it was all a self-inflicted operation by Highland. Rowd’s instruction to some of their selected soldiers to head east was a set-up. What happened was all part of a plan by Highland to escalate the conflict by blaming their losses on Jowston. Luca Blight expressed clearly that a peace treaty with Jowston and its states was not needed, and he strongly believes in the power of Highland to conquer them all.

Jowy and Riou (upper-right corner) quietly witness the conversation between prince Luca Bright and the captain.

After learning the shocking details, Riou and Jowy decide to leave for the cliff to the north as a way of escape. At the cliff, Rowd catches up to the two. Fortunately, Riou and Jowy were successful in defeating Rowd’s soldiers and pave the way for their escape. Before fleeing, they marked a rock and promised to return to that same place if ever they get separated.

Riou and Jowy jumped off the cliff and get separated. Some time later, Riou wakes up and finds himself in the presence of three men. One of them identifies himself as Viktor, the leader of an army of mercenaries and an ally of Jowston. Another member of the mercenary army in blue arrives and he is Flik.

Being powerless, Riou marches with them to the headquarters of the mercenary army…

Quality

Luca Blight (with sword) is a lot more than just being evil as the game’s main antagonist.

Having played Suikoden a lot in 1996, I got familiar with the game design, the varied battle systems and other features that made it a solid RPG on its own. As for Suikoden II, I can clearly say that Murayama and his creative team built up on their foundation (in the first game), expanded the fantasy concept dramatically and ultimately made an extensive series of improvements and additions over each and every aspect of the sequel!

I’ll start first with the storytelling and writing. Compared to its predecessor, I found Suikoden II to be deeper and it took great advantage of the fact that the plot took place just years after first game and by this time the established world, the cities, tribes and geopolitical concept have been developed so much – backed with solid writing – they all become a lot more believable. In the middle of the great conflict are the three main characters Riou, Jowy and Nanami whose exploits and portrayals are pretty rich and lively to follow. It’s kinda like following the love triangle of Hikaru, Misa and Minmay through the war in the classic Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime TV series, except that you – the player – get heavily involved as Rious by making decisions that affect yourself and others, leading missions, building up a community (and force) of over 100 members, and overcoming challenges related to the conflict between Highland and Jowston.

The great news here is that the Riou-Jowy-Nanami emotional arc was written to be dramatic, engaging, intriguing and sentimental which ultimately will make you feel for them just as you make your way through the many events and twists of the war story. Beyond these three key characters, it should be noted that the scenarios are excellently executed and really showed how lively the fantasy world of Suikoden II really is. I’m talking about the portrayal of the many, many supporting characters and the interactions you have with them as the plot moves forward. Remember how lively your troops were in welcoming you back after winning your first army battle? Such a scenario was well directed and scripted, and the supporting characters you recruited really had their moments of participation which make sense within the narrative. I also should mention that the opposition figure of the game – Luca Blight – is still a powerful and complex villain in JRPGs even by today’s standards. Luca Blight is not evil for the sake of being evil, but if you pay close attention to the details about his background as the game’s story goes on, you will realize he is quite a complex character whose evil made sense within the narrative. Very clearly, the writing and storytelling done by Yoshitaka Muraya is not only greater than in the first game, but also very inspired.

Viktor, who also appeared in the first game, continues to be an important supporting character in this sequel! He is one of several characters from Suikoden who returned.

On the gameplay and design, Suikoden II’s exploration of the world, towns and locations uses good old 2D graphics. The big difference here is that the 2D visual elements are more varied in terms of detailed sprites for non-playable characters (NPCs) and interactive characters, and visually the sprites as well as the art used for the in-game environments looked more polished (clearer, smoother and less pixelated). The controls are responsive enough for my taste, and it is also nice that my character moves faster while exploring. More on exploring, I do confirm that there are indeed more locations to visit (including those that are part of the quests related to finding the 100+ characters) and the art made for the locations are more varied as well.

More on the gameplay, two types of battle systems from the first game are back but with refinements. First to talk about is the party battle system in which players get to control a group of up to six members who face off with enemies by group, or a single powerful boss-type enemy. During the party battle, you get to pick options as to what type of action each member of your party will do – Attack, Magic (note: this involve Runes), Item or Flee (note: if your party is much stronger than the opposition, Bribe or Let Go options will appear).

The party battle system is a lot of fun and not too stressful.

The way the battles are designed, as in the first game, is smooth, very visually appealing (thanks to the dynamic camera and fine level of detail of the sprites and animation) and fun to watch. Adding further depth to the party battles are the combined attacks involving at least two characters. Take for example Flik and Viktor doing the cross-attack, or Riou and Nanami performing a series of combo attack moves in strong coordination with each other. These combined attacks are not only fun to perform and see, but also encourages you to experiment by mixing up characters (specifically combatants) and paying attention as to which characters they can do combined attacks with. This alone will encourage you to complete the 108 characters of your force.

The use of Runes has been improved a lot in this game as the combatants now have three slots to equip Runes (note: these slots gradually open up as characters’ levels go up). Runes are essential to use magic spells in battles and the improvement of the Runes – plus the Run Affinity system – add more variety in the battles.

The 2D sprites are very visually appealing, especially when you watch the characters perform varied forms of action during the party battle.

Compared to other Japanese RPGs, the party battles here are much less stressful even though a random encounter system is used. There is also the option for automated attacks, which spares you from having to choose options for each member of your party to perform when fighting the enemies. Granted, I went through lots of random encounter battles and some challenges, but ultimately the stress level and tedium were very low. Doing party battles is fun overall.

The 2nd battle system inherited from the first game is the duel. Duels happen the least throughout the game but each time they happen, they can be quite engaging to do. As the one-on-one battle between your character and an opponent begins, you will see them in a 3D realm with the dynamic camera capturing the action. Your options are mainly Attack, Wild Attack and Defend, and before you can pick an option, you must pay attention first to the clues (note: taunts) from your opponent which can help you anticipate his/her/its next move. While the visuals are clearly improved, the duel is pretty much the same as in the first game.

Duels happen in a 3D environment with the characters still presented as 2D sprites that are not only highly detailed but also are smoothly animated.
Like in the party battles, duel sequences also have a dynamic camera system complete with zoom during the action.

The 3rd battle system – army battles – is clearly the most revised part of the game as it is radically different from the army battles of the previous game. This time the army battles involves the heavy use of a tactical map (where you move units in a grid-like system). Your units – composed of mainly characters you recruited, including the non-combatants – can be moved on the map to counter an enemy unit. Then a short, animated battle sequence will commence and based on the statistics of each unit, the winner and loser of the sequence will be determined. Take note that in events of defeat, recruits can die permanently. As such, it is important to pay attention to not only the statistics but also the types of troops you have such as archers, healers, knights, and foot troops. When controlling units on the map, your options are Attack, Wait and Rune. It is also very entertaining to see how the characters react (with dialogue, no less) to the battles. Overall, the army battle system here is clearly much deeper and more strategic than what was used in the first Suikoden.

The army battles in this game are more tactical than what was presented in the first Suikoden. This is also the main map used for such battles.

Battles aside, there are also lots of things to do related to exploration. For one thing, there are these fun-filled mini-games the game creators set up such as fishing (note: not as boring as it may sound), the whack-a-mole game, rope climbing, Chinchirorin (dice game in a bowl) and, the most exciting and deepest of them all, the cooking contest game. When you fully invest your time into each of these mini-games, you will not feel relieved from the stress of battles and exploration, but also have a lot of fun free of stress. I enjoyed these a lot myself.

If you enjoyed building up your fortress in the first game, you will experience that here also! Building up your stronghold is related to your recruiting of people and some of them have certain talents that will establish key parts of your place like a store, a Rune shop, aa tavern, a restaurant, an armor shop and even a detective agency to name some! It may take an effort to have all possible establishments get realized in the game but I promise you, they are all worth it and you will feel thankful that you got to recruit lots of people. The other reward of building up your fortress is the establishment of a thriving community of people!

Your party members can take a bath and even use the collected artifacts as decorations. This is one of the many side activities you can do at your stronghold.
The cooking contest mini-game is easily the best in the game! This alone will encourage you to keep searching for recipes during your adventures!

With regards to continuity with the first Suikoden game, the game developers implemented certain content (locations, dialogue, story and characters) that get unlocked by having your preserved Suikoden saved game content successfully loaded with Suikoden II running on PS1. I’m talking about being able to meet and even recruit Suikoden hero Tir McDohl, plus meeting even more characters from the first game. Very clearly, this is a clever presentation of fan service done by Murayama and his creative team who paid attention to the feedback of the first Suikoden.

The music done by Miki Higashino and Keiko Fukami are very varied and many of them reflect the places you get to visit, the emotional scenes you witness and the epic moments that happen. The great news here is that each and every tune in the game was made and performed with special care. This game’s soundtrack really stands out high among Japanese RPGs of the 1990s and even by today’s standards, it still is a great soundtrack to listen to.

If there are any flaws in this great game, it is the English translation itself as there were typographical errors, mistranslations and even NPCs with lines of dialogue that made absolutely no sense. Clearly there was a rushed job with the translation.

Conclusion

The political aspect of the game’s story is simple and never overwhelming.

I really love Suikoden II and very clearly, it is a major improvement over its predecessor (which itself was a solidly good RPG). Suikoden II is a labor of love done by Murayama and his creative team and the result is a true epic RPG that has so much enjoyable stuff and high replay value for gamers. Its quality is still great and by today’s standards, Suikoden II is indeed a classic RPG that gamers should play even though Konami itself does not care to make it more accessible in this modern age of gaming.

Given the legacy of Suikoden II and the fact that Konami showed no signs of reviving the Suikoden RPG franchise, now is the time to look forward to Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes which Murayama and his team are developing for release in 2023 for Xbox consoles, Xbox Game Pass and other platforms. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes clearly has strong Suikoden vibes and the distinct combination of 2D sprites with 3D polygonal environments, plus its party battle system strong resembles that of Suikoden and Suikoden II!

Overall, Suikoden II is highly recommended!

Now if only Konami would change its ways to make Suikoden II more accessible (go way beyond the PlayStation online store and ecosystem) to gamers by releasing it digitally through Xbox LIVE, Steam, Xbox Game Pass and other online stores or ecosystems. Paying hundreds of dollars for a legitimate hard copy of the game is simply too much.

There is nothing like building up your stronghold and seeing your recruits become part of its development as well as your campaigns.

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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

Xbox-exclusive Starfield in 2022?

Like any Xbox fan, I am very excited about the future of Xbox gaming now that Bethesda’s acquisition has been completed and Xbox head Phil Spencer confirmed that exclusive games from the famous publisher (which has many talented developers) are coming.

Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi role-playing game (RPG) Starfield has been heavily discussed by gamers recently and it has been speculated that it will be released in 2022. The ugly thing is that there are certain gamers and Xbox-haters out there – who previously denounced that Xbox-Bethesda deal – who kept ranting that Starfield will also be released on PlayStation 5 (PS5). Instead of acknowledging the fact that Bethesda is now owned by Microsoft, and instead of realizing the fact that Bethesda’s contracts with Sony is for two games (temporary PS5-exclusives) have NOTHING to do with Starfield, they just rant with their distorted perception of reality.

Even though not so much information has been released, public interest in Starfield has grown as it is the next high-profile game from Bethesda Softworks.

I like to repeat what I mentioned before – what Microsoft owns, Sony and Nintendo cannot have nor take away!

Going back to Starfield, the highly anticipated game from Bethesda is exclusive to Xbox and PC according to Jeff Grubb of GamesBeat. Grubb has a record of being a reliable insider in the video games industry.

With confidence, Jeff Grubb confirmed Starfield is exclusive to Xbox and PC. Now it’s up to Team Xbox to confirm it themselves. Grubb’s reputation now hangs in the balance.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from Video Games Chronicle. Some parts in bold.

Bethesda’s sci-fi RPG Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox and PC and thus won’t release for PlayStation 5, it’s been claimed.

That’s according to GamesBeat journalist Jeff Grubb, who wrote on Friday: “Starfield is exclusive to Xbox and PC. Period. This is me confirming that.”

Speaking in a live stream video, the prominent games industry reporter went on to state that he believed the title would appear at E3 next month and likely release in 2022.

Starfield is the next big RPG from the creator of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, originally announced in June 2018 with a teaser trailer, following which director Todd Howard said it was a game he’s wanted to make “for a very, very long time.”

As you can see above, Jeff Grubb was not hesitant in confirming the Xbox-exclusivity of Starfield. His reputation is at stake right now, and time cannot move fast enough for Team Xbox to confirm at the 2021 E3 online event the exclusivity to the whole world. On the side of PlayStation, SIE CEO Jim Ryan does not know if Starfield is coming to PS5. The fact Ryan does not know adds to the anticipation of Starfield’s Xbox-exclusivity.

On May 17, 2021, Jeff Grubb wrote a piece titled Why Starfield won’t be on PlayStation 5 and to put things in perspective, posted below are two excerpts with some parts in bold…

Excerpt 1

Microsoft has no plans to release Bethesda’s upcoming space role-playing adventure Starfield on Sony’s competing PlayStation 5 console. That shouldn’t surprise too many people after Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in March that Microsoft acquired Bethesda to add exclusives to Xbox Game Pass. But I’ve separately confirmed that this situation applies to Starfield through sources familiar with the decision.

But some people keep asking about Starfield on PS5 because they don’t have insight into Microsoft’s reasoning. While Sony or Nintendo would certainly keep new acquisitions locked to their platforms, Xbox has a history of playing nice. Minecraft, for example, is still getting full support on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms. Microsoft even released the new Minecraft Dungeons game on PS5 and Switch. So why wouldn’t Microsoft do the same with Bethesda’s games?

The difference is that Minecraft is a platform unto itself with millions of active players and in-game transactions. And it’s platform like that thrives when it’s available everywhere.

I’ve asked Xbox for a statement, and I’ll update this story if the company decides to comment.

Starfield is most valuable to Microsoft as a means to grow Xbox Game Pass

Where Minecraft can exist as its own service, Starfield is about growing the Game Pass service. And even if Bethesda has ambitions to make massive, connected live-service games, it’s unlikely that anything will turn into the next Minecraft. So an effort like a blockbuster game release from the team that made The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is best if Microsoft treats it as an investment into a larger service.

Excerpt 2

Microsoft likely did investigate what its financials would look like if it made Bethesda games exclusive or not. In the end, it chose exclusivity. And yes, that means it will miss out on money from sales on PlayStation 5. But the point is that Microsoft doesn’t see that as losing money — it sees that as built in marketing for Game Pass. And then it also expects to offset many of those costs by building a deeper relationship with more players who then go on to play and buy even more games on Xbox platforms.So yes, Starfield is exclusive. And I would predict that Xbox would make this call for The Elder Scrolls VI and beyond.

As seen above, Jeff Grubb scored solidly on the points as to why Starfield is exclusive and why the logic behind Minecraft’s multiplatform availability cannot be applied to Starfield and other Bethesda franchises. It does not make sense to release Starfield on PS5, especially with Xbox Game Pass growing tremendously and offering its active subscribers the best deals in games. Bethesda games have already been added to XGP and Starfield will eventually add greater value to the service!

A leaked screenshot of what is supposed to be gameplay of Starfield.

As for the speculated 2022 release for Starfield, check out the details in the excerpt from the Windows Central Gaming article…

It seems that Starfield could be targeting a Q1 2022 release date, echoing similar rumors from across the net that the upcoming sci-fi RPG is closer than we might’ve otherwise expected.

The details come from an exchange between Grubb and Adeoye Jr, with Grubb confirming in a tweet prior speculation on Kinda Funny Games Cast that the game was targeting a Q1 2022 launch window.

There were some previous rumors earlier in the year that the game was targeting a Holiday 2021 launch window. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the date got bumped slightly given the on-going pandemic.

Here is the related video for you to watch.

And here is Jeff Grubb’s related Tweet with others.

Can you wait for Starfield in 2022?

As much as I love to buy and start playing Starfield this coming holiday season, I just remembered that we are all still living in this COVID-19 (China Virus) pandemic and I can only speculate that the developers working on the sci-fi RPG have, most likely, not returned to working in their offices. Game development done at home is not the same as working in the main office. Knowing the reputation of Bethesda, they need a whole lot of time to not only complete their epic RPGs but also refine it to the best they could. The refinement will definitely include technical adjustments with the Creation engine. This pandemic is clearly hampering everyone from the consumers (who are struggling to buy Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles) to the people who make the video games.

As such, I would not be surprised if the Xbox-exclusive Starfield will be released in 2022. It could be released in the first quarter of 2022 but then Microsoft and Bethesda could decide to push it into the 2nd half of that same year. By 2022, there should be a lot more people owning units of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, not to mention at least 30,000,000 active subscribers on Xbox Game Pass.

If 2022 is indeed the planned year of release for Starfield, then Phil Spencer and Team Xbox should come up with something to boosting their lineup of new exclusive releases for the lucrative 4th quarter of this year. I speculate that Forza Horizon 5 and Halo: Infinite will be released in the 4th quarter which look strong but I think Team Xbox has to add a 3rd strong game with them. We will find out soon once Team Xbox makes the big announcements at the E3.

Before I end this article, let me ask you these questions: Are you looking forward to Starfield? Did the Xbox-Bethesda deal and the addition of Bethesda’s games into Xbox Game Pass convince you to subscribe? Did you buy an Xbox Series S or an Xbox Series X console because of the Xbox-Bethesda deal? Are you excited about Todd Howard’s ambition behind Starfield?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online. In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-related videos for you to enjoy!

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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

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

The Initiative’s first game is Perfect Dark!

Welcome back gamers! All the speculation about the first game being made by Xbox game studio The Initiative can finally be put to rest as it has been announced (during The Game Awards) that they are officially working on a new project simply titled Perfect Dark. Watch the video below and enjoy it.

For the newcomers reading this, The Initiative is a game studio that was established a few years ago to make high-quality video games for Xbox consoles and the Xbox ecosystem as a whole. While it took them two years to reveal their first project, The Initiative is very notable for having hired several high-profile talents. Previously I wrote about them hiring Lee Davis and Lauren Garcia from Sony’s acclaimed studio Naughty Dog.

The Initiative is one of the twenty-three game studios under the Xbox hierarchy. Right now there is pressure on Microsoft to release high-quality, exclusive games in 2021 and beyond so that the sales drive of the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X can be sustained. 2021 will indeed be a crucial year for the Xbox ecosystem because by then the gamers’ demand for 1st party games will be great and expectations of high-quality gaming experiences, art and technical performance of games running on the Xbox Series consoles are inevitable. Such trends will continue beyond 2021.

The above video of the first unveiling of Perfect Dark looks really good and slick, and clearly the developers are trying to give it a distinctive look. It should be noted that Joanna Dark’s face was not shown. There is passion within The Initiative on reinventing the Perfect Dark franchise. Watch the official developer interview video below.

As you can see in the above video, the team is really aiming high on making the new Perfect Dark. They also have the hardware and tools to help them realize the high ambitions they have for the game. That being said, it will be a few years before that new game will be released. More on the upcoming game, pay close attention to the words of The Initiative leader Darrell Gallagher posted at Xbox.com. Here’s an excerpt:

With Perfect Dark, we’re aiming to deliver a secret agent thriller set in a near-future world.

We have built the Perfect Dark team at The Initiative by bringing in some of the most talented game makers from around the industry who all share a passion for storytelling, world-building and creating memorable game experiences. With the full backing from Xbox Studios to re-imagine one of the best loved IPs from gaming history, we couldn’t be more excited to share some of our early ideas.

While I never got to play a Perfect Dark game in the past, I am looking forward to the new game starring Joanna Dark. I hope to see the new game have a third-person view with gameplay laced with stealth, shooting and exploration. I also hope it will also have some fast-paced sequences of driving or flying that would put gamers into the heat of action. If the developers decide to present it as a first-person shooter, that would be fine with me. It’s nice to see that Microsoft decided to revive the long-dormant PD franchise (which they inherited after acquiring Rare in the early 2000s) and have The Initiative lead the way creatively. Now that the unveiling has been done, only time will tell how the game’s development will turn out during this pandemic.

In ending this, posted below are some gaming-related videos for your enjoyment.

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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

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH

Xbox Series consoles launch details revealed

Very recently, Xbox head Phil Spencer announced through Twitter that the twin-launch of the premium Xbox Series X and budget-friendly Xbox Series S that took place on November 10 became the largest launch in the entire history of Xbox. While Spencer did not post any hardware sales numbers, he did confirm that the scope of the launch was wider in terms of having more countries than ever before.

Just days ago on Xbox.com, Gaming Experiences & Platforms CVP Liz Hamren revealed additional details related to the declared largest Xbox launch. Firstly, Hamren stated that the global launch happened across forty countries.

With regards to statistics covering the first 24 hours of the global launch of the Xbox Series consoles, Hamren confirmed the following:

A. More new consoles sold than any prior generation, with Xbox Series S adding the highest percentage of new players for any Xbox console at launch.

B. More games played, 3,594 in total, spanning four generations, setting a record for the most games ever played during an Xbox console launch.

C. Next gen means more ways to discover and play, 70 percent of Series X/S consoles are attached to new and existing Xbox Game Pass members.

Let’s start with item A above. Team Xbox’s declaration of selling more new consoles than any prior generation would translate into exceeding the 1,000,000+ Xbox One consoles sold on its launch day in 2013. How many units exactly of the new consoles got sold in the first 24 hours has yet to be revealed. Regardless, I am not surprised at all that the budget friendly Xbox Series S added the highest percentage of new players. At $299, with a very compact console size and with more gamers preferring to buy games and content digitally, Xbox Series S is really an irresistible next-generation console. It lacks the immense power of the Xbox Series X, but the Xbox Series S it still a beast in terms of performance especially with frame rates of 60FPS and 120FPS. The cheaper console can process graphics in 1080p and 1440p, and it is a fact that there are still many households around the world that don’t have 4K TVs. Remember, Xbox Series S and its premium counterpart are the only next-generation consoles with full hardware support for all the RDNA 2 capabilities.

Item B meanwhile emphasizes that within the first 24 hours of the launch of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the users of the mentioned consoles played 3,594 games collectively thanks to backward compatibility which is a feature that Team Xbox prioritizes while Sony and its PlayStation team don’t care much about even though most PS4 games are playable on PlayStation 5. The launch games are not spectacular and based on my observations, it is Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion that have been standing out among them for playing on the new Xbox Series consoles. It is no surprise that Xbox Series console owners took time to play many of the multi-generation Xbox legacy games on the new machines and enjoy them with the benefits of much shorter loading times, improved frame rates and the like. The old criticism that Xbox has no games or has not many games is not only meaningless but also pathetic.

Item C’s emphasis that 70% of Xbox Series consoles are attached to new and existing Xbox Game Pass members could mean that the paid subscription service have been used a lot more during the first 24 hours of launch. While there are no numbers revealed, I would not be surprised that more new subscribers signed up to take advantage of XGP’s benefits which are more evident on the new consoles.

With those available details, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are riding high on a wave of positivity and high activity. How fast Microsoft can replenish supplies of the new consoles around the world to meet the very high demand remains to be seen but it is safe to say that this new console generation is off to a strong start with what Team Xbox prepared. When it comes to the near future, 2021 will be the year when blockbuster games and Xbox-exclusive games will get released and eventually impact the gaming world.

In closing this article, here are some gaming-related videos for your enjoyment.

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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

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 7

How fast time flies. The much-anticipated launching of the premium Xbox Series X and the budget-friendly Xbox Series S next-generation consoles from Microsoft will launch 9 days from now. Have you already ordered a unit? If you really want to make the jump to the next-generation with Xbox, keep looking at the legitimate online retailers who are open to accepting pre-orders.

Before the end of October, an article was posted at Xbox.com which confirms what has been speculated for some time now – the next-generation Xbox consoles indeed have AMD’s RDNA 2 technology complete with unique technological features.

For the newcomers reading this, RDNA 2 is defined as follows: The custom designed processor in the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S leverages RDNA 2, the latest next generation graphics architecture from our partners at AMD. RDNA 2 provides a significant advancement in performance and efficiency as well as next generation graphics features such as hardware accelerated raytracing and variable rate shading.

More on the article by Technical Fellow Andrew Goossen and Director of Program Management Jason Ronald, Team Xbox congratulated and celebrated their amazing partners at AMD with regards to the announcement of Radeon RX 6000 Series of GPUs (graphics processing units) which use the RDNA 2 architecture. Microsoft and AMD’s business relationship has lasted fifteen long years and it started with the Xbox 360 console which was a very memorable, fun-led console I had.

For the next-generation of console gaming, Microsoft and AMD’s strategic partnership is already making things look exciting. Here’s a big confirmation from the Xbox.com article: Xbox Series X|S are the only next-generation consoles with full hardware support for all the RDNA 2 capabilities AMD showcased today.

Here’s a detailed excerpt: AMD’s latest RDNA 2 architecture delivers a significant increase in performance and efficiency over previous architectures, as well as adding new hardware acceleration capabilities including hardware accelerated DirectX Raytracing, Mesh Shaders, Sampler Feedback and Variable Rate Shading. Hardware accelerated DirectX Raytracing, showcased at launch by titles such as Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion, enables developers to deliver a new level of visual fidelity and immersion through techniques such as realistic lighting, shadows, reflections and acoustics. Mesh Shaders can manipulate geometry in real time to provide a high level of fidelity and flexibility that developers have never had before. Sampler Feedback greatly improves memory efficiency by allowing games to load into memory, with fine granularity, only the portions of textures that the GPU needs for a scene, as it needs it, providing an effective 2.5x memory and bandwidth multiplier beyond the raw hardware capabilities. Sampler Feedback also enables efficient creation and shading of textures on-demand.

Finally, Variable Rate Shading (VRS) delivers much finer grain control on how developers can leverage the full power of the Xbox Series X|S by enabling developers to focus their GPU resources on the areas of a frame that most benefit without reducing the overall image quality. By leveraging techniques like VRS, games such as Gears 5 can see performance increases up to 15% and beyond resulting in higher, more consistent frame rates and resolution at the exact same image quality. All of these next-generation capabilities are available via hardware in both the Xbox Series X and Series S and we are excited for them to also come to PC, providing a common set of features that developers can rely on when developing their games across console and PC.

At the very beginning of development of the Xbox Series X | S, we knew we were setting the foundation for the next decade of gaming innovation and performance across console, PC and cloud. To deliver on this vision we wanted to leverage the full capabilities of RDNA 2 in hardware from day one. Through close collaboration and partnership between Xbox and AMD, not only have we delivered on this promise, we have gone even further introducing additional next-generation innovation such as hardware accelerated Machine Learning capabilities for better NPC intelligence, more lifelike animation, and improved visual quality via techniques such as ML powered super resolution.

In our quest to put gamers and developers first we chose to wait for the most advanced technology from our partners at AMD before finalizing our architecture. Now, with the upcoming release of Xbox Series X|S and the new AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series  GPUs, developers have a common set of next-generation tools and performance capabilities that will empower them to deliver transformative gaming experiences across both console and PC.

Boom! The two Xbox Series consoles have the complete features of RDNA 2 technology. The wait that Team Xbox had to go through was worth it. In the years to come, the terms DirectX Raytracing, Mesh Shaders, Sampler Feedback and Variable Rate Shading will be more discussed as game designers create more of their projects for Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PCs equipped with RDNA 2-based GPUs.

To make things clear to everyone, here are the definitions:

Hardware Accelerated DirectX Raytracing (DXR) – From improved lighting, shadows and reflections as well as more realistic acoustics and spatial audio, raytracing enables developers to create more physically accurate worlds. For the very first time in a game console, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S include support for high performance, hardware accelerated raytracing. Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S use a custom-designed GPU leveraging the latest innovation from our partners at AMD and built in collaboration with the same team who developed DirectX Raytracing. Developers will be able to deliver incredibly immersive visual and audio experiences using the same techniques on PC and beyond.

Mesh Shading – Mesh shading will enable developers to dramatically improve the performance and image quality when rendering a substantial number of complex objects in a scene. As an example, mesh shaders could enable the player to experience asteroid belts and fields of flowers in more pristine detail without seeing a loss in performance.

Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) – A component of the Xbox Velocity Architecture, SFS is a feature of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S hardware that allows games to load into memory, with fine granularity, only the portions of textures that the GPU needs for a scene, as it needs it. This enables far better memory utilization for textures, which is important given that every 4K texture consumes 8MB of memory. Because it avoids the wastage of loading into memory the portions of textures that are never needed, it is an effective 2.5x multiplier on average on both amount of physical memory and SSD performance.

Variable Rate Shading (VRS) – Variable Rate Shading increases GPU efficiency by concentrating shader work where it’s most needed and reducing shader work in areas where it won’t be noticeable. With minimal developer effort, VRS significantly improves GPU performance resulting in more stable and higher resolutions and frame rates with no perceptible loss in visual quality.

Remember when I mentioned many times before that Xbox is an ecosystem composed of Xbox game consoles, Windows 10 PC and smartphones (supported by Project xCloud) backed with the fast-growing Xbox Game Pass (XGP) subscription service? With all the technical information and explanations above, the strategic partnership between Microsoft and AMD is much greater than just hardware and features…it also serves as a foundation for supporting Xbox ecosystem users regardless of what hardware they use.

While it is a fact that AMD also partnered with Sony for the PlayStation 5 (PS5) consoles, so far the Japan-based corporation has not boldly stated anything about having full-featured RDNA 2 on their next-generation consoles. While we don’t know what exactly Jim Ryan and Mark Cerny know behind the scenes at PlayStation headquarters right now, it is clear that their team strongly focused on the PS5’s SSD (solid state drive) and tried to manipulate people into believing it is the next big thing. It seems like the PlayStation guys, whose idolaters are still restless and agonizing over the Xbox-Bethesda deal until now, just could not admit that the AMD technology PS5 has is actually inferior to what the Xbox Series consoles have.  

Going back to RDNA 2 and Xbox, Ubisoft recently presented Watch Dogs: Legion running on Xbox Series X with raytracing implemented. Watch the video below…

In ending this, here are more gaming-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Right now, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are the only next-generation consoles with full hardware support for all the RDNA 2 capabilities and that ensures great value in return for the respective $499 and $299 prices of the consoles.

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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