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

Better than Streaming: Highlander anniversary 4K Blu-ray set for September 14, 2021 release

Calling all fans of the 1986 movie Highlander, the fans of Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown and the late Sean Connery, as well as Blu-ray collectors who enjoy fantasy and science fiction!

Get ready because Highlander will be released in 4K Blu-ray format on September 14, 2021. It will come with the 4K Blu-ray disc, Blu-ray (for 1080p viewing) and the digital copy. 4K Blu-ray collectors should be aware that as of this writing, there is no confirmation yet if Highlander 4K Blu-ray will come with native 4K visuals or upscaled 4K visuals.

Christopher Lambert with Beatie Edney in a scene.

Meantime, here are the specs from the product’s page at Blu-ray.com

SPECS

Video

Codec: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

HDR: HDR10

Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio- TBA

Subtitles – None

Disc – 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc

Digital – Digital copy included

Playback

4K Blu-ray: Region free

2K Blu-ray: Region A

As of now, there is really not that much information about Highlander 4K Blu-ray. It just so happens that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the movie.

For the newcomers reading this, Highlander is the story of immortality that follows a Scottish man called Connor (played by Lambert) who discovers his legacy with a legion of immortals. After living for centuries and moving to different places around the world, he eventually settles in the city of New York. Things turn intense when other immortals appear around him.

I first saw this movie on home video way back in late 1980s. I even saw its 1991 sequel Highlander II: The Quickening and even a few episodes of its TV series. I was never a fan of the Highlander franchise but I fondly remember the 1986 movie for its very scenic shots, the epic flashback set in historic Scotland, the great sword fighting and the very creepy performance of Clancy Brown as the main antagonist. Sean Connery, who died in October 2020, was also memorable in his supporting role as Ramirez. Christopher Lambert is still best known for his lead role as Connor in this movie.

To get to know more about Highlander, watch the video posted below from Minty Comedic Arts. Be warned of potential spoilers…

For more entries of my Better than Streaming series of articles, check out my pieces on The Beastmaster 4K Blu-ray, The Transformers: The Movie 4K Blu-ray, Mortal Kombat 2021 4K Blu-ray, Space Jam 4K Blu-ray, V: The Original Miniseries Blu-ray (read my retro review) and V: The Final Battle Blu-ray.

+++++

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 Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993)

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

Welcome back, X-Men fans, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the 30th anniversary celebration of the X-Men which took place in 1993. Back then, Marvel Comics went full blast with the anniversary celebration of their mutants by releasing related merchandise, posters and comic books with gimmick covers (note: read my retro review of 1993’s X-Men #25) that came with high prices.

To put things in perspective regarding 1993, Marvel’s X-Men line of comics had monthly series of Uncanny X-Men, X-Men (Volume 2), X-Force, X-Factor, Excalibur, Wolverine and Cable. X-Factor #92 marked the start of the Fatal Attractions storyline which was the basis for the X-Men 30th anniversary celebration. X-Force #25 was released and it not only brought Cable back but also Magneto.  

Then came the 3rd chapter of the Fatal Attractions storyline which was published in Uncanny X-Men #304. Not only did that particular comic book bring together many mutants and moved the storyline forward to a crucial stage (note: tension leading to it was built up in Uncanny X-Men #300, Uncanny X-Men #303 and also in X-Men Unlimited #1), it also served as the very celebration of the 30th anniversary of the X-Men (although it was not the storyline’s conclusion as the plot continued in X-Men #25, Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #71).

So did this particular, anniversary celebrating issue of the Uncanny X-Men succeed with its objectives? Has it aged well through the decades? We can all find out in this look back at Uncanny X-Men #304, published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by John Romita, Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson and Paul Smith.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with division among the Acolytes who learned that their lord Magneto actually survived (note: refer to 1991’s X-Men #3). They ganged up against their leader Fabian Cortez for betraying Magneto. After pushing his now rebellious team members away, Cortez reminds them that for several months already, they have been continuing Magneto’s work on behalf of mutantkind. Suddenly Exodus appears to them and describes himself as the voice of Magneto and will guide mutants to rise and mentions paradise for the faithful mutants. After subduing Cortez and tempering the tension among the Acolytes, Exodus tells them to prepare themselves for ascension. This frustrates Cortez who realizes that he no longer holds leadership.

Over at the X-Men’s headquarters, Charlez Xavier is personally disturbed over the death of Illyana Rasputin, the sister of Colossus. He starts questioning himself as Illyana’s death under his watch makes his years-long mission (of convincing his fellow mutants to leave their old lives to take risks to fight for a world that fears and hates them) doubtful and tries to figure out how he could present himself in front of them. A holographic image of Lilandra appears to him.

In outer space, inside the space station called Avalon, Magneto stares at planet Earth. With nobody around him, he speaks apologizing to his followers for he cannot save them all. He also mentions that he was wrong in previously believing that he could rescue each and every one of them from humanity as he recently realized that Earth, for the moment, is doomed.

After walking an unspecified distance inside Avalon, Magneto picks up his old helmet and wears it…

Quality

This 2-page art by Brandon Peterson is easily the best looking part of the comic book.

I will start with the visual aspect of this comic book. The artistic quality ranges from fine to weird which should not be surprising since this one involved five artists. The 4 pages drawn by Brandon Peterson (who was once a regular artist on Uncanny X-Men) made the X-Men, Magneto and the Acolytes look not only good but also intense. The Peterson art here is artistically similar to the respective styles of Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee of that particular time. Jae Lee’s art on the flashback of Magneto’s life (during the time of the Nazi occupation in Europe) is undoubtedly very stylized. While his art brings out the intensity of Magneto’s painful past, certain images can be a little challenging to understand especially to readers who focus strongly only following the plot and details. John Romita, Jr.’s art, for me personally, often looks rough and there were times I hardly recognized the characters. The other artworks by Paul Smith and Chris Sprouse have cartoonish aesthetics.

This is Jae Lee’s artistic contribution to the comic book. I found it weird that Magneto’s hair was shown as white during his past with the Nazis.

As for the plot, I can clearly see that a hard effort was made to compose a story that would push the Fatal Attractions storyline forward, establish a turning point and still become worthy of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the X-Men franchise. I can say that the storytelling is somewhat bloated. Early in the story, it was made clear that the respective sections showing Exodus with the Acolytes, Charles Xavier and Magneto pointed to an eventual confrontation that happened during the funeral of Illyana Rasputin.

As the build-up continued with the flashback of Magneto’s life, the fan service short scene of Kitty Pryde and the unfeeling Colossus (note: their romance was highlighted in Uncanny X-Men many years prior), and the talk scene between Bishop and Banshee, the pace of the story slowed down dramatically. By the time the attempt to move the narrative back to the core plot was made with the funeral scene (composed of the X-Men, X-Force and X-Factor), the pace was still really way down. By the time the conflict with Magneto, Exodus and the Acolytes stated, the pace recovery was incomplete and as such, seeing the scene unfold was very jarring (and not even the pages of Colossus’ frustration towards Professor X could solve the narrative pacing problem).

Unsurprisingly, the conflict was written to be overly dramatic complete with lengthy pieces of dialogue here and there. That being said, references to past comic books were established as Magneto once again emphasizes his beliefs about the human-mutant conflict using violence (while also side-stepping Jean Grey’s psionic powers to allow the Acolytes to come in undetected).

Human-mutant conflict aside, themes about faith, religion, idolatry salvation are clearly used. Magneto, who has a tremendous record of villainy and his previous leadership of the X-Men proved useless, was portrayed to be a walking wicked idol whose followers cannot do anything except idolize him and cause violence out of dedication to him. They really could not realize that idolatry is foolish and unholy which further adds to chaos on the world. As Magneto deceived himself to be the savior and lord of mutants, he further causes more pain and destruction to others around him. In short, Magneto will always be stuck with his wicked nature and clearly does not deserve heavenly authority no matter how hard he believes himself to be a savior.

The classic rivalry between Xavier and Magneto here was portrayed dramatically and yet I cannot help but think that their conflict was nothing more than a repeat of past encounters with the state and future of mutants at stake. To be fair, what happened here served as a logical build-up for the shocking encounter between Professor X and Magneto in X-Men #25.

Conclusion

Nobody among the X-Men, X-Force, Excalibur and X-Factor cared to dress properly for the funeral.

To be clear, even though I am an avid X-Men fan, I find Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993) hard to be engaged with and hard to enjoy. Efforts to make it a worthy celebration of the X-Men are very clear but it’s just not entertaining nor compelling to read. As for the X-Men traitor scene, the revelation was not that shocking as the foreshadowing made it too obvious. At best, this comic book served as a warm-up for X-Men #25 which itself paid-off nicely. Being more than sixty pages long (including the advertisement and bulletins), this comic book has too much creative baggage which ultimately hampered its storytelling. It’s not terrible. It’s really not that great to read. What I experienced way back in 1993 with this comic book is just the same as I re-read it. It has not aged well.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $20, while the near-mint copies of the signed-and-numbered edition and the newsstand edition cost $120 and $60 respectively.

Overall, Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993) is satisfactory.

+++++

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

Psychonauts 2 coming to Xbox and other platforms on August 25, 2021

Before I start this, I should state that I completely missed out on the original Psychonauts video game as I did not own an original Xbox console nor a PlayStation 2 console back in 2005. I learned about that old game through online articles and video game magazines of the time. By the time I bought my Xbox 360 in 2006, I have forgotten about Psychonauts.

A few years ago, the brand of Psychonauts returned with online buzz as Microsoft acquired Double Fine and established it as an Xbox game studio. During Team Xbox’s E3 2019 conference, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer made an appearance and delivered his remarks. Schafer went on to clarify that their studio’s culture and independence won’t be affected under Xbox Game Studios. The sequel Psychonauts 2, which was first announced in 2015, was first revealed visually with a trailer in late 2018.

This past June, Psychonauts 2 was shown worldwide during the successful Xbox-Bethesda games showcase. I personally was pretty impressed with the video prepared for the showcase.

In recent times, Psychonauts 2 gained a lot of buzz not simply because its August 25, 2021 release (for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4 with compatibility with PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S plus the Xbox Game Pass subscription service) date is nearing but rather some members of the gaming media got to play it. For you enjoyment, check out these most recent videos of Psychonauts 2.

So what exactly is Psychonauts 2 about other than being a sequel? Based on what has been shown so far, it is a 3rd person-view platform game with elements of action, adventuring, exploration puzzle solving and cinematic storytelling.

Players will get to play as Razputin “Raz” Aquato who could leap through the air, run around, do acrobatic moves and, most notably, use psychic abilities (which includes levitation, telekinesis and pyrokinesis). As the game progresses, players will explore cleverly designed levels and meet with several NPCs (non-playable characters), and learn new details related to the plot.

The one on the foreground is Raz.

At its official page at Xbox.com, this upcoming game has been described as follows: Psychonauts 2 serves up danger, excitement and laughs in equal measure as players guide Raz on a journey through the minds of friends and foes on a quest to defeat a murderous psychic villain.

Other than being a game meant for fun, Psychonauts 2 touches on themes of mental health, respect and empathy. On the mental health issue, check out the excerpt from the Washington Post’s Psychonauts 2 article quoting Tim Schafer below…

For the second game, Schafer said he made sure each level has a unique setting, reflective of a character’s mental state, a specific art style and an additional gameplay challenge such as having to move through relative gravity or bubbles. Double Fine enlisted mental health experts to review the game, and to suggest ways to improve the game.

“They’re just small changes, sometimes to language [to make it less] stigmatizing, or depictions of characters, often just very simple changes can make the game less harmful to more people. More inclusive and more people able to enjoy the game because you’re more sensitive to what people are going through,” Schafer said.

Best on Xbox Series consoles?

Recently, data regarding resolution and frame rates plus HDR support and VRR support of the game per platform was published. GamesRadar.com noticed that Psychonauts 2 performs better on Xbox Series S than on PS5 as Sony’s new console runs the game via backward compatibility with the PS4 version.

Xbox Series X console owners looking forward to the new game can expect the following technical details of Psychonauts 2 – 3840 x 2160 resolution at 60FPS and the 1440p/120Hz mode is also available. Those who own last-generation Xbox consoles can expect the game to run at 1920 x 1080 resolution at 30FPS on the basic Xbox One, and 3840 x 1080 at 30FPS on Xbox One X.

Conclusion

The in-game environments look enticing for exploration!

The way I see it, it would be best to buy and play Psychonauts 2 on Xbox Series X to enjoy the game at its best technical performance and most lively presentation made possible with the best gaming console hardware available. Of course, the gamers and Psychonauts franchise fans who don’t have an Xbox can avail of the new game on other platforms. What is clear is that Psychonauts 2 looks very promising and we will soon find out how much of an impact it will make on gamers and game critics. Remember, this is a labor of love of Tim Schafer and his team, and at the same time it is exceptional that a sequel was made at all! Watch out for Psychonauts 2 on August 25, 2021.

In ending this piece, here are some Psychonauts 2 and Xbox-related videos for your enjoyment!

+++++

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

Better than Streaming: A look at V: The Final Battle Blu-ray (by Warner Archive)

By now, many of you should be aware about how much I loved watching V: The Original Miniseries and the best way to view it in high-definition is on Blu-ray. I was a kid when I first saw V: The Original Miniseries way back in the 1980s and it was a major hit not only in America but also around the world. Considering the way the 1983 miniseries ended and the success it achieved, a sequel was inevitable although it was not spearheaded by creator and genius Kenneth Johnson. 

That sequel is none other than V: The Final Battle which was another mini-series that played all over the United States in 1984. It was considerably longer than its predecessor as it had three episodes and combined for more than 270 minutes playtime. V: The Final Battle, which had the now iconic Michael Ironside as the most notable addition to the highly talented cast, was a TV ratings hit as well and eventually Warner Bros. proceeded with its plan to produce a regular TV series out of Kenneth Johnson’s creation. Oh yes, like the original mini-series of 1983, I saw both V: The Final Battle and the TV series locally back in the 1980s. My first bout of replaying V: The Final Battle digitally was on DVD format more than fifteen years ago.

Just two days ago, I received my Blu-ray copy of V: The Final Battle which I ordered online. 

The front cover of V: The Final Battle Blu-ray.

Released in April 2020 by Warner Archive, V: The Final Battle on Blu-ray comes with two discs (the first disc contained the first two episodes). Its technical specs goes as follows:

Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Audio
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles
English SDH

Discs
Blu-ray Disc
Two-disc set (1 BD-25, 1 BD-50)

Playback
2K Blu-ray: Region free

The people at Warner Bros. surely wanted to freak buyers out.

Having viewed the first episode the other night, the most telling difference I spotted right from the start was that V: The Final Battle’s footage did not fill the entire screen of our HDTV at home. In fact, what was presented was a more squarish image with black borders on both sides. This is because the sequel was formatted with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Having seen V: The Original Miniseries Blu-ray with its widescreen imagery (aspect ratio of 1.85:1), I found the sequel’s 1.33:1 Blu-ray look not only weird (note: I still remember that TV imagery in the 1980s were more squarish than widescreen) but somehow less immersive on our HDTV. Regardless, I still had fun and engagement replaying V: The Final Battle’s first episode. The picture quality, so far, looks good and the colors look more vibrant than ever. As for the extra stuff, there is really not much here to satisfy fans of the sequel as the Blu-ray comes only with network teasers. If you are looking for behind-scenes stuff or interviews with the cast, you will be disappointed. How is the overall quality and fun of V: The Final Battle as a whole? That will be revealed in a future review. 

If you are a long-time V fan, or if you are looking for gems of the science fiction genre, or if you are looking for the standout entertainment properties of the 1980s to add to your Blu-ray collection, be aware that you can order V: The Final Battle Blu-ray online by clicking here.

In ending this piece, watch this short clip of V: The Final Battle from the Warner Archive YouTube channel. It’s got Michael Ironside as Ham Tyler doing action and a glimpse of established V franchise hero Marc Singer as Mike Donovan!

For more entries of my Better than Streaming series of articles, check out my pieces on The Beastmaster 4K Blu-rayThe Transformers: The Movie 4K Blu-rayMortal Kombat 2021 4K Blu-raySpace Jam 4K Blu-ray and The Thing 4K Blu-ray.

+++++

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 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.

+++++

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

Better than Streaming: John Carpenter’s The Thing 4K Blu-ray combo coming out on September 7, 2021

Calling all fans of director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell as well as Blu-ray collectors fond of science fiction and horror films!

Get ready because Carpenter’s classic sci-fi horror film The Thing (1982) will be released in 4K Blu-ray format (in a combo including the Blu-ray disc and digital code) on September 7, 2021. In addition, those who insist on having the best 4K visuals with the classic movie will be delighted over the early confirmation that The Thing has been rendered in native 4K.

The cover of The Thing 4K Blu-ray combo.

As of this writing, there is no suggested retail price yet. Still, here are the product descriptions and specs from Blu-ray.com’s articles about The Thing 4K Blu-ray. Some parts in boldface…

SPECS

Video

Codec: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)

HDR: HDR10

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio

English: DTS:X

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Subtitles

English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Discs

4K Ultra HD

Blu-ray Disc

Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50)

Digital

Digital 4K

Digital copy included

Playback

4K Blu-ray: Region free

2K Blu-ray: Region A

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

DISC ONE – 4K BLU-RAY

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
  • HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • DTS:X AUDIO TRACK
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell
  • John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape
  • Outtakes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature

DISC TWO – BLU-RAY

  • Main feature
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell
  • U-Control: Picture in Picture
  • Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature

For those who are not too aware about this old sci-fi horror movie, The Thing tells the story of an American research team stationed in Antarctica whose lives turn upside-down after a sled dog comes to them after being hunted by a helicopter from the Norwegian research team.

Historically speaking, The Thing was released in cinemas in the United States just two weeks after Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The Carpenter-directed space alien monster film was trashed by movie critics of the time and in the American box office, Spielberg’s movie about a friendly alien creature from outer space was simply unbeatable. As time passed by, The Thing found its audience on TV and home video and its critical reception turned from negative to positive overall. In the awards circuit, The Thing was nominated for Best Horror Film and Best Special Effects (credit to Rob Bottin who went on to work on effects for RoboCop and Total Recall) in the 10th annual Saturn Awards given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Fans of actor Keith David will want to see his performance in this particular film. David also went on to work again with John Carpenter years later.

To get to know more about John Carpenter’s The Thing through trivia, watch the video posted below from Minty Comedic Arts. Be warned of potential spoilers…

For more entries of my Better than Streaming series of articles, check out my pieces on The Beastmaster 4K Blu-ray, The Transformers: The Movie 4K Blu-ray, Mortal Kombat 2021 4K Blu-ray, Space Jam 4K Blu-ray and V: The Original Miniseries Blu-ray disc of Warner Archive (read my retro review).  

+++++

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

Better than Streaming: Space Jam 4K Blu-ray combo now available!

Are you fond of 1990s Hollywood movies? Do you love Michael Jordan during his reign in the NBA? Have you ever seen the famous Bill Murray act with Jordan and Larry Bird? Have you always been a fan of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang?

Here is the news that could be big to you in relation to the above questions – the 1996 hit live-action/animated comedy movie Space Jam is now available on 4K Blu-ray (with digital copy and Blu-ray disc included) and you can order it now at Amazon!

Space Jam 4K Blu-ray combo.

Here are the details on what comes with Space Jam 4K Blu-ray sourced from Blu-ray.com

Video
Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1


Audio

English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1
Danish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Swedish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Norwegian: Dolby Digital 5.1
Finnish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles

English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish


Discs
4K Ultra HD
Blu-ray Disc
Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50)

Extra stuffCommentary with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and director Joe Pytka. Jammin’ with Bug Bunny and Michael Jordan featurette. Two music videos and the theatrical trailer.

For those who are not very aware about the legacy of Space Jam, it was a special project of Warner Bros.’ animation group and not only did it star Michael Jordan (who led the Chicago Bulls to its 4th NBA title in mid-1996), it involved big names like Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) as producer, comedy icon Bill Murray in a key supporting role and a whole lot of great voice talents such as Billy West (Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd), Dee Bradley Baker (Daffy Duck), and Frank Welker (best known for Transformers’ Megatron) to name a few.

Adding further zest to the cast lots of NBA personalities such as Hall of Famer Larry Bird, Mugsy Bogues, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson, plus cameo appearances of Danny Ainge, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr and A.C. Green to name a few.

Personally, I never saw Space Jam in the movie theater but I got to watch it in the airplane going to the United States in April 1997. I was not able to focus fully on its story as watching it on a small screen behind the passenger seat in front of me was never a comfortable experience. Still, the movie caught my attention when I saw Larry Bird (my favorite basketball player of all-time) act with Jordan and with the iconic Bill Murray. Of course, the quality of animation done by Warner Bros.’ creative teams was pretty good for its time. I should state that Elmer Fudd scoring a basket in basketball uniform was fun to watch.

Going back to the above specs and details about Space Jam 4K Blu-ray, it’s really nice to know that the visuals have been confirmed to be native 4K. Personally, I am interested to see how the 1996 mixed live-action/animation film would look like on the screen of our 4K smart TV at home.

In the official Blu-ray.com review for Space Jam 4K Blu-ray, the visuals were partially described as: Advertised as a new HDR-enhanced 4K master, Space Jam arrives on the format with a mostly pleasing 2160p transfer that corrects a few of the 2011 Blu-ray’s visual shortcomings but back-pedals elsewhere. For starters, it’s worth noting that portions of this film have always looked soft and very light on grain, such as Jordan’s arrival and stay in WB world, including the climactic basketball game; this was a necessary style choice to ensure that live-action elements didn’t stick too far out against the more smoothly-rendered animation. Other built-in source “defects” (for lack of a better word) include a bit of aliasing on specific CG backgrounds, such as a few sharp angles and edges on Moron Mountain and the baseline and free-throw paint on animated basketball courts; it’s easily spotted on screenshot #4, but again hardly distracting in-motion.

Space Jam 4K Blu-ray combo is now available and it should appeal to NBA fans, Looney Tunes fans and just about anyone who feels nostalgic about the 1990s. Take note that when Space Jam was released in cinemas in late 1996, Michael Jordan was on his way to a second three-peat of NBA championships and the movie was clearly part of the legacy of his basketball greatness which defined the NBA in the 1990s (note: Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship titles in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998). Space Jam was made at a time when Hollywood not yet dominated by the Satanic Left, those whiny socialists, the naked Communists and all those liberals who love to use movies as pieces to spread their poisonous propaganda. In short, Space Jam of 1996 was simply made to entertain without any political garbage.

For more entries of my Better than Streaming series of articles, check out my pieces on The Beastmaster 4K Blu-ray, The Transformers: The Movie 4K Blu-ray, Mortal Kombat 2021 4K Blu-ray, and V: The Original Miniseries Blu-ray disc of Warner Archive (read my retro review).  

+++++

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

Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox consoles, PC and Xbox Game Pass this November!

If you are looking for a great looking and fun-filled racing game this year, the one to go for is definitely Forza Horizon 5 coming out on November 9, 2021 on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Windows PC and on Xbox Game Pass (XGP)!

Very notable for having an excessive amount of time to itself during the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase,  Forza Horizon 5 is the newest entry in the best-selling game franchise developed by Playground Games. For the newcomers reading this, the Forza Horizon game franchise that started in 2012 is known for its open-world approach to racing which is more focused on street racing action and stunts (in contrast to the realism focus of the Forza Motorsport series of simulation racing games). The fictional Horizon Festival is an essential part of the core concept of the Forza Horizon series. Creatively, the said festival moves from one country to another as seen in each game of the series – Colorado in Forza Horizon, Southern France and North Italy in Forza Horizon 2, Australia in Forza Horizon 3, and Scotland and England in Forza Horizon 4.

This year, Forza Horizon 5 is set in Mexico which looks stunning as the game was not only made with the most modern Xbox technologies but also the experts of Playground Games really proved what they could do both artistically and technically. The result is a highly photo-realistic game (note: ray-tracing available in Forzavista mode), high frame rates (60FPS performance mode included), super smooth gameplay and a whole lot more!

For greater perspective, watch this demo video that was part of the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase…

As seen in the above video, Forza Horizon 5 is more than racing and exploring the diverse locations of Mexico…it was made to be a whole lot of fun to play. The expedition looks really adventurous while the Pinata Park and Events Lab emphasize creative fun racing! This is racing game design that must be experienced!

And there is more! Check out this excerpt from the official Forza blog emphasizing Forza Horizon 5. Some parts in boldface…

Experience a deep and rewarding campaign, where you’ll meet new characters and determine the outcome of their Horizon Story missions. You’ll take on expeditions across the map, battling the elements in hundreds of the world’s greatest cars.

In multiplayer, experience the most social and connected experience we’ve ever created. The Horizon Open takes the best parts of the traditional Forza Horizon online competitive experience and smashes them all together. Seamlessly jump into Races, Drift challenges, Eliminator sessions, and more. Horizon Tour is your chance to meet up like you would at a car meet and race co-op against Drivatars on circuits all over the map, forming up as a convoy as you hop from one race to the next. From there, you can head to the Horizon Arcade, where you quickly and seamlessly take on some truly wild challenges and minigames with other players.

Next, our creator community can hit up the EventLab. Imagine the Blueprint Builder you’re familiar with in modes like Super7 and Blueprint races, but blown way out with a powerful new toolset that includes custom races, challenges, stunts, entirely new game modes and so much more that you control, down to the rules of the game itself.

After that, it’s time for Gift Drops, like a personalized Barn Find Blueprint. Tune a car, paint it, then leave it hidden for others to find somewhere on the map. It’s a whole new way to share your prized cars with friends or others online.The social aspect of Forza Horizon 5 is huge, with systems like Kudos that allow you to reward other players for positive acts and encourage clean, friendly driving, as well as the Forza LINK system, which enhances your ability to join up with other players by recognizing the things you like to do and finding other players to do similar things with.

Wow! Not only are the experts of Playground Games making Forza Horizon 5 fun and engaging, they are also working hard on making it the most accessible game socially speaking. This is a major Xbox-exclusive game to watch out for this November. Not only will Forza Horizon 5 stand out well among the many, many games on Xbox Game Pass, it will stand out among all racing games for this year and even into 2022!

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-related videos for your enjoyment!

+++++

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 Xbox-exclusive game Contraband

Until now, there is still a lot of positive reactions and discussions about the huge impact the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase of June 13 left on gamers. While not perfect, it was a great showcase with lots of Xbox-exclusive games coming and among the newly announced exclusives was Contraband, a new game being developed by Avalanche Studios (Just Cause game franchise) in cooperation with Xbox Game Studios. It is being developed specifically for Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PC and it will be added to Xbox Game Pass (XGP).

Here again is the video…

On June 14, Xbox Games Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg wrote on Twitter: Excited to announce big new AAA Xbox Games Studios exclusive game we are making in partnership w/ the talented team at Avalanche Studios (team behind games like Just Cause). Contraband, a co-op smuggler’s paradise set in the fictional world of 1970s Bayan.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Contraband game director Omar Shakir. Some parts in boldface…

Three years ago, we started talking with our partners at Xbox Game Studios about what a co-op smuggler’s paradise would look like and how we could bring it to life together. Today, at the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, we finally announced what our team has been working on, Contraband.

Contraband is a co-op smuggler’s paradise set in the fictional world of 1970s Bayan, and our most ambitious and spectacular game to date. We’re taking everything that we’ve learned from 18 years of being at the forefront of creating beautiful, vast open game worlds filled with stunning vistas and incredible emergent gameplay moments.

To fully deliver on our vision for Contraband, we have an amazing team at Avalanche Studios that are pushing the boundaries with the next generation of our Apex Engine, the technology behind all our games, including the Just Cause series. We built the engine to unlock the creativity of our developers and we’re excited to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of Xbox Series X|S.

What caught my attention was the name Bayan as the fictional setting of the Xbox-exclusive game and it could be a veiled reference to my native Philippines. For us Filipinos, “Bayan” or “bayan” is a common term in reference to a nation or to a local region/province and down to a local community. In the Filipino culture, when someone meets a different person who comes from the same province he/she originated from, that said person is referred to as “kabayan” or “kababayan”.

And there is something I noticed in the captured screenshot below. Please pay close attention to the captions I wrote.

The interior design and furniture in the background were pretty common here in the Philippines in previous decades.

Going back to the general description of Contraband, it will have an open-world environment (which Avalanche Studio specializes on) with co-op play and with an emphasis on smuggling. What is not clear is whether or not it will share key technical aspects with the Just Cause games and the 2015 Mad Max video game such as having a 3rd-person perspective with an option to switch to 1st-person view in key sequences in the game. How much realism can we expect from the developers? Will they be able to come up with new action sequences and brand new gameplay features that they have yet to do?

Even without gameplay footage shown during the Xbox-Bethesda game showcase, I can say that I am very interested on Contraband and I look forward to the eventual release of new information and gameplay footage in the months to come. I am also happy that even though Team Xbox has 23 game studios, they still pushed through with making deals with 3rd party game developers to produce exclusive titles. Remember, Team Xbox today has the full support and financial backing of Microsoft which itself continues to be very profitable as a corporation! For the future, I don’t expect Team Xbox to slow down on making exclusive-game deals with 3rd party game studios.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Are you excited about the Xbox-exclusive Contraband knowing that the same team behind the Just Cause games are developing it? What is your favorite of all the video games made by Avalanche Studios?

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 closing this article, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

+++++

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