Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One on March 18, 2022

As I mentioned previously, 2022 will be a bigger and more exciting year for enjoying video games on Xbox platforms as there will be more and varied new video games coming out as well as new fun stuff through the Xbox network and Xbox Game Pass (XGP). Adding more depth and excitement on Xbox gaming this year is the fast-approaching release of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin on March 18, 2022 on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One consoles!

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an action-packed, Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) being made by Koei Tecmo-owned developer Team Ninja (best known for Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive) under publisher Square Enix. For key details about the upcoming game, read the Square Enix press release excerpt below. Some parts in boldface…

STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN blends challenging and strategic action gameplay with the world and lore of the FINAL FANTASY series to create a unique action RPG experience. Join Jack and his allies as they throw open the gates to the Chaos Shrine and step into a world of dark fantasy and exhilarating battles to discover if they are truly the Warriors of Light the prophecy foretold.

Posted below is the excerpt from the Xbox.com article of the game. Some parts in boldface…

From a key cutscene in the game.

In this new tale you’ll play as Jack, a stranger to the Kingdom of Cornelia with a past shrouded in mystery. He must hazard numerous challenges to bring the light of the crystals back to a kingdom conquered by darkness in this hard-core action RPG. Will restoring the crystals’ light usher in peace or a new form of darkness? Or perhaps something else entirely? Keep reading to find out what makes this Final Fantasy story so unique.

Visceral Action Combat

Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin allows players to experience Final Fantasy action like never before. Real-time combat keeps the action at the forefront of gameplay. But you won’t find success by mashing buttons. You’ll need to turn your enemies’ powers against them to turn the tides of battle. Switch between jobs with a push of a button so you can be prepared for anything that comes your way. When the odds are overwhelming, use the powerful Lightbringer ability to push back the monstrous hordes. Once you’ve broken their spirit, finish them off with a crystal crushing finishing move.

One of the characters in the game.

Deep Character Customization

With each enemy you defeat and every chest you open, you’ll uncover powerful treasure to help you on your journey. Each piece of armor will not only augment your abilities but will also change the look of your character as well. The weapons you find will also unlock new jobs to fit your play style. You might start off as a swordsman, but you’ll quickly discover options to become a mage, dragoon, monk, and so much more. Find the right combination of abilities to fit the way you play and don’t forget to customize your team-mates gear for some added support.

A Dark World to Discover

If you’ve played a Final Fantasy game before you might recognize some familiar creatures and locations, but you’ve never seen them like this. What secrets does each location hold and what manner of monster await you in the darkness?

Anyone who loves real-time action in Japanese RPGs should check this out.

To order the game in advance for your Xbox console, you can go for the regular edition here or the digital deluxe version here. Being a highly stylized action RPG developed by the talented guys at Team Ninja, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will surely standout among all other RPGs (regardless of core design or gameplay styles) that are coming to Xbox consoles in this console generation. It is also interesting to see how this upcoming game will perform in terms of visual fidelity and frame rates when optimized for Xbox Series X. Mark your calendars for March 18, 2022 for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure.

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

COVID-19 Crisis: Omicron variant detected in the Philippines according to DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) announced yesterday the that much feared Omicron variant was detected here in the Philippines and it was found in two travelers who arrived not from South Africa (where Omicron was first detected) but from Nigeria and Japan, according to a GMA Network news report.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the statement published by GMA Network. Some parts in boldface…

The Philippines has detected the Omicron coronavirus variant from two international travelers, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Wednesday.

According to the DOH, one is a returning overseas Filipino who arrived from Japan on December 1 via Philippine Airlines flight number PR 0427.

The other case is a Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria on November 30 via Oman Air with flight number WY 843.

In a message to reporters, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said one is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while the other is not.

The DOH said the two cases were detected during the latest run that sequenced 48 samples composed of 21 returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), one foreign national, and 26 local cases from areas with case clusters.

The sample of the ROF was collected on December 5. He then tested positive COVID-19 on December 7 and was admitted to a facility on the same day.

“He is currently asymptomatic but had symptoms of colds and cough upon arrival,” the DOH said.

Meanwhile, the sample from the Nigerian national was collected on December 6 while his positive result was released on December 7. The asymptomatic case was quarantined on the same day.

“The DOH is determining possible close contacts among co-passengers during the flights of these two cases,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH said it is also verifying the test results and health status of all passengers of the flights to determine if there are other confirmed cases or if there are any who developed symptoms after arrival.

Travelers from the flights were advised to reach out to the DOH through DOH COVID-19 Hotlines at (02) 8942 6843 or 1555, or their respective local government units to report their status.

“With the detection of the imported cases of Omicron variant, the Department also urges everyone to adhere to the minimum public standards,” it said.

“Moreover, this holiday season, the public should avoid holding mass gatherings to curb the transmission of COVID-19. The DOH also urges those unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” the DOH added.

Omicron is very much feared overseas not just because it is more infectious, but also because of the secular liberal news media whose reports added to the fear and chaos to the global audience. It spread panic and caused governments abroad to close down their borders in reaction. Very recently, the OCTA Research group expressed its concern about the possible surge of new COVID-19 cases in the event Omicron hits the Philippines. The reality is that the feared new variant is here.

Now that the Omicron variant is here in the Philippines, I encourage you readers – especially those who are based here in the Philippines – to pay close attention as to how the government officials will react to the detection of Omicron in the country. Watch closely the moves of the Metro Manila mayors, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in reaction to Omicron.

More importantly, I encourage all of you reading this not to panic but come to the Lord and pray to Him for great protection with chapter 91 of the Book of Psalm in the Holy Bible. Don’t hesitate, do it now for your protection, your family’s protection and the protection of the nation. Pray to the Lord in your room with the door shut, pray in tongues to Him, keep practicing Christian habits (click here and here), and keep on seeking Him first and foremost. Always have unwavering faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus!

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

COVID-19 Crisis: Panic and the closing of borders related to the Omicron variant

As a growing number of nations closed their borders to foreign travelers due to the fear over the Omicron variant (coronavirus variant B.1.1.529) magnified by secular and liberal news media organizations, CBN News published a related news report highlighting the statement of the head of the South African Medical Association that Western nations are panicking unnecessarily over the said new variant.

To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from CBN News’ report. Some parts in boldface…

The World Health Organization calls Omicron “a variant of concern,” but admits more needs to be learned about it. 

Initial reports describe it as having very mild symptoms.

But the virus may also be highly transmissible. Two new cases have just been confirmed in Canada, the first known to have reached North America. 

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said preliminary evidence shows that it is more transmissible. “We don’t know for sure. We really have no data on severity, whether it’s more severe, milder, or more significant,” Jha said.

The United States has decided to ban travelers from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.

Israel has closed its borders to noncitizens for two weeks and has authorized cell phone surveillance of anyone confirmed to be carrying the variant. 

Japan also suspended entry to foreign visitors.

But the head of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, said Western nations are panicking unnecessarily

There’s body aches and pain with a bit of a headache, not really sore throat, more of a scratchy type of description and no cough and no loss of smell or taste. And that’s what I call ‘mild symptoms.‘”

South Africa’s Health Minister, Joe Phaala, slammed what he called the ‘draconian’ travel bans.

“The reaction of some of the countries in terms of imposing travel bans and such measures are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization.” 

Here in the Philippines, the Omicron variant news reports sparked calls for ramping up COVID-19 vaccination just as the 3-day nationwide vaccination drive resulted 2.5 million shots administered on the first day. Omicron also brought local stocks down by a little over 1% on November 29 and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the required wearing of face shields (which are unpopular and are really inconvenient to use as they distort vision and make verbal communication more problematic). These local developments show how much of a negative impact Omicron has made through the news and also shows how concerned or panicky people could get.

Anyone who follows Jesus as Lord and Savior should know that no matter what the situation and no matter how much fear and negativity the global new media spreads, they should NOT panic at all and should maintain unwavering faith in Him for protection and lifting.

To all the faithful as well as all others who have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior reading this…the Lord will not abandon us nor forsake us. Trust in the Lord wholeheartedly and eternally. Submit to the Lord and be led by the Holy Spirit. Learn from the following scriptures below…

Do not yield to fear, for I am always near.
    Never turn your gaze from me, for I am your faithful God.
    I will infuse you with my strength
    and help you in every situation.
    I will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand.’
“All who rage against you will be ashamed and disgraced.
    All who contend with you will perish and disappear.
 You will look for your enemies in vain;
    those who war against you will vanish without a trace!

Isaiah 41:10-12 (TPT)

Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
    But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
    you will be seated in the high place.

Proverbs 29:25 (TPT)

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:6-9 (NKJV)

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673

SEGA and Microsoft in a Strategic Alliance to create New Strategic Titles for SEGA and establish a Next-Generation Development Environment

Even as the whole world continues to struggle to move on during this global COVID-19 crisis, Japanese video game business icon SEGA remained bullish and it made its biggest business announcement in a long time yesterday by declaring that it has agreed with Microsoft to engage in a strategic alliance related to game development and cloud gaming with the whole world in mind.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the official press release SEGA published on its website. Some parts in boldface…

SEGA Corporation (hereinafter referred to as “SEGA”) and Microsoft Corporation (hereinafter referred to as “Microsoft”) have agreed in principal, a strategic alliance that explores ways for SEGA to produce large-scale, global games in a next-generation development environment built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The alliance would form a key part of SEGA’s mid to long-term strategy, allowing the business to move forward with “Super Game”, a new initiative for developing new and innovative titles where the key focuses are “Global”, “Online”, “Community” and “IP utilization”.

With the world now more connected than ever following the widespread deployment of 5G and cloud services in recent years, consumers can more easily enjoy high-quality entertainment content at any time. Within this highly connected environment, the ecosystem surrounding the games industry continues to evolve and expand as more sophisticated tools and technologies become available. As such, video games continue to grow as a major medium for gamers globally, with access to a vast range of gaming experiences and communities becoming more diverse and attainable. This proposed alliance represents SEGA looking ahead, and by working with Microsoft to anticipate such trends as they accelerate further in future, the goal is to optimise development processes and continue to bring high-quality experiences to players using Azure cloud technologies.

Microsoft and SEGA have agreed upon the foundation for this alliance and through mutual cooperation, will look to build further technological evolutions with areas such as the network infrastructure and communication tools required for global online services being a key priority. Additionally, by shifting to a next-generation development platform, SEGA can effectively adapt to diversfying work styles and potential infrastructural changes.

Wow! The press release can be a bit challenging to understand in just one reading. To say the least, this is SEGA’s way of expressing that is modernizing itself to keep up with the times and ensure they can be flexible not only with developing their games and projects but also to be able to reach as many customers they can worldwide with the help of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

While SEGA today is no longer the aggressive arcade, console, handheld and game maker it used to be, it has no intention of fading away. As a business entity, they may not be cash-rich anymore but they are rich in terms of intellectual properties that include famed game franchises like Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, Sonic the Hedgehog and more. They can still do something new and productive with those.

While the press release does not specifically state anything about Xbox, it still confirms SEGA’s business partnership with Microsoft goes to a much higher level with the future in mind. Even without any mention of Xbox and its related services in SEGA’s press release, I would not be surprised to see SEGA release more games – both classic and new – on the Xbox platforms as well as on Xbox Game Pass (XGP) over the next few years. Also it is nice to see the Japanese corporation confirming next-generation development of games!

Take note of the big significance of SEGA releasing Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) on Xbox One in 2020. PSO2 on Xbox One marked the first time the game got released outside of Japan starting with North America in April 2020 and with Europe in August 2020. Through the Xbox One and the Windows PC platform (August 2020), PSO2 further reached even more gamers worldwide.

By now, SEGA realized that to grow as a business, they will need to reach out to the many consumers worldwide who are willing to pay for their games and online services. In order to achieve that, SEGA partnered with Microsoft whose cloud computing infrastructure and cloud gaming models are so advanced, even competitor Sony partnered with the American corporation.

Think about that! Two of Japan’s major corporations partnered with Microsoft whose Xbox consoles did not sell much in Japan. Rivalries in video gaming were set aside for something much better between the corporations – business partnerships driven by advanced technologies that can help the partners achieve growth and breakthroughs with the whole world in mind. In the case of Microsoft, the new business partnership with SEGA is an opportunity for them to build up trust with other Japanese businesses who share similar interests with the company of Sonic and the company of PlayStation, as well sharing their objectives of achieving business growth and reaching out to consumers around the world.  

Going back to the SEGA-issued press release, posted below is an excerpt from comments made by SEGA Corporation President and COO Yukio Sugino. Some parts in boldface…

We are very pleased to announce today that we are considering a strategic alliance with Microsoft to help develop SEGA’s new “Super Game” initiative as well as build a next-generation game development environment. By considering a strategic partnership with Microsoft, we seek to further advance our game development so that our titles can be enjoyed by fans all over the world; in this regard, we aim to build an alliance that utilizes both SEGA’s powerful game development capabilities and Microsoft’s cutting-edge technology and development environment.

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure.

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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

Star Ocean The Divine Force is coming to Xbox consoles and PC (via Steam) in 2022

Star Ocean, the long-running Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) series under Square Enix, has a brand-new RPG coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and PC (via Steam) sometime in 2022 titled Star Ocean The Divine Force. Take note that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Star Ocean game franchise and the new game is being made by tri-Ace.

To start with, watch this official Star Ocean The Divine Force trailer below…

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the official press release issued by Square Enix. Some parts in boldface…

Developed by tri-Ace Inc., STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE will transport players to an expansive sci-fi fantasy world and take them on an exhilarating journey with fast-paced action combat, rich exploration and an original story. With STAR OCEAN celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, THE DIVINE FORCE builds on that rich history with new features that are sure to delight for many years to come.

To watch the STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE Debut Trailer, visit: https://youtu.be/jIJe4ZUD0Gc

The Debut Trailer showcases various new and returning elements to the STAR OCEAN franchise that players can look forward to:

  • Super-high-speed action battles
  • No random encounters – players will seamlessly enter battles with enemies that populate the world
  • Players can float in the air, dive at enemies and fly around areas
  • Richer exploration – climb towering mountains, venture into dark, vast valleys and investigate the castles and towns present in the world

Showcasing a diverse cast of playable characters, STAR OCEAN THE DIVINE FORCE will tell a gripping story that seamlessly melds science fiction and fantasy elements and can be enjoyed by newcomers to the series and veterans alike. The game features dual protagonists, which offer different story perspectives and gameplay experiences: Raymond, the captain of the space trading ship, Ydas, and Laeticia, the princess-knight of a kingdom on an underdeveloped planet. Fate will bring Raymond, Laeticia, and several other ally characters together, all designed by renowned artist Akiman (STAR OCEAN: Integrity and Faithlessness, STREET FIGHTER series).

For the newcomers reading this, the very first Star Ocean video game made by tri-Ace and published by Enix was released on July 19, 1996 for the Super Famicom console in Japan. The first Star Ocean game translated into English and released outside of Japan was Star Ocean: The Second Story which I myself played on the original PlayStation console in 1999. In 2003, Enix and Square Co. merged and became Square Enix. In 2008, Square Enix announced Star Ocean: The Last Hope for Xbox 360 and its release in Japan and North America took place in February 2009.

Going back to Star Ocean The Divine Force, which is the sixth main game of the franchise, the trailer shows the ever-present fast-moving action scenes taking place in real-time during battles. As with past games of the franchise, there will be lots of slashing and fantasy inspired elements even though the game has a science fiction concept. At least tri-Ace keeps on striving with making key locations look grand.

Expect to see so much of hack and slash action in this RPG.
What a grand looking place, tri-Ace! How about showing how much exploring and fun gamers can have within it?

The artistic approach on rendering the characters in polygons within the game, however, shows a lack of willingness to evolve on the part of the developer to do better. To begin with, take a look at the character concept artworks below for the game.

Those are interesting character design concept artworks.

Now take a look at how the above two characters looked like in polygons within the game below…

She looks too cartoonish and even plastic-looking than her concept art version.
Could someone please tell me who at tri-Ace is responsible for this kind of polygonal character work?

When compared to other Japanese RPG franchises, Star Ocean’s unique approach on action, battles and the presentation of locations still stands out and that’s pretty incredible considering the 25-year history of the franchise and all those other JRPGs that came out along the way. The new game’s story and overall concept will have to live up to gamers’ impression and expectations and we will find out how the game will turn out next year. When it comes to the growing number of upcoming RPGs – from both East and West – on the Xbox ecosystem, Star Ocean The Divine Force adds variety to say the least. I believe that the tri-Ace-made game, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising will easily capture the interest of Xbox gamers who love JRPGs. Don’t forget that many other future RPGs exclusive to Xbox are coming such as Starfield, Avowed, Fable, The Elder Scrolls VI, The Outer Worlds 2 and more. Truly the Xbox ecosystem is becoming the premier place for gamers who love RPGs which is something Sony and Nintendo CANNOT stop as those two competitors don’t have their own wide range of RPGs to make. As for Square Enix and other RPG makers in Japan, they should be seriously considering releasing more games on Xbox and Windows PC because Team Xbox’s heavy investments on RPGs will eventually achieve tremendous sales in the near future.

How many of you Xbox fans are looking forward to Star Ocean The Divine Force?

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos as well as a few videos related to past Star Ocean games for your viewing pleasure.

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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

Team Xbox’s presentation at the Tokyo Game Show 2021

Recently I saw via GameSpot’s YouTube channel the Tokyo Game Show 2021 livestream presentation of Team Xbox which lasted about an hour. To say the least, it was indeed a big improvement over what Xbox presented during the 2020 edition of the TGS. There were no major announcements comparable with what were revealed during the last E3 but Team Xbox and its partners in Japan showed there were exciting things for gamers to look forward to.

From Team Xbox.

For one thing, Xbox Cloud Gaming launched in Japan as well in several other places around the world bringing together a massive community of gamers through the Xbox platforms (consoles, PC and mobile devices) who in turn will be able to play over a hundred games through the Xbox Game Pass (XGP) paid subscription service. Team Xbox is focused on reaching over a billion people in 26 countries across five continents and Japan itself is indeed essential not only as a market but also the place where several small and independent game creators have listed through the ID@Xbox program which itself has two hundred Japanese indie games. Xbox Game Pass itself has over a hundred Japanese titles and Bandai Namco’s SCARLET NEXUS is the newest addition to the service.

This video by Dealer Gaming has excerpts from the livestream.
A finely made Japanese visual emphasis on Xbox Cloud Gaming and more. Play anywhere!
The newest Japanese addition to XGP!

As expected, Forza Horizon 5 was part of the TGS Xbox livestream and it would be interesting to see how the game, along with the Xbox Series consoles, will perform commercially and critically among the gamers in Japan this December. Don’t forget Japan’s video game legacy of producing many racing games. What surprised me was the inclusion of the upcoming Xbox-exclusive, Arkane-developed game Redfall which is set for a 2022 release. Check out the Xbox Japan YouTube videos below…

More on Japan-made games, the long-running King of Fighter series is back with a new installment coming to Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 on February 2022…The King of Fighters XV (stylized as KOF XV) and below is the trailer. You can also order the game now.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising from Rabbit & Bear Studios also made an appearance during the livestream. Some gameplay footage was shown from the upcoming action RPG which you can see below…

Bethesda’s Todd Howard presented the upcoming Xbox-exclusive sci-fi RPG Starfield which will not only be released globally on November 11, 2022, it will be fully localized for the Japanese. Pay close attention in the next video…

The Xbox-exclusive sci-fi RPG Starfield!

Team Xbox chief Phil Spencer, who delivered his opening remarks and reaffirmed their commitment on Japan, its gamers, game creators and business partners, had a nice on-screen talk with the legendary game creator Shinji Mikami (famous for the Resident Evil game franchise) who is the founder and one of the top officials of Japan-based Tango Gameworks. Watch the video below…

The head of Xbox and the legendary Shinji Mikami.

Overall, the TGS 2021 Xbox livestream was fun, surprising and exciting even though there were no major game announcements. I should say I find it baffling that no firm release date for CrossFireX was revealed even though it was announced before that the game will come out on Xbox this year. Apart from the Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming announcements and the emphasis on a global audience through Xbox platforms, a lot of games were shown and the independently made video games made by Japanese and Korean creators like Craftopia, The Good Life, RPG Time, Mighty Goose, Lapin, Unsouled and Eternal Return had their own moments of showcase during the livestream. To say that Xbox has no games is a blatant lie and the current leadership of Team Xbox is totally different compared to what was during the unfortunate Xbox One era.

Japan is the fastest growing market for Team Xbox in the world. The growth of Japanese gaming market as claimed by Spencer is indeed real even though the PlayStation-biased members of the media consistently ignore it. Apart from realizing the Japanese growth, Team Xbox is committed to help bring those games around the world for gamers to enjoy. For the full recap of the livestream, click here.

Spencer and his team have been working hard with global gaming in mind. Just before they started their TGS 2021 livestream, they announced that Dolby Vision Gaming has been made available on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X.

For the newcomers reading this read the excerpt below…

Dolby Vision takes gaming to the next level through incredible brightness, color, contrast, and detail.  Games in Dolby Vision automatically map to any display that supports Dolby Vision, delivering players the benefit of seeing the best possible picture available. Dolby Vision is also compatible with next-generation features available on Xbox Series X|S such as DirectX Raytracing, automatic low-latency mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and up to 120FPS depending on the capabilities of your TV.

On the Xbox platform, an updated version of the Edge browser was released and it is capable of playing Stadia games and even access Discord. The said browser is unsurprisingly available on Xbox One and the two Xbox Series consoles. With regards to the ongoing supply problem, Phil Spencer confirmed that getting a new Xbox console will still be challenging going into 2022. How much components Team Xbox and its console manufacturers can receive from the suppliers right now is a mystery but there certainly is an ongoing chip shortage that not only affect game consoles but all other devices and even cars. Finally, Team Xbox hired Crystal Dynamics as a co-production partner with their own studio The Initiative to make the Perfect Dark reboot.

With the TGS 2021 Xbox livestream over, the excitement for gaming will truly begin within this fourth quarter. November will see the release of Forza Horizon 5 while December will not only have the highly anticipated exclusive Halo Infinite but also The Gunk (another exclusive game) and the flashy space shooter Chorus.

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-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

A Look Back at Top Gear (SNES)

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

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

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

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

The game cover.

Concept and Game Design

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

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

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

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

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

Quality

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

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

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

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

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

Night driving in 2D.

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

Conclusion

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

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

Overall, Top Gear is highly recommended!

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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

Business tycoon Ramon S. Ang calls Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz the trailblazer of the Philippines

As Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz received the promised P10 million reward from business tycoon Ramon S. Ang, she was referred to as the nation’s trailblazer in relation to the pioneering achievement she made for the Philippines during the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Business tycoon Ramon S. Ang with Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. (photo from Ramon S. Ang Facebook page)

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) article. Some parts in boldface…

San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang sees Hidilyn Diaz as a game-changer after she ended the Philippines’ 97-year hunt for its first Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Hidilyn is the country’s trailblazer in our successful Olympic gold medal quest. After years of heartbreaks, she came through for us and we are very thankful as a nation,” Ang said on Tuesday.

Diaz, together with fiancé and coach Julius Naranja, personally received the PHP10 million reward Ang pledged for anyone who would capture the then elusive gold.

Diaz won the women’s 55-kg. weightlifting event at the Tokyo Olympics on July 26, making the Philippines a part of the Olympic gold medal countries’ list.

It also served as the biggest good news the Filipinos have ever received amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Her victory comes at a very crucial point in our country’s history when we are grappling with a pandemic and a lot of Filipinos are looking for hope as we fight this virus and cope with the difficulties it has brought,” Ang said.

Upon meeting at the SMC office in Pasig City, however, he gave Diaz a surprise gift.

Ang rewarded Diaz with two Magnolia Chick ‘N Juicy franchises that she could put up at her new condominium in Quezon City and at her hometown in Zamboanga City.

“With the franchise outlets, we will assist Hidilyn every step of the way in her journey as an entrepreneur so that she can also help other people in need of jobs. In addition to the physical stores, equipment, and training, we will also provide the initial stocks for free to get her started,” he added.

The generosity of Ramon S. Ang is truly amazing and genuine. Not only was the promised cash reward released to Hidilyn Diaz, he gifted her with commercial franchises which can add to our nation’s economy by creating opportunities for the unemployed to bounce back from poverty while providing choices to consumers looking for good products. I really like this because I truly believe that capitalism the way to prosperity and the most effective way to lift people up from poverty. Capitalism does socio-economic wonders while socialism only drags people down and ruins societies. As it is a fact that cash rewards/incentives from both the government and private sector cannot last forever as the cost of living only keeps going up, having a business that succeeds will keep prevent people from falling into poverty. To see Hidilyn Diaz gifted with business franchises is great!

For those who are not aware, Chick ‘N Juicy is a chicken rotisseries retail business that has many branches and it is being expanded. Chick ‘N Juicy sells chicken supplied by sister company Magnolia. Customers can order from them online with products like sweet roast chicken, garlic roast chicken, fried chicken drumsticks, chicken rice meals and more at https://www.chicknjuicyofficial.com/

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Are you happy about our nation’s Olympic gold medalist getting rewarded and gifted by tycoon Ramon S. Ang?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

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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

What caught my attention during the Xbox Gamescom 2021 showcase

The Xbox Gamescom 2021 digital event has passed and it turned out to be different from the acclaimed Xbox-Bethesda event. Just before it happened, Team Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg posted on Twitter stating: Running about 90 min & focused on game updates coming this year. So to set expectations, no new reveals or major surprises, but fun stream with our amazing hosts @vicious696 @kateyeager !

It was different in terms of tone, upcoming games, and announcements but ultimately it was still fun. In case you missed the Xbox Gamescom 2021 live stream, it is posted below for your viewing pleasure…

What caught my attention

Remember when I first wrote about The Gunk which was originally slated for a September 2021 release exclusively on Xbox? After such a long period of no updates from developer Thunderful, a brand-new trailer of the game was shown during the Gamescom showcase of Microsoft and what is notable was that it turned out to be the first look on its gameplay! Watch and look closely at the new The Gunk trailer below…

According to the Xbox.com article written by Thunderful’s game director Ulf Hartelius, The Gunk will finally be released this coming December (previously targeted for September 2021 release). Read the excerpt below. Some parts in boldface…

We’re extremely happy to have finally revealed our first gameplay trailer during the gamescom 2021 – Xbox Stream.

Early on, we decided to use Unreal Engine 4 to bring this story to life. It not only allows us to rapidly prototype and iterate, but it also offers us incredible flexibility and powerful graphics tools that have made the jump from 2D to 3D extremely smooth for the team. On top of that, we added some of our own super cool tech to do things like give the gunk a life of its own. From the outset, our goal was for the gunk to have this mesmerising quality, something you can just sit and watch bubble away for ages, like a lava lamp.

Partnering with Xbox has been incredible, and we wanted to leverage the power of the Xbox ecosystem to its fullest potential. We’ve made a massive effort to ensure that whatever platform you play on, you will experience our full vision of The Gunk.

As is to be expected, we’re using Smart Delivery to best support all Xbox platforms. On Xbox One, you can expect a stable 30fps experience that offers the beautiful art design and graphical flourishes that you have seen in our trailer. If you’re playing on Xbox Series X|S or a high-end PC, everything is dialled up and we aim to provide you with a smooth 60fps gameplay experience at up to 4K resolution.

Considering the high expectations that Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite are the premier Xbox-exclusive games set for the 4th quarter this year, The Gunk is a welcome Xbox-exclusive addition that gamers can look forward to especially if they are searching for science fiction adventuring laced with exploration. Personally, I am looking forward to The Gunk!

State of Decay 2 was surprising. While I never got to play any State of Decay game, this update for the game (which was first released in 2018) looks like a serious attempt to resonate with dedicated franchise fans as it will deliver the original map of the first game (launched on Xbox 360) which will be presented with an open-world aesthetic. The said update is coming out on September 1, 2021. Watch the trailer below…

More on State of Decay 2, here is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Will Tuttle. Some parts in boldface…

In this new version of the iconic map, players will learn about the latest developments in this area, discovering new characters and storylines and resolving long-running plot threads.

Players can also look forward to six new bases, as well as unique weapons and outfits that can only be found in Trumbull Valley. New missions and new achievements await those who choose to settle on this new map.

In addition, we are proud to announce that State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition has surpassed 10 million players since its launch, a major milestone reflecting the success and popularity of the ultimate survival-sim game.

I never played the original Dying Light game and am not a fan of zombie-related gaming, but Dying Light 2: Stay Human was intriguing and entertaining to watch during the Xbox Gamescom 2021 event with lead game designer Tymon Smektala and animation director Dawid Lubryka of Techland doing the presentation. To see more of the game, watch the video below…

Here’s an excerpt from the Xbox.com article. Some parts in boldface…

The designers at Techland put a lot of attention to parkour animations. There are thousands of them, making navigation feel incredibly smooth. We wanted to make it as close as possible to the real world, while keeping all the moves fun and easy to pull off. But what takes exploration to the next level is your new set of skills—and gear! Oh yes, you don’t have to rely on your body alone. From the new paraglider to the ever-useful grappling hook, you’ll be able to make the most epic runs. They’ll often take place hundreds of meters above the street level. There are also ropes to swing on, rope bridges, trampolines, elevators—you name it. Of course, you’re going to need some practice before you master the navigation.

Survival is not just about moving around, however. Parkour is like yin to creative combat’s yang. Combine the two, and you’ll truly have a chance to see another sunrise! In Dying Light 2: Stay Human, the way you approach enemies can — and should — differ after you consider some factors. First of all, the faction you’ve sided with can impose (or prefer) a certain style of playing. Some like to steamroll through the enemy, others prefer to be more subtle about it. But ultimately, you choose how you play, so another thing to watch out for is who you’re facing. Between the Infected and the various factions surviving in the city, everyone will try to take you down in a different way. Some enemies will act alone. Some will work in a group. It’s good to learn the different behavior patterns and recognize what kind of weapons your enemies are carrying.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human was first announced during the Xbox event of the E3 in 2018 and in January 2020, it was announced that the game would be delayed. The game is set for a December 7, 2021 release for multiple platforms.

Crusader Kings III, which was released on personal computers in 2020, is coming to Xbox Series consoles as well as Xbox Game Pass (XGP) although a clear and specific release date has yet to be announced as of this writing.

I find this one interesting as I enjoyed simulation, strategy and role-playing games on PC before. I also enjoy playing games that allow gamers to make decisions out of the choices offered and show what happened next. Already an assurance has been made that Crusader Kings III has been optimized for Xbox Series consoles. Check out the excerpt from the Xbox.com article below. Some parts in boldface…

The Xbox Series X|S adaptation of Crusader Kings III will take advantage of the many strengths of the system, bringing special benefits. For example, the Xbox Series X|S internal SSD will allow for ultrafast loading times will enable you to easily switch between the game and a playthrough or tutorial you are checking out on YouTube.

The UI has been customized to work with the Xbox Wireless Controller, including the addition of radial menus, ensuring that none of the depth and detail of the Crusader Kings III experience has been lost in translation.

The release date for Crusader Kings III for Xbox Series X|S will be announced soon, but we can already commit to having this title available on Xbox Game Pass on day one. We hope that the Xbox community will grasp the opportunity to play one of the most popular strategy titles in the world.

Last but not least is Forza Horizon 5 which is set for a November 9, 2021 release and it is only looking even better and more promising. Check out the two newest videos below…

Playground Games are really experts in their craft with regards to open-world racing games as you can see in the above videos. The Mexico setting is just waiting to be explored and I am confident there will not only be a lot of locations to visit but also surprises and very exciting races to compete in. Check out the excerpt from the Xbox.com article below. Some parts in boldface…

As you play through Forza Horizon 5 and explore our expansive version of Mexico, you can expect cargo planes, an active volcano, a race to the festival under beautiful Mexican skies, and more. You’ll see exciting sights like the Ford Bronco Badlands atop the active, snow-capped Gran Caldera volcano, the 2020 Corvette Stingray tearing up the asphalt towards a dust storm in the Mexican farmland, and the Porsche 911 Desert Flyer crashing through the dense jungle tree canopy.

And finally, you’ll get to experience the stunning Mercedes-AMG ONE at full speed along Mexico’s sunbaked rocky coast.

Conclusion

The Xbox Gamescom 2021 digital event served its purpose with regards to games coming to the Xbox ecosystem this year (note: Psychonauts 2 got another pre-launch boost) as well as delivering updates for Xbox Game Pass subscribers as well as new stuff for Xbox gamers who rely on cloud services for their gaming needs. The Xbox-exclusives presented (led by Forza Horizon 5) are not as high-caliber as those showcased in the Xbox-Bethesda event of months ago, but still there is something exciting for the Xbox ecosystem and its gamers to look forward to.

In my honest view, Team Xbox and 343 Industries missed an opportunity to give gamers a much-needed update about Halo Infinite which, as of this writing, still has no solid release date and lacks serious updates about the single-player campaign! By now, the positive vibes from the multiplayer previews have faded and the recent reports about Halo Infinite are discouraging. While Japan is having very serious COVID-19 problems, the 2021 edition of the Tokyo Game Show is still on as of this writing. Will we see Team Xbox organize a Tokyo Game Show-related digital event to emphasize Halo Infinite and provide the much-needed updates? We will find out soon. Really, the pressure is now on 343 Industries to ensure Halo Infinite will be great to play.

In ending this piece, here are some Xbox-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

Better than Streaming: Super Dimension Century Orguss complete series coming out on Blu-ray format on September 28, 2021

Welcome back to this latest edition of the Better than Streaming series! If you are fond of 1980s anime, especially with productions by Studio Nue (the same studio behind Super Dimension Fortress Macross), then you should be delighted to know that the entire Super Dimension Century Orguss series is coming out on Blu-ray format on September 28, 2021 and you can order it online right now!

The Blu-ray cover.

Handled by DiscoTek Media, all 35 episodes will be compiled and presented in high-definition complete with Japanese dialogue (with English subtitles). There will also be 17 episodes dubbed in English which I believe were produced at a time when U.S. Renditions still existed. As of this writing, the price is around $70.

To put things in perspective, posted below are details from the Blu-ray.com page of Super Dimension Century Orguss. Some parts in boldface…

Video

Codec: TBA

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Audio

Japanese: LPCM 2.0

English: LPCM 2.0

Subtitles

English

Discs

Blu-ray Disc

Three-disc set (3 BD-50)

Packaging

Slipcover in original pressing

Playback

2K Blu-ray: Region A

Description

Today, Kei Katsuragi‘s only concern is the love of his life. It doesn’t really matter to him that he has more than one love – after all, as a pilot for the Freedom Space Corps, he might be dead tomorrow! In the future, war has changed, and Kei is all too familiar with the horrors it can bring. Atomic, biological, and chemical weapons are all in use, but even worse than those are the dimensional weapons, ordnance capable of tearing apart even time and space!

As it happens, his next mission involves one of these terrifying weapons, the latest risky gambit in the war over the space elevator on Earth. Fleeing from the warmth of his lover (and her father’s gun) to the coldness of space, Kei fights to protect a team of engineers as they arm the dimensional weapon on-site. But when they get orders to pull out without detonating the bomb, Kei disobeys, unwilling to make the sacrifices of the day meaningless. His brash actions have dire consequences beyond just a big kaboom, as that explosion flings him into the future!

There, Kei finds himself caught in an entirely different struggle between the militaristic Chiram and the mercantile Emaan – with himself as the prize! Will this womanizing hot shot pilot make it back to his own time, or is there something more to Kei being the “singularity”?

Here is something for long-time Orguss fans as well as for those who are about to discover Super Dimension Century Orguss for the first time.

I personally am interested in this upcoming multiple-disc Blu-ray set of Orguss. For one thing, I actually saw its sequel Super Dimension Century Orguss 02 first way back in the mid-1990s and learned that there is a storyline gap of two hundred years between them. It was only a few years ago I got to watch some English-dubbed episodes (done by U.S. Renditions) of Super Dimension Century Orguss and found its sci-fi concept really intriguing. It was also a fresh change of pace as well as a different type of immersion after I indulged myself with Studio Nue’s most famous works related to the Super Dimension Fortress Macross franchise (read my retro review of Macross: Do You Remember Love?).

Anyone who saw Macross first will realize certain common visual elements between it and the Orguss TV series (1983-1984) which should be no surprise since they are both Studio Nue productions. Even notable Macross female characters had cameo appearances in the early Orguss episodes. It is also a fact that prolific anime director Noboru Ishiguro worked on the Super Dimension Fortress Macross TV series, the Super Dimension Century Orguss TV seriesand the feature film Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Going back to the future Blu-ray release of Orguss, I am hoping that the image quality will be good apart from being presented in high-definition. As it is decades-old anime series, its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 will still be retained and that means you will see thick, black borders on the left and right sides of the screen. As for the colors, I hope the technical crew will enhance the colors a bit to be presentable in HD.

The signature robot in the Orguss series.

Once Super Dimension Century Orguss comes out finally on Blu-ray disc format on September 28, 2021, only then we will find out how good the visuals and audio will be. Stay tuned for more right here!

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-rayV: The Original Miniseries Blu-ray (read my retro review), V: The Final Battle Blu-rayHighlander 4K Blu-ray and The Suicide Squad.

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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

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