The latest gameplay footage of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is very impressive!

Just hours after playing the first five hours and thirty-seven minutes of Halo Infinite on my Xbox Series X which I greatly enjoyed, I got to watch YouTube videos of The Game Awards (hosted by Geoff Keighly). And for the 3rd straight year of the said awards, Team Xbox unleashed another visual showcase for Xbox fans and gamers in general to enjoy about the future of gaming. I’m talking about the gameplay reveal of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, the high-profile Xbox-exclusive game being made by Ninja Theory for Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows PC.

That being said, I urge you all to watch the official gameplay footage below…

Wow! That was a very cinematic and artistic looking gameplay showcase of the Senua’s Saga! When I first saw it, I had this first impression that it was all just a pre-rendered cinematic but when I saw the key moments of gameplay – particularly with Senua carrying the sharp sticks to throw at the monster much like a javelin – I realized it was a game designed to give gamers the cinematic look and interactivity mixed together.

The footage shown had a very cinematic look thanks to the extremely high amount of detail not only on the real-time graphics used but also on the animation and the overall artistic design and work (great job there, Ninja Theory talents!). In addition, the facial expressions, acting and motion-captured action done by Melina Juergens (official Instagram and Twitter) really pushed the immersion even higher!

Very detailed visuals combined with a very unique art style.

For the newcomers reading this, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the sequel to the acclaimed 2017 multiplatform game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which was developed and published by Ninja Theory at a time when they were still an independent studio. That particular game was not just a fancy looking action-oriented game…it had a daring concept of tackling psychosis on top of its already intriguing fantasy concept and unique game design.

Going back to Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, what was shown recently was not the first time it was showcased at The Game Awards. The 2019 edition of the said awards saw the official unveiling of Xbox Series X and the sequel which really generated a lot of positive buzz and showed how serious Team Xbox really is when it comes to creating compelling video games going into this current console generation.

Melina Juergens as Senua is very life-like, right down to the on-screen emotions.

As Ninja Theory is now officially part of Team Xbox as a developer under Xbox Game Studios, it comes to no surprise that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is an Xbox-exclusive game being made for the Xbox Series consoles and Windows PC. As there is no Xbox One version at all, this shows that the new game is aiming high with the latest console and PC technologies and that many millions of gamers around the world will eventually have unique gameplay experiences as well as new levels of immersion with Senua’s Saga.

As for the people who hate Xbox and the console fanboys who believe that there should be no exclusive games for Xbox, you are all just wasting your lives with your video game prejudice and you are also proving that video game-related bigotry is true. Similar to Xbox-Bethesda, Ninja Theory is NOT obligated to release new games on consoles that are not Xbox-related. Even though Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a multi-platform hit, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is absolutely not coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch (not even the eventual Switch successor). Your emotion-led demands for Senua’s Saga to be released on your non-Xbox console do not count as law.If you really want the sequel but vehemently oppose anything Xbox, there is the Windows PC for you. You have a choice!

As of this writing, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II does not yet have a final release date. That being said, let’s just keep waiting for Ninja Theory to full complete and polish the game first.

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

+++++

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/

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.

+++++

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

Xbox 20th Anniversary Celebration online set for November 15, 2021

The wave of positivity for Xbox and its global community of fans continues to go on. For one thing, the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X collectively sold over 100,000 units in Japan easily surpassing the Xbox One there and Team Xbox made clear it is NOT giving up on Japanese gamers and developers. The positive vibes generated by the highly successful Xbox-Bethesda E3 2021 games showcase continue to be felt as Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite are both set for global releases this November and December respectively. On Xbox Game Pass (XGP), it was announced recently that more than one hundred games support Xbox touch controls. Team Xbox also made video gaming more accessible to people with disabilities which is something that Nintendo and Sony could not even do. For the future of Xbox gaming, Team Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed that his team will continue to pursue acquisitions of game studios and talents.

November 15, 2021 will be a very significant date as it will mark the 20th anniversary of Xbox (note: new products for the anniversary will be released on that same day) and hot news right now is that Team Xbox announced there will be an anniversary celebration event that will be streamed on that very day! Check out the official image below…

Take note of the schedule and time zones.

To put things in perspective, posted below are selected excerpts from the Xbox.com article written by Xbox Games Studios head Matt Booty. Some parts in boldface…

We invite you to join us on Nov. 15 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Xbox and Halo with a fun, digital broadcast for fans around the globe. While we won’t announce any new games, this anniversary broadcast will be a special look back at 20 years of Xbox. We’ll share more details soon, so stay tuned.

We’ve been hard at work to deliver three months of back-to-back game launches. And while we hope you’ll join us in celebrating 20 years of Xbox history, know that we’re hard at work on the road ahead and what’s to come in the next 20 years.

As seen in Booty’s words above, Team Xbox prepared something special for the fans to watch and enjoy. While Booty made clear that new games won’t be announced – a clear attempt to temper expectations – there will still be something enjoyable and commemorative. For one thing, Xbox and Halo go together as seen in Xbox history. Since November 15, 2001, Microsoft sold many millions of Xbox consoles worldwide, paved the way for establishing online console gaming with innovative ways, built up a huge fan base, established Xbox as a major entertainment brand, established Halo as a major pop culture phenomenon and established Xbox as a major ecosystem that link console gamers and Windows PC gamers together!

For the future – the next 20 years – that Matt Booty stated, things are very promising and exciting as there are 23 Xbox game studios (including those from Bethesda) already working on several projects each ensuring that there will be a whole lot of Xbox-exclusive games coming in the near future! On November 11, 2022, Bethesda’s major sci-fi role playing game (RPG) Starfield will be released exclusively on Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and Windows PC. Meanwhile, RPG specialists Obsidian Entertainment is progressing with its development of the Xbox-exclusive fantasy RPG Avowed and they are also working on the Xbox-exclusive sci-fi RPG sequel The Outer Worlds 2. Bethesda’s studio Arkane Studios is hard at work on the Xbox-exclusive Redfall which will be released in the summer of 2022. Meanwhile, 3rd party studio Avalanche is developing the Xbox-exclusive game Contraband in partnership with Team Xbox. Oh, I should remind you readers and gamers that the Square Enix-controlled game studio Crystal Dynamics is working as a production partner with Xbox game studio The Initiative on the Xbox-exclusive Perfect Dark reboot.

Clearly the old belief that Xbox has no games is simply no more and really is not true anymore by today’s standards. To insist that Xbox has no games today is simply foolish to do.

Speaking of future games, Matt Booty also announced that high profile games of Xbox will be released in this crucial 4th quarter! There are a few releases apart from Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite to look forward to.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from Booty’s article. Some parts in boldface…

Now, just weeks before the Xbox 20th anniversary in November, we’re excited to kick-off three epic months of back-to-back blockbuster game launches in Game Pass:

  • The Age of Empires franchise has been a major part of Microsoft’s gaming legacy for 24 years and the Oct. 28 launch of Age of Empires IV will be our biggest yet, bringing the evolved real-time strategy game to a new generation on Steam and Game Pass for PC on day one.
  • Minecraft will join Game Pass for PC on Nov. 2, followed by new Minecraft Dungeons Seasonal Adventures in December, and Caves & Cliffs: Part II later this year.
  • On Nov. 9, gaming’s premier racing franchise returns when Forza Horizon 5’s open-world adventure in Mexico speeds into Xbox Game Pass. Our biggest Forza Horizon ever and winner of the Most Anticipated Game of E3 award, Forza Horizon 5 will launch simultaneously on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC and Steam, and Game Pass including console, PC and Cloud Gaming (beta).
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition launches Nov. 18 as a free update for existing players, including Game Pass members, with five new aircrafts, eight new airports, new Discovery Flights and tutorials, and highly requested community features like DX12 support. Microsoft Flight Simulator will also release the exciting Reno Air Races, which features the fastest motorsport on Earth will also be available on Nov. 18.
  • The Master Chief returns on Dec. 8 with Halo Infinite. This is the Halo we imagined 20 years ago, finally come to life in the largest Halo game we have ever made. Halo Infinite will be available in Game Pass when it launches across Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Game Pass Ultimate members will also receive monthly multiplayer bonuses as part of the Perks program.

Our teams have also been expanding on the games you love. These last few months you explored Minecraft: Caves & Cliffs Part 1Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s LifeState of Decay 2: HomecomingGrounded: Hot and Hazy, and last week’s Halo: The Master Chief Collection Season 8. We’re honored that millions of you continue to play in these worlds together.

Wow! The holiday season this year is looking great for Xbox fans and gamers who are looking for the best in console and PC gaming! This Xbox 20th anniversary celebration is indeed exciting and it is only the beginning for even more excitement coming in 2022, 2023 and further years!

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

+++++

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 Flashback (Super NES)

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

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

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

The cover of the game box.

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

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

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

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

The start and options screen.

Early story

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

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

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

Game design and quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

+++++

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

A Look Back at Top Gear (SNES)

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

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

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

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

The game cover.

Concept and Game Design

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

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

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

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

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

Quality

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

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

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

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

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

Night driving in 2D.

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

Conclusion

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

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

Overall, Top Gear is highly recommended!

+++++

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

A Look Back at Secret of the Stars (SNES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cover of the game.

Early story

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

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

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

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

Quality

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

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

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

Red slime? More like purple!

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

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

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

Conclusion

Do you know someone named or codenamed Badbad?

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

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

+++++

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

Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase delivered the great stuff!

I can start by saying the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase was indeed worth the wait and even though it was not perfect (a few games shown that were not too interesting and a certain 1st party exclusive game had an excessive amount of time of the showcase), Team Xbox, Bethesda and their strategic partners in gaming succeeded in delivering the great stuff. There were so many games, including very promising Xbox-exclusive games and many new additions into Xbox Game Pass (XGP), the people who hated Xbox became silent during the showcase and some time after!

To put things in perspective, those of you who missed out on the livestream – plus the Xbox haters whether they saw it or not – I encourage you to watch the Xbox-Bethesda Games Showcase YouTube video below. Take your time.

So you must be wondering what I think about the showcase.

Other than the fact that it was efficiently organized, nicely paced and the Xbox and Bethesda executives/producers had a nice physical stage that gave the online event a more impressive viewing atmosphere, the amount of games – from the big budget productions to the smaller, indie productions – was incredible! Then again, that should not be a surprise at all! Not only did Phil Spencer and the Xbox core team learned from last year’s standalone games showcase, the integration of Bethesda and its games being mixed with the others (from the 3rd party game makers and other Xbox game developers) resulted a powerful lineup for the whole world of gamers to see! Not only that, there is a huge load of games to be added into Xbox Game Pass which I am confident will attract even more gamers to join in and subscribe!

As for the games and key moments that I found engaging, I should say that starting the showcase with Starfield (with Todd Howard as presenter) in the form of a teaser trailer (which used real-time graphics powered by the Creation 2 engine) was very surprising as I anticipated it to be shown somewhere in the middle of the event. Regardless, I enjoyed it a lot and, in a way, it was like Team Xbox and Bethesda decided to confirm the release date and the Xbox-exclusivity of the game once and for all.

Todd Howard presenting Starfield early in the showcase.

The trailer looked great and it shows what kind of environment and visual style Bethesda is aiming for. It also shows that Howard and his team are aiming for something unique and fresh apart from what they did with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The moment I saw the 11-11-22 appear as the trailer played, I quickly realized that, in light of this pandemic, Starfield will be released on November 11, 2022 and I immediately understood that it’s not yet time for them to show gameplay footage. More importantly, Starfield is indeed an Xbox-exclusive title coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC! That’s right! The Xbox fans who want Starfield but are still stuck with the aging Xbox One, they still have time to upgrade by acquiring an Xbox Series console (which is still hampered by supply constraints) or having a Windows PC that is capable of running the game.

What Microsoft owns, Sony and Nintendo cannot touch! Starfield is exclusive to Xbox!

Given its late 2022 release date, I believe that next year’s edition of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase will show Starfield with gameplay footage! As written in Xbox.com: Starfield is the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom as you embark on an epic journey to answer humanity’s greatest mystery.

Next is Halo Infinite!

After the stage presentation by Bonnie Ross and Halo franchise veteran Joseph Staten, Halo Infinite was shown with real-time (in-engine) graphics emphasizing more of the in-game environment of the Halo ring and, more notably, the story concept was emphasized more with the iconic Master Chief floating through space (he even took a moment to look at one of his fellow soldiers who died) and meeting a new female AI who eerily resembles Cortana (who was the villainess in Halo 5: Guardians). Then they showed a real-time preview of the multiplayer of the game which was impressive.

Unlike last year, Halo Infinite looks so much better and it was clear that serious adjustments were made to achieve the next-generation look. The signature look of the Halo franchise has been maintained but with much more striking visual details and a really smooth frame rate.

While the multiplayer is very impressive, I find it baffling that they did not show any single-player gameplay footage as I hoped to see them improve over last year’s disappointment. While it is clear they have yet to complete the game in time for the 2021 holiday season (even an Xbox One version has been confirmed) and probably were not prepared to show single-player gameplay footage in the showcase, I speculate that Team Xbox and 343 Industries could be preparing another presentation of Halo Infinite at this year’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS 2021) which will be an online event.

As for the minimal showing of the story concept of Halo Infinite, I am satisfied with that right now and I prefer that 343 Industries and the Xbox marketing team should refrain from spoiling the plot (which is too common in Hollywood blockbusters) and save it for gamers to find out. I am confident right now that this new game has what it takes to exceed Halo 5: Guardians. What Team Xbox needs to do announce a final release date.

When it comes to the smaller, indie productions, the Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes & Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising really surprised me! I never expected these spiritual successors to Suikoden to be part of the showcase at all!

As written in Xbox.com: 505 Games, Rabbit & Bear, and Microsoft are teaming up to bring the next incredible JRPG adventure by legendary game storyteller Yoshitaka Murayama to Xbox! We’re also thrilled to present the first official Eiyuden Chronicle franchise trailer for you today.

Studio Lead Yoshitaka Murayama (Suikoden I & II) and Director Osamu Komuta are joining forces once again to bring us an unforgettable journey through the world of Allraan.

Anyone who played the first two Suikoden games will notice the similarity of aesthetics in this upcoming game.

Wow! Not one but TWO Eiyuden Chronicle games are coming to Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass with one in 2022 and the other in 2023! Having been a Suikoden fan as well as having played Japanese RPGs on consoles long ago (note: I was a PlayStation fan along the way), I am very delighted about this latest announcement. The Eiyuden Chronicle games add even more to the build-up of Xbox becoming the premier destination and ecosystem for gamers who love playing role-playing games (RPGs)!

For more on the Eiyuden Chronicle franchise of games, I encourage you to visit them at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

More on RPGs, I recently expressed I wanted more science fiction RPGs (sci-fi RPGs) from Team Xbox. As Starfield has been confirmed as Xbox-exclusive for 2022 from Bethesda, RPG specialist Obsidian Entertainment made my wish come true with the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2! That was easily one of the highlights of the showcase for me personally as I love Western RPGs and I replayed The Outer Worlds many times! Watch this CGI trailer!

There is so much to love in the 2019 multi-platform RPG The Outer Worlds and in recent times its full vision and concepts – both of which were limited by time and budget – were finalized with the release of the two DLC packs. Now that The Outer Worlds franchise is under the full control of Team Xbox, it is inevitable that Obsidian Entertainment will have tremendously more resources and access to better technologies (note: imagine certain game engines made by Bethesda being utilized by Obsidian) to make their grander concepts and new gameplay features come true in The Outer Worlds 2! This is another Xbox-exclusive RPG to look forward to after Avowed which Obsidian is focusing on right now.

Next that interested me is The Ascent.

Having seen the game a year ago, The Ascent has very nice visuals, a solid art style, a nice presentation of future technologies and most notably a lot of action that are so good to look at. It’s coming out on July 29, 2021 already and I am confident it will be a hit with Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Microsoft made the smart move on approaching the game makers. The Ascent will launch exclusively on Xbox game consoles (including Xbox One) and Windows PC.  

Psychonauts 2 also caught my attention.

Even though I never got to play the original Psychonauts from a long time ago, the sequel still impressed me and sparked my interest with regards to platform action, adventuring and the visual concepts from the mind of Tim Schafer. It should be noted that Microsoft acquired Double Fine and purchased the publishing rights from the previous owner. Psychonauts 2 is set for an August 25, 2021 release. 

Contraband is a future project exclusive to Xbox Series consoles and PC.

The CGI trailer was pretty cryptic and at best only showed visual concepts that should be realized in the form of gameplay in the future. Very clearly, this is an Xbox Game Studios project in partnership with Avalanche Studios (Mad Max, Just Cause games). As written in Xbox.com: 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.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl was really eye-catching.

I can confidently say that this game is very atmospheric, gritty and even horrifying. It’s a first-person shooter designed to grab the player and pull him/her deeply into its ravaged in-game setting. I can speculate that this game could push players to come up with the courage to not only endure its challenge but also overcome the horror elements along the way. This one’s heading to Xbox Series consoles and PC on April 28, 2022.

As for Team Xbox’s newest exclusive racing game, Forza Horizon 5 turned out to be real and the same goes with its Mexico setting. This one’s coming to all Xbox consoles and Windows PC on November 9, 2021!

Forza Horizon 5 is a stunner on Xbox Series X! The photo-realism is so high (from the specific parts of the car right up to the many elements comprising the vast open world) this new game made by Playground Games could easily convince people they were looking at real-life, physical objects and places.

As written on Xbox.com: Forza Horizon 5 showcases powerful, all-new graphical features. Experience sweeping vistas and scan the distance to see the adventure that lies ahead. Encounter the smallest of details throughout the world which is rendered with striking realism, down to the smallest details like the light that glows through each needle on a Cholla cactus. Our Mexican HDR sky captures illuminate the world to the point that you will feel as if you are right there. And thanks to Xbox Series X|S, ray tracing is utilized in Forzavista to make the cars look even more true to real life.

I am looking forward to playing Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Series X!

To my surprise, Xbox chief Phil Spencer appeared near the end of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase and gave the remarks. He did say that they had one new thing to show and it’s another exclusive thanks to Bethesda’s developer Arkane Austin…Redfall! Watch this CGI trailer and just imagine how they turn its visual concepts into actual gameplay in the near future. I find this intriguing and unique.

As written in Xbox.com: Redfall is coming exclusively to Xbox X|S and PC in Summer 2022 and will be available with Game Pass on day one.

Conclusion

The Xbox-Bethesda showcase is not only great…it also shows that with the full-backing of Microsoft, the integration with Bethesda, the 23 active Xbox game studios, and strong business relationships with game makers/publishers going on, Team Xbox is stronger than ever and Phil Spencer’s leadership is something worth emulating. They have what it takes to make video gaming more exciting and more enjoyable than even the Xbox 360 console generation. 30 games showcased (with a great majority of them heading to Xbox Game Pass) and with many Xbox-exclusives among them, the years-old belief that Xbox has no games is dead and those who keep on moving with that belief are just wasting their lives and spreading their poisonous thoughts through social media.

As for Xbox fans and all others who love video games, the Xbox-Bethesda showcase is more than just a grand presentation of gaming…it is a celebration of the love and enjoyment of video games as well as the benefits capitalism makes for consumers! As seen in the showcase, there is definitely something for most gamers and their tastes. Now is a good time for newcomers in gaming to join the Xbox community and ecosystem.

Gaming on Xbox is more exciting and more promising than ever! In due time, gamers from around the world will be able to enjoy games on Xbox consoles and Windows PC!

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: Did the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase live up to your expectations? On a scale 1 to 10 (lowest to highest), how would you rate the showcase? What was the biggest surprise among the major games and the small, indie games? Was the inclusion of the Eiyuden Chronicle games in the showcase surprising to you?

What do you think about Forza Horizon 5 and its Mexico setting? Does the announcement of The Outer Worlds 2 make you excited about playing RPGs only on Xbox consoles and Windows PC? Was the confirmation of the Xbox-exclusivity of Starfield surprising to you? Do you look forward to playing Redfall and/or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl in 2022?

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

Xbox strategies taking shape with Microsoft’s full support and strong dedication!

We are just days away from the highly anticipated Xbox-Bethesda games showcase! Very recently, Team Xbox emphasized further its overall strategy of delivering interactive entertainment that goes way beyond the traditional model of selling consoles and games, and behind it all they have the full support of Microsoft itself!

Let’s start with the special presentation involving both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer. Watch the video and listen very closely.

“Gaming is fundamentally aligned and woven in our mission as a company,” Satya Nadella said. “When you talk about Xbox’s mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet, which I absolutely love, this is precisely what I think of when we think about Microsoft’s mission, which is to empower every person, every organization on the planet to achieve more. As a company, Microsoft’s all-in on gaming.”

Microsoft’s CEO confirmed that the corporation has indeed gone all in for Team Xbox and this is clearly a radical change compared to what happened in the previous console generation when the team was not a true priority for the corporation.

When it was a non-priority within the corporation’s hierarchy, Team Xbox was severely limited in producing first-party exclusives, severely limited in making big-time partnerships with other game developers/publishers, and designed a very flawed console with Xbox One. The result was a doomed 8th console generation (or the 3rd Xbox console generation) and the Xbox One sold much less than Xbox 360 worldwide and could not match the high number of exclusive games on Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4). Phil Spencer did what he could since taking over as Team Xbox chief.

That is all in the past now! With the full support of Microsoft and with Phil Spencer and his team now a clear priority for the corporation, Team Xbox has a lot of momentum moving forward in this 9th console generation. Mega publisher Bethesda has been integrated into Team Xbox and there will be Bethesda-produced exclusive games that gamers with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Windows PC can look forward to. With 23 game developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, several 1st party exclusives are already being produced like Avowed (plus the expected The Outer Worlds franchise) from Obsidian Entertainment, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II from Ninja Theory, the next-generation Forza Motorsport game from Turn 10 Studios and Perfect Dark from The Initiative to name a few. When it comes to paid subscription services, it was reported that Xbox Game Pass (XGP) subscribers reached 18,000,000+ and right now Sony and Nintendo have no serious services of their own to compete with it. I should also mention Team Xbox is continuing with plans of acquisitions of game developers.

With the forward momentum clear, we can now take a look at the strategies as published in Xbox.com written by Xbox Wire Editor-in-Chief Will Tuttle. Some parts in boldface…

Xbox Game Pass is Changing the Way We Discover, Connect, and Play

  • Xbox Game Pass members play 30% more genres and play 40% more games. And more than 90% of members said they played a game that they would not have tried without Game Pass.
  • On average across the Game Pass library, partners see engagement go up by more than 8x when they enter Game Pass.
  • Whether it’s purchasing games inside or outside of what’s available in the library, or purchasing additional content for the games they like, members spend 50% more than non-members.
  • Xbox Game Pass has become a true discovery engine, a platform for connection and community, and is driving game sales. New insights we’re sharing today include:
    • Since we started our partnership with EA Play in Game Pass Ultimate, our players have been engaging with EA’s subscription service in a significant way. Compared to before the integration, EA Play has seen record usage on Microsoft platforms, driving hours played on these platforms up by more than 200%. As a result, EA’s incredible portfolio of games has reached and gained millions of new fans on the Xbox platform.
    • The new Square Enix game Outriders is in Game Pass and was also the #1 selling digital game on Xbox during its launch week and a top 10 selling digital game on Xbox in the month of April. Game Pass helped introduce millions of players to the game.
    • During launch week, MLB: The Show 21 was the biggest sports game of the past year on Xbox and the second biggest sports game of all time on Xbox. Game Pass added millions of new fans and grew Major League Baseball’s player base significantly. MLB: The Show 21 was also the #1 selling paid game on Xbox for the month of April. 

Xbox and Xbox Game Pass are Coming to More Screens

  • Xbox is working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions with no extra hardware required except a controller.
  • Xbox is exploring new subscription offerings for Xbox Game Pass so more players around the world can experience the most immersive and fun games across devices, geographies, and financial realities.
  • Xbox is working with telecommunications providers on new purchasing models like Xbox All Access, which allows consumers to buy both a console and Game Pass for a low monthly price, rather than spending money up front.
  • Xbox is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any TV or monitor without the need for a console at all.
  • Cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will launch in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan later this year.
  • In the next few weeks, cloud gaming on the browser will open to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. With Edge, Chrome, and Safari support, players will be a click away from gaming on almost any device. 
  • We’re in the final stages of updating our Microsoft datacenters around the world with our latest generation of hardware, the Xbox Series X. This means gamers will see faster load times, improved frame rates, and experience Xbox Series X|S optimized games.
  • Later this year, we’ll add cloud gaming directly into the Xbox app on PC and integrate it into our console experience to light up scenarios like try before you download

An Incredible Pipeline of Games

  • With more than 23 studios worldwide creating games for Xbox, our goal is to release at least one new, first party game into Game Pass every quarter. Role playing games, shooters, strategy titles, adventure games, and more are all being built by our first party teams to ensure that there is a steady stream of compelling exclusive content to explore.
  • Our independent developer program ID@Xbox has earned developers over $2B dollars since the program’s inception, with over 2000 titles launched and many more on the way. This model is now being used for ID@Azure, allowing independent devs to build cloud-based experiences. These programs bring new voices from diverse backgrounds into the world of game development.
Xbox Game Pass is leading the way when it comes to paid subscription services on video games and it will be made more available to gamers around the world, including those who cannot afford an Xbox console.

Whew! That was an overload of details above! As the Xbox-Bethesda event on June 13 is focused on games (and possible studio acquisition announcements), it makes sense for Team Xbox to make clear what their strategies are and what developments are happening.

To examine the above information, Microsoft is taking Xbox and Xbox Game Pass to newer heights that the traditional model of selling consoles (hardware) and games cannot reach. The Xbox-Windows connectivity has been re-emphasized and it has indeed been working for XGP users who are paying $15 a month. Moving forward, Xbox will be integrated into smart TVs/HDTVs (connected to the Internet) and the only hardware needed is the Xbox controller. Once Microsoft’s deals with telecommunication firms have been finalized, consumers can buy a console (most likely Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X for gamers who want high-end experiences) and XGP through Xbox All Access and pay it all on a monthly basis (this will spare consumers from the trouble of paying so much for a new Xbox console at retail). This also shows the benefits of subscribing over doing over-the-counter retail transactions. Furthermore, the Xbox ecosystem will eventually become more accessible to many millions more gamers (who cannot afford consoles) through their Internet-connected HDTVs/smart TVs using streaming devices with cloud functionality.

Think about all those highly ambitious strategies and how they can eventually positive impact interactive entertainment and even expand video gaming as we know it. Nintendo and the PlayStation team at Sony (hey Jim Ryan, are you still learning yet?) did not anticipate this latest barrage by Team Xbox, nor have they formulated new ways to enhance the gaming experience and attracting many more consumers who cannot afford game consoles.

Whether you like it or not, Team Xbox is clearly pushing hard with its plan to reach many millions more consumers around the world without being limited by the traditional console business model. Consumers will be offered a lot of choices as to how they want to play games via Xbox and how they want to enter the Xbox ecosystem based on their respective financial standings and purchasing power. Consumers also love being offered multiple options which Nintendo and Sony seem to ignore. It seems the Japanese traditions of doing video game business set Nintendo and Sony back.

The consumer can become the center of gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate!

Let me ask you readers: Are the new strategies by Team Xbox look exciting or complicated to you? Are you a gamer who wants to enjoy high-definition gaming at home without the hassle of buying a new console? Do you prefer to acquire an Xbox Series X through a subscription with your telecommunication provider? If you are running a retailing joint selling video game hardware and software, what do you think about the newest Xbox strategies announced?

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

To watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13, posted below are the links for your reference.

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

Team Xbox needs to deliver great stuff and surprises on June 13, 2021

We all know that the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase is fast approaching and it certainly is the most anticipated digital event for fans of both Xbox and Bethesda. The June 13, 2021 event will surely have a lot of eager fans waiting not only for exciting new games but also truly great stuff.

Get ready for this, Xbox fans, Bethesda fans and all others who love video games.

Previously, I posted what I hoped to see at the Xbox-Bethesda event. In relation to those, it is clear that while things are looking strongly positive ever since the integration of Bethesda into Xbox, Team Xbox itself and its head Phil Spencer still have a lot to prove on June 13. In fact, the stakes are much higher now and there is simply no room left for any error. They have to deliver great stuff this time around and they really need to exceed last year’s Xbox Games Showcase (which I found to be good but not great) not by just a few feet higher but many miles higher.

Simply put, good enough is simply NOT good enough this time around.

What I meant earlier by great stuff that needs to be delivered by Team Xbox refers to the following: fulfilling the highly anticipated showcases of Halo Infinite and Starfield complete with all the relevant details (including final release dates); showing more of their 1st party games being made by their many Xbox game studios; and confirming what games were finalized between Xbox Publishing and 3rd party game makers. They should also show more gameplay footage by means of demonstrations, make new announcements with regards to improving the already enjoyable Xbox Game Pass (XGP) service, and come up with surprises that will be remembered with excitement!

For Starfield, I believe it is high time for Xbox-Bethesda to showcase the game a lot with gameplay footage and confirm once and for all that it is indeed exclusive to Xbox Series consoles and Windows PC…all of these with Todd Howard as the presenter whenever possible. Such details will strengthen the fans’ trust in Xbox-Bethesda, and at the same time silence the people who hate Xbox.

What Microsoft owns, Sony and Nintendo simply have no rights to.

More on 1st party games and projects, Team Xbox should provide at least updates (if not gameplay demos or trailers that use captured gameplay footage or short video clips about the productions) of games they announced previously such as Fable, Forza Motorsport, Avowed, Perfect Dark and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

When it comes to the unexpected (AKA the surprises), it would be exciting to see the following happen if ever possible:

  1. Xbox Publishing announcing that it has made a deal with Deep Silver and secured the rumored Saints Row 5 as an Xbox-exclusive game.
  2. Team Xbox (through its publishing arm) announcing that it has renewed its ties with Mistwalker to create a sequel to the Xbox favorite JRPG Lost Odyssey…with Hironobu Sakaguchi as presenter.
  3. Konami announcing the release of all Suikoden RPGs on Xbox LIVE and Xbox Game Pass.
  4. Sega announcing a remastered version of Shining Force III (with all 3 chapters translated into English for the first time ever) for release on Xbox LIVE and Xbox Game Pass.
  5. Xbox game studio and RPG specialist Obsidian Entertainment – already very busy making Avowed – announcing a sequel to The Outer Worlds (confirming that Microsoft has rightfully gained control of the franchise) exclusively for Xbox Series consoles and PC.
  6. Capcom announcing a new Dead Rising game – be it a sequel or a series reboot – exclusively for Xbox Series consoles and PC.
  7. EA and BioWare announcing a brand-new Mass Effect game at the Xbox-Bethesda event.
  8. Square Enix announcing it will release Dragon’s Quest XII on Xbox LIVE and Xbox Game Pass with series creator Yuji Horii doing the presentation.
  9. Capcom announcing a remake of Resident Evil: Code Veronica (much in the styles of the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3)

To watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13, posted below are the links for your reference.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: When it comes to the unexpected, what kind of announcements would really surprise you at the Xbox-Bethesda event? Do you hope to see Halo Infinite truly have an open-world design? Do you think that Mexico will be the setting for Forza Horizon 5? Is Starfield your most anticipated game from Bethesda right now? Do you think it is possible for a Lost Odyssey sequel to be made? Do you believe that Phil Spencer and the rest of Team Xbox have what it takes to deliver great stuff and surprises in the Xbox-Bethesda special event?

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

Xbox-exclusive Starfield in 2022?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the related video for you to watch.

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

Can you wait for Starfield in 2022?

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

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

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

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

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

+++++

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