Xbox 20th Anniversary celebrated!

Believe it or not, Xbox is now 20-years-old and I’m not just referring to the line of video game consoles from Microsoft. Xbox today is also a following of dedicated fans as well as a very thriving ecosystem that covers Xbox game consoles as well as Windows PC! Xbox is also home to popular game franchises such as Halo, Forza Motorsport, Forza Horizon and, by means of Bethesda’s integration into Team Xbox, the established franchises of The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Dishonored, Fallout and many others!

The other night, I got to watch live the Xbox 20th anniversary celebration via the official Xbox YouTube channel and I can say that it was worth the wait since it was first announced coming. That being said, I posted below for your viewing pleasure the very Xbox 20th anniversary celebration video which lasts a little over 30 minutes…

Wow! That was a blast of nostalgia, the Xbox development history, games and big-time entertainment there! Were you able to absorb all of that in just one viewing?

Cutting through the stuff, I can say that I was surprised to see 343 Industries announce the sudden release of the Multiplayer Beta of Halo Infinite which itself has a December 8, 2021 release for its very promising single-player campaign. Watch the video below…

That looked awesome! That being said, I should not be surprised of the sudden release of the multiplayer beta because November 15 is the anniversary date of the original Halo: Combat Evolved, and this year also marks 20th anniversary of the said game and the Halo franchise as a whole. Another reason not to be surprised by the announcement is the fact that the multiplayer feature of Halo Infinite was very positively received since it was first unveiled months ago. I believe that having millions of Halo fans play Halo Infinite’s multiplayer beta will add to the growing anticipation of the single-player campaign’s release which is only weeks away from happening. At the same time, I should state that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer aspect will not be limited to last a few years but will be updates more and more and be able to last even more years than any multiplayer feature of past Halo games!

Moving on, I am very delighted with the announcement by Team Xbox that a lot more classic games (from past Xbox consoles) have been made compatible with Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S! Among the new additions into the Xbox backward compatibility program were Dead or Alive 3, F.E.A.R., Max Payne, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Oddworld: Munch’s Odyssey, Ridge Racer 6, Skate 2, and TimeSplitters 2 to name some.

Adding even more awesomeness to this backward compatibility development is the confirmation enhancements (note: frame rates, resolution, etc.) being applied on classic games making them play best on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X! Posted below is the excerpt from the Xbox.com article containing the very specific details…

Backward Compatible Games play best on Xbox Series X and Series S

A core tenet since the very beginning of the backward compatibility program has been to not only preserve the games you know and love, but also to enhance them using the latest technology so they look and play better than ever before while still staying true to the original creator’s vision. With Xbox Series X|S, we introduced innovations and improvements such as FPS Boost, Auto HDR, and faster loading times, which breathed new life into classic titles.

  • Every backward compatible title added today will experience improved visual quality with Auto HDR on supported displays, which automatically adds HDR enhancements on Xbox Series X|S.
  • Original Xbox games will experience a resolution increase on all Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles on supported displays.
    • 4x resolution increase on Xbox Series X and Xbox One X
    • 3x resolution increase on Xbox Series S
    • 2x resolution increase on Xbox One S and Xbox One
  • Players will experience even smoother gameplay on 11 titles added today via FPS Boost, which doubles the original framerate up to 60 FPS, including F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. 3, Binary Domain, and NIER.
  • We are also excited to announce we enabled FPS Boost on 26 more titles from the existing catalog including top requested titles such as the entire Gears of War franchise, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dragon Age: Origins, Dead Space 2 & 3, Alan Wake and Sonic Generations.
  • And beginning today, FPS Boost is rolling out to 33 titles via Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) that were previously enhanced on Xbox Series X|S including Fallout 4, Fallout 76, and The Evil Within 2.

Players can easily toggle FPS Boost as well as Auto HDR on or off under the “Manage Game” section for any title. You decide how you want to experience your favorite games, whether in their original form or enhanced with Auto HDR and FPS Boost enabled.

Having played Xbox games since the original Xbox console, I can say that the enhancements on old games running on any Xbox Series console is very delightful. Very soon I will replay The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on my Xbox Series X console to rediscover its open-world and quests while enjoying the 60FPS frame rate which will make it a buttery smooth gameplay experience! In relation to these, check out the following videos below showing classic Xbox games enhanced on Xbox Series X.

My Xbox story

Some of you might be wondering what my Xbox story is and how does the Xbox 20th anniversary resonate with me. I can tell you right now my personal experience on witnessing the very launch of the original Xbox game console way back twenty years ago!

The day was November 15, 2001. I was in Hawthorne, California and back then I was still a PlayStation gamer who just happened to be intrigued by Microsoft’s entry in the video game industry.

Being very curious and interested, I hiked all the way to the nearest Best Buy. As I did not have much money, I simply went there to enter and observe. Shopping was not the point of my visit.

As I approached Best Buy through the parking area, I noticed a group of about ten people lined up outside as well as some people entering. It turns out the ones who lined up were there for the Xbox console launch, ready to purchase and waiting for their respective turns. Since I was not there to buy the console, I went inside without hassle.

The original Xbox console with Controller S (which was released in 2002 replacing the original bulky controller).

As it turned out, inside Best Buy, there was a controlled approach organized by the retailer to ensure that the customers buying Xbox, its games and peripherals would have ample time to pick up what they wanted and go to the counter for payment and exit. In other words, it was a turn-based approach on launching the Xbox console locally in a very orderly manner. I also learned that the customers waiting outside the front each had numbers for the Xbox console launch.

While walking around, I saw the original Xbox consoles in their boxed stacked together for the numbered customers to pick up. I also saw shelves of Xbox games and accessories nearby.

Among the customers I witnessed buying the Xbox, I saw a lady moving forward with her pushcart full of varied products (DVDs, CDs, video games and more) and the Xbox stood out among them all! That was a sight to behold!

And that was my personal Xbox 20th anniversary testimony for you all!

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/

Xbox-exclusive Forza Horizon 5 gathers lots of rave reviews!

The high excitement for gaming on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Xbox Game Pass and Windows PC is real right now as Forza Horizon 5 gained lots of rave reviews from video game critics and YouTubers! As of this writing, the Playground Games-developed Xbox-exclusive game is averaging a score of 91 (out of 100) out of 81 published reviews according to Metacritic!

If you are wondering how does Forza Horizon 5 looks like and what the reviewers said, we can start by taking a look at each of the following video reviews below…

And now, let’s take at some text-based reviews of the game with key quotes highlighted. I highly recommend you read each of their respective reviews for the best possible insight and immersion.

Windows Central Gaming: Forza Horizon 5 is grand and beautiful. It also launches on more platforms simultaneously than any previous Forza game, giving people more ways to experience everything this game across Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, and Xbox Cloud Gaming through Xbox Game Pass. Absolutely a game of the year contender for 2021, Forza Horizon 5 is the quintessential choice among the best racing games.

TheGamer: Collectively, Forza Horizon 5 does everything right, and in doing so makes Playground Games’ latest entry into the Forza franchise an absolute must-play for any racing enthusiast or casual racing fan.

Game Revolution: Forza Horizon 5 is the best Forza yet and, not only that, but it also makes a strong case for being the best racing game period. A joyous combo of arcade racing and simulation-level depth, all wrapped up in a beautiful bow thanks to its diverse, expansive Mexico setting, this is an unmissable iteration in what is arguably gaming’s most consistently fantastic series.

Press Start Australia: I’ve played a few open-world racers in my time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever come across one so feature-rich. It really is comprehensive, nailing the scope of its world while filling the world with meaningful things to do, offering a suite of multiplayer and co-op possibilities, and free-roam of a boiled-down vision of Mexico that’s begging to be explored.

Now that the game critics and YouTubers have spoken, it is clear that Forza Horizon 5 is a great game just waiting to be played by gamers worldwide and the 3-year wait for it is worth it. Playground Games worked hard to make the Xbox-exclusive racing game and it looks very polished and almost flawless. Forza Horizon 5 is set for a general release worldwide on November 9, 2021. If the rave reviews it gathered have convinced you already, you can acquire a copy (digital or physical) online here, here, here or here to name a few.

Very clearly, the age of “Xbox has no games” is over and Forza Horizon 5 is just one of many upcoming Xbox-exclusive games realized. Given the open-world racer’s massive critical success, it is clear that Team Xbox has indeed reached a turning point heading towards a new age of super fun and high quality Xbox-exclusive games. Neither Sony nor Nintendo has anything to compete with Forza Horizon 5 with regards to the open-world racing genre. Now is only the beginning of a new age of high excitement for Xbox fans (reminder: Xbox 20th anniversary celebration will take place on November 15, 2021) and anyone who loves games on Xbox platforms and Windows PC! I believe Forza Horizon 5 will impress even the most rabid Xbox-haters when they play it enough. I would not be shocked if Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi is playing Forza Horizon 5 in secret somewhere, to learn from it so he can complete his work on Gran Turismo 7.

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox and Forza Horizon 5-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

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

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.

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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

Tokyo Game Show 2021 (TGS 2021) Xbox livestream set for September 30

With Gamescom 2021 and the Tokyo Olympic Games over, video gaming will be highlighted in Japan with this year’s edition of the annual Tokyo Game Show happening at the end of this month and Team Xbox has a new online event set to be streamed on September 30, 2021 (6PM Tokyo Standard Time).

Tokyo Game Show is set for September 30 to October 3.

Before you Xbox fans and gamers get too excited, there is a need to control your expectations first as Aaron Greenberg of Team Xbox tweeted: Well since you asked, @tokyo_game_show is a show for our players in Japan and across Asia. Expect regionally relevant updates, but no major reveals or announcements as our game teams are focused on continuing to ship big releases across October, November, and December.

With major announcements and special reveals ruled out, there will still be fun stuff to show but with Japan and Asia in mind during the 50-minute Xbox livestream. Microsoft’s approach to this event may not be as high-profile as the Xbox-Bethesda games showcase of June but what is clear is that Team Xbox is focused on achieving growth in Japan’s video games industry and already a record number of Japan’s independent game makers have received Xbox development kits.

TGS 2021 is also an opportunity for Team Xbox to emphasize what they have to offer gamers of Asia this coming holiday season. While nothing clear has been made, they could show the latest about Halo Infinite with footage of the single-player campaign. They could also show Psychonauts 2 with the accolades it gained, plus some more new footage of Forza Horizon 5, and reveal details of the limited edition Halo Infinite-themed Xbox Series X console for the Japanese market. Xbox Game Pass (XGP) promos and Xbox LIVE updates for Japan are expected.

TGS 2021 could also be the ideal time for Team Xbox to finalize and announce a precise release date of CrossfireX which has been scheduled for a 2021 release. There are only a few months left before the year ends and I believe that the Tokyo Game Show is the ideal time to announce a solid release date with a huge online audience present.

More on Japanese-related gaming, I can only wish that Rabbit & Bear Studios head Yoshitaka Murayama will make an appearance during the Xbox TGS 2021 livestream and give updates about the developments about their two games Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Previously, it has been announced that those two games will be released on Xbox Game Pass. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes will be released in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

There is also Tango Gameworks, a Japan-based game studio owned by Bethesda and Xbox. I wish to see some updates from them for the Xbox livestream, especially when it come to future games.

Watch out for the TGS 2021 Xbox Livestream at the official YouTube channel of Xbox at https://www.youtube.com/c/xbox

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 The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Sega Saturn, PlayStation)

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

If you have been reading my Macross-related articles over the past few years, you should know already that I deeply love watching Macross: Do You Remember Love?, the classic anime feature film co-directed by Noboru Ishiguro and the legendary Shoji Kawamori.

Like many other entertainment franchises in Japan, Macross also has video games based on its stories and concepts. During the fifth generation of video game consoles, Bandai released in Japan the video game adaptation of the 1984 anime movie on the Sega Saturn in 1997 and the Sony PlayStation in 1999. That game was titled The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? and I played that 2D side-scrolling shoot-them-up game a lot during the time when 3D polygons was already the standard.

Considering its age, it is easy to wonder if the game is still fun to play by today’s standards and if the game is something that Macross fans can enjoy a lot. We can all find out in this look back at The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?

Sega Saturn version in 1997.
Sony PlayStation version in 1999.

Early story

The story begins at sea. A Valkyrie piloted by Hikaru Ichijyo (the late Arihiro Hase) launches from the aircraft carrier Prometheus to join his teammates Max and Kakizaki led by Roy Fokker (Akira Kamiya). Suddenly a powerful beam of energy from above hits the aircraft carrier clearly showing that their world is under attack by the Zentradi.

They proceed to South Attaria Island where they immediately engaged the Zentradi forces that ravaged the city and causing trouble for the SDF-1 (Macross). After defeating several Zentradi elements, the remaining Skull Squadron forces flew to the Macross (which just launched into the air) which executes a space fold just moments before even more laser blasts from the Zentradi destroyed the entire island.

Sometime later deep in space, thousands of civilians managed to adjust to living inside the Macross. As Lynn Minmay’s (Mari Iijima) first concert happens inside the fortress, Hikaru, his teammates and many other fighters engage in a mission against the Zentradi…

Quality

Just like in the movie!

To comment on the quality of this old video game, I’ll focus on gameplay and presentation.

As far as gameplay goes, Macross: DYRL is essentially a 2D side-scrolling shooter literally designed to be grand not only for Macross fans but also for gamers who enjoy its design and its type of gameplay. You play as the hero Hikaru who pilots an advanced fighter plane that can also transform into an armed fighter with legs (GERWALK mode) and also into a full-sized, human-like robot (Battroid). In fighter mode, you move fast and are able to fire rockets or use your default gun. In GERWALK mode, your speed is slower but you have improved mobility that can be crucial for combat. In Battroid mode, your speed is reduced further but you are somewhat stronger and more precise when it comes to shooting enemies.

Still on gameplay, the game developers really pushed the envelope in terms if immersion as there are lots of moments in which the enemies will not only face you on your 2D plane but also move around you from the foreground to the background. Without having to do anything further, your character will be able to auto-aim and shoot at your enemy whether in the background or the foreground. Essentially, this makes the game a 2.5D shooter.

This is a fine example of you (in your 2D plane) firing at your enemy in the background.
In key parts of some levels in the game, the UN Spacy will send a shuttle to release supplies to help you replenish your shield meter.

The controls are relatively easy to learn and get adjusted to. More importantly, the controls are very responsive and they are ideal when it comes to precision on moving your character around as well as trying to shoot at specific targets.

This game was designed with several levels for you to complete essentially moving from left to right. As evidence of the game developers taking liberties during its adaptation of elements from the 1984 animated movie, several levels have boss fights for you to participate in and win in order to progress. These boss-type enemies are noticeably absent from the movie and yet they were designed to integrate into the film’s concept and also expand the concept about how elaborate the Zentradi are when it comes to their war machines against Earth. The boss-type enemies (note: they are clearly polygonal and yet they fit in well with the 2D sprite elements) are huge machines designed for space battles and there were boss fights in which some of them move into the background (which sparks moments for your character to fighter towards the background). When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), the boss-type enemies are not really that sophisticated with their movements although a few of them have attack patterns that will push you to be more evasive and more strategic.

Before starting a level, you can select your weapons that can function depending on your personal preference on taking on the enemies.
Lots of great visual effects and 3D movement add to the challenge.

With regards to challenge, some parts of this game took me a few repeats before finally improving myself enough to make it to the next levels. The visual elements of the game also added to the overall challenge as seeing 2D sprites move around you 3-dimensionally.

Speaking of 2D sprites, it is clear that this game was designed to be heavy with 2D visual elements while 3D polygons are used sparingly (note: the boss battles mentioned above). As this is a side-scrolling game, the game makers clearly made lots of sprites of machines, space ships, Zentradi battle pods and other figures that Macross fans would easily recognize. The good news is that each 2D sprite was made with multiple frames of animation (complete with frames meant for 3D movement) and were made to really resemble the cinematic artworks which ultimately results making them really look lively to watch on-screen!

As for the presentation, I can see that the game developers Scarab paid great attention to the details of the animated movie to make The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? fun and engaging for gamers in general while also becoming strongly relevant and delightful with the people who love Macross. For example, the game starts with a cinematic prologue composed of brand-new animation cels mixed with elements of 3D polygons and in my view, it fits in nicely leading to the actual cinematic opening of the movie from 1984. The cinematic prologue was meant to expand the film’s overall concept and other story expansions happened in subsequent parts of the game (such as the all-new mission told in two levels).

Observe the Zentradi surrounding Roy Fokker on his 2D plane, the foreground and background. This is a 2D sprite-heavy showcase!
The game developers paid close attention to the details of the movie and presented the visuals using video game graphics, 2D sprites and really nice in-game background artworks!
Surprise! You as Hikaru get to fight Milia temporarily before her memorable fight with Max happens!

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? came with selected animated sequences and still images from the 1984 movie’s very own footage meant for in-game storytelling (note: you still have to watch the movie for the best immersion). As there were some original scenes made for the game with expanding the film’s concept in mind, there are a few computer-generated animation sequences and even brand-new animated cels (note: very clearly they were drawn by people different from the ones who drew the film’s footage) showing some character moments.

When it comes to the audio, this game is clearly a labor of love with Macross fans in mind. Much of the music, songs and sound effects from the movie (as well as from the 1982-1983 anime TV series) were integrated into the game which made it very immersive for Macross fans. As for the voice actors, fans will hear the voices of their favorite Macross characters performed by the late Hase, Iijima, Kamiya, Mika Doi (Misa Hayase), Michio Hazama (Captain Global) and more. While some of their recorded lines from the movie were reused (especially Hase who died in 1996), others recorded new lines for their respective characters for the new cinematic footage as well as key parts in the game.

The art of Lynn Minmay for the new anime footage was clearly not drawn by the people behind the 1984 anime movie.

What I love best about the presentation is that the game developers replicated selected scenes from the 1984 movie using in-game graphics and art along with music, sound effects and the lines of dialogue! As a Macross fan myself, the immersion was pretty deep as I played the game and witnessed those special moments from the movie played within the in-game presentation.

Conclusion

Enjoy looking at this.

I can declare out loud that The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? is indeed the best Macross video game I have ever played as well as the best adaptation (note: other than film) of the classic movie from 1984. This game, which excellently used 2D sprites and 3D polygons all throughout, was very clearly made to delight Macross fans while giving gamers something very enjoyable and memorable to experience. For the best immersion, it is highly recommended to watch the movie before playing this video game. Truly this video game has aged well!

Overall, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (Sega Saturn, PlayStation) is highly recommended!

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one on the foreground is Raz.

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

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

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

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

Best on Xbox Series consoles?

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

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

Conclusion

The in-game environments look enticing for exploration!

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

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

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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 Suikoden II (1999)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Suikoden II (English version, released in 1999) and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

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

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

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

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

The cover of the North American version of Suikoden II.

Early story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Overall, Suikoden II is highly recommended!

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

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

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