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

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

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

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

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

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

Early story

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

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

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

Quality

Just like in the movie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

Enjoy looking at this.

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

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

+++++

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

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-Bethesda games showcase on June 13, 2021!

It has been more than two months since publisher Bethesda got integrated into Team Xbox as a result of Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media (Bethesda’s parent company). Since then, the executives of Bethesda and Xbox worked together and made declarations during a special event in which Xbox head Phil Spencer confirmed that there will be Bethesda-produced exclusive games coming to Xbox fans via platforms that have Xbox Game Pass (XGP).

And now, something more exciting is scheduled to happen next month! In fact, it will happen in just a few more weeks’ time!

It has been announced by Team Xbox that the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase will take place on June 13, 2021! It is a digital event that will be streamed worldwide.

The official cover image of the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase!

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article written by Xbox Games Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg. Some parts in boldface…

Today, we are thrilled to announce the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase will stream on Sunday, June 13 at 10:00 a.m. PT. The show will be focused on games from Xbox Game Studios, Bethesda, and many game creators from our partners around the world.

You’ve told us how excited you are about welcoming Bethesda into the Xbox family, so we know you’re going to want a front-row seat to the Xbox & Bethesda Games showcase – a 90-minute show packed with everything you want to know about the epic gaming lineup coming out of this partnership, the incredible games coming to Xbox this holiday, upcoming releases on Xbox Game Pass, and more.

You’ll be able to watch the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase in a variety of ways. Be sure to visit any of the links below before the show starts:

Wow! That announcement by Greenberg went straight to the point! This is something to delight the many, varied fans of Xbox and Bethesda. How exactly will be organized remains to be seen and this alone is interesting because in previous years, Team Xbox and Bethesda had their own separate showcase events which drew huge audiences (both physically and online). From this point on, the suspense leading to the official announcements truly begins.

The combined powers and talents of Xbox and Bethesda will be emphasized heavily on June 13, 2021.

Speaking of announcements, I hope that the following will happen at the 90-minute Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase

  1. Starfield coming to Xbox consoles and PC this year (note: a 2022 release would not be surprising). Trailers and gameplay demonstration emphasizing Starfield’s concept and uniqueness would really excite the fans. Todd Howard should lead the presentation.
  2. Halo Infinite to be shown with trailers, in-depth gameplay demonstration and a November 2021 release date. Improvements on quality and overall design should be emphasized and help gamers forget the disappointing 2020 first unveiling of the game.
  3. Forza Horizon 5 with trailers, gameplay demonstration, the rumored Mexico setting and a 4th quarter of 2021 release date.
  4. Avowed with trailers and more details about its concept, game design and characters.
  5. The Outer Worlds sequel announcement.
  6. The rumored Hideo Kojima-Xbox partnership confirmed as real and with a game announcement.
  7. Fable update with details about its concept, gameplay and characters.
  8. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II update with gameplay footage, and a 2022 release date.
  9. Forza Motorsport franchise update with clarification as to what the next game could be called.
  10. Collaboration or special projects between Team Xbox and Konami, Capcom, Sega and other game publishers to ramp up Xbox-exclusive content as well as add more games to Xbox Game Pass.
  11. Psychonauts 2 unveiling.
  12. IO Interactive project exclusive to Xbox get unveiled.
  13. The Gunk (Xbox-exclusive) update with new gameplay footage shown. It only makes sense because the game is supposed to come out this year.
  14. Square Enix announcing more RPGs coming to Xbox Game Pass.
  15. Indiana Jones video game update with trailers and details about its concept and game design.
  16. Updates about Doom, Wolfenstein and other Bethesda game franchises.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: What do you hope to see in the June 13 games showcase of Xbox-Bethesda? Are you eager to see Starfield, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite as the must-have Xbox exclusives for late 2021 to early 2022? Are you hoping that Starfield will be released for Xbox consoles and PC this year? Are you hoping to see Bethesda also announce sequels to Doom, Wolfenstein and Dishonored franchises? Is 2022 considered too late a release for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II? If the rumored Hideo Kojima-Xbox partnership turned out to be real, what kind of games do you hope will be realized? Do you think the rumored projected of IO Interactive for Xbox will be revealed? Do you hope to see Konami digitally release its Suikoden RPGs on Xbox Game Pass and the Microsoft Store?

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

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 4

Hey Xbox fans and gamers! Have you been following the recent updates leading to the inevitable launch of the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X? Let’s start first with these two videos from Colteastwood! Watch, learn and enjoy these because the heavy hitters (hot exclusive games) for the Xbox ecosystem are coming out after the launch of the two Xbox Series consoles!

The launch games lineup for November 10, 2020, which includes cross-generation games that will be optimized for the new consoles, don’t look that red hot but rest assured, the excitement will only begin that day and will only get even better starting 2021. Speaking of 2021 games, check out my article about the Xbox-exclusive The Gunk.

What are the launch games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X? Here’s the list:

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)

Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)

Bright Memory 1.0 

Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)

Dead by Daylight (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition 

DIRT 5 (Smart Delivery)

Enlisted 

Evergate

The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)

Fortnite 

Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Gears 5 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Gears Tactics (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Grounded (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

King Oddball (Smart Delivery)

Maneater (Smart Delivery)

Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)

NBA 2K21

Observer: System Redux

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)

Sea of Thieves (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

Tetris Effect: Connected (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

The Touryst (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)

War Thunder (Smart Delivery)

Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition 

Watch Dogs: Legion (Smart Delivery)

WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)

Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)

Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)

With a great mix of 1st party exclusive games, new intellectual properties (IPs) and 3rd party games that cover vast genres and types of games, there will always be something new and fun for gamers who use Xbox consoles and Windows 10 PC. Even gamers who have not yet subscribed to Xbox Game Pass (XGP) won’t be left out.

Remember years ago when PlayStation fanboys criticized Xbox for the lack of exclusives and lack of great games? That is all over and the huge amount of games produced by Team Xbox’s 1st party game studios (including the game studios of Bethesda) will be released once completed…and the beauty of it is that the wait for the hot exclusive games won’t take too long. As reported by Colteastwood in the above videos, Xbox fans can expect exclusives like Avowed and The Outer Worlds 2 from Obsidian Entertainment, the next Doom from id Software, Forza Horizon Festivals from Playground Games, and the Perfect Dark-related 3rd-person action-stealth game from The Initiative. These are just a few of the upcoming heavy hitters coming to Xbox and Windows 10 gamers. As Colteastwood confirmed, Xbox Game Studios are currently producing at least forty games.

Going back to the November 10, 2020 launch, the early batch of games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X are not satisfying enough, there is backward compatibility on the new consoles that will not only ensure you get to play games from past Xbox console generations, you will get to play them with visual enhancements (example: improved frame rates reaching up to 60FPS) and much reduced loading times.

In an Xbox.com article dated October 13, 2020, Compatibility Program Lead Peggy Lo confirmed their team’s respect for fans’ gaming legacy. She stated: We believe your favorite games and franchises, your progression and achievements, your Xbox One gaming accessories and the friendships and communities you create through gaming should all move with you across generations. We also fundamentally believe that not only should you be able to play all of your games from the past without needing to purchase them again, but they should also look, feel and play better on the next generation of Xbox consoles.

And then there are the hot details Xbox fans can expect regarding backward compatibility on the new consoles. Here’s an excerpt:

Games play best on Xbox Series X and Series S

Backward compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X and S, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and SSD. No boost mode, no downclocking, the full power of the consoles for each and every backward compatible game. This means that all titles run at the peak performance that they were originally designed for, with significantly higher performance than their original launch platform, resulting in higher and more steady framerates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality. Backward compatible titles also benefit from significant reductions in load times due to the massive leap in performance from our custom NVME SSD at the heart of the Xbox Velocity Architecture.

Auto HDR for everyone

Modern games often implement high dynamic range (HDR) to improve overall visual quality. HDR allows a game to render a much larger range of brightness values and colors. This gives an extra sense of richness and depth to the image when compared to a standard dynamic range (SDR) image. For example, the light from a flashlight looks much brighter and red flowers look much more vibrant.

However, thousands of Xbox games shipped before HDR was first introduced with Xbox One S, and even for some Xbox One games, developers simply didn’t have the development resources or time to implement HDR. With Xbox Series X and Series S we are introducing a new feature named Auto HDR. Auto HDR automatically adds HDR enhancements to games which only shipped with SDR. Auto HDR enhances the visual quality of an SDR game without changing the original artistic intent of the game. Auto HDR is implemented by the system so developers don’t have to do any work to take advantage of this feature. Also, since Auto HDR is enabled by the console’s hardware, there is absolutely no performance cost to the CPU, GPU or memory and there is no additional latency added ensuring you receive the ultimate gaming experience.

If you want to play your legacy Xbox games with a much higher frame rate for the best experience, such improvements are also confirmed as part of the backward compatibility feature on the new consoles. Check out the details below:

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S bring next-gen performance to your favorite games. Higher, steadier framerates make games feel smoother, resulting in more immersive gameplay. Many improvements are the result of the custom designed processor that allows compatible games to play and leverage the increased CPU, GPU and memory from the new consoles. In addition however, the backward compatibility team has developed new methods for effectively doubling the framerate on select titles. While not applicable for many titles due to the game’s original physics or animations, these new techniques the team has developed can push game engines to render more quickly for a buttery smooth experience beyond what the original game might have delivered due to the capabilities of the hardware.

To emphasize the above, Team Xbox showed via YouTube the 2015 game Fallout 4 running at a buttery smooth 60FPS on Xbox Series S! Watch below!

With regards to enhanced visuals via backward compatibility on the new consoles, Peggy Lo wrote: On the Xbox One, we were able to provide a curated list of titles that were enhanced for the Xbox One X via the Heutchy method. This allowed titles from Xbox 360 that rendered at 720p and original Xbox games that ran at 360p to play at 4K on Xbox One X, well beyond the capabilities of their original platform. The Heutchy method continues to be used to bring a variety of titles to 1440p on Xbox Series S and 4K on Xbox Series X.

Improved texture filtering is also coming to backward compatible titles on both Xbox Series X and Series S. On Xbox One X, a portion of the catalog benefited from increased anisotropic filtering, improving image quality of games. On Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, 16x anisotropic filtering has been enabled for nearly all backward compatible titles so you can experience the very best visuals the games have to offer.

With Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, the future of next-generation gaming is very bright and promising, even more exciting than what Sony is offering with PlayStation 5 (PS5). Supporting the excitement for the Xbox ecosystem is Team Xbox’s very powerful bridge to the past (legacy gaming) with backward compatibility that also enhances the old games when played on the new consoles.

Peggy Lo further wrote: The backward compatibility team has been working hard to make all the games you love and remember available to you on Xbox Series X and Series S. Playing the games will be just as easy and magical as it’s always been. Simply insert your favorite backward compatible Xbox One, Xbox 360 or original Xbox disc into your Xbox Series X, install the game, and you’ll be ready to play. Your digital library will instantly appear and ready for download on the console when you sign in. If you’ve already installed your games to an external drive, you can bring that with you to the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. This all happens with no additional cost to you. And, with cloud saves, you’ll jump right back in where you left off.  For those of you still enjoying Xbox 360, cloud saves will soon be free to all Xbox 360 users, making transferring your favorite games to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S even easier.

In ending this, posted below are gaming-related videos for your learning and excitement for the next-generation!

+++++

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

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

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 2

A little over a month from today, Microsoft will be launching through its varied retail partners worldwide their next-generation consoles Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. The big day is November 10, 2020 and already a lot of consumers have already ordered their own units of the mentioned next-generation consoles. Even in Japan, where Xbox traditionally failed, the initial pre-orders for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X there have sold out! Really, things are looking good towards November 10.

Along the way are the launch games which are a big mix of titles (note: cross-generation releases are included) from the 3rd party game publishers plus some from independent game makers and Team Xbox itself.

Have you ordered an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S unit already?

On launch day, prospective Xbox Series console owners can choose Dirt 5 if they crave for high-fidelity, action-packed racing. With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla from Ubisoft, they can have the stealth action experience complete with open-world exploration. If it’s role-playing and action they want with a Japanese underworld setting, then Yakuza: Like a Dragon will be there. NBA 2K21 will be the basketball video game of choice. For real-time strategy set in the Gears of War universe, Gears Tactics is the definitive gaming experience waiting to be discovered. Last but not least, The Falconeer will offer gamers the flight and shooting experiences that can entertain them a lot.

Before the November 10, 2020 Xbox Series consoles launch, Ubisoft will release its newest entry in the Watch Dogs open-world game franchise titled Watch Dogs: Legion which has a futuristic London setting and the game is designed to let gamers play as multiple characters who can be recruited and engage in missions. Like its predecessors, Watch Dogs: Legion will be filled with open-world missions and hacking will be a major gameplay feature. This game will launch for current generation consoles on October 29, 2020 but it will be available for the Xbox Series consoles on launch day. Like other cross-gen, multiplatform games, expect Watch Dogs: Legion to look and play better on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X (read: ray-tracing plus other visual enhancements).

After November 10, 2020, there will be other games coming out such as CrossFireX, Immortals Fenix Rising, Call of the Sea, and the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 to name a few.

When it comes more Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X games coming in the following years, pay close attention to what Xbox Games Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg wrote at Xbox.com.

From the Xbox.com article of Greenberg.

After revealing interesting statistics and achievements in the early part of his article, Greenberg stated:

It’s been a tremendous year so far, and it’s going to get even better with the launch of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on November 10. Across four generations and thousands of games playable this holiday, this will be the largest launch lineup in the history of gaming. We’ll be sharing even more details on every game being fully optimized this holiday for the launch of Xbox Series X|S later this month, as well as showing more gameplay from these titles, so stay tuned for more.

Between our growing Xbox Game Studios teams, the massive influx of high-quality content from our new partners at Bethesda, and many more unannounced games in development, the future has never been brighter for Xbox gamers!

Greenberg made clear that Team Xbox still have some pre-launch details and stuff to show within this current month. We don’t know yet what they will show but it will most likely add more power to the current public excitement for the upcoming Xbox Series consoles. It’s an excitement that not even the most sarcastic Xbox haters and not even the paid PlayStation propagandists can bring down.

Even though the launch games lineup for the Xbox Series consoles does not look that numerous on face value, the backward compatibility on the upcoming consoles ensures that Xbox fans (especially those who owned games through at least two generations of Xbox consoles) will be able to choose and play from the many, many video games from the original Xbox right up to the soon-to-end Xbox One. Thanks to the immense investment Team Xbox made on backward compatibility, the said feature will enhance the old generation games on Xbox Series consoles. By comparison, Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) is only limited to PS4 games for backward compatibility.

And then there was Greenberg’s mention of Bethesda, the agreed acquisition of which easily rocked the gaming industry and its effects are still being felt and discussed by gamers across social media until now. The Xbox-Bethesda deal means that future games of established game franchises such as Doom, Dishonored, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein and Fallout will only be released through the Xbox ecosystem which includes the Xbox consoles (specifically Xbox One and the two Xbox Series consoles) and Windows 10 PC supported by Xbox Game Pass and xCloud. In other words, future Bethesda games will NOT appear on PlayStation and Nintendo consoles.

While it is very clear that Bethesda role-playing game (RPG) franchises The Elder Scrolls and Fallout make Xbox Game Studios a major powerhouse for RPGs, the shooter franchises Doom and Wolfenstein are doing the same with regards to shooter-type games. Think about it…Microsoft can release a new Halo, a new Gears of War, a new Doom and a new Wolfenstein within a relative short period of time. Each new game from the mentioned shooter franchises is sure to sell in the millions and further establish the Xbox ecosystem as a major sector of the video game industry as we know it.

Also mentioned by Greenberg are the many unannounced games in development from Xbox Game Studios. I sure hope that means a new Perfect Dark is being made and I would love to see Obsidian Entertainment work on a sequel to The Outer Worlds after they are done with making Avowed. Oh yes, Xbox game studio inXile (Wasteland 3) is working on new games.

As you can see here, there is a whole lot of games and fun experiences to look forward to in the years to come only on the Xbox ecosystem. Compared to what happened in 2013, the pre-launch momentum for Team Xbox is strongly positive and anticipation for the next-generation Xbox consoles is undeniably strong. Once the first batch of the expected 1st party Xbox games come out in the next few years, you will really see Microsoft becoming much more competitive with Sony and Nintendo. It’s just a matter of time and it will be exciting!

In ending this, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your learning and excitement for the next-generation!

+++++

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

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

A Look Back at Aerobiz Supersonic

When it comes to playing economic simulation games, I enjoy playing them on the personal computer (PC) using the keyboard and mouse. Back in the mid-1990s, there was one particular economic simulation that I played on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES or SNES) and found it to be very enjoyable and easily to play with using the console’s control pad.

That game was Aerobiz Supersonic, a simulation about the airline industry developed and published by Koei for both the Super NES and the Sega Genesis. Here is my look back at this old video game from the 1990s.

Screenshot_20200222-133557_Photos.jpg
The cover of the Super NES version of the game. Its art and style is really nice to look at.

Concept and Game Design

In the game, you get to play the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an airline and your goal is to beat your rivals in the global air travel industry. How to achieve the goal and succeed? There are tasks that need to be accomplished such as buying commercial airplanes (that include such real-life companies like Boeing and Airbus) for use, establishing flight routes, securing slots in airports worldwide, selling tickets and filling up each flight with as many passengers as possible, achieve profitability and finish the game’s imposed time period ranking #1. Adding zest to the game’s challenge is the selection of a certain era of world history that include 1955-1970 (the dawn of jets), 1970-1990 (the Cold War era), 1985-2005 (the present era) and 2000-2020 (the age of continued flight advancement).

Within the game, time passes by means of clicking a certain on-screen button that ends the player’s current turn. Of course, before pressing that, the player has to set things in motion like sending a representative to a certain overseas airport to negotiate and secure slots (which takes months to complete), set the ticket prices, buy a new airplane or two, etc. The game even allows players to micro-manage their airline like adjusting internal spending (salaries) or adjusting the quality of their airplane and services. Also nice is the option offered for players to buy a hotel or resort, a theme park or a travel agency that can bring in additional revenue.

Screenshot_20200222-132447_YouTube.jpg
The airport slots, local businesses, economic and tourism details per city displayed.

Screenshot_20200222-132508_YouTube.jpg
Visit an airline and choose from one of many models of airplanes to buy.

There are other small details that need paying attention to such as the economy and tourism meters of each city displayed (note: a higher tourism score means the city is more attractive to travelers), the population, etc. Also noteworthy is the current state of relations between your home nation with the nation of the city airport you are trying to establish routes with which can affect your business.

When the turn ends, a series of events will happen showing what happened around the world, how your company fared in the competition during the lapsed time period, and, occasionally, a random event will occur that most likely will affect your business (examples: the Olympics hosted by a city helps draw in additional passengers or the 1970s oil crisis raises the cost of your operation).

Regarding the game’s imposed time period for competing with the artificial intelligence (AI) opponents, the period is twenty in-game years.

Screenshot_20200214-195600_YouTube.jpg
This is part of micro-managing your business in the game.

Screenshot_20200214-195720_YouTube.jpg
After the end of each turn, news and updates not only about your company but also your competitors are flashed.

Quality

Being used to playing simulation games on PC, I found Aerobiz Supersonic to be very enjoyable, addicting and easy and efficient to play (in terms of controls). Considering the above-mentioned gameplay options (buying an airline, sending a representative, etc.), they are pretty easy to adjust using the Super NES controller although there were a few moments when I accidentally pressed the button putting into motion a different option.

Gameplay aside, this game has a whole lot of charm with its visual presentation. You launch a brand new flight route, the game shows a short animation sequence of the jet taking off. You buy an airplane, you will see a short animation of it entering your facility once it arrives (complete with a visual design reflecting the model). You conduct a board meeting, your company’s officials are present making reports to you and you get a series of choices to make on what to do next. A historical event or a global development occurs, you get to see original art reflecting them (example: a nation joins the EU with people wearing suits and neckties together in a formal ceremony). You make a move to buy slots at an airport overseas, a company official will have his or her face shown talking to you. When looking at the regional map, you see lines connected between cities (highlighting the establish flight route you made) and there are icons of airplanes flying between them.

Screenshot_20200214-195732_YouTube.jpg
Random tourist hot spots get highlighted as you keep playing.

More on the aspect of starting the game, I like the options offered for me to select which city shall serve as my airline headquarters. Among the many cities included, there are cities of my native Philippines namely Manila (the international destination) and the nearby city of Cebu. I still remember how delighted I was to see my native Philippines included in the game, complete with Asian character designs to reflect the company and its region.

Conclusion

Ultimately Aerobiz Supersonic (which was actually a sequel to Aerobiz) is a gem of a console economic simulation released at a time when 2D sprite gaming was still the standard and 3D polygonal gaming was just about to make an impact on the global video game console market. Back then, 2D side-scrolling action/adventure games, sports games and role-playing games (RPGs) were so common on the Super NES and Genesis combined and the idea of enjoying economic simulations on consoles was highly unusual. Aerobiz Supersonic is proof that economic simulations can come with a lot of depth, deliver a good amount of strategy and can be highly playable and enjoyable on consoles.

If you want to enjoy this game, it can be quite difficult to do because you need to acquire an existing copy of the game as well as a fully functioning Super NES or Sega Genesis. As of this writing, there has never been a re-release of Aerobiz Supersonic (note: in line with legitimacy, I will not consider those browser versions or file sharing of ROMs) and it is not even included on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. There’s not even a version made for smartphones.

Now if only the executives at Koei Tecmo Games would consider revisiting Aerobiz Supersonic with today’s consumers in mind.

Screenshot_20200222-132429_YouTube.jpg
You can choose what kind of plane, how many planes, how many flights and how much you set the ticket prices whenever you start a new flight route.


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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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 Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

In this age of photo-realistic 3D graphics in video gaming, I sure miss the days when 2D gaming and highly detailed pixel art were the standard. I’m referring to the so-called 16-bit era of the Super NES/SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) back in the 1990s.

In 1991, Super Star Wars was released on the Super NES and it became a big hit with the gamers, the critics and fans. That game was heralded as one of the best video game adaptations of movies.

Naturally, a follow-up to that game was released in 1993 – Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

That being said, here is my retro gaming review of Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Screenshot_20200118-222140_YouTube.jpg
The experience of using a Rebel speeder to bring down an AT-AT walker with the cable remains awesome.

Developed by Sculptured Software and LucasArts and published in America by JVC, this game is based on The Empire Strikes Back which today has been considered to be the greatest Star Wars movie ever. Of course, in order to make a cohesive video game adaptation out of the classic movie, a lot of liberties were taken when it comes to following the story. This was inevitable as the game developers needed a lot of creative freedom to make a cohesive video game.

Early story (and some notable differences from the movie)

Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back begins with Luke Skywalker riding a Tauntaun. Unlike the movie, Luke (controlled by players) visits some places of the wasteland of Hoth, notably caverns and hills fighting several forms of wild life (including wampa beasts), and even some probe droids.

Screenshot_20200118-223405_YouTube.jpg
Luke jumping on to a wampa beast.

Unlike the movie, Luke does not get rescued by Han Solo in the wilderness. Instead he defeats a giant-sized probe droid and a giant-sized wampa beast (as in-game bosses) and make his way back to Echo Base to rejoin the rebels. Upon returning at the base, he finds it filled with Imperial troopers and their machines (where are Luke’s fellow rebels?) and fights his way through to fly a rebel speeder (note: without the movie co-pilot Dak) and proceed in the Battle of Hoth.

image-2.jpg
This never happened in the movie.

image-3.jpg
Luke jumping into a snow speeder without a co-pilot.

Back at Echo Base, Han Solo (player-controlled) has to make his way through a wave of Imperial enemies and machines to meet Princess Leia, secure her and ride away on the Millenium Falcon. The Falcon (player-controlled) enters the asteroid field being attacked gradually by over twenty TIE Fighters. Once all of them have been eliminated, the Falcon jumps into light speed (which contradicts the movie).

Gameplay

Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is composed mostly of 2D, side-scrolling action sequences in which players control their characters moving from left to right in order to make the game progress. The sequences are filled with lots of action-packed moments mainly due to the MANY enemies challenging the players plus sequences of shooting, jumping and using special weapons (note: the thermal detonator was awesome to use). When it comes to filling up the health meter of your character, defeating enemies result random releases of hearts (symbolizing health) which you need to pick up. Key side-scrolling segments of the game will have players facing off with in-game bosses or enemies that are large, intimidating and have their own health meters for players to reduce to zero.

As typical with most 2D side-scrolling games of the era, this game is really tough and will take gamers some patience and perseverance to complete.

What really stood out in this game are the makeshift 3D segments (made possible by Mode 7) which were pretty extensive and really interactive. The Battle of Hoth in Mode 7 was pretty engaging as players get to fly a rebel speeder over a snowy field complete with lots of Imperial enemies (including the AT-ST walkers and the AT-AT walkers) and each of them is composed of multiple 2D sprites making them look 3D as the speeder moves around. Apart from simply shooting, the interactive sequence of tagging an AT-AT walker with a cable, flying around it and wrapping it with the cable, and then watching it fall to the ground really is an awesome gaming experience which really showed how hard the game developers pushed 2D visuals and pixel art.

Screenshot_20200118-222830_YouTube.jpg
A Mode 7 sequence late in the game had players using an X-Wing fighter.

Screenshot_20200118-222213_YouTube.jpg
The Battle of Hoth was a great and lengthy use of Mode 7.

Apart from the Battle of Hoth, there was also another Mode 7 sequence involving the X-Wing Fighter approaching Cloud City. That particular sequence was noticeably shorter and did not have a standout action sequence as it was limited to the X-Wing Fighter simply shooting Bespin fighters. Another non-2D segment was the Millenium Falcon’s flight through the asteroid field which was done with the cockpit view (first-person view exactly) in which you move a cursor for targeting and moving the ship to. This segment was pretty tough because players were not only required to eliminate more than 20 TIE Fighters but also avoid incoming asteroids and maintaining the Falcon’s energy shields (which serves as a health meter)

Going back to the 2D side-scrolling segments, the use of the lightsaber by Luke remains a lot of fun to do. Not only could he slash bad guys, he could use the lightsaber defensively protecting himself from incoming energy blasts (which get deflected by the lightsaber). On the offense, Luke can jump into the air and spin with the lightsaber turned on making him an aerial slasher over the bad guys.

In keeping with the theme of the movie showing Luke Skywalker learning to be a Jedi, the Dagobah segment in the game has Luke gaining varied Force powers and he also has a separate Force energy meter. The Force powers can be used in subsequent segments of the game and they are quite useful when Luke encounters Darth Vader as the final boss in Cloud City.

The fights with Darth Vader were nicely designed. With creative freedom, the game developers expanded on Darth Vader’s use of the Force to move several pieces of debris and machines towards Luke who has to defend himself from all sides. Fighting Darth Vader with the lightsaber was tricky and for the most part, I had Luke slashing on villain with just enough space between them and many times I had Luke use the lightsaber on him while jumping and spinning in the air. Defeating Vader was a requirement to complete the game.

Screenshot_20200118-222758_YouTube.jpg
Very nice artwork made for the storytelling cut scenes.

Finally, like in Super Star Wars, players can also play as Han Solo (special attack: grenade throw) and Chewbacca (special attack: offensive spin) but only in specific segments of the game supposedly to keep in line with its story.

Conclusion

Even by today’s standards, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is still a high-quality video game that is a lot of fun to play with even though it is tough (a password system is used for in-game progress so that gamers can come back to continue) all throughout. Gameplay aside, the presentation of visuals and audio is also very solid. The sprites for the in-game characters, enemies, machines and animal were detailed to look at while the background art were immersive (like in the movies, Cloud City, Hoth and Dagobah had their distinctive visuals). The Super NES audio chip was greatly used on recreating 16-bit sound from the movies, especially John Williams’ movie scores and lightsaber sound effects.

Take note that this game was released in 1993 which is significant in the sense that people had moved on since the release of the movie Return of the Jedi (1983) and the Star Wars prequel trilogy did not begin until 1999 with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This game was released at a time when 2D gaming was still in strong demand and most gamers did not expect that 3D polygonal graphics would reshape video gaming eventually. In retrospect, the polygon-focused gaming consoles Sega Saturn and the original Sony PlayStation launched in late 1994 or more than a year after Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Screenshot_20200118-223133_YouTube.jpg
The inevitable battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

I myself had lots of fond memories playing this game back in the mid-1990s. I simply endured the many challenges of it and ultimately had a lot of enjoyment completing it. I even replayed the game from the start even though I knew how the game presented the ending and key story elements of the movie. I also got to replay The Empire Strikes Back on home video around the time I played this game.

Believe it or not, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was the first of the Super Star Wars trilogy on the Super NES that I actually played. After completing it, I borrowed the Super Star Wars cartridge from a friend and later bought a copy of Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I completed those two other games and I can clearly say that Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back remains the best in game design, the best in terms of fun factor and the most memorable of them all.

If you love Star Wars and you want the best 16-bit era video game (note: you’ll need a working Super NES console or Nintendo’s Virtual Console for any Super Star Wars game) experience of it, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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

Macross at Toycon 2019

Sorry for this late feature but I wish to share to you geeks and hobbyists that during the 2019 edition of the Toycon held this past June at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, I spotted the display of Macross.

I’m a Macross fan and I always make it a point to find stuff related to my favorite anime franchise whenever a convention happens. Here are some that I spotted during the Toycon.

20190629_105722.jpg
The YF-19 from Macross Plus and its weapons on display. Behind it are varied video games and manuals.

20190629_105754.jpg
A close look at these mean machines. The one on the right reflects the model of used by Hikaru in the first few episodes of the 1980s Macross anime TV series complete with holding Lynn Minmay for safety.

At the 2nd level of the convention center was a function hall which has a large display of collected items of varied entertainment franchises. The one showcasing Macross had toys, action figures, plastic models, video games, music CDs and some printed materials.

What caught my attention was the display of the YF-19 from Macross Plus complete with its weapons in full view.

20190629_105744.jpg
Memories of the 1980s anime TV series as well as the 1984 classic movie Macross: Do You Remember Love? entered my mind.

Also seeing an original copy of the 1990s Sega Saturn video game adaptation of Macross: Do You Remember Love? instantly made me remember playing and enjoying the PlayStation version of that game. The Sega Saturn game can be seen in the picture below.

20190629_105730.jpg
Art, books, soundtracks and the Sega Saturn video game.

As much as I enjoyed the display of Macross memorabilia, I regret to say that I was unable to find any more related collectibles or products for sale among the many vendors at the lower level during the Toycon. I searched for whatever Macross stuff I could find (t-shirts, comic books, action figures, models, cards and others) but ended up with nothing.

Then again, it should NOT be surprising at all. Macross as an entertainment franchise is not exactly popular here in the Philippines and Macross Mania in the country has ended long ago. To say the least, the popularity of Macross here in the Philippines is limited to older fans and collectors. Anime is a lot more popular among Filipinos in this modern age but that does not mean Macross found a new nor large audience.

If ever the legendary Shoji Kawamori (whom I met at AsiaPOP Comicon Manila in 2017) or any notable Macross-related talent comes here in the Philippines, only then will the Macross brand gain attention.

20190629_105810.jpg
Another close look.

If you love anime or Macross, then I invite you to read my retro movie review of Macross: Do You Remember Love? right here. I also wrote about the famous Lynn Minmay here.


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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Screenshot_20190115-204136~2.png

First released in late 1999 on the PlayStation console in America, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Japan title: Biohazard: Last Escape) was a notable game of the Resident Evil franchise that not only proved to be a lot of fun but also a memorable experience for fans. To this day the game is fondly remembered.

In recent times, the Resident Evil franchise made waves with gamers worldwide with Resident Evil 7 (which came with a very daring change of style and gameplay) and the Resident Evil 2 remake demo (which I played the full 30 minutes of). The RE2 demo instantly brought back my own memories of enjoying the PlayStation version of early 1998. Granted, Resident Evil 2 in 1998 was truly a great sequel and its concept was epic compared to its predecessor’s. Because that game was a major blockbuster, Capcom had to come up with worthy follow-ups.

Then something happened over at Capcom in Japan. The initial concept for a sequel to RE2 was in the form of a story set on a luxury cruise liner but the company decided it lacked the time to produce a game out of it and this was related to Sony’s unveiling of the PlayStation 2 console.

Screenshot_20190115-203934~2.png

After some shuffling of executives and creative people, a team composed of not-so-experienced talents led by game director Kazuhiro Aoyama was formed to produce a spin-off  with a plot penned by company writer Yasuhisa Kawamura. The story was reviewed and approved by Flagship (an internal team that led the creative charge of Resident Evil projects) and RE creator Shinji Mikami worked as producer on the project.

Regarding its status, Resident Evil 3 was developed in tandem with the Sega Dreamcast-bound game that became Resident Evil: Code Veronica which was a bigger project and was the true sequel to RE2. The tricky part was that Capcom decided that its RE games released on PlayStation will carry a number on the title for “consistency” while RE games released on other platforms would carry subtitles.

RE3 followed the exploits of Jill Valentine, who was a protagonist in the 1996 original Resident Evil game. The story begins with her stuck in the middle of Raccoon City surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and she has no choice but to fight, run and escape to survive. Along the way, she discovers that what she learned from Umbrella in the first game was nothing compared to the more sinister intentions of the company she discovers in RE3. Making matters even harder for her was Nemesis, a large walking bio-weapon whose purpose is to destroy members of the city’s police unit S.T.A.R.S. (which Jill belongs to).

Screenshot_20190115-210004~2.png

For what started as a spin-off, Resident Evil 3’s gameplay showed notable improvements over that of Resident Evil 2. As a survival horror game, it has the awkward tank-like controls, the static pre-rendered environments with fixed camera angles and challenges of moving from one place to another while dealing with zombies or monsters.

The most notable improvement made was the addition of the ability for players to do 180-degree quick turn-around movements when controlling the character. Not only does this make moving the character easier, it also adds more speed and strategy into the game itself especially when the protagonist is surrounded by many zombies or monsters. The pace of gameplay also quickened with the quick turn-around.

Another addition is the ammunition crafting system that allows you to make more ammo for your weapons by combining the raw material (example: gun powder) into the in-game ammo-making device. This results making different types of ammunition for different weapons. By the time you reached deeper into the game, more powerful ammunition for newer weapons can be made and used.

Meanwhile the game had key moments that compel players to make a decision as that the narrative and gameplay would move forward. The element of choice is a nice gameplay addition and each choice made showed different results as to what happened next. When Nemesis appears, the game’s movement slows down presenting choices for gamers to make. The good news here is the decision making affects the quality of the story’s ending.

Screenshot_20190115-204827~2.png

The one addition I find questionable in the game is the dodge which works rather unpredictably in terms of response. There are times it worked and there are times it failed. No matter how you use the controls and time them with the action, the results are always inconsistent.

The biggest addition, not to mention the biggest impact, made in the game is Nemesis himself. Unlike Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, Nemesis is the unrelenting stalker whose presence and action deepened the gaming experience. Not only was Nemesis tough to fight with, he also appeared when gamers least expected and he runs a lot to get to Jill (or the mercenary Carlos who was also controlled temporarily by players). The music accompanying Nemesis’ presence also heightened the fear factor. It is argued that Nemesis himself is the most defining feature of Resident Evil 3 and deserved to have the game’s subtitle made after him.

Screenshot_20190115-202827~2.png

In my honest opinion, Nemesis reminds me a lot of the horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday The 13th slasher horror movie franchise. Like Jason, Nemesis is heavily disfigured (horrific to look at), stalks his prey relentlessly and does a lot (and anything) to kill his prey. Nemesis’ killing of Brad only shows how deadly he is. Like Jason, Nemesis cannot be reasoned with nor does he feel any pity. He simply won’t stop until he kills you in the game.

In terms of technology, RE3 used the same game engine as RE and RE2. By this time, the technology experts at Capcom improved the visual quality and the 2D pre-rendered backgrounds always felt convincing to me each time I played. Rare are the times when I noticed the 3D polygonal characters or monsters stood out from the 2D environments. With regards to the anti-hero elements, the zombies are more varied and most of all the monsters are creepier to look at. The Hunters made a nice return as well.

In terms of exploration, Resident Evil 3 makes heavy use of the city environment complete with many varied interiors mixed with believable exteriors. There were these alleys, streets (with some stores to enter) and more. The many puzzles as well as machines that required key items to be retrieved provide a good challenge although some may find the backtracking a bit tedious.

The return of Jill

jill

Jill Valentine made a nice return as the protagonist of the game. Right from the start, it was explained that she had resigned from the police force. Regarding her skimpy appearance (the blue tube top she wore with short skirt and boots), it turned out she was on her way out of town when the zombie infestation of Raccoon City begins in RE3.

More on Jill’s sexy default appearance in the game, I believe that Capcom’s creative team designed her like that in response to the sexy, armed woman charm popularized by Lara Croft of the best-selling Tomb Raider game franchise.

Take note of this. The first Resident Evil was released in 1996 many months before the first Tomb Raider came out. By the time Resident Evil 3 was released, the Tomb Raider franchise already had three games (note: there was a 12-month cycle for releasing sequels back then) that each sold in the millions and Lara Croft was quickly established as not only as a pop culture icon but also as a digital sex symbol idolized by millions of guys worldwide. I have this theory that some members of the Resident Evil 3 team subconsciously came up with the tube top look for Jill Valentine with Lara Croft as an influence. To say the least, both Jill and Lara are brave women capable of fighting with varied types of guns.

Screenshot_20190115-210306~2.png

Sex appeal aside, Resident Evil 3’s story is truly a defining tale of Jill Valentine as a character. By connecting her RE3 tale with that of the events of the first game from 1996, I come to realize that her stories made sense. Her becoming disillusioned with the failure of the city police department to go against Umbrella and eventual quitting from the police force was believable. In addition, Nemesis proved to be the ultimate monster she ever faced and all the monsters she encountered in the first game paled in comparison to him.

Alone and without having access to police resources, Jill’s struggle in Resident Evil 3 is a story that won’t be forgotten and the game’s fun and engaging gameplay only made her story even more memorable.

The cinematic “adaptation”

reapocalups
Sienna Guillory as the cinematic Jill Valentine at the left. With her were Sophie Vavasseur as Angela Ashford and director Alexander Witt. (credit: Screen Gems, Inc.)

In 2004, the second Resident Evil live-action movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released in cinemas starring Milla Jovovich. The concepts of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis were carelessly adapted by the movie showing a Raccoon City filled with zombies and a live-action Jill Valentine played by Sienna Guillory who appeared with the tube top, short skirt and boots. In a sequence in the movie, Guillory even tried moving like her character’s video game counterpart.

While attention was paid on Jill’s Resident Evil 3 look, Guillory’s portrayal of her was nothing special and this has a lot to do with the screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson, the directing by Alexander Witt (not really a prolific director) and notably Milla Jovovich’s dominance of the spotlight.

Whenever I watch Guilloy’s Jill in the movie, I really never felt like watching RE3’s Jill at all. Also the film had Jill being inferior to Alice (Milla Jovovich) on screen. There are two scenes in the movie wherein Jill does something to solve the problem, Alice comes in to do it better than her.

Having seen all Resident Evil live-action movies, which I regret for the most part, it is no secret that the filmmakers treated the concepts, characters and other elements from the RE video games with no real respect and certainly with no care about the concerns of Resident Evil game fans.

If you have not seen Resident Evil: Apocalypse and have been interested to see it for the RE3 elements, better not waste your time. Better play the video game instead.

Conclusion

Screenshot_20190115-210810~2.png

Ultimately Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a classic even though it was never meant to be the big budget sequel to the classic Resident Evil 2. The game deservedly got released on the Sega Dreamcast, the Nintendo GameCube and Windows PC.

Now that Resident Evil mania is back in gamers’ minds right now, I should say that Capcom should consider re-releasing digitally RE3 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows 10 if ever possible. Even though its tank-like controls are very outdated by today’s standards, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a classic that gamers of different ages must enjoy without having to go through the hassle of acquiring old existing copies of it (not to mention having an existing old console to play it). I myself am willing to pay for RE3 to be re-released and play it on my Xbox One. Very recently an enhanced re-release of Onimusha: Warlords was done by Capcom. Making the same treatment with RE3 only makes sense.

Who knows what impact a re-released RE3 would create? Such a re-release could lead to a popular demand for Capcom to make a big budget remake of Resident Evil 3 similar to what they have done with RE2. This will also give today’s gamers an opportunity to experience the one defining story of Jill Valentine.

In ending this article, I posted some YouTube videos of RE3 for your enjoyment.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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.