A Look Back at V #1 (1985)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book, watching the V mini-series (Original Miniseries and The Final Battle) and the 1984 TV series, 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.

Back in the 1980s – a time when Netflix, Blu-ray, social and other forms of digital entertainment were not yet realized – watching a special show on television was really something. During that particular decade, science fiction in cinema was already popular (thanks to George Lucas and Star Wars plus the resurgence of Star Trek) but there was still room for growth on the TV market.

IMDBcoverpic
The cover of V: The Original Miniseries. (source – IMDB.com)

Then came the very memorable sci-fi TV mini-series titled V (also referred to as V: The Original Miniseries) in 1983 which not only became a big hit with viewers but also brought the sci-fi concept of reptiloids (reptilian humanoids) to the mainstream. The mini-series also had parallels to the Nazis and the Holocaust. The original mini-series was such a big hit, it spawned a sequel mini-series titled V: The Final Battle (1984) and even a TV series (1984-1985).

IMDBpic
Jane Badler as Diana, Faye Grant as Julie Parrish and Marc Singer as Mike Donovan. (source – IMDB.com)

Created by Kenneth Johnson, V became a popular franchise and made stars out of Marc Singer (The Beastmaster), Faye Grant, Michael Ironside (Total Recall) and Jane Badler. Even though there never was a movie made, V was popular enough to have a line of novels, a video game and even a comic book series!

With the history lesson done, it’s high time to start taking a look back at V #1, published in 1985 by DC Comics with a story written by Cary Bates and illustrated by Carmine Infantino.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins in the city of Los Angeles, California, with millions of locals try to co-exist with the visitors (reptilian beings disguised as humans) who are armed and still have power over Earth’s people. Los Angeles stands as a so-called neutral zone but some things are not what they seem.

Inside a restaurant, Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish, Ham Tyler and Chris Farber talk about their situation. For Ham and Chris, the neutral zone stinks but for Mike, the current situation spares the city from turning into an open battlefield. Suddenly, three men wearing trench coats standing by the bar pull their guns out and fire at Mike and his companions who take cover…

Quality

9
The struggle between the resistance and the visitors goes on.

Before discussing the quality of this comic book, I should state that having sufficient knowledge about the two TV mini-series and the TV series is required in order to understand what has been going on in the literary tale and who the characters are.

On quality, let’s start with the storytelling done by Cary Bates. It is clear Bates carefully researched the TV materials to make a comic book script that pretty much captures not only the essence of V but also the notable differences of each character (examples: Tyler is sarcastic, Mike is determined, Willie occasionally speaks with a misplaced word, and Diana is sadistic). This comic book’s plot was written to be aligned with the events of the TV series as it is clear that its tale took place some time after the climax of V: The Final Battle.

When it comes to translating V’s essence from TV to comic book format, Bates script worked surprisingly well and more importantly there was a careful balance between exposition, plotting, spectacle and suspense. When it comes to character development, what you get from the TV series (in terms of doing characterization) is also present here.

When it comes to visuals, Carmine Infantino’s work is serviceable. The artist did what was possible with the script provided although there were key moments in which the panels and drawings were structured to be a little disorienting. Was this Infantino’s way of trying to be dynamic with the visuals? Lastly, don’t expect to see the major characters resemble their TV counterparts. Ham does not look like Michael Ironside, Mike does not look like Marc Singer and Julie does not look like Faye Grant.

Conclusion

6
Recognize Mike, Julie and Ham here?

I can say it straight that V #1 is a solid science fiction comic book that specifically will strongly resonate with fans of the V franchise’s entertainment of the 1980s. This comic book strongly captures the essence of the V franchise, specifically the TV series itself, and the good news is that the major characters are nicely dramatized which should delight fans. That being said, it’s tricky to recommend this to people who did not grow up with nor knew the V mini-series and TV series. When it comes to trading and making money out of this comic book, you could be in luck.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of V #1 (1985), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $28 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $33.

Overall, V #1 (1985) is highly recommended specifically for the fans and the collectors. Those who are not oriented with the franchise need to see the mini-series and TV series first in order to realize this comic book’s value.


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

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Birds of Prey

As I mentioned before, I never read a single comic book about Birds of Prey. Apart from previously knowing Harley Quinn, Black Canary (from the 1980s specifically) and Huntress (from the 1990s), I had minimal knowledge of the DC Comics’ title as well as modest expectations entering the cinema yesterday to watch Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn which is the latest superhero production from Warner Bros.

Right now, I’m happy to share to you that the R-rated movie proved to be a fun-filled watch and is proof that the DC Comics Cinematic Universe is still moving forward (in terms of engagement, enjoyment and creativity) towards greatness.

Here is my movie review of Birds of Prey.

FB_IMG_1579954917133-1.jpg

Early Story

The story begins with a look into the past of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) moving forward until her breakup with the supervillain Joker (don’t expect to see Jared Leto’s image). Through narration and clever visuals, Harley is now living a new life. Along the way, there is a club within Gotham City bustling with life which Harley haves fun at and eventually she encounters the club owner Roman/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who is not what he seems. After getting drunk and becoming vulnerable to men with sinister intentions, Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who sings at the club, comes to her rescue. After recovering, Harley moves on to destroy a huge facility of Ace Chemicals which further sets events off…

Quality

While the screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) lacked storytelling depth and character development, director Cathy Yan and her team still managed to craft a superhero film that was fun, action-packed and, surprisingly, not too reliant on computer-generated visual effects.

To make up for the lack of story depth, the movie relied mainly on the performances of the actors to bring their characters to life. Margot Robbie really excelled in playing Harley Quinn inside and out. While this latest cinematic portrayal does not have Harley insane, she’s still crazier than in Suicide Squad. Robbie’s act this time is more creative, more adulterated (which is the way the go), more daring with action and also more comedic. From this point on, I should say that Warner Bros. should rehire Robbie to play Harley Quinn in even more DC Comics movies.

FB_IMG_1579954826376.jpg
Here come the ladies: Renee Montoya, Huntress, Harley Quinn, Cassandra Cain and Black Canary.

Rosie Perez as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya delivered a strong presence as the law enforcement element in the film and through her, we get to see the culture of the local police. Don’t expect her to have any links with police commissioner Gordon or Batman, though. Jurnee Smollet-Bell as the cinematic Black Canary is one of the stronger performers even though her version of the character is radically different from the one I read in the comic books long ago. Ella Jay Basco, an actress of Filipino and Korean heritage, as the orphan Cassandra Cain is clearly the movie’s representative (and attraction to) of the youth. Performance-wise, Basco delivered a nice performance even though her character (who in the comics is one of many who became Batgirl) lacks depth. Fortunately for us moviegoers, she is not the whiny teenager who annoy viewers and, more importantly, she delivered nicely in her part of the film’s plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as the cinematic Huntress. It’s too bad her on-screen presence is not long enough to be enjoyed, nor were moviegoers given better opportunities to know the Huntress better.

The most outstanding performance in the movie was delivered by Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. McGregor, who is a naturally artistic actor, is very colorful with his portrayal of a supervillain who, unlike many other such antagonists in other superhero movies, is charismatic, suave and yet cruel to the core. This cinematic Black Mask is not your generic action movie villain and, as such, hiring McGregor was one of the best moves made by Warner Bros. I honestly find McGregor a worthy adversary versus Margot Robbie when it comes to cinematic artistry.

When it comes to spectacle, Birds of Prey is heavily loaded with hard-hitting action plus some bloody shots that make it standout among the many superhero movies released in this current century. For one thing, the actresses themselves took an active part in doing action and the stunts they could pull of on their own (the harder stuff were understandably done by stunt doubles). Watching Harley Quinn beat up the bad guys with that large hammer, the baseball bat and other stuff were not only hard-hitting but also creative without ever looking choreographed. Black Canary’s high kicks were notable. Renee Montoya’s reliance on guns and hard action were symbolic throwbacks to the police movies of the past. Huntress meanwhile showed how deadly her small but powerful crossbow can be on-screen.

Late in the film is a certain long-take action sequence filled with the characters struggling with the bad guys simultaneously (without using computer-generated imagery) which was cleverly filmed with nice timing as the camera moved on very steadily. That sequence, even though short, is worth watching again and again. Oh yes, there are no shaky camera sequences shot!

The action scenes, in my opinion, came into play at the right time whenever I felt enough dialogue and exposition were made. This shows that the filmmakers pulled off the right moves with the pacing to ensure that people are kept entertained while still maintaining some storytelling sense which is quite an achievement since the film’s plot lacked depth. The stunts, meanwhile, are really nice to watch.

As for the brewing arguments and anticipation that Birds of Prey is a leftist and feminist piece of propaganda, I should say that such influences are more on the visual side than on the dialogue. Even though Ewan McGregor publicly said the movie is feminist, it’s not too strong. The feminism is more visible in images of the ladies fighting the bad guys who are varied with their looks – muscular, tall, big, beards, etc. The feminism is obvious with the ladies teaming up together and that is not surprising at all. Even though it has feminism elements, Birds of Prey is still pretty much a superhero movie on its own. You want a movie with stronger and more blatant feminism? Watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi instead. Maybe you want to try Elizabeth Banks’ failure Charlie’s Angels.

Conclusion

FB_IMG_1579954888780.jpg

With strong and creative performances plus loads of fun stuff that more than made up for the lack of story depth and character development, Birds of Prey is an enjoyable superhero movie that is worthy of being part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. Without relying on fan service, this movie expands the current cinematic universe’ presentation of Gotham City and shows the other parts of it away from Batman.

Even if you have not read any Birds of Prey comics, this movie will still prove to be entertaining. Just don’t expect to see the more iconic DC Comics characters and don’t expect to see heavy amounts of computer-generated images on-screen. Birds of Prey is more grounded and for a production of roughly $100 million, the production values still look high.

Overall, Birds of Prey is highly recommended and I encourage you to watch it in the cinemas as soon as possible. And if you have the extra money, watch it on an IMAX screen as the film was optimized for the format.


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: Return of the Jedi

Screenshot_20200202-123104_YouTube.jpg
Luke Skywalker going up against the game’s final boss – Emperor Palpatine. 

By the middle of 1994, gamers and Star Wars fans who owned a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) were treated with more 2D side-scrolling fun with Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Developed by Sculptured Software and LucasArts and published by JVC, the game was the conclusion of the so-called Super Star Wars trilogy of the 16-bit era of console gaming.

Like its predecessor Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, this game is a 2-dimensional side-scrolling adventure game released just months before Sega and Sony respectively released the Saturn and PlayStation consoles (which eventually made 3D polygonal gaming popular). The game itself is based on the 1983 movie Return of the Jedi: Luke and his friends go out to save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt and the Rebels prepare its strategy to defeat the Imperial Forces now armed with a new Death Star with the personal presence of Emperor Palpatine.

Here’s my review of Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Early story (and some notable differences from the movie)

The game begins with a quick look at Darth Vader’s arrival at the new Death Star setting up the stage for the Emperor’s arrival. On Tattooine, Luke and his companions travel to the temple of Jabba the Hutt to somehow save their friend Han Solo (who got frozen in carbonite at Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back).

Screenshot_20200202-120316_YouTube.jpg
A still cut-scene at the beginning of the game.

In order to get to the palace, Luke/Leia/Chewbacca (you get to pick which character to use) have to travel through a lengthy stretch of land filled with several forms of wild life, monsters and even Jawas blocking their way. Once inside, your character has to fight until the end of the next few levels (note: there was a boss or powerful enemy to beat) to make the story progress.

Once you have defeated Jabba and rescued Han Solo, your team regroups with the Rebels in space to start your next series of missions with the moon of Endor (with the 2nd Death Star in orbit).

Notable differences from the movie include fighting a large monster (which used a large ball as a weapon) did not appear in the film. Also notable was Leia (in her sexy slave outfit) having to move from end of the stage to reach Jabba the Hutt who serves as the level’s boss. Jabba’s sail barge in the game looks and feels longer than in the movie.

Screenshot_20200202-121353_YouTube.jpg
Leia, Jabba is right behind you!

Gameplay

Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi plays a lot like its predecessor. As typical with most games of the era that used 2D sprites for visuals, the game is an action-packed side-scroller wherein you have to control your character from left to right, go up and down and complete the level by either defeating the end-level boss or by simply reaching the end (some levels have no boss). As you move on, you all get to collect power-ups and icons.

Along the way, you get to fight a whole bunch of enemies that appear to fight and stop you.  This include not only the Imperial forces that appeared in the movie but also now additions like machines and even flying robots. You never saw Luke fight any flying robot in the movie? In this game, he gets to fight them at the Imperial facility on the moon of Endor.

Screenshot_20200202-122315_YouTube.jpg
Han Solo blasts the Stormtroopers!

Given the story structure of the movie, the game developers were able to let players pick a Star Wars character to play as before starting a level. This particular feature was prominent in 1992’s Super Star Wars but was heavily toned down (due to story structure) in Super Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. Back to the selectable characters, there are key differences between them such as Luke using his lightsaber and some Force powers, Han Solo with his blaster and grenades, Chewbacca with his crossbow and his spin attack (he does NOT do this in the movies so it’s funny), and Leia who uses different weapons as she appears (based on the story structure) as a disguised hunter and as a sexy slave to Jabba. Quite odd here is the addition of Wicket the Ewok as a playable character whom you must guide fighting the bad guys in two levels that emphasized the village of the Ewoks up those tall trees.

Like the previous two games, the game designers implemented levels that play differently from the standard side-scrolling adventuring. I’m referring to the Mode 7 level in which you fly the Millenium Falcon on a makeshift 3D environment on the surface of the 2nd Death Star needing to destroy a number of TIE Fighters in order to progress. I should that this particular level lacked depth although it was cool to use the Falcon and just imagine Lando and his team inside operating it.

Screenshot_20200202-122611_YouTube.jpg
The Millenium Falcon in the Mode 7 3D environment set on the surface of the Death Star.

In what is a clear attempt by the game makers to push the hardware of the Super NES, they created a standalone level in which you use the top turret of the Millenium Falcon to shoot a required number of TIE Fighters while flying in space heading towards the 2nd Death Star (complete with a 3D background showing the Imperial Star Destroyers in the distance on the opposite side). This was a very short yet cool sequence to play even though the darkness of space makes spotting the TIE Fighters a bit challenging. I liked the fact that the console’s processor was pushed hard to allow the TIE Fighters look 3D and detailed using several frames of animation as they fly around and right close to the Falcon (which itself looked detailed).

Screenshot_20200202-122004_YouTube.jpg
This 3D shooting segment in the game was fun and too short.

And then there is the speeder bike chase sequence that took place through the forest of Endor. This one is pretty shallow and has not aged well.

Screenshot_20200202-121543_YouTube.jpg
Nice visual detail on the speeder bikes but everything else felt shallow.

Finally, the game’s last stage is another hardware-intensive level that offers gamers the opportunity to experience the challenge and speed (as far as the hardware could push) of piloting the Millenium Falcon into the tunnels of the 2nd Death Star to reach the core, blast it and then escape on the way out (being chased by intense flame caused by the explosion). This level shows lots of repeating visual elements that are supposed to be the mechanical interiors of the tunnels and you can movie the Falcon in 1st-person view, speed up or down, rotate the view and tilt the direction as you move forward. Along the way, there are TIE Fighters who appear in front of you for you to shoot at. While the intention of the developers to replicate the memorable sequence of the movie is clear, the hardware limitations (and design limitations) could only go so far to make the gameplay experience solid.

Screenshot_20200202-123735_YouTube.jpg
This sequence must be seen in motion.

Conclusion

While it is indeed a more polished game than the memorable Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was indeed a fun and engaging game but still falls short of its immediate predecessor. For one thing, this game noticeably was less challenging and the return of the password system makes it even easier to finish. The boss battle with Darth Vader showed the iconic villain being much easier to beat with even on the standard difficulty level. I still remember how surprising it was during my first time playing the game.

The non-side-scrolling levels of the game created good variety for playing. I just wished that the 3D space shooting sequence of the Falcon (with its top turret) lasted longer and the visuals of the final level looked more detailed and had less lag. As for the Mode 7 level with the Falcon, that one pales in comparison with lengthy and memorable Battle of Hoth (which has the grand experience of taking down the AT-AT walkers with the tow cable).

Overall, Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is recommended.  By today’s standards, this game is a classic and was one of the best ever Star Wars video games of not only of its console generation but among all Star Wars games that were made with 2D sprites and pixel art. If you have a Super NES console or Nintendo’s Virtual Console, play the game once you have it.


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

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

After enduring two whole years being depressed and uncertain about Star Wars movies due to Rian Johnson’s arrogant deformation of the franchise with his abomination The Last Jedi, I am happy to say that I’m happy again after watching Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

This is my review of The Rise of Skywalker directed by J.J. Abrams and co-written by Abrams, Chris Terrio, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly.

Early story

The movie begins with the First Order’s supreme leader Kylo Ren on an unrelenting quest that leads him deep into the galaxy where he finds the uncharted destination of Exegol. There he meets a living Palpatine who turns out to be the creator of the late Snoke, the previous supreme leader of the First Order.

Palpatine knows that Rey is still training as a Jedi and he tells Kylo to eliminate her. Palpatine also has a brand new fleet composed of advanced star destroyers armed with powerful weapons capable of destroying planets.

Meanwhile, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca travel in the Millennium Falcon to obtain crucial information from a spy about the location of Palpatine.

Quality

Rise2
Chewbacca, Poe, C3PO (hidden), Rey and Finn.

Let me start with the fact that The Rise of Skywalker is, unsurprisingly, a flawed movie that happens to have more good stuff than bad ones. To put things into perspective, J.J. Abrams and their creative team had to make a new movie following the abomination The Last Jedi which, literally, dug a large hole and let the Star Wars film franchise fall deep into it. Not only did Abrams and team work to lift the franchise up and move it forward by having a story that not only made sense but resonated with Star Wars fans while delivering long bouts of cinematic fun. If you want to focus on the fun factor, The Rise of Skywalker is a joy ride while Rian John’s The Last Jedi was sluggish and frustrating to watch.

Storytelling? This movie has been bashed for having a video game-inspired approach of narrative: the band of protagonists go to a new location where they meet people as they move to fulfill a goal only to be hounded by opposition from the antagonists, then they go to a new location where they meet people and similar events repeat.

In some ways, The Rise of Skywalker reminded me about the video game Grandia, Final Fantasy IX and other role-playing games (RPGs) I personally played. While the use of video game-inspired narrative is not the perfect tool to use for a movie, this approach actually works in The Rise of Skywalker! For one thing, the sense of excitement and adventuring I enjoyed from the original Star Wars trilogy returned and I enjoyed every moment of it. This translates into fun while remaining focus on the story objectives and characters. I do confirm that there were lots of spectacles (lots of lightsaber action, shooting, running and spaceship battles) throughout the movie that kept me entertained most of the time. There was no boring moment, not even in the slowest scenes.

The use of video game-inspired narrative also worked in building up the tension leading into the series of events that lead into the final conflict. The result? It paid off nicely! The final conflict and the way the story ended were all worth the wait and build-up! Considering how terrible events happened and ended in The Last Jedi, what was achieved in The Rise of Skywalker was a tremendous achievement!

Rise3
Spaceship battles in this movie were plenty and fun to watch!

On the aspect of emphasizing the Force and the Jedi themselves, this movie, in my honest opinion, took inspiration from the non-canon Star Wars Legends (previously referred to as Star Wars Expanded Universe), specifically with elements from the Dark Empire comic book mini-series of 1991-1992. When a key visual in the film was shown to explain Palpatine’s survival, I was not surprised at all.

When it comes to performances, Daisy Ridley really defined herself as an actor and she really defined Rey as a Jedi (with assistance from Abrams and the screenwriters) who carries a huge burden related to her heritage (you’ll find out in the film). After watching Rey in the first two films struggling to learn and move on, she is a more developed character in this movie. That’s not all. Poe and Finn have been more refined and it is through adventuring that they really became lively and believable characters. Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren consistently delivered the symbolism of the dark side of the Force (specifically consuming the younger generation) with the exception of a key twist that took place much later (you just have to watch the movie). Ian McDiarmind’s return as Palpatine is undeniably great and a welcome return to form. The actor really showed he is great in portraying cinematic evil.

When it comes to classic Star Wars characters, the filmmakers cleverly used existing footage of the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia and by means of editing and scene set-ups, they succeeded in inserting the character into the narrative complete with recorded dialogue that relate to the events that happened. Billy Dee Williams, meanwhile, made a great return as Lando Calrissian. While I wish his screen time was longer and his character was more involved with the remaining Resistance, it was still nice to see Williams literally disappear letting Lando come to life on-screen once again.

Conclusion

Rise1
The Millennium Falcon is better used in this movie than in The Last Jedi.

As mentioned earlier, The Rise of Skywalker is a flawed film. For one thing, there are several plot holes here and there (responded to via visual dictionary). There were also new Force powers that were not fully explained in detail. Those weaknesses, however, did not really drag the film that much. The bad stuff here is NOTHING compared to all the creative garbage Rian Johnson (plus the trash from the Political Left in Hollywood) filled in The Last Jedi since that director was too obsessed with subverting people’s expectations all throughout.

What I admire in it is the effort done by Abrams to connect it with 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The shots of the remains of the 2nd Death Star in the previews only literally show the tip of the iceberg.

As a follow-up to The Last Jedi, this movie moved in two ways: correcting what was set in Rian Johnson’s abomination while also somewhat building up on what was also established in that same abomination. Ultimately, the course-correction done by Abrams and team made The Rise of Skywalker not only fun and engaging, but also recaptured the elements that defined Star Wars as a cinematic experience. There were also key scenes that, in my view, allowed this movie to punch back at the deformation done in The Last Jedi. I smiled a lot when those creative moments took place.

When compared to The Force Awakens, this movie is actually more fun and more engaging. In fact, it is indeed the best of the current Star Wars trilogy (2015-2019).

With this current Star Wars trilogy concluded, I do regret that the classic characters of Han, Luke and Leia ended up as supporting players and the trio of Rey-Finn-Poe (who are welcome additions to the Star Wars family of characters) as protagonists still pale in comparison to them. To simplify things, Luke-Han-Leia are iconic while Rey-Finn-Poe are serviceable protagonists at best.

Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker is a solidly good Star Wars film and is itself a major recovery from the debacle of The Last Jedi. As the ninth chapter of the entire Star Wars main movies franchise (which first started in 1977), it is a flawed yet worthy addition (and also worthy as the new conclusion) into the saga that involved the Force and the Skywalkers. It is nowhere as great as The Empire Strikes Back (the best Star Wars movie ever) but it is, in my opinion, better and more engaging than The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith respectively.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker 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. 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 Superman #100 (1995)

While this old comic book may not be the best-selling Superman story of the 1990s, it is for me the most significant one as well as creator Dan Jurgens’ best work ever on the Man of Steel. I’m talking about Superman #100.

Cover
The cover.

Released in 1995 by DC Comics, Superman #100 came out with a special cover that highlighted the title “The Death of Clark Kent”. It was released with a hefty cover price of $3.95 for the United States and was pretty thick. It was written and illustrated by Dan Jurgens, the same man who worked on the best-selling Superman #75 (The Death of Superman climax).

Early story

The story begins with Clark Kent carrying a deformed Superman object (with makeshift glasses and a knife “stabbing” the letter S) and just feet behind him was his officemate Jimmy Olsen. Hidden mostly from Olsen’s view, the object signifies that someone knows that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same person. Carefully, Clark hides it away and starts chatting with Jimmy who is very concerned of him.

Clark recently has been struggling over the fact that someone knows his secret identity. After carefully dismissing Jimmy, he moves out as Superman to take of business before the madman (who knows his identity) makes his next move.

Superman visits his parents Jonathan and Martha Kent at their home in Smallville. He expresses to Jonathan that he believes that the madman is someone he knew from his past: Kenny Braverman (Conduit).

Quality

If there is anything that defines this comic book, it is the in-depth storytelling done by Dan Jurgens complete with intense character development as well as exploration of people from his past (all connected to Smallville).

The plot structure is quite simple. Conduit knows Superman/Clark Kent personally and is always at least a step ahead of the superhero complete with strategies mess with him personally. Superman, who came back from the dead and has been struggling to fit in with the times, finds himself at his most vulnerable state not as a super-powered guy but as a human being. To analyze things here, Superman is about to get suffer and lose a lot again but not with the temporary death he got from fighting Doomsday, but rather the demise of his personality as Clark Kent.

Art2
Truly one of the best Superman dialogue and characterizations ever thanks to Dan Jurgens.

Think about it. As Clark, Superman has a career, a social life, grew up the American way, intends to spend his life with Lois Lane and has ambitions of simple living that mean more to him than being with the Justice League America (note: writing the next great American novel).

The great thing here is that writer-artist Dan Jurgens humanized Superman a whole lot in this comic book and his work is excellent. Superman #100 opens up the discussion about what life would be like for the Man of Steel once his identity as Clark Kent gets ruined. The story also connects with Superman’s past (within the post-Crisis universe of DC Comics) and sheds light on his relationships with not only his parents but also with Pete Ross and Lana Lang (Clark’s ex-GF). When it comes to putting Superman in danger, Conduit’s approach is more convincing than Doomsday’s unstoppable power of destruction.

By the time I got immersed with Dan Jurgen’s storytelling and character development, the action scenes involving Superman felt justified. More importantly, this comic book shows the famous superhero being pushed to the limits in terms of personality tolerance and determination.

Conclusion

We live in an age in which established entertainment franchises get ruined by sequels or spin-offs or reboots which were mishandled by creators who tried to reinvent stuff only to fail and disappoint the fans.

Look at Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson had complete creative control on telling an engaging and fun Star Wars tale but ended up deforming it (disregarding Star Wars’ most defining elements), focused mainly on subverting people’s expectations and left many long-time fans disappointed and angry.

Art1
Superman going after Conduit.

Going back to Superman #100, Dan Jurgens succeeded in redefining the American icon while maintaining respect of the established past of the character and kept the elements that defined Superman. His story about the demise of Superman’s secret identity was a very fresh concept and, for a time, it paved the way for opportunities to take the Man of Steel into new creative directions without disappointing fans.

Personally, I would love to see Warner Bros. produce a new standalone Superman movie with Henry Cavill as the superhero and adapt the core elements of Jurgens’ work in Superman #100 into the screenplay. Cavill already proved he could portray Superman/Clark very humanly in Man of Steel.

Overall, Superman #100 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

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

I will just say it straight and clearly – the Terminator film franchise is truly unnecessary today and, having seen its debut in the year 1984 (written and directed by a very young James Cameron), I should say that the saga really ended with 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron’s masterpiece).

Out of curiosity, instead of anticipation, I got to watch Terminator: Dark Fate at the local cinema. Having been disappointed with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation (a bad movie notorious for Christian Bale’s loss of self-control) and Terminator: Genisys (the most insulting and most screwed up film of the franchise), I had low expectations for Dark Fate.

Ultimately, I left the cinema disappointed yet again although the experience was not as bad as that of 2015 (with Genisys).

Screenshot_20191113-134912_YouTube.jpg
Clearly, the filmmakers took inspiration from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and mix the more established film franchise stars (in supporting roles) with the younger actors.

To put it short, Terminator: Dark Fate took creative inspiration from 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This means it was made with recycled concepts, told the story through its new characters (played by actors who are much younger and who are supposed to appeal to younger viewers) and back them up with the old, more iconic actors (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton) limited to supporting roles. When it comes to presentation, this new movie felt more like a roller coaster ride than an actual story laced with spectacle stage-by-stage.

That is pretty much how Terminator: Dark Fate turned out. It does not matter that this was directed by Tim Miller, the guy behind 2016’s Deadpool. It does not matter that the great James Cameron got involved with producing and story credit (he shared with a few other names). It does not matter that this movie was made with a large budget of $185 million and relied heavily on computers to generate the visuals (which look fake most of the time). Whatever the preparations made, they did not matter at all because Terminator: Dark Fate is a rushed and creative disappointment that does not deserve your time nor your money.

The movie opened with archived footage of Sarah Connor expressing the darkness of the future coming. This was immediately followed by a scene set in 1998 showing Sarah and her son John living in an age in which Judgment Day did NOT occur on August 29, 1997. Suddenly another Terminator T-800 Model 101 (another Schwarzenegger-type Terminator) appears and actually kills John Connor leaving Sarah in turmoil.

Screenshot_20191113-135025_YouTube.jpg
This is the protector sent through time by the human resistance.

John Connor, who has been a central story element in the 1984 and 1991 (memorably played by Edward Furlong) movies as he was destined to be the human resistance leader in the war with Skynet, was eliminated so quickly in the opening of this new movie very similar to how the character of Dwayne Hicks (played by Michael Biehn in the James Cameron-directed Aliens) got killed in a very dismissive way in the beginning of Alien 3. This move was nothing less than cynical, ill-conceived and even a daring disservice to Terminator fans.

From this point on, Terminator: Dark Fate turns into a “what if John Connor was dead and a new future war followed?” type of story.

Even though Judgment Day got prevented in relation to what Sarah and John achieved in Terminator 2, a new war between man and machines in the far future still occurs only this time Skynet is no more and the new enemy artificial intelligence (AI) this time is called Legion. This new story concept, by the way, is pretty insulting to any fan who loved the first two films directed by James Cameron as those flicks told a complete saga.

Screenshot_20191113-135131_YouTube.jpg
This is the new, future leader of the human resistance.

And then the plot of The Terminator got recycled. A human fighter is sent back through time to protect a person who is destined to become the leader of the human resistance. Also sent back through time is a Terminator designed to look human and infiltrate society with a mission to kill the future human resistance leader. This is essentially what Terminator: Dark Fate truly is and even though Sarah Connor returned (plus another Terminator T-800 played by Schwarzenegger), there really is nothing new, nothing fresh and nothing worth enjoying.

When it comes to quality, this movie does not have much standing for it. The new characters are not engaging at all and their respective performers really had nowhere to go to engage moviegoers. Mackenzie Davis playing the new combat-ready protector only served to beef the film with action and there is nothing compelling about her act, nor did the script provide anything to make her androgynous character memorable. The new human resistance leader played by Natalia Reyes is forgettable and unbelievable even though she tried hard being dramatic. Compared with Sarah Connor in 1984’s The Terminator, the chosen one Dani Ramos in the film was transformed from a struggling, working-class person into a brave fighter in a very rushed and unconvincing manner. Also, if you take a close look at Natalia Reyes, she is too short to be a figure of authority, too small to use weapons and her act is clearly sub-par in terms of quality making her big misfire in terms of casting. The performance, script and directing really had no depth when it comes to developing the characters.

The new Terminator (Rev-9) played by Gabriel Luna was nothing more than an uninspired attempt to outdo the T-1000 of Terminator 2. Luna was decent with playing cold and emotionless but when he acts human to infiltrate human society, he’s just generic at best.

Screenshot_20191113-135243_YouTube.jpg
This is the new cinematic villain that won’t stop to kill the future leader of the human resistance. Oh, the computer-generated visuals are often fake to look at.

As for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton returning, it is sad for me to say that these two iconic performers of the film franchise got wasted. Sarah Connor in this movie was poorly written and this modern version ruins the legacy the character had since 1991. Schwarzenegger meanwhile played another T-800 Terminator whose adjustment into human society turned out to be unconvincing, even outlandish. A Terminator adjusting into domestic human life? Totally unbelievable!

If there is anything to admire in this ill-conceived movie, it is Schwarzenegger’s delivery of his lines as the Terminator. He was over 70-years-old at the time of filming and he no longer has the super fit, muscular build he was famous for but he still proved to be excellent in being robotic with the dialogue. Sadly, this good stuff from the ex-governor of California was not enough to save this movie from its dark fate.

The film has a lot of action and there is a notable variety of it here. Even though action-packed and the action quality is an improvement over Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys, Terminator: Dark Fate is ultimately a ride that can only provide temporary relief from the pain of the weak script. Oh, the use of fake-looking CGI hurts the action and stunts

Conclusion

TermiDF
Let this be the LAST Terminator movie and let it fade away. How? By NOT spending your precious time and money on it.

Although it is better than Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys respectively, Terminator: Dark Fate still failed to be a solid film and definitely it is NOT worthy of being the official follow-up (the “real Terminator 3” to the first two films written and directed by James Cameron. Cameron’s involvement with this movie did not really improve the situation of the deteriorating Terminator film franchise and even worse, this big disappointment taints his record of excellence as a producer. Director Tim Miller, in my opinion, should go back to superhero movie making or try directing a brand new project of science fiction that does not involve an established intellectual property. How he will recover from Terminator: Dark Fate remains to be seen.

Bottom line – Terminator: Dark Fate is not recommended. You are better off skipping this movie but if you intend to watch it at all, do it out of curiosity. Don’t spend your money on this movie (the cinema, future release on streaming services, Blu-ray, DVD, etc.).

If you want to experience the cinematic greatness of the Terminator film franchise, go back to watching The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day instead.


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

My Observations: Komiket South 2019

Yesterday around lunch time, I took time out to attend a geek and special interests event that targeted South Metro Manila and Cavite residents. It was the Komiket South 2019 event held at the ground floor of SM Southmall in Las Piñas City.

20190526_120313.jpg
The place where the creators, fans and buyers gathered.

To put things in perspective, Komiket is an affordable komiks and art market that aims to discover new creators, readers and launch new komiks. “Komiks” is a local term referring to comic books produced by local creators. Decades ago, there were several comic books (or pages published on magazines) published here in the Philippines that highlighted local society as well as the fantasy talents of local creators. Such comics were published in Tagalog, the leading local language here in the Philippines.

The event was a nice gathering of creative people, most of which were artists who showcased their talents through the forms of comic books, stickers, posters, post cards and other collectible items. Such items were offered to customers who passed by out of curiosity or with intention to buy.

20190526_120009.jpg
Pop culture art in the form of cards, pin-ups and stickers.
20190526_120530.jpg
This particular booth attracted a lot of young people.
20190526_120443.jpg
A view during my walk through.

Along the way, I met with Damy Velasquez III, one of the creators selling independently published comic books. We had a nice chat about what were displayed, he allowed me to browse a few of the comic books and I decided to purchase one of his comic books titled The New DI-13 #1 (pronounced as “dee-trese” which ironically rhymes with Dick Tracy). Once I read it, I’ll publish a review here.

20190527_093349.jpg
My copy of The New DI-13 #1.

There were other indie comic books from other creators also displayed nearby. Among those I checked had black-and-white and Tagalog language presentations. There were some comics with color though.

20190526_120610.jpg
An artist writing down something.
20190526_120807.jpg
Button pins and stickers of Don Fumar.

Komiket South 2019 was a lively event that took place on May 25 and 26. It’s nice to see such events get held here in South Metro Manila and I hope that more of these will be held in the near future. There is nothing like meeting the creative people behind the artworks, the comic books and other collectible stuff.

If another Komiket or something similar happens within the south, I would attend it.

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, Single Player Campaign)

Believe it or not, I completely missed out on Gears of War 4 on Xbox One back in 2016. I simply had other priorities and I was unable to raise the money needed to buy the game. A year after that, I downloaded the demo of the game and managed to play

Finally, thanks to a recent sale online at Xbox LIVE, I purchased the game at last and recently managed to finish it. Gears of War 4 proved to be a lot of fun and even until now it still is a gem of game design and visual art.

To put things in perspective, I played the first three main Gears of War games from 2006 to 2011 and those games were mainly designed by the talented Cliff Bleszinski who had NO INVOLVEMENT with the latest game. Gears of War 4, by the way, is the first-ever internally developed game of Microsoft through its studio The Coalition.

The good news is that Gears of War 4 is not only a fun and engaging game. It is also a continued evolution of the game franchise’s design and it is easily the best cover shooter game design to date.

On face value, it looks like the creative team led by Rod Fergusson (The Coalition studio leader) and director Chuck Osieja decided to play safe on game design by retaining the gameplay functions from the past. Quite easily, I managed to reclaim that old Gears of War feel in terms of control, shooting, moving and aiming. Like past GOW games, you must take cover for protection from the bullets fired by the enemies then peak, aim and shoot. Then when possible move forward to take cover at the next protective object and make your way to beat the other side. Then there is the classic reload function which, when well timed, can grant you temporary strong firepower.

Screenshot_20190509-193956_YouTube.jpg
Melee attacks in Gears of War 4 have improved and are more satisfying.

But as the game progressed, the new gameplay features emerged. For the first time, I can finally grab an enemy (who is crouched taking cover) from the other side of a protective object or barrier, pull the enemy and get to do a melee attack (or shoot with the gun). There is also the feature of the knocking the enemy off balance (by means of jumping over cover to kick the enemy on the other side) as well as performing the shoulder charge. Take note however that these new gameplay features – which add a lot of depth on the classic GOW gameplay – can be used by the enemies against you.

And then there are the new weapons like the Buzzkill (watch those flying sawblades ricochet!) and the Dropshot (challenging to use but very satisfying when the target gets hit!) that add new dimension to the gameplay.

More on gameplay, if you are expecting enemy artificial intelligence (AI) to be the same as before (remember all the Locusts?), you will realize that’s not the case at all. The new enemies behave differently in combat and you will be compelled to change your strategies. Expect to see the enemies (which include robots) be more tactical with their movements and attacks, and you will also realize you will need to move out of cover more and search for a new place to take cover at.

That’s not all. The weather effects impact the gameplay a lot this time. There are these windflares that not only blow strongly (watch the environment move) but also generate electricity that you must avoid touching. When the weather changes, you will not only have to take cover but be more strategic moving around as well as adjusting your aim when firing at the enemy (example: strong wind can alter the direction of the Buzzkill sawblade you fire). Lastly, there is a motorcycle chase scene that is quite action packed!

Visuals? This game really looks very great! The art is top-notch. The animation, the textures, the special effects and lighting effects really make a great showcase of the Xbox One, especially the Xbox One X (4K resolution with high-dynamic range). The character faces are very detailed and very photo-realistic! Facial expressions really will convince you into thinking you’re watching real people instead of computer-generated ones.

When it comes to storytelling, Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the previous game. You play as JD Fenix (son of hero Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud) who is accompanied by Del and Kait. In terms of personality, JD is witty, striving to figure out things and he does not carry the cynical mindset of his father. Del and Kait are likeable characters for different reasons. Del is also witty while Kait has the strong, fighting lady personality. The good news here is that their respective voice actors performed nicely.

screenshot_20190509-193834_youtube.jpg
Father and Son.

Back to the plot, the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has been reformed but something is not right and right from the start JD and Del deserted the coalition to join the group called the Outsiders. Government leadership is felt in the story and having the COG as the anti-hero element really makes Gears of War 4’s world really look and feel new. Forget about the memories of fighting for the COG in the old GOW games, Gears of War 4 is a whole new world to figure out what’s been happening while fighting to survive. If you are the kind of gamer who has the anti-authoritarian mindset, then this game is for you.

Strangely enough, this game’s story has some notable similarities with the 2015 blockbuster film Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Without spoiling the story, I should say that Gears of War icons like Marcus Fenix (the central figure of the franchise) return in supporting roles. Instead of being the hero, he is the mentor to his son JD and even to you the gamer.

While the gameplay is excellent and deeper than ever before, the storytelling this time lacks the depth of Gears of War 3 but in fairness, this new game’s story had to show how much had changed in the world and society in general. Gears of War 3, by comparison, is a war story and the resulting build-up from the first two games led to it having a very engaging conclusion.

Back to Gears of War 4, the ending lacked punch and yet it has a lot of intrigue or even shock, especially if you paid very close attention to the small but key details in the previous games. The ending feels underwhelming as it happened following the high-octane, final battle sequence of the game. Although the conclusion lacked punch, I still felt satisfied. By the way, there is a post-credits ending scene to watch out for.

Overall Gears of War 4 is easily the best 3rd person-view cover shooter and is a true evolution of the Gears of War game design. Now that the game costs much less, it is a great bargain! At the same time, it makes sense now to play GOW4 as Gears 5 (Gears of War 5) is expected to be released this year.

Gears of War 4 is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review 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

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker Revealed!

Let me say one thing clearly – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a train wreck and it made me very disappointed (I saw it twice in different cinemas), even doubtful about the future of the Star Wars movie franchise in the current post-George Lucas era.   Really, I disliked the work of director Rian Johnson.

Hours ago, the official teaser trailer of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker was revealed and already it is generating tremendous buzz online not only among fans but also among moviegoers in general. The reception is overall positive and already moviegoers have something to watch out for this December. Also it is nice that director J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is back and this time he wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice).

For your enjoyment, posted below is the official teaser trailer. Watch it now!

What can I say? The teaser trailer was nicely done which is no surprise at all. Even the Rian Johnson train wreck The Last Jedi had pretty and engaging trailers. Going back to The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer, what made me smile was the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and he was co-piloting the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca! It has been almost thirty-six years since Williams last appeared as Lando on the big screen!

Screenshot_20190413-050755~2.png
Welcome back, Lando Calrissian! Welcome to the 21st century, the age of social media!

What really intrigued was the end of the teaser trailer with the unexpected appearance of a large piece of a major structure from long ago. Equally intriguing was that recognizable evil laugh as the screen went dark. Now it is up to J.J. Abrams and his creative team to explain on the big screen those two elements.

Another intriguing thing is the subtitle involving the surname Skywalker. Who (or what) exactly is the Skywalker on the rise? We all know what happened to Luke Skywalker in the dreaded The Last Jedi and given Mark Hamill’s voice-over in the teaser trailer, it is only logical to expect that his character will return in ghost form Like Obi-Wan and Yoda. Personally I don’t think Luke will be the one on the rise.

General Leia (played by the late Carrie Fisher) is Luke’s sister but as the movies of the past showed, she never identified herself as a Skywalker. The Last Jedi did show her using the Force (is Rian Johnson a Mary Poppins fan?) and MAYBE she might present herself as the new Skywalker being the only living offspring of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker and use the Force more.

But then maybe the Skywalker-on-the-rise may not necessarily be a person related through family bloodline.

I was thinking that it is possible that the name Skywalker will go beyond family and be used to establish a brand new Jedi movement. A movement in which Force users, starting with Rey (Daisy Ridley), will have their own definition of the Jedi teachings as well as a new vision about using the Force. Considering the very limited learning of the Force and the Jedi she had with Luke plus the fact that she took ancient Jedi books with her in The Last Jedi, it is possible for Rey to establish her own philosophies of the Jedi. This would put her in similar ground with Luke Skywalker (after the events of Return of the Jedi).

Screenshot_20190413-050914~2.png
The Rise of Skywalker will open in cinemas worldwide this December. Hopefully it will turn out to be a great film and help Star Wars fans forget about the train wreck called The Last Jedi.

From this point on, we can only wait until the movie opens in cinemas globally this December. At the very least, I can say that I’m feeling hopeful that The Rise of Skywalker will be fun and, more importantly, set the direction of Star Wars properly and recover from the disaster of The Last Jedi.

There is still a new hope for Star Wars fans!


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