Thursday, May 23, 2019

Obscusion B-List: Longshot Xbox One BC Hopefuls

[6/2019 UPDATE: Microsoft announced at E3 2019 that the Xbox One BC program would be ending with a final batch of Xbox 360 & OG Xbox games, none of which are the games in this list, sadly. It did announced that the next Microsoft console, currently codenamed "Project Scarlett", will include its own BC program, however, so who knows what the future may hold...]

With "the video game" getting closer & closer to the age of 50, at least if you're counting 1971's Computer Space as the "first" (if you count stuff like Spacewar! or Tennis for Two, then it's already well over 50), the concept of "game preservation" has become more & more relevant, and one method that has supported preserving games is emulation. Go back even just 15 years ago, and emulation was kind of a dirty word to the industry, but today it's become much more welcome, as it's allowed the preservation of so many games that would have otherwise been lost to time. A sort of variant of that has been consoles featuring backwards compatibility (or "BC", for short) with previous generations. While some made this possible by simply having a previous console's necessary hardware in the new console's design (see: the Atari 7800, Sega Genesis, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2, & the earliest models of the PlayStation 3), most have done this via emulation of some sort. Still, if there's one system that's effectively changed the BC game, it's the Xbox One.

The funny thing is that, when Microsoft originally released the Xbox One in late 2013, having compatibility with previous consoles' games was the furthest thing from the company's mind. In fact, then-head of Xbox Don Mattrick was quoted in 2013 with saying, "If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards." When Phil Spencer became head of Xbox in 2014, though, he secretly made BC a priority, creating an entire team in Microsoft solely to handle it. The end result came on June 15, 2015, when the first batch of 20 Xbox 360 games, both disc-based & digital-only via Xbox Live Arcade, were added. Unlike most BC efforts, though, these games were not just guaranteed to play on Xbox One exactly like they did on their original console, but would play better. Due to the sheer power of the One, 360 games can play with higher frame rates (or at least maintain their caps better), hit their max video resolutions more consistently (if they use dynamic resolutions), are given 16x anisotropic filtering (i.e. visuals look better at all angles & distances), & forced V-sync prevents screen tearing; when the Xbox One X was introduced in 2017, some games were even given new enhancements! Since then, Microsoft has been consistently adding more games to the BC service, at least 1-3 every month, & currently is at around 560 Xbox 360 games, which is about 26% of the console's total of roughly 2100 games; that's honestly super impressive.

Obviously, not every single game is going to be made BC with the Xbox One, so for this B-List I want to bring up six disc-based 360 games, plus one XBLA game, that I feel are definite longshots, but would love to see added to the BC program at some point. Note that I am not including games released on the original Xbox, of which only 33 have been made BC, mainly because there hasn't been any update to that in roughly a year, and licensing makes those exponentially harder to add; also, I could make an entire list just around those games, so maybe another time. So let's get started, shall we?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Odds & Ends of Masami Kurumada: Artwork & Music

Hey, I'm back after a month hiatus! You miss me?

*silence quieter than deep space, with not even a cricket chirping*

Ahh, same as it ever was. Anyway, no better way for me to come back than to write something about my favorite mangaka, Masami Kurumada.

Over the years, I've written a lot about the works of this man, & ideally I'd love to one day cover all of his lesser known manga. To be fair, there are only so many titles left to cover, namely 1976 one-shot Mikeneko Rock (which was included in Volume 2 of Sukeban Arashi, so I may never cover this one), Jitsuroku! Shinwakai (a collection of gag short stories from 1979 to 1983), 1992's infamous Silent Knight Sho, 1993's Bakumatsu Era story Akane-Iro no Kaze -Shinsengumi Keppuroku-, & finally Ring ni Kakero 2; there's also the occasionally ongoing Otoko Zaka that I'll continue reviewing in chunks. I still hesitate to cover his various Saint Seiya manga, namely due to the series' notoriety, & I don't count the various spin-offs done by other artists in this list. I take my time getting to these, though, mainly because of a lack of English translation, official or otherwise, as well as a simple lack of availability at the moment.

Something I have also wanted to cover, though, is the various other bits of artwork Kurumada has done over the decades for stuff not related to his catalog. Most of it is simply for promotional purposes, but they are still interesting little pieces of his oeuvre, and some of them have neat stories behind them. Therefore, as a quick little return to blog, allow me to show you the "Odds & Ends" of Masami Kurumada's history.