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Beginner-friendly but surprisingly hard

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, the Touhou Project has been a resounding success. What originally started out as a series of bullet-hell shooter games has evolved into a franchise spanning multiple brands across genres and platforms. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is one such example.

Fiscal prudence

WHEN the Yankees came to within a game of making their first World Series appearance since they went all the way in 2009, they did so with a $208.4-million payroll that required them to shell out a luxury tax for the 15th consecutive time. Considering their spendthrift ways and prevailing predilection to go for talent whenever available, the safe bet would have been to believe they were going over the salary cap anew this year.

Osaka’s star quality

FOR sports buffs who welcome controversy as part and parcel of competition, the United States Open women’s singles final is unquestionably a gift that keeps on giving. A full four days after the Arthur Ashe Stadium played host to a bizarre awarding ceremony in which the winner was being propped up by the vanquished and not the other way around, feedback continues to come. The latest is from chair umpires, who believe Carlos Ramos acted rightly in penalizing eventual runner-up Serena Williams thrice for code violations.

Promising

THERE was a time when “Keegan Bradley” and “promising” were frequently used in the same sentence. He took the pro ranks by storm in 2011, becoming only the third player in history to claim a major championship on the first attempt and taking PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors without any competition to speak of. Over the next three years, he added a victory, three bridesmaid finishes, numerous Top Ten showings, and consecutive appearances at the Ryder and Presidents Cups to his resume. He was on a first-name basis with fans, a standout for his sunny disposition and competitive nature, if a target for his controversial use of the long putter.

Aiming for the stars

BELIEVE it or not, Novak Djokovic was not the favorite heading into the United States Open. It didn’t matter that he was just a month and a half removed from claiming the Wimbledon crown. As far as pundits and oddsmakers were concerned, the distinction belonged to Rafa Nadal, the very player he beat in a five-set, extra-games semifinal at the All England Club. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t really rounded into form until the grasscourt season began in June, and, even then, hadn’t won a title until he wrapped his arms around his 13th in a Grand Slam event.

Worth proven

FIRST OFF, let’s get one thing clear: Naomi Osaka deserved to win yesterday. She was the better player by far in the United States Open women’s singles final, and she had every right to hoist the hardware with pride in the aftermath. Unfortunately, her spectacular rise to the top in the sport’s last major tournament of the year was marred by umpire Carlos Ramos’ stringent application of rules. Had more measured responses come from his chair, she would have been accorded the congratulations she merited. Instead, her coronation was greeted by a still-hostile crowd put off by the turn of events.

Mastering magic, living the same day on loop

YOH YOSHINARI’s Little Witch Academia is an anime franchise about young girls, witchcraft, and friendship. Following Akko Kagari, a student enrolled in the Luna Nova Magical Academy, it focuses on her journey to master the arts of magic. Akko slowly gets accustomed to what she can do. And while not naturally talented, she is able to show that with perseverance and a little help, trials and tribulations can be overcome.

Furyk final pick

OVER the weekend, United States Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk remained coy regarding his first three selections for the 2018 matches. No doubt, he chose to keep his lips sealed in respect of the process, which required him to wait until the culmination of the Dell Technologies Championship prior to announcing his decision. And, in theory, the long-set schedule works; the very notion of giving him free rein to choose a third of his charges close to the event is predicated on tapping in-form players.

2008 Celtics

As has invariably been the case whenever Doc Rivers finds himself in New England, talk shifts to the Celtics’ triumphant march to the National Basketball Association championship in 2008. It was a particularly memorable time for him, and not simply because he got marquee names with humongous egos and disparate personalities to subscribe to a common objective. And, to his credit, he has acknowledged all these years that “ubuntu” worked because he preached it to a choir; everybody associated with the campaign sacrificed for the collective.

Falling short

AROUND this time last year, Maria Sharapova basked in the glow of her return to the Grand Slam stage. Having been denied participation at the French Open and Wimbledon following a 15-month suspension for doping, she succeeded in getting a wild-card entry at the United States Open. And she went on to make the most of the opportunity, basking in the glow of her return to primetime billing, and at Arthur Ashe Stadium to boot, en route to a stunning victory over then-World Number Two Simona Halep.

Captain’s pick

Bryson DeChambeau likes to keep a conversation going when he’s playing. It’s his way of loosening up, of battling nerves, and of getting himself relaxed for the task at hand. It doesn’t matter if he’s muddling through a practice round or in the thick of tournament action; he’ll chat his flightmates up. To be fair, he does know how to keep interest, turning his vocal exertions to anything from jokes to topics reflective of his Physics degree.

Realities of business in the NBA

LUOL DENG still wants to play. He has made that clear — from the moment the Lakers shut him down late in the 2016-17 season ostensibly to give young players more time on the court and up until they mutually agreed to part ways yesterday. And, yes, he still believes in his capacity to contribute meaningfully in another National Basketball Association uniform, and to the extent that he gave up a whopping 20% of his salary over the next two years just to be free of his contract.

Not for everyone

THERE CAN be no denying that FromSoftware’s Dark Souls is brutal and difficult, often bordering on the sadistic in terms of its capacity to challenge players. That said, it’s beatable, and while its gameplay borders on the unforgiving, it succeeds in its objective. You get a massive sense of achievement in persevering through it and conquering the even-tougher-than-tough parts. It’s an acquired taste, a pain to get into, really. It’s also harder to put down once you’re hooked.

Historic deal

AARON Rodgers has delivered on his promise to have former teammate James Jones break the news on terms of his new contract. As the NFL Players Only analyst tweeted yesterday, the Packers and their starting quarterback have agreed to “a 4-year extension worth $33.5 million in new money...plus incentives per year...He gets over $100 million in guarantees.” Based on additional information sourced by Adam Schefter, the value of the deal could reach a whopping $180 million all told.

Manu retires

IT was most certainly just a matter of time before Manu Ginobili announced his decision to hang up his sneakers. He had been working out at the Spurs practice facility daily, and he was, to be sure, tied to a contract that secured for him a roster spot should he have opted to play for one more year. The writing was on the wall, though, beginning with the retirement of Tim Duncan in 2016 and culminating with the departure of Tony Parker earlier in the offseason. The subsequent trade of Kawhi Leonard didn’t help, although it wouldn’t have mattered a whit to him had The Original Big Three still been intact.

First round jitters

FOR a while there, it looked as if top seed Simona Halep would duplicate her first round comeback at the French Open yesterday. Down...

New dress code

PREDICTABLY, the French Tennis Federation’s decision to institute a new dress code for upcoming French Opens was met with almost universal derision. That it smacked of poor timing, having been announced publicly by president Bernard Giudicelli with the United States Open at hand, wasn’t even the primordial issue. For tennis greats, longtime fans, casual observers, and social media habitues alike, it smacked of the type of discrimination that stunted players’ freedoms.

Better years

CONSIDERING how 2018 has gone for Phil Mickelson, it’s fair to argue that he has had better years. Make that much better years. True, he has a victory on his resume, and he’s 11th on the PGA Tour money list, for the season. And, true, he’s about to be named as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, extending his record of consecutive appearances in golf’s premier biennial event to a whopping 12. Since his podium finish in March, however, he has cracked the Top 10 just once and failed to make the weekend at the Players Championship and PGA Championship. Worse, he found himself embroiled in two rules violations, with his United States Open faux pas ranking among the worst ever in the sport.

A collective testament to the power of ingenuity and creativity

IT WOULD BE an understatement to describe Sweden-based SkyGoblin as a small independent video game developer. Composed of a handful wearing a variety of hats, the company burst into the mainstream following the release of free ware adventure game The Journey Down: Over The Edge at the turn of the decade. Smartly, it leveraged the success to come up with a much-improved and highly expanded version that serves as the starting point for a point-and-click series of the same name. Given the limited resources it has had at its disposal throughout production, the commercially released Trilogy is nothing short of remarkable.

Attaining the equivalent of rhythmic Nirvana

SINCE ITS DEBUT early last year, the Nintendo Switch has been a haven for makers of rhythm games. It’s certainly with reason; the hardware boasts of touchscreen and multiple-controller configurations, backstopped by portability and ease of use. It’s why such notables as Deemo, Superbeat: Xonic, and VOEZ have been ported over, and why even offbeat — pun wholly intended — titles like Frederic: Resurrection of Music, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and Hiragana Pixel Party have thrived on the hybrid console.

Long comeback

SERENA Williams showed no trace of disappointment when she faced members of the media following her second-round defeat at the Cincinnati Open the other day. If anything, she took pains to underscore that her comeback from a lengthy absence due to childbirth and pregnancy-related complications is proceeding as well as she can hope it to be. Never mind that her efforts in returning to competitive tennis already appeared to have paid off with a sterling run to the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Final last month. And forget that it was followed by the most lopsided loss of her career in her opener at the Silicon Valley Classic.

Woods now at peace

LAST week’s broadcast ratings are out, and, as expected, the final round of the PGA Championship got a major — pun wholly intended — boost when Tiger Woods played himself into contention and became the prime focus of CBS’ Sunday coverage of the final Grand Slam event of the year. Even as the rock-star atmosphere he engendered at Bellerive highlighted his pull among the sport’s avid followers, the myriad eyeballs he attracted on the small screen served as proof of his unparalleled crossover appeal.

Rockets got Anthony

AS Carmelo Anthony formalized his deal with the Rockets yesterday, not a few quarters wondered whether the 2018 Western Conference finalists took a step back. After all, they got to within two quarters of upending the mighty Warriors on the strength of hearty defense last May, and their new acquisition has been anything but stout on that end of the court throughout his 15-year pro career. Yet, nothing but optimism oozed from the red and white, with general manager Daryl Morey, a staunch supporter of the same advanced analytics that seemed to question the fit of the 10-time All-Star, noting that it’s “easy to find highlights for him.”

Securing legacy

THE roars came early and often at Bellerive. In fact, they were heard as soon as Tiger Woods arrived at the Country Club yesterday in his trademark red-and-black ensemble, but with shades and a cap worn backwards for good measure. Four strokes back and with seemingly no chance of snagging his first major title in 10 years, he clearly remained the sport’s biggest draw. And he thrived in the limelight, going about his business on the range and practice green, and then on the course, with purpose.

Delivering a thoroughly stunning experience

THERE was a time when fighting games were little more than button-mashing exercises. Perhaps the relative lack of complexity was due to the genre being in its infancy stage. Perhaps it was borne of the publishers’ intent to be as inclusive as possible. In any case, gamers still found them irresistible for the most part, if for no other reason than because they afforded the opportunity for instant gratification. In comparison to, say, sports titles, fights involved short matches and rematches. Bragging rights were passed on quickly and often, and the speed with which they were earned, lost, regained, and desired anew served only to ramp up the intensity of the competition.

Facing the battle

In the intervening month since LeBron James decided to take his talents to La-La Land, the reasons for his move have been well chronicled and thoroughly scrutinized. It comes with the territory, to be sure; given his history of success and continuing status as first among equals in the National Basketball Association, his transfer was expected to be assessed through critical lenses. For all the deluge of opinions from pundits, fellow players, and fans notwithstanding, no one position emerged as definitive, and with reason: He himself had yet to talk about his choice to become a Laker.

Class job

Dustin Johnson isn’t from Canada, but he may as well be given the level of support he received from spectators at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario over the extended weekend. In equal measure, it’s because he’s the son-in-law of living legend Wayne Gretzky and because he lived up to his ranking as World Number One; tied for the lead at the start of the final round of the RBC Canadian Open, he separated himself from the field early on and cruised to victory, in the process rewarding the cheers of hometown fans. They certainly made him one of their own throughout, serenading him with “O Canada” as he stamped his class yesterday.

The makings of a compelling dungeon crawler

By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong THE LOST CHILD is the collaboration of Kadokawa Games and NIS America, and with an outstanding set of...

The payoff is nothing short of sensational

HAPPY BIRTHDAYS is nothing if not peculiar off the bat. And it wears its strangeness proudly, assured of its capacity to unveil a masterpiece from an empty canvas by handing you the brush. As a truly sweeping god game from the mind of Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, it melds its ambition with seemingly simple presentations; the visuals are colorful, if childlike, and accompanied by soothing keyboard acoustics, but its demands are such that a 20-minute tutorial is required for you to get going, and much longer after to experience comfort and confidence in what you’re doing. Once you get the hang of it, however, the payoff is nothing short of sensational.

Peerless

OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT boasts of a stellar resume built on classic role-playing games. As exemplified by such notables as Neverwinter Nights 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II — The Sith Lords, and Fallout: New Vegas, it’s keen on drawing players in through compelling storylines and inventive quests. In this regard, its Kickstarter-rooted release in 2015 proved to be no exception. Paying homage to Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate and Black Isle Studios’ Icewind Dale, Pillars of Eternity deftly mixed old-school role-playing gameplay with the graphics and quality-of-life features of modern titles.

Continuity

Five days ago, Paul George shocked the hoops world by making a decision few foresaw. It wasn’t that he chose to re-up with the Thunder; it was that he did so under startling circumstances. First, he announced his choice well before any other big-name commitment — particularly LeBron James’ — had been finalized. Second, he made up his mind before taking meetings with potential suitors, among them the very Lakers he said he would be joining when he spurned the Pacers last year. And, third, he signed on the dotted line of a contract that binds him for four years, eschewing a shorter deal that would have netted him more options, not to mention an even bigger paycheck, moving forward.

Risky move

First off, let’s be clear about one thing: DeMarcus Cousins is damaged goods. He tore his left Achilles in late January, and his convalescence may well keep him off the court until close to Christmas. His return is a matter of when, not if, but it bears noting that the number of players who have come back from such an injury is extremely small. More importantly, the number of big men who have come back from such an injury is even smaller — as in zero.

Time to be happy

Heading into the offseason, critics had a field day lambasting LeBron James for his desire to see where he could best land in free agency. Even a seemingly proper move as assessing his options — which everybody else in his position has sought to do — was viewed through lenses that fit the “He’s chasing rings” narrative. He’s supposedly getting in touch with other marquee names and convincing them to form a superteam with him. Forget about the absence of corroboration and confirmation; rumors were being spread as verified news. And forget about the fact that, even if true, he would simply have been exercising his right as a free agent.

George stays

Around 500 partygoers rejoiced when Paul George confirmed what Thunder insiders already knew: He would be staying with the blue and yellow. The announcement was made at the height of a by-invitation-only get-together hosted by former Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook over the weekend, and word of the decision immediately spread. And, in stark contrast to the fervor with which it was greeted onsite, shock met it most everywhere else. He was, after all, the same player who, just a year before, said no to a certain big-bucks contract-extension offer from the Pacers while declaring his desire to head to the Lakers after the 2017-2018 season.

Gear change

Golf is about talent, and professional golf is about talent in abundance. It’s also about self-assurance, and perhaps in larger measure. Certainly, confidence — or, to be more precise — the absence thereof, is why players change equipment. When they lose their mojo on the course, their thought process invariably leads them to making any and all modifications to the status quo, with the brunt of their attention focused on the sticks in their bag.

Packing a whole lot of wallop

THOSE NEW to role-playing games should be forewarned. Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory is an acquired taste and takes some getting used to. As a definitive collection of titles and content previously released on the PlayStation 4 and the PS Vita under the Flames of Rebellion and Sins of an Empire banners, it packs a whole lot of wallop. The Switch version, published by NIS America, presents you with a choice to start: Be on either side of a conflict in Fenumia, an empire bent on territorial expansion, with set objectives, and their attainment, dependent on point of view. In the end, though, the need for a full appreciation of the presentation and the content may yet spur you to go through both campaigns.

Living up to its promise

SINCE its inception in 2005, Sega’s Yakuza series has invariably churned out virtual masterpieces. While a bit all over the place at times, this part family drama, part mafia flick, and part martial arts and adventure franchise has always boasted of top-notch quality in terms of presentation and humor. In this regard, Yakuza 6 does not disappoint; it offers the same blend of action, comedy, and emotional heft via traditionally outstanding production values.

Curry’s bomb

As expected, the Warriors jumped on the Cavaliers early and made the final outcome a formality yesterday. After having evaded embarrassment in Game One with a combination of skill and luck, they knew well enough to hit the ground running and impose their will on the match from the get-go. The result was a wire-to-wire laugher that exposed the glaring disparity in talent between the protagonists. The O was rocking in part because of poor coverage from the visitors, and in larger measure because the hosts were playing with such sharpness that no defense could have stopped them with consistency.

Cinematic and polished

FAR CRY 5 will not come as a shock to those who have been following the series since its inception in 2004. Characterized by open-world gameplay and satisfying gunplay, each of its releases has consistently strived to be bigger and badder than the previous one. And while its iterations don’t stray too far from its tried-and-tested formula, every new addition brings good things worthy of praise, Far Cry 5 included.

20-year-old series shows why it works

By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong WITHOUT fail save for a brief interlude at the turn of the millennium, the Atelier series has churned...

Puzzling through

Video Game Review Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma PlayStation 4 By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong AS THE third title in the Zero Escape series developed by Spike...

A fantastically fun title

By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong Videogame Review Prey PlayStation 4 IN 2006, Human Head Studios released Prey, a run-and-gun shooter, for the PC and XBox...

Bad luck

Any trade for Paul George would have been a huge gamble. Given how he telegraphed his intentions for his 2018 free-agency foray, he positioned...

George trade deal

Scratched heads are what the Pacers got when they opted to send Paul George the Thunder's way. The confused looks came with the package...