Saturday, 31 December 2011

First Impressions: Mario Kart 7

 Whenever a new Mario Kart game is released, gamers across the world will take the chance to compare it to its predecessors. It's difficult to differentiate more recent releases in the series such as Mario Kart Wii  and DS, as they're very much similar when it comes down to the basics of kart racing with everyone's favourite plumber and his slimmer brother, alongside many other Mushroom Kingdom favourites. The gameplay mechanics rarely make a drastic change with each subsequent release, and the 'feel' of each Mario Kart game has only made a single turnaround following the release of Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance. Since underrated GameCube title Double Dash, the tightened handling and evidently more luck-based gameplay has only been changed up through varying gameplay mechanics. The DS release was a core experience, offering up no ridiculous gimmicks and instead opting for the inclusion of online multiplayer modes to differentiate itself from its predecessors. Mario Kart Wii, on the other hand, introduced many new features to make the Mario Kart experience more thriving. These included a trick system in which the player would be granted a small speed boost if a button is pressed or a remote is waggled at the correct moment following a jump, and more importantly the inclusion of bikes; alternate machines that offered drifting with increased under-steer as well as the ability to do a wheelie, a technique useful on straights.

Despite being a more varied Mario Kart, however, the Wii iteration often receives a barrage of hate from many, thanks to its entirely luck-based appeal. The awful players in last place would almost definitely receive a deadly Blue Shell from an item box when racing, and due to a lack of temporary invincibility after being hit, this often lead to the skillful player in first position being knocked down to last position. I and many others find Mario Kart Wii far too frustrating to actually enjoy, and if it wasn't for the quite frankly broken gameplay, it would've potentially been the best game in the series. For this reason alone, the release following this universally hated instalment had to be good. It had to pack all the things that would've made the Wii version great, while refining the core handling and game mechanics back to the way they were in the DS version. Well, that's exactly what Nintendo, with a little help from Retro Studios, have done with the 3DS iteration of Mario Kart. Say hello to Mario Kart 7, a total game-changer for the spin-off series in more ways than one. And this post happens to be none other than my first impressions of this release, as if you didn't notice from the post's header.

The best thing about Mario Kart 7 on 3DS isn't all the exciting new features, but the extra layers of strategy introduced by them and the balanced-out, fine tuned gameplay that Nintendo have perfected in this release. No longer will the player be haunted by rubber-banding AI or dreaded Blue Shells, which appear much more rarely in this release, and when they do they tend not to send your racer flying back into last place. Mario Kart 7 is truly a game of skill, and aforementioned strategy. The main new feature exclusive to the seventh release in this long-running franchise takes the form of strategic flying and underwater sections. When launched into the air through a large, boost-covered ramp, the kart will sprout a glider about it, allowing the player full horizontal control of their kart, as well as vertical control. This works essentially like PilotWings, having the player catch air by diving, then gaining altitude from a sudden ascention. This allows for the strategic skipping of certain sections of tracks, whether they be the 16 all-new ones, or 16 retro courses, all of which are a great selection of settings for some frantic, but well-balanced gameplay. Underwater sections are also introduced in Mario Kart 7, although these moments aren't quite as fully fleshed-out as the sections that involve gliding through the air. Handling makes a change underwater, making the drift mechanic of your kart feel a lot more like that of Mario Kart Wii's bikes, which are unfortunately scarce in this release. Regardless, underwater segments are almost entirely optional, giving you freedom of choice over which of the many routes available you should take. Throw in the welcome addition of Super Mario Kart's speed-boosting Coins and you've got the most strategy-based Mario Kart ever.

Judging from my First Impressions of the game, Mario Kart 7 is the definitive entry into the franchise. They've managed to balance out the kart racing formula after Mario Kart Wii's disappointingly broken antics, which you can probably tell more than impresses yours truly. The glider and underwater sections, as well as the re-introduction of classic titles' Coins are more than welcome, and it's great to finally be racing in a balanced playing environment, rather than one that awards those who have luck on their side rather than skill. Better items found in Item boxes are still granted to those in lower positions in a race, but the amount of boxes placed on a track have been decreased a little this time around, and a number of annoyingly broken tools from earlier releases have been thankfully removed from this experience. Other than the Wii release's bikes, Mario Kart 7 packs everything from past releases and more, and with the same awesome online multiplayer (which I've unfortunately not been able to test out just yet) we found in the past two releases you've certainly got what might just be the series' magnum opus. However poor the first three quarters or so of 2011 have been, nobody can deny the quality of more recent releases on every platform, and this is one of those releases that truly shines. Quite frankly, if you have a 3DS and you're getting a bit bored of your library of games, you quite frankly need this title. Get set for my full impressions of Mario Kart 7 in the impending review which will drop in the big year that is 2012. I'd like to thank everyone who reads this stuff, and wish everyone a happy new year. In the closing hours of 2011, this is me out. Here's to a spectacular 2012...

~Happy New Year!~

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Feature: My Christmas 2011 Gaming Wishlist

Christmas Eve. A day that begins exactly 24 hours before the 25th of December; Christmas day. For many, it's a day that involves a fair bit of belated Christmas shopping. For others, it's a time for celebration before the big day that only happens once a year finally drops. For me, it's the day I post a Christmas-related Feature here on my blog. Bet you thought I wouldn't make it in time, huh?! Anyway, this time last year I happened to write a post regarding five stellar recommendations in the form of some well-received games that I reckoned would've made superb gifts last Christmas. This festive season, I'll be doing the same thing. Call me unimaginative, but I reckon that this post would not only be a nice way to celebrate of one of the biggest days of the year in the form of a Feature (because my Mercenaries 3D review was oh-so festive, wasn't it?), but also a method of comparing and contrasting this 2011 edition of the post to last year's poor attempt at journalism. How I got praise for my writing back then, I will never know. To prevent the end of this paragraph from becoming a sour note, might I just say that at the time of writing, it's Christmas tomorrow, and that's kind of a big deal. I sincerely hope everyone who reads this has a superb day tomorrow, and hopefully receives what they wish for whether that's a great time or some lush presents, or both! Moving onwards, in a slightly cliched manner, here is my present from yours truly to you in the form of my five gaming highlights this Christmas...

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Kicking off this list not only with a title I've already played and loved to pieces, but what I personally would consider to be the best game released in the whole of 2011. As stated in my recent Christmas Update, it's not been the best twelve months for video games. The first three quarters of the year have seen very few truly stellar games released across just about every platform, so when the latest home console release in Nintendo's finest franchise was finally available to be played by the public after 3 years of waiting since announcement and over half a decade of development, stating that it was something special would be a dramatic understatement. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an absolutely stunning game in every department, and one that brought us our gaming fix after many months of only relatively good games occasionally hitting the shelves.

When I say 'us', I'm referring to the people who've actually played Skyward Sword. A fair few have decided to leave the latest Legend of Zelda instalment under wraps until Christmas, which is a wise decision as I'm sure this game will make their festive season all the more amazing. Skyward Sword, in my opinion, is the greatest Zelda game ever created, which is a rather bold statement. It packs so many things that made past titles brilliant and shoves them all into one all-new, fresh experience - One that shows that, with the help of 1:1 Motion control, the series has finally evolved after many titles followed the same gameplay pattern and structure. It's easy to tell that Nintendo weren't lying when they stated the latest title in the Zelda series is the one game they've put the most money, time and effort into in all their time in the industry. I'm saving my full opinions of the game for my review which will be posted in the coming months, but for now all I can say is this: If you haven't bought it or received it already, you need to get your mitts on this game if you show at least an amount of interest in Nintendo gaming. Who knows, maybe it'll be under your tree this year...

Mario Kart 7
And now for something completely different. Next up is a game I haven't played yet, and am very much hoping to receive this Christmas. Regardless of whether I'll receive Mario Kart 7 tomorrow or not, one fact remains constant: Mario Kart as a series has always been one of the best sets of multiplayer games around, and the seventh instalment, available now on the 3DS, might just be the best release under the celebrated franchise name yet. Combining the brilliant online multiplayer mode of Mario Kart Wii with finely-tuned gameplay to create a thankfully unbroken experience was a master stroke on both Nintendo and Retro Studios' behalf, as the tedius, admittedly ruined gameplay of the previous instalment in the celebrated series has had countless fans raging for what feels like an eon. While I enjoyed the Wii edition of the kart racing series to a certain extent, there's absolutely no denying that what Nintendo did to make the game more 'fair' actually did the complete opposite. A real shame, as it could have been the best Mario Kart game to date if the gameplay was fixed and fair.

Following up to the release of the latest Mario Kart game, the future of the series seemed bright, and now that the title has been released, it certainly is. According to many journalists from publications both online and offline, Mario Kart 7 offers the most finely-tuned experience the series has seen to date. Apparently, the 3DS game feels like the successor to what many consider to be the best game in the series altogether; Mario Kart DS. This claim alone is enough to make me want Mario Kart 7, that is if I didn't wish to have it in my 3DS in the first place. Like Skyward Sword, the latest kart racing game starring a certain mustachioed plumber (among many other Mushroom Kingdom veterans) somewhat revolutionises the tried and tested formula of its predecessors. Elements that have never been seen before in a Mario Kart such as kart customisation and flying and underwater segments that change the flow of gameplay drastically, slyly make their way onto Mario Kart 7 for a fresh take on kart racing with Mario. And let's not forget the three-dimensional visuals that also set this new instalment apart from its predecessors - I haven't seen the 3D in action but I'm informed that it does look rather amazing. In short, I can't wait to play Mario Kart 7. After many hours of getting annoyed at the Wii version's frustratingly broken antics, it will certainly be refreshing to go back to fair (if a bit mental) kart racing with everyone's favourite plumber.

Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call
If you checked out my review of Professor Layton and the Lost Future earlier this year, you'll know for a fact that I'm a massive fan of the series. Every Christmas since the series' first instalment, I've received each yearly subsequent Professor Layton game as a gift, so rest assured I'm hoping to receive the first in the Professor Layton prequel trilogy, not to mention the last DS game starring the top-hatted Professor before the series hits 3DS, tomorrow. Developers Level-5 are going all Star Wars with the fourth game in the series, The Spectre's Call, as it will detail the origins of Hershel Layton becoming a full on self-employed investigator and puzzle master, and the birth of his companionship with Luke Triton, the cockney-boy apprentice who has annoyed many with his infuriating vocals throughout the whole of the original trilogy. Knowing that this is a prequel to those titles, Luke wouldn't have hit puberty yet, unfortunately. Less unfortunate is the fact that Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call is set to be another great adventure in the series, according to various sources.

I certainly have my doubts that the fourth game in the Professor Layton saga will top the absolutely excellent Lost Future when it comes to story, but in the gameplay department Spectre's Call will no doubt be as good as ever. Each subsequent Layton release has seen more and more content injected into it in the form of more and more puzzles to solve, and more animated full motion videos that tell each story in style. Apparently, albeit not surprisingly, they've managed to top the last instalment's puzzle and animated cutscene count in the latest game. There are a whopping 180 conundrums to solve in the fourth game, which should keep us glued to the game for a good amount of time. Unfortunately, the time European players could've put into playing Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call could have been a lot more than it is. London Life, a 100+ hour life sim RPG set to be included in the Spectre's Call package, was forced to be removed from the European version. This is pretty frustrating, but that's not to say it's not within reason. Still, despite the removal of what could've made the Professor Layton series' fourth release all the more special, it's still undeniably going to be a stellar release, and one of the DS's last hurrahs. Hopefully I'll find it sitting under the tree tomorrow morning...

And so, there you have it. There are many other titles I would've loved to detail in this post, such as Super Mario 3D Land and Cave Story 3D, but since I made the ridiculous decision to write this Feature on Christmas Eve, I didn't really have time to write any more than I have before the big day. Regardless, I hope you had a relatively enjoyable experience reading my mindless recommendations, and that you and everyone else who reads the blog has a truly excellent Christmas, and soon, a mesmerising new year... Again, have an awesome time tomorrow (at the time of writing, at least) and hopefully my next post won't seem as rushed!

~Merry Christmas~ 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

REVIEW: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
[3DS] [Capcom] [2011]
Reviewing Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is like taking a trip down memory lane. My indisputable hype for this excellent-looking title following up to its release was quite shocking considering how the finished game turned out. This standalone package, containing an upgraded version of the love it or hate it Mercenaries mini-game from the fourth and fifth instalments in Capcom's popular Resident Evil franchise, received anything but critical acclaim from many journalists just before it came out. I'll be truthful in saying that I'm one of those strange people who absolutely adores Mercenaries mode. I was addicted to the stellar piece of after-game content in Resident Evil 4 and ended up playing it a fair bit. So, despite notoriously low review scores, I thought I'd enjoy the expanded 3DS version of the  game, and I must say that quite frankly, I did. A fair bit, as a matter of fact. However, that's not to say that the many problems surrounding this game that journalists. In fact, The Mercenaries 3D is infested with technical flaws in almost every department, which is odd considering it's such an enjoyable game if you're a fan of past Resident Evil games' Mercenaries modes.

Normally when reviewing any game, I tend to choose a linear structure that allows me to describe all of the brilliant bits of the title, occasionally touching on minor nit-pickings that surround these aspects, and in the penultimate paragraph, move on to the striking flaws (if any). This certainly won't be the case with my review of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, as there's so much bad in this 3DS title that I can't help but point out these many errors throughout this whole review. Still, with all this negativity and talk of flaws, Mercenaries 3D still does a lot of things right. The most obvious of things that impress about the game are the brilliant visuals, which are no doubt up to the standard many 3DS games don't quite meet. These great graphics are made even more impressive when you turn up the 3D depth slider as the 3D in Mercenaries, while not the best I've seen on the system (that boast would go to Starfox 64 3D), still implements a superb usage of depth, making the entire foreground stand out more so than the background. Not to say that this isn't something we haven't seen before on the 3DS, but at least the 3D effects complement the superb visuals of this title. Unfortunately, it's clear that some sacrifices had to be made to keep this game a looker that maintains a steady frame-rate. Equip a sniper rifle, look down the scope and zoom in to near maximum and you'll see that pretty much everything in the far distance looks like a heap of manure visually, not to mention a heap of manure with a rather choppy frame-rate. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D isn't nearly as disgusting as that analogy made it sound, though, so forgive me. Moving swiftly onwards, the next thing that makes Mercenaries 3D an improvement over its predecessors comes in the form of longevity.

Barry picked the wrong time to mimic that impression of an orangutan Ed did in Shaun of the Dead. Then again...
Resident Evil 4's Mercenaries mode housed five playable characters (only two of which were actually useful) and four stages. Seeing as The Mercenaries 3D is a full price retail game, you would hope that Capcom at least had the decency to boost up the replay value of the title in the form of more stages and characters to play as. Luckily, I'm happy to inform you that the developers did in fact inject more content into this title. A lot more. In the game, you'll find eight playable characters, each of which has a rather ridiculous alternative costume with different stats. Chris Redfield and his sister Claire are packed in there alongside HUNK, Jack Krauser, Rebecca Chambers, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker and the legendary Barry Burton. All in all, despite the lack of a certain Mr. Scott Kennedy, this roster of playable heroes and villains from Resident Evil lore is anything but a disappointment in my honest opinion. The selection of stages on the other hand is also impressive, in a rather cheeky way on Capcom's behalf. You see, the back of the case boasts 30 stages to play through, which isn't a lie. What's not mentioned on the back of the case is the fact that almost half of these are tutorial missions, and there's in truth only nine varying landscapes in which to battle Ganados and Majini. While this is in some ways a good thing (when you unlock the highest difficulty of stages you can play any of the nine available on that difficulty) and is more than enough to keep you coming back for more as each character, it is a little bit of a punch to the nose when the consumer comes to expect thirty levels that they'll actually enjoy. And believe me, the tutorial missions are a complete and utter slog.

When you do get round to the missions that you'll actually have fun with, however, things get extremely addictive and very enjoyable indeed. The concept of Mercenaries mode goes something like this: You, as one of the eight available Resident Evil characters in either of their costumes, must use an array of weapons to mow, cut and blast down as many enemies as possible in order to earn as many points as possible. Quite often bosses that reap a large quantity of points are chucked into the mix, also. Sound simple? That's because it is. The real challenge and strategy of the game comes in the form of battling against a different kind of opponent: time itself. A daunting and ever closing in countdown is placed at the top of the screen, and when this timer hits zero (or if you've cleared out every single enemy in a stage) the game ends and the points you've earned are submitted, awarding you with a rank ranging from a very poor E to an exceptional SS. So, how exactly do you fight this evil, invisible beast? Two ways: The first of which is smashing up time statues, a number of which are found in each level. By performing your selected character's stylish melee attack in the direction of one of these statues with a tap of the Y button, you'll earn a specific amount of extra time depending on the statue you smash. The strategy of the game comes through keeping up a steady combo of enemy kills whilst making your way towards and obliterating each and every statue in order to earn the best possible score.

With only four seconds left on the ever-daunting countdown, it's a good thing that Jill's about to smash this Time Bonus, eh?
Things get even more strategic with the second method of fending off the time limit; through the use of melee attacks on enemies. Shooting an opponent at a specific part of their body will make them become stunned, and when this happens it's the perfect opportunity to move in and perform a melee attack. 5 precious seconds are awarded for defeating an opponent with a melee maneuver, so it's worth doing this frequently to ensure a maximum score. The gameplay of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D sure hasn't changed since the fifth main game's escapades, which is no doubt a good thing. Quite simply, the best thing about this title is no doubt the actual core gameplay, as even the countless niggles and nit-pickings don't deteriorate the core experience in any way. It's extremely addictive stuff that will keep you playing for hours on end. As a matter of fact, I earned an SS Rank on every stage at just over 100 hours of play time, so if you enjoy Mercenaries mode there's a lot of game in here for you. Things get a lot less repetitive thanks to the new Skills system introduced in Mercenaries 3D, which allows you to customise your characters with unlockable upgrades that can be leveled-up by doing nothing other than actually playing the game. And quite frankly, you're given motivation to do so as maxed-out skills will offer even more special abilities. Some of these even variate the gameplay a fair bit, such as the 'Infinity 7' which grants you infinite ammo for the destructive rocket launcher at the cost of chucking the idea of points out of the window. Simpler ones on the other hand upgrade the firepower of your weapons, add extra time to the countdown when you defeat an enemy with a certain number on the clock, and so on.

In online co-op, you can support and heal up your partner as seen in this screenshot. You won't see a scene like this too often when you play the game, mind.
Another thing that Mercenaries 3D does right enters this paragraph in the form of a superb soundtrack. Reworked tunes from past titles, including a surprisingly fitting techno ditty, keep the adrenaline pumping as you blast your enemies in a race against the clock. The fact that they are reworked tunes may seem a little lazy, but the point is that they're very fitting and oddly rather catchy. And Resident Evil 4 fans should prepare for a surprise in the music department when they reach the final set of stages. Unfortunately, this takes us onto another flawed aspect of the game: The poor sound quality. The music sounds great, but voices are ridiculously low-quality and gunshots sound like pop-caps. It's not a major flaw, but it still remains slightly annoying considering how astonishingly good the sound design was in Resident Evil 4. What is a major flaw, however, is the online play. I've saved the most striking flaw of the game until last, so here's the bottom line: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D's online multiplayer is completely broken. And I don't mean you regularly get disconnected, I mean you can't even get a game 99.5% of the time. I was excited when pre-release trailers for the game boasted co-operative ganado blasting through an online mode, but was severely let-down when I discovered that it's pretty much impossible to actually connect with another player in the game. It's a shame, because the three sessions I've played in co-op on the game were very fun, but I simply can't praise this title for that since you're rarely going to experience this co-operative fun. The online in this game genuinely doesn't work at all, and it's a real shame.

Ever wondered what happened to the old, black-suited Stig from Top Gear? Wonder no more! Just don't expect him to make a return, or anything.
In conclusion, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is like a Kinder Egg. Tacky, low-quality milk chocolate surrounding a slightly tastier white chocolate mantle, with a love it or hate it trinket found in the centre. Simply put, this review is a recommendation of a very enjoyable game with many frustrating flaws surrounding it, only to those who enjoyed the Mercenaries modes in previous Resident Evil games. I poured just over 100 hours into the game before putting it down, and if I can put up with the silly parts of the game then so can you as long as you enjoy Mercenaries as well. It's still an extremely addictive, notoriously satisfying race against the clock at its core, and one well worth giving a try if you think you fit the bill. If you've never played Mercenaries mode before and aren't sure whether you'll be keen on this, pick up the brilliant Resident Evil 4 (preferably the Wii Edition), play the extra mode found in that title and see if you at least like it a bit. At the other end of the spectrum, if you know for a fact that you don't like Mercenaries having played it in past games already, this game certainly won't change your views. In the end, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a very flawed and very disappointing game, but I still had a lot of fun with it, so give it a shot if you fancy a nice pick up and play game on your 3DS. We can only hope that Capcom will fix up the injured body of Resident Evil with the next big installment on Nintendo's platform; Resident Evil: Revelations. Until then, perhaps The Mercenaries 3D is worth your money. Perhaps...


Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas 2011 Update: The Year in Retrospect, Skyward Sword Review and What's to Come Next Year!

And so, after eleven months of highs and lows, the festive season is finally upon us. December, for those who didn't know for whatever rather odd reason, has been and will continue to be the last month of the year ever since the English calendar system was first introduced, and the last month a new year can only mean one thing: a Christmas-related update on this blog. Today, I'll be informing you of what's to come both before the year ends and when 2012 starts, as well as chucking in some dedications in the process. It's been quite a year for gaming, I must say. And by that I mean not a particularly good one, at least for the first three quarters of the year. The 3DS launch was an absolute shambles, with the best games on the system being either ports or remakes of older games for quite some time. Low sales caused a price drop, and while the 3DS has seen a dramatic increase in units sold since the release of titles including Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 (a 400% increase, to be exact) there's no denying that the amount of truly stellar games on the system before the final quarter of the year was slightly booing. This can be said for other platforms as well. The DS, as I've said previously in my review of Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, has entered it's days of decline this year, with the most recent and possibly last stellar release being the fourth Professor Layton game. The Wii has seen a few brilliant releases earlier in the year, such as the apparently amazing Xenoblade Chronicles, but again the amount of more than decent titles released before November hit has been few and far between in comparison to previous years. As for other platforms, their quantity of stellar releases has been truly lacking also, with the first truly stellar release of the year here in the UK being Batman: Arkham City, which was luckily followed by a number of other great additions to the PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms as the fourth quarter begun. It's not just lack of games released that made this such a poor year for games, as this year's E3 was pretty awful too. Poor conferences on all three main publishers' part made for one of the worst E3 shows in years, dare I say it even worse than 2009's failed collection of poorly thought out conferences.

Mario Kart 7 is one of the many stellar titles released following up to Christmas. I'm hoping to get my copy in on a certain special day!
It's slightly annoying then, that publishers have finally decided to release all of their games following up to Christmas this year. There has always been a big gaming rush before the year's end for a long time, but never quite on this scale. Because of this, I've decided to compile a short list of my recommendations  of games released this year on Nintendo platforms, a number of which I've added to my Christmas wish list. Expect the likes of Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call among a number of other stellar titles released this year. What I'm also hoping to have posted before the 25th of this oh-so joyous month is another review, one of a not-so festive game. While Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a 3DS game based around the core concept of slaughtering baddies in order to build up a combo while fighting off a depleting time limit (totally Christmassy, right?) it's still a title I've hyped up a lot since its announcement last year, and one I haven't really unleashed my opinion of since actually playing through the game. And you can trust me in saying that there's a good reason for this. It'll also be nice to have another 3DS Review posted after a ridiculously long time since my debut one of a certain street fighting launch title, no?
Skyward Sword sure has come a long way since this piece of concept art was first revealed over two years ago, eh? You'll discover my definitive opinion of the finished game very soon!
Also featured in the upcoming reviews machine that I refer to as my brain is what is without a doubt the biggest title I'll ever have the courage to write about thus far. In the event that you're colourblind, you won't be able to read that this review will be of a certain game in the long-running Legend of Zelda series, namely the absolutely incredible Skyward Sword for Wii. You can't expect the review to be up this month, but as a celebratory way to start up another year of writing on this blog I'm hoping for this massive review to become one of the first things I post in the big year that is 2012. Also coming in the new year is my inevitable Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2012 feature, marking the third edition of my ramblings about games I'm looking forward to in the next 12 months. Next year is set to be a much bigger year for gaming than the positively dire 2011, what with the poor first three quarters of the year and the frustratingly low E3 conferences we've seen in the last 12 sets of thirty-or-so days. Finally, the last of the posts I have planned for the coming months is a rather large one. For the first time ever in the history of my blog's many ramblings, I'll be discussing the heavy,  controversial topic of my Top 10 Personal Favourite Games of All Time, which will feature multiplatform titles old and new. I personally reckon this would be a great way to start the blog's third year running with a bang, and hopefully it'll spawn some comments or something. We'll see.

And now to close off this rambly Christmas-related update with a dedication. Many moons ago, soon after the big re-design of my blog that still feels like only yesterday at the time of writing this post, I mentioned a rather cool guy called Conorr and his blog. Very similar to mine, he posted a number of great pieces that unfortunately didn't receive quite as much attention as they should have. Conorr has recently started up a brand-spanking new blog under his name, which you can check out right here. You can trust me in saying that the raw journalistic talent of this guy is well and truly superior to mine, if you take a look at the drivel I came out with during my blog's first year. So, in short, give Conorr's new blog the attention it deserves and maybe it'll take off this time. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where I'm going to have to conclude this post. Have a very merry, particularly festive holiday and here's to a truly mesmerising new year!