Saturday, 22 December 2012

Time's End - Good Things Can Come Out of the 'End of the World'

 

You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?


On the run-up to the 21st of December in the year that is 2012, a drastic event was set: An event in which time for the human race would run out. The end of the world. The end of time for all of Earth's inhabitants. Of course, this all turned out to be complete and utter drivel and we're now back to getting on with our lives as opposed to worrying about yet another end of the world prediction. Man, I can't stand these things, they always disappoint. I'm not saying I want to get killed along with the rest of our humble, diverse race, but a zombie apocalypse would be pretty awesome. As long as said zombies are more like the ones in the original Dawn of the Dead - in other words completely and utterly hopeless unless they come across an edible treat too imbecilic to avoid being consumed like a buffet of blood and guts. Ahem, I seem to be getting a tad sidetracked, here, and for no good reason. You may be wondering, 'why are you rambling on about the end of the world and zombie apocalypses? What is the actual point of this article?' Well, reader/spam bot, I'm writing this to inform those of you who don't know that something brilliant has finally come out of one of the end of the world hoaxes. And because zombie apocalypses are awesome. No more worries for the living, only mindless justified violence and survival.

Before I get sidetracked yet again, the point of this article is to inform you, under no endorsement from its creator whatsoever, that a rather interesting fan project has been generated by both the phenomenal conceptualisation of the brilliant The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, as well as the countdown to the end of the Mayan calendar that allegedly predicted our final days (nice one, Mayans). This project is titled simply, Time's End. This is a re-arranged remix album that was released for free on terriblefate.com following a countdown that lasted three days (hey, kinda like Majora's Mask's apocalypse countdown, funnily enough) and ended at what might well have been the end of the world in reality (it wasn't). At the end of the countdown was a pretty stellar collection of tunes based on Nintendo's black sheep installment in the Zelda franchise. It was a beloved black sheep, of course, as it spawned this fan project that would cleverly tie-in with what was supposedly to be the real-life version of apocalyptic events. Again, it wasn't, but we got a pretty awesome remix album out of it.

Having listened through it twice, now, I can safely say that Time's End does the classic gaming masterpiece justice. Haunting melodies and recognisable motifs paired with alterations to the original soundtrack make for some listening not so much delightful as enjoyable. Majora's Mask really was messed up, and this fan project greatly emphasises that fact. Even if you're not a fan of the game, or gaming in general for that matter, it's well worth checking out Time's End as it is, as aforementioned, completely and utterly free. Or, if you're particularly nice, you can even donate to the creator of the project on Bandcamp with a 'pay what you want' dealio. Heck, it's worth checking out the site if only to see the awesomely disturbing animated image of Majora's demonic mask at the top of the page. So yeah, get on it, and most importantly, enjoy.

In other news, I've got a preview of upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special The Snowmen in the latter stages of the writing process at the time I type these words, so be sure to look forward to that. Speaking of things to look forward to, I hope the next end of the world prediction will come with more brilliant celebrations along the lines of what we've received this time around with Time's End. Dare I say it, I can't wait until the next end of the world.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.05 - The Angels Take Manhattan

When the Angels come for Amy and Rory, we'll be the ones Weeping...

When it comes down to it, The Angels Take Manhattan is one of the most important episodes of Doctor Who in a very long time. Certainly the most important since Matt Smith made his debut as the eleventh Doctor alongside Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy Pond and Rory Williams respectively in Steven Moffat's brilliant introductory tale as newly crowned show-runner, The Eleventh Hour. Over two years following the stellar debut, one that would introduce us to who would become two of the franchise's most beloved companions - not to mention one of the quirkiest incarnations of The Doctor himself - it's time for the former to say goodbye in the epic finale of the first half of broadcast series 7. Naturally, this particular 45 minutes of televised media has a lot resting on its shoulders, which begs the question: Does it succeed in offering a worthy farewell to the Doctor's two most active companions since the reintroduction of the show seven years ago? Short answer: Yes. As for the long answer, well, you'll just have to read on...

Naturally penned by head writer Steven Moffat and directed by the brilliant Nick Hurran, who both also crafted this series' thrilling opener Asylum of the Daleks as well as two of the best episodes from last year's series, The Angels Take Manhattan immediately held a huge amount of promise prior to its broadcast, and not just because of the key plot-point that is Amy and Rory's leaving. Granted, good ol' Moffat has had his fair share of slip-ups over the years as head writer, but the Ponds' final voyage is no such thing. In fact, it makes you realise Moffat's strengths as a writer of more dark escapades as opposed to his usual timey-wimey business, which he went rather overboard with in last year's finale. Some of Moffat's best stories thus far have been the chilling, slow-paced ones; The Empty Child two-parter in Christopher Eccleston's series; the legendary Weeping Angels debut Blink; and two of my all-time favourites, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon (perhaps my top Moffat stories altogether). His latest goes for a film noir style, fitting in with the series' blockbuster theme. With the aforementioned Nick Hurran as director in tow, you can expect it to look pretty amazing. And you know what? It absolutely does.

Friday, 30 November 2012

At Long Last... What do I Think of the Call of Duty Franchise?

I don't hate Call of Duty. I think the best way to start this post, one I've been pondering whether I should actually work on over the past year or so, is with that opening sentence. Why should I hate Call of Duty? I think it's an over-hyped disgrace to a good chunk of mankind, but when it comes to the games themselves I think they're rather fun. As a gamer who specializes in Nintendo's systems and developments, I'm inclined by stereotypical means to hate the series that has been  overshadowing greater developers and changing the course of gaming history over the past half-decade or so, but I don't. Review what's in front of you, those are words I live by when writing up detailed synopses of video games, films and what have you. Sadly, I won't be reviewing any Call of Duty games today. As a matter of fact, I'll probably never do so, which is the sole reason I'm writing up my thoughts on the series in this particular article. I've never owned a single installment in the world's biggest first-person shooter franchise, and I don't plan on doing so either. However, I have played each subsequent release since and including the fourth main iteration, Modern Warfare (coincidentally the release that launched the series into the mainstream), so I think I'm allowed to form an at least slightly vague opinion on the series. Naturally, this excludes the recently released Black Ops 2. So, let's get to it.

I think the best place to start would be at the beginning, but sadly, I haven't played any of the Call of Duty games precedent to the first Modern Warfare. Heck, I didn't even know about the series until the follow-up to that game, World at War, was released. For me, that's when the buckets of hype began to flood my brain from the metaphorical floodgates of the local populous (in other words my school year), therefore not grabbing my attention in the slightest. At the time I was more than content with my DS and Wii experience, one that I thankfully didn't hinder with bland, gritty war shooters. The days rolled on and I continued to hear more and more about the ever-popular franchise, and it's not until Modern Warfare 2, the best in the series judging from what I've played of it, that I touched anything to do with Call of Duty. Did I enjoy it? Yes, to a certain extent, but it didn't exactly blow my mind. I'm inclined to ponder over the popularity of the series, as I did all those years ago, but the answer is now clear. Like charts music, Call of Duty games are essentially easy pickings. In basic terms, they're a widespread, common form of entering the world of gaming but not exploring it. To make this an even more basic explanation in the form of an analogy, Call of Duty is essentially the Nicki Minaj to, say, Metroid's Aphex Twin. It's mainstream, basically. Yeah, I probably should've just stuck with that explanation.

Anyway, it's probably worth noting that the first Call of Duty game I played has remained my personal favourite up to this point. Modern Warfare 2 has a genuinely stellar campaign (something that can't be said about more recent offerings I've played, which simply rely on one action set-piece after another as opposed to actually involving the player and telling an engaging story) paired with some fun multiplayer. A solid release. I'd give it around 80% in a quick-fire situation. Sadly, the same can't be said about the next two releases following that of Modern Warfare 2, as Black Ops (better known as Blops... maybe) and Modern Warfare 3 are pretty atrocious, in my opinion. The latter was just an empty shell of a Call of Duty game, there wasn't really anything special about it, and while it seemed visually stunning from my experience, that's to be expected from such a big budget blockbuster title. And graphics, while pretty, most certainly aren't everything. As for Blops... Well, it's the worst offender of the entire series for me personally. Why? It's painfully boring. I know this sounds unsophisticated, but hear me out; The gunplay, a key part of an FPS game, is just plain dull, as was the campaign as a whole. Zombie mode made me think, 'I'd rather be playing TimeSplitters Zombies' for the entire duration I played it, and multiplayer... Again, an empty shell. Oh, and that Team America-esque Pentagon sketch was nowhere near as funny as it was hyped up to be. If Modern Warfare 3 was an empty Call of Duty game, Black Ops was below that, like comparing Doctor Who's Martha Jones to Rose Tyler (Sorry, I figured it'd be fine to make that reference seeing as I've been mainly writing Doctor Who reviews lately).

So, the last two Call of Duty games have been the only real atrocities in my opinion, which really begs the question: what do I think of the series' latest? You might just be pleasantly surprised... Granted, I haven't played Black Ops 2, but I must admit I do quite like the look of it, and if critical responses are anything to go by it's certainly something of a return to form after the downright bland Modern Warfare 3. I don't plan on buying it, but with the game coming to Wii U in fully-fledged form, I might well change my mind. Although, by the time I've got my mitts around my own Wii U, Call of Duty would probably be around its tenth main series release (we're on 7, in case you've lost count). Speaking of the future, I think it would be fitting to close off this dinky article with my predictions of the coming years in regards to the franchise. Honestly, I'm not sure whether the series will continue as it has done these past few years or if it'll finally die down. The success certainly can't go on forever, that's for sure. Only time will tell what will happen to what is, regretably speaking, the largest third-party franchise in gaming at this point. Until next time, this is myself, signing off...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Game Review: Kid Icarus Uprising

When a certain returning Nintendo hero was coming in to land towards the start of the year, swooping and diving on his way after a long 25 year hiatus minus a pit-stop in Masahiro Sakurai's Super Smash Bros. Brawl, he didn't exactly make a perfectly elegant landing from the point of view of most critics. Despite universal acclaim according to MetaCritic, with a hefty average score of 88 out of 100, most reviewers and publications didn't fail to bash a key aspect of his latest game, one aspect that could potentially break it depending on whether players were willing to adjust or not. Of course, I can't be referring to anything other than Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS and its universally boycotted control scheme. Let's not beat around the bush, here, Kid Icarus does initially impede perfect handling when you first start it up, but only due to the fact the game starts you off with some pretty terrible default options. The game's on-foot sections require you to use the touch-screen as a makeshift trackball, controlling an on-screen reticule on the system's stereoscopic widescreen upper display. Dragging the stylus aims the reticule, while flicking the touch screen horizontally spins the camera, much like "spinning a globe" as the game's witty commentary (more on this later) claims. The thing is, this globe refuses to stop for a while until you tap on the touch-screen, much like stopping on a random country with your fingertip. The key word here is random, as you can never seem to get your aiming right with this nubilous method of camera control. Take a trip to the game's options menu, however, and things can easily be sorted out...

Kid Icarus: Uprising's glaring fault isn't its controls, but the terrible default settings you're initially going to try and deal with (and most definitely fail miserably in doing so). Learning to adjust to a brand-new control method is cumbersome enough, but learning it before realising you can fix it will mess with your preconceptions. As a gamer, think about all the times you've gone to an options screen before playing any game that doesn't force you to do so, and you'll see what I mean. The best advice I can give anyone with this review, one that cements my hefty recommendation of this heroic return of an age-old Nintendo classic after a quarter-century in wait, is to go to the options screen, select 'Reticule/Camera' and take the time to find out what works for you - Increasing the speed at which the camera rotation stops is a given in any circumstance. This advice out of the way, let's move onto the good stuff, and boy oh boy, I've got a lot of positive things to say about this long awaited return from here on out. As a matter of fact, the three-dimensional restoration of Kid Icarus has not only cemented itself as my personal favourite game of the year thus far, it also happens to have neatly fitted into the rarely growing pantheon of my favourite handheld games of all-time. If the 3DS needed a system seller, this was it, never mind Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.

While not the most technically impressive game around, from an artistic standpoint Kid Icarus: Uprising is absolutely flippin' gorgeous.
But just what is it that makes Kid Icarus: Uprising so good? Well, with experienced developer Masahiro Sakurai at the helm of the game's development, I'm sure you can guess. While this return of a long-forgotten angelic hero and his counterparts isn't quite on such a grand scale as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it's very nearly as packed to the brim with content and replay value. For a game originally intended for release on Wii, it not only soars to heavenly heights on Nintendo's dinky handheld platform, it also stands up to the vast majority of modern home console titles to boot, not only from a content perspective but also in terms of sheer originality in a large number of aspects. This legendary return is yet another title worthy of Sakurai's name, and if you own a 3DS and you're even remotely interested in it, I have two pieces of advice for you: Buy it immediately... Just don't forget to take time to adjust those controls. If that's not enough to crack those pre-conceptual nutshells in your brains, let's get into the meat of both the game and this review as I dissect everything that makes Kid Icarus' killer comeback so worth the five minutes it takes to sort out the controls before you play it.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.04 - The Power of Three

Atrocious puns aside, this is a truly powerful episode...

Being the penultimate adventure featuring two of Doctor Who's most beloved and loyal companions since the reboot of the show way back in 2005, it's fitting that The Power of Three is something of a swansong for a certain Amelia Pond and her never-staying-dead husband, Rory Williams. This particular ballad is sung beautifully, too, which is more than welcome from the point of view of a reviewer who has felt nothing but feelings of under-use for the two characters over the course of the series, bar the second episode. Coincidentally, The Power of Three is also penned by the writer of that particular inclusion, and while Amy came across as a brilliant feminine caricature of a certain Christopher Eccleston in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which also saw Rory from a new angle thanks to the introduction of his dad, Brian, writer Chris Chibnall absolutely excels in fiddling with the companionship's threads throughout his second contribution to the series. And what a contribution it is, as long as you can ignore some slightly beguiling errors on a few other fronts.

While Chris Chibnall's latest ultimately emphasises the relationship between Amy, Rory and The Doctor, it is mainly pushed along by a very interesting plot thread, involving one of the oddest Earth invasions that the last of the Time Lords has ever come across over the past near-fifty years. Quite literally overnight, countless identical small black cubes arrive seemingly out of nowhere, to the surprise and intrigue of the human race. And what is it that these perfectly formed, indestructible shapes do, you ask? Absolutely nothing, and they continue to do so for months throughout the episode. Following in the footsteps of 2010's The Lodger and its spiritual 2011 follow-up, Closing Time, this story sees The Doctor in wait, because that's all he can do. While it reflects the aforementioned stories of past series', this Chibnall-penned tale plays the waiting game pretty much perfectly, and it wholly engages the audience as well as the characters you see on screen, and most importantly it isn't boring thanks to the key aspect of the episode, the companionship. When the cubes eventually showed signs of activity in the story's final act (that's not a spoiler, by the way) I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what exactly the cubes are for and who or what has been pulling the strings all this time. Heck, I almost spilled tea all over my crotch when this was supposedly about to be revealed. As for the pay-off to all this waiting... Well, allow me to hark back to that later.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Film Review: The Dictator

Given my recent hiatus from publishing any new articles here on the blog, I figured now would be a good time to set free the beast that is my review of Sacha Baron Cohen's latest attempt at comedy, The Dictator. It's worth noting that I wrote this piece at the start of the year under something of a deadline as it had to be out of the oven in time for the first issue of Stream, so don't expect it to be the best thing I've ever written in the event that you didn't check it out on its original publication. Anyway, without further ado, enjoy this slice of filler while you wait for the oh-so nearly completed articles soon to be let out of their draft-enclosed cages...

Scripted fiction makes for a curiously inoffensive escapade from Sacha Baron Cohen... But is it funny?

Sacha Baron Cohen's past potentially offensive caricatures of political incorrectness were undignified, but on many occasions outrageously funny. The actor's latest attempt at portraying a character many wouldn't dare to act out might be right up your alley depending on your preferences when it comes to comedies. Possibly due to the deprivation of the formula that was born with Cohen's most successful film, Borat, which went stale with the later released Bruno, himself and director Larry Charles have returned to the actor's feature length, scripted roots (Ali G Indahouse: The Movie) with The Dictator. However, this film still follows in the footsteps and success of Cohen's last two character portrayals, despite being scripted, leading to the question of whether it holds up against those releases or not. The answer is simple, like the mind of Admiral General Aladeen himself; It very much depends of whether you found Bruno funny or utterly atrocious.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.03 - A Town called Mercy

Is Series 7's third installment good, bad or ugly?

In simple terms, the third episode of Doctor Who's seventh series left me in a mental jumble. It made me wonder how Toby Whithouse, writer of such fantastic episodes as last year's The God Complex and the Russell T. Davies-era nostalgia fest School Reunion, could screw up something so badly to the point that even a casual viewer could rectify the flaws he creates in series 7 episode 3, A Town called Mercy. Yes, it pains me to say it, but this episode - one that had so much going for it judging from the trailers and such that preceded it - was pretty mediocre to say the least. It's kind of ironic to state that, however, because so much about this Western-themed 'epic' was executed to near-perfection, namely the direction, music, acting and the overall tone that these three things create. It's evidently clear that too much of the focus with this episode was on shoehorning in typical Western flick cliches as opposed to actually writing a sensical, brilliant tale, something that I know for a fact Whithouse is perfectly capable of doing both in Doctor Who and his own series Being Human (which, going off-topic slightly, you should all check out). It's when he overcoats a botched tale with historical or cult themes that he creates his own monstrosities - You only have to watch 2010's Vampires in Venice to see this theory in motion. At least that story made a lick of sense, though, 'cause this one's chock full of plot-holes and continuity errors the size of several Grand Canyons.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory enter a certain town called Mercy, unbeknownst to the badly-composed and ultimately pointless tale they're getting themselves into.
I'm actually in some way glad that this episode was terrible, because it makes it all the more easier to synopsise it. On each subsequent occasion I watched A Town called Mercy (for review purposes, that is) I found more and more errors as well as rectifications for said errors, to point out in this review. I'll save all of that for the following paragraphs, though, because believe it or not there are good things to be said about A Town called Mercy despite all the justified hate I've brought upon it in the last paragraph. If you haven't guessed already, Whithouse's latest is a Western, which fits the 'blockbuster' theme of series 7 nicely. It's also dealt with perfectly, mainly thanks to the staging and the absolutely phenomenal musical score from Murray Gold (seriously, this episode and this episode only contains some of the best music the guy has ever produced for Doctor Who, adding a Western twang to his usual epic antics). Mercy was filmed at Almeria province in Spain, the exact same site in which the likes of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and many other classic westerns were also once in motion. The site looks all the more iconic in this episode thanks to Saul Metzstein's phenomenal direction - Yes, the director of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship returns to direct his second episode in a row, and I must say he's rising up in the pantheon of great Doctor Who and indeed TV directors judging from his work on the show thus far. Some of the shots in this episode, ones involving the apparent antagonist The Gunslinger in particular, look absolutely gorgeous.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.02 - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, why do you Love Brian's Balls?

Yes, as you may have guessed from the quite frankly farcical title, the second installment in Doctor Who's seventh revived series is a light-hearted one. A romp, one could refer to it as. Don't go speeding down assumption junction just yet, though, because it may surprise you to hear that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, the fourth Doctor Who story penned by Chris Chibnall (His previous works being 42, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood) is actually a very solid episode. One of the best of its kind, in fact. It might also surprise you to hear that the 45-minutes this episode presents also packs some pretty serious drama, fantastic direction from newcomer Saul Metzstein and a perfectly handled mix of CGI and animatronics for the titular dinosaurs. On top of this, brilliant casting choices for the vast range of characters, as well as an at times snigger-inducing script, can also be added to episode 2's list of merits. Oh, and there's a balls joke in there, too.

One thing you definitely have to keep in mind while watching Chris Chibnall's latest (at the time of writing, at least; He's also penned episode 4 of this series) is that it isn't trying to do anything groundbreaking in its 45-minute time-frame, despite the fact that a particularly controversial, fan-splitting decision from the Doctor takes place towards the end. More on that later, though. As aforementioned, Dinosaurs certainly fits under the category of 'light-hearted romp', as it combines a fair few elements; a considerably larger set of companions as opposed to previous adventures, a stellar variety of locales (at least in the episode's pre-credits sequence; One that zooms by even swifter than that of Asylum of the Daleks) and most importantly, a multi-layered plotline that takes place almost alongside the kind of narrative one expects from the title of the episode. Yes, Chibnall has pulled the same trick showrunner Steven Moffat did with last year's divisive story 'Let's Kill Hitler' by misguiding the viewer's expectations through means of an intentionally specified title. Thankfully, though, Chibnall manages to combine the unexpected elements of this story with the dinosaur action that was to be expected judging from the title, even going so far as to give a superb, fan-pleasing explanation as to why the dinosaurs reside in such unfamiliar terrain.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.01 - Asylum of the Daleks

-the-eggs-are-not-what-they-seem-

Doctor Who is a programme about change. It's always been critically acclaimed in some form or another, and it's also been a key part of British heritage and culture for many years. But, like the main protagonist himself; the characterised glue that has constantly kept the show stuck together; the time traveler whose personality and appearance has taken eleven different official forms and even more unofficial ones over the past near-50 years, the show constantly changes. It changes with new lead writers, it changes with the times and it most definitely changes with The Doctor himself, not to mention his countless companions. In the midst of all this change a number of problems have popped up over the years: plot-holes, continuity errors and such, which can let the self-proclaimed 'hardcore' viewer down if taken to heart. Fans of classic Doctor Who and even the Russell T. Davies era will find a fair few problems with the recently broadcasted series 7 (or 32, if you will) opener, titled Asylum of the Daleks - Errors which are most evident in the form of issues to do with the Doctor's greatest adversary themselves.

Now let's get one thing perfectly clear: I absolutely adore Doctor Who and I adore it now more than I ever did before current lead writer Steven Moffat took over, but I don't take it too seriously. A lead writer can't write a story of his own based around an adversary that has been present in a show since its second serial without creating continuity issues, and that's a fact, but so-called die-hards feel the need to point out unobvious errors and see them as episode ruiners. Fans who expected SteeMo to watch every Dalek story ever broadcast before writing his Dalek debut are quite foolish, to say the least, because when you look past the slightly botched continuity there is an absolutely fantastic story in Asylum of the Daleks, paired with fantastic production values (especially for a BBC budget) and a personal adoration of mine which comes in the form of some truly phenomenal direction from Nick Hurran, who also worked on two stellar hits from last year, The Girl who Waited and The God Complex. Speaking of last year, Doctor Who's sixth revived series saw a lot more head-scratching than most with its complex plot lines and timey-wimey madness, but thankfully with series 7 Moffat has wiped the slate clean and gone back to the basics with a very sophisticated, easy to understand script that worked wonders on our TV screens. The Doctor is back and he's made his return with a particularly explodey-wodey bang.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Update 15/09/12: Explanation for my Hiatus / Progress Updates

It's been exactly a month since I last updated, and not much less since I actually posted any artcles, so I thought now would be a good time to initiate writing a little progress update. Naturally, this post will give a little more insightfulness on my current writing projects (of which there are many quite literally ready to be published) as well as the redesign me and ONM forum member TJ HipHop have been working on. Well, he's doing most of the work but regardless, the redesign is still coming and will hopefully be in public view by the month of September's end. The graphics I've seen thus far, as well as the template I've created with Blogger's admittedly rather fiddly template designer tool are looking a lot more professional than the site does at this moment in time, and I'm just as excited to see the finished product as you might well be. Again, apologies for the delays (I was hoping to get it done and dusted a little earlier, but never mind) but, while I can't promise anything, I am hoping to start publishing posts on the brand-new Noodle's Blog before the month ends.

Speaking of the publishing of posts, I do actually have a few things ready to be unleashed as aforementioned. The thing is, I originally wanted to post all my articles in regards to previously unexplored mediums - TV, film and music - after the redesign was to be launched in order to compliment the freshness of the new-look site. While I'll be sticking by this with my film and music reviews, namely The Dictator and Blur's 13 respectively (apologies in advance for the poor quality of the latter article, it is my first music review after all), I do plan on posting my TV reviews ASAP, along with a new ratings graphic. Speaking of which, I haven't actually mentioned said TV reviews until given the chance right now. So, yeah, the seventh revived series of Doctor Who started a few weeks back and I've already reviewed the first episode. Not to mentioned the fact that my review of episode 2 is in the writing process and will hopefully be completed this weekend. Episode 3 is airing today and I'll also be reviewing that sometime the following week. In other words, I'll be reviewing all five episodes each in a 1000-word shell and publishing them both on here and in Stream, the graphics, arts and writing magazine I've already mentioned numerous times in these updates post (the new design will feature an Affiliates page linking to Stream and a few other things, as if I don't advertise it enough). If you want to read my aforementioned film and music reviews, don't hesitate to check out the free online magazine right here.

Back to the medium I typically cover on this blog and will continue to mainly focus on following my expansion of media coverage, you may remember that I promised my review of the absolutely phenomenal Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS would be posted last month. Unfortunately, I also noted that the new design would be up last month, and I was all set to tie in my latest game review with the launch of the new design. Sorry about that, but it's all in the past. I plan on posting this review (which, if you don't mind one blowing his own trumpet, might well be my best yet) before the month ends, hopefully to tie-in with the redesign's launch. On the topic of gaming, I've had a fair few posts in the pipeline over the past few weeks but haven't finished any of them, although I'm close to doing so. Firstly, a synopsis of the gorgeous Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and secondly my thoughts on that fiasco surrounding The World Ends with You that spanned a fortnight a few weeks back. Both will be up this month, redesign or no. Back to reviews, the next one I plan on writing up after all of the above is over and done with is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on both PS2 and 3DS (yes, I'll be analysing each seperately) which should be exciting. Finally, my Top Ten Favourite Games Feature is gradually being worked on and has been for the past few months, but I can promise it is coming and will hopefully be up before the end of next month.

And so, this concludes another update. Apologies for a lack of posts lately but I hope my explanation has sufficed. I haven't even mentioned the fact that I'm in my most important (and stressful) year of school now and revision naturally takes priority over my personal projects, but I will continue to fit these things in. You can expect a few new posts before the end of the month, and maybe even the redesign I'm so pumped to launch. Thank you, and goodnight/afternoon/morning (I think I've covered everything, there).

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hope Piqued for a Sequel to The World Ends with You... But don't get too excited.

It's been a fairly exciting week for gamers these past few seven days, and for good reason. Some speculative screenshots for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V have been released, a number of minor bits and pieces regarding the next Smash Bros. game have found their way from Sakurai's mouth to the web... But, despite these exciting, mainstream games being reported on these past few days, one teaser site spawned from a 2008 underground hit has been the most exciting for yours truly. If, like me, you're a fan of The World Ends with You (well, I'd consider myself more than a fan but that's beside the point) then you'll have most definitely heard the big news in relation to this teaser website. Yes, the time has finally come: In just under seven days time we'll be seeing the announcement of the next installment in the vast lore of The World Ends with You... Hopefully.

The teaser website, featuring a countdown much reminiscent of The World Ends with You's erasure clocks, as well as a remixed version of the song 'Calling', point in the direction of a new installment. However, various sources state otherwise. Here's hoping said sources are wrong...
At this enthralling teaser website, you'll find what started out as a seven day countdown for something clearly related to The World Ends with You. Various things have 100% confirmed this: The site features a remixed version of a song from the original game's soundtrack, titled Calling, as well as an unfinished logo that shows the stylish silhouette of Shibuya's 104 district, also featured in the original game along with its logo. The original game's art and character designers, Tetsuya Nomura and Gen Kobayashi, are also credited at the footer of the site. Something all-new in relation to The World Ends with You is definitely coming, but don't get your hopes up for a sequel just yet. Why? Well, various sources have all but confirmed something else; Something that practically forced me to grab some metaphorical hype paint remover upon painting myself hyped when I initially discovered the site this morrow. You see, there's a good chance that this much-proclaimed sequel, one I'm sure we're all hoping to see on 3DS or Wii U, is actually some kind of social game or network for PCs and various smartphone devices. Bummer, I know. What exactly points in this direction? First off, the Twitter account of a Japanese Square-Enix representative posted a link to the site alongside a number of words which lead one to believe the prospect of a PC and smartphone release as opposed to what we actually want: A proper sequel or prequel, or at least a remake. In fact, I'd be more excited for the latter in the event that they screw up the continuity like they did with Kingdom Hearts upon developing a sequel.

Secondly are more speculative hints that the game, or whatever it is, will be on the wrong platforms. The site features a link to Square's mobile gaming partner, GREE, alongside various links to other social networks in order to share the news of the teaser. The source code of the website also includes hints at GREE's involvement in the project, as well as a mobile site. I'm hoping that this is merely an extra feature in ties with what we're all hoping is a brand-new game on 'proper' gaming platforms, but we'll just have to wait and see. The mobile site found in the source code might be just that: a mobile version of the site. Really, in basic terms, we don't know whether this teaser site will reveal a brand-new game set in The World Ends with You's stunning Shibuya-based universe, or just some odd social networking game that everyone's going to ignore outside of Japan (Square-Enix have been doing this sort of thing lately, after all) and all we can do is wait.

Here's hoping one of my favourite games of all time - my most beloved RPG and number one handheld game, no less - is getting a proper sequel and not some ridiculous smartphone sub-game.
Despite the disappointing prospect that this big reveal won't be what I truly want, I am excited for the high possibility of new artwork and music. After all, we've already got the remixed version of Calling, not to mention a fancy new logo, so there's a much higher chance that we'll at least be seeing more of these mediums in relation to The World Ends with You, whether this new project happens to be a PC and smartphone exclusive game or not. When it comes down to it, nothing is confirmed and we don't know squat as of yet. All we can do is wait, unlike the original's players who fought against an ever-ticking time limit on a daily basis. For us, just under seven days remain. Hopefully we're in for one hell of a prize after this wait...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Update 15/08/12: Noodle's Blog Is Evolving... / Stream Launch / Upcoming Posts

The first thing you'll most definitely notice about this post is its title. Typically I'd title these progressive update posts with a previously standardised format of 'Update: insert whatever I'll be discussing within this post'. Well, while this format hasn't really changed too much with this update I have indeed modified it for a reason, and that's to amplify the key element of this update as well as what's to come in the not too distant future: change. Change is good, especially when it's the kind of modification that will hopefully soon be made to this blog, one I've been independently running with little real change over the past few years. Of course, you only have to compare my posts from back when I started to my latest to tell that my skill in writing and opinionated journalism has improved, but structurally this site hasn't changed a bit since its genesis. In fact, I probably shouldn't  There's not a whole lot that sets this site apart from any other typical collection of articulate thoughts here on Blogger. Sure, I've designed and painstakingly pieced together an original design and developed my skills over the years, but I feel that now would be the perfect time to make an upgrade with a little help from people who are basically better at graphic arts than yours truly. Yes, it's time for another redesign, and not just in the sense of the appearance of this blog.

This evolution links in with the other major topic I'll be detailing in this post, which I might as well discuss now. In the last update post (or was it the one before?) I dictated my involvements in an ONM Forum project, the online magazine titled Stream. Well, in case you're not keeping up with the times in regards to this enthralling project, it has now launched along with the first issue of this free, fantastically designed web-mag. A special mention goes out to all involved, forum members Conorr and TJ HipHop in particular for piecing together what has turned out a gleaming success and then some. And who knows, this success might lead to something big. Anyway, the main thing outside of the magazine's launch that I wanted to discuss is my involvement in the project. I've already contributed my Super Mario 3D Land review from a few months back to the launch issue of Stream, but in the same issue an exclusive article produced by moi is also included. As I detailed in the last update here on the blog while I was still writing the thing, I reviewed Sacha Baron Cohen's latest, The Dictator, to be exclusively featured in the magazine for at least some time. Anyway, I'm waffling, so let's swiftly get into the meat of things, here: Do I plan on posting my first non-game review here on the blog? Certainly. You see, as much as I love video games, I don't really see as much success in writing journalism for this medium as I do for, say, reviewing albums and films. This isn't to say that I'm dropping games journalism, it will definitely still be the main focus of this journalistic abode, just with reviews and opinions in relation to other forms of media as a metaphorical side-dish every now and again. Aside from my first published film review, I've got a critical synopsis of Blur's album 13 on the way, too. This album review will be included in the second issue of Stream and on this site several weeks after. I only plan on publishing these reviews on here following the launch of the new design, however, to mark the occasion with even more change.

Speaking of which, let's get back to the second re-design. I won't be working on the design I have planned in a graphical sense this time around, as I've never been that skilled in graphic design and I don't even own any software to develop something great. I actually used an online service, Fotoflexer, to piece together the design you'll see surrounding this post at the time of writing. I already mentioned TJ Hiphop, whose contribution to Stream excited me and made me think, 'This is the guy for the job' as I was planning this revolution. Thankfully, he's shown interest in helping me out in this regard and I'll be willing to credit him as much as possible if he goes all the way with it. We're probably looking at a September-time launch for the redesign, so look forward to that.

Finally, allow me to close off this update with the usual news I stick into these posts; what exactly is coming up article-wise in the coming months? Well, the next thing you'll see, either before or after the redesign has launched, is my review of 3DS gem Kid Icarus: Uprising. Honestly, as things are progressing at this moment in time, I think this might just be my best review yet, especially after my review of Mario Kart 7, which I was honestly a little disappointed with. Even better is the news that it's almost finished, and you'll see it published on here very soon. Following that, I'm going back to home console game reviews after a fairly lengthy hiatus. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on PS2 is the game in question, and following that, something massive: My review of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which I'm currently replaying and still loving to bits. After that, possibly the last review you'll see from me this year will be of the excellent Persona 4,which I'm planning on also replaying after I'm done with the aforementioned projects. In terms of features, I'm currently working on my Top Ten Personal Favourite Games list, which will be up before the end of september, probably. And, for this update at least, that's just about everything. So, for now, look forward to the redesign as well as all these upcoming posts and have a nice day!

Note: If this post feels rushed, so be it. It's only an update and I wanted to get this out ASAP. At least I'm getting the news across, right?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

REVIEW: Mario Kart 7

Back in the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the big developer we all know as Nintendo unleashed what is now one of the most successful spin-offs to a main series, selling in countless numbers to a mass of individuals around the world. More recent instalments in this series have been glued to the top in Wii and DS charts ever since they were first released, rather incredibly, a number of years prior. Of course, there's no way I could be talking about anything other than Mario Kart, the mustachioed plumber's manic, rampant take on not-so serious racing. This is a series that has truly evolved over the years, although many will debate that karting experiences with Nintendo's mascot have gone a little downhill of late, at least with the most recent home console effort.

If one were to hark back to the release that kick-started this best selling spin-off series, he or she would find a surprisingly inaccessible experience. Super Mario Kart was a particularly difficult to master affair when it came to actually steering your vehicle around a SuperFX-generated track, as the game was deliberately stapled with some of the most difficult to deal with handling in a racing game, even more so than the likes of WipeOut many years later. Of course, players could get 'in the groove' and become trapped inside a mind state of 100% focus - Focus on winning a race without allowing poor manoeuvrability to get in their way. Skip past several releases and you'll find that, by the time Mario Kart Double Dash!! on GameCube was released, this difficult to master gameplay was modified to become a much more accessible engine, soon after which a more varied mass of casual and 'core crowds got into the series. Many of you should know how much I oppose the phrases casual and hardcore and both terms' stereotypical effect on gaming, but in the context of this argument they simply have to be implemented. You see, the more recent Mario Kart experiences have forced many into two different, separately opinionated pigeon-holes. Using the boycotted Mario Kart Wii as a fitting example, many absolutely loathed the game for its undeniably unfair gameplay elements and outrageously difficult cups in the later stages of the solo experience (ironic, considering this particular release was more aimed at casuals than anyone else with its abominable advertising campaigns). Others, however, saw the strengths of the game and proceeded to ignore its unfair nature and simply have fun. So, this leaves us with a question, one that was already answered last December but will continue to be satisfied by yours truly: How does Mario Kart 7 on 3DS hold up? Rather well, actually.

One could describe Mario's third handheld karting experience, not to mention his seventh altogether (if you exclude the supposedly awful Namco-developed arcade game) with many words, but broken is definitely not one of them. The core racing found in this stereoscopic release is quite possibly as tight as you'll get with the series so far, even when compared to the DS iteration, the typical favourite amongst fans. But how does it hold up against its predecessors altogether? Yes, Mario Kart 7 features what is easily the most balanced gameplay in the series, a true god-send for those who loathed the Wii iteration's unfair nature, but that's not to say it's the best Mario Kart game ever. Keeping in mind that I haven't played the Nintendo 64 or GameCube versions, the lucky seven finds itself perched just a few branches below Mario Kart's Wii and DS experiences in my opinion, or for a more fitting analogy, in third place winning a bronze medal in the cup to decide the best game in the series. While I loathed Mario Kart Wii's unfair approach to what Nintendo thought was balancing the experience, I must admit that I had a lot more fun with it than the most recent karting effort available at this time.

The main reason for the seventh instalment's peak position of third place in my view is its surprising deprivation of content; It's almost as if Nintendo, even when paired with famed co-developer Retro Studios (Metroid Prime, Donkey Kong Country Returns - You should know these guys by now) forgot to pack some meat into an otherwise tightly balanced incarnation. Mario Kart Wii may have been frustratingly unfair, but its production value is admittedly leagues above what is available on 3DS. Still, when I conduct a synopsis what Mario Kart 7 does have to offer, I hope to show that it is definitely worth picking up if you don't already own it. In fact, I believe that racing around crazy courses with Mushroom Kingdom veterans is even better than partaking in stereoscopic platforming in the form of Super Mario 3D Land when it comes to 3DS-exclusive Mario titles, as you'll know from the score at the bottom of this review.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

My Views on the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Arguments [E3 2012]

Let's get one thing out of the way before I say another word regarding the topic of this post: Metal Gear Rising: Revenegeance looks like an excellent game from what we've seen of it thus far. Stating that Platinum Games' spin-off to one of the most legendary video game series of all-time is looking terrible, purely because it has next to no relation to the main titles in the Metal Gear Saga, is quite simply a cynical, biased statement from the sort of tawpie who probably shouldn't be playing tactical espionage action games in the first place. Although, these declarations are not without reason; The aforementioned fact that, while it looks to be an excellent experience in terms of gameplay when it's finally released early 2013, it doesn't really seem to be part of the Metal Gear universe and canon despite claims that it is. Thinking about it further, this isn't exactly a fact since the story does fit in the time line, but the world this game portrays is a far cry from the likes of Shadow Moses and Groznyj Grad. Let's begin listing the odd differences found in this portrayal of Metal Gear, starting with the main character, Raiden. There's always going to be someone complaining that Hideo Kojima's story is a convoluted mishmash of randomness, but few can deny that the characters found within his complex tale are mostly likeable slices of brilliance in the form of virtual humans and the oddly well explained supernatural. Raiden was one such character - The key word in this sentence being 'was'.

Raiden can still maintain his 'badass' persona in Platinum's spin-off, but he's lost some personality in the process.
Mind you, Raiden actually started out as a bit of a snob, but rightly due to reasons that shouldn't be explained for the purposes of avoiding spoiling 2002's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Without spoiling anything whatsoever, the once annoying protagonist of the first MGS release on Sony's second major console became rather likeable towards the end of the game, but it was in 2008s excellent PS3 debut, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, that Raiden's true colours glistened through. In the series' last home console release, the once snobby 20-something had transformed into, simply put, a total badass. Typically in this modern age of third-person shooters and first-person shooters and what have you, characters like Gears of War's Marcus Phoenix are considered suitable to fit under this title, but even if the muscular blockhead did, he'd be hundreds of classes below Raiden. Unfortunately with the gameplay-focused Metal Gear Rising, the character who made the transition from unfitting protagonist to gallant cybernetic warrior has now grown a bit stale, fitting more under the true definition of badass according to Dictionary.com; A difficult to deal with, mean-tempered character. Raiden may have a reason to be angry in his latest appearance, but he found himself in the same situation in Guns of the Patriots and I remember him maintaining a level-headed nature in that release no matter what happened to him or his comrades. And he got his arms decapitated. That's rough. Rising's portrayal of Raiden, on the other end of what I like to call the 'badass spectrum', is an insane cyborg Hell-bent on justice in a war-bound, bleak future.

If anyone can make a good hack 'n' slash, it's Platinum Games. With little involvement from Kojima Productions, however, this certainly ain't like no Metal Gear that's ever come before.
Of course, there's a chance that Metal Gear Rising might once again see Raiden going through the same process he did in his PS2 debut, making yet another transition due to... certain reasons. Again, I'm trying my hardest not to spoil things here. Regardless, nothing can sway Rising's ectopic nature away when it comes to the setting of the game. Again, this aspect doesn't in any way look like something to complain about, or even something overly bland, it's just not the sort of thing you'd expect from Metal Gear. Granted, MGS4 was set in a war-torn future where nano-machines controlled everything from war economy to mooing Gekko, but Rising's world takes things a bit too far. The raging battle in Rising seems a lot less sophisticated, at least judging from the overly action-packed trailers. This game is clearly being developed by Platinum, the subsidiary of the late Clover Studios (before they split and ended up making Okami) who brought us the excellent ultra-violent beat 'em up MadWorld and soon enough, it's spiritual sequel Anarchy Reigns (which you may be seeing an article on here in the blog some time soon). This action element of Metal Gear has always been sophisticated and clever, with the occasional epic set-piece and brilliant boss fight turning things up an notch on numerous occasions. I don't think I'll ever forget the incredible Shagohod chase sequence at the end of Snake Eater or the final battle of the entire Solid series chronologically, quite possibly the greatest boss ever seen in a videogame. Like the warring environments a wrecked Raiden finds himself in, the action loses its sophistication in Rising, not to say slicing up helicopters, Gekko and watermelons with the clever 1:1 slicing mechanic doesn't look fun.

Despite all I've said in the past few paragraphs, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance looks anything but charmless. Granted, you'd never hear a Depeche Mode song in a typical Metal Gear trailer, nor would you see non-stop, not too well thought out action sequences, but none of this stuff looks bad or in any way generic. The 1:1 slicing I mentioned previously looks unique and satisfying, and the excessive gore you'd expect from Platinum only compliments this. This game is a spin-off through and through, and while it's one I'd eliminate from the main series canon if I were to revise entire Metal Gear saga, I can't stress enough that Rising is most certainly going to be a hit when it drops in the first quarter of next year, at least judging from what we've seen of it. Even if it turns out pants, we still have the recently confirmed Metal Gear Solid 5 to look forward to (a game which I'm absolutely certain will follow on from Peace Walker and Snake Eater). I haven't gone ridiculously in-depth about the core game in this post, but you can expect a possible preview of Metal Gear Rising not too long before the title is released. For now, though, look forward to future pieces (of which there are many coming this month) and have a nice day!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Feature: My Impressions of Nintendo's E3 Conference [Part 2/2] [2012 Edition]

We suitably ended part one of my Nintendo E3 2012 Impressions on a cliffhanger of sorts, and now it's time to finish it. Following the reveal of Super Scribblenauts, Nintendo of America's main man Reggie returned to the spotlight and was quick to introduce a short showcase of games set to arrive on Nintendo's upcoming home platform, the Wii U. Some of these were titles we saw last year, but I can't help but discuss a few specific chunks of the oncoming storm that is the Wii U. Opening up the video, cheesy background music and all, was Darksiders II. The original Darksiders was thumped for its slight unoriginality in both combat and storytelling, but the sequel looks to be in the same boat as Red Steel 2, in that it appears almost entirely different and vastly improved when compared to its predecessor. Now, I haven't played the original game, but I'm certainly excited for its sequel. The fluid beat-'em-up gameplay and Zelda-like exploration, dungeon crawling and puzzle solving, as well as various RPG elements will most likely make for a winning recipe and a more than welcome release in the Wii U's launch window. Granted, we saw some of Darksiders' sequel at last year's conference, but to complain about this would be nitpicking on a minuscule scale. This could be one of the Wii U's first heavy hitters.


Next up was Mass Effect 3, and I think I've pretty much summed that up in one sentence. Back to new games, Aliens: Colonial Marines (hilarious how both a punctuated colon and the word colon are used in this title) is looking rather good. Coming from Gearbox, the same lovely folks who developed one of the best shooters of the last few years, Borderlands, as well as one of the most hilariously bad, Duke Nukem Forever, this Alien spin-off looks to be both true to the franchise and impressive in its own right. Judging from what we've seen of it, Colonial Marines seems to have a sort of Metroid Prime-esque vibe to it, with dark, dank lighting and the deadly antagonists jumping seemingly out of nowhere, paired with harrowing exploration as opposed to linear levels. Whether or not this will top, be on par or fall short of Metroid Prime is down to the final release, the Wii U version of which is said to be the definitive version directly from Gearbox, but judging from the run-up to the release this just might be a game to look forward to, folks. Various other games were shown in the video, including a new version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, cult indie sequel Trine 2 and the still-ultra violent Nintendo-published version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 3, but I think it's time to move onto the next major announcement...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Feature: My Impressions of Nintendo's E3 Conference [Part 1/2] [2012 Edition]

Well, here we are again, folks. If you watched Nintendo's E3 2012 Conference and have been reading the pieces of writing found on this site for a while, you'll know what to expect here; My own personal opinionated run-down of everything that happened at the show. If you're not familiar with E3 yet, check out some of my previous pieces of writing regarding the topic, because I ain't wasting any time discussing it here. I must admit that, while it was undeniably disappointing, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year's Nintendo conference, much more so than the bland-fest that was 2011. More than any conference before it, this year packed a fair few memorable moments in the form of interesting new games and utterly hilarious moments, and these factors made for a much more enjoyable watch than the Queen's Diamond Jubilee that took place on the same day. I'm proud to be a British citizen not celebrating such an apparently momentous occasion, instead opting for keeping my eyes glued to a screen showing the events of the Nokia Theatre. And I've got to say, I'm glad I did.

Before I begin, I'll have to inform you that this year things are going to work a tad differently for my E3 Impressions. Let's face it, in some ways like the conference itself this year, my last two E3 Impressions posts didn't go down too well. I couldn't even finish the 2011 edition due to accidental erasure and a lack of motivation, and the 2010 one, while completed, is another example of how poor I was at writing around the time I started out. Because of this, I don't want to mess this one up, and I'm sure you readers don't want me to either. So, I've decided to basically go through my highlights of Nintendo's conference, skipping out anything pointless, or giving anything that deserves no more than a brief mention... a brief mention. Yes, I'm talking about the likes of SiNG, Freestyle games' disgusting alternative to what would've been DJ Hero 3 if Activision didn't idiotically can the franchise, as well as Wii Fit U, which definitely doesn't look bad but just doesn't interest me in the slightest. I will, however, be discussing what we saw at the anti-climactic end of the conference, what I consider to be the main gripe everyone seemed to have with this year's show (again, I still quite enjoyed the event as a whole). Well, without further ado, let's explore my opinions of 2012's Nintendo E3 Conference. I'll try my hardest not to drag this on for too long, much like the climax of the show itself...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Update: E3 Related Posts and my Contributions to Stream

Some of you may have noticed a surprising lack of posts about subjects and games in regards to E3, the biggest gaming event of the year, the 2012 convention of which had taken place just under two weeks ago. On an annual basis, I post a review of Nintendo's yearly conference that takes place at the event. Before I announce anything else, I can confirm that the 2012 edition of this post is still in the works and it will be bigger than ever before from a quality of writing standpoint. The 2010 edition of the piece was shockingly completed, and it was fairly lengthy at that (although, I most definitely had a lot more free time back then). The problem with my first E3 Impressions post was that the quality of writing, well... sucked. Regardless, skip forward a year from then and my, oh my, you'll see that the second edition of the post wasn't even completed. After a large chunk of it was deleted through some kind of glitch when I attempted to save it (always back your stuff up, kids) I lost most of the post and in turn lost all motivation aimed towards finishing it, so I simply left it as it was and moved on to other things. Hopefully, we won't have any problems like that this year.

I'm sure what you, as an eager reader of this site, want to hear is that the 2012 edition of my Nintendo E3 Conference Impressions is well underway. Well, sort of. I've barely had any free time to even work on said post, alongside a number of other projects I've got planned (more on those in the next paragraph). The reason for this lack of writing over the past two weeks comes in the form of a culprit who doesn't like to hide himself away; exams, and revision for aforementioned exams. Exams are important. Writing about your opinions on a medium isn't quite so. It's a ridiculous world we live in, am I right? The point is that I'm hoping you understand I've had three science exams, two english exams and a single unit worth of maths papers to work through over the past few weeks. I reckon I've done well in the majority of aforementioned exams, so my motivation towards finishing quite possibly the most important post of the year has returned. You'll absolutely, definitely, undeniably (etc.), see the post published here on the blog before the month that is June reaches its climax for another year. Put simply, watch this space.

Staying on the subject of E3, I've got several posts planned that involve speculating and analysing a number of individual games. The first of these you'll see is my views on Platinum Games' upcoming spin-off of one of my favourite series, the game in question being Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Ignoring the ridiculous subtitle of this title, it looks brilliant, but the post I've got ready to go through the writing process is very much an opinionated rant. Before you get sceptical, read the post when it's published. Beyond that, more ranting, and not regarding a game I'm particularly positive towards. If you guessed New Super Mario Bros. 2, you guessed right. While I'm extremely excited about the upcoming Wii U rendition of the NSMB series due to its many innovations and originalities shown in the first 1-minute trailer, my views on the upcoming 3DS release are the absolute opposite. Expanding on my preview following the detail-lacking initial reveal of the title, you'll soon see my views on the upcoming handheld Mario platformer as a whole, and I must say in advance that said views ain't pretty, not to say that the game itself looks bad. Moving onwards to more positive things...


...We now reach the second main topic partially explored through the title of this post: Stream. Allow me to expand on this. Stream is an upcoming, free .pdf based magazine that features posts ranging through most entertainment mediums. Run by my good friend Conorr who has had the guts to grow a tree of staff members (crappy analogy, I know, my brain isn't exactly 100% today) willing to contribute to what's shaping up to be a fantastical word-based explosion of the visage-embedded receptacles. In case you hadn't guessed already, I'll be contributing to the Stream alongside a team of other particularly talented writers. While gaming has always been the core subject matter of my publications here on the blog, I've actually reviewed a film for the first issue of the magazine. While a flashier edition of my recent Super Mario 3D Land review will be featured in the magazine, you'll also spot my thoughts on Sacha Baron Cohen's latest, The Dictator. How does it hold out against the comedy classics that are Ali G Indahouse and Borat? You'll have to read the first issue of Stream to find out. My contributions won't end at this, either. You can expect more magazine-based prints of my game reviews from here on the blog, as well as some other stuff in the future. I'm still on the ropes on whether to post my non-gaming reviews here on the blog, so let me know if you want to see that by commenting below.

Finally, in order to allow this post to reach its wholesome climax of news and other such lumps of text, I'll quickly reveal what you lot will most probably see in the coming weeks. Following on from the impending E3 onslaught that will start with my Nintendo Conference Impressions in a matter of days, I'm planning on reviewing Mario Kart 7 after being distracted from writing about the game since my 3D Land Review was published. Also incoming fairly soon are the other reviews I mentioned in the last update; Metal Gear Solid 3 is one such game set to be reviewed by yours truly, but I'll also be composing a slightly shorter synopsis on the 3DS re-release, detailing how it holds up against the original and whatnot. I'm also writing notes for a game I've already reviewed but am still thoroughly disappointed in myself for messing up said review to this day. I'm talking about No More Heroes 2, Suda51's utter classic of a title that I, being the twonk that I was, analysed in the medium of poor-quality writing. NMH2 is a confusing, deep, detailed game despite its short length, and I want to get the review right this time. Moving onwards, I'd like to end this post by announcing that the blog, as you can see on the counter to the right of this post, has reached 15,000 views. I never quite thought I'd reach these heights, so thanks a lot for reading and all of the support. There's a lot to look forward to; E3, Stream, more game reviews as well as everything beyond that. We're well and truly having it large. Keep reading, and look to the future 'cause more posts are on the horizon!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My Personal Reaction to that Wii U Concept Video [E3 2012]

Non-specific Action Figure approves of this post. God knows why.
So, lasses and gents, today happens to be the big day. After a rather poor conference from Microsoft and a wholly underwhelming one from Sony, we've reached the big one: Nintendo's E3 2012 presentation. Well, almost. Anyway, this post is something of a heads-up for the conference, which takes place here in the UK at 5:30PM, so buckle up, maybe grab some snacks and get ready. Before that, though, I'm here to discuss something from a few days back. Many fans, myself included, were surprised to hear that the big N would be airing a pre-E3 presentation based around some concepts for the Wii U, and it helped tie-up many loose ends regarding what we should expect from the conference today. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata opened the pre-recorded show by informing us that his company's E3 presentation will consist almost entirely of new games for the Wii U, explaining why he happened to be holding a presentation on the console before most people expected. In this half an hour showing, Iwata revealed the new latest model of the Wii U controller, now known as the Game Pad (in a direct reference to the NES pad's nickname) as well as the Wii U Pro controller, a new, not unusual but very sleek traditional method of play. The main bulk of the presentation, however, involved Miiverse, Nintendo's response to those who wish that the company would get involved in the networking side of gaming. It looks brilliant, to say the least.

However, you shouldn't misinterpret the topic of this post. Yes, it's based on Nintendo Direct presentation that took place on Sunday evening, but to be more specific, this post involves my personal reaction to a certain film shown during 30-minute video. If you watched the show, then yes, it's that film. To show off the concept of Miiverse before Iwata even chose to discuss it himself, Nintendo created a short film that will go down in the company's history books. With this 'concept film', the big N chose not to go for a realistic, tame demonstration, but something utterly ridiculous and completely degrading. And it was brilliant. Americanised and packed with hilarity, bad acting and various jokes that will most definitely be looked back on for years to come, I can't see myself forgetting this film, which I must stress is no bad thing. Why? Because the video gets the point across, despite the undignified face of the film itself. I now fully understand Miiverse from the get-go, and it's all thanks to the ridiculous Wii U adventures of Todd and his mates. And it's this film that has spawned quite possibly the most pointless piece of writing I have ever produced. Still, try to enjoy this in-depth analysis...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Feature: My Predictions of Nintendo's E3 Conference [2012 Edition]

It's that time of year once again - E3. On June 5th of this year, only a few weeks away, many of us will be witness to Nintendo's press conference both online and, for those who are particularly lucky, in the seats of the Los-Angeles Convention Centre. Whether a gamer is only mere metres away from the likes of Reggie Fils-Aime, Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata among others, or on the other side of the world, E3 is always a fantastical experience. Last year's conference was something of a disappointment. Following the mesmerising spectacle that was the announcement of the 3DS, alongside a massive line-up of brilliant looking Wii games back in 2010, the reveal of the Wii U, Nintendo's new home console, wasn't handled well at all. The entire conference was something of a shambles, with practically no new announcements (with the exception of Luigi's Mansion 2 and the full-on reveal of Super Mario 3D Land) and only new gameplay footage of titles we were already aware of. 2010 was so brilliant because of how utterly surprising it was. While many rumours surfaced before the show, nobody expected a new Kid Icarus, a brilliantly revolutionised Zelda game and a GoldenEye reboot among other brand-new, fantastic-looking titles. E3 2012 was very much the opposite.

Thankfully, similarly to the build-up to Nintendo's E3 2010 conference, we barely know what we're going to get this year. A number of rumours have found their way onto the 'net in the past few weeks (some more ridiculous than others, but more on that later) and we do know to expect what Nintendo are referring to as the 'true' reveal of their latest hardware, but other than these two factors we aren't enlightened of what is going to be revealed on the 5th day of next month. I, for one, am wholly excited about this. As aforementioned, it very much feels like it's going to be a repeat of the conference two years ago that was oh-so brilliant, and that's blatantly no bad thing. Yes, there is the chance that this year could be another disappointment, but let's not get all doom and gloom, especially on the run-up to the biggest gaming event of the year. In case you didn't deduce from the title of this post, the following paragraphs will make up the third edition of my E3 predictions, specifically regarding the Nintendo conference I've been banging on about up until now. In case you didn't catch the last two posts on this topic, you'll find them in the post archive to the right, but if you're looking to the future then read on. In the space of several paragraphs, I'll be discussing my thoughts on what has been predicted for Nintendo's conference this year, as well as my own silly predictions. Sit tight and start reading, and after that, share this post and drop me a comment regarding your own predictions! Now, let's start with the obvious, shall we?

The True Announcement of the Wii U
I don't want to keep going on about this, but the Wii U reveal of last year was ridiculously underwhelming and didn't get me too excited about the hardware. It's a clever idea, and visually the console seems like it's going to be a stunner (according to rumours, three times as powerful as a PS3) but I couldn't help but feel a little cheated, especially after the brilliant 3DS reveal one year prior. At their 2012 E3 conference, Nintendo are undoubtedly going to be showing off the hardware and its software properly, and the one way that they could have me develop excitement for it is to show some brand-new, first party games. The following suggestions might seem a bit ambitious, because they are, but regardless these titles would practically make my E3. First off, some of you may know that I've been playing F-Zero GX on GameCube recently, after abandoning it for a fair while. For a game on its platform, it looks obscenely good graphically, and while I don't consider visuals to be the number one aspect of game design as many others do, a new arcade racer starring the tight-suited Captain Falcon and his chums would be brilliant on Nintendo's new system. I reckon it would show off the visuals of apparently technically amazing Wii U, and prove to be a much-anticipated release if they do end up revealing it. Similarly, Mario Kart is perhaps the big N's most popular racing franchise, and a new iteration of that would be superb too. While I'm swerving in the direction of so-called 'casual games', a new edition of Wii Sports (or in this case, Wii U Sports) would also be great, as long as they don't waste too much time showing it off. Not everything should be about what are widely viewed as harcore titles, you know.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Project M - The True Final Send-off for the Wii?

Today I'll be writing about something a little different. Granted, the subject of this post is still related to gaming, more specifically Nintendo gaming, but the core subject is all but official and not in ties with the company. In case you're not aware of Project M, or think I'm referring to Metroid: Other M's code-name, allow me to enlighten you: This is a new evolution of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, completely fan-made and completely legal thanks to the clever, safe method used to launch what is essentially an unlicensed modification. In fact, scratch the word evolution from that last sentence, because in essence this development of Brawl is more of a devolution, and I certainly don't mean that in a negative way. You see, the main goal of the project's group of experienced developers is not to add new stages, items and characters, but to modify them to balance Brawl into an evolution of Melee, hence the M in the title of the project. Nicknamed Melee 2.0, this interesting project is anything but a step-backwards for Smash Bros. In fact, it might just be a worthy send-off for the Wii, even after the already flabbergasting Skyward Sword.

If you read my review of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, you'll know that I and many others believe it is among the greatest Wii games of all time, and I mean that as it's highly unlikely that it will be topped what with the Wii U coming along to replace the console soon. Project M is essentially a free expansion of the title, adding new stages and alterations to the character roster to balance things out. However, the main goal of the project is to bend Brawl more in the direction of Melee, adjusting the gameplay to make it much more fast-paced, skill-based and ultimately similar to the GameCube iteration of Smash Bros. As the project's official website (found right here) clearly states, however, Project M doesn't intend to be a full 1:1 Melee clone, and instead a brand-new version of the brawling experience we know and love; One with rich, free-flowing fighting mechanics, L-canceling and all. Excited? So am I. The second demo of the mod has been released, but unfortunately it's NTSC only - In other words, currently inaccessible to those playing on a Europe-based Wii, yours truly included. Americans, eh? Those lot get everything before us. Except Xenoblade. Ha.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Ranting Time! My Thoughts on New Super Mario Bros. 2

Last week I finally got around to finishing and publishing my thoughts on Super Mario 3D Land in the form of a comprehensive review. I expressed my opinions that, while the game was highly enjoyable and boasted the same excellent presentation you find in most main Mario titles, it suffered from a severe lack of innovation, difficulty and length, even when going for 100% completion. Despite the latter two concerns, it was the borrowing of 3D Land's predecessors' elements that was the main let-down for me, but when a certain new Mario platformer heading to the 3DS this year was announced at a recent Nintendo Direct mini-conference, I flipped. If you want a poor analogy to describe my views on the pesky plumber's next handheld outing briefly, here you go: If Super Mario 3D Land was a joke, this is a very, very bad joke. Me and my analogies, eh?

Let's get one thing perfectly clear before I express the initial concerns I have with this title; I realise that we've only seen four screenshots of it, and that the game will properly be announced at this year's E3 conference. I'll also admit that the game certainly doesn't look bad. I may have bashed 3D Land for its frustrating flaws, but that didn't stop the game from being very fun to play, leading to me awarding it a respectable score of 79%. I fear that New Super Mario Bros. 2, at least judging from the four images we've seen of it, will suffer the same fate as my most recently reviewed Mario platformer, in that it looks like it's going to be another uninspired affair. Unfortunately, it seems, even moreso than the aforementioned 3DS title. Let's hark back to the history of the 2D Mario platformer, shall we? Each individual title since Super Mario Bros. on the NES revolutionised the concept and look in some way or another, with the possible exception of the up until recently Japan-exclusive we know as The Lost Levels. Doki Doki Panic makeover or not, the English version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was significantly different from the original game, and Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced so much that you'd be surprised at the fact it appeared on the NES. Super Mario World stretched out the formula of Super Mario Bros. 3 to new boundaries not possible on its previous console predecessor. New Super Mario Bros. on DS brought the 2D Mario platformer back after many years in limbo, making itself the killer app for the dinky handheld. And finally, New Super Mario Bros. Wii added multiplayer for the first time, as well as some great concepts and the best visuals ever seen in a 2D Mario game. The ridiculously named New Super Mario Bros. 2 just appears to be the DS game again, albeit with some concepts from Super Mario Bros. 3 implemented. I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to get a little sick of the Tanooki Suit...

Here's a challenge: see if you can spot anything new in this screenshot! Clue: There isn't anything new in this screenshot.
I wouldn't have as much of a problem with New Super Mario Bros. 2 if they had shown-off something brand-new at the games announcement, but alas, they didn't. Somehow, Nintendo had the cheek to unveil the game alongside four screenshots consisting of elements from New Super Mario Bros. on DS, with the addition of the Tanooki suit. It makes the 'New' in the title of the game utterly ironic, and not even in a hilarious way. Speaking of the title, why is it called New Super Mario Bros. 2? Surely they should've called it New Super Mario Bros. 3, or better yet New Super Mario Bros. 3D given it's the third in the semi-series. Just another rant-inducing gripe that the announcement imprinted into my skull. Even under close inspection there's absolutely nothing to speculate about the game so far, and while I'd be surprised if Nintendo didn't innovate in some way or another with this title (possibly with foreground-background elements like Donkey Kong Country Returns?) it's not exactly clever to unveil a game with nothing new to accompany it in the form of footage or screenshots. I would've been happier if the Big N hadn't shown any screenshots at all, at least then I'd be anticipating the game without any annoyance. Here's hoping that the obvious E3 announcement of New Super Mario Bros. 2 proves more interesting. Mario's latest platformer is coming in August on this year, which is the main reason for my rant. If a game is out in a matter of months and it seems that they don't have anything new to show of it, that's a bad sign. Regardless, we'll find out more next month...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

REVIEW: Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario. The duo-tone suited, mustachioed plumber that kick-started it all. Back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid-eighties, this platforming hero begun to gain popularity and eventually became a household name, granting Nintendo the clear view of making the dinky hero who truly launched the company into the realms of success, like the plumber himself advancing through a stage with the use of a novelty human-cannon, their proud mascot. Over the past 25 years, Mario has featured in quite literally countless games, a wide variety of genres and many different scenarios, with very few hiccups along the way. The main 2D titles; Super Mario Bros. and its two sequels, Super Mario World, a number of handheld iterations and more recently, the New Super Mario Bros. games have retained a feeling few other platformers have to offer, and this sustainability is mostly thanks to the fact that Nintendo rarely stray away from the roots of the franchise, with each title typically involving similar gameplay mechanics and the usual 'princess is kidnapped by giant turtle, plumber sets out to rescue her' storyline. This simplicity may have grown roots over the years, but never too many to transform Mario's main games, 2D or polygonal, into something as complex as Zelda or Metroid, at least if you forget some of the various spin-off titles, Mario role-players in particular. You should forget about those for the purpose of this review, however, because today I'll be dissecting Super Mario 3D Land, the most recently sprouted olive branch from the tree of simplicity that is the 2D Mario genealogy. This branch is one that sticks out at you more than any of the others, and it's all thanks to stereoscopic 3D, but while the game certainly holds up visually, how does it fair against its predecessors?

Despite my metaphorical description of a tree that houses the 2D Mario titles, the plumber's 3DS debut isn't strictly speaking a game that plays out on a 2D plain. In fact, as you'd expect from a platform that can handle this sort of thing, the game involves movement in all angles with full 360-degree movement being nothing but compulsory while you navigate levels, yet 3D Land has a lot more in common with the 2D classics than the more recent epics such as the Galaxy games. This is, in essence, a 2D Mario tribute that plays out on a 3D plain. The mixture of the side-scrolling games' formulaic structure and the tight controls of the polygonal releases certainly makes for a delectable experience, albeit one that isn't quite fresh - if anything, close to becoming rotten. Super Mario 3D Land isn't at all a bad game, it's just the flaw of it being all too familiar brings it down a little, and what's worse is that the gripes I and others had with the stereoscopic debut of the plumber don't end at a lack of innovation. Without trying to sound like a sceptical Mario hater, this release is far too easy, far too short and full of re-hashed ideas. With the plumber's 3DS debut, it feels like Nintendo have taken the ingredients that made past titles starring the heroic plumber so superb, and mashed them all up into one, afterwards adding a sauce that acts as the glitz of eye-popping (calm down, not literally) three-dimensional visuals. Super Mario 3D Land is without a doubt new enough to warrant a purchase, but that doesn't stop it from feeling familiar to its predecessors and unfortunately lacking in innovation.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Update: The Revolution Begins...

If you've got a pair of working eyes engraved into your visage, there's a chance you may have noticed something new here on the blog. If you haven't and incidentally are taking a peek at the sidebar, you'll see what I like to call the Reviews Index which, as described next to the link to the page, is a comprehensive guide to each and every game review I've written and published here on the blog thus far. Please take a look if you're seeking a simpler way of checking out my word-based opinions on several videogames (some of which are sadly a tad outdated, in other words naively and poorly written). I'm given the greatest pleasure to announce that this new function is only leading something of a miniature revolution for this blog that I've spent several years improving. Some of you may remember the big redesign last year, which  transformed this journalistic metaphorical abode from a bland, generic design into a personalised new one faster than you can say Get Your House in Order. Obscure references (and lies about the time it took to finish the redesign) aside, I'm currently working on finding a way of expanding the background of the current design, adding more characters and the like for extra visual flair and ultimately less boring blank space.

Also incoming is my long-unfulfilled promise of new banners, which I've mentioned many a time in past updates. With the help of a handy image randomiser tool, you'll see a different piece of artwork standing tall above my journalism, rather than the standalone Skyward Sword banner I've had as a page header for several months. With these exciting improvements out of the way, we reach the topic of incoming posts. As per usual, the promised reviews as of the last few updates are still on the way, with Super Mario 3D Land leading the charge. There's two things I can promise regarding this review, the first of which is that it's not biased in the slightest (and that isn't sarcasm) and secondly that it will undeniably be published within the next few weeks before the month ends. Also, the climax of Persona 4 is almost in my grasp, so I plan on reviewing that soon after 3D Land and possibly Mario Kart 7 are opinionated in the form of my journalism. As for new reviews, I can only confirm that I'm currently replaying The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and F-Zero GX (which, as you'll see on the review index, has previously been reviewed). I have no plans to review either anytime soon, but Ocarina of Time, being the classic that it is, is a game that one day I will have to tackle in word form. On top of all of this, everything I've promised in the past few updates is still coming in good time.

And now, we're brought to another subject: the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as the number one gaming conference is better known as. If you're a gamer with at least a slight amount of knowledge, you should know the drill by now, but if not I'll briefly explain. E3 takes place for one week every year, and is home to some of the biggest announcements in gaming from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. It's where we first heard about Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, the Wii and 3DS, as well as many other landmark announcements, and this years conference should prove to be extra-special with the true unveiling of the Wii U, which was shown-off in a rather disappointing fashion last year. The date has been set: E3 will begin on June 5th, with the big N leading the conferences before the show floor floodgates even open, which could mean something exciting. My hopes and expectations of this year's Nintendo conference will once again be expressed in the form of a post; a Feature once again titled my predictions of this year's Nintendo E3 conference, or something along those lines. I also plan on posting my views on what is announced after it's shown-off, albeit in a slightly briefer fashion than last year. I don't want to spend another month waffling on about E3, and I'm sure you lot don't want me to either. While these posts were to be expected after the last two editions here on the blog, I hope you're anticipating reading them as much as I am writing them. And on that bombshell, it's time to end this update. Granted, I haven't announced any posts not to be expected just yet, but we'll leave that for the next update, shall we? This is me, signing off.