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3DS: The Cynics View

Now Playing: Bioshock 2
Now Listening to: Vuvuzela's
Now Watching: The Thick of It

My Wii gathers dust and my DS would need a good few charges before it'd be usable again but this self proclaimed convert to the "big consoles" still smiles when he see's Nintendo do well at E3. I sat watching them try to get excited over Pac Man Vs, pretending it was fine that the Gamecube had no 3rd party support. And god...the GBA Micro unveil. It's like watching your crippled friend walk, isolated it's meaningless but you've seen them fall so often that a step is sometimes the biggest thing in the world.

This year they were in rare form and blew my prediction of continuing to cater to the casual out of the water. If anything this was an admission that the casual market was moving away from Nintendo as it was all hardcore. New Zelda? Done. Metroid? BOOM! Then came the big thing, a new console. A handheld we all knew was coming but Nintendo handhelds are special so it's that little bit more exciting when it's unveiled. It's as powerful as a Wii, 3d without glasses and has everyone from Solid Snake to Chris Redfield and an Ocarina wielding Link on it.

The biggest surprise? I'm not shouting from the rooftops in glee. And here's why.

The Hardware

Maybe it's because they were tethered to gorgeous women but I just cannot stand it. I reviewed the DS Lite for this site and I adored it. The perfect example of perfect design, every part of it was created to make playing a game easy whilst looking like a high quality device. Then they stuck a camera on it...then they made the screen bigger. Now they've stuck 3 cameras, a couple of new screens, analogue stic...well you get the picture. They keep adapting the DS Lite form and with each change are ruining the simplicity which made it great in the first place. The buttons underneath the touch screen are vile and unecessary and the d-pad is far to close to the analogue nub which I'll ignore until I try it. All that device tells me is that in 2 years the 3DSi will be out and probably be amazing.


I'll keep this section simple. First up 3d without glasses relies on a tight range where the viewer must be for it to work which makes it that little bit more problematic to play on the move or even lying in bed. Secondly when watching a 3D film eyes can get strained I don't want that when playing a game and finally and this is probably my biggest gripe with 3d. Can anyone put forward a case that 3D does anything positive for gaming? In my eyes all it does is reduce resolution and focus developers/development resources onto working on a gimmick which you'll use for the first few months before pushing that slider all the way down.

The graphics, the games, the hypocrisy

It plays 3D films. Graphics on par with the Wii and the games are what we play on the home consoles. Metal Gear Solid 3, Resident Evil, Ocarina of Time. These aren't interpretations but ports that look equivalent to their bigger brother. There's two camera's on it to take 3d pictures of your genitals/friends.

Remember a few years back when the PSP fought the DS for the handheld market. Remember the cry's across this site and others? Gamers don't want console style games on the move, they want handheld games that offer a different experience. High graphics aren't a necessity. A focused device is best so why have it act as a multimedia device...watching films drains the battery life.

They were right. Gamers didn't want to play GTA: Liberty City stories...but they loved Brain Training and Layton. Nobody moaned about not being able to watch movies on the DS...hell nobody bought the mp3 add on reluctantly launched by Nintendo. The 3DS strictly speaking goes against the principals Nintendo set out for handheld design. It's powerful and multi-faceted. The games pushed are traditional and home console focused instead of light innovative affairs. 3d in of itself is something you don't simply pick up and use on a commute. It's a more engrossing gimmick requiring focus and time in a chilled atmosphere.

I'm not saying the 3DS will fail or even that it will be bad but if they are breaking what usually marks success in the market then how can I be excited? I said 4 years back that I didn't want to play a full MGS game on the move because I want that with surround sound and high def graphics, that hasn't changed. I said I don't want to watch a film on the move that hasn't changed. Nintendo by putting these things on the console are saying that they are wanted and needed in a device. We the consumer need and want 3d gaming/films on the move, we want big brands and big games with great graphics on the move.

Now is it just me or have Nintendo in the last 4-5 years proved the Nintendo of 2010 wrong?

Holiday E3 and Mario

Now Playing: Prof Layton
Now Listening to: Elbow: Grounds for Divorce
Now Watching: The Sony Press Conference...impressed.

Back from holiday in Sorrento, nice but cut short because...well...my partner and I weren't enjoying ourselves. The plus points of coming home included family, friends, home cooking and E3 news which I had missed during my continental sojourn.

I'll stick to Nintendo. This year was better than last year, then again last year actually made my testicles shrivel and die out of sheer boredom so an improved year wasn't beyond them. Hardware wise I'm frankly flabbergasted at the vitality monitor, in the past year when did Wii become a health machine? Next up Wii Smear Test, with a firmware update allowing a prostate check. Motion Plus...well 2008 called and is wondering why you are talking about it's news like it's new.

Game wise was underwhelming. Wii Fit Plus does look like a refinement of clearly popular software so not much to complain about there. Same goes for Prof Layton. New Super Mario Bros Wii confused me. It worked brilliantly on the DS...hell in the departure lounge in Naples I heard people playing it so why move it to the big screen? The same goes for Mario Galaxy 2, in that I was underwhelmed by a traditionally great piece of news. It's more of the same, part of what I loved about the big Mario games was their distinct flavour, but this looks like an expansion pack. Why nothing dramatically new and a longer wait? More Resident Evil on rails (DO NOT WANT) and The Conduit which looks great but we're well down the road on PR hype for that.

Metroid was the right direction and showed what Nintendo is lacking. Internally it seems to be lacking basic innovation and the lack of courage in changing things. New ips are absent or lacking and the sequels that come are closer to expansion pack than a true sequel. Metroid though handed it to a new dev, and as such looks so drastically different. Unlike the underwhelming ZeldaDS, SMG2, NSMBWii it is new...it is fresh and it is needed. It seems that Nintendo innovate for the first games on a console then iterates on that for the rest (see the N64 and GC for proof) but gamers want fresh looks augmenting games they have enjoyed and it's only from seeing the new Metroid that we can truly appreciate what was lacking in the Nintendo press conference.

Curse of community

Now Playing: Football Manager Live Beta
Now Listening to: Sigur Ros: All Alright
Now Watching: Ashes to Ashes

I was listening, as is my routine, to 1up Yours which last week had the brilliantly controversial Dennis Dyack on it with a rant. His previous rants included a "one console" future and the potential abolition of previews. Whilst I looked upon previous ones with sceptical eyes this one was more inviting to the jaded old cynic known as moi. Now to distill his tremendously complex argument in a paragraph...wish me luck.

Ostensibly he's had countless issues with a gaming message board called NeoGaf. NeoGaf is the alpha gaming board on the internet, holding developers and journalists in it's member list alongside the usual rag tag bunch of members. It's known to be able to make or break games and also known to be one of the least friendly places on the Internet. Now, Dyack's new game "Too Human" has incurred the wrath of the board with them declaring a terrible game already. Parodies, gifs, lolcats and good old fashioned rant posts all rip into Too Human without anyone having played it outside the top tier of journalism. So Dyack essentially ripped into NeoGaf, likening it to a non profit organisation and linking that to sociological theory that NPO's must have a positive contribution to society or else they need reform. How does he deem that NeoGaf has a negative contribution to society? Well, Too Human's preview builds were sent out and many came back as pseudo reviews inherently negative in tone and nature (one talking about why you should or shouldn't believe in Too Human...VERY close to a NeoGaf thread). Dyack argued that the pressure on games journo's coming from sites like NeoGaf effect review scores, which changes a games Metacritic scores. As games publishers are now making wage, bonuses, marketing and potential sequel calls all based on Metacritic he argued this showed that the inherently negative message board world was having a huge impact on gaming and reform was needed for the sake of gamers and gaming as a whole. He demonstrated this by doing a thread on Gaf essentially prompting people to side for or against Too Human right now, colours to the mast style, to show how people were making ill informed judgements without playing games. He was proved right.

Now, we he's been slammed by the "hardcore" gamer over this but I agree with him. I know journalists who will adjust their scores so they don't get "bother" over it and I also have spoken to devs inherently worried about metacritic scores. The Gaf issue shows up the fact that those who indulge in permenantly snarky gaming discussion are just as bad as those in their console defence force and those illiterate types who clearly just bang their head off the keyboard and hope it emerges as "Celda suuckkkkzzz". The issue now isn't in identifying if there is a problem, the issue is how to fix it and the obstacles there.

The problems
Reviewing games is awful. I've said this for years now, as have most good journalists I've met, and it's for one reason alone. Review scores. We write out our detailed thoughts on a game, analyse it and attempt to recommend to the public if they should or shouldn't purchase. At the end we have to put a score to it, sum up all our words in a number. You do this knowing full well about 10% of the public will end up reading your review with the rest leaping to the score. It immediately places it in the gaming world (GenericWar game got 8/10, so did Mario Party 65...that makes them as good as eachother) even though the whole review scale isn't used anymore (all good games should get 9/10, average games get 7/10, bad games get 6/10 and anything below is reserved for joke games).So you review the game, assign it a score and if it's not what the public expected prepare to be flamed and bitched at until your next score tally up with what's expected. Taking all this into account why is Meta Critic still regarded as a valid indicator of game quality. It's taking something inherently random in a review score and turning into a solid statistic. This practice is now controlling the games industry and worst thing is that it won't change anytime soon. The late great CGW magazine did away with review scores (as I would recommend) and received scores of emails demanding it back. 1up.com moved to a letter system (A,B,C,D, E,F) and there were immediate calls of how to transfer it into a 10 point scale. The public seem to lust after that score and with it sites like metacritic will just get stronger. You also have the fact the gaming "community" is awful. You have to support a console, support games before you get the chance to play them and once they have you pigeonholed into a group you are in full arguments with everyother group out there. The Guitar Hero guys hate Rock Band guys, 360 hates PS3, PS3 hates 360, Wii hates PS3 and 360 whilst PC loathes all consoles. Halo people are hated by all, CounterStrike people are seen as pretentious whilst Call of Duty fans are hated by Halo people and laughed at by CounterStrike people. The only people they unite against are developers and games journalists. Developers are hated because they rarely make the games the fans want (Cel shaded Zelda case in point, the furore of "colour"in Diablo 3). Journalists are hated because often what we say isn't what the fans decided in their heads before hand (you try giving a hyped game a low score...watch the fallout). The problem is in today's industry webpage hits = success, and if the people hate you as a journalist your hits will decrease and your job will be on the line...ergo pandering to the masses is an option. Fix these problems and gaming will improve overnight...


Non-gamers are the solution. Yes I did just say that. People think I'm against non gamers...which is understandable. I'm more against how they are treated by companies like UbiSoft and Nintendo, as people with no taste who lap up shovelware. Yet these people could genuinely reform both the review and the community aspect of gaming for good. Their experiences of reviews come from literature, cinema, restaraunt...all places where the content is vastly more important than the score. You never hear of people going "God, my fav restaraunt only got 3 stars! This journo sucks!". I've spoken to them and the notion of a score is a bit alien to them, if these people are becoming as key to the market as the snarky NeoGaf types then surely the market will have to accomodate. If that means more publications doing away with review scores then it's all for the better. Or even new more mainstream gaming mags emerging with no review scores, it could really blow open journalism in gaming once and for all. You then have community, snarky males aged 14-24 who's sole joy is acting very high and mighty on message boards. Yet gaming now is the domain of the adult, adults of all ages and genders no less! So why aren't they in the community? Diversification will kill sites like Gaf whose power is solely centered around the fact gaming is a stronghold of the snarky teen male hardcore gamer, if all of a sudden gaming is bigger than that little world it's power shrinks...they are inversely proportional. The problem is non gamers don't seem interested in the wider community of gaming, it's a quick fix for them (as shown by recent figures showing 60% of Wii Fit owners no longer use it) and that means there is no need to stay informed. That's the next step for MS, Ninty and Sony. You have them buying consoles, gaming is no longer a taboo for adults so now you have to keep them here and build community for them. They have a place in this industry, let them know it's ok to take it. I want magazines, websites, podcasts all for the non gamer. They have the power to truly change this industry, we just have to let them. As for the hardcore, whether we like it or not the casual market is as big as ours...yet can't we help eachother out? If they can help improve ours by limiting the power of the forum arsehole then could we help inject some more criticism into theirs? Help improve the quality of game they consume?

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to train my brain whilst listening to Imagine. Tarah folks!

P.S. Life update, need glasses (argh) so I've got some on the way (Armani, yum).

The Uncivil Civilization

Now Playing: Civ Rev...sadly

I once created a society ye know. It was a glorious empire founded on lofty ideals, sacrificing religion for philosophy we held the mysteries of the world within our borders and all admired us for being the true thinkers of the land. The cities varied, with some being agricultural working towns, others sprawling cities of commerce and others havens for thinkers by the ocean. My army was modest yet entrenched, those who envied me were scared away more by my allies who admired my peaceful stance. It was glorious, intelligent and a rewarding experience building it.

That was Civ 4 on the PC, and one of my favourite games and game series of all time. A game that manages to meld fun gameplay with immense depth whilst all the time providing a stiff challenge it deserves the staggering reputation it has. So why when it takes the jump to consoles does it change...I tried to make a Civilization today and it didn't work. I didn't have the power to shape it as I saw fit, I was dragged into mindless wars and the world seemed manufactured and not organic. This was Civ Revolutions on the Xbox 360, and easily the most gut wrenchingly disappointing game experience of 2008 for me.

Most of you won't have played Civ, C3 isn't the biggest PC community. So I'll keep what's wrong with Civ Rev brief. Needless to say AI is dire, the simplified city mechanics means you don't have true control over how your empire grows, it's too battle oriented, there's no incentive for modernisation, the game maps lack individuality, the multiplayer is slow as a virgin trying to put on a condom and your dealings with other world leaders has all the subtelty of me flirting with Steff after a few drinks.

Now we know that some PC games don't translate well to console, the thing is though this SHOULD work. It's a grid based turn based game so the controls work quite well. The proliferation of HD sets means that the scale of the game doesn't have to be scaled down for the low res of television (an old foe of PC to console conversions) and the online stuff would be so seamlessly integrated that it should have worked. Yet an old cliche was thrown into the equation and promptly the game was simplified to the n-th degree. Namely that console games and gamers are more stupid than there PC counterparts.

Think about it, would a console game come with tech tree posters designed for you to put on your wall to remind you of an aspect of a game? Would a console game have server options (could put a period here...) that specifically stated that only the toughest rules could be used here? Similarly look at the disdain that sole PC games hold console gamers in. PC gamers are seen as spotty fat guys living in their parents basement at the age of 34 with old Warhammer figurines wedged in their cheeto stained arse crack. Console gamers are drunken anti semitic frat boys and whiney pre pubescent wanks. But why do developers insist on persisting with this charade? In reality nobody is a one console person, and everybody games on the PC to some extent. Whether it's a girl who just plays PC for The Sims or the guy who can't resist joining his friends for Fifa tournaments, the boundrays of gaming have gone. So why "adapt" games for their setting if such boundrays are collapsing? Shamefully it is as simple as developers still viewing an industry that no longer exists and ignoring the chance to grow into a new market. I was excited about Civ Rev because I thought if it was a proper Civ game that I'd beable to get some of my friends list to get into it and play, the thought of new people playing it with their own views was fantastic. Why didn't the devs think of this? Even in terms of when it was released it's perfect, 360 owners have little to play (and a bit bitter with MGS 4) so they have the notorious game hungry 360 crowd to play off and they blew it. I'll be stunned if Civ Rev does much business because it's simplicity married with the chunky kiddy (Cleopatra, Elizbeth 2nd and Caroline the greats huge knockers aside) graphics makes it seem like a kids game. It'll languish and never be revisited, with Civ staying it's awesome self on the PC all due to the view that console gamers and pc gamers are just different. Never the twain shall mix...bullshit.

Perhaps there is hope though, FPS games have done it. We now have carbon copy titles appearing on both branches of gaming, with some even doing online play between PC and console. This will be the year to see if RTS games manage it, what with Halo Wars being console only and a few RTS games trying to do dual releases and online play between them. The sheer power of consoles means this is do able for the first time, and with the controls getting better and better with each developers experience then maybe this will be a watershed year. Maybe in a years time I'll post about the change 2008 brought and how delighted I am that I'm playing Civ Rev 2 with you guys. It's just a shame this great series, great developer and great director couldn't pull off what could have breat a great coup and a terrific success for them.

If anyone needs me I'll be in Civ 4 on the PC, in my Spanish empire. Alicante to be precise, sizzling my dictator arse like a burnt sausage whilst my navy brutalise the Greeks. Shame none of you console guys can join me just yet...

In other news I've passed all my exams and now just wait to see if they let me into the next year of the course. And Holland for Euro 2008!

GTA V: How to advance from here.

Now Playing: GTA IV
Now Listening to: David Bowie: Life on Mars
Now Watching: Weasel TV.

Okay, so GTA 4 is sublime. But what about the next one, where do we go from what is widely regarded to be the best gaming has to offer? Well gather round and listen to my words of wisdom!

1 GTA 1 - SA were all inherently limited by the consoles they appeared on. Graphics...weren't too hot and as a result they went for the vaguely cartoonish angle. It worked well, completely over the top and the game world complemented that. Hooker sex had the windows steam up, blood was over the top Mortal Kombat Stylee and the somewhat slapstick humour felt at home there. Now though, Liberty City is supremely realistic. The plot is a great deal more involved and deeper now with the characterisation taking story telling in games to another level. Yet, the rest of the world is still rooted in that cartoonish world and it drops you out of the immersion at points. I'm driving my cousin about, talking about the American Dream and an advert for America's Next Top Hooker comes on the radio. Why not just do a fully straight and serious game? The mainstream GTA attention has been largely positive, the need for the humour to defuse the controversial nature the game is no longer needed...and I think we are ready for a totally serious GTA game using their fantastic writing. People said that GTA 4 was the Citizen Kane of gaming...it's not as long as they feel the need to tone down the serious nature of the game. So less of the jokes please, you guys can do intelligent satire so why slapstick it up.

2Women. Great aren't they? I love the gender, I love my Steff and it's great more and more are getting into gaming. However, GTA 4 is as bad as the previous entries in the series in terms of their representation of women. The first women you see in GTA is a women seductively licking a lollipop. And throughout the game it goes on. Women are either stereotypes or sex items, there are no compelling females in GTA and it inherently removes them from playing to an extent. It's not as bad as previous items in the series but it's still a man's world in GTA. You guys can clearly write a damn good story, now write us some good female characters! I'm not saying don't show the sexual side of women but some balance and variety.

3You guys all see the survey done which showed that (in the USA) parents would rather their kids see graphic decapitations in their games than sex. Well we always bleat on about gaming, TV and movies as being the entertainment triumverate so why doesn't gaming step up and destroy the final taboo in gaming...sex. I'm not saying sex for sex sake, but when the plot permits it show us something. Look at Roman's safehouse when you start the game, there are pictures of women in bikini's. Now, he's a womanising tittie obsessed guy...he wouldn't have at least topless pics? What harm would there have been in naked pics on his wall, and it would've been justified. Or when you pull a hooker over and she "takes your trousers off" actually taking Niko's trousers off. As it stands she miraculously gives a blowjob through denim, it's just making allowances...gaming as it stands doesn't have sex in it but if it's justified then nudity and sex should surely be included. And if it is to be then GTA is the series to do it.

4Gameplay stuff. Fighting is still shite, when Shenmue has a better battle system than you then you should worry. Gunplay is superb but give us some more choice about our weaponry, add ons etc etc. Vehicles suspension is wetter than a sponge , however they do handle well once you find a few of the more modern cars in game. The fact I'm nitpicking shows how tight this game is compared to past efforts.


In other news exams next week for me, Rangers in UEFA Cup Final and actually sunny! Tata!

Mario Kart: RSI

Now Playing: Mario Kart Wii
Now Listening to: IAMX : Lulled by Numbers

Carlsberg don't do April weeks, but if they did they'd probably be like the week I'm having. I had a great night out with friends and my girlfriend, Rangers outclassed Sporting to get into the UEFA Cup Semi-Final and I got Mario Kart Wii early!

And, well I have mixed feelings. It's Mario Kart, it's still fun however it like so many of Nintendo's franchises is starting to show it's age. I've recently been playing Twilight Princess again and it's frustrating me hugely purely because of tiny mechanics designed to make the game challenging but removing from the fun. I'm on a small ledge and a bat attacks me, why have that bat attack me? The wiimote makes attacking back a 50/50 chance of falling off the ledge and not attacking guarantees a fall of the ledge. It's not fun, it's punishing the gamer for dated game design and other devs have started to see this. The FPS rush to do away with health meters, Capcom starting to do away with checkpoints and it's a damn good thing. Yet Nintendo seem content not to advance their games when they find a formula they like.

Mario Kart DS is probably the best game in the series (snaking aside) and true to form Nintendo have practically ported the DS effort over. The music, the plethora of unlockables and the general "feel" of the game is reminiscent of the DS game. No bad thing, however MKDS was fundamentally the lovechild of MK64 and the original MK game. And this on the "revolutionary" Wii? Surely not, there must be some changes to the game for the new console. Well there are a few, namely boosts and bikes.

Nintendo seem a bit obsessed with sparks and boosts in this game, you get them for bleeding everything. Gaining a boost in a slide is now down to holding a tight line and not the d-pad wiggle it once was, however this makes it much easier to achieve now. If you hit a ramp that throws you into the air you can flick the WiiWheel/mote and your character does a stunt. The stunt is inherently useless, except when you land you get a boost. The new tracks have plenty of boosting sections to the floors, slipstreaming is pretty easy to pull off as well and half pipes also give a nice easy boost. So the game is faster, again not necessarily bad. It's just, why not just up the speed instead of boosting us to death? The boost was formerly a skilfully used thing, with holding your slide and releasing at the right moment the difference between victory and defeat. Now it's just you do it at every opportunity to keep up, makes it seem a bit forced. The bikes are another curious addition. They lose the red sparks but can pop a wheelie which gives a boost at the expense of steering (final stretch wheelie races!) and have greater maneuverability but you can't use them on the 50cc. This makes the learning curve steeper than usual, and considering it's a brand new vehicle you'd thing they'd give us all a chance to get acquainted with it. On saying that the sharp steering of the bikes does change how you approach some courses. Just be careful when using light bikes, their "sharp" turning is actually just "plowing into a wall".

Online is surprisingly decent, friend codes aside. Finding a game was easy, the MK channel is fantastic and it seemed to run lag free. It definitely is hurt by the lack of voice chat though, I was aching to gloat or yell at people after being blue shelled or slamming a last second green shell to win and yet it wasn't to be. Local multiplayer yet again preferential over the WFC for Nintendo...

All sounds rosy, well not really. There are a few major issue that bring MKWii down I'm afraid. Firstly the WiiWheel. It's well made, nice and heavy and does it's job. Problem is it removes any kind of accurate skilful driving you may have in mind. You'll twitch along the track, you'll misjudge your corners and your arms will be burning after a few hours play. I dread to think of how you'll manage to use it during a post pub game. For me Mario Kart was all about skill, hitting the apex and mastering courses. With that wheel, it just isn't possible. It is possible to use your Wavebird, however with that you lose the stunt system and as I said earlier if you miss the new boosts you fall behind. The biggest problem though is one that's affected us since MK64 and for some reason is still with us. Weapon balancing is absent. For those who don't know if you are in last place you get better weapons than those in first place, to keep games balanced. At base level I'm for this, however the difference between "first" weapons and "last" weapons are ludicrous. In last place you have a blue shell, which zooms in on first place and totals him along with anyone nearby. First place you have a banana peel. It's simple, firstly remove blue shell as no game should have a weapon for which there is no defence. Then give first place a new weapon, something to help them hold off the barage of red shells, bullet bills and pow blocks that beset them. Something as simple as upping the rate at which you get 3 green shells in first place might do it.

That's not to say I dislike MKWii, I like it greatly and if you own a Wii pick it up. After all you don't get many decent games on the console and this'll keep it happy until you abandon it for GTA4. Just don't expect something new, then again do we ever expect something new from Nintendo?

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Now Playing: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
Now Listening to: Bloc Party: She's Hearing Voices

I'm not a fan of internet phenomena. Granted the odd lolcat will make me giggle but things like saying pr0n, lolcopter etc etc makes me sick. I love how language evolves but some of these phrases make me want to carve myself a new arsehole with a spoon. One today does apply to me though, and that's facepalm. I turned up for uni without my housekeys, with a dead mobile battery and the lab I was in for is actually on NEXT week. I did bring my DS though...a quick nip into Woolworths produces Advance Wars: Days of Ruin and I have something to do until I can go home.

Ye see, I seem to like abusive relationships. Kinky, isn't it? I cry, I hurt and I'm occassionally scared but I go back for more. How else can you explain my love of Advance Wars? It is easily the most difficult game on the GBA but it's hideously addictive and the ultimate "just one more play" game along with FF: Tactics. I put a frightening amount of time into those games, particularly 2 which didn't change much but refined the series beyond belief. Dual Strike though...it didn't grab me as much. The CO powers were too powerful, the 2 screen battles were overhyped and frankly it felt like a step back. I thought I'd beaten it, I could put the DS down and walk away for hours at a time. I could even put whole new games into the console and take Advance Wars out! Sweet freedom, I'm no longer addicted! Alas it wasn't to be, I've barely scratched this game and already I know that they are back on form and that my life now consists of playing rock paper scissors with tanks on a grid.

The big change this year is atmosphere, with the chirpy Saturday morning kids TV style obliterated in favour of...well kids TV for kids just turning into their teens. Don't go in expecting PS RTS style plot or drama. After not a great deal of play there has already been some cheesy lines and at least one person saying "Yeah!!" which seems to be an AW staple. But the plot seems darker and the general theme is that of destruction and change. No spoilers here though, so don't worry.

The atmosphere doesn't affect gameplay though, which has been stripped back from Dual Strike to something much closer to the DS games. Things like Neo tanks, piperunners and stealth bombers are gone (no bad thing) with new vehicles augmented by changes to old ones. Your rig (formerly the APC) will be the first change you notice as it can now move your men and also build temporary airstrips and navy ports. Quite often in AW the defense afforded by a city was massive with you being able to hold out against an advancing force in your final city for some time. However now you can sweep your rig up to that city with infantry in there, build an airstrip and rain merry hell on them. Just one example of what is possible with this change. Elsewhere there is the flare unit, which lights up parts of a map being played in fog of war. So far that's all I've encountered, however I know there are more changes later on.

The massive change though is in the CO, the big complaint in Dual Strike. In AWSmilieS they were far too powerful and required little skill to use. Now though your CO is on the field and loads up in a unit. When loaded up this unit has a sphere of influence, beginning small and getting bigger as the unit wins battles etc etc. Within that influence units gain a boost to attack/defence, and with victories the CO can eventually unleash a superpower. Already I'm finding this to be key, hell I forgot to load up my CO a few times as I'm so used to it just being automatic but it's making me approach the game differently and it'll be interesting to see how this develops through the game.

Looking through...I'm not sure how pleased people will be with the package though. It seems lightweight. A few game modes have been lost and rumour has it there is no super hard mode after the main game which means so much rests on the shoulders of the wifi play. A quick nip to the library and logging onto wifi reveals a decent service, albeit lacking in people at the moment. The thing is, the Ai is still patchy and has made a few iffy decisions in campaign (no matter how many infantry you send my War Tanks will still win) but online...boy it changes everything. I played a couple of games and it ran well with the games being great fun. Also voice chat is in there (didn't get a chance to try it out) but it certainly seems like online is everything we wanted in Dual Strike but didn't get.

Of course this is just opening impressions and a review will go up on my blog in due course and I'm assuming C3 will have their review up in due course but so far I'm impressed but have to leave a cautionary note. If you are a casual Advance Wars fan I'd steer clear until the reviews pour in. With the extra modes removed it seems to have been a straight trade, modes for refined gameplay. And whilst that's a godsend for people like me who see life as a grid based system for those who like it as a pick up and play game it's definitely lost some of it's value even with the wifi play. Hopefully this changes with time though.

Anyway, first impressions over I'm back to playing and about 2 hours until I can go home. Wonder if I'll go mad, start seeing Glasgow in fog of war.


Now Playing: Super Mario Galaxy
Now Listening to: Sigur Ros: Hvarf Heim
Now Watching: Full Metal Alchemist (thanks honey :D)

Feck me, my life got a little too busy for it's own good so my occasional lurk around C3 took a bit of a break but I come on and find talk of civil war, annarchy and no talk of kinky picture threads and bumming fellow members. Pretty poor C3, what happened to the love? And when that was gone what happened to the utter random yet intelligent chatter? Has Nintendo's lurch towards casual gaming waggled the fun out of this community. Shame if it has. Anyone mind filling me in on the fall out in a pm? I'm always eager for gossip.

Anyways no personal stuff in this blog as I'm using it as a soapbox for the reason I loathe Super Mario Galaxy, and please read the whole fucking blog before sending me dead animals in the post or before sending the Mushroom Kingdom mafia after me. You see, Mario Galaxy isn't the best game ever created. It just isn't. It is utterly sublime, beautifully crafted and brings anyone that plays it to the same place SMB 3 did all those years back. It still feels as carefully crafted as any Mario game, you never feel you are playing a rushed section. This shines through in the controls which are the first to actually feel natural on the Wii. Every waggle is put in because it benefits the gamer to do it. You never walk away with a sore arm or the feeling that the Wiimote cheated you, it's like this is how Mario was always meant to be played. The same way people walked away from Mario 64 thinking how analogue was the way mario had always been controlled. The levels are beautiful with you never doing the same thing twice and every mission providing a challenge and occasionally a giggle at some of the very funny writing. The music is a sour point, with it having no memorable tunes and sacrificing good game music just to have a full orchestra playing away. But it does nothing to take away the shine from what is the Wii's finest moment and one of gaming's great moments of 2007. So despite this glowing mini review why do I loathe this game with every fibre of my already review blackened soul?

This game shows what I've been saying all along. The Wii has potential, the Wiimote can be used in the right game and hardcore games do have their place on the console...so why aren't there more?

Now I'm not saying more SMG quality games as this is the console leader, but noone comes close to being a distant second to SMG. Instead we have the worst game line up in history, littered with casual games and film tie ins and the odd game that showed promise but fell flat on it's face. Game after game misuses the controls, game after game assumes the Wii is the place for lazy ports and game after game is pumped out by publishers for a quick buck. And you know the thing that really hurts, the number one reason I hate this game. I know that despite all the lessons this game holds about using the controls, level design, camera work, how to best us ethe Wii's graphics...I still know that noone will take these. Noone will make a game that continues the good work Galaxy started for one reason alone. Back when Mario 64 gave the world a template of how 3d games should be made people were dying to learn how to make a game in this new medium. Now noone is interested in how to make a great Wii game that isn't a port of a great Gamecube/PS2 game. Why should they be when the likes of Red Steel and Big Brain Academy are amongst the best selling Wii games out there despite being half arsed games we wouldn't have let into the site of our little purple boxes.

I'm off to play Mario Galaxy and raise my glass to Nintendo. You still make the best games, you now sell the best consoles and all without putting money into quality control. Kudos.

Wii Failed

Now Playing: Bioshock
Now Listening to: Coheed and Cambria: The Faint of Heart
Now Watching: Mock the Week

Wii play, Wii experience, Wii innovate

An Old Challenger Appears!

Now Playing: Crackdown
Now Listening to: Smashing Pumpkins: Tonight, Tonight,
Now Watching: PM's Questions

Been an epic time since my last blog so I thought I'd best update incase anyone is interested in my long and rambling life.
Okies, to start off I'm no longer staff on here. Too many commitments and C3 was the one that had to go. I'm sad to have left but it's been a blast working here, for anyone wanting to work on a gaming site I warn you though...it's not easy. This leaves me more time for uni and for the missus. Yes, I have a girlfriend who I simply adore. It's strange how meeting someone new can turn everything around, in one day my life got better. Simply way too happy for words now. As for uni it's going VERY well, I got BBC for my exams and I got an A and a C for my essays. Oh and two A's for my presentations (I always forget those). I also have some new friends who are all very nice. 99% of my old friends have drifted away, the one that hasn't amusingly is ShinyRainbow who dragged me down south a few weeks back to get wrecked and listen to Take That. So life goes well.

Gaming wise the Wii is gathering dust, at the mo it's a Zelda machine and it REALLY needs some more killer titles or the PS3 will steamroller it in the UK. The 360 on the otherhand is amazingly good fun. Viva Pinata is a return to form for Rare and Elder Scrolls IV...well...possibly the best game ever made. There, I said it. Smilie I also got into the Japanese importing scene to save money, joys as I picked up PES6 and Starfox command for the DS for a tenner the other week. Language barriers aside I am loving getting to play games without being ludicrously poor.

Speaking of being ludcrously poor my bank are retards. Only

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