Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Microsoft X-Box 360
First of all – What a daft name. Why 360 (apart from the fear that calling it X-Box 2 would potentially give customers the impression that it is a generation behind Playstation 3).
Now, I must first admit that I’m no fan of Microsoft, but even I have to admit that the X-Box did surprisingly well (apart from in Japan). It certainly served its purpose and managed to grab a fair percentage of the gaming market, even if it did lose several million pounds on hardware sales.
On an aesthetic level, the X-Box 360 does look extremely appealing and I’m sure that the fact that you can swap face panels will appeal to many people. It certainly seems like a powerful beast as well, but to me at least, it feels as if it isn’t a significant jump from the X-Box and in reality seems more like an X-Box 1.5 than a significant generation jump. The games also echo this, really only seeming marginally better than current X-Box games.
It’s good to see HD supported, both 720p and 1080i. Also I believe that the X-Box 360 will continue to be the platform of choice for online gaming, following on from the relative success of X-Box Live.
Sony Playstation 3
Well the technical demonstrations at E3 as well as some of the trailers certainly pushed this platform as the “true” next generation. Certainly they were keen to demonstrate that this was a far more powerful machine than the X-Box 360. I’m not entirely convinced that this will be that apparent when playing the games released on the console, but time will tell.
Of the 3 consoles this is by far the ugliest, although it is far from hideous, it lacks the sleekness of the X-Box 360 and Nintendo Revolution. However, this has the potential to be a true multimedia hub, boasting BluRay support, various memory stick inputs and wireless from the box. It’s a shame that Sony have not provided any details of the online structure, as at present it is hard to judge how this will compare against the X-Box 360 and Revolution. The Playstation 3 also supports HD, being capable of outputting 2 1080p – although I seriously doubt that many games will make use of this function.
The launch date for this is Spring 2006. Although it has not been specified whether this was worldwide or not, judging by past Sony consoles, I’d imagine that this would be for Japan only. In order for the Playstation 3 to succeed in Europe and the States, it would really need to launch by Christmas 2006. Giving the X-Box 360 not just 1 but 2 Christmas seasons, could be disastrous.
I’m hoping that the Tokyo Game Show in September may give some actual feedback from the actual games on the console, as at present there is no indication of how these perform.
I have always been a fan of Nintendo and have owned every single home and handheld console produced by them (with the exception – surprisingly – of the NES).
Of the 3 companies, they have been the vaguest in releasing details and specs, but this is typical of Nintendo, they prefer to let the games do the talking. Unfortunately, at present, there is no footage of anything running on the Revolution to compare. It has been indicated that this will likely be the least powerful console of the next generation, the fact that it has no HD output only emphasises this.
I’m glad that Nintendo have decided to jump on the online bandwagon (about time), as a large proportion of Nintendo games have great potential for online gaming (Mario Kart, Tennis etc). It’s also good to know that the Revolution will be fully backwards compatible with the Gamecube and also past consoles (via downloads).
The real secret with the Nintendo Revolution is the controller. They are yet to reveal this for fear of it being copied by the competition, I just hope that they don’t hold onto this too long, as Nintendo desperately need to distract people from the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360.
I really do think that Nintendo will continue to be a niche console, appealing to Nintendo fans and a younger audience predominantly and not the mass market. However, if they also launch at a low price point, the revolution could become an appealing second console for many, especially if they are able to offer something unique when compare to the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360.
Well there you go… My thoughts and views on the matter.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
A local Computer Store (Southside computers) will be closing its doors soon, so I popped in for the clearance sale to see what was available yesterday. It’s a shame I wasn’t shopping for a new PC or a laptop, as there were a few bargains around (not that I have the money for such expenses items), instead a treated myself to 3 games, for less than £10 per game! These were as follows, together with my initial impressions of each:
Half Life 2 (collector’s edition)
I was a big fan of Half Life, years ago but was reluctant to pick up this game for fear that our PC would not handle such a new game. I (stupidly) picked up a second hand copy in a car boot a couple of months ago for a couple of pounds, not realising that each copy needs to be registered online with a specific code, as such I was unable to play the copy I’d picked up cheap. But less than £10 for the collectors copy seemed worth paying to see how it ran on our PC. I’m happy to say that after a lengthy installation and update of my PC, it doesn’t run too badly at all – not as smoothly as a console game, but still good enough to be perfectly playable.
So far, I’m hooked. It plays very much like its predecessor, which is no bad thing at all. The immersion in the game world is fantastic, I just hope that the rest of the game lives up to the initial stages…
The Legend of Zelda : The Minish Cap
A Zelda game that I didn’t already own!
I know, surprising. This is a GBA game and plays very similar to my second favourite game of all time, The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past on the SNES. So far this is looking very promising and since The Twiglight Princess won’t be coming out now until next year, this will just have fulfil my Zelda craving.
This is a game that I have considered buying on many occasion, but I simply could not resist at this price. I have only taken the briefest look at this game, but I can say that visually it really is stunning and boy is it weird (hence I should like it). Looking forward to having a proper go at this some time in the future. I’ll reserve this until I’ve (hopefully) finished Half Life 2.
Well, this will certainly sort out my gaming needs for the next few months, especially when you consider that I’m also still playing Harvest Moon. Now if I could only find more gaming time…
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Okay, ever since watching the Japanese version of The Ring (Ringu) several years ago, I have been very interested in Asian Cinema. The best films that I have seen so far have been: The Ring (of course), Oldboy, Dark Water, Battle Royale and The Eye.
Now I was interested in seeing The Isle after reading a few reviews. I know that the UK release was cut slightly due to animal cruelty (to fish in the film), but the rest of the film is intact. This without a doubt one of the most gut wrenching films that I have seen. It is certainly not a film I would recommend to those with a weak stomach for blood and disturbing imagery. It had me cringing at several scenes and trust me, I’ve seen my fair share of blood and guts in the movies.
Anyway, the film itself, while interesting, was by no means outstanding. It was an interesting study of the two main characters, but there was really little to no plot, and also little to no dialogue. If I were to compare it to another film, it would probably be David Cronenbergs Crash, as this is another film which deals with sexual deviants who are strong and somewhat unusual characters. If there is one thing that this film has taught me, it’s that fishing hooks (when inserted in the most bizarre places) can cause all sorts of unwanted damage.
Overall, I’m glad that I watched it, but it would not be a film that I would choose to watch again.
Yep, still playing away on this.
Bessy my first cow, just gave birth to a calf called Barbara. I have also just found out how to make astonishing amount of money. The secret, selling the seeds for fruit trees.
Oh, I have also been given a new pet. A small kitten which I have called “Skimble”
Thursday, August 25, 2005
So as an experiment in personal psychology I have taken a look at my favourite film, book, music etc
Quite simply the nearest to perfection you will ever find in a film. Hitchcocks masterpiece with a plot that twists and turns and characters with whom you can sympathise and pity. I very much doubt that any film will topple this from the top of my favourite films.
This is a film quite simply about obsession. When I was younger (a teenager) I used to be rather obsessive in nature, although that is not so much the case now, this film still reflects a younger picture of me. Also I have found that I have found different themes and meanings in the movie as I transgress through different stages of my life.
The Day of the Triffids
I love all of John Wyndham’s books and admire his particular style of science fiction. This book stands out against all others – I just wish that they would make a decent film version (if I had the money I’d finance it myself).
The book tells the story of a society which has been blinded by a freak astrological event and is being picked off and overrun by an unusual species of plant. In reality the book is to a degree about isolation and at times I can be rather introverted and certainly do not like to socialise. Also, when I was younger I used to fantasise about being the last man left on earth – I guess this is why I also like The Stand and I am Legend!
Favourite Piece of Music:
Layla (Piano exit) by Derek and the Dominos
This is specifically the instrumental piece which I recognise most as being used in the film Goodfellas. I have always found this music to be both uplifting, reflective and yet somehow bittersweet. If I’m ever feeling a little low, this tune is always guaranteed to lift me up a little.
The Legend of Zelda : The Ocarina of Time
Well it had to be a Nintendo game and this is Nintendo’s greatest game by far.
It less easy to find meaning in a console game, I can appreciate it by its merits, but I really don’t know if it says a lot about who I am. Unless of course you take into consideration the fact that it is an epic story driven game, which requires patience, thought and skill.
Maybe it’s best that I never decided to become a psychiatrist!
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Yesterday the premiere for Serenity was held in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh film festival. Serenity is a film based on Joss Weadon’s (Buffy creator) short lived television series “Firefly”. This series is without a doubt one of the best shows I have ever seen – better even than Buffy and Angel. It was a crying shame that it was cancelled, so I am understandably very excited at the prospect of a film of this series.
Unlike most premieres this was open to the general public and a few weeks ago the tickets went on sale. My wife and I spent several hours trying to get hold of the box office by phone or online, by the time we finally managed to get through the tickets had been sold out.
A report on the Serenity premiere can be found here: http://www.empireonline.co.uk/site/features/festival/edinburgh2005/
Whilst I am disappointed that I could not make it to the premiere I am glad that the film is generating so much excitement. I just hope that people who are not familiar with Firefly give the film a chance. If Serenity turns out to be a success Joss Weadon has said that he would be happy to make further films (perhaps as a trilogy), although in my perfect little world the series would continue once again. Also, in the interim, Joss Weadon has a little film by the name of Wonder Woman to make.
I just hope that the Cinema here is Guernsey decides to show Serenity (although I’m not holding out much hope). If not I may be forced to go to Jersey to see it.
I have not seen this film for several years, but managed to get the special edition dirt cheap on DVD from Amazon in their recent sale.
Whilst this is a gangster film it is by far the polar opposite of the Godfather films. Pacino’s character in Scarface Tommy Montana bears no resemblance whatsoever to the cool, calm, scheming Michel Corleon. This never comes close to the greatness of the Godfather films, but is still a very powerful film in its own right. The phrase “the world is yours” is used at several key times throughout the film and no other film that I can think off, aptly shows that owning and achieving everything you could ever want, simply isn’t enough.
I can now also see the huge influence this had on Grand Theft Auto : Vice City (together with of course Miami Vice), in both the setting, characters and also the soundtrack.
This film also has one of the most spectacular shootouts as an ending, together with one of my favourite quotes, namely “say hello to my little friend”.
Tales of Symphonia
I have decided to give up on this game.
It feels too much like a RPG which has been watered down and is catering for the type of audience that enjoy Smash Brothers. There is very little strategy involved in the battles and you can only control one character during fights, the rest are computer controlled. The animation and graphics really are quite stunning, it just isn’t the type of RPG that caters for my taste. I may have to return back to Disgaea for a good session of strategic roleplay.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
It really has been an extremely stressful time for both my wife and me. We really would like to purchase the flat below if my neighbour does decide to sell, but we will be stretching ourselves financially if we do this. It is also very dependant on a survey of the property, as the surveyor would need to give an estimate of how much he believes the property can be let for. If this comes out significantly less than we would need to let this for, then we’re scuppered.
Part of me wishes that we hadn’t gone to Canada earlier this year as the extra money would have made it much more likely that we would have been able to purchase the flat. Then again, when we went on holiday we really had no idea of what the future would hold and besides it really was an excellent and very much needed holiday.
If only we could win the lottery (that is if the local lottery was worth winning!)
As I said, all very, very stressful.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Well I’ve just finished watching Sin City and I thought that I would take a few minutes before heading to bed to put my thoughts down in writing.
First of all a little background:
I absolutely love the Sin City comics, then again I tend to love pretty much anything Frank Miller is involved in (well maybe not the Dark Knight Strikes Again, but hey, everyone makes mistakes). So I was both exited and apprehensive to find out that Sin City was being filmed.
When the film was released, I resisted the urge to see it at home as our cinema is, well, crap. For the last couple of years I have managed to take a trip to London to catch all the big summer films in style (i.e. in a descent cinema), so my plan was to wait until London to see the film. Whilst in Canada I could have seen the film, but again I resisted the urge, again waiting until London. When I eventually reached London I arrived just as terrorists bombed the London Underground and a London bus. Hence, whilst I was thankfully lucky to be alive I did not have the chance to see Sin City (I did however catch War of the Worlds and Batman Begins). By the time I returned back to Guernsey, it was no longer showing at our cinema, so I was left to wait until the film came out on DVD before I could watch it.
Thankfully the Region 1 release wasn’t that far away, so instead of waiting for the region 2 release, I pre-ordered the region 1 DVD, which arrived yesterday.
Anyway, back to the film. I guess that what surprised me the most wasn’t how accurate the adaptation was, but that my least favourite Sin City storyline was by far my favourite section of the film.
The original story “Sin City”, or as it is now know “The Hard Goodbye” was good, but felt rushed. I also was not totally convinced by Mickey Rourke as Marv. At times his performance was good, at others it felt a tad pantomime. I think that problem with this story on film is that the original “Sin City” was split over around 9 issues of very short stories and the film also seemed a tad segmented and rushed in parts as a result.
“The Big Fat Kill” has always been my least favourite Sin City story, mainly because I always felt that the storyline felt a little flimsy when compared to the other stories. However, I absolutely loved the film version. It seemed just spot on, all the characters seemed properly realised and the pacing was just perfect. Clive Owen really was quite excellent as Dwight, I just hope he returns for the sequel.
“That Yellow Bastard” has always been my favourite Sin City story and I was very pleased by the adaptation of this. My only real complaint is that I didn’t buy Jessica Alba as Nancy. It’s not just because she refused to do the nudity for the film, it was just that at times she seemed too wooden. I will admit that it is quite a hard role to portray, i.e. a fragile and sensitive stripper, but I really think that someone else would have been better suited in the role.
Now I know that a sequel is in the works and that “A Dame to Kill For” will be one of the stories. I just hope and pray that “Family Values” makes it to the screen eventually, just to see Miho on rollerblade decapitating people left right and centre.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I have just leant that Zelda: The Twilight Princess has been delayed from it original year end 2005 release date to 2006. No specific date has been given for 2006. The reason given for this delay is that Nintendo want more time to develop this game to ensure that it is a "more enjoyable gaming experience". Nintendo have previously admitted that the rushed towards the end of making Zelda: The Wind Waker, which resulted in less dungeons and the necessity of includeing a rather boring sailing quest towards the end of the game to extend the life of the game.
On one hand I’m disappointed that this has been delayed. This is without a doubt the game that I am most looking forward to on any system and would have been at the very top of my Christmas list. On the other hand, if indeed the extra time required for development will make this abetter game, then I’m more than happy to wait that little bit longer.
It does, however, mean that the Christmas releases for the Gamecube look rather barren. Most of the games that I’m looking forward to most are infact due on the Nintendo DS.
It has also occurred to me that as the Revolution is due to launch sometime in 2006, that Nintendo may be tempted to transfer Zelda from the Gamecube to the Revolution. It wouldn’t be the first time that this has happened. Both Animal Crossing and Star Fox Adventures jumped platforms from the N64 to the Gamecube late in the N64’s life. Also, looking at some of the most recent screenshots for Zelda, it would appear as if a lot of characters are being shown on the screen at once, which may also indicate that they are looking at a high spec platform. Only time will tell.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Well, it’s certainly been an interesting weekend! We learnt just yesterday that our neighbour who lives in the flat below us is considering moving. This leaves Roz and me with several burning issues.
The building which we own used to be 2 flats, however, the part that we own, i.e. the second floor, has a loft conversion, effectively making it a maisonette. The flat below us is owned by someone else, but it has always been a dream of ours to eventually purchase this so that we could own the entire building.
If we did own the entire building this would allow us several opportunities:
We could convert the whole of the building to a single dwelling
We could let out the bottom flat for additional income
We could eventually keep the bottom flat to be used either by Elliot when he is older or either of our parents should they need it when they are older
The problem is, quite simply, money. At present I’m on a reasonable salary, and Roz is a full time Mum, so at present we are getting by okay, but are certainly not flush with money. However, we would not be able to afford a second mortgage on our current income and I’m a little doubtful that any of the banks would lend us the additional money. The only possible option would be to buy the flat with the intension of letting it for a few years until Roz returns to work and my salary increases. Alternatively, it may be that Roz may have to return to work earlier than we had anticipated, but if that was the case, childminding would then become a further issue.
So as you can imagine there have by a number of thoughts swimming through our heads yesterday, with no solid conclusions. We hope to arrange to speak to a few mortgage advisors shortly, which hopefully should be able to give us an idea of whether it is viable to purchase to flat. There is also the very likely possibility that our neighbour may decide not to move.
In a sense it would be a shame if our neighbour moves, we have always got on with her very well and her moving would result in either: A) Additional financial concerns if we managed to buy her flat or B) The possibility of a new neighbour who could potentially be less considerate and therefore lessen the enjoyment of our home. Then again, I guess there’s no way to stop life from moving on, after all life is all about change.
All of these additional concerns and considerations really put other things in shadow, but then again, I can’t really ignore everything else…
Games I’m playing:
Well a lot has happened. Bessy my original cow stopped her supply of milk and as such I have had to arrange for her to get pregnant. My second cow Alice is still too young to produce milk, so my farm has been hit by financial strain.
I reached the end of the first year and have finally got married to Muffy. The game is now set 3 years later and I now have a son (unsurprisingly called Elliot). Unfortunately this means that I now have to support a family as well as myself and the farm. Whoever would have thought that farming would be such hard work :)
Friday, August 12, 2005
I found the end result really rather surprising. First of all, because the poem came together so quickly, without the need to make many changes after my initial brain storm. Also because it has become probably one of my favourite (of my own) poems.
This is shown below:
A Dance of Joy, a Dance of Hate
A dance of joy, a dance of hate,
Mix it up with bile and cake.
The eyes swirl, pop and squish,
Death, danger, fear and piss.
Why cry out when all is lost,
When in the end we’re all but dust?
It all boils down to flesh and bone,
Skin and sinew, all alone.
A bit here, a bit there,
Do you think that I really care?
When it all comes to an end,
We all feign lies, we all pretend.
Make no noise, cry out loud
For in you mind there is no sound.
Only hate and hate alone
Can free you from your humble throne.
Tears fall down to the ground
Lost amid the sacred mound.
Curse the world, curse the sky,
Fade to black, time to die.
What does this poem mean; I frankly don’t have a clue. All of this was taken from my subconscious mind. Some of the imagery and tone of the poem seems rather quite dark, even for me. To find any real meaning in it, I think you would need to turn to a psychiatrist…
First of all, my impression of previous Michael Bay films:
Bad Boys 1&2 – Thankfully have avoided these.
The Rock – An exceptionally entertaining action film, with a believable villain to whom you feel genuine sympathy. 8/10
Armageddon – My only enjoyment in seeing this film was watching Paris be bombarded by small meteorites. Otherwise, terrible, terrible or so terrible. 3/10
Pearl Harbour – It so wanted to be Titanic but feel flat on its face. Other than Kate Beckinsale, I cannot think of a single redeeming feature in this film. However, saying that, it wasn’t quite as bad as Armageddon. 4/10
So now we come to The Island. Well to me it felt a little too similiar to Logan's Run for my liking, but brought up to date for the new millenium. The performances were okay, but for an action film, the action sequences lacked any degree of tension or dare I say it, fun! Also, what was the point of setting it slightly in the future, it would have been much better setting it in the present day! Overall it wasn't too bad, but then again it wasn't particularily good either. As average a film as I've ever seen. 5/10
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Also, one other Haiku poem that I’ve recently written:
Enjoying the summer days
Love is happiness.
Game(s) I’m playing:
Well I seem to have patched things up with Muffy. She even came around to my farm late in the evening and asked if she could stay the night, as she thought that someone was stalking her (yeah – right). Unfortunately our time was rudely interrupted by several town folk looking for Muffy as she had gone missing from the bar. I’ve since proposed to Muffy and she accepted. At this time we have not set a date for the marriage.
Tales of Symphonia
I brought this game not long ago as it has felt like a very long time since I player a good RPG on my consoles. I found Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 to be a bit of a disappointment when compared to the PS1 incarnations in this series. Tales of Symphonia seemed to get good reviews when it was first releases, so I thought I’d give it a go.
So far I love the visual style of the game and it does show a fair amount of promise. I’m not so certain that I like the fact that this is an action RPG as oppose to a strategic RPG, but I shall give it some time to see if can get to grips with the combat.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
My wife also stressed that she would like to see less of the film and gaming comments on my blog and more life… As such, I thought I’d mention that I’ve recently started writing Japanese Haiku poems. These are short three line poems which normally follow the pattern of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and then 5 syllables. For more information, look here: http://www.toyomasu.com/haiku
These are a couple that I’ve written:
Terror in London
Voices cry in dark places
Why the innocent?
The morning papers
Apathy, hate, lust and fear
Ignored by all.
The first of these was written following my experiences whilst I was in London during the recent bombings.
Game(s) I’m playing:
I introduced my 2 year old son Elliot to this game at the weekend. He currently enjoys watching me playing Super Mario Sunshine and Monkey Ball and even joins in once and a while. He seemed to enjoy Harvest Moon as well and took a particular liking to the dog that I have on my farm, named Link. Whenever I would leave the farm to visit the nearby village, he would ask in his cute little voice “Where’s the dog gone?”
Have just purchased some chickens for the farm and hope to see some profit from the sale of eggs in the not too distant future. Oh and I think that I have somehow attracted the affection of possibly the most miserable of my 3 potential brides (Nami), I was really hoping that I’d get somewhere with Muffy the barmaid, but her feelings for me seem to be dwindling…
Monday, August 08, 2005
I’m the first to admit that I’m a complete novice at this. What do I put at first? Do I introduce myself, give a little bit of my background? I really don’t have a clue! I think I’ll just briefly say that I’m an avid film fan and a gamer and that this blog is intended just to record my thoughts on current films and games that I’m playing as well as a few comments on life in general.
I know a couple of people who write blogs, but have previously never shown any interest in starting one before. I guess that I should also mention that I do some writing in my spare time (my website is marked somewhere on this page). My current pet project, a short story called Cry of Xenotaph (a H P Lovecraft and Mary Shelley inspired mystery) has been a “work in progress” now for far too long and I guess one of the reasons for starting a blog is just to do a little writing of some sort.
Game(s) I’m playing:
Okay a Japanese Farming simulation may not sound too exciting to most, but at present it has me hooked.
Personally I’m pretty sick of all the mindless FPS that you tend to see these days and I tend to prefer more alternative gaming. Why shouldn’t growing crops, milking cows and wooing a potential (in game) wife, be more exciting than shooting unconvincing aliens/demons from Planet X?
I’m a big fan of the comic, which I have been collecting for years, but I was more than a little concerned by the trailers for the film. Also I’d always imagine that the family carefree mood of the comics would be hard to capture on film.
Overall I thought that the film was very good (but not fantastic), they captured Thing, Human Torch and Mr Fantastic very well, but Invisible Woman and Dr Doom just felt wrong to me. Jessica Alba may be extremely attractive, but she just seems too young and does fit as Sue Storm and Dr Doom just felt like a wasted opportunity for what could have been one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.
I’m please to hear that a sequel has been green lit, as there is definite room for improvement. Please, please please, bring on Galacticus!