Return to the Mushroom kingdom


nintendo_switch_logoWell I took the plunge and got myself a Nintendo Switch.  So what do I think of the device?  From the start it feels a very premium piece of kit.  The build-quality of the tablet and the joy-con controllers which attach to it are excellent.  It’s also quite heavy to hold in the hands and switching it on first time was exciting as the familiar Nintendo logo appeared, followed by the new Nintendo Switch icon.  Nintendo have a history of making quality consoles and this is no different despite what reports you may have heard on the internet.  My device seems free of dead pixels, joy-con sync-problems or wi-fi issues, but just to be safe I purchased a screen protector to ensure the supplied dock didn’t scratch the screen as has been reported.  On a side note I hate screen protectors and am historically crap at putting them on.  The tempered-glass one I got wasn’t too bad but it still took a whilst to get right and avoid any air bubbles.  Grr.

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In the run up to getting the Switch (I had a bit of a wait as initial stock everywhere had sold out after the March 3rd launch), I got myself a couple of Amiibos (Nintendo-themed character figurines which act as interactive NFC enabled devices for use in games) namely Mario and one of my all-time favourite characters, Toad.  It helped build the excitement as I also got myself a carry case and the official ‘pro-controller’.  Yes I confess, I’ve spent a lot of money on this but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Using the device, it was easy to set it up to work with my broadband and to access the eshop (sparse with only a few games I’d find interesting (Shovel Knight, Snake Pass, Fast RMX) and the quirky design features, general simple but functional user-interface still pleased.  Once I put a game in though, my experience was elevated to another level.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I think by now most people will know how well received and acclaimed this latest entry in Nintendo’s ‘legendary’ franchise has turned out to be.  I couldn’t wait to get into it and am having a great time.  Firstly it’s gorgeous – I love cell-shaded, cartoon world art styles and this is one of the best representations of that look I think I’ve ever seen.  Has Zelda ever looked this good?  It’s a huge world too to explore and I’m loving travelling all over, meeting villagers, learning bit by bit about the over-arking story and doing simple side quests.  I also love the Shrines – trial based underground levels dotted throughout the land, sort of mini-dungeons full of puzzles and atmosphere.  I am only a little way into this so far but I am really impressed. 

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The big selling factor of the Switch though is it’s versatility.  It can be used as a handheld gaming system and works perfect for that.  It can be used as a home console too, and the transition is seamless and takes literally 5 seconds once you place the device in the dock to have the game appear on your TV screen.  It’s a gimmick that never gets old and I can see me using the machine in both ways.  Less appealing is some of the advertised multi-player, which with the 1-2 Switch game comes off as a left over idea from the Wii era with it’s gimmicky motion-controlled party games which might be fun but would get discarded fairly quickly in favour of ‘real’ games.  The versatility of the controllers to create multi-player split screen or two player games in your home certainly hark back to a by-gone era but as a primarily single-player gamer I doubt that functionality will get much use either.

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For now the Nintendo Switch is a system with a great deal of potential.  Early sales have been impressive so Nintendo is off to a good start … let’s just hope that in the future we still get the games for it, so that unlike many Nintendo consoles, it doesn’t end up gathering dust in favour of an Xbox or PlayStation system.  Only time will tell but for now consider me happy with my purchase.

Nintendo Switch launch


Nintendo Switch

I can’t let today pass by without remarking on the release of Nintendo’s brand new console – Nintendo Switch.  I’ve had my eye on this ever since it was announced, and it’s come as a bit of a surprise just how interesting and clever an idea Nintendo has come up with.  Firstly, Nintendo have for many years ruled the handheld market … that cannot be contested.  The 3DS flew off the shelves and it’s various iterations – even in the advent of increasingly powerful mobile phone technology.  However on the home console front, they’ve been failing for a while even after the huge success of the Wii.  Yet now here comes a console that offers the best of both worlds and will attract both types of gamers; those that want to have their gaming on-the-go (I hate that term) and those that prefer the comfort of their sofa and a big screen TV.  Never before has a console offered both and offered it so seamlessly, as the video below will attest:

SwitchI won’t go into detail too much on the various things the Switch can do…I’m sure if you’re at all interested you’ll have read up on the machine already.  What I can give you though is my thoughts on why this is an exciting games system and why Nintendo are luring me back, despite my reservations in the past with Nintendo’s consoles (I had a GameCube, a Wii and a Nintendo DS back in the day).  It has a feel from what I’ve seen and read of a great secondary console.  It’s not rubbing shoulders with Xbox or PlayStation (something Nintendo has avoided for years) and has it’s own identity.  Plus I’ve really missed Nintendo’s game design.  Nothing on a PS4 or XB1 plays quite like Mario or Zelda.  There is a unique and stylish charm to their characters, and yes I have sometimes even looked to the ill-fated Wii U with jealousy because it still had those games.  However that machine had little to separate it from the Wii, whose motion-control gimmick faded with time and so it was clear Nintendo had to revise it’s approach to console design.  Therefore I’d say the Switch has delivered sort of a ‘best of Nintendo’ this time around in a well-designed and attractive package.  Only time will tell if the games can live up to the machine’s potential, if 3rd party publishers support it the way they do Sony & Microsoft.

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I hope to get one at some stage myself and will report more on the machine when I’ve actually spent some time with it.  Until that day comes let’s send congratulations to Nintendo on the launch of their new console and wish them plenty of success in the future.  I think it’s their turn, don’t you?

New toys, new music, new year!


Apple-iPad-Air-2Well it’s a new year and I managed after dipping into some savings to get myself a new toy.  Therefore I recently purchased the iPad Air 2 which following buying directly from Apple I got engraved with my name and my website address.  So far I’m finding it invaluable to further explore my growing interest in music, and having subscribed to Apple Music in recent weeks it’s given me a way of discovering new music and having more variety in what I choose to listen to … something I hadn’t really being doing for a long time.  It’s also enabling me to get more into some TV shows I previously missed out on and am currently enjoying Super Girl and also hoping to start watching Blacklist.

Garbage Autobiography Ltd EditionIn related news I was happy to see that last night Garbage’s lead singer Shirley Manson received the ‘powerhouse’ award at the She Rocks Awards ceremony in Los Angels that is held annually to promote women in the music industry, both on stage and behind the scenes.  In addition to this news I also saw a separate interview with Garbage drummer / producer Butch Vig where amongst other topics he revealed that the band is to release a cover of Cat Stevens’ “Where do the children play” as part of forth-coming charity album Music to Inspire – Artists UNited Against Human Trafficking.  It’s to be released on January 31.  In other Garbage news the band also recently revealed a limited edition of their forth-coming autobiography ‘This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ which for the first 1000 copies sold will be signed by the band and come with an exclusive vinyl consisting of 6 unreleased live recordings as well as a presentation box.  I some how managed to nab one of the first 1000 so am ridiculously looking forward to July when it will finally be in my hands!

Having been unwell last week and the week before I haven’t really been in the right mood to play games or watch movies, and have mostly spent my spare time chilling.  However now better I’ve been getting back into the sublime The Last Guardian which from the maker’s of cult PlayStation games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, is a breath of fresh air in an industry full of shooters and well, violent games like Grand Theft Auto and Mafia 3.  I love the exploration, puzzle solving and the look of the fantasy world the game inhabits, and well the icing on the cake is the unique concept of a little boy and his enormous dog / bird-like creature – the two having to work together and rely on each other to get through the world in one piece.  Seven years in the making, many rumours of it’s cancellation and the end result is everything I could have hoped for.  I’m also towards the end of Gears of War 4 to go back to a gun-obsessed kill-fest but hey, this series has really struck a cord with me and the fourth entry is just as action packed and gorgeous as the other games and I’m enjoying it a great deal.  However I’ve never been able to gel with the multi-player, which granted has become a big part of the franchise but I’m sorry…I just don’t find it ‘fun’. 

The Last Guardian

There’s also several movies I’d like to see but haven’t got around to as of yet.  The Golden Globe winning La La Land and also Passengers, Hackshaw Ridge and especially the imminent Trainspotting 2 are all on my radar.  Hopefully you’ll get to see reviews of all of these at some stage, so keep your eyes pealed.

That’s all from me for now.  Until nest time.

Craig.

2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

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It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

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On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

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Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.

Happy birthday to me!


Well I’m a bit late with this…what can I say I’ve been having a good time and er…life.  Anyway, it was my birthday on Tuesday 14 November.  I usually post something to mark the occasion although before anyone get’s too excited it’s a regular birthday so no repeat of last year’s London trip / go see my fave band in concert…just at home, family, prezzies and a take away.  This year to celebrate turning 41 (I know…I can’t believe it either)… I got Watchdogs 2 in a limited edition steel book, as well as the limited edition ‘crystal’ variant of the official Dualshock 4 PlayStation 4 controller.  I also got some money and vouchers, some of which I put to use buying a couple of Blu-rays, namely The Huntsman: Winters War and the new live action version of The Jungle Book (review to follow).  Overall had a great day and my thanks and best wishes go out to my friends and family.

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