Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Day one

I've been working for Emap for just over ten years. If you've been reading my blog you'll know that I started my journalism life on Nintendo Official Magazine - I actually started on September 1, 1997, the day after Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. It was a happy day on the commute into London.
Walking into Emap Images in London Docklands, just down the road from where an IRA bomb had torn the area apart, it was a nerve-wracking day. The area was still devastated from the bomb the previous year and Docklands was nothing like it is today.
Emap Images was the division that housed all the video game magazines - NOM, Sega Saturn, Computer and Video Games, PlayStation Plus and CU Amiga. The offices sat next to the old docks, the festering London water nearby being used for the boat chase to the Millennium Dome in the Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.
I don't remember much about my first day. I remember there being a Tottenham supporter on work experience and I was asked to preview, unknown to me then, Rare's classic game, GoldenEye 007.
Taking the game into this living-room-sized games room just next to the work stations, in went the cart and on came the now-infamous Bond theme. Embrrassingly I couldn't even hold the N64 controller properly. Even the workie asked me why I was bothering to read the instruction manual. A hour in and I was already getting grief!
Looking back on it, playing GoldenEye was crazy days. We'd play before work, fight for a controller at lunchtime and play after work. Just like Tetris I'd see the levels lying in bed in the state between awake and sleep. One-shot, one kill, usually in the Temple level. I wish I'd take a photo of it, but the cart was pulled in and out the N64 so much that Brosnan's face on the cart's sticker rubbed away. No game, in all my years on NOM, EVER looked like that. True testament to a title that deserves its place in any top ten of all-time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blast from the past

Has it really been nearly a week since my last post? Seven days is nearly up in he blogosphere and I feel slightly embarrassed posting again to my blog. Sorry, blog.
To be honest, I've been trying to find some other blogs to link to. I hear this is a sure-fire way of spreading the word and bouncing your blog up the charts. Sounds good to me.
One of the best I found was a blog by Gary Harrod, famous for his artwork on classic UK's console magazine of the early 90s, Mean Machines. I've mentioned this groundbreaking magazine elsewhere in Virtual Boy but it's great to hear how some of this stuff was made. Check it out over at Gary's Gossip. Also, if you're a fan of Mean Machines then check out the Facebook page called Bring Back Jaz Rignall and Mean Machines.
Back to the here and now, I got a bit dewy-eyed earlier today as I dug out the last ever Nintendo Official Magazine (NOM) that I worked on as editor before Future took over the license. It was actually out two years ago this month and it was great to reminisce. My last ever feature was The Games of 2005 and I'll sort out some scans for you to read over the Christmas break. It certainly made me chuckle and wonder what classic games purchase I'll be buying next.
Tomorrow I was due for some C0D4 action, which hasn't been on for a while, but I'm off to see The Golden Compass. Empire, the UK's best movie mag, slagged it off and as a massive fan of His Dark Materials I've obviously been dying to get to see this. Full verdict on Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pro Evolution?

I picked up a £20 copy of Pro Evolution Soccer last week on A true bargain if ever there was one for a game that reviews, across the board, weren't slating.
Seeing as it had 'evolution' in the title I thought it would at least be more than just an ann update, so I jumped in. Big mistake. Compared with some dream games online (Call of Duty 4 being one of them) it's almost unplayable. One minute I was running down the wing, the next the ball is in the centre circle, before cutting back to the wing, by which time I've run the ball out for a goal kick. Pathetic.
Apparently the online lag is going to be sorted out with an update. Great. You haven't had a year to do this game. FIFA's is a dream compared with this. I'm even considering selling it on eBay after just three games.
Elsehwere, I noticed Nintendo has decided to stop advertising the Wii in the UK 'cos you can't find one for love nor money. They're changing hands on eBay for over a grand apparently. Shame I haven't got one, I'd be doing the same and spending the money on some of this clobber.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bag of Sensi

I've been waiting on fresh new of Sensible World of Soccer for light years. First it was a summer release, then October, now it's finally lacing up its pixellated boots for a December launch. Game on.
I can't confess to have been any good but I distinctly remember beating the computer 8-1 once. God knows how that score sticks in my mind. I remember saving the goals with a tap on the spacebar. Awesome.
I've been waiting for news on whether the Xbox Live version is gonna be any good and stay faithful to the Amiga classic. Finally I've found some and all is going to be good. I can't wait for the little ref to strut up to me brandishing his little red card.
Follow that last link and you'll find an awesome clothing company who make some smart gaming threads, if you're a bit of a gaming geek like me. Check out the CVG Store and you'll see a good friend of mine who works on His name's Michael Jackson and he's a quality games journalist. He's mental about 'em.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I'm a sucker

Working on NOM you got to see some cool, crazy stuff. The Zelda Box, for the launch of The Wind Waker on GameCube, is one of my prize possessions, even though I can't read Japanese. Why don't they do this kind of stuff over here? Then there was the tiny mobile straps for tons of Nintendo classics and those oh-so-sweet limited edition Game Boy Advances.
But when a friend of mine told me that you could buy a Boo plush from Super Mario World on eBay I couldn't believe my eyes. Was it worth shelling out hard-earned money on something that, really, I don't need? I'm still wondering whether to get one, but you can hear his ghostly cackle if you put your ear close to your computer screen. Banpresto, I salute you!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ten years is a long time…

I worked on over 100 issues of Nintendo Official Magazine (NOM). Most of my words are gathering dust in some corner of a dusty archiving warehouse because I only kept a couple of issues I ever worked on. Stupid. Over the weekend I had a reminiscing moment, remembering this Christmas ten years ago. That was when a certain contender to the Mario Kart crown rolled up to the start line - Rare's Diddy Kong Racing.
When I started on NOM it was the first game I witnessed being 'grabbed' (the process of taking screenshots from recorded gameplay). We used to lug this enourmous monitor up to Rare HQ and record it there. The whole cover feature was done in a day - we had one shot at it. It was pressure. And you didn't mess when you got a Rare cover.
Rare was one of the highlights on the N64 era. They were the only developer who appeared to be owning the system outside Nintendo HQ in Japan. Goldeneye, Diddy Kong, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie to name a list of grade-A classics. More on those games in future posts, but for now let's talk DKR.
Classic characters from Krunch the croc (or Kremling in Donkey Kong Country if you're sad like me) to Tiptup the turtle, courses from dinosaur lands to snow-covered villages, karts, planes and hovercraft. It was the business. Let's not forget though the INFURIATING Silver Coin Challenges. Race round the tracks grabbing the eight silver coins AND finishing first. I was ready to kill after countless attempts at the later levels. It's probably on YouTube if you look hard enough.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Seeing as I used to work for Nintendo Official Magazine two years ago some people, rightfully, think I can either (a) get them a Wii for nothing this Christmas or (b) tell there where they can buy a Wii this Christmas. I could line my pockets if I knew the answer, sadly I don't. Try the main retailers, get on the waiting list, or pay over the odds on eBay I tell them. Advice like 'you should have started your Christmas shopping a lot earlier' obviously don't go down too well.
I love Nintendo. Always have done. The fanboys loved the N64 and the GameCube, your Marios and your Zeldas, but with the launch of PlayStation and then the Xbox, the tag 'casual gamer' came into existence and the Big N's dominance was slowly eroded. It appeared that no-one wanted to play board games with Mario or experience the beauty of the Ocarina of Time.
But now Nintendo is fighting back, advertising to families and mums. They're doing a great job and the Wii is selling out across the world. Hopefully kids that are lucky enough to get a Wii this Christmas will experience the difference that, I think, only Nintendo can bring to a gamer. Just as I did when I first played Super Mario Kart on the Super NES 15 years ago.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Video games are once again being blamed, not for another mass school shooting in the States, but something much more closer to home.
According to Britain's biggest selling daily tabloid, The Sun, games are to blame for England's plummet down the ranking of children's illiteracy. In the latest survey we've fallen from third to fifteenth. That's probably on a par with the England football team.
But let's put it into perspective shall we. It's not good if England, the home of Shakespeare, is failing its children. But what are the parents doing? Surely they are the ones to blame if they decide to put their kids in front of an Xbox for a few hours each day and then wonder why their reports are poor.
Yes, games are there as a hobby, but there are plenty of other pastimes that I'm sure they're doing that doesn't involve sitting on the sofa reading the latest Harry Potter or Phillip Pullman. Mobiles, the internet, iPods - there's a whole load of entertainment that kids fill there time with these days. Hanging this poor showing on the hook marked 'Games', unless the research shows this, just seems to me to be a cop-out. Is this just an easy way to blame the games industry yet again when titles like Brain Training and Wii Sports are trying to broaden childrens' minds and get the family involved in a fun pastime everyone can enjoy?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I've just been checking out Wired's games blog, written by an excellent voice in the games industry going by the name of Chris Kohler. Chris used to freelance for Nintendo Official Magazine when I was editor a few years back.
Some research he's uncovered in the States reports that gamers are less likely to buy a game if they rent it first. I get their point, but with the saturation of sites like Lovefilm can it be a bad thing if gamers want to try-before-they-buy?
I don't know about anyone else, but games like Eternal Sonata appear interesting but I'm less likely to splash the cash on something off-beat like this than the likes of Pro Evo, Call of Duty or Orange Box. Games are £40 or so, unless you can find an offer at Hot UK Deals, or another money-saving site. That's where a game rental comes in. Don't ditch them just yet Lovefilm!
In other news, the Father of PlayStation is to be honoured and you can get Virtua Tennis 3 for PS3 on the cheap!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kylie Minogue isn't a good thing for my Xbox. Her show's just been on itv, and with Match of the Day due on at 11 I could only get 25 minutes in of CoD4.

Still, it was enough 'cos the TV room I mentioned yesterday was a pain in the arse to get through. And you want to know why? Respawning troops. Until I got past 'that' particular point in the room did they stop charging in through the back door in their droves. You know the kind of thing I mean. As soon as I was past it, took down the last couple of goons and it was onto the end of the level. Funnily enough, the bad guy I'm looking for Al-Asam Abad or something, wasn't at the TV studio. My intel was wrong. It was a recording of him. The plot trucks on, and I've got more shooting to do downtown.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I've just played two hours of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and so far, so good. I was a bit hesitant when I first saw the game's trailer earlier this year, ditching the Second World War for modern day guns, Middle East scenarios and WMDs.
War games have been part of my gaming diet ever since North and South on the Amiga, moving onto Desert Strike on the Megadrive, check out this geek, and more recently the Medal of Honor series and Call of Duty.
The game kicks off with a training mode, set on a military camp where you get to learn how to fire guns, rappel, etc. Then it's onto the first mission, where you drop onto a ship in rough seas and high winds, trying to find the package deep in the bowels of the ship.
The cargo ship tilts and dives with the churning sea, and it's up to you to blast your way across the deck and then into the other rooms to find said package. It's a great start and ends with a smart cinematic finish to get you in the mood for what's to come.
Cut to you as President of a unnamed Middle Eastern country, rather brutally thrown in a car and taken through a lawless city before you're kicked in the face and shot at point-blank range to open the game. It's brutal.
I'll have more on the next few levels, including the classy night-vision effects, and TV studio shoot-out, in another installment.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Track and Field on Xbox Arcade is awesome, though events like the hammer throw and hurdles, when precision timing is all important, suffers due to time-lag when playing online.
Last night's events were hilarious. Three-player T&F with two American guys online, all yelling at each other down the headset. They may have sounded like geeks telling me their longest throws on the javelin, but it was when one likened my character to Borat that it started to get funny. My opponents put the pressure on shouting 'Borat!', 'Borat!' down their headsets at me as I went to launch the hammer. I failed. It's Game Over. I'll try again tonight.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I've finally succumbed. Not to watching Come Dancing, but to buying something off Xbox Arcade. The arcade gem that was Track and Field from Konami has recently been made available and I've got it for 400 points, what that is in REAL money I can't remember. But it's not REAL money buying games with points is it? I'm not going to become skint if I keep doing it am I? That's the danger.
So, I've played two games online, won one and lost one. The long jump jumping is a nightmare with my dodgy controller, and the high jump is as infuriating as it's always been. But it's still got those lovely grainy voices - 'On your marks!' and 'FOUL!'. The latter usually when I cock up the high jump.
See you online at some point - look out for me, I'm Tiny1976.

Friday, October 12, 2007

On came the green light of my 360 tonight for the SECOND NIGHT IN A ROW. Call of Duty 2 will be finished soon, if I can get past the bloody D-Day level. I'm losing my touch, I used to be alright at GoldenEye.

As for old TV adverts, remember this for Super Mario Bros. 3? Now, I live in the UK, but this was definitely shown during ad breaks, and this is what made me start thinking about getting a NES. I never ACTUALLY got one, I joined the ranks of Nintendo with the Game Boy brick and the Super NES, but you never forget a TV ad like that.

For any 30-something fans of games you may even remember Mean Machines, the all-format consoles mag of the early 90s. Well, if you do, you might wanna take a trip down memory lane over here Talking of which, I used to have every issue of MM, 'til my dad cleared out his loft and binned the lot.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

February 7? Hmm, that makes this blog unloved for just over eight months. Sorry blog, it won't happen again. Blame it on the baby son that entered my world on May 4. No Star Wars gags please.

Well, I got the Xbox 360 back in late February and it's been awesome so far. Look out for me - Tiny1976. As usual with my gaming life I haven't finished ANY games for it. I've played Pro Evo a lot though, even though it's crap. Ghost Recon 2 was quality, for the short time I played it and I'm still trying to finish Call of Duty 2 after I borrowed it from a mate at work about six month ago.

I've not got into Halo 3, hell I've not even played 1 or 2, but I should be able to pick those up cheap as chips. I borrowed Bioshock though after all the rave reviews and to be honest I didn't think it was all that good. Scary, but not exactly groundbreaking. Maybe I need that HD TV to really make it sing.

On another note, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass looks mint on the DS and so does Elite Beat Agents. Might have to blow the off my GAME card to get those bad boys.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Xbox 360 fund is go! After playing Pro Evo at the weekend and getting humped by some Spaniard on Lee's 360 1-4, despite going 1-0 up after nine minutes, the race is on to bag one of those beaut consoles. Call of Duty 3 was pretty slick, too.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's been a week, which is too long not to blog. So I'm back blogging again. The PS2 I was playing is now back with my brother-in-law, so after completing 12 hours of 24, Jack Bauer hasn't saved the world. I'm a loser. So there's now a big hole under my TV where the PS2 was. About big enough for a 360 or those tiny little Wiis.
What did I do at the weekend? Well I checked out the Wii and the 360. I'm actually gonna have my first taste of the 360 at the weekend. I seriously can't wait.
I picked up A Link To The Past for the first time in over a year. Christ knows where I was but I know I needed the Magic Cape, and I'm missing a key to get to the big boss in Misery Mire. Fucking hell, will I ever finish this game?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Wii-Box(TM) fund is going well. Over £30 after my recent flirt with eBay, though some shit wanted to buy one of my games, so I took the listing off. Now they won't get in touch. Thanks mate, thanks a bunch. Do you know how much next-gen is hurting me, laughing it's ass off in HMV while I go around looking at DS games like Scooby-Doo and Pok√©mon?
24: The Game did my head in for about two hours on Friday night. I had to resort to the loser's way to finish a game. I think I'm up to some mission with Chase or something, about 12 hours in so half way there.
I also clocked into another blog, in fact one run by Chris Kohler, a nice guy who used to do some freelance writing for us when I used to edit that games magazine I told you about on my first blog. It appears that over in the States they are giving you free money for an old NIntendo DS. This could really help my cause!
Anyway, back to the reminiscing. After Donkey Kong Game & Watch and Invader 1000 came Mario Cement Factory. A multiscreen Game & Watch, with Mario and Luigi racing up and down ladders to complete parcels in their factory. You filled up the van at the top of the screen and it actually drove away. OFF THE SCREEN with EXHAUST FUMES TRAILING AFTER IT. And Mario/Luigi did this mental grin as they threw the completed box onto the van. Mint.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

There's a new game I can't wait for on PSP - EA Replay or something. It's got Road Rash and Desert Strike on it. Two quality games from the early 90s. I need me a copy of that. No update on my 24 fun, and my Wii-Box fund is now £1 heavier. Great stuff.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm £2 nearer my Wii-Box fund. Viewtiful Joe and Dead To Rights are so far sitting on a £1 each, and they will sell on eBay.
In the mean time I found a picture of Invader 1000, the second game I ever played after Striker. I've still not found a picture of that football game, I just remember it had two teams - one orange and one blue - with a red bulb on the pitch as the ball. You just used the directional buttons and then hit shoot to go for goal or save a shot. I'm still trying to find a picture of Striker so if anyone can help, post a comment!
So what have I been playing this weekend? I've been playing as Jack Bauer in 24: The Game. I LOVE 24, and although the driving sections are awful and the shooting section are a little hit and miss, it's not a bad effort. But when they made the game they must have thought 'you're a government agent so the shooting sections must be spot on'. Except they're not. You can be inches from death and just can't lock on when the enemy is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Rubbish. And if you haven't got a clue what 24 is, get involved. It's the best programme on TV. You can stick Lost, Desperate Housewives and EastEnders up your arse. Start your obssession .

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I need a Wii. That's so not original that it isn't funny, but I need a Wii or a 360. Christ knows how I'm gonna do it with a baby due in three-and-a-half months, but that's where eBay is gonna come in.
I've thrown a load of shit Nintendo games on there tonight see what I get. I may even flog my PSP and the games I've got for it. For now though you can check out one of 'em here. Talking of eBay though I spotted this earlier tonight. Remember that from The Wizard starring that bloke from The Wonder Years and the last Austin Powers film? And it's going for quick a bit of money as well. An investment? Maybe, but that will just junk up my house. So far, I've got eight things on eBay with more to come. It's gonna be a hard slog to that 360…
I read yesterday that Nintendo are saying that the Wii is selling more now than when it launched. Fair play to 'em. I saw an ad for Wario Ware Smooth Moves this morning, with four women playing. It certainly looks like fun and the advert showed they are trying to push it into the hards of all the non-geeks out there. Zelda looks mint though. Maybe not quite as mouth-watering as Pro Evo online via an Xbox, but I can't deny my Nintendo roots. I need to play as Link again. I even picked up Minish Cap on my GBA the other day just to feel the love. Christ knows what I was meant to be doing but it was sweet.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Press Start To Continue

Another blog, another bloody boring blog. This isn't different to any other nobody trying to out-blog everyone else's blog. And they're all full of pretentious statements at the start just to make you want to read on.
This blog is all about my love for games. I used to edit a games magazine here in the UK. Now I do something completely different, but I had a great time on that magazine. Some quality times. Some horrible ones too, which I might bring myself to tell you about one day. This year I'm gonna tell you everything I can remember about my eight-and-a-bit years writing, playing and, occasionally, editing Nintendo stuff. The games we loved, the games which were deplorable and the ones I still haven't finished. Don't worry, there's plenty of them.
My earliest Nintendo memory - my orange Donkey Kong Game & Watch. Two screens, with Mario jumping barrels (I thought they were bombs at first!), trying not to get clobbered on girders and flicking that switch so he could fire-up the crane to reach the key and send the lubbering ape crashing to his death. After 300, if you didn't lose a life, it went apeshit. My record was 1,324. That's probably a lie. But it was mint and I was hooked.
For fans of the game you can get a T-shirt of it at this incredible Japanese game T-shirts website King of Games. You can also read more about my first love over here at Game & It goes for about £15-£20 on eBay. I might have to raid the piggybank to re-live the love and watch Princess Peach blow those kisses at me all over again.