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.