On The End Of A Quill

On The End Of A Quill

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Promises, Promises

Well it seems that my rejoicing at my newly fixed laptop was a wee bit premature. For not long after getting it safely home and beginning to catch up on all of my college work again, it decides to refuse to boot up. Another trip to the repair shop, followed by another few days of waiting, before the sad news comes through that the poor thing just wasn’t going to make it. The motherboard was fried. So I was once again totally screwed, having to complete my college assignments on the few minutes I could get on campus computers. This meant zero time to update this wonderful blog. I know I promised etc. etc. But I’m still hopeful of getting a shiny new laptop under the tree on Christmas morning, so keep those fingers crossed for me.

Fallout: New Vegas Special Edition goodies
Game wise the last few weeks have been dominated by traipsing around New Vegas. I bought the special edition that included a pretty good graphic novel, a deck of cards should you ever want to play caravan! A making of DVD, some casino poker chips and of course a big metal chip that Mr. House is so desperate to get his... erm... hands on. Overall worth the few extra quid, unlike some other special editions I could mention, Bioshock 2 being a particularly poor effort, and I have a record player! I guess I’m just tired of the same old art books. Anyways... before I started I went and finished all the downloadable content from Fallout3, just to be sure. Now I do think New Vegas is an improvement over that game, it’s just not that big of an improvement, so if Fallout3 was not your thing this won’t be the game to convert you. I would say that I am about 40ish hours in and just wandering around the map before I head to Hoover Dam where I presume I’ll have to choose sides and then the final battle will take place. I’m also on the lookout for my robot follower ED E, who is more than likely stuck behind a door somewhere. The game will take you by the hand over the map for every mission but won’t tell you where your followers are, very frustrating. More on this game as and when (read if) I finish it.

In the run up to Christmas I’ve been reminiscing over ones gone by. While struggling to pick out which were the best Christmases, one year I remember getting Wrestle Mania and the Real Ghostbusters for my good old C64, hours spent loading then reloading, bliss. Some years later I remember me and my brothers got FIFA 95 on the Megadrive, I’m sure I was the best at it. I also remember laughing that they bothered to include Qatar, surely the worst team in it, but no one is laughing now. It could have been the year after or maybe the next, I got Phantasy Star IV for Christmas, what a fantastic game. One of the best RPGs ever made in my opinion. Forget this online rubbish, make a Phantasy Star V! I also got a Menacer gun that Christmas, but the less said about that the better. Nothing like that happens these days. We are two weeks away and I know the snow has hit us and the weather has been terrible but it just doesn’t feel like Christmas, does it? If you want some nostalgic Christmas feelings, pick up the December issue of RetroGamer with its good old/new Oli Frey cover. Here’s a pic of my complete RetroGamer set and some of the Megadrive games I’ve been popping in the cartridge slot recently. I hope it brings back some memories, ... of when zombies were cool!

Before I sign off, let’s not forget that it’s Mario Bros. 25th anniversary, yippee!! But Mario is mad, because Nintendo have shoddily repackaged Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii. €30 for old SNES games of old NES games that you can download for less money from the Wii download channel? If you do get your hands on the Anniversary Edition, with a booklet and a soundtrack CD in a nice red cardboard box, resist the temptation to hold the game at arm’s length querying, “Is this it? 25 years? Really?” the back of the box says ‘Find out about the origins and development of Super Mario’ but the booklet, heavy on the –let, barely scratches the surface of any of the Mario games. While the soundtrack comes with a warning, ‘Caution! Cannot be played on a Wii console. Please use a CD player’ Brilliant, like my PS3 is it? Oh no wait that’s still broken, like my Xbox is it? My favourite track is No. 12 Small Mario Jump. It reminds me of a small Mario jumping, funnily enough. Oh Nintendo, Mario deserves better than this, he’s a gaming icon. I haven’t been this angry with Nintendo since they decided to rob me of all my stars from the stars catalogue, and they still email me every month saying how much more they are taking from me. Eventually I think I’ll end up owing them stars! Bastards!
Happy Christmas....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Broken Laptop and a Thousand Tiny Distractions

 Apologies, I am more than aware that it has been two months since I updated here. But let me explain, I have good reason, I really do! First off my laptop fell off the bed and bounced off the floor ruining the screen. I wish I had a more exciting or romantic story but alas it just fell off the bed. I went to all the usual shops seeing if they could fix it at a reasonable price. Half the screen had gone white from the hop it took. Can’t be that bad can it? Unfortunately they all were telling me that it would cost upwards of two hundred euro to replace the screen. That I would be better off buying a new laptop. And look, we have loads of laptops right here in the store for you to choose from! Bastards! Screw them; I’d make do with half a screen.
While all this was going on I was in the middle of processing my college application. I had thought I would be entitled to some sort of grant or maintenance or fees paid scheme but governmental bureaucracy can turn you from an optimist into a pessimist fairly quickly. I should get a degree in form filling and random pieces of information gathering. Long story short though, I was going back to college, so I pretty much needed my laptop anyways. Then I did what any man in my position would do. I put it off for as long as possible.
The hallowed halls of academia
As luck would have it though barely a week into college I saw that the students union fix laptops. What have I got to lose? I bring it in and it’s fixed in two days for just over a hundred quid? Makes you wonder where these electronic stores send off their repairs to be fixed? So, new screen, new college semester, new round of forms to be filled out. So all that has kept me occupied for the last few weeks. But I have my laptop back (all my stuff is on it!).
Now if only I could get around to fixing my PS3, yes it's still broken! It kind of shows that there has been nothing worth buying on it for months, well nothing that I couldn’t buy on the 360. After steadfastly refusing to buy the new Final Fantasy. I picked up Resonance of Fate on 360, Valkyria Chronicles 2 on the PSP among a few others which I will get into in another update. But the most surprising, in that it turned out to be enjoyable, was Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Wii. It can be finished in one sitting, there or there about, but did hold my attention throughout, it’s the only game I’ve finished in ages to be honest. I would recommend giving it a quick rent. You can play through multiple times doing slightly different things and as good as this sounds, I had intended to do it but lost interest, who does that kind of thing anyways?

Providing I get to stay attending college and don’t end up breaking my laptop again. I will endeavour to update this site even more frequently than I have been doing. I've got a few games to talk about and want to give my general impression of all those summer blockbusters that I wasted my money seeing in 3D! Plus while rummaging around at home I found some old Sega Power and Mean Machines compilation magazines, so will try and get some pics of those up soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Robert Rodriguez and Director Nimrod Antal attempt to give the Predator franchise back some cinematic credibility after the unpopular Predator 2 and the downright woeful Alien Vs. Predator movies. Twenty three years after Arnie nearly came a cropper in the wilds of Guatemala we find ourselves deep in the jungle again being hunted by predators even bigger than the one in the first movie. This time the jungle is on an alien planet where a race of predators has dropped off a random group of humans so that they can skin them for sport.
This film isn’t a reboot, the character Isabelle gives a full account of what happened in the first film and if you look closely you might spot the odd Alien skull lying around. It’s set in modern day but being on an inescapable alien planet means they could get away things that wouldn’t exactly mess with continuity. If the AvP world has some sort of continuity to maintain of course!
Okay it’s not a remake but does a pretty good job of trying to remake the first movie, gang of soldiers getting picked off one by one while looking for the thing that’s hunting them. Some scenes are very reminiscent of the first movie and very reminiscent of a lot of action movies in general. The plot does not have any huge twists and some things can be seen from a mile off. It’s a by the book action flick really. Raised to above average by the acting of some of its stars.
Adrien Brody as Royce is a lot better than I expected him to be, he does dip into his best deep ‘I am Batman’ voice at times but that aside he does a good job as de facto leader. Topher Grace is the understated, quite one. Yet you knew he was going to turn out to be the craziest killer of the lot. Alice Braga, last seen in I Am Legend, is the other of the longest surviving trio and does a solid turn as the only female in the cast. Rodriguez staple Danny Trejo makes an appearance but is dead after about ten minutes and I can’t remember if he said anything of note. Another character that kicks the bucket is Laurence Fishburnes Noland. He appears, says he has survived for ten seasons of the predator hunts then proceeds to lock himself out of his home and gets blown to bits by a predator, a very strange few minutes. They muddy the predator lineage with some predators using weaker predators as bait and Noland describing them as different as dogs and wolves. They hunt for sport where as in other movies it was hunting more as a rite of passage. Also there are not as many predators in this movie as the trailer would have you believe? While the scene with Royce caught in the predators sight is in the movie, it’s only one gun trained on him, not a dozen or so. Why are trailers doing that nowadays? All this being said I guess I was satisfied with Predators. It wasn’t as good as it could have been but it was better than it had any right to be. Action movie fans will get a kick out of it and Predator fans can feel they finally get a half decent movie they wouldn’t mind paying good money to see. But as Little Richards ‘Long Tall Sally’ plays over the end credits, it only serves to remind you that it isn’t as good as the original.

Monday, July 5, 2010

FIFA '96 32X

Here I get around to talking about a game that I got when I finally picked up a 32X during Christmas 1995. The 32-bit Megadrive add-on had been out just over a year, having seen a release the previous November. There was still only a handful of games to pick up for the system. I wanted FIFA because the previous years instalment on the Megadrive kept me occupied for months, what a great game that was. And with the awesome power hidden inside the £170 Sega mushroom add-on, I could sample the new virtual stadium technology without shelling out twice the price to get a 3DO or a Saturn.
Unfortunately to begin with the game didn't work. It would load up to the title screen then when I could get in, I would select quick game only for the match to start with a big green pitch and no players! So, I thought I must have put the 32X together wrong, but no, that wasn't it. Back to the shop for a replacement cartridge, again it refused to work. Next time I brought the 32X back to the shop. Then after about four weeks of waiting I got my, now working, 32X back. Finally 32-bit gaming was in my grasp.
After all this waiting, it's well into the new year now at this stage, the sense of disappointment when I finally got around to playing the game was massive. How could it all go so wrong? It had all the leagues, real player names, various camera angles to choose from. It was missing the commentary but that you can get over if the game played well. Which it didn't! Your players never seemed in control of the ball, you take a shot and the goalie would just dive slowly to the ground with ball in hand, no matter what angle the shot was from, while the camera shuddered to that end of the field to catch up. It looked awkward, untidy and above all unfinished. It was said EA released the game before the 32X became totally unprofitable just to make some money back on it and it was not in a 100% finished state.
Another nail in the coffin for this game was the inability to save your league. You had to sit through a whole season in one sitting. FIFA 95 on the Megadrive had four save states if I remember. On the Options screen you will see a Restore option at the bottom, click in and what do you see? A password input, but you only get a password during Cup competitions. Cups that might only last at most 5 or 6 games. What was the whole point of that?
Now after spending £45 on the game I was not happy, it was a broken mismash, it had the 16-bit intro and titles, while having a poor mans 32-bit ingame engine that didnt match the Saturn or Playstation versions. EA didnt trouble the 32X market again and it limped on for another year before it was all but forgotten. I picked up quite a few 32X games at the time, the next game I bought was the much better Star Wars Arcade, but I only knew one other person who had one. FIFA '96 was by far the worst in my opinion.
It was also only released in europe, it was advertised as coming out in north america but lucky for them they were spared its release. FIFA 97 found its way to all major platforms of the day, sadly the 32X was a only a major discounted, major disappointment by then. Oh what might have been?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sonic The Hedgehog Sticker Album

A look now at the Sonic sticker album from 1994, back when Sonic was the only game in town and everyone and their mother was playing Sonic 3. Nowadays in 2010 there is a new Sonic sticker collection for us to get excited about (or not) as it seems to offer less game screenshots and more coverage of all the friends Sonic has acquired over the years. I remember when the addition of Knuckles seemed like too much.

But it got me thinking, there has been so many Sonic games released in the last ten years that it would probably be far stranger for people to see a Sonic game that didn't include a million wacky characters. For all I know Sonic Riders could have sold more copies than both Dreamcast Sonic Adventure games put together.

Wooooah there Sonic! By the end of the year we should be able to download Sonic 4, it looks pretty good from the videos and screenshots. Plus it only has Sonic in it, so far anyways, but it remains to be seen if this is a game like the Sonic games of old or a game that just reminds you of what you liked about those games while brazenly taking your money and blinding you with speedy HD craziness.

Sorry, where was I? Ya, the sticker book, its wall to wall Sonic game screenshots, almost, there are also some Sonic the cartoon stickers in there with the odd foil sticker. Not forgetting the 4-page pull-out poster that came in the centre of the book. At the back there is a puzzle page, containing a wordsearch, a maze and some spot the difference pictures.

I never filled the whole album, there is nearly always one missing on every page. So frustrating! So has anyone got any spares? Maybe I will pick up that new Sonic album if I come across it after all.
Thats it for the videogame related albums for now. Next up, I make an impassioned plea for help to complete my Saved by the Bell sticker collection!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Street Fighter 2 / Super Street Fighter 2 Sticker Albums

Now a look at both Street Fighter Sticker Albums, first the original. This album has some great Oli Frey artwork all the way through, whether as the background or as some of the stickers. Frey did a lot of Street Fighter covers for various games magazines at the time too.

Like everyone else at the time I played the arcade version, then couldn't wait for the home conversions. Unfortunately the one button C64 tape version I got didn't quite match the arcade machine. I still played it to death though.

But later I got the Special Championship Edition for the Megadrive and played that to death! I would also go as far as to say that it's the better of the two.

Not long afterwards Capcom released Super Street Fighter 2 and Merlin were hot on their heels with the sticker book. This Super SF2 release introduced us to four new characters. Boring caricatures in my opinion, except for Cammy because she's only the second female in the game.
Gone was the Oli Frey artwork, replaced with pictures and screenshots from the game, interesting if you loved playing Street Fighter, ... but not that interesting.

It did have some Ryu artwork at the back showcasing various iterations of the game. No Commodore 64 version this time sadly. And no Super Street Fighter 4 stickers to collect after this years big release. What ever do the kids collect these days?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mortal Kombat II Sticker Album

A quick look at the Mortal Kombat II sticker album this time, I didnt get too many stickers for it so only a few scans . I always preferred Street Fighter as my fighting game of choice back then, Mortal Kombat just never impressed me.

 Stickers were mostly screenshots with the odd hand drawn character foil sticker, so nothing too interesting then.

Each page has an action packed scene from the Mortal Kombat game (kind of) as a background. The art is fine but not as good as the Oliver Frey art you find in the Street Fighter 2 sticker album, which I will post up later.

I always picked Johnny Cage, then they went and killed him! Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 would be my favourite of the MegaDrive games and I haven't really played any after that. There must be a million characters in the MK universe now but no sign of a new sticker book.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nintendo Sticker Album

Back in the day sticker collecting was hugely popular (is it still popular?). Here is a look at some pages from the Official Nintendo Sticker Album. It was released around the time of Super Mario Bros 3 and the release of the original Gameboy. This must have been one of the first videogame related sticker albums, as it predates all the other ones I had, Sonic, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat 2 etc. but we will get to those later.

It acted as a guide to all the Mario and Zelda NES games along with some of the Gameboys early releases, it was usually stickers of screenshots of the game with some gameplay hints, some stickers were of the characters in the games, some drawn better than others!

This is the centre page, I only managed to get one foil sticker for it, how embarrassing! The next page was of various NES and Gameboy games you could buy right now, don't you just hate missing only one sticker on a page.

Golf on the Gameboy, has anyone got sticker No. 244? Super Mario Land, some pages had a map of the game to help you see screens that you had to play through.

The first Zelda, the maps were a great help, no more aimless wondering. I don't remember the old ladies being this creepy in the game though!

Zelda 2. Note the lack of best scores written in, I never had this game as a kid, it looked good in the sticker book though.

Can some one tell me is Mario drunk/in love/stoned or what?
After 20 years I've finally given up hope of completing the album, the local shop that I got my packets of stickers from probably wont be ordering them in again as it closed down about eight years ago.

Iron Man 2

This month’s big release and currently raking it in at the box office is Iron Man 2. Robert Downey Jr. once again plays billionaire industrialist playboy Tony Stark. He is joined once again by Gwyneth Paltrow and John Favreau. In the sequel Don Cheadle takes over the role of Iron Mans friend War Machine from Terrence Howard. Howard apparently had a falling out with Marvel after the first movie. Both fine actors and Cheadle does a good job as Tonys friend caught between the government and their friendship.
The main baddie of the movie is Ivan Vanko, a jilted Russian scientist who is out to ruin Tony Stark at any cost. He is played by Mickey Rourke, as a man of few words and even fewer resources until he is helped out by Tonys rival industrialist billionaire, Justin Hammer. Hammer is played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell. Every time he is on screen it’s a joy to watch.
Smaller roles are given to Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury trying to convince Tony to join the Avengers, Scarlett Johansson pops up as Nick Furys spy Natasha Romanoff. Tony Stark does have a soft spot for beautiful women.
If you liked the first movie then chances are you are going to love this second one, in my opinion the sequel is the better of the two. You get a great turn from Robert Downey Jr., could you really see anyone else playing Tony Stark? Rockwell is excellent as Justin Hammer and I hope he returns if there is to be another movie made, which there will be I’m sure. The story fleshes out this whole Avengers Initiative that Marvel is working toward while showing us more of Starks life, his relationship with his father, his alcoholism etc. It’s a much more rounded movie.
Two things did disappoint me with the film though, I had looked forward to seeing Tony Stark racing his Formula 1 car around the streets of Monaco but as soon as he sat in to race; Whiplash was tearing up the track! That’s a minor gripe, I know. Also the BIG end battle against Whiplash and all those Hammer drones was painfully short for my liking. They all looked impressive but it was missing a bit of mecha action in my mind. Not big enough complaints to turn you away from the movie though.

It’s written by Justin Theroux who also did Tropic Thunder, so there are lots of funny lines in there. Garry Shandling as Senator Stern trying to get Stark to hand over his Iron Man suit to the government has some gems. Along with Tonys usual quips and putdowns which are very clever, or maybe Downey Jr. is just so good at playing the prick we let him get away with it. Either way this is a great movie, definitely worth seeing and leaves a lot of scope for a third movie which hopefully won’t turn out like recent third movie comic book outings, X-Men, Spidey I’m looking at you!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Worlds of Power!

 Here is a quick look at some videogame related books. The Worlds of Power books were published at the height of NES popularity during 90-91 and were based upon the big selling games of the day. Here are the first three, I show these because these are the UK releases and the covers are different from the US books. The stories were based as closely to the in-game plot as the authors could manage. While Ninja Gaiden for instance had a complete story to work off of, with the Blaster Masters story they just made stuff up to fill the gaps.
At the end of some chapters you find a hint box that helps you with playing the game. It’s typed upside down so you would have to turn the book to read it. Hopefully most eager games players could crack that code and be privy to such gems as ‘To beat the Barbarian, throw small shuriken, then hit him with you sword’ from Ninja Gaiden. Invaluable. The books are also littered with sound effects from the games in the narrative such as, Yeeeeeeaaaackk, Dzzzzzit, Shcrrraaawwwwwk-clunk, Ffffoshhh etc.


The books were aimed at videogame hungry kids in an effort to get them to read. At the end of each book there is a recommended reading section from the books creator F.X. Nine (hint: ton sih laer eman) So after finishing Blaster master you might like to read The War of The Worlds or after you put down Metal Gear you might enjoy All Quiet on the Western Front. Then go and write into magazines and complain that not enough literary classics get turned into videogames I presume.
In the Metal Gear novel Solid Snake is named as one Justin Halley and  as a member of the Snake Men? He doesn’t shoot anyone and speaks very softly throughout the book and at the end he let CaTaffy escape, not that he’s happy about that mind.

The Encyclopedia of Game Machines was written by Winnie Forster and published by GamePlan in 2006; it is an excellent full colour soft back that covers hundreds of computers and games consoles from 1972 onwards. It is part of a trilogy of books being done by Forster. Games Machines, Game peripherals and finally just games themselves. This is the only one released in English at the moment, the second book, Joysticks, has been released in German only. This year a more up-to-date edition of this book is due to be released.

I show some random page scans (apologises, my scanner is not the best) just to give a taste of what this book is like. It is a very well put together list of exotic oddities and more common machines that we used to play games on. It has notes on how many games were released and what was the best or most interesting software for each. It has hundreds upon hundreds of pictures and screenshots from the Magnavox Odyssey right up to the PSP. At 224 pages long it is well worth a read.
This book is a definite must have, but looking around the net, to get it can be a chore, not many copies pop up on eBay, and Amazon list it at between $150-$300. If you do get the chance to pick one up then certainly do, or you could wait for the new edition to come out and try and see if you have better luck tracking down that one.