Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday papers

I just read some of the Sunday papers. Sickening. Most (if not all) had Saddam on the front page. Way to go in promoting a martyr. Shockingly, The Independent on Sunday was the worst of the lot, putting a picture of a dead Saddam on the front page. Sometimes even common sense by the anti-war paper seem to outweigh their desire to sell more papers. Wait, that is common sense, at least from a marketing point of view.

Can we get back to talking about Diana instead?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Depressing weather

Damn, just when you thought that the temperate has improved in your favour (8-10C) the bloody wind picks up again and soon enough the rain arrives. Did about 12 miles of cycling on the road today before heading back due to the rain. Dreadful and depressing times ahead. On the other hand I found the HummVee shorts great. The Teflon treated nylon material kept most of my skin dry. It isn't completely water resistant but still dries quick. And although thin and light the shorts works well in keeping my knees warm. I guess those guys up north in Scotland knows what they are doing when they designed it.

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So Saddam got hanged...

I guess now we will never know the extent of how much the US, and other civilised nations, supplied Iraq with WMDs and assisted them in the killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent people during the Iraq-Iran war and through subsequent slaughters (including the supposed knowledge by the US on the use of chemical warfare on Kurds)?

So when will we ever see Dubya & co. be placed on a trial for crimes against humanity?

Friday, December 29, 2006

MTB Impressions: Endura HummVee 3/4 baggy shorts

Okay I checked out the sales and fortunately nothing has so far interested me. So post Christmas January sales spent = £0. Only one thing caught my fancy but since it wasn't on sale...

Jen got me an Endura HummVee 3/4 knicker shorts. No idea why some MTB shops call baggies 'knickers' (it's an American thing), but I digress. It is really comfy and 3/4 meant that it is ideally suited for riding in the winter. Two zipped side vents meant that I could also use it during some of the hot summer heatwaves. It is loaded with pockets. These includes the two rear pockets capable of fitting in standard Ordnance Survey Explorer/Landranger folded maps. It seems useless to anything other than maps since both are secured by a tiny patch of velcro.

There are also two front zipped pockets for apples, a cargo pocket (whatever that means) and a zipped mobile phone pocket (which I will probably dump my wallet or camera in it as my HTC Universal won't be able to fit in it). A key clip hangs from the left hip, which I won't be using. I would not want to risk a crash with keys dangling around. As a bonus it came with a removable 'Clickfast' coolfast (Lycra) padded liner. It isn't as comfy as my Nike liner though.

The whole construction of the Hummvee is pretty good. I like the fact that the inner leg panel is seamless, which in my experience meant that it is more durable, and comfortable. Since the short came in neutral black (there are different colour options) it doesn't really look like a technical singletrack attire, thus probably able to blend in with my casuals. I was actually hoping on getting an Oakley Ballistic for myself, but those are ridiculously expensive (though they look awesome), plus I do not know of any brick shops that sells them.

Hopefully my flu will recover by tomorrow as I can't wait to get back in the saddle.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cross dressing gamers

I hardly play MMOs, but if I do ever get back into Guild War, I assume I would probably select a female character as my avatar. Probably the same with SecondLife, WoW and Phantasy Star Online. Again if I ever bother with MMOs (which I haven't yet, thankfully). But as far as single player games go, I almost always choose to play a female character if given the choice (which is probably why it was easy for me to create a list of female gaming characters I like)

Firstly I just hate stereotypical aggressive male character design, though I love to play the stereotypical sexy female character design. If I have no choice I rather play as an effeminate male character than a butch one.

Female video game characters just happens to be a whole lot more interesting than males. If designers put more effort into designing interesting male characters than the usual tough looking guy, then maybe yeah. Anyway it isn't wrong or anything. I am after all just role-playing.

Then there is the benefit to picking female characters, especially in role-playing games. Their stats suits my style. If I want to train up as a mage I rather have a female than a weird looking Arnie styled dude. Female characters also tend to have better agility, which suits my game style even more.

Personally I rather look at a shapely female model than an ugly male model with fugly textures.

Also Jenni loves to play as the stereotypical aggressive male. So it goes both ways. What I find shocking though is judging by the level of comments at Kotaku, it seems that many male gamers also prefer to play as a female especially in MMORPGs. I have always thought it was just me.

So what about you? Do you role-play as a character from the opposite sex if given the choice?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More top something lists

So Eurogamer has started the countdown to the top 50 games of 2006. Can't wait to see the outcome of the forums! This is my list (complimentary to that other list). Only games that I have played, released this year, either in Europe, Japan or America qualifies.

Top 15 Games of 2006

1. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the King (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2, Japan)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Sony Computer Entertainment, PS2, Japan)
3. Final Fantasy III (Square Enix/Matrix, DS, Japan)
4. Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Capcom Production Studio 4, DS, Japan)
5. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
6. Elite Beat Agents (iNiS, DS, Japan)
7. Half-Life 2: Episode One (Valve, PC, USA)
8. Metroid Prime Hunters (Nintendo Software Technology, DS, USA)
9. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (Square Enix/Tose, DS, Japan)
10. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda, PC, USA)
10. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
11. Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Atlus, DS, Japan)
12. Contact (Grasshopper, DS, Japan)
14. Professor Kawashima's Brain Training (Nintendo, DS, Japan)
15. Gunpey DS (Q Entertainment, DS, Japan)

For a year when finally all three so called "next-gen" consoles are out, it may be a surprised to some that my list lacked any. Well I couldn't get a Wii. Nintendo decided it needed to screw up the European launch. Hell people with pre-orders dating to early November has yet to received their units this side of Christmas. Sony Computer Entertainment decided that Europe isn't worth it as far as the PS3 is concerned. Hell at £425 I would wait 3-4 years and 4-5 price cuts later, and maybe a PS3 slimline, to even consider getting one. As for the 360, nothing I have seen caught my fancy. I love old fashioned generic FPS and the 360 no doubt will have plenty of it. But I hate playing shooters using the joypad.

DS games dominated my gaming life in 2006, as some of you probably know. Personally one of my mate has got back into gaming via Nintendo's DS and we managed to coax another mate of ours into getting one. She has been having a wild of a time, although she is having difficulty in getting her boyfriend to join.

My PC is pretty out of date so the only game I got to enjoy was Half-Life 2: Episode One. Oblivion was great but I think I will have to upgrade my PC to fully enjoy it. There were a couple of great games for PS2, but the two I am looking forward to (FFXII & Okami) won't be released in Europe until 2007. I never liked Guitar Hero anyway so it is obviously missing from the list. Dragon Quest VIII was only released in Europe early this year but it was worth the wait. Excellent, but not over the top, anime cel-shaded graphics, combined with brilliant British and European voice acting, symphony opera soundtrack, old school RPG menu combat system and old fashioned plot made this a simple but utterly addictive game.

Games personally looking forward to in 2007:

Assassin's Creed (Ubisoft Montreal, PC, Canada)
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (EA, PC, USA)
Dragon Quest IX: Protectors of the Starry Sky (Square Enix/Level 5,DS, Japan)
Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, PS2, Japan)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo EAD, DS, Japan)
Lunar Knights (Kojima Production/Konami, DS, Japan)
No More Heroes (Grasshopper Manufacture, Wii, Japan)
Okami (Clover Studios, PS2, Japan)
Rogue Galaxy (Level-5, PS2, Japan)
Shin Migami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (Atlus, PS2, Japan)
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (tri-Ace, PS2, Japan)
Seiken Densetsu: Dawn of Mana (Square Enix, PS2, Japan)

Top 15 music albums of 2006

1. Appleseed Cast "Peregrine"
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah"
3. Dirty Pretty Things "Waterloo to Nowhere"
4. Hot Chip "The Warning"
5. Belle & Sebastian "The Life Pursuit"
6. Camera Obscura "Let's Get Out of This Country"
7. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins "Rabbit Fur Coat"
8. Delays "You See Colours"
9. Islands "Return to the Sea"
10. Muse "Black Hole and Relevations"
11. The Kooks "Inside In/Inside Out"
12. The Killers "Sam's Town"
13. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan "Ballad of the Broken Seas"
14. Guillemots "Through the Windowpane"
15. The Zutons "Tired of Hanging Around"

Some may remember 2006 as the year of the Arctic Monkeys. I did not. Seriously I have never ever seen anything special in the brand of "post-punk" dribble, so I wouldn't even bother to describe my amazement that they even managed to snag the desired but rather pointless Mercury Prize.

Appleseed Cast's Peregrine is an intense but beautiful album. There is a balanced mixture of instrumentals, indie rock with soaring guitars and the odd electronic numbers. Clearly album of the year for me. The Killers

Also went through my blog and deleted most of the numerical ratings that accompanied my reviews, in line with Richard and British Gaming Blog. I say most 'cause some I've left untouched (because the review was so short that a rating probably meant more than the text itself and because I can't be bothered to edit all my posts). Anyway removed said numbers. Texts means more than numbers, and even for an insignificant blog like this, I prefer if people actually read my posts than skimming straight to the rating.

Two days after Christmas...

Something utterly disturbing I found while browsing teh Interweb.


via MediaWatchWatch

For a CoE country, Britain does have a lax attitude when it comes to religion. According to a Guardian/ICM poll, 82% of people in Britain believes that religion does more harm than good, which is pretty true. Apparently non-believers outnumbers believers by two to one, although I find that questionable as the same poll also concludes that half of those considers themselves Christians. I know it doesn't make much sense, but many people I know affiliate themselves to the CoE, but doesn't actually believe in a being commonly known as god.

Oh well, anyway the sale has already begun. I sneaked into town to check out some of the bargain bins. Nothing has so far impressed me. GAME has Yakuza for £10 and HMV has Bully for £18. CEX still has the unsold Wii for £350. Who the bloody hell would drop £350 after Christmas, for an open boxed Wii that has been exposed to the sunlight???

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas lunch, an excuse to binge eating

Roasted boneless lamb leg joint glazed with redcurrent and rosemary, served with roasted potatoes, boiled veggies and roasted yorkshire pudding. Not as great as those slow-mo M&S ads, but you get the idea.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas repeats

Just had a look through the TV guide and guess what? Repeats after repeats. How many times are they expecting us to go through Chicken Little and Babe? Desperate Housewives can't start soon enough. At least we have the new Doctor Who and Vicar of Dibley to look forward to.


Bishop calls for veil legislation

Of course he would be against the veil, he is a bishop after all. Wasn't he the one who made that pretty dumb 'double standards' comment? The one where he accused an opposing religion of hypocrisy (which organised religion isn't guilty of double standards?)? You would think this side of Christmas people would learn to just shut up, at least for the next few days. Happy Winterval indeed. I wonder what is his policy on veils worn by nuns and OAPs?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hooked on Dragon Quest VIII

Bloody hell, the streets are so quiet. The town is, well, like a ghost town. Everybody has probably just buggered off to live in some airport. I am in Jenni's flat and the whole flat is dead, which is fine cuz we can turn on the volume of the telly up a notch. It is depressing though. Maybe we can go off for a bike ride tomorrow or something.

I also introduced Dragon Quest VIII to Jenni, and after a short tutorial on the logic of menu driven turn based combat system (she is a fan of action based combat), she got hooked into the game. She has since hogged the telly and the only thing I am allowed to do is prepare the meals and sulked in the corner.

Saw a Wii on sale at CEX. They were buying it for £290 cash and are selling it back to the public for 350 quid. Quite the mark-up over the £180 recommended retail price. Apparently it has been there for days. With a day of Christmas shopping to go, hopefully there isn't anybody idiotic/desperate enough to let CEX get away with it.

Top 10 female video game characters of all time

Chun-Li (Street Fighter series)

Jessica Albert (Dragon Quest VIII)

Cate Archer (No One Lives Forever series)

Samus Aran (Metroid series)

Elexis Sinclaire (SiN)

Kasumi (Dead or Alive series)

Jill Valentine (Resident Evil series)

Sniper Wolf (Metal Gear Solid)

Claire Redfield (Resident Evil series)

Isabella Valentine (Soul Calibur series)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jon's "Christmas Awards" 2006

EDGE's Christmas issue is due in the shops any day now. With it the annual Christmas Awards were announced, with Final Fantasy XII getting game of the year. Which is great and all but since FF XII isn't out in PAL territory until next year I guess it is all conjecture, at least for me. Here are my "Christmas Awards" for gaming in 2006...

Best Game
Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King (Square Enix, PS2)

In many ways Dragon Quest VIII is one of the best games you can ever play in recent history. Sure RPG haters will naturally hate this, but even Jennifer, who traditionaly shun turn based combat games has learnt to love this. At first, due to the narrative, then progressively the combat system. Combined with great visuals, excellent British voice acting and stunning orchestra, this really does deserve game of the year, even if it came here more than a year later.

Satoru Iwata (Nintendo)

Console Game
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Sony Computer Entertainment, PS2)

Portable Game
1. Final Fantasy III (Square Enix/Matrix Software, DS)
2. Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Capcom Production Studio 4, DS)

Best Innovation
1. Nintendo Wii
2. Professor Kawashima's Brain Training (Nintendo EAD, DS)

Best Visual Design
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix/Level 5, PS2)
2. Shadow of the Colossus (Square Enix, PS2)

Best Audio Design
1. Dragon Quest VIII (Square Enix, PS2)
2. Uhm, nothing else strikes me as unique

Best Developer
1. Nintendo EAD (Japan)
2. Square Enix (Japan)

Best Publisher
1. Nintendo Japan (Nintendo Europe gets worst publisher)
2. Atlus

Best Online Experience
1. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo EAD, DS)
2. Gaming blogs and fanboys during E306

Best Hardware
1. Nintendo DS Lite
2. Sony PS2 Slimline (I know it came out in 2005)

Idiot(s) of the year
1. Jack Thompson and anti-gaming lobby.
2. Idiots who started class action lawsuits on Nintendo due to Wii strap 'issue'.

BTW, Jenni just got Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening and she loves it. I had no idea she is into this sort of games!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

London Eye

Been here for ages but never been on the London Eye, until this week. By taking advantage of the Oyster Card offers you get half price of the tickets (BOGOF). The weather was shit but the view was still stunning. Even Battersea power station was visible. The journey only lasts for 30 minutes but is probably worth it, even for Londoners. Best check it out during the off-peak season.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii hands-on

Woo-hoo... not. There isn't a Wii to play on. It is still factory sealed if anyone wants it. I will play with the GameCube version instead and give a proper hands-on account then.

Since I haven't (can't) played it yet I will just describe the box. It is nice (apart from the white box that it came in - Wind Waker came in a golden coloured box) and the artwork is splendid. Link, in both his original humanoid form, and his wolf form in the Twilight Realm, appears on the box. The backside has no description on what the game is, apart from how to play the game with a WiiMote and a note on how this is the biggest Zelda adventure of all time. See most books, games and DVDs, and the back side is mainly populated by plot summary. I hope this won't be a norm on future Wii games, as I found it unnatural. Zelda games are popular for its narrative, not the way it's controlled!!!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

10 material Christmas wish list

Well since Richard has done one, I guess I should get going with mine.

1. Nintendo Wii
2. Kona Kula Supreme / Felt RXC Pro / Specialized Stuntjumper Expert
3. A new PC that actually uses less electrical power
4. Final Fantasy XII, for PAL
5. Nip/Tuck and Six Feet Under in High Definition
6. Authentic New York style cheese cake
7. Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book, in English
8. A new FPS/TPS game that doesn't have the usual generic aliens/monsters enemies, plot-lines, unrealistic heroes that doesnt wear helmets and cheesy voice acting
9. Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rose-Colored Rupee Land, in English
10. Complete 2007 Shimano XTR (and SRAM X.0 rear mech) groupset

My 10 wish list for Christmas later in the week.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Technology makes us dumb, apparently

"Technology isolation syndrome" is the reason that people are dumber than they use to be, according to research sponsored by Tesco (who plans to con people combat this by releasing an "internet phone technology" - which already exists in the form of VoiP). The research points out that teens have lower vocabulary than those in their mid 20s to mid 30s and games and music are to be blamed. Surprising isn't it, yes but, no but...?

via Guardian Gamesblog


I was at a GameStation store yesterday and the guy in front of me was buying the following:

3x Wii Remotes
1x Wii Classic Controller
1x The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess for Wii
1x Madden 07 for Wii
1x Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz for Wii
1x The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess strategy book

Nothing wrong with wasting around £240 (though why bother with a strategy book when you can download free FAQs) especially if you can afford it, but this customer didn't have an actual Wii console. He was stocking up regardless. Nintendo, it must be great to have the amount of money coming your way, but for people to actually play those games that they bought, they must also own the console. Good luck to him, but I suspect that this guy's recent purchases will see no action before Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sonic/Mario GAME gift cards / Dragon Quest IX on DS!

I don't normally go for GAME stuff but these gift cards are awesome. Great for any fans of Sonic and Mario. Too bad the new Sonic the Hedgehog game blows. Pokemon (Pikachu) and The Sims 2 (bleh!) cards are also available.

Anyone moaning the lack of RPG goodness on the DS platform should send letters to thankfulness to Yuji Horri. After one successful Dragon Quest spin-off and another one on the way, the creator of the series has decided to bring the next major installment (numbered) of the series, Dragon Quest IX, to the DS platform. And it won't be a spin-off either. The early build looks great. Combat will move from turn based to action orientated (ala Mana series), which may enrage some hardcore fans. But to me RPG isn't about the combat system, it is about role-playing. This is why the genre is called RPG (role-playing game).

The super deformed characters reminds me a whole lot of the SNES era and this wil solidify the DS as the new SNES. Fixed consoles like the Wii and PS3 may have better graphics than portables, but with people like me always on the move, bringing one of the best series to a (successful) portable platform may actually pay off for Squenix. By the way, it will be developed by Level 5, the developers who made the pretty Dragon Quest VIII.

Waiting for the inevitable special edition Dragon Quest DS Lite. My enamel navy DS Lite is getting seriously needing a replacement. I counted about six specks of dusts under the touch screen. Bloody annoying, especially in the sun.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jenni's surprise birthday party

We held a surprise birthday party for Jenni yesterday. Had a great time. Here are some pictures:

Absolutely freezing today. Had to go back to London in minus temperature. The NatEx coach I took had a busted heater too.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Christmas controversy

India nuclear export okay according to US.

Bloody fucking hypocrite!


Ooo... about 15 days to Christmas and we already have a Christian vs Seculars, Muslims Vs Christians, believers Vs non-believers etc. war of words going on through the mass media. With nothing like Jerry Springer: The Opera planned on the BBC, I thought we would have a boring December. But no... Let me say this, this Christmas will be a lively one.

First up, Muslim Association of Britain has decided that after the way the right wing media managed to kill of any possible release of Rule of Rose video game, they thought that they could do the same - this time on a crap game based on crap Christian books, titled Left Behind: Eternal Forces. In this RTS title you command a Christian army, out and about killing non-believers (apparently modeled after the UN). Wow. The Times reported (wrongly) that the game could be heading for the best seller chart (didn't they know how un-Christian Britain is?). They also failed to mention that progressive Christians in the US has already condemned the game. Even seculars are joining in, but fortunately stop short of calling a ban, instead respecting our rights to make decisions on our own.

Next up, Channel 4 has decided to drum up some kind of controversy, by inviting a veiled Muslim lady to deliver the 'alternative Christmas message' - which is kind of stupid, even by C4's standard. But it brings in the kind of irrelevant religious debate that we are hoping for. First strike by Christian Voice UK's Stephen Green: "The niqab is a veil of separation between Muslims and the indigenous Christian community. This will expose multi-culturalism for what it is – a bias against the indigenous Christian population". But nobody takes him seriously so nobody bothered to reply.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A Wii dilemma

I had a dream last night that I took the tube to Central London at 6am and walked into GAME's flagship store in Oxford Circus and purchased a Wii box (which isn't going to happen, because by 6am everything would be sold out), sans Twilight Princess. It is weird because up until then, I rather delay getting it until sometime next year when more quality games are available (It took half a year before developers started making good games on the DS). I still won't get it this weekend, but now the thought of getting it during the launch window will always be hanging over my head. Ah hell, at least I can look forward to the new Castlevania game this Christmas.

BTW always remove your socks when walking down a carpeted stairs. It really fucking hurts if you slipped...

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Christmas isn't that offensive

I love it when right-wingers whinge about the 'secularisation' of Christmas and hiding behind their favourite 'political correctness gone mad' sayings. I mean many of us non-believers love Christmas too. It gives us a chance to sample booze and looking forward to capitalism's greatest and only gift to us - the massive January sales, during which when we can laugh at the hundreds of Chinese girls queuing up in the cold for outdated Gucci bags.

Christmas to me is about sitting in front of the telly, putting on winter fat, while watching the endless re-runs and Doctor Who specials, and cringing at the latest Tim Allen bomb. Anyway it isn't like Christmas is the celebration of Christianity, when all they did was nicking the festival from the pagans.

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