Category Archives: Travel

Passage to India

A couple of hours from now I’ll be on my way to India for a couple of weeks, my first foreign trip since I went to New York in 2009. I don’t think I’ll be going on a tour of the major locations from Temple of Doom or anything, but you never know. In any case, a trip like this is long overdue.

And it better be good, considering how many injections, visa applications and unexpected expenses I suffered for this jaunt.

I’m doing without my computer and phone, so my connectivity will depend on Internet cafes and my ability to remember my 30-character gibberish logins without 1Password, so don’t expect what updates I make to be particularly verbose. But I do plan to take a lot of photos and video, having finally replaced old faithful with another Lumix, and will post them here and on Twitter. I don’t often test WordPress’s gallery functionality, but when I do, I do it during altitude acclimatisation in the Himalayas.

Reports of my demise and so on…

It’s funny how getting out of the games media, despite leaving this site as largely my only outlet for writing about games at a time when a long-overdue generational shift has left plenty to talk about, has led to me writing almost nothing. Seriously, apart from last year’s top ten and coming out of retirement for one freelance review, posting on GAF is all I’ve done.

I aim to change that. I’ve given the place a facelift, and now I’m going to be more regular in posting impressions and opinion pieces. Honest.

My biggest dereliction of duty has been nothing about my PS4, as letting the opportunity to post impressions on  a new piece of hardware would once have been unthinkable. I’m more positive than a lot of places have been, being happy with the price/performance ratio and the focus on gaming at the expense of multimedia functionality, which will no doubt come through future firmware updates. It’s nice to have a non-evil Sony back, and I’m even hopeful at the prospect of the benevolent dictator situation that gave us such a great library in the PS2 generation. But maybe that’s from spending too long on NeoGAF.

The biggest criticism of the new hardware has been entirely predictable, as it happens every single generation: no games. I disagree. I loved Infamous: Second Son enough to make it my first platinum trophy, have put over 120 hours into Battlefield 4, and enjoyed Ground Zeroes (don’t pay more than £20), Assassin’s Creed IV, and the freebies from PS Plus. I liked Tomb Raider enough to give that another crack once the definitive version reaches a more justifiable price too. Just don’t be tempted by Killzone; any reviewers who scored it higher than a 5/10 are insane, and Infamous has supplanted it as the essential eye candy.

Admittedly I have been playing the PS3 more than the PS4, but Dark Souls II and Final Fantasy X HD are no mere games. The former captured my interest more than either of its predecessors and will happily be upgraded if the rumoured PS4 version turns out to exist.

But like I said, a software drought happens every generation, so you should at least give it a year before you start worrying. If you bought a PS4 without expecting this, you must be new at this early adopting lark.

In other news, a little over a month from now I’ll be heading to India for a fortnight, spending time in the Himalayas and the desert of Rajasthan. I’m not sure what sort of network access I’ll have apart from the odd forays into towns with Internet cafes, but whether they come before or after my return, this and Twitter will be my main repositories for photos for those at home. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

And no, I still haven’t given up on Shenmue.

So Bad They Named It Twice

It had been ages since I’ve been abroad, and despite the number of times I’ve visited the States I’d never been to New York, so it’s on that basis that I find myself in my current location: halfway around the world, in a midtown hotel room… on the Internet with my laptop. My excuse is that I’ve walked like 30 miles over the last few days, so get off my back.

New York - Central Park

The first day was spent understanding just how big Manhattan is, as I walked around the Central Park lake, over to Strawberry Fields, down to Times Square, over to the Empire State Building, all the way west and down Hudson River Park to Battery Park, then past the World Trade Center site and back up to my hotel on 57th Street. Anyone who knows the lay of the land will back me up when I say that it’s not an inconsiderable distance, and my poor legs will serve as evidence.

Since then I’ve been on the requisite games and DVDs Blu-ray shopping trip to the local Best Buys, taken in the American Museum of Natural History, and in a minute I’m going to weather the day’s bad… weather to visit the United Nations and the Guggenheim.

My big project, however, is my Ghostbusters geek quest, which has so far taken in 55 Central Park West – also known as the conduit for spiritual activity in New York – and the adjacent Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which looks remarkably good for having been stepped on by Gozer the Destroyer.

New York - 55 Central Park West

Nobody steps on a church in my town, indeed. Coming next: the Ghostbusters headquarters and anything else I happen to stumble across. And the chances of some real-life Fallout 3 touring when I visit Washington DC on Wednesday are pretty good as well. I’m packing some Rad Away as we speak…

Keep an eye on my New York 2009 Flickr set for more photos as I upload them.

The Final Stretch

Tomorrow is our last full day in Japan before we head home on Thursday morning, and it’s going to be spent with some lazing around and last bit of shopping thanks to a blister the size of my head (yes, that big) that’s appeared on my little toe. Quite nasty really.

Over the last couple of days we rinsed our JR Passes by taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto and Nikko where a great deal of temples and shrines are found. I took photos of most of them and the toll taken on my feet by the sheer amount of walking will probably turn out to be catastrophic. We ended it by taking a taxi up to Kegon Falls (an expensive choice, but I wasn’t paying so I don’t care) which was really beautiful.

 

Kegon Falls

Being a gamer, one of the main attractions of coming to Japan is the shopping. I did a bit in Australia (the most interesting being EzyDVD’s limited Serenity tin) but they’re generally in a similar boat to us when it comes to the things I’m interested in – only $1,000 for a PS3! – which makes saving money for Akihabara an obvious choice. This is what I picked up, technology-wise:

  • 30GB iPod – Yep, I went to the dark side and bought a 5G iPod. I just use iTunes and podcasts enough now to justify it, and I love watching Consolevania and The 1UP Show on my MP3 player.
  • Cooking Mama (DS) – Haven’t played it yet since my DS is still in the UK, but I bought it on the strength of a couple of recommendations from people who liked Ouendan.
  • Every Extend Extra (PSP) – It hasn’t clicked with me like Lumines, but it’s an interesting little puzzler. I’ll persevere with it before I draw any conclusions.
  • Goku Makaimura (PSP) – Ultimate Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins to most of you. Just mind-bendingly, masochistically hard. I’m inclined to say that it falls on the wrong side of the line between frustrating and challenging, but again I’ll wait until I’ve been able to put in some real playtime before I condemn it.
  • Jump Superstars (DS) – Again, haven’t played it. Supposedly it’s a very good Smash Bros clone with Shonen Jump characters (DBZ, Naruto, etc).
  • Street Fighter Zero 3: Double Upper (PSP) – I don’t think I need to go into how much I like this game and this is a great version, but the PSP has undoubtably the WORST D-PAD IN THE WORLD. I need to find one of those mods.
  • Tekken: Dark Resurrection (PSP) – Great-looking for a PSP title and a decent game, but it’s still Tekken. Probably the most fun I’ve had with the series since Tekken 2 which really isn’t too hard, but it’s supposed to be a compliment here.
  • Viewtiful Joe (GC) – A classic that I’ve been meaning to pick up since I got my Cube going through component. It only cost me like a fiver anyway. Henshin-a-go-go, baby!

I’m not counting the litres of Grape Fanta and a new discovery, Melon Cream Soda Fanta, in the purchases because then this would turn into some kind of epic love poem. In another game-related story, I went into an arcade in Shibuya and played Virtua Fighter 5 which, if I’m honest, really didn’t blow me away. I do enjoy the series but this wasn’t a big leap by any stretch of the imagination, and rather than looking like a graphical showpiece it looked kind of artificial. I suppose I need to wait to try the PS3 version before I complain too vociferously.

This really will be it until I get home. Can’t wait for it now.