Category Archives: Travel

Returning to Japan

AkihabaraIt’s been 11 years since I last went to Japan, which seems particularly long given that I went twice in the space of a year back then.

I’m going back in less than a month, and this time will be particularly interesting. For one thing, I’m going with a much reduced interest in games, which was always one of the attractions before. I’ll check in at Akihabara once or twice, of course, and I might try to squeeze in a visit to Yokosuka, but this time I’m going to be travelling all over, from Osaka to Hiroshima, Hakone to Miyajima. Maiko performances and onsens rather than afternoons spent in Super Potato. I’ll be with friends, most of whom have never been before and couldn’t care less about whether my Dreamcast games have spine cards.

I doubt I’ll be doing anything resembling blogging beyond a few updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But expect photography. Lots and lots of photography. I have two cameras, unlimited data, a lot of cloud storage and, by god, I know how to use them.

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.