All posts by Olly

An N64 Port: Worth $375 million?

I had the opportunity to play the new demo disc from the US Official Xbox Magazine today, containing the first playable demos of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Conker: Live and Reloaded. I’ve enjoyed the other Splinter Cell’s tremendously and this one looks to be as good, if not better – very much more of the same, but with some incredible graphics for the Xbox (can’t wait to see it running on a decent PC) and some very cool new abilities such as the ability to cut through fabric walls such as tents and the ability to throw or push your captives to their deaths. If you liked the other ones you’ll certainly like this.

The other thing was Conker: Live and Reloaded, an upgraded port of Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64 and Rare’s first major Xbox release since they were purchased by Microsoft in 2002. They’re throwing in what is supposedly a very robust Xbox Live version of the N64’s underused multiplayer component (the “Live” part of the title) as well as an admittedly very impressive graphical overhaul with some of the best fur effects since Sulley in Monsters Inc. You have to ask, however, whether Rare have been a good investment so far. Their prolific and high-standard N64 output has given way to a trickle of Xbox games, so far consisting of Grabbed By The Ghoulies (average score of 7.1) and Kameo, a former GameCube game. Add an N64 port to that list and you haven’t exactly got a huge return on $375 million.

I can only assume that they’re going to have a sizable presence in the early days of the Xbox 2, with a possible Perfect Dark 2 being a substitute for an unlikely Halo 3 appearance and Banjo-Kazooie attempting to fill the hole that Blinx has tried and failed to. As a Microsoft second-party they must have access to the new Xbox hardware in some form and they must have done something over the last couple of years, after all.

My new digital camera also arrived today. I’m still playing around with it but I’m impressed both with the camera and with the service of Jack In The Box Electrical, who I got it from for £137 below the retail price. I might post some in-depth impressions once I’ve had some time to get a feel for it.

Shenmue Review & New Camera

As if you needed any proof that I’m always at the forefront of the gaming scene there’s a new review of Sega’s Dreamcast classic, Shenmue, here (as always, you can find it on the reviews page at any time). I’m occasionally going to review one of my old favourites just so I can wallow in nostalgia, so I hope that when I do it you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed going back and playing them again.

I’ve never really had a good digital camera and I want one to take to Japan in September, so I’ve dropped the cash for the Panasonic DMC-FX2. A friend of mine bought the DMC-FX7 (reviewed here) which is the same thing but with a 5MP CCD instead of 4MP and a 2.5″ screen instead of 2″. I got the FX2 and a 1GB SD card for about £200 in total and the camera should arrive tomorrow, so I’ll probably post some feedback then.

Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Cartoons

Last night Channel 4 showed the latest of their ‘100 Greatest’ series, unsurprisingly fronted by Jimmy Carr, the 100 Greatest Cartoons. It should perhaps have been titled something more akin to the 100 Greatest Animations since it’s debatable whether 3D animation and more mature animation like Akira and Fritz The Cat (using “mature” in the loosest possible sense of the word in that case), but the results were interesting.

The Simpsons was an obvious choice for number one and I don’t think anyone expected anything else to win, but I really didn’t expect the public to vote the likes of Family Guy, Spirited Away, The Iron Giant, Akira, Ren & Stimpy, and Princess Mononoke to get such relatively high positions. Shrek didn’t deserve its high placing (watch it in ten years and see how badly it’s dated thanks to the overdone pop culture references) and I’d question whether The Incredibles would place so high if it wasn’t fresh in the mind, but I was definitely impressed with how we represented our taste in animation. Tally ho!

Xbox Cable Recall

The recent announcement that Microsoft were recalling 14.1 million Xbox power cables because of a slight risk of setting alight and destroying everything you own was met with mirth by some. One of my Xboxes was affected but I wasn’t too worried considering that cable had been plugged in for the best part of three years and had powered two Xboxes without once killing anyone, but I sent off for the replacement anyway. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

On Saturday I got home from work around lunchtime to find a package had arrived with “Xbox Protection Cable” slapped on the side – no great surprise that it was the new Xbox cable. I was faily impressed with what was in the box – a cable with it’s own dedicated surge protector and buttons to test and reset it. For all their elaborate new cables though, Microsoft apparently couldn’t tell which plug the UK used. Some idiot sent me one with a European plug.

I could have understood the blunder had the package come from wage slaves in the Far East, but this had been packaged, labelled, and sent by someone within the UK to a UK address with a non-UK plug. How exactly does someone not notice this when it’s sent out? I called Microsoft and was informed, from a French call centre no less (I thought the point of outsourcing call centres was to send them to places where people would work for nothing), that I was one of many calling in with the same problem and that I’d now have to wait 4-6 weeks for a replacement to make its way to me.

Just when they thought having to put that a falling Xbox could kill small children in the manual wasn’t embarrassing enough, we find out that they can burn you alive. Then they taunt you with the fact that you’re powerless against your Xbox’s malignity by giving you a weapon that is useless to fight it.

My tinfoil hat tells me that it’s all part of Microsoft’s plan to enslave the people of world under the mastery of their home appliances. You may already know too much…

Missing the Boat to Azeroth

World of Warcraft

Saving for my September trip to Japan is draining all of my money which means that £30 on a game and £8.99/month to play it is simply out of the question at the moment, and that makes me sad.

My experience with the MMORPG genre is limited to say the least, consisting of around 20 hours of Phantasy Star Online (if that’s even a real MMO), a few hours on last year’s E3 demo of Guild Wars, and a couple of hours on the European City of Heroes beta. Until I decided that I was going to Japan I was saving my proverbial MMO cherry for World of Warcraft, knowing from the early buzz that it was going to be something special.

Indeed it is a very special game, with Blizzard doing what they do best by almost perfecting a genre on their first attempt while the competition spend years fixing bugged and flawed games, launch issues aside. As I regular on IGN’s PC General Board I read about people pouring days into it, and Penny Arcade‘s blanket coverage and outpouring of praise didn’t help my situation. As it stands I’ve still yet to set foot in Azeroth and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve missed the boat.

By now the vast majority of players will be fairly experienced and will know the ropes, so I know that as soon as I drop it as a little lvl. 1 thing with no clue what I’m doing, I’m going to be the n00b of the bunch for a long time. I will have missed out on those early days of intrepid exploration as people make the first ventures into the wider world, and there won’t be much for me to find that others haven’t already seen and told the world about already.

By the time I’ll have any spare money to play it at all it’s going to be October, the boat will probably have well and truly sailed with only the die-hard obsessives remaining, and there will be something else on the horizon. The last thing I want to do is be stuck playing with the kinds of bottom dwellers who get pissed off with you if you don’t roleplay your part. Maybe the game’s popularity will be enduring and I’ll have my chance to play it, but with so many other games to come in the meantime am I going to care? Time will have to tell on that one.