Halo is still a solid shooter without the complexity of more modern entries, which will suit some more than others. The story still carries enough entertainment to make it worth playing for either the first or second time, while the graphics have been cleaned up significantly. There are few other additions and the lack of mulitplayer seems strange, but is understandable given the popularity of Reach. The game instead carries the Anniversary DLC map-pack for Reach, allowing for the traditional maps to be played online. Unfortuantly this game is not full £40, but would have benefited from being a downloadable title.
At the time of writing I am currently stuck on a train somewhere between the real world and Birmingham New Street. I have only phone and Nintedo DS with a dead battery to sustain me. After an hour of sitting here my mind is desperately trying to think of a way to recharge a battery using only my hair and a handful of fluff I found at the bottom of my bag. I cant survive on Angry Birds for much longer…
I’ve been playing for so long all I can think about are piglets weeping over little round coffins…. war is hell.
For reasons beyond my understanding the trains conductor seems to have taken a wrong turn somewhere back by the Five Ways round-about and has driven us all down an abandoned mine shaft. I can only guess that this is fact the approach to New Street Station. The horror builds in the pit of my stomach. For those of you who have never visited this joyous little cavernous abyss, just picture Thomas the Tank Engine meets The Descent.
So why am I heading there? At this stage I really can’t remember. I’ve been stuck here so long I think my eyes are healing over. My spine is degenerating into a hardened exoskeleton and soon my arms will have withered down to nothing. Above me it could be either midday or midnight. I hope its midday, as midnight in Birmingham usually involves getting covered vomit sooner or later.
The conductor has just told us that the ‘slight delay’ has been caused by congestion at the station. This question has probably been addressed before, but just how do you manage to get a congested train station? They’re on tracks. I’ve seen those massive model railways they have down in Cornwall. Hundreds of little engines scurrying about little cardboard hills and comedy nudist beaches. That’s all controlled by just one man with a dial, and they do alright. Why can’t full size trains just work in the same way? When I was three I had a Duplo train set that was more effectively managed, that’s even after I had eaten the wheels.
Terrified Lego citizens flee their plastic town as it is devoured by an unstoppable 3 year old.
My thinking is that we need to copy Japan. Last year, only one in sixty-four million of their trains was late, as is my understanding. We (that is the people England-land) designed the steam engine, and now they get to lord it over us with their reliable, clean, wide-gauge railways? That’s not fair. Although as a side note I do have a suspicion that maybe their network is not as comfortable as they make it out be. I’ve seen that video, with the men in white gloves stuffing people onboard like they’re trying to put away a Pac-a-Mac. I want to see the video from the next stop, when the doors open and everyone sprays out like a bizarre Mentos-Coke Fountain of Japanese commuters.
I am not an expert, (although this is the internet so screw it, I’ll say I’m High Professor of Trains if that makes people listen to me) but why not an extra carriage, Japan? Yes I know people will say ‘but then it will be too long for the platform’. But screw the platform. If you are prepared to cram onto a packed train and come out flatter then the Coyote at the end of a particularly unsuccessful Roadrunner episode, then surly you will be prepared to stand in the mud? Anyway, I should not be so quick to criticise other countries transport systems when in writing the last three paragraphs I’ve only moved about three feet and that was only to throw my hair-fluff power source out the window before it went into melt down.
Picture: Legitimate Transportation Alternative
So what is the solution then? Other than killing myself with the cord from my underpants? I would like to go on record as having been the first to suggest an endless train. One that just keeps going around and back on itself like an escalator. It could be done. Just mind the gap as you leap on and remember to tuck and roll when you dive off again.
Someone, I can’t remember who, suggested paving over the train lines and using them as extra motorways. Okay, I can see that. Filling Birmingham New Street with concrete is an interesting idea. I have a list of other buildings we could bury while we are at it. But are you not just as likely to get stuck on a motorway as you are on a train? On a train you may not be guaranteed a seat, but at least you don’t have to be constantly worrying about the truck driver on his mobile. Unless he’s on the seat next to you, playing Hip-Hop at a volume that would overpower a shuttle launch. Nor do you have to worry about the million other little metal murder boxes sharing the road with you; cutting across lanes and generally shuffling around you like a high-speed Rubix cube of death.
Car or train, basically, we’re boned. Save up for a hovercraft. (Or dig up all major cities and move them closer move together.) Maybe I’m being too hard on the British Transport Network… No wait. No I’m not. The sodding train’s just moved thirty centimetres and stopped again. Maybe there’s a leaf on the line in the tunnel. If so, maybe they would like me to go and pick it up for them.
Now I grow weary and my eyes are dimming… if this rambling rant makes it to the internet, it means I somehow survived. Possibly by eating the chewing gum I found had been used to stick a ticket to the window. If not, someone call for International Rescue.
If there was one video game series I could always rely on for hours of entertainment it was SquareEnix’ Final Fantasy. Back in the days before Skyrim and the ‘open world’ these games would keep me busy for weeks if not months, just what you needed when games only came on birthdays or at Christmas. Entries such as 7, 8 and 9 had completion times of well over 40 hours and that was solid play time, none of that aimless wandering around between objectives like today (well not all the time anyway). Each of those hours was filled with imaginative locales, awesome music and interesting, if often quirky, characters to interact and engage with. It was these characters and their storylines that kept me sitting in front of my tv for hours on end, so just as personal thing I’ve decided to list my top ten Final Fantasy Heros. In order to keep it simple I have decide to only include characters from the main game series, so no spin-offs or sequels. They also they have to be playable in the main game. Here is my party of choice;
Number 10. – Sazh Katroy (FFXIII)
Final Fantasy XIII is never going to be my favourite Final Fantasy. When the trailer came out showing its fluid combat system and awesome theme music, I was really excited. Unfortuantly the rest of the game was no-where near as thrilling. The story was buried in a pile of terminology and half-baked mythology whilst the massive explorable worlds were reduced to a bunch of corridors and a single big field. Maybe because the story was weak, or maybe visa-versa, the characters themselves where not particularly interesting either. The one notable exception was Sazh Katroy. On first appearance he came across as the typical Japanese stereotype of a black person (with all that implies) but as the game moved on I found him to be the most human and well developed of all the party members. Sazh’ plot is centred around him searching for his lost son and doing everything he can to get him back. He acts as the main comic relief, refreshing in a game which really needs to lighten up, but is also well developed as a believable person. When he finds those responsible his reaction is wide range of emotions including anger and depression, however he refuses to let this get the better of him choosing to do what is right instead of giving up. As I played through 13 I was more interested in this guys quest then I was in Lightnings and in feel Square should have made this man their main lead. Also he has a baby Chocobo living in his afro. Thats cool.
Number 9. – Auron (FFX)
Auron is a badass. Stoic and gruff, his personality is defined more cleaving enemies in half then it is with edgy dialogue. Whilst that is not a new thing in video games, or even in a Final Fantasy game, Auron is an example of an archetype done well. Unlike other such characters, he has enough to say to keep him interesting and give him a firm standing in the games plot. Rather then having any strong personal development, he instead acts as the mentor, leading the main character Tidus through his journey and protecting the summoner Yuna as he did her father. The main reason I enjoy Auron is his design. With his pony tail, sunglasses and jar of booze hanging from his belt (which he uses as part of his attacks, yay) he looks like a cyber-punk warrior monk gone bad. His theme music is also pretty cool, with its thumping beat making everything feel more manly as soon as it starts playing.
Number 8. – Cecil Harvey (FFIV)
Cecil is a favourite of many a Final Fantasy fan, mostly due to fact that this was the first of the well written video game hero they encountered. Whilst I personally did not share that experience (Final Fantasy 7 was my first) I can at least appreciate why the Dark-Warrior-turned-Paladin is so well regarded. Final Fantasy IV was the next game to be released outside of Japan following the original NES game, creating a massive impact with its well told story and varied characters. Cecil was the games main character, who we follow on his path from servant of evil too redeemed hero. The interactions between him and the other characters, including his lover Rosa, show a man confused about his destiny and what he should do with his life. Everyone has these doubts at some point in their life, and so too see such a relatable figure in a time when video games were all about jumping on things was truly exceptional and worth remembering.
Number 7. – Sabin Rene Figaro (FFVI)
Final Fantasy 6 had a large roster of memorable characters, but out of all of them Sabin is the who who stands out the most to me. This is partly down to the amount of funny scenes that are centred around him (there is something inherently hilarious about watching 16-bit sprites bouncing around a screen) and his Street Fighter style special attacks. It is also down to the story arc he shares with his brother and the relationship between them. Despite being heirs to the throne of Figaro, both him and Edgar are reluctant to accept their responsibility and so settle it with the toss of a coin, the outcome of which means Sabin is free to go live his dreams but must leave his brother. The encounters between them are both funny and touching, and are something I always enjoy about playing the game.
Number 6. – Red XIII (FFVII)
Red XIII is the child who wants to be a man, or in this case a puppy trying to be a wolf (which is far cuter). When he is first met in the Shinra tower it seems as those he will become the old wise man of the team, providing wisdom and guidance. So when later it turns out he is not as old or as wise as he was making out, things get a lot more interesting. Sudden having to reassess a character is great little plot twist which gives Red XIII much more depth then he initially appeared to have. The way in which it is revealed, a side-plot involving his disgraced father, is well done and does not feel like it is just being forced in just for the sake of it, instead creating a lot of sympathy for the young pup. Red XIII is a hero who would have been an unique addition simply because, well he’s a dog, but instead is give a wealth of personality because the writers put that extra bit of effort in.
Number 5. – Laguna Loire (FFVIII)
Although he is technically more of side character than a main one, Laguna does play a vital role in the storyline of Final Fantasy 8. There are three main reasons why this man is on my list. First, way in which his life is told through a series of flashbacks, ranging from his life as solider and then as a journalist, is an interesting way of revealing it. Secondly he looks like a fun guy to hang out with. He is easy going and relaxed, if sometimes a bit too relaxed, thus is just the sort of man you could have a few drinks with. Especially in a world everyone has some heavy emotional baggage about being an orphan they have to deal with. Thirdly his battle music is awesome. The Man with the Machine Gun is a fan favourite and the perfect piece to get you ready for that up coming boss battle.
Number 4. - Balthier (FFXII)
Much like Sazh in Final Fantasy 13, Balthier is one of the few things that lifts Final Fantasy 12 slightly above being mediocre. In a plot that bares a strong resemblance to Star Wars, he is the Han Solo stand in; complete with furry sidekick. He is the dashing rouge of the party, self-assured and confident but becoming increasing likeable as things progress. As the son of a disgraced scientist, Balthier has spent most of his life trying to sever his ties with the past. During the game tries to help the Princess Ashe from repeating the same mistakes, eventually giving his life (apparently) to save everyone else. I have always liked roguish protagonists and Balthier’s character is supported with some brilliant written dialogue which is often comedic and poetic at the same time, showing that a hero can be intellectuality without loosing the humour. As with Sazh, Balthier stands out as being much more unique then the others in 12, so when he refers to himself as the leading man I cannot help but feel the whole game would have been better if he was.
Number 3. – Vivi Orunitia (FFIX)
Everyone who has played Final Fantasy 9 loves Vivi. Especially girls. Even though he is filled to the teeth (if he has them) with black magic and explosions, his shy disposition and innocent outlook make him a defining and huggable entry in the series. But despite his cute, childlike personality, Vivi actually has one of the most interesting and thought provoking sub-plots of any Final Fantasy character so far. Discovering he is little more than a mass produced (and weaponised) doll, Vivi’s quest is about finding meaning in both his life and his inevitable death, all of which is portrayed through his childish innocence. This often leads to a lot of moments that are either, funny, touching or tragic but always endearing, adding a whole new layer of depth to what would otherwise be a fairly simple story about a princess and thief. From a gameplay point of view, Vivi is also one of the best people to have one your side in a fight, with a vast collection of black magic ranging from simple fire spells to summoning huge meteorites of doom with enough destructive power to have Michael Bay dribbling down his shirt.
Number 2. – Yuna (FFX)
Most Final Fantasy girls seem to fall into one of three types; the strong, empowered (and often large chested) warrior, the helpless princess (traditional) and the quirky, feisty teenager who is there mostly just to look cute. The reason I like Yuna so much is because she is a bit of all these things, without becoming another stereotype. She needs the help of the hero but is also capable of acting on her own. She is quiet and demur but is also brave and determined. She is cute but does not exist purely for that reason. Yuna is a well balanced heroine who I like for many of the same reasons I like Vivi; she is nice without being a wimp. Also she can summon flame demons and looks good in hot pants. That always helps. The love story between her and Tidus is also kind of sweet, but I would never admit that in public or on the internet.
Number 1. – Cid Highwind (FFVII)
Cid Highwind is without doubt one of my favourite characters of all time. When I was a youth, Final Fantasy 7 was one of the first games I played after Mario, Metroid and Zelda; so when me and my friend encounter this foul-mouthed pilot he instantly became our favourite. A video game character that smokes, drinks tea and swears like a sailor? It was an amazing thing to see. But that was not the only reason I like Cid so much. He his dream to becoming the first man in space and desire to make something of his life is something we can all relate too. Watching the Shinra rocket crash back to the launch pad and then finally launch into space still packs a lot of emotion; it reminds me of a time when all you need to complete your dream was to believe hard enough. And defeat Weapon. Without Cids wisecracks and little censored rants I would not have loved Final Fantasy 7 as much as I did. Without Final Fantasy 7 I would not have got into video games as much as I did, and without video games I would not be the person I am today. So thanks Cid, you foul mouthed old %!X#%$.
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts lacks the humour and charm of the earlier games but makes up for it with its ability to create hundreds of insane vehicles; which is what you will probably spend the most time doing. The collection aspects of the previous games remain intact with the player taking part in races and other challenges to win Jiggies, vehicle parts or notes. There are only five (although large) worlds to explore, so things quickly get repetitive. Controls can be awkward at times, but overall the game is reasonably good fun if a bit disappointing compared to previous.