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3DS’s Swan Song

I’ve just been lucky enough to be able to go to Florida and so needed a decent mobile game to pass the time on the plane during the trip.

It came down to a choice between Monster Hunter X, Zelda – A Link Between Worlds and Lego City Undercover. I quickly removed Lego from the list because it’s available for Nintendo Switch, which I intend on buying in the near future.

In the end I plumped for Zelda. It is a great game by any measure, I haven’t finished it yet but so far it’s completely engaging. The 3D effect is the best I have seen on the system and Nintendo have learned from previous games – providing some decent tools to make it easier to remember what you are doing,  for instance you can place multiple pins on the map to remind you where to go.

Unfortunately, unless I buy Monster Hunter (which, let’s face it, is likely to be out on Switch before I get chance to buy it) this is the last game I will play on 3DS. It makes me sad but onward and upward!

Nintendo continue to make the best games on any console, I’m hoping the Switch can keep up the trend.



*P.S. Skint? Go to the Society of Matched Bettors and get some risk free cash!


A year off

Has it really been a year since I last wrote about my gaming exploits? Time doesn’t half fly!

The truth of it is that I have been more concerned with Matched Betting and Betfair Trading than true gaming. I do consider them to be my new “rpg” though, lots of stats and flashing numbers.

I have spent a reasonable amount of time improving my arcade cabinet after buying a New Net City. You can see what I got up to on my youtube channel.

I did have a bit of an epiphany as well.

The thing is, I am an older brother and that makes me inherently a) correct – always, b) in charge – always and c) correct – always.

So when I played GTA Vice City and thought it was a bit pants, then obviously I was right, and obviously that applied to every other GTA even though I hadn’t actually played them.

My daughter asked me if she could play GTAV so I thought I’d check it out, I happened to have a PS3 version which I got in a game bundle with said machine. (She has the PS4 version because she stole my PS4 off me.)

It is truly awesome. There, I admitted I was wrong. The city is incredible, certainly the best environment I have seen in a game, except, maybe, for Xenoblade X. The amount of detail and sheer scale of it is astonishing and, unlike say, The Division, it doesn’t get boring or seem to repeat itself too much.

Before GTAV I completed Red Dead Redemption. I never did get to grips with it, I found it boring, repetitive and the ending just stupid. Other people love it but it just didn’t click with me. I got sick of seeing brown, that’s for sure. Sticking in a Nintendo game in-between Red Dead stints and seeing some colour was a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, just thought I’d check in. I’m currently putting a bit of time into the Witcher 3 at the same time as GTA 5. I’m still at the beginning but I’ll report back.


More Wii U Goodness

It’s a long time since I played a Tomb Raider game and the reviews and comment on the latest incarnation whetted my appetite for a bit of action with Lara, if you know what I mean. Rather than dive into Rise of the Tomb Raider I decided to go for the first in the series, i.e. the reboot – Tomb Raider.

I really enjoyed it. Not too long and not too short. I couldn’t help but think I haven’t ever seen any protagonist either in a game or film fall down so many things. Highly recommended if you fancy a good 12-15 hour game that’s just straight linear action.

After Tomb Raider I was faced with the release of a load of games, none of which I could really afford and all of which I wanted to buy. Reluctantly I whittled it down to a choice of two: Zelda Twilight Princess or Xenoblade Chronicles X, both for Wii U.

I never got to play Zelda TP so the release of the HD version was just what I needed to scratch my Zelda itch, but I was also itching for another massive RPG and I hadn’t yet coaxed my PS3 back off my daughter to play red Dead Redemption (who also managed to take my PS4 as well!) and that’s when I noticed Xenoblade Chronicles X.

The download version was £50 or so but you could get it for about £30 on disc second-hand so I trawled my local Computer Exchange and GAME for a copy, but it was no-where to be found. After about an hour of searching I gave up and treated myself to a Costa coffee instead. On the way out of the shopping centre I noticed an Argos, so I reckoned I might as well have a look in there and see if I could maybe get a bit knocked off the RRP, maybe to £40 or so.

I noticed that they had a game called Xenoblade Chronicles for £25, but it was pictured with the Chronicles X box art. Xenoblade Chronicles X was priced at £40 but had a different cover for the box art, and it was different to any of the art I had seen in reviews. So I took a punt and got a genuine, brand new Xenoblade Chronicles X for £25. Get in!

I really didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I did not expect the glorious spectacle that was set before me.

I will go as far as to say that this is the best RPG I have ever played. The graphics are about as good as you could expect from a Wii U, and on the downside the draw distance of NPCs and associated graphics is really poor. That is made up in spades by the scale of the world. It is phenomenal and as good, if not better, than anything I have played – even on PC. It is truly open world and you can run, walk, fly or swim across the whole thing and you will never see a load screen or a pause.

The level of detail in the various systems is incredible, with a depth that I have not experienced in any game. Not only do you have to keep an eye on your equipment and stats but you have to invest carefully in equipment suppliers; develop your “spells” which are known as “Arts” in this game; build up NPC characters and relationships with them; develop a mining system where you balance resources against cash and get stuck into a bit of crafting. For the first time in an RPG I got into the story. The side quests feed into the main story which is cinematic to say the least. The cut scenes are relatively short but are gripping and you want to watch them, then when they’ve finished you want to watch them again.

If you like RPGs it is worth buying a Wii U to play this game. Especially if you like RPGs that are very Japanese, including associated cheesy music. I put over 100 hours into it before deciding to complete the main story and I could easily spend another 100 hours in it if I wanted to. Sheer unadulterated perfection.

And that leads me onto a point I’d like to make – the Wii U is currently the best console of this generation.

Quite simply the best games I have played over the last year have been for the Wii U and I cannot understand why PS4 and Xbone are as popular as they are with the dross that gets churned out for them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good games for them but the Wii U seems to ooze great games but gets no attention (over here in the U.K. at any rate) and it should sell at least as many as the other platforms.

My next game will either be Zelda TP or the Fallout 4 DLC when it comes out but only because I have already paid for it so I practically have to.

Before I sign off I’d just like to make another contentious statement:

Xenoblade is better than Fallout 4 and even Fallout 3. There, I said it!





Decisions Decisions!

What to play after Fallout 4?

The first course of action was to finish Bayonetta 2 (B2) on my Wii U because I only managed to get around three quarters of the way through it before Fallout 4 came along.

B2 is a game of three halves. It starts off and pierces your brain with synapse scrambling gorgeousness and action but about half-way through the game it starts to get a bit “samey”. Although Bayonetta has more moves that John Travolta I found myself sticking with my favourite three or four and it turned into a bit of a grind for an hour or so.

There is a shop system but getting enough currency to buy anything but the very basics seemed impossible. I think the idea is that you go back and improve your score on each level to build up the amount you can spend. I rarely play games twice though so that wasn’t going to happen in my case.

Then, for no reason, it decided to show the world exactly what the Wii U can do and lavished the rest of the game with the guts, finesse and style of nothing I have ever played before, propelling this to the lofty heights of the being the greatest action RPG I have ever played.

B2 is emphatic in its “Japeneseness” {that’s a real word, in my head at any rate}; the music, the graphics, the sexiness, the flow and the unfathomable story all taking me back to a time when Japanese games ruled the world.

As I said to my mate in a text, “I have no words. Ridiculously hard, beautiful , stupidly fantastic, immensely astounding Japanese punishing slog-fest of a billion health bars with incredible pulsating mash-fests of doom in a wonderfully unfathomable story and eye bleeding colour. With bad accents.”

The best action-game ever, bar none. Nothing comes close.

Going retro

The next game was going to have to be stunning to come close to B2 so I thought I’d give the universe a chance and play some retro goodness. That way, the game scan be fantastic but doesn’t need to get close to B2 on account of old age.

Up first was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I’d heard nothing but good things about this game but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to go on a Sci-Fi odyssey and loaded Deus Ex because that is supposed to be a fantastic game too, but, again, I just couldn’t get into it, mainly because it was so dark I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s supposed to be or whether it’s a bug.

Going even more retro

I may have forgotten to mention that around this point I bought myself a New Net City arcade cabinet to replace the Egret 2 I sold a year or so ago. It’s an awesome machine, currently running my Neo Geo set up, so I’ve been giving Strikers 1945 Plus some welly. At some point I will get Gradius V running in it but that’s something for another day.

Going retro – but not quite as retro as before. Actually, is this retro at all?

A friend of mine gave me a PS3 which had Red Dead Redemption with it. I gave the game a go for a couple of hours and found myself getting dangerously sucked into it, however I wasn’t really up for another 100+ hour open-world RPG after playing Fallout 4 so this one is in the playing queue.

I eventually settled on Batman: Arkham City. You might recall my adventures into Arkham Asylum and I was expecting a similar experience but to my surprise it’s been improved in almost every way, transforming it from a good game to a great one.

Arkham City is organised in a more open-world manner and contains side-quests you can have a go at if you like. The Riddler collect ’em up seems much more cunning if you are into that kind of thing. Rocksteady have tweaked Batman’s movement just a tad and the whole game flows better because of it which becomes strikingly apparent when navigating the city. Rocksteady have nailed the feeling of gracefully floating around using a bat-cape but managed to keep real weight and heft in the fighting sections. It feels like you are Batman. The characters are possibly the best acted I have come across in a game and the story does just enough to be not too crazy but allow the inclusion of a load of antagonists.

I’m a bit Batmanned {again, definitely a real word} out now so I’ll give Arkham Knight a go later in the year I think. Hopefully it’s as good as everyone says it is.

So, what next?

Well, I was going to load up Red Dead Redemption and start playing that but a certain daughter of mine decided to “borrow” my PS3 so that’s out of the window for a while.

I’m minded to finish off Sin and Punishment 2 and then Super Mario on the Wii U, but who knows?

I’ll let you know how I get on in my next post.


Two Days Off Work to Wander the Wastelands

I promise there are no spoilers here. This should have been published a couple of weeks ago but, you know, I’ve been engrossed in Fallout 4 and forgot!

I had a plan:
– Book 10th and 11th November off work
– In October – Inform family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Around 5th November – Remind the family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Go to bed at 6.00pm on Monday, 10th November
– Get up at 10.30pm on Monday 10th November
– Ensure graphics drivers are up to date
– Sit with hands on keyboard and mouse till 12.01am
– Play Fallout 4 for as many hours as I can in the time I have off work

The plan executed flawlessly and I spent over 35 hours in the Wasteland before I had to pack up my PipBoy and get an early night ready for the real world of work, which started at 5.30am on 12th November.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster I have to say.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rush into Fallout 4 which I have a tendency to do with all open-world games, so I watched as the camera scrolled around my power armour when the game started. It’s not very interesting if I’m honest.

The story began – I have to admit it wasn’t the story I was expecting but there again I had no idea what to expect. I think I was expecting it to have a similar “flow” to Fallout 3, but it’s completely different and strangely compelling. Video game plots and stories are not something that usually interest me (save the princess again blah blah blah, just give me the virtual guns to shoot and point me in the right direction please!) so it was a surprise to me that I was mildly interested.

The first thing that struck me when I got into the game proper was the god-awful juddering of the graphics. The game automatically selects the graphics settings and mine were set to medium. I’m used to playing most games on high settings so I was a bit disgruntled about it, but to get all this judder as well just pissed me off. I decided not to get into the usual two days of doing the developers’ beta testing for them that I often have to do and just sucked it up. After a short while my eyes got used to it and my brain filtered it out.

I plodded on and got absorbed into the virtual world that Bethesda had created for me. Meeting characters and accepting quests, remembering lessons from Fallout 3 – don’t wander too far at the beginning of the game and don’t try to steal everything. I got slowly but surely engrossed. The world is exactly what you’d expect, a desolate land filled with desperate people and maniac animals. Plenty of secret little areas to stumble across and a million shades of brown.

It’s great to walk around Boston and see some of the places that were important when the American colony’s treacherous rebellion was started against the British by a bunch of criminals desperate to increase their power base and profits.

I have to say though that the level of decision-making has not been as satisfying, so far, as it was in Fallout 3. I am expecting some major story arcs like blowing up Megaton or something but it hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed.

At about 20 hours in I started to get really frustrated. It seemed like every quest had a stupidly hard boss that I couldn’t beat. I did not have the money to buy the firepower needed to kill them, nor the perks to persuade them, so the game just got stuck for me. Sitting with 3 or 4 unfinished missions that I got no XP for after trying them for hours was no fun.

It came to the point where I had only one quest that I thought I might have a reasonable chance at beating. This quest was given to me after the others so in theory should have been a harder quest. It was exactly the opposite. I barely fired a shot, got through the whole quest and completed it. At the end I was given a weapon with some decent firepower and a load of loot to sell for decent money rather than the trinkets the game had offered up to that point.

I immediately went and completed the outstanding partially completed quests that I was able to. Unfortunately, even after completing everything in one of the quests,  it would not complete. I spent another hour trying to work out what was wrong and eventually I realised I was waiting for a bunch of NPCs to walk the entire length of the map that I had explored thus far. Very frustrating! And I was hoping that this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I went and completed some other quests and eventually the status notices told me that the NPCs had arrived, I met with them and the quest completed.

Now it probably sounds like I think the game is awful, but it truly isn’t. I think it’s because the world is so engrossing. Since that pivotal quest the game has completely opened up. The money, whilst still being sparse, is enough to give a decent chance.

It was getting towards the end of my time in the Wastelands so I decided to give the crafting a go. I have absolutely no interest in crafting or creating things in any game except Minecraft and that is only because I can play the game with my daughter. I felt it only fair to give it a go though.

You know when you give yourself a palm slap on the forehead? I gave myself a palm slap on the forehead. I realised that the key to having enough money is through scrapping things, crafting something else and then selling it. As soon as I started doing that the in-game currency started to flow.

I slowly but surely worked out the crafting and also the settlement creation. There is almost no help at all for anything, including the crafting system, which is a tad unfair. I think Bethesda could have really helped by giving some worked examples of how to build things. Granted, there are some help files but  they only cover very basic stuff. I spent probably 30 minutes trying to hook a power plant up to a light that I had crafted, that’s 30 minutes of wasted holiday time.

One of the most important screens is the perks screen and I think I have screwed my choices up on that too. I thought I had to fill in all the stars at the top most perk before I could choose any of those below it, but looking at other peoples’ builds I think I might have assumed wrong. Again – no help on this basic game mechanism.

At the end of my 35 hour stint I pressed shift & tab to go into the Steam overlay and message a mate of mine to say good-night and noticed an article in the “guides” section which mentioned upping the frame rate. I clicked on it and it described my juddering problem. It suggested that the game be set to borderless window in the graphics settings, rather than full screen. I did that and the game became as smooth as a silky silk worm making silk things for my grandma.

I really enjoyed my 2 days in the Wastelands but even with that amount of time  I have barely scratched the surface. Fallout 3 took me over 100 hours so I expect many more visits to the Wasteland from here on out and I’ll check-in with you once I’ve completed it.



Lucky Me!

Replay at Manchester was great again, the pinball section in particular this time seemed to excel. I had my usual bash at The Black Knight 2000 but also found a new one: Attack of Mars which is basically a rip-off of Mars Attacks!

The arcade section was as good as it always is, but for some reason the hall filled up and it was difficult to get a game. I don’t recall having this problem in the past, but I walked around for a good hour at one point and wasn’t able to get on a game I wanted to play. Admittedly I didn’t stand in a queue to play a game because if there’s a queue I just go and play something else. Usually.

The second day was my “trawl around all the consoles” day. My feet wreck me through the second day so it’s good to sit down! I couldn’t help but feel the retro section was smaller somehow. It could have just been an optical illusion but I definitely got that impression. It will be a shame if they let that section wither because it’s a large part of why I go.

You might not be aware but there is an arcade in the U.K. called “Arcade Club”. It’s quite new and I’ve known about it for a while now but hadn’t been. That was rectified about 3 weeks after Replay Expo. The Arcade Club was in Haslingden, which is a stone’s throw from Bolton (the place where I was born and near to where all my family are), near where Wallsy lives and near Ramsbottom – which is completely irrelevant other that it’s the town my last name is from. The plan was to go to Arcade Club and kip over at Wallsy’s.

I entered the Arcade Club and was not disappointed. There were about 100 games which included practically everything you could think of, well not quite because Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Strider weren’t there, but everything else was. In my opinion it’s better than Replay Expo’s arcade section. It costs a tenner to get in and all the games are on free-play, so it’s basically a free night out.

I played my fill of Salamander, Smash T.V., Star Wars, Ghosts and Goblins (carry on for everything else you can think of) and went back to Wallsy’s. I got some kip and, the next day, had a few games of DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou. I might have forgotten to mention that Wallsy has a stonking collection of Japanese shoot ’em ups. SaiDaiOuJou is a tremendous game and there are probably only 2 or 3 people that have it in the whole of the U.K. {and I know one of them!}

Then it struck me how completely lucky I am when it comes to retro games! I have a Hyper Sports, Atari Dragon’s Lair and Atari Space Ace (both of which are as rare as rocking-horse shit). I get to go to Replay Blackpool and Replay Expo Manchester every year and sleep Wallsy’s so get to play Ketsui, SaiDaiOuJou and Mushihimesama et al on a proper candy cab, these are games that most people have never even seen. I live in Middlesbrough so I will be visiting NERG (North East Retro Group) from next year which is only an hour away in Gateshead.

If you go back 10 years the stark fact was that arcades were dead and it’s why I started buying my own PCBs and machines. It’s completely different now because there are so many retro events through the year now that it’s almost pointless buying your own. Just about the only games not covered by a decent public event are Japanese shoot ’em ups.

Arcade Club just moved to a new location in Bury (still a stone’s throw from Bolton) and has nigh on 200 games now. The place is truly amazing and best of all it’s open 11am till 11pm every Saturday so I can plan a regular trip down there and don’t need to stay over.

There actually has never been a better time to play arcade games than right now so long as you can easily get to the northwest of England and have a mate with a New Net City and an awesome taste in games!

The Problem With Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has been announced and I think I might have wet myself a little bit when I read it. I don’t think any game could be announced that would get me into the state of sheer panic and dread that Fallout 4 has.

If you haven’t played Fallout 3, let me enlighten you. It is an almost perfect video game. The scale, scope and ambition of it was second to none and the 100 or so hours it took me to complete it were basically a demo of what it would feel like to live in heaven if it existed. It’s exquisite in every way, and I was playing the Xbox version!

The next game, Fallout New Vegas was brilliant but I didn’t find it to be as sublime as the first one, but only by the width of a hair and I know people who preferred it to the original.

Then came the shambles that was Skyrim. I couldn’t wait to play it and was not let down by the beginning, but as an hour or so passed by I started to realise the horror of it. For a start off the interface was dire, but if you managed to force yourself to tolerate that you could maybe try to kid yourself that the exploration and “choices” you make were as good as Fallout 3 but you’d just be lying to yourself. I made a decision right at the beginning to kill any “Roman” that I saw on sight because they were going to execute my character, except the game wouldn’t let me and don’t even get me started on the hammer, anvil and stirrup shattering cringe-fests that were the dragon’s talking to you.  I think I might be the only person in existence to think so, but I hated it. Every hour was a monotonous trudge through blandness.

Some people loved it though. It has been compared to Fallout 3, even elevated to loftier heights than Fallout 3 by the masses and the media. People live in it and wrap it around them like a comfy blanket on a cold winter’s evening.

And that’s the problem with Fallout 4… Skyrim.

I really want to think that Fallout 4 is going to surpass Fallout 3, but even equalling it will leave me feeling like I just got a free, never emptying, keg of Innis And Gunn Rum Finish but I worry, terribly, that they will ruin it like they did Skyrim. I just hope my fears are not realised.






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