Saturday, September 30, 2006
I'm going to try and take a better picture on Monday.
I'll post a review on Monday.
Andy Sachs (the now grown up Anne Hathaway) is a budding journalist who finds herself working for the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, the insufferable Miranda Priestly (the excellently evil Meryl Streep). The film follows Andy's stuggle to cope with Miranda's insane demands (whcich includes getting her twins copies of Harry Potter 7!) and her changing outlook on life as she turns from wannabe journalist to dedicated follower of fashion. She is guided by the fatherly gay designer Nigel (Stanley Tucci) and the harrassed senior assistant Emily (played very Britishly by Emily Blunt)
The problem is, the screenwriters have taken quite a few liberties with the plot and characters. Where the book-Andy struggled day to day with working for Miranda as she was slowly ground down before the explosive finale in Paris, Anne Hathaway's Andy becomes a Runway clone, obsessed with her size and the latest designer labels, even going so far as to develop Stockholm syndrome for Miranda. Yet at the end, redeemed and returning to her dream of journalism, Andy does take pains to arrange for the sought-after clothes to be passed on to Emily, which was Emily's only reason for wanting to go to Paris in the first place.
The film itself is excellent but I was disappointed by the changes in plot. Rather than mono, Miranda instructs Andy to tell Emily she won't be going to Paris but before she has a chance, Emily is involved in a car accident and ends up with a broken leg. Andy herself is not compelled to yell the none-PG 'Fuck you, Miranda!' and instead of an out and out confrontation, just walks away and throws her mobile phone in the Seine. Indeed this ending is drastically different; after months of torment, Andy is finally prompted to quit after she gets word that her best friend Lily is in a coma. Her choice of family over the job a million girls would die for, made the book that much realistic and satisying but the film creates a complex yet somewhat satisfying ending involving backstabbing, dash dreams and petty jealousy between Miranda and her French rival with poor Nigel in the middle.
Streep's Miranda is deliciously evil, callous and a true Dragon Lady but for just a few minutes she is reduced to a mere mortal, sans makeup and designer labels. This really changes the viewer's opinion of Andy's nemesis but this chink in her armor is never seen in the book. The ending serves to remind that while Miranda may have the odd lapse once a decade, she is ultimately selfish, self-centred and will destroy others dreams without hesitating if it serves her best interests.
The opening sequence is well done, showing scores of women dressing in designer clothes, getting coffee, hailing taxis juxtaposed with Andy's non-brand suit, her trip on the subway and onion bagel. This pushes home the idea that there are two worlds existing side-by-side, Andy's existance with her boyfriend Nate and bestfriend Lily and the glamourous world of Runway. Set in New York and Paris, the film is backed by an upbeat soundtrack and fast pace, just as Andy's life is insanely hectic, so the film rushes along to condense a lot of material as soon as possible.
Despite the myriad changes, The Devil Wears Prada is an excellent film which provides an entertaining look at the fashion industry and the workings of a major fashion magazine. The acting is superb and it's a real feel-good film which anyone with a thing for journalism or fashion should be sure to check out.
My subscription issue of Imagine Publishing's excellent multiformat mag GamesTM (issue 49 with Gears of War on the cover) arrived in the post this morning and, over breakfast, I like to flick through and ear-mark interesting reviews and features for later reading. Inside, innociously hiding between previews of Rayman Raving Rabbits and Killzone: Liberation was this gorgeously stylish double page spread.
It's simple and iconic, announcing just the console name and the infamous release date but says all it actually needs to. I love it and it's ads like this which will help give the Wii the iconic status in the gaming world that the iPod has in music.
Nintendo: More advertising please! Billboards would be nice.
Friday, September 29, 2006
The cover has really grown on me but I was disappointed to find the manual was completely black and white. This is such a shame considering the Japanese manual was a work of art however the booklet did redeem itself; there was a nice section on Japanese mythology, kanji scattered throughout the layout and a huge glossary explaining the in-game kanji (such as those found in battle, on signs and floating over cursed ground).
The game itself loaded in moments and after the twenty five minute intro sequence, I hit the game properly. The translators did a fine job although some names have been shortened: Izanagi (the legendary warrior and Shinto deity) has become Nagi and brewer Kushinada is now simply Kushi. The land in which the game takes place is correctly called Nippon (The Japanese word for Japan) and the locations have all survived almost intact.
I did get a little annoyed by Issun's constant references to Amaterasu as 'Ammy' - it just seemed so .... disrespectful. We're talking about a Goddess here. Aside from that, all honorifics were dropped and the constant use of the mini speech by the constellation kami gets a little tedious. Simply refering to Amaterasu by her complete title or just Mother Amaterasu (last seen in early English-language TGS demos) would have saved so much time.
The camera controls are still a little clunky but the framerate seems able to cope with Amaterasu's speed an awful lot better than it did in the Japanese release. I did note a faction-of-a-second delay between while cutscenes loaded which long enough to make it noticable. The translation is sound and the folks at Clover have really worked their butts off to translate the entire game - which contains a VAST amount of text considering none of the characters 'speak' - in just over five months. The vocals remain the same and the text is excellent with those moments of comedy which made the original so damn funny.
I've just finished Hana Valley and am about to explore Shinshu, the first massive valley enviroment of the game and so far I'm as blown away as I was with the original.
Capcom, hurry up and localise Okami for Europe!
When the velvet covered box first lands on the doorstep, it's clear Je Joue - which is marketed as a 'sensual massager' - is no ordinary sex toy. Inside is the handset itself, two instruction manuals (one for the handset and the other covers the Pleasureware software which is downloadable from the official site), the USB cord and power lead and a velvet case - which will also hold the handset -containing three moulded 'pleasurepads'.
The handset (which is a similar size to a cordless telephone) comes in a shade of girly pink and is ergonomic enough to be held comfortably in either hand. The small LCD display shows which groove is currently selected along with the battery charge and intensity of the vibrations. At the top of the handset is the Don't Stop! button. Pressing this allows for the intensity of the groove to be raised or lowered, depending on personal preference, or - by pressing the button for two seconds - puts the current groove on indefinite repeat.
The handset comes pre-programmed with nine grooves designed to provide an introduction to precisely what Je Joue is capable of along with a special groove that allows for proper cleaning. Once charged, the pleasurepad moves, slides, buzzes, gyrates, vibrates and teases. The shifting grooves means you never know when it’s next going to change gear and do something totally different. That alone will certainly hightens the excitement and certainly makes Je Joue one of the most suprising vibrators I've come across. Using the Pleasureware software is simple and upon signing up there are over seventy grooves available to download but the big draw is the ability to design you own, to your personal likes and specifications.
The only complaint about an otherwise stunning example of sexual technology is that fact that – at the end of the day – Je Joue is battery powered and this makes it very weak in terms of sensation when compared to some of the mains powered vibrators such as the Hitachi Magic Wand. However the programmability and ingenuity of the grooves will certainly please and the ability to change intensity does make up - in part - for the lithium-ion battery. Despite the high price tag, Je Joue is an ideal middle ground vibrator for someone still exploring exactly what they like and what sex toys are capable of.
Je Joue costs £123 and can be purchased from the official site.
The gang of Exeter's GAME are hammering out pre-orders but it's been almost a week before the proper advertising has appeared. The outside windows are still decorated by handwritten paper posters but these new boxes are quite snazzy. They're also advertising the pink DS Lite (eugh!) which is due out on 27th October. I haven't seen any advert boxes (DS Lite boxes with new covers on them) before but I do not like pink consoles, although I just know people are going to be buying them.
EDIT: Cheers for linking, Kotaku!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
While some of it are promo goodies recieved from my job as freelance journalist, others have been garnered simply by making friends with the right people at local gaming emporiums.
First up, of course, is my current favourite item: the Countdown to Wii watch given away by Nintendo at their recent press conference in London.
Now, unlike a small portion of people who have this watch and bought it from eBay, I was actually there. Granted I don't wear the watch (my wrist is too small) but it's such a nice item that I would never EVER sell it. For the record, selling promo stuff given at exclusive events is the fastest way of wrecking a journalist's reputation.
NOTE: To those eBayers who were at the event and did decide to sell their watches. Nintendo know; they look at eBay too.
This week's cheers go to: Kate Fayers at Cake and Nintendo.
On the first of my twice daily visits to Kotaku, I came across this amazing little snippet on Okami's appearence at TGS, not as a game but as a plush toy!
All I can say is : I. WANT. ONE. NOW.
My review of the excellent PSP title, LocoRoco, has just been uploaded to NTSC-UK and can be found here.
All together now: "Bajumbo moi noi noi jecker/Dabatto bunkergait jun jun..."
Actually, just watch the video below.
Silent Hill is one of my favourite horror gaming franchises. The original PSOne game inspired me to buy my first Sony console and Silent Hill 2 (my favourite game in the franchise) was the driving force behind my decision to get a PS2. I've been following the latest PSP-only installment, Silent Hill: Origins since its announcement and each new trailer serves to whet my appetite even more.
This is the latest not-so-shaky-cam trailer footage straight from TGS and it looks amazing. I'm a big fan of Yamaoka Akira-san's music and the return of Melissa Williamson (anime voice actress extrordinaire) makes me really want the soundtrack.
Silent Hill: Origins is due for release in February.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
In the gaming world, I'm a mass murderer, assassin and heartless fiend. I regularly slaughter animals and hunt deer in Tamriel, I even killed a unicorn. I will invoke dark deities to do my bidding, summon strange creatures to murder my foes and I'll even cut down my minions just for their enchanted arrows. In Willamette, I've disemboweled zombies and watched hapless humans being eaten alive without batting an eyelid. I take great joy in stalking people through an alien spaceship, watching while they spirit walk or respawn and cutting them down.
While I don't believe games make people more violent (although in the case of people with mental disorders, violent games don't exactly help), in this modern world violence in gaming is being seen as increasing detremental to society. The important part is distinguishing the difference between reality and fantasy. Gaming violence can be fun but that doesn't mean I would ever go out and start cutting someone down with my enchanted sword or aiming arrows at passersby.
A couple of days ago, I was enjoying an Oblivion session and chatting to a friend of mine via Xbox Live when she asked my advice.
"I'm not sure about killing anyone. Do I want to join the Dark Brotherhood?"
"Yes," I said. "It's a lot of fun - you get a minion,"
"But I don't want to kill anyone!" she bleated.
"Oh, you will!" I replied, trying out my Wickedest Witch of the West laugh (for a pagan, I sure can cackle).
Guilt while gaming isn't new. I read an editorial piece in X360 magazine last month where their token female gamer berated her conflict when playing violent games. She actually stopped and debated whether to travel down the game's darker paths and whether she could actually kill an innocent resident of Tamriel so the Dark Brotherhood's Speaker might whisper in her ear.
I had this same inner turmoil, although it lasted all of two seconds. I did however murder a sleeping innocent, so to making it easy on them and fast too. Now I've risen to the ranks of Listener, I can command others to murder and frequently dispatch a minion to some faroff land to answer the pleas of the soon-to-be damned.
The important part is distinction. I see no problem involving in acts of extreme violence and random killings as long as they take place within the gaming environment. Just because I enjoy playing with swords in Tamriel, it doesn't mean I'm going to wander the streets of Exeter looking for some innocent passer-by. So the next time you head to Willamette or Cyrodil, enjoy that killing spree but just remember, what you do in the game might not be a smart thing to do outside in the real world.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
In the past few months as I've concentrated on carving my place within the games journalist community, I've come into contact with dozens of PR companies, both in house and farmed out, and my experiences have varied. There are some who are a dream to work with; I call at 9am after a game and it's instantly in the mail, I need images for an emergency feature and within ten minutes there's an email in my inbox. These people make our lives easier and are a dream to work with, they are not only enthusiastic about their games but don’t mind spending a few minutes in conversation, moaning about the weather, for example.
Then there are the bad and the downright shocking: those who don't care, those shameful PR people who have become zombified and lie as easily as they breathe. Indeed I know of one or two companies where it is unwritten policy to screen calls and only call back if a journalist is important enough. Sometimes I can waste an entire day just trying to get through to a contact, only then to be given the immortal line: "Oh, I was just about to call you!" Sometimes it's an honest comment, most times sadly not.
I'm patient and polite, both must-have qualities for a journalist in any sector but even I have limits. I've been fobbed off by PRs who refuse to send out code to freelancers as they can only send it to registered editors who then pass it on. I instantly call my other contact (I usually have at least two in each company) and sweet-talk them into mailing whatever I need. Then there are those who promise to do something and never call back or just cut you off mid-sentence (yes it has happened).
The relationship between journalists and PR is definitely symbiotic. We write reviews which help the average member of the gaming public to decide where to spend their hard-earned but in order to do that, we need code as early as possible, this is where PRs come in. Pick up any box in your local store and you'll see quotes from magazines like OXM, OPM, IGN or Edge. These quotes from magazines or sites help reassure consumers that taking that game to the cash desk will not be something they might regret.
PRs need reviews to get these quotes; we need code, press releases and images in order to write those reviews.
Symbiosis, plain and simple.
We share many similar traits. Many journalists began their careers by starting in PR and vice versa, so we each appreciate the other’s point of view and our chosen professions are mutually advantageous. Yet I know of several journalists who have been forced to the brink of quitting just because of one awful PR company which is such an awful shame. Personally, I’ve gone beyond the point of letting bad PR folk get to me. They aren’t worth it and persistence always pays off.
I must say Jamie (aka Spatial101), our resident artistic genius who does all the movies and banners, has really excelled himself, particularly as he converted three videos I took from Quicktime to WMA and made a really gorgeous banner.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Click here to read the feature.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Oh. My. Various. Gods.
This morning I got an email from Cake (Nintendo's UK PR company) and, when I saw it flash up on MSN, I just knew. I've now been officially invited to what seems to have been dubbed 'Wii Day'. I've spent the morning rushing around organising very expensive train tickets to get to the event on Friday and doing other monotonous things like getting a filling fixed, coming up with questions for tomorrow's Rule of Rose event.
Now I'm just basking in the glow of finally achieving something ... I get to be present at what's sure to be a historic occassion - and I get to stand in a queue to play the Wii!
I'm amazed to be honest, a year ago I knew nothing and I'm now on the cusp of my life's dream, becoming a successful freelance games journalist. I know people who would sell their soul to go to this event and - despite a few seconds of justification, to which my pal and mentor Keri replied "How can you not go?" - I realised things can only get better from here. I've finally arrived, after months of climbing the Ladder of Journalistic Importance. Now it's time to enjoy the view before resuming the climb.
Monday, September 04, 2006
With the pink version causing waves and the recent release of the Final Fantasy III themed console leading to a mass sell-out, Nintendo have just announced a very stylish black Pokémen version will be released on September 28th.
Now I'm not a Pokémen fan but I have to admit to liking this version a lot more than I did the white Final Fantasy III one.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
OK, first off, let me draw your attention to the aforementioned copy of Capcom's zombie masterpiece. See that big yellow label on the front that reads PROMOTIONAL COPY - NOT FOR RESALE? That means this is a promo copy issued by Capcom or its PR company to members of the media and other such lucky folk in the industry. While they do contain manuals and full retail discs (in fact, aside from the promo notice, these releases are identical to what folks will be buying on Friday). That sign is designed to stop journos from heading down to their local GAME store and getting some cash or a different game via trade-in.
Unfortunately, it's become a regular thing for many journalists to sell their promos on eBay.
Now once I've done with games, I'll often pass them on to friends and family. I might even trade them in to get another title (always after it's been reviewed mind you and I've done all I can to place it somewhere) but this growing trend of making money off the backs of the publishers is only going to increase the price the public will have to pay for games.
There are dozens of magazines and websites in the UK who review games, along with hundreds of freelancers, each of whom will have called up Capcom or their PR company to get a promo copy and that soon adds up. Then add the cost of producing promotional items - such as that ever so cool T shirt and the 360 faceplate - and the cost of the game at retail shoots to astronomic preportions, all of which will be born by the consumer at the end of the day.
This isn't the first time either, last year I was sent promo code for Project Zero III: The Tormented by Take Two Interactive and, out of curiosity and because I know the game has a huge cult following, I took a peek on eBay and discovered no less than six promo copies. The bidding was starting at a mere 99p, a good £39 below the official retail price. This particular promo release came in a CD jewel case and you didn't even get the manual with the game but the bidding soon made the price shoot up.
Promos are aimed at journalists and other people in the industry. We need them to advise you folks on whether it's worth spending your hard earned money on, especially now games regularly retail at a shocking £50 a pop. At the end of the day, by bidding for items like this on eBay you're not only making it harder for us to get the games (Publishers and distributors do not like being conned!) but it will also force the retail price to go up, which will burn an even bigger hole in the pockets of the gaming public.
Friday, September 01, 2006
First up we have Chris Buffa's excellent and informative opinion piece entitled 'How to Become a Better Games Journalist', the 'sequel' to his opinion piece 'Why Games Journalism Sucks'.
Next is Mr. Media Coverage's '3 Steps to Videogame Blog Immortality', a must-read piece for any newbie journalist, especially those wanting to brave the weird and cut-throat world of gaming journalism.
Finally Mr. Media Coverage imparts his most useful piece yet: 'How to Make a Living as a Videogame Journalism'. This is my favourite as it's relevant to so many people I know, including myself.
All games journos, whether naive beginniner or jaded veteran, should take a look at these articles. I've certainly learnt a lot from them.
The game is due for release in 2007 and is set during the Crusades that have divided the Christian and Mulim worlds. Altair is a member of the elite hashashin, a clan of skillful killers, and has to make his way through Damascus, Acre and Jerusalem but the decision of whether he fights his way or uses stealth is up to the gamer.
At the moment, all Ubi are saying for a release date is 'early 2007' but the game is certainly going to be one of the hotest titles of the year.