Today is Wii U Detail Blowout Day! Not one, two or three livestreams from the Big N but four! And, in addition to the Japanese show that just wrapped up, and the US and EU Directs running in tandem at 3pm BST, an additional Japanese Direct software showcase will be shown at the exact same time. Worst scheduling ever. I’ll be sticking to the EU show and hope a recorded version of the other two hits soon enough after. Anyways, as I say, the Japanese Direct just finished. In brief:
- Launches in Japan on Saturday, December 8th.
- Two packages, Home and Premium.
     - Home will come with 8GB of flash memory and sell for 26,250 yen (£209 or $337).
     - Premium will come with 32GB of memory and a 2-year subscription to Nintendo Network Premium which includes 10% off download titles. That’ll set Japanese gamers back 31,500 (£251/$405).
     - Hardware wise you will get the console and an adapter, a GamePad and adapter and an HDMI cable. Charge and support standards for the Pad will be sold seperately.
- The console will have 2GB of memory, 1GB for the operating system and the other for games.
- New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land are confirmed first-party launch day titles.
- NSMBU will be the first Mario title to launch alongside a new home console since Super Mario 64.
- Nintendo Land will not be packaged with the platform (in Japan at least, although I hear they did the same with Wii Sports so not lost hope yet).
- NSMBU will cost 5,985 yen (£48//$77), NintendoLand 4,935 yen (£39/$66) 
- Games discs will have 25GB of storage.
- The console can consume up to 75w of power, but should only need 45w.
- A second GamePad will set gamers back 13,440 yen (£107/$172).
- Pro Controller will retail for 5000 yen (£40/$64)
In things Nintendo felt they needed to repeat:
- Wii, VC and Wii Ware titles will be transferable.
- All Wii peripherals will work with the Wii U.
- Mario jumps with A. (But he does so promptly with no latency issues.)
Obviously the prices are unlikely to be directly converted to Pounds, Euros and Dollars, but that news will officially come this afternoon. For me to be lined up on day one, the Home version console needs to be, at the most, £229 and come with Nintendo Land bundled in.

Today is Wii U Detail Blowout Day! Not one, two or three livestreams from the Big N but four! And, in addition to the Japanese show that just wrapped up, and the US and EU Directs running in tandem at 3pm BST, an additional Japanese Direct software showcase will be shown at the exact same time. Worst scheduling ever. I’ll be sticking to the EU show and hope a recorded version of the other two hits soon enough after. Anyways, as I say, the Japanese Direct just finished. In brief:

- Launches in Japan on Saturday, December 8th.

- Two packages, Home and Premium.

     - Home will come with 8GB of flash memory and sell for 26,250 yen (£209 or $337).

     - Premium will come with 32GB of memory and a 2-year subscription to Nintendo Network Premium which includes 10% off download titles. That’ll set Japanese gamers back 31,500 (£251/$405).

     - Hardware wise you will get the console and an adapter, a GamePad and adapter and an HDMI cable. Charge and support standards for the Pad will be sold seperately.

- The console will have 2GB of memory, 1GB for the operating system and the other for games.

- New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land are confirmed first-party launch day titles.

- NSMBU will be the first Mario title to launch alongside a new home console since Super Mario 64.

- Nintendo Land will not be packaged with the platform (in Japan at least, although I hear they did the same with Wii Sports so not lost hope yet).

- NSMBU will cost 5,985 yen (£48//$77), NintendoLand 4,935 yen (£39/$66) 

- Games discs will have 25GB of storage.

- The console can consume up to 75w of power, but should only need 45w.

- A second GamePad will set gamers back 13,440 yen (£107/$172).

- Pro Controller will retail for 5000 yen (£40/$64)

In things Nintendo felt they needed to repeat:

- Wii, VC and Wii Ware titles will be transferable.

- All Wii peripherals will work with the Wii U.

- Mario jumps with A. (But he does so promptly with no latency issues.)

Obviously the prices are unlikely to be directly converted to Pounds, Euros and Dollars, but that news will officially come this afternoon. For me to be lined up on day one, the Home version console needs to be, at the most, £229 and come with Nintendo Land bundled in.

It’s rare for me to trade in a console, in fact it has never happened. But for the 3DS XL I decided to make an exception. Yesterday I headed into my local GAME (almost drowning in the process after a burst of British summer showers) and handed over my DSi, knocking 80 quid off the RRP and reducing my fiancée’s rolling eyes to a subtler eyebrow raising  when I told her I had a new toy.

And what a toy it is. There’s only one place to start and that’s with those eXtra Large screens. With almost double the screen size, games are enhanced considerably, 3D effects have a bigger impact and it’s generally a lot better to look at. You may expect an unpleasant stretching effect from the a game’s resolution being fitted over an area almost twice its intended size, but I’ve noticed no such issue.

I spent an hour playing the copy of Mario Kart 7 (review to come) I  got with the system on the XL, then an hour on the original 3DS. It’s amazing how small the first feels by comparison. With Super Mario 3D Land, it’s easier to judge those jumps with an added degree of precision, meanwhile shooters like Resident Evil Mercenaries and Kid Icarus benefit from the bigger screens by having slightly targets to aim for. It’s something you can particularly notice when watching videos. If Nintendo ever meet their full-movie promises, then the XL’s sales could skyrocket.

Another really nice touch is the extra “click” that comes from snapping the 3D slider down to 2D. For my wimpy eyes that can’t handle too much of the third dimension (despite living in it) this is perfect as the original’s slider could slip into 3D with the lightest of accidental touches.

On another click-related note the plastic, fixed-size stylus is one of the snuggest fitted sticks of the dual-screened handhelds. I’ve lost track of the number of times my Lite and DSi stylii went M.I.A. And, providing you’re not a southpaw, it’s easier to access having returned to the right hand side of the system.

Its portability factor has naturally taken a knock. The extra couple of centimetres leaves little trouser pocket room for other gadgets, but that’s what jacket pockets and manbags are for. An improved battery life (up to 6.5 hours) to power the larger screens also allows for greater Street and SpotPass time when the console’s not in use. It’s swings and roundabouts in that respect. On a personal level, it’s rare for me to take any handheld out the house unless I’m going on a long journey. You’ll find me playing on the sofa, in bed and, yes, on the loo. The XL enhances this in-home experience while still giving me the option to play it wherever the heck I like.

On an aesthetic level, it’s the smoothest Nintendo handheld I have ever known. Its rounded edges provide the best degree of comfort since the classic GBA, and the matte finish is an improvement on the glossy finger print magnet of my Aqua Blue.

All in all, the 3DS XL really is worth the upgrade (unlike the move from DS Lite to DSi, which felt like little more than a holding pattern before 3DS) and could even have convinced me to abandon a decade-long tradition of early adoption. The 3DS is great, but the XL is much, much better. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about the 3DS platform, the XL is the model to go for.

TSWLM composer Marvin Hamlisch dies, aged 68 

Marvin Hamlisch, composer of more than 40 film scores including that for the 10th James Bond adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me has died after a short illness at the age of 68. Hamlisch injected a dose of synthesised swagger to the score of Roger Moore’s third outing as 007 in 1977.

Bond 77 (above) in particular brought a funky backing to the traditional Bond theme. But he was also responsible for one of the biggest Bond themes in the form of Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better, which he co-wrote with Carole Bayer Sager. But Hamlisch did plenty of work outside of Bond, with scores for the likes of The Sting, Sophie’s Choice and most recently in 2009, The Informant (starring Matt Damon) as well as a number of pieces for theatre. His varied work saw him pick up four Emmys, three Oscars, three Golden Globes and a Tony, and was one of only two people to pick up awards from those big four (the other being Richard Rodgers of the legendary pairing Rodgers and Hammerstein).

Source: BBC News

fishingboatproceeds:

“Why, for example, do the great writers use anticipation instead of surprise? Because surprise is merely an instrument of the unusual, whereas anticipation of a consequence enlarges our understanding of what is happening. Look at a point of land over which the sun is certain to rise, Coleridge…

Skyfall - US Trailer

Yesterday saw the release of the international and US trailers for the 23rd James Bond film, due out in October. The States got the better trailer (above), IMO, but that’s another story.

The real story is obviously how great this is looking. Action, drama, charm and humour are all represented. There’s a curious recycling of past plot devices (Bond only lives twice, MI6 HQ is blown up, an Octopussy-like train-top fight) but it’s the 50th anniversary so that sort of thing can be excused. At least it’s a touch subtler than cramming 100 gadgets from the past 40 years into one shot. I’m really, really looking forward to it and with an eager Bond fan at the helm in Sam Mendes, it’s sure to be the best of Bond old and new and remove the bad taste left by Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace.

Oh, and the score… If that’s Thomas Newman’s handiwork in the background of the trailer I cannot wait to see what else he has in store, it’s just ace.

And then, I put fingers to keys again!

Holy hell, has it been a while. So long I need to go fix the profile for this page to reflect my successful completion of 25 years service to the human race. In short: moving house is hard damn work.

Yes, Miss Amy and I finally have a place of our own and to say it has kept me busy would be an understatement. There’ve been appliances to buy and have delivered, furnishings with similar processes, new windows and doors, countless minor aspects of renovation and a whole buttload of paint.

It’s almost all sorted. Well, there’s still the bathroom to paint and re-tile, the loft to insulate and install a floor for, a garden to make beautiful and a whole lot of crap to move from the ‘rents house… But it’s almost sorted!

And then we can get back to the business of planning a wedding. Less than 250 days to go now.

So, yeah, I’m going to try write some more stuff and not lose my mind with everything else in the background.

So, Nintendo’s Wii U Unveiling Show II wasn’t the all singing, all dancing games extravaganza that we’d hoped for, and it didn’t deliver a mass of third-party exclusives, but let’s look at some of the positives. It’s early days and there is one stand out title that isn’t a port of something PS360 players have had for a year.

Yes, the zombie apocalypse genre of media has seen an explosion in recent years. One of my most played Wii games remains House of the Dead: Overkill (although as Agent G will tell you, we don’t use the Z-word) so something of a similar ilk would be welcome when/if I finally add a Wii U to my console collection. Luckily, one of Nintendo’s most constant supporters during the last generation have that covered. Ubisoft present: ZombiU.

A first-person survival horror adventure set in this Brit’s beloved capital city, you play as many leading characters as it takes for you to reach the game’s conclusion. There is no leading man or lady. If you die, you respawn as a new character and your old character becomes one of the walking, wailing undead that are out to kill you. One of your first objectives with your new character will be to locate old zombified you and reclaim your gear. Everything else you achieved in that past life remains as you left it, so it wasn’t a totally wasted journey.

I like this idea. It appeals to the Walking Dead fan in me who craves a real-world zombie apocalypse just to see if it’s as easy to survive as Rick and his gang make it seem…  

The application of the Wii U controller also impresses me, and it’s what I really hoped to see more of the third party developers embrace with their own from-the-ground-up titles. Sure, the GamePad screen works as your inventory, but the game keeps rolling while you’re fishing through! There you are, frantically looking for your Big Zombie Bashing Club but on the big screen, the door is being hammered down by Zs.

The impressions over at Kotaku sound terrific. The two screens are being cleverly implemented for the sense of immersion I had been hoping for with the GamePad.

Check out the Gameplay trailer and more information at E3.Nintendo.com/ZombiU.

Last year’s tech demo New Super Mario Bros. Mii has evolved and is now New Super Mario Bros. U. While the two Toads of its Wii predecessor are present, as with the demo you can play with your own Mii. Also among the gameplay highlights:

- It’s another multiplayer side-scrolling Mario adventure, although you can go it alone.

- One of the newest suits in Mario’s ever-expanding wardrobe is the Emolga Flying Squirrel suit, allowing our heroes to glide and swoop through stages in a similar fashion to the cape from Super Mario World (at long last).

- Yoshis are back, but this time in itty-bitty baby form. In another nod to Super Mario World, different coloured Yoshis appear to have different skills. Pink Yoshis blow up like a balloon, while Blue means bubble power. Pick up a yellow Yoshi (a Yelloshi?) and they’ll light the darkest paths with their glowing bodies.

- The Wii U GamePad can open up gameplay for a fifth player, who can create platforms or power-up boxes to help the Wii Remote-wielding regular players. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it can get those who lack the precision for those perilous jumps involved. Remember, Wii U is all about “Together, better”. ¬_¬

- Miiverse will be a big feature, allowing players to post comments or tips at points within the game, expanding the social experience (and hopefully keeping you away from GameFAQs).

So, it’s more of the same Mario that has seen us through a quarter of a century, but with a few tweaks for both the new console and controller. Is it a mind-blowing revelation? No. But if anyone can get the best out of the Wii U’s many features, it’s Nintendo and the man to get that vision across to core and casual alike is probably Mario.

Graphically, unlike Pikmin 3, I’m not spotting a massive improvement but it’s early days for the system and I get the feeling we won’t get the full visual effect in a Mario game until Super Mario Galaxy 3: Miiverse.

Coming soon to Wii U: Zelda, Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong, F-Zero and more! Just not in the format you would’ve hoped for before the conference…

Nintendo Land is the theme park of your dreams — if your dreams were sugary sweet and fuelled by pure Nintendo nostalgia. 12 mini-games with throwbacks to various Big N franchises are available providing demonstrations of everything the Wii U GamePad can do for you and your fellow players.

It’s clearly designed to be the local multiplayer system-seller that Wii Sports and Wii Play were for the preceding platform six years ago, but whether it comes bundled with the system or an additional GamePad controller is unknown at the moment. My view? They’d be foolish not to choose at least one of those options.

So, what are the games? Well, we know of five and I’ll go into those a little later. As for the other seven? Well, these teaser logos should give us some idea. Cryptic, but the confirmed mini-games are Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest (1), Luigi’s Ghost Mansion (5) Animal Crossing Sweet Day (6), Donkey Kong Crash Course (9), and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle (10), the last one being an obscure Japan-only Famicom title. To me, the other logos tease Pikmin (2), Metroid (3), Mario (4), Yoshi (7), Game and Watch (8), F-Zero (11) and Balloon Fighter (12).

LoZ: Battle Quest

Supporting up to four players (one archer on the GamePad, three swordsmen with the Remotes), this mini-game reminds me of the Showdown swordplay game in Wii Sports Resort. Your heroes, seemingly freshly cut from cloth, navigate a 3D maze, picking off enemies with their chosen weapon. More footage: Kotaku.com

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion

It’s Pacman Vs! And we all remember how well that was received. One of the first ever teasers of handheld/console functionality shown in 2003 was Pacman Vs. One player plays Pacman with the GameBoy Advance, up to three others played ghosts with the GameCube controllers. In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, the roles are reversed. The single player with the GamePad is the ghost, the Remote players are hunters with flashlights. The ghost must pick off the players, the players must shine their flashlights on the ghost enough to whittle his HP down to nothing. More footage: GameXplain

Animal Crossing Sweet Day

Supporting up to five players, the GamePad player controls two “candy orchard” guards while four Remote players attempt to stuff their little faces with said candy. The more candy you eat, the harder it is to escape the guards. The game ends when 50 candy pieces are consumed or the guards catch any one animal three times. More footage: GameXplain

Donkey Kong Crash Course

Okay, this one feels like a bit of a stretch for tying in the franchise to the tech demo to me, but there’s a good action/puzzle concept behind it so I can forgive it. Tilting the GamePad and using a variety of the available buttons, you must navigate a barrel cart through a wildly twisting, contoured maze. Oh, and you collect bananas. It’s a single-player game, but with the gameplay being available on the TV screen as well, family members can scream advice at you. Such fun! More footage: Nintendeomination

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

And finally, the single-player obscure Famicom throwback. Use the touchscreen and the motion controls to flick throwing stars at ninjas on-screen. Not screaming system-seller, but it’s one of 12 games and they can’t all be winners. More footage: Gamerlive

I think Nintendo Land was really unlucky to be chosen as the closing segment of Nintendo’s conference. It’s not a terrible concept and it has that right mix of technical teasers and Nintendo charm. If Nintendo had confirmed that these franchises were also coming in fully-fledged form then I think it would’ve been better remembered. As it was, core gamers are annoyed they didn’t get the games they wanted and Nintendo Land is a poor substitute. I kind of get where they’re coming from, but I’m not so totally full of venom for it, either.

Nintendo E3 2012 Press Conference


Those who care will almost have certainly seen it by now, but I figured I’d post the video along with my thoughts. Those thoughts can be summed up with one word: underwhelmed.

Of course, that’s a word which is being used a lot to sum up this years Electronic Entertainment Expo in general with all three big names failing to deliver a truly knockout blow to stand head and shoulders above the competition. Where was the spark of innovation? Well, Nintendo had some of that but not really enough.

They started strongly with the long-awaited Pikmin 3. Featuring high definition fruit, four new captains and kamikaze rock Pikmin (Rockmin?), it’s the first taste of a proper Nintendo title in high definition and it looks the part. Which is more than can be said for New Super Mario Bros U, although that does seem to be embracing the Miiverse social network feature Nintendo are eager to incorporate into the Wii U’s overall experience. Trouble is, there were four Mario-themed titles addressed at the conference. It was almost overkill. It probably was to non-fans.

Third parties are delivering a host of ports from current generation consoles, including Mass Effect 3 (got a big whoop) and Batman: Arkham City. They’ve got various innovations featuring the controller as well as “bonus content”, which probably includes a less-sucky ending for ME3. The only offering that really caught my attention was ZombiU, but I’m a sucker for the undead. It’s not a game that makes me scream “I must have a Wii U at Day One.” In fact, nothing really stood out for me.

It was the closing act of the show that left me most disappointed. Nintendo Land is the Wii U equivalent of Wii Sports, a series of technical demos but this time set around established Nintendo franchises. 12 of them. Zelda, Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion… They’re all present. But for now, only in Nintendo Land. Not one of them was shown in a proper format, or even mentioned as being in development. Sure, they probably are but it would have been nice to see something concrete.

There was no “Wow” to this year’s Nintendo conference. I’ll post some more thoughts about specific games presently. I can only hope now that the 2am (UK time) 3DS livecast is more impressive and worth staying up for.