Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Top Ten Games of 2017

And with this, I've run out of ideas for lists.

10. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Tried all the Uncharteds except 4, never got what the fuss was.  This, on the other hand, is a delight.

9.  Horizon Zero Dawn
Not actually got as far in this as I probably should have, because I keep getting distracted by making pretty pictures in the photo mode.  Still great when I remember to play the actual game though.

8.  Persona 5
Not got that far in this either (I think I'm getting giant-game-fatigue), but what I have played tells me this is special.

7.  Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
Discussed this already.  tl;dr - it's a welcome return to Resi of old, made fresh by the first-person perspective.

6.  Sonic Mania
Several levels are too long, about half the bosses are shite and more new designs would have been welcome.  But my goodness it's wonderful to have a properly, indisputably brilliant new Sonic game.

5.  Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
The fact that - gasp! - all the minigames are both comprehensible and enjoyable means that gameplay-wise this is the best Danganronpa yet.  Plotting's as excellent as ever, to the point that not even learning who the evil mastermind was before I started playing it didn't ruin it for me.

4.  Prey
Not quite as good as it should have been, but it has moments of brilliance, superlative world-building and is filled with more original ideas than it knows what to do with.

3.  What Remains of Edith Finch
Aptly described by some matey on Twitter as "WarioWare, but emotional", this game never stops pulling you up short.  The cannery sequence will linger in my mind for years to come.

2.  The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo give the open-world concept a whirl and of course they master it straight off.  The most innovative Zelda since the first one - maybe the best?

1.  Life is Strange: Before the Storm
A prequel to a game that didn't need one by a completely different development team with none of the original voice cast returning.  This should have been wretched.  But it's absolutely brilliant and brings out more subtleties in the original game.  The sequence where you act in a production of The Tempest is my gaming moment of the year.

My Top Ten Albums of 2017


10. Concrete and Gold - Foo Fighters

9. The Amazons - The Amazons

8. Whiteout Conditions - The New Pornographers

7. Still Hungry - DJ Format & Abdominal

6. Everything Now - Arcade Fire

5. Hug of Thunder - Broken Social Scene

4. Just Bring It - Band-Maid

3. Migration - Bonobo

2. Music from Before the Storm - Daughter

1. Something to Tell You - Haim

(I should point out that Daughter track's probably the weakest on the album but the only one I could find in full on the YouTubes.)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Top Ten Films of 2017

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  The time that I point out that this list includes films from 2016 that I saw in the cinema in 2017 so they totally count, and also there are a bunch I didn't get round to so don't complain about the lack of Get Out, The Florida Project, The Big Sick, It, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Wonder Woman etc.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Root Letter

Finished my first playthrough of Root Letter this evening.  It's...interesting.

The fact that said first playthrough took about eight hours but I've had the game since it came out last autumn indicates the game's quality.  The writing (and I'm not sure if it's the original script or the translation) is frequently terrible to the point of being a) hilarious, b) incomprehensible or c) both, and the gameplay is similar.  While presented as a typical visual novel, it tries to ape the peerless Ace Attorney with investigation sequences and bits where you quiz characters, but they're so poorly done that you frequently end up employing a trial-and-error approach.  And as for the bizarre "Max Mode" sections where you basically have to press X at the right time to shout at someone with precisely the right amount of vigour...well.

And yet, I'm planning to go back and get the other endings, and eventually the true ending.

The base script may be frequently awful (although it does have its moments), but the overall story is excellent, and the characterisation is spot-on.  It's essentially a meditation on growing up - the core plot is that your character is trying to track down his penpal from his teenage years by using her old correspondence to identify her former classmates.  It might help that all the characters are close to my own age, but at times it really resonated as these well-rounded individuals reflected on their teenage years and how near or far they've stuck to their childhood goals.

It's also almost comically pretty.  The game's set in Matsue, the capital city of Shimane prefecture, and was apparently developed with the aid of the city's tourist board and dammit, it worked.  I definitely want to visit Matsue now.  (The soundtrack and voice acting are both very good, too.)

Basically, it's kind of successful at what it does.  But what it really needs is a good anime adaptation so you can skip the whole "game" bit.  In the absence of same, back to my save file to see the other endings I go.

Friday, August 11, 2017


I finished the Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School anime last night.  I've rarely punched the air in joy so many times at a piece of television.

The Danganronpa series is a pretty hard one to get your head around.  First you need to play the two original games, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.  Then you need to play the spinoff game, Ultra Despair Girls: Danganronpa Another Episode (which is set before the second game but requires you to have played it to make full sense of certain bits of plot).  Then you need to watch the above-mentioned anime, except it's split into two arcs: the Future Arc, taking place after the second game, and the Despair Arc, taking place before the first game.  And the way you're meant to watch them is Future Arc Episode 1, then Despair Arc Episode 1, then Future Arc Episode 2, etcetera.  Confusing.

(There's also a novel, Danganronpa Zero, set before the Despair Arc, which I haven't read.  Not even sure if it's officially available in English and my Japanese is still at far too low a level to consider anything beyond a kids' picture book.)

Anyway, the series is excellent if you can get your head round it.  Sometimes the gameplay of the two main games can be a bit irritating but the story and characters are well worth sticking with.  They're not always an easy watch/play (pick a character as your favourite!  They will almost certainly die a horrific, agonising death!) but they're always gripping, always clever, and frequently very, very funny.

And the Despair Arc of the anime has an utterly gorgeous opening sequence.  Bear witness.  I love it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On music, and the listening to thereof

I bought two (2) CDs last week.  One was Feist's new album, which I've been impatiently willing her to make for six years.  The other was an album by a Japanese metal band called Aldious, which I bought largely out of curiosity. 

I've listened to the Feist album about one-and-a-half times and spent pretty much the rest of the week listening to Aldious.

Go figure.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Resident Evil 7 post-mortem

I finished Resident Evil 7: Biohazard this afternoon.  Verdict?  Excellent start, severe dip for the Marguerite section, recovers itself after that.  Basically, very good.

More spoileriffic thoughts after the cut.

Monday, February 06, 2017


Finally got around to watching Ran today.  It's the fifth (?) Kurosawa film I've seen and the first one I've really loved.  It's quite a relief, actually.  When you come across feted Great Directors and try their output and are underwhelmed, there's a heady mix of disappointment and worrying if you've missed something.  But I missed nothing with Ran.  Excellent movie.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

My films of 2016

With inevitability.  And a little late.  And, as ever, possibly including a film or two from 2015.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Literary-based humblebrag

My dad mentioned last Christmas that he'd written a list of all the books he'd read over the year.  I liked the idea so I did it myself for 2016.  And since I don't want the piece of paper kicking around anymore, I'm copying it up here.  This also serves as a neat way to brag about my reading habits to the Internet at large, aren't I clever etcetera.  (Seriously though, it turns out I read a lot more than I realised.)

Books in bold are non-fiction, books struck through are ones I gave up on.


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (not sure if I'd already started this one or not when 1 January rolled around)
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Celts by Alice Roberts
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Tales from Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon
A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
Hokusai's Great Wave by Timothy Clark
Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits by David Wong
The Other Wind by Ursula LeGuin
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Kingdom Come by J. G. Ballard
The Peasants' Revolt by Alastair Dunn
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
Japan: A Short History by Mikiso Hane
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
London: A Short History by A. N. Wilson
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ships and Seafaring in Ancient Times by Lionel Cassan
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
The King in the North by Max Adams
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
The Bachman Books by Stephen King
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Militant Midwives by Michael Bond
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice by John Miller
The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells
The Concise Pepys by Samuel Pepys
The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
Grotesque by Natsu Kirino - and that's what I'm currently about halfway through.

So, yes.  BOOKS