Archive for April, 2012

As a little prequel to my retro gaming thread I’m about to embark on I would like you to cast you mind back to 1990.

The place – Shawlands, Glasgow
The exact place – Menzies Toy Shop (now a coffee shop)
The event – Megaman competition
Console – Nintendo Entertainment System

So, there I was, an 8-year-old boy with nothing but room full of NES games and a head full of dreams, when the chance to play in a local tournament came up.

I convinced my mum to take me along and I registered to play.

I thought I was a bit of a player and genuinely thought I was gonna ‘walk it’; just turn up, play for a bit and the trophy was mine.  But there were things I hadn’t taken into consideration:

(1) The glamour of the tournament and its subsequent effect on you as a player
(2) The pressure and expectation put on you

I did well.  I got through the initial rounds with little problem, dispensing with the more rookie players quickly.  But this was no amateur hour, I very nearly lost out in the quarter-final stage and only a remarkable effort on my part saw me through that round.

In the end I didn’t make the final. Yes there were rumours of foul play; that one kid had input a ‘cheat code’, and although I didn’t take the defeat as graciously as I would have liked, time is a great healer and I hold no grudges.

My finish was a respectable 3rd. On the podium.  Bronze medal.  I was the 3rd best ‘gamer’ in Shawlands*, and therefore by extension the world.

Retro game reviews coming soon everyone, stay tuned…

* Shawlands was recognized in the official Contenti/Bylenti/Furagenti poll of 1989/90, as the gaming capital of the world.

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I have a new project.  And it’s going to be awesome!

Regular readers of this blog may be aware that I have recently rediscovered the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System to you).  It truly is the greatest gaming console of all time.

To that end I’ve decided to review some of my favourite games in a slightly more formal way than my usual slapdash approach.

I’m going to review them on the blog, but I’m also going to film me playing said games to really take you, the ‘viewer/reader’, deeper into the experience of this… hang on this is getting wanky.

Reboot

I’m gonna write about the games and I’m gonna film me playin them, right. Got it?

Good.

See you on the otha side Brotha…

Stats:

Name: Katniss Everdeen
Occupation: Hunter Gatherer, Hunger games contestant and Joint Winner of the 74th Games
Skills: Pretty handy with a bow and arrow, super intelligent, cunning, crazy fighting skills

So Katniss lives in dystopian, post apocalyptic America (Panem).  She lives in one of 12 districts that surround the governmental capital.  Her district is District 12, and they are coal miners.  Each area has a speciality and that’s what the people who live there are born and die to do. They all live in abject poverty, and are constantly hungry. Bottom line, it’s no life.

So, why is it like that?  Well, there was some kind of war/uprising in the past and everyone revolted against the capital.  The government won the war and as penance for burning the country to the ground they make each of the districts give up one boy and one girl aged between 12 and 18 to take part in a vicious televised game show:

The Hunger Games

This is an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one individual remains.

So, Katniss lives there and to feed her family she hunts every day in the woods and has become an expert with a bow and arrow.  She catches squirrels mostly, sometimes birds, and she sells them at a black market for essential supplies, while the rest feed her sister and mum.

So the hunger games comes to town to select the two from District 12 that will represent them.  Katniss’ little sister Primrose is selected to take part.  Horrified at the thought of her 12-year-old sister dying Katniss steps up and becomes the first ever person in D 12 to volunteer for the games, thus taking the place of her sis.  A boy called Peeta is also chosen (Whom Katniss has a little history with) and they are then in the games.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol where their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, winner of the 50th Hunger Games, instructs them to watch and learn the talents of the other tributes.

Katniss is given a very glamorous make-over by Cinna, which involves her exuding fake fire from her back as she and Peeta enter the capital to be filmed and shown live to all the viewers for the first time.  This earns her the title ‘The Girl on Fire’ and she quickly becomes a hit with the public.  This is important, because during the games the viewers send packages/aid to contestants they like in times of need.  Example: if you cut your arm in the arena, a ‘sponsor’ might send you bandages/antibiotics etc to help you.  Basically something that could save your life.

They are then publicly displayed to the Capitol audience in a televised session with interviewer Caesar Flickerman (he’s fucking crazy – blue hair and all). During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his longtime unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss doesn’t take that too well, she’s thinks Peeta is just playing to the camera’s, which he is a bit, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

Katniss has to go through a brutal training regime to prepare her for the games and by the time they are about to begin she is absolutely shitting herself with fear.  And with good fucking cause.

On Day 1 of the games, nearly half the tributes are killed in the first day of the Games alone, Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and outdoor skills to survive. A few days into the games, Katniss develops an alliance with Rue, a 12-year-old girl from the agricultural District 11 who reminds Katniss of her sister, Primrose. The alliance is short-lived; Rue is killed by another tribute. At Rue’s request Katniss sings to her, then spreads flowers over her body as a sign of respect—and of disgust towards the Capitol.

Supposedly due to Katniss and Peeta’s beloved image in the minds of the audience as star-crossed lovers, a rule change is announced midway through the Games, stating that two tributes from the same district can win the Hunger Games as a pair. Upon hearing this, Katniss searches for Peeta and eventually finds him wounded. As she nurses him back to health, she acts the part of a young girl falling in love to gain more favor with the audience and, consequently, gifts from her sponsors.

When the couple is finally the last two tributes, the Gamemakers reverse the rule change in an attempt to force them into a dramatic finale, where one must kill the other to win. Katniss, knowing that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none, retrieves highly poisonous berries known as “nightlock” from her pouch and offers some to Peeta. Thinking that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that both will be the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.

Well, this is just the beginning of Katniss’ Journey but she is single-handedly fighting the system all on her own. Not since Robin Hood has anyone rocked a bow so much.  She’s amazing and a very worth number one in my list.

Here she is in action:


And again…

Ok, there has been a mistake at ‘These are my thoughts’ Towers.  It should have been a top 9.  I’m angry, I’ve had to fire 5 members of staff over this, but I feel that’s a small price to pay for their error.

Now, back to this, in at… 1.5, I present:

Elizabeth Bennet.

Stats:

Name: Elizabeth Bennet|
Nicknames: Eliza, Lizzie, dearest Elizabeth
Occupation: Doesn’t really have one
Special Skills: Very Intelligent, Student of Human folly, Sometimes gullible, sometimes wise and she’s pretty good at busting Mr Darcy’s balls

So Elizabeth Bennet is a lady from the country, the second eldest of five sisters.  She lives with her mother and father and at the beginning of her little journey neither she nor any of her sisters are married.  Then two eligible bachelors come into town: Mr Bingley (nice man, easy to get a long with) and Mr Darcy (an apparently not so nice man – though he is – and a bit moody).  Mr Bingley immediately falls for Jane Bennett (the eldest) and Mr Darcy and Elizabeth immediately form a tense relationship.

Almost from the moment he meets her, Mr Darcy begins falling for Elizabeth, but she thinks that he is stuck up and rude.  Eliza meets the enigmatic Mr Wickham, and he quickly tells her a tale of woe about when was taken in as a child by Mr Darcy’s family when his own father died.  He was cared for and he explains that Mr Darcy’s father had intended him for a career in the church.  But then the father died and when the chance of that living fell vacant Mr Darcy flat-out refused to give it to Wickham and turned him out.  Elizabeth is outraged and her hatred of Mr Darcy grows.  But all the while her anger grows he is secretly falling more and more and love with her.

It builds to a head and Darcy out of the blue proposes to Elizabeth.  She’s shocked, she hadn’t realised he felt that way, in fact she thought he hated her too.  So rejects him and doesn’t pull any punches as to the reason why.  This is the prejudice part of her tail you see.  She believes this total stranger Wickham and lets it influence her opinion over someone else because she believes it so implicitly.

So, Mr Darcy explains himself in heartfelt letter and explains what did happen with Wickham.  Turns out he’s a bit of dick and tried to marry Darcy’s 15-year-old sister to get at her money.  Bad man.  So Eliza’s opinion begins to soften a little, and she appears to be developing feelings for him too.

At the point where it looks like they’re both going to declare their feelings, tragedy strikes.  Wikham has eloped with Miss Bennet’s sister, the 16-year-old Lydia.  It’s a scandal and one that threatens to ruin the reputation of not only Lydia but all of her sisters by association.  Miss Bennet returns home immediately and she thinks she will never see Mr Darcy again.

But Mr Darcy has been very kind, and at great personal expense he finds Wickham hidden in London and forces him to marry Lydia to save the Bennet’s family honour.  He does all this and insists that it be kept a secret, and he makes Liz’s uncle take the credit for saving the day; he really is a nice guy.

Eliza finds out of course and the two are finally united in the end of one the nicest, most complex love stories you will ever see.

Eliza is a wonderful character, flawed, beautiful, intelligent, prejudiced, wonderful and just amazing.

Here she is in a classic scene having to deal with the rather immense Lady De Burgh…

Darcy’s first, and not successful proposal…


Stats:

Name: Ellen Ripley
Occupation: Lieutenant (first class)
Skills: Evading the ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens’, good with a loader and pretty decent at blowing up spaceships
Super Special Skills: Delivers a very good “Stay away from her you bitch!” line to the Alien Queen

Poor Ripley. It feels in a very real way like those pesky Aliens have a kind of vendetta against her; maybe it’s the other way around.

Anyway, Ripley and her crew are in hypersleep aboard the mining ship ‘Nostromo’, on their way back to Earth.  On route, the onboard computer awakens them from stasis in the Reticuli system.  The ship detected a signal from an unknown source and the crew duly head down to the planet it’s coming from and start their investigation. There, they find the wreckage of an enormous Alien spacecraft. Intrigued they head inside and in the belly of this beast they find thousands of eggs beneath some kind of energy barrier.  Humans being stupid, they decide to go under the barrier, one of the eggs hatches and the thing inside attaches itself to said human’s face.

Back at the lander, Ripley is the only one sensible enough to realise that the human with the ‘facehugger’ shouldn’t be allowed back onboard, but she’s double crossed and her injured colleague comes aboard.  So begins Ripley’s constant struggle with these monsters.

You see the facehugger implants an alien inside it’s host, which bursts out of the host in a rather unsavoury manner.   That little dude then grows up to be a rather bad ass predator (not like the predator films).  It has acid for blood (tricky if you’re trying to kill it), is immensely strong, problem solving and in the enclosed environment of a spaceship, it will be the last thing you see before you die.

Ripley is the last human standing in her fight against the Alien.  In one of the most tense scenes in cinema she ends up dumping the Alien out of the airlock and only just surviving herself.

Ripley goes on to fight the Xeonmorphs in Aliens (every bit as good as Alien), Alien 3 (ok, but not as good as the first two) and Alien Resurrection (jesus that’s a bad film).

But all in all, Ripley is the perfect badass female kicking ass out in space.  See the loader fight in Aliens for more details on that.

Here she is…

And a hat tip to the amazing musical score by Jerry Goldsmith in Alien, truly a beautiful piece of music

Stats:

Name: Seven of Nine
Real Name: Annika Hansen
Occupation: Former Borg Drone, Now Human again member of Voyagers Crew working in Astrometrics

To understand Seven you have to go all the way back to her childhood.  Her incredibly brave but incredibly reckless parents decide to take their ship and using this crazy ass semi clocking spy technique they go and study the Borg.  Now, if there’s one group of people you don’t mess with it, it is the borg.  So, they mess with them, and then suddenly one day the Borg realise they’re being spied on and duly assimilate her parents and young Annika along with them.  So begins her life as a drone.

Years later, the Federation starship voyager, on its long long during back to Earth, has to go through Borg space.  That story is a long one, and for another time, but suffice it to say Seven of Nine ends up on Voyager and against all the odds on the way back way.

Now the thing is, Seven is part machine part human at this point, she’s lived her whole life as a drone.  And as a drone she was telepathically linked with the ‘hive mind’.  Bottom line, she was never alone, her thoughts never her own.  Then suddenly, bang, she’s on Voyager, on her own and although she has a crew to get to know, it’s not the same.  So, it’s fair to say she has a tough time adjusting.

On a couple of occasions she tries to get back to her collective, but ultimately she decides to stay.  She is extremely intelligent, hardworking and due to her borg implants is an extremely capable member of the crew.

She makes friends, saves the life of individuals and the entire crew on multiple occasions, she travels through time. But there’s a sadness to her, in some ways she’ll always be on her own and that must be hard for anyone to take.


Stats:

Name: Nikita
Occupation: Junkie, Assassin for the French Government
Skills: Bad Temper, Hand to hand combat, good with a gun, bit of badass

So, Nikita is robbing a pharmacy to get her next hit, along with junkie cohorts.  Police raid the place and in one of the most brutal cold-blooded murders you will ever see in the history of cinema, Nikita kills a cop by shooting him in the face at point-blank range.

She is duly arrested and put on death row.  Once there she is visited by an agent of the French Government who gives her two choices:

(1) Serve the rest of her life in Jail
(2) Work for the French Secret Service as an assassin

She of course chooses the latter and begins her training.  She’s a bit of a bad apple so doesn’t deal with training too well.  She beats the shit out of her martial arts instructor, doesn’t pay attention, and is an all round bad girl.  However, one of her trainers, Amande, whom Nikita does respect, transforms her from degenerate teenage junkie to stylish assassin.

Once she graduates, her initial mission, killing a diplomat in a crowded restaurant and escaping back to the Centre, doubles as the final test in her training.  Where she is told that she has to escape via the bathroom only to find it bricked up; she has to shoot her way out.  She does of course. She graduates and begins life as a sleeper agent in Paris with her boyfriend Marco, a man she meets in a supermarket and who knows nothing of her real profession.

It goes wrong of course, it always does.  But she is one cool character and the coolest thing that Luc Besson ever created in my humble opinion.