The new year has been rung in, with the forty-second round of Articles of Excellence won by Dark Arcanine with his review for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. He describes it as a game that is well worth the amount of time it spent in development, making fantastic use of MotionPlus while offering a game that's fun and addictive with an engrossing atmosphere.

 The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword     Score: 4.9/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 So there you have it; Skyward Sword is one highly enjoyable, stuffed-to-the-brim package of great game design and fun to be had.

quote Dark Arcanine
More often than not pre-game hype results in sighs, groans and a lot of post-game hang-ups. For Skyward Sword, there is no denying that this game received its fair share of hype before hitting our shelves. We marvelled at the sound of the MotionPlus controls scheme (and the worry of another Other M crept upon me) and wondered just how great the game could be after spending no less than five years in development, including a good several months of polishing. Skyward Sword marks a celebration of a big 25 years for the Zelda series, so did being in development for the life of the console do the development team and the Wii justice, or did hype kill the Loftwing?

This story mixes things up a little bit: Princess Zelda is not royalty. That’s right, she’s actually Link’s childhood best friend and instead of living in Hyrule, we’re up in a city in the clouds called Skyloft. A boy like any other studying at the Knight Academy, Link alongside his unique red Loftwing dreams of becoming a senior knight of Skyloft. Yet everything goes Kikwi-shaped when Zelda is lost to the clouds, and the task to save her befalls Link. Acquiring the legendary Goddess Sword and a new companion named Fi who resides in said blade, Link sets off below the clouds to the surface world to begin his adventure and discover his true destiny.

In another world ravaged by evil, Link’s exploration of the unknown surface world sees him piece history and legendary powers together in the search for Zelda, as he and those around him come to discover their parts in an epic story of heroism spanning space and time. Twists and turns abound within the story of Skyward Sword, which is closely intertwined with other aspects of the game (explained below). It’s a charming story with a lot of character and beautiful settings to boot. It never feels dragged out or bulked out for the sake of it, and you’ll find yourself completely engrossed in the world of Skyward Sword from beginning to end.
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The fortieth round of Articles of Excellence has seen the much talked about Xenoblade Chronicles as the winning review written by Hell Fire. Describing it as a fantastic JRPG with just a few niggles of small note, with a story that goes without saying as unique and enjoyable gameplay experience to be had.

 Xenoblade Chronicles     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 To put it simply, it is the best JRPG this generation, on any platform.

quote Hell Fire
It goes without saying that if a game manages to steal one hundred and twenty hours of your life, then the developers must have done something right. Xenoblade Chronicles is one such game that blew all of my expectations out the window and showed me that there’s still hope for the JRPG genre in a world that is falling victim to Western RPG and Call of Duty addiction. Tetsuya Takahashi is the genius behind this masterpiece. He’s kind of like the Bill Gates of the RPG industry; everything he touches just turns to gold. Xenogears and Xenosaga (director), Final Fantasy IV to VII and Chrono Trigger (Art and Graphics) just to name a few absolute gems. His most recent piece of work, Xenoblade Chronicles, can easily be thrown in the same league as these classics that are often regarded as the best RPGs ever produced. In the end, Xenoblade Chronicles uses the dream formula (seen in the above games), as its base while presenting many unique qualities that will no doubt make it a classic in the future. It’s just a shame Xenoblade never received a North American release, which is not only financial suicide, but also one of the cruelest things you could do to a country. The people have paid their taxes. Do something about it Mr. President!

I can assure you that you’ve never heard this one before. The story is set on two giant gods; Bionis and Mechonis (as shown in the image below), who stopped functioning after a seemingly never-ending battle with one another. Shortly later, there was life. These civilians began to build colonies on the exterior of these gods and all seemed well until the residents of Mechonis (the machines) waged war on Bionis (home to biological life forms). It seemed like all was lost for Bionis, until a young hero, Dunban, harnessed the power of an ancient sword, the Monado, and drove the machines back to their world (or god). A few years later, the game commences. You are put into the shoes of Shulk, a young weapons researcher from Colony 9, who has been tasked to learn the secrets of the Monado. From only a few hours into the game, the action really starts picking up and never stops. It’s much like Speed without the bus, or the bomb. The plot is full of betrayal, friendship, death, romance, twists, turns and all that other stuff that you would come to expect in a decent narrative. It is pulled off exceptionally well too, and while not as deep as Xenogears (which is often regarded as the deepest and most philosophical RPG ever), still raises a few questions at the end. It’s not all sugar and rainbows however (but it is close). The illogical outcome and lack of realistic decisions in a couple of scenes made me want to tear my hair out. Add this to some overly cheesy enemy dialogue, along the lines of: “You can’t catch meeeee. I’m too powerful!” and the smooth flowing narrative is suddenly disrupted. But let’s be honest. 90% of games these days have these issues. I’m just being picky because everything else is so damn perfect.

The characters compliment the story very well. While the main character, Shulk, often tries too hard to show that he has a completely pure heart, he is rarely annoying and definitely tolerable. His sidekick, Reyn, may seem annoying at first (particularly his voice), but actually grows into a likable character. Then there’s the war hero Dunban, who is the essence of cool (think Auron from FFX), a hot healer who is the voice of reason, a hilarious Nopon (another species) who is there for comic value (very successful comic value), a surprising member of a royal family, and finally a product of a massive plot twist which you probably won’t see coming. Each of these characters are well fleshed out and will grow as you journey through the game. Great characters to drive a great story; now there’s a formula for success. Why don’t RPG developers try this one more often?
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Fifteenth round of Articles of Excellence saw a second short list of review, but with some very interesting voting. Neck-and-neck from start to finish, right at the end a review managed to get the one-up. That review is Dark Arcanine's review of Metroid: Other M. Giving it an alright score, he discusses how he enjoyed the more immersive combat system, decent plot, return-to-roots gameplay and a good look. Having said this, the game suffers from cut scene spam, fractured perspective switching and playing with a male-dominated Samus.

 Metroid: Other M     Score: 3.8/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 In summarising Metroid: Other M, I’d have to call it an ambitious title. It wanted to achieve a lot, but lost in the process a lot of what made the previous titles so enjoyable.

quote Dark Arcanine
Metroid: Other M promised a lot when first announced. It tantalised the newer fans with the interesting concept of the ability to instantaneously swap between first and third-person. It wafted a familiar smell toward the veterans, promising a gameplay with a return to roots. With something to keep everyone happy, it looked to be a very strong release. Sadly this is not the case, as Metroid: Other M back flips on the previous Prime series efforts to present a game that lacks that something special and will ultimately end up collecting the dust on your shelf. So where did it go so wrong for our blonde heroine from outer space?

The plot starts out simple enough; Samus is cruising around in her ship when she receives a distress call. Alarmed by the name of signal, she has a flashback to when the baby Metroid saved her from Mother Brain. She answers the call and lands on the Bottle Ship. Once onboard, it’s clear that something is wrong as Samus runs into a Galactic Federation squadron led by her former commander, Adam Malkovich. As they split up and explore the ship, it becomes clear that this will not be an easy mission. With team mates disappearing, old enemies resurfacing, and a ship that was home to illegal experiments, it doesn’t take long before Samus becomes suspicious about why the Galatic Federation, along with other things, are onboard this ship. As the game progresses, Samus is faced with not only the challenge of finding out what happened, but also the coming to terms with her own past.
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This forum needs some loving! And by this I mean, the Spyborgs game needs some loving. It is likely that it's not a very well known game yet on Neoseeker, which is why I felt it couldn't hurt to raise some awareness through my blog.

Now you must bare with me, because I don't know much myself. :O Though it is an Action game on the Wii, so I'll have the majority of Wii owners with me so far. Then consider what it's about, Spyborgs. Which obviously, is a combination of a spy and a cyborg. Futuristic sort of games are pretty interesting right?

If I still haven't got anyone interested yet, perhaps I should show off some screenshots and concept art:

There's also more screenshots and plenty of more concept art in my gallery so be sure to check it out if you're interested.

That's about it from me, I'm sure Spyborg fans could have done a better job. Instead, you got stuck with a guy who liked some pictures and wanted to do a good deed... so deal with it. Remember, check out the forum and don't be a stranger!

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If there's one game which is underrated on the Wii which I would highly suggest you play, it's de Blob. I simply cannot stress how much fun it is. It's cute, it's addictive and it's something a bit out of the ordinary.

There's someone who can explain how good it is better than me though, which is me. Please, I beg you to read this review and if you're not convinced after that, I promise not to find out where you live and hunt you down. Though I can't believe someone would not be interested!

What I find interesting is that it caters to both types of people, so no complaining from you people who obsess over non casual games and insult the Wii for a lack thereof. It is casual in the sense it's very laid back in appearance, but it's an enjoyable atmosphere which can make your afternoon a lot more enjoyable than sitting on the edge of your couch shouting "*bleep* you zombie just fall down and die.. aaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!11!1" when playing some action game. But then this game does also provide action, as you get to kill plenty of Inkies by squishing them to death into the ground. You also get to take on tanks, speed bikes, turrets and all sorts... still not convinced? If so, then I invite you to check out how challenging it actually is. Despite the laid back attitude, it does provide some good puzzles and challenges which do require you to think and put some proper effort into it.

If this is still not enough for you, then perhaps you're someone who likes funky colours? Someone who enjoys staring at a lava lamp for hours or standing like a fool in front of some neon light sign? If that's the case then again, you'll like this game. The main concept is to bring colour back to the world and you get to splash and mix it however you want. Yes painting may sound a bit dull but put it this way, a lot of you like Mario and he's a plumber. It's addictive as you paint the town red so to speak, with your screen pulling you in with the bright colours and the contrast with the bleak landscapes you're about to revive.

When it comes down to it, de Blob is an interesting game which doesn't receive due credit. Rent it out some time or borrow it from a friend, I promise you won't be disappointed. There's something for everyone, whether it be because you like a challenge, collecting things, unlocking bonus material, killing or just looking at bright colours. de Blob is something original, making good use of the Wii Remote and a good Wii game in general which deserves its time in the spotlight.

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This will definitely be the last you hear out of me in terms of Christmas, except when next year comes around. Although in terms of Christmas spirit the day was just as disappointing as I'd expected, the present haul was pretty decent.

I then, through this, made a new discovery about the whole age rant I did in my first blog entry. Getting older leads to better presents from relatives, either that or I was very lucky. Rather than some cheap toy, I got some liqueur chocolates. Instead of some bad book, I received a $50 note. Instead of cheap little things, I was getting decent big things. So yes perhaps I got lucky, but I think it had something to do with maturing... not complaining!

My Christmas at home was also great too. I mean of course there was the compulsory clothing items, but they turned out to be wanted this year. I got these $100 pair of jeans which are black and tight, talk about sexy (I'll get pic up at some point). My two best friends kept calling them "the emo pants" and I only realised after a while what they meant, with the whole guys wearing smaller women's clothes thing. I said we could settle on the name "the semi emo pants" because yes they're tight but they came from the men section. There was then a new pair of swimming stuff, pajamas and a shirt so all good and no dreaded socks/underwear for a change.

Then there was the CD side of things, which proved more than welcome this year. I currently have a really awesome cousin called Danielle staying over from England and this was her first Christmas in summer (and is like seven years older if you're wondering). She bought me a couple of things, yay for being the old favourite cousin of yonder year, but my favourite had to be the Iron Maiden album. They're a good band so I was pleased, despite it not being something I'm more into but I guess it pays to stick to what you know. Especially since her comments toward my music include "wow this is fast, are they on speed?" or "this is far too heavy for my liking". Which is actually very funny, but I'll blog about music another day.

Following this, I received three movies from my parents. One is something from my childhood, the other two being movies I kept whining on about wanting to make them watch. The childhood one is Bill and Ted, don't know if you guys have seen it but I feel so sorry for you if you haven't seen either of the movies. The two movies I was worshiping were V for Vendetta and Gabriel. The first is an excellent tale of a dystopian England and the second is about the battle between the arch angels and the fallen in purgatory for control of the dead souls. The second one is an Australian movie with a low budget, and I will tell you now it's the only good movie ever to be affiliated with this country.

Then came my big present, my Wii! I haven't played with it too much yet but I do have another five weeks off school yet. I was worried about what I'd be like with the Wii Remote and nun chuck but I found myself doing pretty well. I like the features I've encountered so far and I honestly don't see why people are so rude about Nintendo's latest console. I played around with my friend's PS3 and it seemed just like the PS2 so I wasn't impressed.

With the Wii I got four games in total. These are Wii Sports, Wii Music, de Blob and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. There is quite a decent list of what I'd like to buy for it, top of it next would probably be Mario Kart Wii. Out of the four games I do have, de Blob is my favourite. No doubt a lot of Brawl fans will be raging at me for saying that, but I just can't help myself. In fact I loved it so much, I wrote a review for it.

The presents then got me thinking, I have to blog this to Neoseeker to share it with you guys. Then came the conundrum of putting my images up in this blog. At first I figured I'd use Photobucket but it wouldn't upload (and I figured out there's some security program newly installed on here being... well a tool in more than one sense) and so I decided to use the recent addition of the NeoGallery. I figured I might as well, why use somewhere else when I can use a spanking brand new feature on my favourite site? I've not done much yet but I applaud the uploading speed, from what I see it's a similar setup to the FanArt section which is interesting and works well. So all together, I've uploaded four photos for you. In order they are the Wii, the games for it, the movies and the album. So check out the photos below and feel free to comment here or PM me about something you found interesting, my friends in real life are useless when it comes to Christmas discussion. ;.;

P.S. Yes my family has a thing for wood, especially myself. :O

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