You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Review of Zelda: Skyword Sword

I love this game.

There’s no way you’d be able to tell that from what I write below, but know that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is awesome and you should all buy it and play it until your arm atrophies from Wii-itis.

Let’s start somewhere else: the Greek hero, Theseus, has a ship.  Sailing between islands, he begins to replace each plank of wood in his ship, throwing the old plank out behind and replacing it with a new plank (where he gets these new planks out on the ocean, none know).  There’s a person sailing behind Theseus grabbing the discarded planks and making a ship identical to Theseus’ original… blah, blah.  Which is Theseus’ ship?

What makes for a Zelda game?  The series has been, undoubtedly, the most influential in the history of videogaming.  There isn’t an new game made today which doesn’t borrow concepts originally tried in a Zelda adventure.

But what happens when Zelda starts borrowing from other franchises?  Does it start a dialogue where each party learns the best stuff of the other?  Or do the interlocutors begin to lose their individuality?

There is an element of the latter in this game.  While being familiar enough to be a Zelda title (Link’s there, Zelda’s there, goddesses, Triforce, &c.), it’s not difficult to see that the names could be replaced and it wouldn’t be a Zelda game.

It’s sort of like how the film Troy had absolutely nothing in common with The Iliad except the names.

On the other hand, who cares?  If the game is excellent, does it matter if it ‘feels’ like a Zelda game (whatever that means)?

And the game is amazing.  You play a young hero whose love interest appears to be better at succeeding in life than you are.  Shortly after an event in which she acts as the avatar of a goddess, she’s kidnapped by evil forces.  Instead of waiting for you to rescue her, she’s saved herself and begun a journey about three steps ahead of you.  Thus begins your adventure to keep up with the girl.

It’s a long way from old Zelda who was asleep or trapped in a crystal waiting for you to rock up.  It’s even a long way from the Zelda who dressed as a guy and stood in the background waiting for you to save the world.  It’s a Zelda who carves the way ahead of you, but for some reason puts all of the traps and switches back the way she found them.

Or she’s so much more awesome than you that she can complete the dungeons without needing to solve all the puzzles.

The world is beautiful.  The story is fun (although you’ll be talked to death in the first hour of the game: cut scene, cut scene, bird race, cut scene).  And the puzzles are puzzling.

It’s not without its problems.  I am, above all things, a very lazy person.  Everybody’s been raving about the sword fighting.  The sword moves where you move the Wiimote.  What I want in life is for me to push A and the monster dies.  If I wanted to sword fight with monsters, I’d start up a fencing competition against libertarians.

And flying.  God, I hate flying.  In Wind Waker, sailing was a matter of pointing in the right direction and keeping a vague eye out for sharks.  In Skyward Sword, you travel over miles of featureless clouds by waving your arm.  If you stop waving your arm, the bird shits itself and gets stuck in the clouds at the bottom of the screen.  I’m ambidextrous, so I figured when one arm got tired, I could go to the other.  Not so; the Wii is designed to only recognise dexterous people and has no time for the sinister.

It’s also a pain playing in bed.  I have found memories lying in bed playing A Link to the Past.  I could wrap myself in my duvet with some soft drink and nibbles, and get my arse handed to me by Turtle Rock Dungeon.

Don’t try to move unnecessarily while playing Skyward Sword.  I tried to grab a bottle of creaming soda, but this resulted in me accidentally swinging my sword into the nearby bomb plants…

‘Sure,’ I hear you say from the future, ‘But if you’re not a complete moron, you’ll be fine.’

But you’d be wrong.  In order to roll bombs, you either have to stand up or have to contort your arm around in front of your body to simulate where your arm would be if you were standing up.

Yes, boohoo for me.  The game wants me to be active instead of just lying around.  But if I didn’t want to lie around, I’d be doing something else other than playing video games.  It’s like people who spend weeks on end trying to get good at Guitar Hero.  Why not put that effort into learning the guitar?  If I wanted to get good at moving around and being coordinated, I’d take up a sport.

Oh, and upgrading items.  I hate games that do that.  Give me my weapons.  Don’t expect me to go out hunting bugs to crush up into weapon bonuses.

But all of those things aside, this is an amazing game.  So much better than Batman: Arkham City.

Is it in your genes? I don’t know… the as promised nerdshit post

You’re right.  This whimsical and almost entirely self indulgent blog has become a bit bogged down in the political quagmire.  While it is fun to point out the poverty of political commentary amongst us lowly blogging classes —

— for example, we have a show in Australia called Q&A.  It’s fluff rubbish for those with pretensions of being politically savvy and some people take it far too seriously (ahem).  For the rest of us, it’s a hilarious platform for watching various politicians meltdown (usually Greens; one of whom was brought close to tears when the panel and the audience rapidly turned on her; another of whom tactlessly ripped into a homosexual senator for being politically pragmatic, and then went on to lose her shit after being trolled by an audience member).  And then people interpret it according to their already fairly obvious biases.  Oh, but next week’s is going to be awesome because Barnaby Joyce will almost certainly descend into quackery.  I’m amazed Abbott let him near a camera. —

— it gets a bit insular.  Thus, nerdshit breaks the monotony and gives me something trivial to discuss.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been doing much that’s nerdy.  Unlike just about everybody else in the universe, I couldn’t get excited about Starcraft II.  I tried.  I really tried.  Nothing.

On the other hand, I’m awfully excited about the upcoming Zelda game.  It’s planned to come out some time in 2011 and looks radtacular.  Why does it look radtacular?  Because it looks like a tweaked up version of the previous Zelda game, which was radtacular.

Okay, while it’s true that the ‘culture industry not so much adapts to the reactions of its customers as it counterfeits them’, it’s hard for me not to get excited about another instalment of something I know so well.  Each sequel to a game is just an adaptation of the original game.  While some people dismiss this as a lack of originality, I wonder what it is about a lack of originality which demands dismissal.  Plenty of things are unoriginal and yet many of these things are beautiful.  We have a lot of difficulty with this concept in modern culture: working within a framework isn’t a failing.  Just about all modern poetry is utterly rubbish because most of our most prominent poets reject the formalities.

And so that’s why I’m excited.  I know what the overall story will be — boy needs to rescue world from ancient evil by collecting things from dungeons — and yet the exploration of the world and the solving of new puzzles represents a challenge.

In other news, here are things you should see/do:

  • Bill Bailey in concert.  It wasn’t one of his best shows, but it was still a huge amount of fun.
  • Inception.  My only criticism is that they turned up the music when the dialogue was getting boring.  I missed half the explanations of the world around them because the soundtrack was too loud.
  • Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells.  Despite the literal meaning of the lyrics, its such a happy song.  Mmmmm… happiness.

This morning, I woke up with this feeling I didn’t know how to deal with… and 2009 was awesome

I voted in triple j's Hottest 100, have YOU?

My top ten songs for the year (in no particular order):

BAT FOR LASHES – Daniel

DATAROCK – Give It Up

EDITORS – Papillon

FLORENCE and THE MACHINE – Drumming Song

FRANZ FERDINAND – No You Girls

KAREN O AND THE KIDS – All Is Love

LA ROUX – In For The Kill

METRIC – Help I’m Alive

THEM CROOKED VULTURES – Reptiles

FLORENCE and THE MACHINE – Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

Best movie of the year:

Where the Wild Things Are

Admittedly, I’m yet to see District 9 (I bought the DVD yesterday) and MoonStar Trek was more awesome than anybody could have expected but still didn’t manage to be as absolutely perfect as WtWTA.

There were some right stinkers this year as well.  Coraline was probably the worst new film I saw this year.  Everything that WtWTA did well, Coraline managed to foul up (even though both films were largely exploring the same territory).  Dragonball Evolution managed to be disappointing despite the already low expectations (it wasn’t even fun).  And Up! was an exceptional waste of time.  I still can’t work out what the plot was.

The biggest disappointment was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  What a bafflingly confused pile of crap that was.

Favourite meme:

Boxxy.  It was a good start to the year.

Best new book:

It was a bit of a shitty year for fiction.  A new Dan Brown novel and Eoin Colfer’s attempt to impersonate Douglas Adams rather ruined the year for me.

Unseen Academicals by Pratchett was a lot of fun.  It’s interesting to see the continuing development of Vetinari, and I wonder if there’s much more development in store for him.

In comic books, I really liked Messiah War.

Best new video game:

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.  It won’t break any records and it probably won’t go down in time as a classic game, but it is so much fun.

For sheer brilliance, special mention should be made of Batman: Arkham Asylum.  I bought it for my younger brother (who has an XBox) and it’s mesmerisingly good.

Joy to the world! The Lord is… HUNT THE RANGA!!

I find racists a bit weird.

You know when you’re at the beach and you find a bit of something that sort of looks a lot like jelly but isn’t jelly and you wonder if it might be from a jellyfish but you don’t think it could have come from a jellyfish?  That’s how I feel whenever I’m talking to a racist.

Mind! I don’t mean the sort of everyday very common racist who doesn’t mean to be racist but really is when it comes down to it.  I mean the über-racist: the sort who proudly assert that people who aren’t white are somehow, through some fault of their own, inferior people.  I find it difficult to understand whence it comes.  It can’t be fear.  I’m more likely to get ripped off by whitey than any other group — which seems to be reflected when I do the implicit association test.  Or maybe it is fear and I’m just not accounting for people’s ability to be irrationally afraid of things.

But the moment somebody shouts ‘Hunt the ranga!’, I’m the first one there with my pitchfork.

There’s something intrinsically fine about hating on red heads.  Even the Bible does it.  Genesis 25 tells the story of Esau (a ranga) who sells his birthright for a bowl of lentils.  Ho, ho.

It’s funny because he’s got red hair.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Nerd up, my fine friends!

For those of you who are thinking ‘I really haven’t been able to express my nerd pride sufficiently of late’, we’ve had several weeks of the heavens dumping nerdshit upon our doorsteps.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

This has been a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoy it.  It’s the sort of game you can enjoy casually while dying of heat exhaustion on the couch.  Plus, there is a crapload of ice in the game and just looking at all that ice makes me feel better about the world.  Sure, Yahtzee is right when he says that it’s the same as all the other 2D Mario games.  On the other hand, who cares?  Nobody’s expecting gritty Mario.  Nobody’s expecting intricate plot Mario.  Nobody’s expecting anything other than mindless 2D fun.  In other words, you get from this game exactly what you think you’re going to get from this game: a few hours of fun smacking Koopas.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

I much prefer this to The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.  Okay, it could be that I have some completely unrelated emotional hangups about PH (the ex really liked the game and there was a trading function, so now my copy of the game is filled with things traded from her copy of the game, so it just induces panic attacks).  Not a big fan of the evil trains that can move more quickly than you and can hunt you down so you can’t avoid them.  That bit really sucks.  I’m also not a huge fan of the complete inability to turn around…  But, hey, you are supposed to be on a train.

I could also do without the scumbag NPCs.  Zelda is just about the only likable character in the game.  Everybody else is a demanding, annoying douche.  ‘Oh, I want wood. Bring me wood! Oh, I won’t work with a character with big antlers! Oh, do a roll into this tree filled with mother freaking bees!’

That last one pissed me off the most.  I thought, ‘You can’t be serious.  Why the crap would I want to roll into a tree full of bees?  Oh, well.  If you insist!’  Lo and behold, the bees freaking attacked me.  Then he laughed about it and demanded a free train ride.  I’m still a bit conficted about that, especially considering his mother didn’t seem to have the slightest idea of where he’s going.  Also, the turd is a liar.  I had to Googlewhack what to do with him because he’s such a rotten liar.

But, other than that, the game is ferociously excellent.

Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side

The release date was supposed to be tomorrow, but JB HiFi had them in stock today.  In truth, not as good as Blue Harvest but still an amazing amount of fun.  BH seemed to find humour in what was already in the Star Wars universe – Solo’s ‘few maneuvers’, for example.  SSDS seemed to rely more on recreating The Empire Strikes Back with Family Guy characters and then sprinkling jokes on the top.

Sure, BH did the same thing at times but it didn’t seem to be quite so dependent.  Also, I could do with several magnitudes less Herbert.  So, overall fun but pretty much just for fans of Star Wars and Family Guy.

Stargate Universe

I hate every military character on this show.  Freak me freaking sideways, I could swear they exist just to say asinine things and to disagree with people who can read without moving their lips.  Robert Carlyle is pretty much the only reason worth watching it at the moment (Channel 10, Monday nights.  Soon to be Channel 10, 1am Tuesday morning… TiVo!).

I also hate the trope of ‘Super smart outsider’.  In the original, James Spader had a theory which was not supported by the evidence.  Thus, he was rightly mocked for his unjustified beliefs.

But that’s not good enough for the country that invented Wikipedia.  Experts suck!  What do they know?  They’re just experts!

And so James Spader’s completely unjustified theory miraculously turned out to be correct.  Oooooh, he totally showed the establishment, didn’t he?

In this, the outsider is an out of work, university dropout who just happens to be able to work out maths homework in an alien language.  And I’m all like… ‘Right.  Lame.’

It’s sort of weird when you’ve got a television show which you really enjoy watching but only because you’re hoping that any of the non-Robert Carlyle characters will die horribly.  Unfortunately, they’re not dying rapidly enough at the moment.  But it is really enjoyable to watch.

My blood just wants to say hello to you, my soul is so afraid to realize… that public servants probably don’t need Twitter at work

Sighingly, I sighed a big sigh (sightastically so) when I heard about the Government 2.0 taskforce… thingy.

According to the superconfusing, co-trans-communicative blogpage 1.7:

The Government 2.0 Taskforce (‘Taskforce’) will advise and assist the Government to:

  • make government information more accessible and usable — to establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information;
  • make government more consultative, participatory and transparent — to maximise the extent to which government utilises the views, knowledge and resources of the general community;
  • build a culture of online innovation within Government — to ensure that government is receptive to the possibilities created by new collaborative technologies and uses them to advance its ambition to continually improve the way it operates;
  • promote collaboration across agencies with respect to online and information initiatives — to ensure that efficiencies, innovations, knowledge and enthusiasm are shared on a platform of open standards; and
  • identify and/or trial initiatives that may achieve or demonstrate how to accomplish the above objectives.

The Taskforce will advise Government on structural barriers that prevent, and policies to promote, greater information disclosure, digital innovation and online engagement including the division of responsibilities for, and overall coordination of, these issues within government. [‘About’, Source]

That’s all good and dandy, and very 1980s.  Hooray for fresh new ideas.

This week, they released a multistructured end-user interfaced report, freshly and innovatively pro-titled ‘Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0‘.

Freak me sideways, internets. Freak me sideways. Continue reading

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord… and I’ve been playing Mario and it freaking rocks

It rocks so very, very hard.

There’s a new ‘Save the Toads who were captured like dopes’ which is a pain in the almighty freaking arse (the one I saved this evening seemed to hate life, prefering to run straight into enemies rather than staying still), but the rest of the game is an absolute pleasure to play. As you can see from the timestamp on this post, I have already lost a number of hours to the game…

More gushing about this game (and speculation regarding Mario’s furry fetish — somebody gave Princess Peach a penguin costume as a birthday gift) to follow.