2012 will be remembered as a pretty momentous year by many, particularly those living in London. The Olympics came and left a lasting mark on the capital, silencing the doubters with a celebration of sport that provided a huge boost in morale for British people. Plus the world didn’t end which is nice. For me 2012 was a year in which not a whole lot really happened and I didn’t make much progress. I moved house again, this time to Greenwich, easily my favourite home in London to date. But my main reason for living, the pursuit of my writing dream, didn’t really go anywhere this year. That won’t be the case in 2013 however, I’m just starting to make proper progress with Wynks and I’m developing ideas for other books too. By the end of the year I expect to be on my way. Continue reading »
That’s a bit more like it. 2011, though not without its difficulties (including two of the most problematic and stressful house moves of all time), was a considerably better year than 2010. Highlights included my moving to London to live with great buddies Ryan and Tom, flying to New York for a week for my brother’s wedding and the admittedly faltering launch of the Nintendo 3DS.
Any new piece of hardware launching is a special occasion but Nintendo’s new handheld got off to an inauspicious start in a debut year marred by start-up problems. A day one line-up and launchw window devoid of any must-have titles, the eShop delay, disappointing early sales, all signs of a flop. Not even the wonderful The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time 3D could improve the system’s fortunes enough to avoid a drastic price cut and the unveiling of the aesthetically displeasing Circle Pad Pro was as good as Nintendo admitting they’d ballsed-up the hardware design. What a difference Mario makes. With Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 finally available the fledgling console’s fortunes have been transformed and sales figures have skyrocketed to record-breaking levels. The Wii meanwhile seems to be on its last legs with flatlining sales and a damaging shortage of quality new titles. However The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword gave the Wii faithful reason to be cheerful before year’s end. Finally the DS, the little handheld that could, has been coasting along to a dignified death as its more advanced successor gains steam, throwing up a few more well-received games to take it into its dotage. It hasn’t been the easiest year for Nintendo but in this time of transition for the company they’ve kept things ticking along in preparation for a crucial year ahead.
Due to wallet restrictions I’ve been less than ambitious in my pursuit of new games this year. Of the titles I picked for my Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2011 there’s still two I haven’t got round to buying, two that have been delayed to this year and one (the second DS Fire Emblem title) that was never released in the UK (which made me equal parts sad and angry). I still plan to get Okamiden and Kirby’s Epic Yarn as well as Sin and Punishment – Successor of the Skies, a game still left over from 2010, as soon as I can afford them. However I won’t let my woeful lack of new game acquisitions stop me from announcing my Game of the Year. Ideally I’d like to wait until I’ve reviewed every 2011 release I have managed to get my hands on before declaring my decision but this is the first of five annual posts I have in the pipeline and I don’t want them to get backed up. Plus I don’t think there’s much chance of the four games with reviews pending (Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Star Fox 64 3D and Xenoblade Chronicles) supplanting either of my choices for GOTY and runner-up. So without further ado…
Rose Red Prince’s 2011 Game of the Year
The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword (Wii)
As you may have guessed from my Skyward Sword review I like Zelda quite a lot. Each new instalment is the cause of much fevered anticipation and this time was no different. Skyward Sword may have had its shortcomings but it was still a massively high quality experience packed with innovation and excitement built on a strong foundation of new and existing gameplay mechanics. The big draw was the brilliantly realised Wii Motion Plus sword combat which singlehandedly vindicated motion controls as a legitimate part of hardcore gaming but the game made bold steps in other areas too introducing a host of new concepts and focusing on diversity for a varied, compulsive experience. The bold, impressionistic art style, orchestrated soundtrack, increased difficulty and massive length all went towards a hugely satisfying package that should not have left any stalwart fans feeling short-changed. A worthy, if predictable winner. Read my full review here.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)
It’s going to be an interesting year ahead for Nintendo with the 3DS gathering pace and a slew of big new titles on the way. The handheld faces stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation Vita which launches soon and with Smart Phone gaming proving more and more lucrative it looks like Nintendo might not have it all their own way this time around. The big new development however is the Wii U which is set for release in the second half of the year. Nintendo’s first HD console will have to be very special indeed if it is to keep up with rival machines with Microsoft set to reveal the successor to the Xbox 360 at E3. Promising a renewed focus on core gamers and online functionality and with pioneering new technology the company might have enough to beat the highly-stacked odds. No first party games have been unveiled as yet and the final specs and complete functionality of the machine remain unknown but with great strides being made with the 3DS’ online features and industry insiders making promising noises the signs are good. I’ll be revealing my Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2012 in due course.
As always 2011 never saw me going without a good book to read either in bed, during lunch breaks, on the train (including, newly, the London Underground) or wherever the urge takes me. The year marked the end of an era with the sad death of Brian Jacques aged 71. Brian’s work on the Tales of Redwall inspired my lifelong dream to be an author and though the quality of his long-running series dropped off in his later years they are books that will always keep a fond place in my heart. I am still working my way through the series one by one, something I’ve been doing since 2010 and with seven books still to finish they’re set to keep me occupied for some time to come. Once again I didn’t read a single book published in the preceding twelve months so instead my Book of the Year and runner-up are the best titles I discovered for the first time in 2011.
Rose Red Prince’s 2011 Book of the Year
High Rhulain – Brian Jacques
After a succession of so-so additions to the Redwall saga this little doozy popped up and rediscovered a little bit of what made the series so special to begin with. Featuring an effortlessly likeable heroine backed up by a diverse and balanced cast of memorable characters and a refreshing focus on adventure High Rhulain turned out to be the most eventful and enjoyable title since The Legend of Luke and a possible indicator of Jacques starting to find his form again. I’ll have to plough on through the last few tales to see if it was a one-off or the start of a Renaissance. Either way it qualifies for my Book of the Year. Read my full review here.
Runner-up – The Borrowers Afloat – Mary Norton
Hopefully I should be able to get the last handful of Redwall titles reviewed by 2013 so you can expect more of Jacques’ work to feature on the site in the coming months but I’ll be sure to spice things up and read the odd book by other authors at some point, maybe.
It’s been an odd year for films with few standout blockbuster releases that achieved critical acclaim to match ticket sales. With dull predictability, movies like Transformers – Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides both made worldwide gross of 10 digits as did the rather more deserving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. But it was darker, more artistic films that found the most praise from critics with films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive and We Need to Talk about Kevin among the most revered. Animation is my big thing and it’s been a decent twelve months with corkers like Disney’s Tangled, Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn and Ghibli’s Arrietty leading the way ahead of good sequels like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2 (which no-one seemed to like but me). I’ve seen enough films last year to make a list of my Top Ten Films of 2011 so you can expect to see that in the near future.
There are lots of exciting films on the way in 2012 including some major heavyweight franchises. In the world of animation it looks like this year could turn out to be something of a Renaissance for stop-motion, which makes me very happy indeed. Instead of going into detail here let me invite you to check back soon for my Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2012.
And what about me? I’m already working hard to get ahead and make some career progress and am pursuing a number of different options. I haven’t written for either of my two novels in a while but, time permitting, should be getting back on that horse soon too. My New Year’s Resolution this time last year was to go to the cinema more often. I definitely kept that one. This year I’m resolving to be bolder in everything I do. So get used to that. And get used to this blog’s crisp new look too.
I won’t pretend 2010 was the best year for my principality or that I wasn’t sorry to see the back of it. I’m not going to go into detail but this is the kind of feature that would usually be opened with a phrase like ‘What a great year that was!’ It wasn’t but that doesn’t mean that I can’t celebrate the best of it. Now that I’ve reviewed all the games and films of 2010 that I’m going to review (I’m not counting Muramasa – The Demon Blade which is still to come because that was a 2009 release) it’s time to decide what the best games, books and films of the year were. In the case of books I don’t keep as up to date with new developments as I do with the other two media, not least because new hardbacks aren’t cheap so in that category I’ll give the award to the best book I read for the first time in 2010. That’s the best I can do.
2010 Game off the Year: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
This was not a tough decision, in fact I can’t remember the last year where the best new game was so clearly ahead of everything else. The sequal to the 2007 smash hit Super Mario Galaxy seemed to achieve the impossible by being more than just ‘more of the same’, which would not have been a bad thing anyway. Galaxy 2 equals and maybe even surpasses its predecessor, perhaps not in terms of the wow factor but in overall polish and brilliance. With the groundwork laid Nintendo EAD had all the tools they needed to let their imaginations run riot and just create to their hearts’ content. The sequal is so stuffed with variety that you will almost never find yourself doing the same thing twice and the gameplay gimmicks never seem to dry up whether it be due to new powerups, Yoshi or level design. That combined with top drawer production values and better than ever longevity not to mention an improved degree of difficulty make this the sequal everyone wanted it to be. It perhaps lacks a sense of magic that ran through the original but it is nonetheless a resoundingly worthy follow-up and unquestionably my favourite game of 2010.
Runner-up: Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
2010 Movie of the Year: Toy Story 3
This category was a lot closer and the prize almost went to Inception but for providing me with my happiest moment of the year I can’t ignore Toy Story 3. It was everything I wanted it to be, fun, colourful, hilarious, touching, exciting, scary and charming with a well-told story and every ingredient perfectly measured. It’s one hell of an achievement considering the pressure Pixar must have felt from their fans. The film stayed true to what made its predecessors great, building on original themes already explored and ramping up the emotional impact. It’s not often that a film comes along and I simply can’t find any fault with it but that’s what happened with Toy Story 3, there is nothing I would change. Even with DreamWorks upping their game with How to Train Your Dragon and Disney rediscovering their roots with The Princess and the Frog, Pixar remains the best in the industry by a clear distance.
2010 Book of the Year: The Chrysalids (John Wyndham)
This is a book that’s been sitting on the bookshelf for ages but only in the last year have I finally got round to reading it. It’s a strange thing to write about but the most striking thing about it to me is the cover which shows a bizarre wasp-lizard hybrid wielding a nasty-looking spear. It’s easily the most misleading book cover I’ve ever seen and the artist can’t possibly have read the book. The Chrysalids is set in a post-nuclear war future and depicts a North American society that has regressed. History has not recorded the nature of the war or indeed anything much that happened before it but this new, devoutly Christian world has become obsessed by the true image of humanity as described by a new prophet. As a result mutant humans, a legacy of the fallout, are persecuted and feared. These mutants however do not even resemble the monster on the cover. The first such we read about is a little girl with nothing more extraordinary than an extra toe on each foot. It’s an absorbing story that follows a group of youngsters capable of communicating with each other telepathically and deals with various issues from paranoia to equality. It’s a gripping and quite accessible read and not at all the genre-bound sci-fi monster fest the cover suggests.
Runner-up: The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett)
So that was 2010 but I’m a lot more excited about 2011, so now for a brief preview. There are two big developments in the gaming world that are dominating my thoughts for the coming twelve months, first the arrival of Nintendo’s new handheld the 3DS, due for release on the 25th of March. Every new console is exciting but this is extra special partly for the tantalising prospect of 3D gaming and partly for the stunning range of titles being prepped for the launch window including Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, Street Fighter, Paper Mario, Starfox, Metal Gear Solid, Pilotwings, Professor Layton, Super Monkey Ball, Dead or Alive and most importantly The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time. Then there’s the all new The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword for the Wii. As a colossal Zelda fan there’s never a more exciting time than the approach of an all new home console title. I’ll go into more detail in my next post which will be my first Top Ten and will concern my Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2011. Movies and games aren’t something I’m quite so in tune with but there are a few of each I’m looking forwards to such as Disney’s Tangled and the next Redwall title The Rogue Crew. Perhaps more than all of this however is the fact that I’m planning on moving and living with friends this year and hopefully starting a new era of awesomeness.