Will their wait go on? Arsenal succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford against Man Utd earlier today, putting them five points behind leaders Leicester with the same number of games played. Having won their previous league fixture (against Leicester), Arsenal might have been expected to gain momentum, but a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup with Championship side Hull, a 2-0 home defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League and now a loss against one of the most average Manchester United sides of modern times will have surely stalled that momentum.

With a potentially painful trip to the Nou Camp looming for the Gunners (the only saving grace they can take from it will be fewer fixtures) and a Cup replay they could frankly do without, Arsenal need to rebound quickly and find form.

They will be doubly sore after their north London rivals Spurs won against Swansea at White Hart Lane, to move three points clear of the Gunners. Tottenham have been quietly impressive all season, and they are only two points behind Leicester as the title race enters its sharp final phase. Spurs haven’t finished ahead of Arsenal since 1995, but they may yet do so – and do so by winning the league title.

Like Leicester’s underwhelming but ultimately victorious performance yesterday, Tottenham showed champion qualities when they battled back from going behind against a stubborn Swansea side that frustrated them in the first half. In years gone by Spurs might well have lost today – instead they were tenacious and didn’t stop pushing, taking a vital win.

Tottenham are, like Arsenal and Man City, still involved in European football, so face more fixtures than Leicester (at least in the short-term), but their steady displays should give them cause for optimism.

In the absolute short-term, it’s still advantage Leicester.

Timon8(this kat is super chilled!)

Last night I had a dream where, for reasons I can’t remember (and am struggling to fathom) I climbed into a dark plastic-like ball and got carried away in it by forces unknown. I have no idea what inspired this dream, but I do remember one thing about it – I felt incredibly relaxed.

I don’t recall a moment in recent memory where I have felt so tranquil and chilled. Even though I was being abducted, I felt great!

Such is my subconscious mind.

 

Triforce

I can’t believe I missed marking the 30th anniversary of a gaming legend, especially one that I personally have invested a lot of time and heart into over the years. I can’t believe The Legend of Zelda is actually 30 – I really can’t!

The Zelda series has to be my all time favourite saga when it comes to video games. My opinions are bound to break ranks with other Zelda fans when it comes to certain titles, but I can honestly say I have found most of the games to be immersive adventures on a scale few other games can match, and a new Zelda game is something to be hotly anticipated in my house!

ZeldaNES(where it all began!)

My first taste of Zelda was with the SNES installment, A Link to the Past, which is still my favourite (as well as one of my all-time favourite games full-stop). It wasn’t as linear as current Zelda games, offering a semi-flexible approach to the order in which you tackled dungeons and challenges, and the depth to the game (especially when you stop to consider the technology it was made with) was astonishing. A Link to the Past is where my love of Zelda began, so I owe this game a debt of gratitude!

The original Zelda game is one I discovered a bit later on, and whilst I dare say it’s enjoyable, I have never quite gotten into it. The completely open-ended approach, and the numerous hidden caves, are a masterful touch, one that (if rumours are to be believed) the next Zelda game might be trying to emulate a little. The second Zelda installment, The Adventures of Link, is one I tried to get into, but just didn’t enjoy.

ZeldaSNES(completing A Link to the Past for the first time was a great feeling!)

Ocarina of Time (the first of two N64 offerings) is often rated by fans as the finest Zelda game, and it certainly is very good. The story is quite compelling, the game is great fun to play and it really does feel epic in scope. Whilst it is not the very best to me, it’s still great!

The sequel, Majora’s Mask, is another title held up as being a marvelous game, but to be honest, I didn’t really like it. I never got the whole time travel element, which frankly just confused me (nor was I thrilled with the mask element). I will admit, I didn’t really play this one that often, so maybe I need to revisit it and give it another chance.

ZeldaMajora(Majora’s Mask just baffled me)

For the Gamecube, Nintendo went for a completely different look for The Wind Waker, abandoning the slightly more grown up look of the games for a more cartoony approach. The appearance divided fans a little, but I didn’t mind it – in fact, I thought the game looked good. I would argue The Wind Waker has the toughest final boss of any Zelda game.

ZeldaWindWaker(too childish or beautifully rendered?)

Not to give the hand-held games short shrift, I will mention that Link’s Awakening (which I have never gotten around to completing) and The Minish Cap are both good games.

The Wii would see two Zelda titles – the launch title of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Between the two, I prefer Skyward Sword, though the latter has some of the most frustrating (and in my view, unnecessary) tropes of any Zelda game (the Silent Realm sequences). Both games are quite beautiful, though Skyward Sword shows off the Motion Plus feature of the Wii Remote, allowing for more actually sword play. Both titles are, like all Zelda games, filled with dungeons, but both suffer from the problem modern Zelda games have – rigid, linear progression through the levels. It would be nice to have a little more control over how you face the dungeons and quests.

hookshot(Twilight Princess was pretty good!)

The Zelda games have left an indelible mark upon me. There is so much adventure to be had, across each and every game, and despite the problem of linear progress in the later games, there are still plenty of side quests and challenges to explore. I look forward to the next offering!

Having lost so narrowly (and in such heartbreaking circumstances) to Arsenal in their last league fixture, Leicester’s title ambitions might have been expected to take a knock. In the face of such a setback, and without title-chasing experience, could Leicester rebound from their Emirates defeat?

The answer? Yes. In beating Norwich today they showed two qualities needed by champions. The first is the aforementioned post-agonisingly-close-defeat in circumstances like at Arsenal. Victory means Leicester remain top of the Premier League for at least one more week, having reestablished a five-point gap over Spurs and Arsenal (who both play tomorrow). The second key quality shown today is that they won without being very good – they dug deep to beat Norwich, ultimately snatching a win that was probably undeserved – but they won’t care about that.

Next up for Leicester is another home game, against West Bromwich Albion. West Brom are having a mediocre season but shouldn’t be underestimated, and after that the Foxes travel to Watford, who are having a pretty good season in their own right. Whilst the league leaders have the easier run-in (and no other commitments to distract them), things are by no means certain. I hope they can continue to win – we shall see.

It’s the big one – just not on the desired or expected stage for either club. Nevertheless, with a spot in the Champions League potentially at stake, this is still going to be huge.

It’s us:

image

Versus them:

image

I feel dirty putting the Utd logo on here.

Our record against the Scum has not been encouraging this season, with defeats in both league fixtures. There is however, optimism to be had in the form of returning players, and Utd’s apathetic performances.

Firstly, we have Daniel Sturridge, who appears to be putting together a bit of a run. Having him fit adds an injection of pace that we’ve needed quite desperately. Coutinho is a little inconsistent but having him back and fit adds some creativity to our attack. Having both Sturridge and Coutinho on the pitch (along with the steady Firmino and the reliable Milner) grants us options denied to us in recent matches.

Utd are there for the taking. Their squad is nothing spectacular and their manager holds them to a pedestrian pace. We can beat them!

It’s quite a satisfying feeling when you realise that you’re right about something, especially if the argument/dispute has been quite bitterly contested. Well, the other day I got to enjoy that feeling.

wpid-wp-1445547821791.jpg(oh yes, lets rub those hands together with glee!)

As anyone who has followed this site and blog is aware, I’ve had a few disputes with a YouTube poster by the name of Idazmi7. In his most recent posture-filled posts, he had been accusing me of deleting posts of his and that I was doing so out of fear of his arguments. Neither allegation is true, and I can’t say I was pleased to see his unfounded accusations. I gave him fair warning to retract them, or else I would have little choice but to report his posts to YouTube for Terms of Service violations. Flash forward a few weeks and it gives me great pleasure to report that his offending comments are gone.

So as far as I’m concerned, this is a victory. Now, if only he would agree to an honest debate, on a third-party site, where he knows neither of us have any power to edit or delete posts!

If the rumours are to be believed, Nintendo’s next home console, the tentatively titled ‘NX’, is due to be released later this year (whether that applies to the entire globe or whether it will be a staggered release remains to be seen). As a lifelong Nintendo fan, I am naturally pretty excited at the prospect of a new console, but these days that excitement is tempered by pessimism.

Why is that you ask? Chiefly, the main reason is the failure of the Wii U to appeal, not only to the wider market, but to me. Unless something drastic happens in the near future, the Wii U will become the first home console of Nintendo’s that I haven’t owned – it has its appeal, but not nearly enough to justify the cost. Nintendo dropped the ball with this one, and I just hope whatever strategy they have in mind with the NX, they bear in mind the problems of the Wii U – and not simply the hardware.

WIIU(Nintendo’s most recent offering has failed to deliver)

Whilst Nintendo have always striven to be innovative and unique, this has sometimes been their Achilles’ Heel. There is such as a thing as trying to be too different, and the Wii U somehow managed to be both too different and too similar to what was out there, at the same time (for reasons I shall come to in a moment). The enormous touch screen control pad was, looking back, ungainly (I tried one out in a local games store and it wasn’t awful, but certainly not great), and power-wise, the Wii U lagged some way behind the PS4 and XBone. In respect of third-party development, the console was never going to be as friendly as its competitors, largely due to the difficulties of incorporating the controller’s screen into the equation. With graphics being a key feature of a game’s realism (not to mention how good and powerful processors are vital to creating realistic effects and physics), Nintendo weren’t appealing to hardcore gamers. The Wii U will sadly go down as Nintendo’s worst-performing console to date, well behind the original Wii’s 100 million sales.

The frustrating thing is, Nintendo could yet reclaim their place as the top console maker if they were prepared to look at what other companies are doing successfully, and then marry that with their own strategy. They’ve done this before.

SNES(the Super Nintendo is still one of my all-time favourite consoles, hosting some of the best games ever made)

There was nothing radically different between the SNES and its fierce Sega rival, the Mega Drive, back in the early 90s. The two consoles were basically the same – cartridge-based games, similar graphics and performance, and they even shared some of the same games. Nintendo were making the family-friendly Mario and Zelda games back then – but alongside them, they also had titles like Desert Strike (also a popular Mega Drive game) and Street Fighter, big, third-party releases that were widely anticipated. Nintendo successfully merged their big names with mainstream titles and the result was that, by the end, the SNES had comfortably outsold the Mega Drive – Nintendo won the 16-bit console war.

I have to wonder if this went to the heads of the powers that be. Did Nintendo get complacent? Did they get cocky? Ironically, their next console was the most powerful one available when it was released – the N64, but whilst Sega (and newcomers Sony) were starting to use CDs for their games, Nintendo stubbornly stuck with cartridges.

N64(the N64 was not as successful as its predecessor)

A very different controller design was a bit weird at first, though this gamer will say it was actually fairly easy to adapt to. However, this is where, in my humble view, Nintendo’s relationship with third-party developers nose-dived. With everyone else going for CDs and conventional controllers, Nintendo were setting their stall out to be unique, but this will have likely made it trickier for developers, whose job of porting games from one console to another could not have been easier between two CD-based consoles, yet with Nintendo they had to go back to the drawing board. Whilst the N64 was not a failure, nor was it an unqualified success – Sony’s Playstation would dominate the market, thanks to their bold marketing and easy to use console.

Nintendo would repeat the N64’s mistakes with the Gamecube. This time, Nintendo had given up on cartridges and opted for discs, but for reasons known only to them, these were smaller discs. The ‘cube’s controller was more conventional, but yet again Nintendo were trying to be clever, whilst also failing to deliver features that were starting to become expected of home consoles (the PS2 and Xbox would feature things like CD and DVD playback, something the Gamecube couldn’t do).

GameCube(personally, I rather liked the Gamecube, and it featured some great games, but it wasn’t enough)

Until the Wii U, the ‘cube was Nintendo’s weakest-performing console, with around 20 million unit sold worldwide – a far cry from the SNES. The Wii would provide some good respite for Nintendo by offering the innovative Wii Remote controller, along with optional classic controllers as well, for older games released via the Virtual Console. Wi-fi connectivity meant for the first time (not counting the portable DS option), people could play Nintendo games against people from the other side of the world. I for one thoroughly enjoyed playing Mario Kart online – even if I did get a bit frustrated with it sometimes! It was vindication for Nintendo – years of trying to be different and clever finally paid off, with a console that sold 100 million units worldwide, and gave the company a much-needed shot in the arm.

Wii(the Wii has been an unqualified success story)

Perhaps that vindication would prove to be a bad thing. Buoyed by the unconventional success of a console not much more powerful than the Gamecube (and certainly behind the PS3 and XBox 360), Nintendo forged ahead with the Wii U’s ultimately unsuccessful system.

So what needs to be change?

Firstly, Nintendo need to make sure the NX has broader appeal if it is to be successful. Part of this means a less-complicated controller, that it is easier for developers to work with. Hardware improvements to bring the NX in line with (or even more powerful than) existing rivals would be a step in the right direction, and some of the whispers about the NX suggest exactly that.

Additionally, Nintendo need to consider a similar ‘entertainment system’ approach to the ones Sony and Microsoft have taken. The PS4 and Xbone can both act as movie and music players, access things like Netflix, and let you browse the web. People expect integration with their technology these days.

The NX project might involve something along those lines. Some of the suggestions and stories about the console imply it’s not just a console, but a system that includes a dedicated console, mobile phones, the DS/3DS, tablets and even the Wii U. Quite how this would all come together is unclear, and since so little is known about the NX at the moment, we can’t take any of this as gospel anyway.

If Nintendo can merge the success and appeal of their leading titles like Zelda with the popular franchises of FIFA, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed etc, then they are on to a winner. They just need to realise this.

wpid-wp-1421964661354.pngIt’s been a while since I’ve done one of  these. Over the winter months I’ve been putting off the final three rounds of the season, and indeed, career mode (since F1 2009 only allows for three seasons). I wanted to finish this project though, so I forged ahead with round 15 – Japan, at Suzuka.

This fast circuit features the famous Ss sequence – a string of quick turns from 1 – 7 (turn 8, whilst not part of this sequence, is pretty fast as well). Suzuka is also noteworthy for being the only figure 8 track in F1, and this venue has played host to many a title decider down the years (indeed, the 1987, 88, 90 and 91 titles were all settled here). In 2015, Hamilton drew criticism for his heavy-handed treatment of Rosberg as they went into turn 1 (criticism that, in my view, was not warranted).

Enough history though, what about my race?

Well, before it even started I’d made a critical error. With a gap of four points between and Jensen Button, I held the advantage but could not afford to be sloppy – so why on earth did I select ‘race’ instead of ‘Q3’ on the menu?!

I was pretty annoyed with myself, and had to start the race in 9th. This was naturally far from ideal, when facing the crunch point of the season! I needed a clean start, which I had, but didn’t really make up much ground to begin with. Then the AI did something to both help and hinder me.

At turn 13, several AI cars began to slide wide, something that happened over successive laps and something triggered yellow flag, no overtaking warnings. I went by several of them as they rejoined the track (my view being that they were off-track or far enough away from the racing line to not matter) and as such, shot up through the order. Suddenly the damage done by my earlier error seemed lessened – until I received drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flag conditions. I was annoyed once more, this time with the system, but being an older game, F1 2009 can’t really account for the nuances of the rules more recent versions can, so I had no choice but to bite the bullet and accept my punishment.

I was still around 4th/5th and as the three-stoppers began to come in for their first stops I found myself in second. Having opted for a two-stop strategy, I maintained a steady pace behind Button and once he pitted I was able to build up a decent lead – it has been a few days since the race but I think I even managed to come out of my first stop still leading (Button most likely got bogged down in traffic).

From that point on, the race was actually straight-forward, despite the chaos of the start. I saw out a very comfortable win (over a minute clear of Mark Webber), and better still, Button dropped to 4th, seeing me open up a 9-point lead in the title race with two races remaining. A good result in Brazil will see me get a third straight title with a race to spare – not what I expected after all the DNFs I’ve had!

As I walked home from work today, I was reminded (yet again) of how we are as a society so quick these days to pass the buck. We don’t, as a society, want to bear responsibility for our own actions.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about this subject, inspired by a much more articulate piece than I could hope to write, and whilst the main focus of this post is not about as serious a topic as before (not remotely), it touches upon the same theme.

On the way to and fro the train station I cross a fairly busy road and in doing so, I usually press the button and wait for the little green man to appear. This, to me, is basic road safety and I will quite happily wait for the light to change, rather than run the risk of being hit by a car. I’m pretty sure we’d all agree, the latter isn’t an option.

So, I’m approaching this road and the lights. They are current red for pedestrians and green for cars – no biggie, press the button and they’ll change in a few moments. In front of me are two blokes, one of whom has a dog on a leash. The dog is tugging at the leash and tugs hard enough to nearly get squashed by an oncoming car. The man holding the leash then starts to berate the driver of the car (who was already heading off and probably didn’t even hear the guy ranting away), saying ‘it’s a dog, they do that’ and ‘you can stop your car easily’.

I had to bite my tongue, but mate, the traffic light was green for the car, so he had every right to keep going, and you should have kept a better handle on your dog. It was either not properly trained, not restrained enough, or a combination of both, and it darted out suddenly, affording little warning to the motorist who had right of way.

This guy (who struck me as being quite feckless anyway) would probably have blamed the driver had there actually been a collision, and as it was, he was blaming the driver for the near-miss – in other words, he was passing on the responsibility for it all on the motorist – he couldn’t or wouldn’t bear it himself. His knee-jerk reaction unfortunately typifies today’s world – we want to find someone else to blame for a mistake we make, and that’s wrong.

Why are we so quick to try and absolve ourselves these days? At what stage did we decide we should have it easy with regard to our accountability? There’s been a gradual but noticeable shift toward ‘blame culture’, where a problem means we have to hold someone else responsible – case in point, see my post earlier today regarding the guy who didn’t plan ahead, but still expected something out of us. He didn’t want to take the heat for his failure to organise himself properly, and instead, expected something for nothing.

When did we get so selfish as to assume we are not the keepers of our own responsibilities, and that instead, everyone else should pick up after us? What was the tipping point that has led us to this point, where someone can almost lose control of their dog and yet it’s someone else’s fault if there’s an accident? We have forgotten what it means to govern our own behaviour.

I do see a lot of good in humanity, but sometimes, it’s hard to find. We still have a lot to learn about how to treat each other. I hope we make it.