Posts Tagged ‘Review’

The Second Age of Uncertainty for the Nintendo Switch

And (probably) the second-last article I’ll write about it. But we can’t be certain…

In late 2016, the questions were made of ‘if’s. Plenty of takes were ready to answer those questions with doom and gloom predictions, sure. But mainly, it was ‘if’s. Nintendo was back in the home console doghouse after a string of Wii U-tinted flops and an ambitious handheld/home hybrid seemed like an uncertainty at the very best. As a period in the Big N’s history, it’s been well-covered – although it still seems a little surreal to think about. If the Switch made a real sales impact, Nintendo would have pulled off yet another unlikely comeback. If it didn’t, the company was in for some real trouble.

Of course 2017 gave us a definite, emphatic answer. The Switch did just about everything right all year, dropping a steady stream of compelling titles without a single delay. But by 2018, the ‘where’s started to creep into the online chat. Any serial Switch YouTuber subscriber will remember the hysteria at the beginning of the year: Where was that Nintendo Direct? Then later, as the wave of ports and DLC expansions gathered momentum, where were all the brand-new games? Where was the launch content in the new Kirby and Mario Tennis games? Though nothing in Nintendo’s history suggested a year like 2017 could ever be properly backed up, their new console’s success made pundits ravenous.

In 2019, we got a nice big serving of ‘why’s in the air. Some of Nintendo’s announcements that year inspired heavy-duty communal head-scratching: A portable-only Switch that couldn’t switch? A poorly-justified ‘dex reduction in the new Pokemon games? A new fitness game with a plastic ring accessory costing north of $100? Why? Of course all of these sold super well – 2019 was ultimately a strong year for exclusive games and big third party support alike – but no one could accuse the Big N of resting on their laurels to get there.

As we all know, 2020 was a very different story. The releases dried up when an already light year collided with a worldwide pandemic, and the ‘how’s came out to play. How would Nintendo stay relevant amid such a climate when new Xbox and Playstation consoles were set to dominate headlines and interest all year? But the Switch had its most successful year of hardware sales ever, with periods of unavailability easily trumping its launch year as Animal Crossing finally smashed into the top tier of Nintendo franchises. Incredulous analysts could only ponder how such serendipity had lined up for Nintendo.

Now here we are, coming up quickly on that magical (usually final for Nintendo) five-year mark in a console life cycle. As hardware sales settle down again in 2021 and restless 4K Switch successor rumours refuse to go away despite an unprecedented global chip shortage, the ‘if’s have returned. There have been valid questions asked of the Switch throughout its life, but the ageing technology within what is functionally a handheld console now compares even less favourably with its beefy direct competition. Will it be able to hold its own or is another Nintendo nosedive coming up? Is the Japanese giant about to abandon support in favour of its next console, as it has done so often before around that half-decade point? Not since that first trailer five years ago has such an air of uncertainty hung around the hybrid gaming platform.

Allow me to present two points suggesting that probably shouldn’t be the case.

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Ten 2021 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

A little later than usual perhaps, but these are the first ten films I’ve been able to give a look so far this year.

It feels particularly weird to be a movie fan in Australia right now – like we’ve been a constant mirror of our American friends in 2021 when it comes to cinematic availability. Cross-referencing streaming services with big screens one moment and twiddling our thumbs in lockdown while theatres slam shut the next, some movies have been a bit frustrating to pin down; but I’ll get to most of them by the end of the year. In the meantime, here’s a spicy mix of up-and-down celluloid quality.

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Demon Slayer: Infinity Train

The anime movie that forever changed how anime movies work.”

Boss Level

Fun, silly premise; unfortunately everyone commits except the lead actor.”

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A Whole Lot of PS5 & Xbox Series Launch Impressions

2020 began with the promise that the next generation of mainstream videogame consoles (and by extension PC hardware) would at long last grace our homes by its end. At multiple points throughout this year, such a promise seemed about as far from reality as conceivably possible. The stop-start hype cycle, packed as it was with guesswork and noise, was nothing short of exhausting. Yet here we are. Despite two distinctly bitter flavours of worldwide preorder drama, the PS5 and the dual-threat Xbox Series exist in real life; they are out there in the wild and after almost two weeks spent with each, I’m here to talk about how they look out of the racing blocks. Strap yourselves in – this is a big one.

Seven years ago I posted a similar article comparing the PS4 and the original Xbox One. In many ways that feels like yesterday, but going back over it in preparation for this round I was struck by just how many shiny plates were spinning on both sides of the main home console divide in 2013. Gimmicks and talking points abounded: futuristic Kinect voice commands and hand gestures running on a tile-based solid-colour Windows 8 interface versus PS Vita remote play, the abandonment of Sony’s trusty “cross media bar” and Playstation’s most radical controller shake-up ever. Both consoles felt functionally fresh and experimental. They were missing key features their predecessors had taken for granted and neither one showed any interest in backwards compatibility with older-generation games, but at least in those first few months there was a sense that each cut had made way for something tangibly new.

Which is why that launch also feels like a hundred years ago. The still-young gaming industry has continued to change in many ways since 2013, and the feverish year of marketing and punditry behind us would have you believe there’s a growing ideological gulf between Microsoft and Sony. But the dawn of the ninth home console generation has a somewhat surprising streak of quiet confidence about it. Make no mistake: The PS5 and the Xbox Series X feel like marked leaps ahead for the home console experience, and they are quite different despite clearly learning lessons from one another during the last go-around. But neither Sony nor Microsoft has come off looking quite as insecure about it this time around.

Clash of the Titans

Let’s start by talking about the elephants in the room. It’s been well-documented (love an understatement) that 2020’s new boxes are a bit on the large side, but much like the pocket-friendliness of last year’s Nintendo Switch Lite didn’t hit home until I held it, the stature and weight of the Xbox Series X and PS5 feels like little more than a meme – until you actually have to try and fit them into your entertainment setup. I distinctly remember transitioning from PS3 to PS4 painlessly because they shared identical cabling and a similar stature, but the PS5 is so gargantuan that the tape measure had to come out more than once during the multi-hour entertainment unit reshuffle it demanded.

Visually the PS5 looks like it belongs firmly in the middle of the 2000s, right next to the lightly-toned, vertically-marketed day-one model Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Despite being larger than both combined, it would’ve fit right in among that semi-space-age design trend. It marks a huge departure from the last decade of flat, straight black lines that aim to draw attention away from the consoles they adorn, arriving instead with a weighty form factor wearing a brilliant white coat, collar popped like it was made by a company that just sold 100+ million PS4s. It doesn’t care that it needs a chunky (included) stand for stability; it wants to be the first thing anyone looks at in your living room.

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Movie Review: Tenet

My second full-on movie review in four years! Why not!
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Starring:
John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki
Director:
Christopher Nolan (Inception, Dunkirk)
Rating: M
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Before the year turned over, 2020 looked to be studded with tentpole film releases. A new James Bond movie, two big Marvel Studios releases, another wave of Disney live-action remakes, two new Pixar films, and at least one DC juggernaut. And yet for many of us out there, the promise of a new Christopher Nolan movie with another trademark timey-wimey gimmick stood above them all. Perhaps it was the ‘surefire sequel success’ vibes of most of the above, contrasting starkly with Nolan‘s stubborn refusal to leave behind practical effects, needless IMAX shots and fiercely original scripts with no concern for cinematic universes. Tenet loomed large.

Of course we all know that’s pretty far from how 2020 actually played out. Here in this current reality, most of those tentpoles have yet to see release. New movies in general have been hard to come by, matter of fact, even though streaming services have been more than willing to help out. Yet Nolan‘s reliable stubbornness has now ensured that not only is Tenet going exclusively to cinemas, it’s doing so before any other title of comparable size and hype. If Tenet looked like an imposing 2020 title before, it’s now positively monolithic. For this and many other reasons, I’ve actually written a full review. Yeah, 2020 is weird for us all.

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Ten 2020 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Well, this was tricky.

For obvious 2020-specific reasons, it’s quite difficult to see any fresh films right about now. Cinemas are not exactly prime real estate at the moment, and quite a few movies on my to-see list have been delayed either several months or indefinitely. After tearing through seven new release movies in six weeks, it took me a full two months to see my eighth. Then, thanks to the help of one or two major movie studios and digital entertainment platforms, I reached the ten you see here. Who even knows whether I’ll get to twenty this year.

Even before the current global health crisis began to gather steam, I was struggling with whether some of these films counted as 2020 releases, but that became less of an issue once our bigger problems emerged. At the very least, all ten of these movies got their wide mainstream releases in Australia this year.

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The Gentlemen

Hunnam, Grant, Farrell dominate the screen. Ritchie’s best since Snatch.”

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1917

Utterly spectacular on a technical level but don’t expect optimism.”

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The Nintendo Switch “Halfway” Report Card

*Ahem* It’s nice to have Nintendo back.

Yes, they’ve been “back” now for a good couple years, and it’s getting easier by the day to forget the wildly uncertain videogame landscape in which the Nintendo Switch made its debut on March 3rd, 2017. And yet, it somehow also feels like only yesterday that this thing hit the market – at least to me. If you find yourself in the same boat, I hope you’re ready for the rest of the Switch’s life to blink past in a heartbeat. After all, time flies when you have far too many games to play.

I feel if I don’t somehow mark this point in time right now, at the exact halfway mark* in Nintendo’s traditional five-year console life cycle, I won’t be able to truly appreciate the Switch before Nintendo messes up a new console again. And thus, if you’re so inclined, please join me on yet another (very) deep dive into a minor electronic miracle.
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*Oh, did I say halfway mark? Well, I was going to post this on September 3rd to be all neat and tidy, but then Nintendo had to announce two new versions of the Switch for imminent release, then a 40 minute Nintendo Direct presentation packed to the gills with new game announcements, meaning this post was about to be all kinds of outdated in record time. But more on all that shortly. Please read on…

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Ten More 2019 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

More for you.

This is by far the quickest I’ve got to 20 new-release movies in a year, as we’re still only in August. Sadly it’s a lower-quality batch than the first ten of 2019, but I still enjoyed myself with most of these, and there’s still plenty of time to bring the year home strong.
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Aladdin

Surprisingly strong visuals, Will Smith is back, Naomi Scott DESTROYS.”

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix

One amazing train sequence can’t save this disappointing saga finale.”

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Ten 2019 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Let’s do this again, hopefully not for the only time in 2019. Ten movies, ten words each. In general I’ve really enjoyed the movies I’ve seen this year, from the family-targeted fare to the unusually gigantic superhero action, with a Netflix debut thrown in. There’s much more to come but the year has already made quite an impression.

And get ready for some really colourful movie posters. Man, Hollywood has stepped up their saturation game recently.

Very mild spoilers may follow.
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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Doesn’t beat Number 2 but the closing scenes are devastating.”

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Mary Poppins Returns

Somehow gets away with being both a sequel and remake.”

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Ten More 2018 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Ten more movie impressions for you now! This batch is much less blockbuster-y than the last one – there are some spicy ones in here and I’m feeling pretty good about some of them making my year-end list (which is less than two months away – yikes). Enjoy skimming.

Mild spoilers may follow.
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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Disaster movie first halfhorror movie second halfAlmost works.”

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The Incredibles 2

Probably about as good as it could have been, considering.”

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Ten 2018 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Hey hey, it’s that time of year again! I’ve just hit ten new-release movies seen this year and so it’s time to smash out some ultra-quick, ultra-digestible, ultra-colourful reviews and get on with the next ten. It’s been an extraordinarily dense six month period for big-name films so you won’t see any real surprises here. These ten are pretty much all blockbusters.

Very mild spoilers may follow.
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Black Panther

Welltimed, sick tech, great music, poor action, good movie.”

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Annihilation

A positively monumental mindscrewGina Rodriguez steals the show.”

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