Tuesday, 11 June 2013


This was it. Nintendo's big chance to quieten the naysayers and confirm the old adage that good things truly do come to those who wait. Yet somehow, they blew it. For the third year in a row the Mushroom Kingdom has underwhelmed and perplexed its devoted fanbase, which is becoming increasingly frustrated with a company that refuses to evolve. Today was the day I expected to be vindicated in my decision to purchase a Wii U at launch but instead all I feel is a sense of impending doom. Though it’s perhaps still too early to judge at this stage, it’s impossible to ignore the stench of death surrounding their latest console. Now, you may rebuke my claims: after all, the 3DS had a similarly shaky start and look at it now.

Well, three hours ago I’d have been inclined to agree with you. But now that the dust has settled, I can appreciate one rather crucial difference: No one ever doubted the 3DS.

Sure, we had to suffer a six month drought, but an impressive line-up meant there was always a light at the end of the tunnel; it was simply a matter of remaining patient. The Wii U on the other hand has persistently failed to pique people's curiosity or demonstrate the obvious gameplay potential so readily apparent with both the Wii and the 3DS. With Nintendo having long ago given up the fight with Sony and Microsoft in the tech department, the focus on quality games has become key to its survival. The 3DS is a perfect example of this; a machine which offers a diverse range of experiences to suit all player types. Yet this is something the Wii U severely lacks - and if today's line-up is anything to go by, it will do for the foreseeable future. Also notably absent has been a 3DS-like ambassador program to reward early adopters or the addition of Gamecube content to the decidedly empty Virtual Console; points which only further the disparity between the Wii U and its handheld counterpart.

Today’s Nintendo Direct was seen by many as a make-or-break moment and while a single press conference does not a successful console make, it has failed categorically to instil enthusiasm at a time when it is so desperately needed. Yes Donkey Kong Country Returns was a fantastic, vastly under-appreciated game, but do we really need to wait three years for a sequel which essentially offers more of the same? Do we really want more 2D platformers and Wii Casual titles to show off the capabilities of a HD console? Do we really care about a Mario game which abandons the Galaxy formula in favour of a streamlined approach that we already experienced on the 3DS?

A new IP isn’t necessarily the answer (though it wouldn’t hurt to have a few), but neither is a reliance solely on what worked before. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to proven franchises provided that each iteration offers a new experience. Very little of Ninty’s line-up appears to do that and come the inevitable purchase, I’ll be playing not necessarily because I want to, but because that’s the way it’s always been.

And yet for all my blind fanboyism, this years E3 violently yanked the wool from my eyes and exposed me to the very uncomfortable realisation that this company is far too safe. The gulf between it and the competition appears insurmountable and unless they reverse their standing policy regarding cheaper technology in order to make a profit, it’s difficult to see how the gap can ever be closed. After having watched the PS4/Xbox One conferences, Nintendo appear to be even more of an anachronism than it did during the last generation. And as much as Mario and friends may be loathe to admit it, they are in the console race; if they don't engage their rivals, they won't be for much longer.

As the great Jeremy Bentham once said: Shit or get off the pot.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Hidden Gems: Toy Story 3 (2010)

With each subsequent Pixar release, the number of in-jokes has grown enormously. Unfortunately, so too has the list of mistaken easter eggs which are at best coincidental or highly ambiguous and at worst, just plain wrong. Toy Story 3 perhaps highlights this better than any other Disney film because while there is indeed a girth of hidden references, there are also many supposed sightings which upon closer inspection bear little or no resemblance to their counterparts. With this in mind, I have judiciously scrutinised every contentious claim and left out all those which I feel are highly questionable. As for those which share many similarities yet still differ greatly in design, these can be found at the end of the post and I will leave it up to you, the reader, to decide.

*The train at the beginning of the film features the number 95 which is of course Lightning McQueen's number from Cars (2006), which in turn is a reference to the year when the original Toy Story (1995) was released.

*Andy's room features a number of in-jokes: 
A poster on his wall of an Aston Martin, the same model as Finn McMissile from Cars 2 (2011) and a flag for Pixar University...

...a bunch of door stickers including Crush from Finding Nemo (2003), a Newt Crossing sign in reference to the cancelled Pixar production Newt and the 'M' logo from Monsters Inc, (2001)...

...a sign above the door reads W. Cutting, in reference to the Boulevard where Pixar was originally located...

...the pins on the map indicate the hometowns of the production crew...

...a Nemo sticker on the side of Andy's toy chest...

...and finally, the letter on Andy's pin board is addressed to Emeryville where Pixar Studios is based.

*Andy's sister is reading a magazine with a picture of Darla from Finding Nemo on the front.

*The garbage man is clearly Sid, the antagonist from the first film.

*The car licence plate is once again A113.

*A toy version of Mr. Ray from Finding Nemo is on the shelf at Sunnyside Daycare.

*During the tour of Sunnyside, a lego model can be spotted which is almost identical to one used in Toy Story 2 (1999).

*When Woody hangs in mid air following his escape from Sunnyside, a collage can be seen in the background. One of the designs depicted therein is of the famous Luxo ball.

*Bonnie places Woody in her backpack, the front of which features Wally from The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (1985).

*When the toys at the daycare centre go into hiding in anticipation of the kids' arrival, we see the same toys that hid from an over zealous child many years before in Tin Toy (1986).

*The child in the glasses is wearing a t-shirt bearing Lightning McQueen's '95' insignia.

*Tin Toy is referenced a second time when the lead character appears on the front cover of a storybook.

*A simplified wooden toy version of Lightning McQueen can be seen in the background.

*Among the many items being bartered in Sunnyside are some batteries which are made by the fictional company 'Revolting', first seen as a sponsor in Cars.

*The vehicle that Lotso and Chuckles ride on is a Pizza Planet truck.

*When Woody returns to Sunnyside, the name 'Atta' can be seen on the wall which is a reference to Princess Atta from A Bug's Life (1998).

*The batteries in Buzz's back are made by Buy N' Large (BNL), the fictional corporation from Wall-E (2008).

*This one appears only in the trailer. A postcard on Andy's pinboard is from Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Up (2009). 

And now for the others. Each of these appear at Sunnyside:

*Many claim that the fire-truck depicted below is a toy version of Red from Cars. Owing to the number of Cars references already in the film this isn't unlikely; however, there are many differences and considering that Red is designed after a real-life fire truck, it's entirely possible that this toy is as well. The same can be said for the tractor which bares as many similarities to its real-life counterpart as the anthropomorphised version in Cars. 

*One of the toys appears to be a loose amalgamation of Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc,.

*The blue toy which hops under the bucket looks slightly like Flik from A Bug's Life, albeit a short and fatter model.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Hidden Gems: Meet The Robinsons (2007)

*When Wilbur first arrives in the future, he flies over a sign which reads Todayland, an homage to Tomorrowland which is the name of the futurist section of the Magic Kingdom.

*Towards the end of the film when Wilbur goes to Goob's baseball game, two posters can be seen: One is The Jungle Book (1967) and the other is Toy Story 2 (1999).