It is Time.

Don’t know how many of our regular or irregular readers were watching the Grammys last night, I’m thinking not all that many.

Green Day
Green Day

Right before the nominations for best album came the small piece of news that I, and many others have been waiting for for about the last five years.  Green Day‘s new album will be released in May this year, and it’s called 21st Century Breakdown.

No clues as to what to expect musically, though if you follow the link above to the official site and sit around for a while the opening bars of something which may (or may not) be the title track start playing.

Since American Idiot the band have parted ways with their long time producer Rob Cavallo who has worked with the band since from Dookie to AI. 21st CB will instead be produced by Butch Vig.  Formerly the Drummer of grunge band Garbage Vig has been working as a producer since the early eighties, and his credits include Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.  He has also worked on albums with Soul Asylum, Sonic Youth and Jimmy Eat World (Every CV needs a black mark).

Speaking with UK music magazine NME in December last year Billie Joe Armstrong suggested that the then un-named album could be taking a more power-pop direction, naming Cheap Trick, The Who and The Beatles as possible influences.  In a surprisingly honest interview Armstrong said “How do you take something… and try to expand on the idea of what is supposed to be three-chord mayhem?”

“How do you do it in a way where the arrangements are just unpredictable? So I’m pushing myself to be progressive in songwriting and being a songwriter.”

The new Album cover-art.  Similar in style to the single artwork from American Idiot.
The new Album cover-art. Similar in style to the single artwork from American Idiot.

As a Green Day fan, what does all this mean to me?  The change in style suggestion isn’t really all that shocking considering that it is possible to listen to any of the five albums from Dookie to American Idiot and find something musically different, though still very much Green Day, will anything from the new album be as much a departure as the segue from Eastern European folk to Mexican Mariachi in Misery from Warning?  I’m thinking possibly not.

I’ve been a Green Day fan for about fifteen years now, since a friend passed me a tape with Dookie on one side, and Kerplunk on the other.  While some bands never change I’ve seen Green Day grow and mature as I’ve grown and matured I’ve seen them come from the music of the minority to making an Album which has topped Charts the world over.  The only concern I have at the moment is when tickets for the obligatory World Tour go on Sale.

Assorted Mammals of the Old Republic

Hey droogs, guess who’s still alive.

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Boxart
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Boxart

Yeah, the economic down turn is bad, but the biggest drain on my pocket at the moment is the glut of triple A game titles around at the mo. I spent last week completing Fable II’s main plot, started playing Fallout 3, started up Guitar Hero World Tour (or as I like to call it “super arrgh I can’t do three things at once magical drum simulator”), my import copy of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia’s arrived, SSFII HDR comes out some time today and I still haven’t even considered giving time to Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge or Left 4 Dead yet!

Following my obituary for sonic the hedgehog a couple of weeks ago, and based on the recommendation of Chesterfield’s premier/only independent games retailer I decided I’d find time in my frantic gaming schedule to give Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood a rare opportunity to redeem it’s franchise.

Sonic Chronicles is a Role-playing game based on the popular sega franchise, and developed by the hand held division of Canadian company Bioware, better known for creating the Neverwinter Nights series, Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic.  Considering Bioware’s staggering back catalogue of RPG success going into SC:TDB I was quietly optimistic feeling that Sega had made the right decision to pass the game to a third party rather than leaving production with Sonic Team (Probably too busy making a hash of Sonic Unleashed at the time).

The game picks up sometime after Sonic and Friends have once again defeated Dr Robotnik(His name’s Robotnik.  Not Eggman!), Sonic is brought back following some much needed R ‘n’ R to find that the Chaos Emeralds have been stolen (again) and Knuckles has been Echidna-napped by an organisation referred to as the Marauders.  Sonic assembles his usual team of Mammalian cohorts, slaps on his Ricky Rocket-pants and saves the day via an unusual team member, a trip to another universe and a whole heap of ring collecting.

The challenge presented to Bioware in the production of SC:TDB is the need to keep a hell of a lot of people happy by creating a product which will not only be marketable to Sonic fans, but is also of a high enough quality to appease sceptics amongst their own fan base.  I feel to a degree at least they’ve pretty much cracked it.

The presentation of the game is exceptional with the majority of the game played in 3D across an Isometric plane, the locations themselves are well designed with re-creations of various classic Sonic stages such as Green Hill, Mystic Ruins and Angel Island.  The character design is of a usual high standard with few suprises as to the design of new characters fitting into the fifteen year old tried and tested formula, new protagonist Shade fits well into the rest of the characters, though expect a change of costume before her next appearance.

The game play utilises 100% touch screen control, much like Phantom Hourglass all field abilities are activated by tapping a context specific icon on screen.  During combat the game adopts a variation on the traditional JRPG style.  Protagonists line up at the bottom of the screen, antagonists at the top, the two factions then wait for their turn to batter each other until all of one side is defeated.  To add to this tried and tested formula, Bioware introduces a system similar to Elite Beat Agents/ Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for activating special powers.  Pow moves use up Pow points when used much like Magic Points in a Final Fantasy game to activate the Power move however a small rhythm-action style puzzle needs to be completed involving tapping and dragging icons with the stylus, it offers a welcome variation to an otherwise humdrum activity.

As a warning to fans of Bioware do not come into Sonic Chronicles expecting the complex plots and sub-plots seen in Mass Effect or KOTOR, while the plot is relatively well written, this is a simpler game than many of Bioware’s other efforts, an RPG lite for a younger audience.  Don’t let this put you off, as while simple and with a low difficulty level that doesn’t mean that Sonic Chronicles isn’t a pleasure to play.  I managed to complete this game in under 15 hours, which I considered to be about right.  In terms of sub plots and side quests, there are some, though most of these aren’t really more than fetch and carry quests for NPC X.  Apparently there is a Bioware romantic sub-plot ( though without Mass Effect’s Alien Rumpo) between Sonic and Amy Rose, though to be honest I didn’t pursue this and have since found out about it through GameFaqs.

While Sonic Chronicles may not be to everyone’s taste I found it to be an amusing diversion, if somewhat easy to complete.  Though I maybe wouldn’t advise my peers to go out and buy it, I wouldn’t hate myself for giving it as a gift to a younger gamer.  It is a well polished adventure which goes someway to repairing the damage done by previous games to the franchise.  Repairs aided by the fact that it’s possible to complete the game without ever having to use Shadow.

I only hope that Sega takes note of this return to form, and doesn’ t do anything stupid with the next Sonic game, y’know like turning Sonic into some kind of lycanthropic hedgehog, man, chimp, thing.  Man, that would be stupid.

The Internets has you, Neil

Dromedary

What do you write to introduce yourself to a new blog? It’s harder than it looks! glancing over my shoulder I’m tempted to rip off one of the starting posts of one of the great bloggers but noticed one thing; most of them don’t have one.

The most concise and awesome introduction I can find is that of Jason Kottke, posted way back in 1998 when Quake II still ruled the world. So read that post then come back here and you’ve got the best of both of the worlds of blogging, see?

I figure I should explain a little about this bloggery expedition. I’ve been reading blogs, sites and other repositories of random information for donkey’s years and I’ve even tried my hand at maintaining a blog or twelve, the most recent being the inevitably doomed A sine 9. My compatriots have all suffered similarly accursed wide reading habits and we feel we should subject allow you to share in our vast and pointless repository of knowledge. Here me and my fellow adventurers in Internet writing have tried to create a vault of stuff we find interesting as well as having space for the inevitable Angry Rant™, allowing us to keep a posting schedule where we don’t have to be brilliant and entertaining every day. Not that we aren’t. It’s just nice to have some breathing space, you understand.

Our goal here is to share what we enjoy with you, anonymous mass. You may think we’re writing drivel and choose never to visit again; well STFU you’re wrong and some kind of deviant who does unpleasant things to dromedaries. Some of you might stick around and see what we can squeeze forth from our herd-mind, which is dandy. Others may become hopelessly obsessed with our glorious prose and begin a campaign of stalking, which is kind of OK too if you’re Zoetica Ebb.

So subscribe to the feed, bookmark the site or forget you ever came to this forsaken manor and carry on with your ungulate entertainment. Meanwhile, the cat requires attention and he can shred a grown man’s lap in seconds.

Hello World!

It seemed only apt to both the general theme and target audience of this, our newly founded Blogging locale, that we start with those words.

As all geeks (well those of the IT fraternity at least) will know, the first thing anyone should do in a new programming language is to make a script that displays these words, big and proud for all the world to see. So there they are… We are here… The Stupor has landed.

Thinking of an actual subject for a first post has been somewhat trickier than coming up with the title and introduction. Where to start?? My theories on time and space or the relativity there-of, politics from one side of the spectrum to the other, a review of an album or game recently purchased, a funny video or a photo of a cat that looks like Hitler… Where to begin??…

With all these things whirling around in my head just waiting to splurge forth. I think the trick to making this work will be like trying to harness the power of a nuclear reaction, without it exploding your face/ass/county off. An amount of discipline and control will be called for, but I’m confident that me and my fellow Stupefiers can direct our minds whilst also supplying many interesting insights and hilarious anecdotes along the way.

I assume that the only people reading this now (in the year of our Lord 2008) will be you three (Gazz, Neil and Ralph) and our collected family and friends. However, I predict great things here, so for all you completists that have skipped right back to catch the very first post those guys did before they moved to Hollywood and “sold out”… Hey future yous!!! How about that weather, pretty damn hot isn’t it? Remember that credit crunch thing? We never thought that would go on so long. What a shame about Obama, it was good while it lasted. Oh and good work on avoiding that flu pandemic too.

Ever the optimist,

Ado out….