Animal Crossing reviews:

Nintendo’s charming and insanely addictive animal-based life sim.
YearGameScore
2002Animal Crossing9.4/10
2005Animal Crossing: Wild World9.5/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl ¹9.5/10
2008Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City (City Folk)9/10
2012Animal Crossing: New Leaf9.5/10
2012Puzzle Swap ²7/10
2012Nintendo Land ³8.7/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS8.9/10
2015Mario Kart 89.6/10
2015Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer7.2/10
2015Super Mario Maker9.4/10

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. There is a stage based on the series, which features many Animal Crossing characters.
  2. Characters from the series are featured in multiple Animal Crossing puzzles.
  3. A new game, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, is included.
  4. A Villager is playable and there is a stage based on the series.
  5. Isabelle and two Villagers are playable and there is a race track based on the series (via DLC.)
  6. Several characters from the series are playable via Mystery Mushroom.
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Saying Your Name

People enjoy hearing their name said out loud by others. From what I’ve heard, doing this is a useful way to get people to trust you. Of course, it won’t always work, but generally speaking, it’s supposed to have a positive effect – unless that’s all just a myth.

But I think it goes both ways. I quite like saying people’s names – or at least the names of good friends. When people have short and snappy names, it’s nice to just quickly pop them out; names like “Mike” and “Kat” are two I quite like saying. But it’s not just the single syllable wonders – it’s also the longer names too, the ones which you can really take your time articulating and slowly spilling out of your mouth – the names like “Dalfino” or “Stephanie.” Then there’s you’re middle of the road names, the ones like “Chloe” or “Liam” or “Sophie” where they’re neither short or snappy or long and unusual – just simple words, but ones which you enjoy molding your mouth around and you say them.

And in the end, you find that you mainly say their names when you’re around them, so that then means that it slowly begins to have a positive association. You hear yourself saying their name and you start to feel good, because the last time you heard it was when you with them last – which was doubtlessly a wonderful time. For me, it’s also a small sign of affection: if I’m not very close with someone, saying their name doesn’t feel quite right, I’ll only do it to get their attention – but if I do like someone, I’ll sprinkle their name into sentences like a sprinkle the salt over some chips when having dinner at Nando’s. It just makes conversation with them a little more delicious.

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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Prior to reading this book, I knew absolutely nothing about David Sedaris, or even anything about what he wrote: not even the genre. Now having finished it, I feel as though I not only understand his writing style, but I have a strong grasp of who he is as a person; or at least, who he likes to portray himself as in his writing.

I’d say the book is a nice example of life writing – it is autobiographical, but I certainly wouldn’t call it an autobiography. It’s essentially a collection of anecdotes from his life, without much of an overall structure, other than half of it being based on his life in America, then the second half being based on his life after moving to France.

What’s appealing to me, as a writer, is that Sedaris’s life isn’t particularly extraordinary (other than moving from the US to France.) Generally, he’s had the same sort of experiences which many of us have had, but what makes it enjoyable to read is his strong writing voice. He’s a good writer and he’s funny. That fact that this alone was enough for him to fill a book is inspiring to me.

While I enjoyed the half about his life in America, I do think it picked up significantly when he moved to France. Reading about the way that Americans would speak English in front of him assuming he didn’t understand was hilarious. I laughed out loud several times. He often writes about hating people he doesn’t know for small (and sometimes justified) reasons and it amuses me to no end – some of it’s ridiculously petty and I love it.

I must warn you though, for all the laughs it contains, it can be very bleak. There’s a chapter about euthanising pets and a chapter about a woman who nearly died in an amusement park accident – though he keeps up his comedic tone, I was left feeling quite depressed after each of these chapters. I wish he could have written more about genuine joy in his life, because, without that, it can feel a bit too much – but I suppose sincere happiness may not have been compatible with the tone he was going for.

Overall, an interesting read which gives us a good overview of the author’s life. It’s very relatable at times, so I feel like a lot of people will get something out of it – if you’re after some comedic, slice of life reading, then I recommend it.

Rating: 8.1/10

Buy it here.

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Reading Together

One of my favourite activities to do myself is reading. I love it, of course. Reading is cool and I have that printed on a t-shirt. I could take for granted that you already agree and understand, but then this blog post would be a bit too short, so I’ll elaborate. Reading is relaxing and a great way to start a day or end it, it’s a great thing to do to fill time when waiting at the bus stop and it’s a great thing to make time for especially. It broadens your mind, it helps you to be more empathetic, it makes you laugh and makes you cry and because it all happens entirely within your head, reading is a highly personal experience which is different for everybody.

With all that in mind, reading only really makes sense as a solitary activity, right? But somehow that’s not true. While I wouldn’t like to read in a group of people who were otherwise occupied, there’s actually something pretty enjoyable about reading with somebody who’s also nose deep in a book. Against all reason, sitting and silently reading a book alongside somebody else doing the exact same thing, is actually more enjoyable than just doing it alone – or at least it is for me. It’s hard to put my finger on what I enjoy about this and I feel that it might just be down to being in the presence of friends, but if you’ve never tried communal reading before, I recommend it!

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A Visit to London and the Sea Life Aquarium

I’m not somebody who usually does much for their birthday, but I was particularly excited when I was having dinner with my friend Sophie a few weeks ago and she suggested that we take a day trip for my birthday this year.

The day out was decided to be a visit to London, centered around a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium. I’ve always been particularly fond of ocean life and I’ve never had an unenjoyable visit to London – so tickets to go there were a fantastic gift. You can imagine how excited I was. To make this blog post a little more enjoyable than the usual walls of text that I post, I’ll sprinkle the best photos between the paragraphs.

I find ocean life so much more interesting than animals you see on land, because it’s so different. I suppose a part of my enjoyment is based on escapism, because my mind wanders a lot when watching these beautiful creatures swim around.

When we arrived at the aquarium, there was a big illustration of a sad looking octopus cowering away from a flashing camera, with a message to say that flash photography was prohibited. Sadly, some guy thought it was worth stressing out an innocent creature just for the sake of a picture that he’ll probably look at once and then never think of again, so he was taking lots of pictures of the octopus with his flash on. Sophie and I spent some time wondering about bad things that might deservedly happen to him later that day.

Something I really appreciated, was that almost every exhibit had information about the human-made threats which face these creatures. As much as watching and admiring them simply due to the natural beauty of their existence is nice, it is equally important, if not more so, for organisations like the Sea Life Trust to educate people on these issues. So I’m glad that they were.

Having said that, I wish that more staff members were around so that I could ask questions. There was one penguin, for example, which seemed to be acting strangely and I wish I could have spoken to somebody to find out why or even to alert them to it. I would also have liked to be able to ask somebody about the issue of keeping shark in captivity, because there was one big shark swimming around and it certainly looked alright and it did have the biggest tank, but I’d have liked the chance to talk to someone, as I have heard it can be bad to keep sharks in tanks.

But, overall, I was definitely left with a positive impression. The tanks all seemed to be appropriately sized for the fish living inside them. It wasn’t just fish either, but also some insects, frogs, snakes and other creatures. At one point, there was also the opportunity to stroke a star fish – which was nice. There was a staff member there to make sure that everybody was respectful and not touching it in ways which might be harmful. She seemed very wary of the children there and I’m sure I would too. The starfish curled its arm around Sophie’s finger, but it didn’t around mine.

My favourite fish were the jellyfish – they look so different to anything else and there were loads of lights shining on them to make their bodies look as if they were changing colours. They’re amazing and they’re also the last thing you see in the aquarium – no doubt they knew that they were saving the best until last. If I had to pick a favourite jellyfish, however, I couldn’t do so. Sophie told me that I couldn’t say “Oh my, these ones might be my favourite” at every jellyfish tank we came to.

Other than just listing every single creature I saw and that aquarium and telling you that I loved them, I’m not sure I have much else to say about it. After the aquarium we ate some chips on some grass (tasty), then we wandered around the streets (invigorating), then we went to a toy shop (exciting), then we had dinner (delicious), then we went to a book shop (marvelous) – all in all, a very nice day. Indeed, as days go, it was one of the best I’ve had so far.

Also, all of these photos were taken by Sophie. There’s no way my camera would get pictures this good. I’m very grateful that she took so many, as looking through them all again today, was like revisiting the aquarium all over again. I hope that you have enjoyed looking at the photos.

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Mother reviews:

A delightfully quirky JRPG series with some real emotion at its heart.
YearGameScore
1989EarthBound Beginnings (Mother)8.9/10
1994EarthBound (Mother 2)9.5/10
1996Kirby Super Star ¹9.1/10
1999Super Smash Bros. ²6/10
2001Super Smash Bros. Melee ³9.5/10
2006Mother 39.9/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl9.5/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS8.9/10
2015Super Mario Maker9.4/10

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. A Mr. Saturn makes a minor cameo as a collectable item.
  2. Ness is an unlockable playable character.
  3. Ness is a playable character and there are two stages based on the series.
  4. Ness and Lucas are playable characters and there are two stages based on the series.
  5. Ness and Lucas are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  6. Various characters from the series are playable via Mystery Mushroom.
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Fire Emblem (Game Boy Advance)

Super Smash Bros. Melee was the first video game to bring any kind of Fire Emblem content to non-Japanese audiences and I’m glad it did, because it’s become one of my favourite franchises. But as important as that was, it was the Game Boy Advance game Fire Emblem which was the first actual instalment in the series to make the journey overseas.

Fans may have been a bit surprised though, because the two characters we’d seen in Melee (Marth and Roy) are nowhere to be found in this game, Marth isn’t even mentioned! Instead it focuses on a trio of characters: Lyn, Eliwood and Hector (worth mentioning is that Eliwood is Roy’s father.)

In terms of the story, I found it a bit generic by Fire Emblem standards: a small ragtag group of fighters come together to try and take on a evil political power. Along the way they’re joined by lots of different people and there end up being interesting ties to the ancient history of the world.

While the overall plot was not that exciting, I remained invested in it due to the fact that I found the characters very likeable. I’ll admit, Eliwood felt a bit flat, but Lyn and Hector were both very endearing and I enjoyed watching them interact with each other and the people they encountered (even though it’s all text boxes.) I cared about them all and wanted them to be okay – and knowing Fire Emblem, that wasn’t a guarantee!

In terms of gameplay, I cant fault it: it’s classic Fire Emblem. You take it in turns with CPU enemies to move your characters around a grid based map, engaging them in battles with a nice level of nuance provided by the variety of available weapons – you have to manage your weapons and money well though, because the weapons all break eventually. The biggest thing, of course, is that if any of your characters die, they won’t come back and you’re left with that guilt forever.

It’s an example of Fire Emblem by the book in that it doesn’t do anything particularly unusual or innovative with the formula, so longtime fans playing for this one for the first time may be disappointed. But I happen to think that Fire Emblem by the books is still pretty darn good, so I had a good time with this game (though it did get a little too hard in the last level!) You have to keep in mind that it was most certainly created with the intention of being a jumping in point for new players and I think it definitely succeeds at that – we owe Fire Emblem‘s continued presence and success in our country to this starting point and I am very grateful for it for that fact.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here.

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Do People Overuse the Word “Friend”?

What is a friend? I’m sure each person that you ask would give you a slightly different answer – after all, friendship means different things to different people.

My own perspective is that it’s an honour for somebody to count you among their friends – it’s something you can attain by proving yourself to the other person; by being supportive, by helping them out, by being good to them. I realise I’ve just listed three things which sound like they’re all the same thing, but in my head I intend them all to have different meanings.

For me, a friend is somebody who: I enjoy the company of, I know is a good person and has shown in some way that they care about me. I know those are pretty broad terms, but friendship itself is a very broad thing.

A friend can be someone you know for years and years and who continues to be a positive influence on your life, or someone you know only briefly, but who still proves themselves to you. If a friendship only lasts a year, it doesn’t mean it was any less real. The experiences are still valuable and the positive impact still counts, even if you have gone your separate ways.

But what I don’t like, is when somebody lists every person they’ve ever encountered as a friend. In my opinion, just because you’ve met somebody, it doesn’t mean that you’re friends. Even if you’ve had a couple of conversations with somebody and had good chemistry with them. These are just friendly acquaintances.

Knowing someone is very different to being friends with them, because to be friends is to actually share something substantial. I feel like those who count every person they know as a friend, ultimately cheapen the concept. In fact, I almost wonder if they really value “friends” or if they honestly get just as much out of that person they met at two parties as they do from people they’ve met up with regularly for decades. Maybe that’s too cynical of me, but maybe it’s an accurate reflection of a society which doesn’t put much value on friendships…

So, I’m much more wary of using the word ‘friend’ and if and when I do use it, it means I am making a very high commendation of the person I am describing.

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Banjo-Kazooie reviews:

Perhaps one of the biggest names in 3D platforming. Full of memorable, oddball characters and worlds I’ll never tire of exploring.
YearGameScore
1997Diddy Kong Racing ¹8.9/10
1998Banjo-Kazooie9.8/10
2000Banjo-Tooie9.8/10
2003Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge9.3/10
2003Grabbed by the Ghoulies ²9.5/10
2005Banjo-Pilot8.7/10
2005Kameo: Elements of Power ³8/10
2008Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise9.1/10
2008Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts9.5/10
2010Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo-Kazooie9/10
2012Minecraft10/10
2016Tracky Train8.3/10
2017Yooka-Laylee9.7/10

Parent Series:

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Banjo is a playable character.
  2. Roysten the Goldfish makes a minor cameo.
  3. A recording of Banjo’s voice, along with a new version of the main theme song is hidden in a cabin.
  4. Roysten the Goldfish (in Piñata form) appears in Petunia’s hat.
  5. Several Banjo-Kazooie characters are playable in most console versions of the game.
  6. Banjo makes a minor appearance as one of the game’s passengers and is also partially playable.
  7. Roysten the Goldfish appears in Dr. Puzz’s helmet.
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Fire Emblem reviews:

An emotional turn-based strategy series built around epic, fantasy storylines.
YearGameScore
1990Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light7.4/10
2001Super Smash Bros. Melee ¹9.5/10
2003Fire Emblem (The Blazing Blade)8/10
2004Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones8.4/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl ²9.5/10
2008Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon9.4/10
2012Fire Emblem: Awakening9.6/10
2012Puzzle Swap ³7/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS8.9/10
2015Fire Emblem Fates9.7/10
2015Super Mario Maker9.4/10

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Marth and Roy appear as unlockable playable characters.
  2. Marth and Ike both play roles in the game’s story and are playable. There is also a stage based on the series.
  3. Chrom and Lucina appear in a puzzle based on the series.
  4. Various Fire Emblem characters are playable and there is a stage based on the series.
  5. Various Fire Emblem characters are playable via Mystery Mushroom.

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