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David Robinson "kinitawowi" (Manchester, UK)
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Final Fantasy IX (Platinum)
Final Fantasy IX (Platinum)

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best game to carry the Final Fantasy title., 13 Feb. 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This game seems to have been much maligned over time; the return to the old school look and feel of castles and kingdoms over slums and amusement arcades, vaguely cutesy why-does-that-guy-have-a-tail characters over the more realistic gritty guy-with-a-gun-for-an-arm, the shameless cash-in argument over the Strategy Guide and the fact that it only takes 70 hours to complete instead of 110 annoyed a lot of people who swore that they should have drawn a line under the Final Fantasy name after FFVII.

Those people are blind. Don't get me wrong, FFVII is pretty good; the story is a little bit more engrossing (if rather linear) and it has That Moment. But gameplay-wise, it's horrible; the materia system is utterly broken and destroys any concept of party balance. On top of that, it's overloaded; forming a party of 3 from 9 is just too much, providing minimal incentive to use any of the other six characters.

FFIX gets it right simply by returning to an old style setup of dedicated jobs; Vivi *is* a black mage, Steiner *is* a tanking fighter, Freya *is* a drago(o)n knight. Couple this with the ability point system, requiring careful selection of all equipment and accessories to level up skills (a system reused to brilliant effect five years later in Final Fantasy Tactics) and a party of 4 from 8 means that balance is critical, and far more enjoyable.

I freely admit that FFIX was the first FF game I played; since then I've gone back through a load of the older ones, and the more I play them the more I realise how good FFIX actually is. This game is a tribute to the whole series, with nods to enemies and characters stretching all the way back to FFI; it only gets better with time.

As for the story? Despite appearances, the main character is in fact Princess Garnet. It's her family and her development and experiences that drive the game forward, not those of Zidane. Second place goes to Vivi, the little black mage, whose quest to discover his origins is excellently handled.

It should be noted that it's not the best RPG of it's type. The badly rushed fourth disc means that honour belongs to the magnificent Chrono Trigger, the only RPG I've ever played where the story is logical and consistent from start to finish. But Final Fantasy? This was a high water mark.


Command & Conquer: The First Decade (PC DVD)
Command & Conquer: The First Decade (PC DVD)
Offered by just-the-games
Price: £44.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Just... wow., 17 Feb. 2006
"Oh no! I can't play it on the internet, so EA can go hang!" Idiots. I've just gone back through the intro of C&C: Tiberian Dawn, and played the first couple of missions, and suddenly I feel like I'm fifteen again. And I know it only gets better from here.
£30 for twelve almighty, genre-defining games that all work under Windows XP? How can it *not* get five stars? Anyone who appreciates computer games has to accept that this is an astonishing set, and while there are some trivial flaws in the set's execution, the content itself is staggering.


Finally Woken
Finally Woken
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.97

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year so far., 1 Jun. 2005
This review is from: Finally Woken (Audio CD)
All those who are jumping up and down screaming about comparisons to Dido need to open their ears and listen to more music. Dido isn't the only female soloist out there, you know. No, head east to the musical hotbed that is Norwich and you might find a lady by the name of Beth Orton. Her music is deep, atmospheric, and listenable all at the same time.
When I first heard They on one of the music channels, the voice (and certain parts of the lighting) convinced me that I was listening to Orton's new single. Because Jem is, as the Amazon review states, what you'd get if you told Orton to sound a bit bouncier. That doesn't necessarily mean more positive - lyrics don't get much harsher than 24's fatalistic anticipations or the deceased loves of Missing You - but it does mean that this album is everything that Orton is capable of being. It's far more interesting than anything Dido can do, and while it seems destined to be yoinked for every TV show going (I'm looking at you, Wish I and Celebrity Love Island) it has enough going for it to keep you involved for a long while.
So, forget Dido. Jem is the new, improved Beth Orton; 24 rocks (which is something that can't be said about any of Dido's or Orton's output); and this is one amazing album.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More with Feeling
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More with Feeling
Price: £5.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly. Oh so nearly., 4 Jun. 2004
You know that this episode deserves a 5; that's why you're on this page, after all. The complete CD of a special musical episode of a cult TV show? It's only going to be looked at by those rabid fans who took one look at the episode and knew that they would have the CD, the DVD, the poster, the book, and the T-shirt if there was one.
So yes. Five stars for content.
The loss of a star is thanks to our man Mr Whedon. His dream for this CD was for it to be about the music and nothing but the music; and while the music is incredible (I'm Under Your Spell - and it's transcendence from a beautiful love song to... well, for reasons of decency let's just say "something else entirely" - remaining a massive highlight), it cannot be denied that the spoken asides provide a massive, and in cases vital, boost to the songs.
A case in point is Sweet's Song, or What You Feel; where Dawn and Sweet's spoken sparring build the song, add emphasis and push it along. And the main ensemble piece, Walk Through The Fire, ends far too abruptly without Sweet's declaration of "Showtime!".
Obviously it's not necessary to provide the entire episode as an audio CD; but these spoken interjections form part of the songs, and they are undeniably lacking without them.
There are other problems. Again, it was part of a desire to pack the whole thing out with music; which means that pauses, essential to the flow of the song and the narrative, are completely lost. The end of Anya's Bunnies segment simply needs a pause to allow the stupidity to sink in.
All that said, the CD does redeem itself with some extra bonuses; most notably the instrumental scores from Hush, Restless, and the stunningly haunting track Sacrifice. Christophe Beck was sorely, sorely missed after his departure at the end of season 4, and these tracks are welcome reminders of the power the man responsible for Close Your Eyes can develop.
The CD is rounded off by an interesting, if unnecessary, exercise in egotism; Joss Whedon and his wife's demo take on Something To Sing About.
Overall, the CD is an embodiment of greatness that doesn't quite match up to the episode itself. By all means own this CD, but make sure you get one of the DVDs as well. Because you need this episode.


Hotel Paper (Int'l Version)
Hotel Paper (Int'l Version)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £6.65

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Um... why?, 8 Oct. 2003
I have to start by saying, this is a great album. A little inconsistent in places (Desperately just doesn't cut it, compared to say One Of These Days) while absolutely barnstorming in others (Are You Happy Now, One Of These Days and Love Me Like That), it's about as good as you'd expect from a highly talented, barely-19 year old releasing her second album in modern climes. It's a refreshing change that the UK badly needs.
So why did they decide to stick the finger up at us poor Brits?
Firstly, let's look at track 13. Everywhere. What purpose does it serve, putting this track on the album? Given the next problem, I can only assume it was to eat up space on the disc. Including this track, which was already one of the standouts of The Spirit Room, suggests that Michelle isn't trying to move on with her sound and is instead content with living on past glories. Which is a shame, and completely unnecessary as this album has more than enough highlights of it's own. The Game Of Love is a welcome addition, though.
However, doing this seems to be a way to prevent the UK release from containing the enhanced video elements that the Americans get.
So, go to HMV, pay the extra £1 it takes to get the import version, and enjoy the full features to your heart's content.


Now That's What I Call Music! 52
Now That's What I Call Music! 52
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.68

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vast improvement over Now 51..., 22 July 2002
although that's not saying much.
For possibly the first time ever, the Now!s have failed to acheive their purpose. These albums are designed to reflect the taste of the music-buying public over the period they cover. By including only three number 1s, and ignoring Pop Idol (Rik Waller appeared on Now! 51, but four more Idol tracks have made the top spot; where are they?), there is a serious gap in the representation.
Amazingly, however, this is a good thing. By ignoring tracks that reached the top spot entirely thanks to their marketing, the album has managed to secure a wider variety of tracks than ever. Of course, the dance-pop / R&B split between the discs still exists. But other tracks are beginning to filter through these boundaries. Artists like the Doves, Idlewild and Puddle Of Mudd would never have dreamed of hitting a Now! as recently as five albums ago.
Perhaps the Now! compilers have realised that the albums were getting samey. Perhaps (although less likely) the music is genuinely improving. But either way, this is a step in the right direction for the series. We'll have to see if Now! 53 can continue this progress.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 6 - Episodes 12-22 (Box Set) [VHS] [1998]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 6 - Episodes 12-22 (Box Set) [VHS] [1998]
VHS

4 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Paling to insignifcance, 19 July 2002
In fairness to this set, the damage had already been done. Smashed and Wrecked sent the series in such a wrong direction that the latter half meandered in a failed attempt to get back on course.
Beginning with Doublemeat Palace, an episode almost universally panned, this is the point at which Real Life finally rears it's ugly head as the Big Bad of the season as Buffy is forced into low-quality employment. Dead Things provides us with another red herring in the form of the Geeks, who finally commit their first atrocious act; and make Buffy believe herself responsible.
In Older And Far Away, a figure from the past forces some interpersonal confrontations - and, ultimately, make-ups. Season 6 has focused on the divergent nature of the Scoobies; for the first time, the characters are displayed as individuals, rather than a complete unit. In a show that thrives on the relationship between the characters, this is an error. The breakdown scenario was done far better in Season 4, for God's sake!
As You Were is the last send-off for Riley Finn; Hells' Bells, the wedding episode, ends as all good wedding dramas should; Normal Again borrows heavily from numerous other sources (if you've seen the Red Dwarf episode Back To Reality, you've seen this); Entropy deals with the aftermath of Hells Bells and finally repairs a couple of broken relationships.
Then it falls apart.
Seeing Red contains possibly the two most disputed moments in Buffy history. Arguments rage over what they mean in terms of the specific characters involved, the way Mutant Enemy handles it's audience, and ultimately what it means for the remainder of the show. It suffices to say that Willow, who until now has been doing well at remaining on the "magic-dry" wagon, falls off it in the biggest way imaginable, resulting in her descent into insanity and revenge in Villains.
Two To Go and Grave witness the return of an old friend, although for how long remains open to conjecture. Willow, consumed by rage, attacks everyone and everything around her; and it takes a considerable person with considerable power to stop her. Not even Buffy can handle this one... The final moments come as a shock to everybody; including, apparently, the actors involved. The characters will never be the same again.
Ultimately, Season 6 was a disappointment. Frustratingly uneven, it ended up feeling nothing more than average and fuelled some violent fires in the fan community. Whether this is a ploy to maintain interest until Season 7 remains unknown. But Willow's addiction storyline, coupled with the relationship between Spike and Buffy, have meant that this season leaves a bad taste in the mouth. This set is probably for die-hards only.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 6 (Box Set 1) [VHS] [1998]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 6 (Box Set 1) [VHS] [1998]
VHS
Offered by JamesHarvey Fast dispatch from the UK
Price: £7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a way to start., 15 July 2002
Bargaining, After Life, Flooded, Life Serial, All The Way, Once More With Feeling, Tabula Rasa. Collectively, eight of the best episodes Buffy has ever produced, and they're all here in this set.
The return of Buffy to the land of the living forms a key theme in these opening episodes; building all the way up to the dramatic revelations of OMWF, unquestionably the show's finest hour (yes, Hush has been moved on). Before that, real life sets itself up as the Big Bad, with damage being done in both Flooded and Life Serial; All The Way, the Halloween episode, deals with Dawn's life - no longer as the mystical Key of S5, but as a teenager - while ending with a dramatic development in the character of Willow; OMWF, the much (and deservedly so) discussed musical, is everything a musical should be; flashy, showy, packed with revelation, and containing some surprisingly good vocal performances; and Tabula Rasa, which continues Willow's development, contains some of the show's greatest comedy as the gang, devoid of memory, attempt to work out their places in the group.
Sadly, video three is where it all falls apart. Smashed, Wrecked and Gone form a trilogy of pain that shakes the foundations of the hardest Buffy fans. Dealing with the failings of science, Smashed, written by a new writer, contains the one moment that has divided the fans more than any other. Wrecked, Willow's final collapse, is overblown and badly handled. Gone is an improvement, but not by enough; the attempt to present new Big Bads fails miserably, and the show suffers a lack of focus.
Despite these later failings, the first two videos make this a must-have set.


Getting Away With It: Live
Getting Away With It: Live

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything a live album should be., 20 Jun. 2002
So, another chapter in the life of this band draws to a close. And listening to this album, hearing all 20,000 people sing their hearts out to Sit Down, and knowing the connection between band and fans, you have to wonder where they will go next.
I had the good fortune to be in the Manchester Evening News Arena that December 7th. The band ran through 22 of their finest, best loved songs in front of a crowd who adored them. Tim had the entire audience hanging on his every word, and but for two additional performances in Glasgow and London (contrary to popular belief, this was not their last gig - a chronic error on the part of the schedulers) he could have gone on forever. An electrifying atmosphere kept building and building, through the compulsory technical hitch, until the final declaration; "I'd love to invite you home for milk and cookies. Goodnight!".
Atmosphere is something that it's always difficult to capture in a live recording. However you play the track, it never seems to sound or feel like a stadium. Thanks to some expert production, this recording manages it. Maybe you had to be there, but listening to this strikes up all the images and sensations of a band performing at their most passionate, with the fans in full voice.
The songs speak for themselves. Sit Down, Laid, Come Home. The simple sound of these words is enough to tell any music fan that this is greatness on two discs. And as Larry Gott and Andy Diagram perform on classics like Protect Me and God Only Knows, they have lost none of their touch.
This is a band at their best in front of a crowd who adored them. They always loved the thrill of being with fans, and this recording demonstrates why despite all their problems, with lineup changes, record company changes and financial chaos, to name but a few, they have kept going.
Tim Booth has now moved on. Perhaps he will return at some point. Perhaps not. But one thing is for certain; it doesn't get much better than this.


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