It's finally the end of the DS/3DS era. Somehow it was fantastic but people still talk about the Game Boy. Remember the three pillars of Nintendo, Home Console, GBA, AND DS? There is an alternate reality where the DS bombed, Nintendo frantically shifts back to a new GBA, and all the while PSP sales just launch into space. No, the PSP could never do that. What a piece of junk.Read More
I've been writing about this music for over ten years now, and it has actually become more difficult to describe the incredible variety of video game inspired music I cover on this site. The best I can say is that I, genoboost, your humble host, fucking love this music. I've heard so much great music throughout 2016. Such incredible tunes make it easy to humbly plug away on this site, sharing my favorite albums with like minded game music lovers.
First, I have to thank the game music fans and readers that continue to check out this site and all things genoboost! Thank you to the artists, of course, who create and share their work online for us all to find and enjoy. Thank you all immensely for over ten years of support! Meeting and interacting with so many amazing fans, artists, and generally cool folks has always made this endeavor incomparably more fun and interesting!
I've heard it's a good idea to look back on previous accomplishments before tackling new ones, and this is also a good way to prepare you for what to expect from Game Music 4 All in 2017.
During 2016 I took on a lot more than simply writing a few sentences about good albums. I invested much more of my time in creating better podcasts and videos. This lead to me sitting in front of the camera for the first time on YouTube for a new series of video album reviews. It also meant a record number of episodes for the SUBCON podcast, which will break 50 episodes in 2017. I've even begun to write lengthy video game articles again! 2016 will be the year I finally sorted out my thoughts on classic games like Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and more.
You might think all these new endeavors would take away from the original VGM spirit of this blog. Hell no. I'm still going to be sharing two great video game based albums every week!
Let's take a look at some stats this year!
Some accomplishments in 2016
- Blogged about 100+ VGM albums! (Which means I listened to well over 100 albums in 2016 as well!)
- Wrote six retro game articles in the last couple months of 2016. (This felt paltry at first, then I realized these six articles amount to almost 15 thousand words of nostalgia.)
- Wrote, recorded, and edited 20 new episodes of the SUBCON podcast
- Published 28 new videos on the GM4A Youtube page
- Recorded and edited 21 episodes of The Bystanders Podcast
- I wanted to become more active on social media, and chose Twitter as my social outlet. I don't have an easy way to know how many tweets I made in 2016, but I do know I said something at least once every day!
Let's just take a second to bask in these previous accomplishments…
That's enough basking now!
I've got a lot of goals for Game Music 4 All in this year 2017. Not only do I have goals though, but also a plan, a plan with a schedule. So now you can rest easy, knowing precisely when your favorite content of mine gets posted to the site.
2017 Monthly Schedule
- First Monday - SUBCON mixtape
- Second Monday - YouTube Video
- Third Monday - Feature Length Retro Game Article
- Every Tuesday & Thursday - VGM Album Post
- Every other Wednesday - SUBCON Podcast
- Final Friday - Live Twitch Stream
- Every other Saturday - The Bystanders Podcast
This doesn't include everything I'm planning to do this year. If all goes according to plan, there will be a constant stream of various audio, visual, and written content! I hope you're ready for another exciting year for myself and for video game music!
Everybody has to start somewhere, even if all that person is starting is a series of video games. For the Legend of Zelda series and I, it began with Link to the Past. Not the first Legend of Zelda game I played, but the first Zelda game I played to the very end. I didn't just finish the game either, I destroyed it. I lifted each rock, crashed into all the trees, and used the legendary Master Sword to anxiously poke at every inch of wall. This was all in a painstaking yet pathetic attempt to search out the many heart pieces and hidden treasures of Hyrule. I found those heart pieces though. All of them.Read More
To my detriment, I am obsessed with niche titles, niche music, and even nicher hip hop remixes of niche video game music. It's a curse to want to dig this deep, but someone has to keep digging. Well maybe that person does not need to keep digging but you can't stop me so stop trying to stop me.Read More
30 years ago, Konami released a game called Castlevania. The horror themed adventure game came out in Japan for the Famicom Disk System on September 26, 1986. This also means that the soundtrack, composed by James Banana AHEM i mean Kinuyo Yamashita, has also existed for 30 years! In my personal opinion, the finest waveforms to ever flow out of the NES' 2a03 sound chip.Read More
As a child of roughly kindergarten age at the opening of the 90s, I spent much of my time playing video games. At that age, I understood that there were two types of games, platform games, and puzzle games. That was all we owned, so that was all I played. In that narrow field of vision I came across a classic arcade game. It was BurgerTime.Read More
How hot is the classic power-up?
Got that fire flower, spit that fire power.
Unlike the defensive capabilities of the mushroom, or the platforming safety of a cape/tail, this item is all about offense.
I love the fire flower, it is the haven for platform jumpers living on the edge. I have had some great times with other items, but the fire flower has always been there when I needed it most. Platform after platform, goomba after goomba, the fire flower has allowed me to put the kibosh on near any enemy trying to step to this. Once Super Mario World arrived, that fire power created a wealth of coins as enemies burnt before my very eyes.
Though I hold the fire flower in high regard, the fact remains, its heyday has come to an end ever since the costume wearing innovation of SMB3. Despite being overshadowed by many amazing power ups throughout Mario, the noble fire flower continues to have a place in most Mario adventures, and remains a stalwart ally on the offensive end. Even if you fall like a brick rather than float gently onto the next ledge.
A reliable effort, and job well done.
How does the size inducing mushroom really measure up?
The Super Mushroom*, one of gaming’s greatest icons. Unfortunately, this classic middleman to the good power-ups has been cast down into the pits of disgrace.
The Super Mushroom came onto the scene back in the original Super Mario Bros back in ‘85. Back when that game was kicking my ass, the Super Mushroom was a dear friend, helping me stave off death for just a few moments more.
For all you kids who can regain health just by standing behind a crate, you have no idea how valuable being able to take one extra hit used to be.
Unfortunately, the humble mushroom is no longer the powerhouse it once was. Once SMB3 came onto the scene, there became frequent ways to bypass the mushroom. Just blow by that thing and get some real guns like the frog suit! Yoshi in SMW, and eventually the full health meter of Super Mario 64 rendered the mushroom a minor courtesy rather than a life-saving tool.
The Super Mushroom has found a second life in the Mario Kart series, but even then, the mushroom is rarely the item one would hope to see in a heated race.
In today’s power-up mad Mushroom Kingdom, I give the countries' titular Super Mushroom a...
Due to the newfound lack of usefulness, but the ongoing life the humble mushroom has found in the Mario Kart series along with the 'shrooms' memorable image keep it from being a total failure.
*It was originally called the Magic Mushroom in the NES guide.
When I mentioned adding Kumatora into Smash Bros, I argued that Kumatora would make an interesting new character with an all new move set separate from Ness or Lucas.
Today I propose the opposite. Add another clone character similar to Ness or Lucas, and that character should be Paula from SNES niche classic Earthbound.
Due to her use of physical and magic attacks in Earthbound, she would fit the well rounded structure of Ness and Lucas. I also believe every Earthbound player would agree that 'Pray' would make one amazing final smash.
Due to the clone nature, perhaps Paula could even replace Ness or Lucas, though I find that to be an incredibly long shot. Though it could be argued that the real hero of Earthbound is Paula, but that is a separate discussion.
In the end I hold onto a more realistic hope that she at least makes an appearance as an assist trophy just as Jeff did in Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Wii. Of course, I can always pray that there is more in store for her in the game.
I dream and hope that Kumatora would get some recognition in the upcoming Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Especially the 3DS version which has had a special focus on handheld games such as Mother 3.
It might seem like a lot to ask to get a third character from the Mother series, but considering the similarities between Ness and Lucas, I believe the Mother franchise is well known enough, at least in Japan, to warrant one more original character.
As a character she has a very unique look with her large blue sweater and short pink hair. A large contrast to the other women currently announced for Super Smash Bros. Her use of psychic powers would give her an interesting move set unlike Ness or Lucas. Perhaps a special move assault type character more along the lines of Link or Pelutena.
I am just an Earthbound fanboy, so that is my primary motivation for wanting Kumatora to appear in Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS.
At the very least, I would love to see a trophy of her, and see how Sakurai decides to update her into a 3D model in full HD.
I don't agree on every point in Jonathan Holmes latest Destructiod article, but I did love tripping in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, though I tend to be a fan of arbitrary randomness in my games (It's called gambling people!). Life isn't a series of awesome moments of looking totally cool. Sometimes people trip, haven't you seen Cool Runnings? I'm in love with the idea that during an intense battle for the fate of multiple universes, a dude might slip and fall and land on their ass.
I'll admit that I find tripping in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as aesthetically pleasing, but can see the issue when I look at SSB as a sport rather than a hilarious past time with friends.
I don't really see the analogy of randomness in pro sports as a perfect one-to-one comparison to the tripping, as the tripping is programmed into the game to happen essentially at random, and it is not like gamers have their own real world issues to overcome (nervousness, sweaty hands, unfamiliar controllers, ... sneezing?). The article is an interesting read though, so check it out.
Do you play any videogames competitively? If so, do you view them differently from games you play casually?
"Who are you guys?"
"We're Star Fox."
A Trio of Sector Z remixes from Masikus. Not a lot to add to that. small collection, so allow me to rant about Starfox a little.
It's supposed to be an arcade game. Please Nintendo, put the outer space action flair back in Star Fox.
The greatest game ever, Star Fox 64 reveled in its sci-fi space fighter theme and used it to create a ridiculously quotable wrapper around the chocolatey core of tight, responsive controls and reflex driven arcade gameplay. Maybe you want to listen to the album while I continue.
Whatever becomes of the upcoming Star Fox announced during the recent E3, I hope that it is episodic content. What better way to show off the very idea of episodic content. Imagine playing through a new, roughly one hour Star Fox adventure every month. I believe this turns the normally jeered upon game length of arcade styled games into a positive, turning the experience from a 5-10 game into smaller, movie length experiences.
Doing so would also reinvigorate the movie-like aspects of the beloved Star Fox 64, playing up the hokey dialogue and ammunition factory explosions every episode in glorious HD.
What do you think? Could Star Fox, or perhaps some other series be revived better as episodic content?
It's a slow day, so I am going over the vast VAST amount of unfinished video game thoughts I have written about various titles. If they are in a relatively comprehensible state, I'll polish them up a little and post them here.
Arcana Heart 3 is here, and with it the Pokemon curse has been lifted. Now, instead of having animals fight, we are having women fight. Oh geez. I, hmm. Ahem.
Okay. I own Arcana Heart 3 now. Grabbed it off of a nice CAG deal. Thanks OP. For the many of you who do not know what Arcana Heart is, from the best I can understand, the creators of Guilty Gear and Blazblue created a game in which Sakura (of Street Fighter) was the main character (I know that is sort of the premise of the fantastic Rival Schools/Project Justice series, but that's another article). We have the titular 'Heart' a young, short haired, incredibly deadly teenage girl, complete with school uniform. She is the Sakura which the game more or less revolves around. The roster is filled out by 22 more characters. All female, and ranging from the surprisingly cool to the incredibly ridiculous.
I began with story mode, and I was quickly lost. I guess that '3' is in the title for a reason. If you have played a fighting game before, you know how unimportant yet absurdly convoluted storylines can be in this genre. For this game specifically, it appears Japan is going to blow up, or sink, or something. It's up to the twenty-three women (and girls) to either prevent, or allow this to happen, depending on level of evil.
Some of these characters have really interesting character designs, well others, don't. Rest assured, you are not buying this game for the storyline. The boxart should have told you that. Normally a fighting game wouldn't lose points for a bad plot, but ARC is behind the mind warping storyline of the BlazBlue universe. Maybe the writers of Arcana should go peek at some of the notes the BlazBlue guys have, it would really kick this game up a notch above generic anime storyline.
The game is fun, I played it a lot. Very addictive, especially with friends of course. There are interesting mechanics, and combos, cool things I would like to see implemented in other fighting games (Homing button holler!). But, admittedly, it's a little hard to focus on that since there is something else that needs to be addressed.
I received the package in the mail, in a simple cardboard casing. I tore it open, and came face to face with the collectors edition boxart.
Nope, I don't see any sexism here.
The bonus review category for this game is sexism. So is this game sexist, or not? I honestly don't know what to think. On one hand, the costumes are not as bad as expected, but what I expected wasn't much.
As you can tell.
Though by percentage, it seems the worst offenders are no more than the normally male dominated character line ups of other fighting games. So even though the amount of female fighters in this game is larger, the amount of scantily clad ladies is generally the same. So it seems clear that if Arcana Heart 3 is sexist, it is about the average level of sexism in fighting games.
In essence, all the masculine character archetypes from other fighting games are just females now. That does mean that you get a very diverse cast of women in the game. Of course one could also argue that ARC just gave all the male characters breasts as shameless pandering.
The characters do get back story, as I mentioned earlier, and that only complicates matters. One of the characters went to MIT at the age of ten, so go women right? Although this character also dresses as a playboy bunny when she fights inside her giant mech. She's smarter than I am, who am I to judge what an MIT graduate wears? It's all very confusing.
For instance, that scantily clad woman, Mei-Fang, in the picture above. She's actually a robot! Is it sexist to expect a robot to fit a stereotypical gender role if she was built as a specific gender? Then you have to consider she was built by female scientists as well. Are we talking about sexism still, or are we too far into robot country now?
See, it's as if the creators skirted the issue by filling the game with insane Japanese nonsense. I guess in the end, the sexist connotations in this game aren't particularly relevant. I think women have bigger things to worry about, like that whole getting paid less than a man for the same amount of work thing. I will state that I believe that every fighter, man or woman, would do best to just wear something practical in battle.
So, for having to make me weigh the arguments for and against this game being sexist and likely making myself look sexist in the process, and for giving me a headache, this game owes me a bottle of aspirin. So this game gets a 4.99 (the price of said aspirin) out of 10.
With the success of fighting games after the revamp of Street Fighter IV (even though SFIITHDR was better) fighting games have been on a rise back into gaming relevance. Thanks to the internet, a genre on the verge of extinction has found a second renaissance. Online play, along with a growing tournament scene that, unlike many games, has value as a spectator sport, has reawakened this sleeping beast. Since then I have begun to find myself excited about the prospect of spending a Saturday with the latest EVO tournament streaming through my TV. Excited about watching someone else play a video game. Who would have thought such a thing. As with anything gaming, Such changes have given me a lot to think about.
I believe the time is ripe for some amazing fighting game reboots, sequels, and plenty of cash-in money-grabs too! I remember a time when Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat were on top of the world, and every single other company had to get in on that!
We could have that again.
Let's start with a me-too classic, Killer Instinct.
Calm down KI fans, the game was fun, and I spent plenty of time on it, but to call it anything other than Nintendo shoving the final breaths of their arcade division into a room to ride out this wave of fighting game glory would be ridiculous. Nintendo tapped the graphical brilliance of Rare and thus Killer Instinct was born.
Killer Instinct is a tournament held every...uh...couple years, I guess, by Ultratech, an evil corporation that controls everything in the not too distant future. This company, like most evil ones, create abominations such as a flaming criminal, or a man with a case of the werewolves. Of course, there is also an alien snowman, a time traveling skeleton, and a baby robot. Luckily, the jagged angles they call a storyline means less here than on Porntube.
What became immediately important when fighting games took off, is to essentially be able to beat the life out of your opponent without them ever landing a punch. Much less than the bonus points that feat of finger dexterity got you, was the fact that you had just emasculated some kid with his last quarter. Every so often I would get the pleasure to utterly dominate a normally strong opponent in a round of Mortal Kombat II or Project Justice, and in this fighting game revival, I can just wallow in that feeling with friends and strangers alike.
Killer Instinct took that idea of dominating one's opponent and shoved a pre-rendered fist up its ass with the introduction of Ultra Combos. These monstrosities consisted of a few fancy button presses and a short nap while you beat your opponent senseless. Of course, with the appeal of dominance comes the shame of being dominated. I wasn't that good at this particular fighter, so needless to say, I had a lot of time to think about how much I hated this game as I watched my character (Spinal, always Spinal) get beaten mercilessly. So not only did you lose your money by losing, but hell, you barely even got to press any buttons! In retrospect they weren't the most broken combo system I have ever seen, but it was damn bad.
Beyond the combo system, there wasn't much that set it apart from the myriad other fighters save for the quality graphics and music you expect out of Rare.
Lets forget a minute about the Nintendo/Rare/Microsoft love triangle that sent classic Nintendo licensed Rare games into some kind of half dimension. Let's just assume, Nintendo hands over the license to Rare like they just don't care, meaning the game will be published by Microsoft (although in an alternate dimension Nintendo would have had Retro Studios reboot Killer Instinct instead of Donkey Kong Country and made Nintendo's over the top mix between Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter!!! I need to catch my breath).
If Rare set to work on a Killer Instinct right now, they would never outmuscle anybody in the graphics department in this day and age, though I bet the music will be good (The game better come with a soundtrack). The combo system can't hold up in today's tournament market. If you are going to make a fighting game without competitive balance, or even fun, might as well just get a movie/cartoon/Shaq license and rake in the money on the name alone, and to hell with gameplay altogether. I am taking the firm stance that the original combo system is out the window. Sorry stalwart advocates of old games, I expect a reasonable counter-argument from you soon.
So no combo system, no advanced graphics. What the hell would even make it like the old game?
Rare's ability to create games that have an oddly frustrating dynamic to what is otherwise a stellar experience. In other words, frustrating combos that reward memorization and not timing.
"But you just said the combo-"
Yeah I know, but this is Rare, and they defined a generation of gamers, but sometimes I just think, "Why did you map that button to there? Now I'm dead."
Now that we are dealing with ridiculous combos, the only thing left is how ridiculous? In this modern age of bone breaking screen filling super specials, what constitutes ridiculous? That is for Rare to decide, but much like the original game, it will be somewhere between the violence of Mortal Kombat and the all out power of Street Fighter/Marvel vs Capcom. They just better keep the way too excited announcer. Relax man, is this your first illegal fighting tournament between the worlds greatest fighters?
So Rare will make Killer Instinct about as amazing as Viva Pinata or Banjo-Threeie Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and will be available for the Microsoft Xbox 360. It will get above average ratings. This game doesn't sound so amazing does it? Well there is one way to make this game feasible, even with all the misgivings I am throwing at it.
As previously mentioned, Rare was a highly regarded developer. A shining beacon in a sea of outrageously priced, foggily rendered Nintendo 64 games. They held an unbelievable grasp over graphics that kept the SNES running head to head with the PSX for while the N64 was getting delayed for a year.
Are there those working at Rare who want to recreate some level of that success (at least the 2012 equivalent). There are certainly those people in the video game community. I can be counted among them. So first let me state this carefully worded message directly to Rare.
"For the sake of what pride is left in the Rare brand, the fine people who brought me RC Pro Am, my very first racing game, please make this super epicly awesome. I don't care who you have to hire (or fire) to get this through the door. If Microsoft can't even throw money at your problems, than why do you work for them?
Microsoft already made you revamp Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker to a crowd who has absolutely no interest in any of those made up words and phrases. Admittedly you gave a good go with Viva Pinata, but you were aiming for Pokemon when you should have aimed for Digimon (and that no audience thing again). Remember Grabbed by the Ghoulies? No? Exactly.
What I am trying to say is, what do you have to lose?
Remember how Microsoft launched with Dead or Alive, and claimed the 360 wouldn't just be a console where you shoot things that are people? Yeah, I don't either. With the updates to Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie, it's no secret that Microsoft is more than happy to dig up the ghosts of gaming past and do what they will to their corpses. So just give it one more try, but cut out the furry animal crap and give Xbox gamers what they want, being able to kill people. Don't forget to add Marcus Phoenix and Halo dude since its a Microsoft exclusive and ka-ching!"
There it is, right there. My sure fire way to make this game awesome. Add Marcus Phoenix, Halo guy, and (insert other Microsoft exclusive tough guy character here*) and there is no way to pass this up. Let's face it, we all knew that Microsoft and Sony were going to steal the Smash Bros idea eventually. Sony opened fire with Playstation All-Stars, so now Microsoft can't clone the formula, but they can reboot Killer Instinct into Microsoft's answer to Virtua Fighter. This means including fighters from the Microsoft universe (that feels gross to say for some reason) in Ultratech's evil tournament. I don't play FPS games normally, but a 'roided out Marcus Phoenix driving a buzzsaw at the deadly robot known as Fulgore, only to have Fulgore block it with his metallic claws and then disappear and lazer eye him from behind is too awesome! I'm sure you could also wrangle a couple third party folks to compete, as is the style of the day, and you won't have the greatest fighter, but you will have something that is reasonably fun, sells well, and looks bad ass as hell.
Not only that, but it has already been canonically established in the original Killer Instinct that Ultratech has access to time traveling technology, so explaining how all these people ended up in the latest Killer Instinct tournament can be reasonably explained for the five of us who give a shit.
*In researching this article, I rediscovered other great Microsoft characters such as Kameo girl and whatever was in Ninety-Nine Nights**.
**To be honest, I was actually really anticipating N3 back when the 360 was about to launch, since it was being produced by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Space Channel 5, Child of Eden), but sadly the game was not very good at all. Well that will teach me to get excited for a launch title.
Rare needs to gain relevancy in the year 2012, and it's become very clear that Microsoft needs a few, more recent exclusives. Not to mention cash in on this growing fighting game market. It is a match made in reasonable business plan heaven.
Game wise, it will be fun to get to see a few more characters fist fight one another in photorealistic environments. The combos will be some beautiful cinematic displays of violence. The story... will exist. Kinect support?
I also believe a heavily promoted Microsoft fighting game will bring more attention to the fighting game scene in general, even if I doubt the game itself will ever be considered a serious fighter. I do hold out hope though, and will be the first one saying how unbelievably amazing that teaser cinematic is at E3 201X.
After four days, these are the first words I am typing (not really, I had to edit them, but it was true in the rough draft). I tend to write far more often than never, as you might imagine. So why did production come to a stop? Pokemon of course! It's always the Pokemon (except when it's SimCity or Rune Factory or Advance Wars or...). It has all been so dark the past few days. I am writing this now, as if I woke up from a drug binge, or am recovering from some debilitating illness. For several days the most important thoughts in my mind sounded something like, “Do I really need another dragon type on my team? Maybe one that could learn a fighting attack. Although if I can bring in a dual type fighting/lightning, then I can switch out my Eelektross for my Gallade and have two fighting types. Are there any fighting/lightning types? Better do some research...”
I remember last playing Pokemon White months ago when it had first been released. I defeated the Elite Four, saved all the Pokemon from Team Plasma, and then some. I didn't accomplish everything though. A Pokemon Trainer's work is never done. I moved on to fresher gaming pastures relatively soon after defeating Pokemon White, and was free from its spell. At least, until a few days ago.
It all began when I was feeling particularly ill one morning. Too sick to climb out of bed and hop on the computer. Too withered away to even stare at the television. I slowly rolled over, and in the darkness I could see the dim blue power light of my trusty DS by my bedside. I reached out for it, and suddenly the bright glow and rocking bicycle music of Pokemon White lit up the room. I lied in bed and began playing. It took a moment to get a grip on where I was in the Unova region, and what I had yet to accomplish. Suddenly the original time with the game began to flood back in. I was raising a new team. I had eggs to hatch. I had battles to fight. I had to buy some revival herbs. I had to play Pokemon. In an instant I had become entangled in the six hundred and forty-nine tentacles of the latest Pokemon game.
I have tried to 'catch them all' on several non consecutive occasions. Each time I placed a Pokemon cartridge into the current portable Nintendo system that is currently on the market, I have been consumed by it. There was the classic red, and many a tale can be told of that, then there was my return to a world long forgotten when I bought Pokemon Diamond. This journey into the land of Unova marks the third time I have devolved into a blithering PokeManiac.
Friends were abandoned, responsibilities shirked, and thoughts of non Pokemon related events dropped to an all time low. Any responsibility that couldn't be avoided, was done methodically, and in a way to incorporate the most repetitious aspects of Pokemon. Chores like laundry and eating became tests in multitasking. Tests I often failed as my food often went cold and/or uneaten. Although, I'll mention that my shirts came out as colorful as ever, in case you were worried about the laundry.
My mind easily made the transition back into the daily routine of things. I hit up Amanita on her PC and grabbed the Pokemon I wanted. I stopped by all the daily events, read the animated sign between routes to search for Pokemon, and fumbled my way through a handful of battles. With my reintroduction to the games mechanics now over, it was time to be the very best.
Like being the best at many other things, it all began with some research. I pulled up Bulbapedia by typing the name of a random Pokemon into Google. Soon my browser was bursting at the seams with tabs of innumerable varieties of Pokemon, along with move descriptions, abilities, and a few random maps of Unova. My Pokemon fueled Euphoria left little time for anything else. Days were spent searching for the perfect group of fighters, though I didn't EV train them, because that is a load of BS. My days were divided between reading, training, battling, hatching, raising, and outfitting a ragtag team of fighters culled over generations of Pokemon games. As epic as that all sounds, it actually comes down to pressing the same sequence of buttons repeatedly for a few hours. There is nothing quite like the thrill of holding the up button for ten seconds, followed by pushing the down button for another ten seconds.
When a game requires a heavy dose of repetition, and then I do what is required, over and over, I forget whether I am actually enjoying the game or not. I am still playing it, sure. I can't stop playing it. Am I enjoying playing it though? It's difficult to quantify, to say the least. There are enormous lulls in the action that can be a chore, but at the same time, destroying someone with a team of Pokemon you raised yourself is definitely gratifying. Of course, you do lose sometimes, and that isn't fun either.
A weeks worth of writing was lost to these pocket monsters. Not to mention hours of playing Driver: San Francisco, and Kirby's Mass Attack, two articles I should have presented you fine readers with some time ago. Even at work I was pulling up the PokeDroid app on my phone and imagining other great teams I could build after the one I was currently raising. All the while in the back of my head, I was well assured that putting this much effort into the game is a complete waste of time and resources. Despite such notions, I continued to flip open my DS at every opportunity and grind my way to the top. Through the years I have learned that my mind can focus on one subject or game with an unquenchable obsession. It's nice when that obsession is the intricacies of medical science, but not so much when it is the variability of stats in imaginary creatures who are born with different natural moods and abilities.
Unlike other addictive games like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, there is a real passion that comes with Pokemon. It's something I can feel proud of, not like how many fish I've caught, or how many tomatoes I've planted (although I am proud of that stuff too). Simply put, a desire to be the greatest. To be a Pokemon Master. The slogan is "Gotta catch 'em all!" not "Gotta catch most of 'em!" A nerd lives and dies by the Pokemon team he raises. I didn't hide a Gameboy in my backpack, and risk having it confiscated by a teacher while I battled opponents during lunch just to send out a level 28 Exeggcute. Unacceptable. A team consisted of six Pokemon, always including the one I started the game with (I always go with Grass starter, if you must know). These Pokemon would go on to be a well-rounded and unstoppable force I captured, trained, and traveled alongside, and nothing could stop us. Not Team Rocket, nor the Elite Four, or even the most powerful Pokemon in Kanto. I'm not sure if these feelings I have stem from a healthy viewing of the anime along with the original games, or just my own brain filling in the blanks of another sporadic storyline. What I do know is that in 1996, Satoshi Tajiri and his company Game Freak, alongside Nintendo, combined to release a powerful combination of collecting, trading, and battling that has yet to stop being compelling fifteen years and several portable game systems later. Not even in pinball or toy form.
Luckily (at least in this case), the force of my obsession is tempered by the finding of new things to feel passionately about. So I have since pulled myself from the intoxicating beast that is the Pokemon franchise. At least long enough to write this article. The Pokemon team I trained still remains between the levels of sixty and ninety. There are many an unhatched egg sitting in Amanita's PC. Not to mention, my Pokedex is far from full, even the regional one has some gaps in it. It may stay that way for a while, but likely not forever. The siren song of Pokemon is always singing seductively in my ear. Hopefully I can maintain my sanity long enough to fight through the deluge of releases over the winter months. Though, depending on the level of content in Pokemon Rumble Blast (Editors Note: I did get hooked, and PRB is currently the game with the third highest rate of hours played on my 3DS. Pokemon White sits at #2 by the way. ), I may find myself once again enamored by the hundreds of beasts that we call Pokemon. I hope I can get a few more articles written before then.
Much of South America seems to have the same infatuation with Nintendo that their North American counterparts have (In fact, the spread of Nintendo and video games in general through South America is something I would like to know more about. If anyone cares to enlighten me, well, my email is on the right.) This proliferation of video games has lead to several great bands rising from the continent. The Brazilian band 8 Bit Instrumental is the first of these bands that I had the pleasure of hearing, and I am glad to say that they have been creating some very diverse content over the last several years.
The vibrant live sounds of 8 Bit Instrumental first reached my ears with the debut of the groups fourth release, Beat the 8 Super Robots with 8 Bit Instrumental, a collection of songs from the illustrious Mega Man II released back in 2008. Within forty-five minutes they turned Mega Man into disco, funk, dance, and more. The live instruments and strong recordings made this album an instant favorite of mine. I credit this collection of arrangements, especially the closing track, Vacation in Miranda's Beach? (Ending Theme), with introducing me to both 8 Bit Instrumental, as well as the standard of VGM that is Mega Man II. That album got plenty of plays, but when their next release hit the internet at the tail end of '08, I was quickly smitten with the direction they took this time around.
The group went in a more stripped down, and serene style for much of their follow up album, The Number of the Bit. That brings us to this article's track, an acoustic, rhythmic rendition of Frog's theme from Chrono Trigger. I could imagine watching a band performing this arrangement while I bet on a race or chug beers (I mean sodas) at the Millenial Fair itself. That same upbeat style is felt on several more Chrono Trigger pieces, as well as in tributes to Zelda, Bomberman, and to greatest effect in several rearrangements of music from Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka's Super Metroid soundtrack. (As an aside, I believe very few renditions of music by Hip Tanaka are done justice. Just remember, I consider Metroid Metal to have set the gold standard. If only there were a world where Grant Henry created Mother Metal, just to hear him recreate more Hip Tanaka songs. Sigh...) Though this album carries a more cohesive sound, a variety of styles that 8 Bit Instrumental has control over is still on display. Several tracks travel a great musical distance, as genres blend into arrangements of Alex Kidd and a powerful rendition of the title theme to the aforementioned game Chrono Trigger.
Yasunori Mitsuda found himself in the hospital during his time composing for Chrono Trigger. After toiling away as a sound engineer and programmer, Square handed composing duties of a brand new series to Mitsuda. Like that, Yasunori was composing his first game alongside such names as Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama of Dragon Quest fame. With artists as well known as these (at least in Japan), it could rattle the nerves of even a seasoned musician. Mitsuda poured himself into his work regardless, and proved to have a highly perfectionist nature as he worked intensely throughout the games creation. By the time Chrono Trigger neared the final leg of production, Mitsuda found himself diagnosed with stomach ulcers and confined to a hospital bed. This led to renowned Square composer Nobuo Uematsu stepping in to finish a remaining ten compositions to round out Chrono Trigger's epic soundtrack. A soundtrack that would end up spanning three discs in its initial CD release.
I don't expect every musician to put themselves in the hospital when they make a new album, but I would imagine it takes a similarly focused artist to ably rearrange the themes of the Super Nintendo classic Chrono Trigger. 8 Bit Instrumental is such a group of artists. A clear, thoughtful musicianship can be heard throughout this and their other albums. I'm also glad to say, that when I was researching The Number of the Bit, it would seem the album has gotten some cover art that may not have been there when the album was released. I mention this, because it is some nice album art that fits the music quite well I think.
Their longtime site seems to be down as of this writing, creating another broken link throughout the archives. Lucky for you, 8 Bit Instrumental have a new bandcamp page. You can plunder four of their full length albums for free there. Sadly, it seems like a few of the lesser known albums and EPs are not to be seen. The largest travesty of the groups site being down is the loss of a handful of straightforward rock renditions of classic Pokemon Red/Blue music for an upcoming (at the time) fan remake of the classic games. As an aside, 8 Bit Instrumental also has a side project known as Chiptots, a band surprisingly different from the one performing the vibrant sounds of Yasunori Mitsuda's classic debut, but I'll have to save their chiptune inspired sounds for a future article.
References. 1. Chris Kohler, Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life (Brady Games, 2004) p. 146-150 2. 8 Bit Instrumental artist page at VGMdb. vgmdb.net/artist/2689 Last accessed 7 October 2011. 3. 8 Bit Instrumental artist page at bandcamp. 8bitinstrumental.bandcamp.com Last accessed 7 October 2011.