Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Musical Chairs #3 Video Game Music Resources

For anyone following the All Geeks Rejoice Twitter and/or Facebook pages, you may have noticed that I've started making it a regular thing to post retro songs, remixes, and other goodies for everyone to jam out to and I figured I would help everyone out even further by showing some of the major resources where I find these spiffy sound clips. Without delay:

OC Remix
Site: ocremix.org
I may have mentioned this one a few thousand times in the past but it still stands that this is one of the largest communities working together to bring high quality remixes and covers of video game music out there. If you aren't sure where to start, just check out their Youtube page and pick an album to listen to or search one of your favorite games and see what has been archived.

Video Game Music Archive
Site: vgmusic.com
Easily the largest collection of midi files from just about any game console.

Site: vgmpire.com
This would be a podcast that regularly shares some of the best video game music around. Everything from retro to modern games is loved and covered here and even if you aren't into listening to podcasts directly then you can still check out the lists for each link of what tracks were played in that episode.

Game Music 4 All
Site: http://gamemusic4all.com/wordpress/
Game Music 4 All is a video game music news site that keeps people up to date on the latest and greatest. You can check their projects tab at the top and then click on the VG inspired band list to find tons of different artists to check out including artists I've mentioned in other Musical Chairs and Video Spotlights on the site.

This is Kylak signing out and wondering what your favorite resource is.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Musical Chairs #2 Bittersweet Anime Ending Themes

For any Anime fan who has ever had to watch a series one episode at a time (as in, the series was still airing on TV and you couldn't just marathon through it from start to finish), you've probably found at least a handful of series that the ending of an episode was a bittersweet moment in and of itself. You're left with a song that is literally the last thing you hear and it has a lingering impression on you as the credits roll before your eyes.

There are tons of forgettable anime ending themes because they either don't fit the tone of the show or the theme isn't utilized in the actual series in any meaningful way. It also doesn't help that the animation budget just isn't large enough to support having interesting visuals for most endings so the viewer is left with either still images or minimal animation and the song has to carry itself (unlike the opening theme).

Below are examples of incredible ending themes that have a larger impact if you've seen the series but are still amazing songs on their own. I should note that I can't possibly put every single astounding track on here so you'll have to forgive me if I left out a favorite of yours. There were already several personal choices I decided to drop to try and narrow the list down into something manageable (such as Tiger and Bunny and FLCL's ending themes). Remember, these aren't just badass ending themes like Deathnote's Zetsubou Billy. These are songs that are integral to their series, have a deep meaning in context with the show, and have been known to fill the eyes of fans with tears.

Anime: Outlaw Star
Song: Hiru no Tsuki by Akino Arai
This was my first encounter with an ending theme that was not only mystical but left me with a sense of wondering why my heart felt so heavy. It's a somber lullaby that actually connects with points in the series and is heard more often than just the credits. The lyrics encapsulate the sense of drifting memories, fragments of hope, and feelings of pain that the characters of the series share and it can't be forgotten.

Anime: .hack//SIGN
Song: Yasashii Yoake by See-Saw
Classical themes mixed with celtic sounds fit the series perfectly. You can picture a feather floating on the wind as the characters wander the lands of the game as an escape from their real lives and all the baggage that it entails. Variations of this theme get played throughout different parts of the series and they're always accompanied with visuals of characters searching in some fashion. Whether they're searching with their thoughts or searching different destinations, there's always something on everyone's mind and what they're hoping to find. This song sings their very thoughts.

Anime: Cowboy Bebop
Song: Real Folk Blues by (performed by The Seatbelts, vocals by Mai Yamane, composed and arranged by Yoko Kanno, and lyrics by Yuho Iwasato)
The entire soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop still stands as one of the best anime soundtracks ever created and Yoko Kanno is the driving force behind this soundtrack and several other piles of gold in anime. The Real Folk Blues fits like a glove, being drenched in jazz, for expressing the memories of the main characters as they're all connected deeply to their pasts. See you, space cowboy.

Anime: Nabari no Ou
Song: Hikari by Elisa
I can't even discuss this one without bringing up spoilers of the show so let's just leave it at that as far as story elements go. I will say that something I found interesting about this song is how the listener can easily pick up on the personal tale of loneliness here even without watching the anime or understanding the language.

Anime: Bakuman 2
Song: Monochrome Rainbow by Tommy Heavenly6
This song manages to barely sneak onto the list thanks to the proper timing and placement of the song. On its own, it's just a solid song with sorrowful tones. In the show it was used to powerful effect by enhancing the story as it started to fade in during cliffhanger events at the end of each episode. This theme becomes ingrained with the viewer as synonymous with all of those heartfelt moments.

Anime: Honey and Clover
Song: Waltz by Suneohair
Waltz comes from the series that might as well define the term bittersweet. This series got the most mileage out of its ending theme by playing variations throughout the episodes and pulling off the same technique mentioned in the previous entry. It doesn't just cement itself with the longing and tearful moments of the ending but manages to be sprinkled throughout the show until it defines itself as the actual theme of the series. This melancholy-inducing song becomes just as close to the viewers as any of the characters in the show and that's incredibly difficult to pull off.

These are the kinds of ending themes that stick with the viewer for years. Or you know... you could just have Lucky Star's Izumi attempting karaoke of DBZ's Cha-la Head Cha-la. Yeah... I guess there's that.

This is Kylak signing out...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Musical Chairs #1 Video Game Inspired Bands

Video Game cover bands and arrangers are incredible. We have the massive community at ocremix.org, Youtube artists like Mat Graham/Artificial Fear, Torzelan, and Hyadain, as well as internet superstars such as Brentalfloss, Metroid Metal, The Megas, and so many others. There are websites that keep track of the long list of bands and artists that all share this passion and I'm a huge fan of their work as I can't stop being addicted to their tributes.

That ramble brings us to today's topic. Something interesting has started to sprout more often. There are bands that don't just cover video game music but instead create entirely original music that's inspired by the video games they've played. This is such a new phenomenon that people are still labeling them as cover bands which doesn't quite work and it makes it nearly impossible to find info that separates the cover bands from those that aren't. So the plan for today is to introduce you to a few bands that fit into this category and leave the rest open for you to explore and share what you find. Let's get started shall we?

The Protomen
Official site: http://www.protomen.com/
Suggested songs: The Hounds, The Will of One, The Sons of Fate
Incredibly famous among the geek community, The Protomen have created a Rock Opera based on the Mega Man storyline with completely original music of their own. They manage to jump styles and genres between songs all while telling a compelling tale of betrayal, loss, family bonds, love, and humanity.

Official site: http://anamanaguchi.com/
Suggested songs: Helix Nebula, Another Winter, Mermaid
While the band claims their sound isn't inspired by video game music (their inspiration comes more from bands like Weezer and the Beach Boys), not only do they use chiptune sounds by hacking an NES and a Gameboy among other hardware but they've made music for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Their music literally sounds like retro game music.

Crystal Castles
Official site: http://crystalcastles.com/releases/
Suggested songs: Alice Practice, Black Panther, Celestica
I'm not going to lie, I'm not exactly sure if their music is inspired by video games or not but just listening to them and hearing the comments online really makes it seem that way as everyone else is convinced. If you're into experimental, alternative dance scene, chip-tune using, broken Gameboy sounding, skull-piercing, electronic music that everyone compares to being high then they're your band.

I'm still researching other bands to see if they could be added to this list such as ArcAttack (I literally can't find anything remotely conclusive) so what are your thoughts? Do you know of a band that creates totally original sounds but happens to draw inspiration from video games in some shape or form? How about another band like The Protomen that doesn't produce retro tunes but instead tributes a video game series in their lyrics? Sound off in the comments!

This is Kylak signing out and listening on.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Musical Chairs Posts

Some of you may remember the Musical Chairs articles that were posted in the past. These were a direct result of people asking for me to write music related articles on the site and I was more than happy to oblige. The entire series turned out to not only be a huge bomb (as in, they weren't exactly popular) but they didn't manage to fit the theme of this site either. Rather than just leaving them to rot in the bowels of the archives, I figured I would rewrite the three posts with new topics.

Is there a future for these music articles beyond just the three mentioned? That's difficult to answer. I honestly can't see myself writing anymore of these but I figured it would be worth the time to at least get these finished instead of letting them sink into obscurity. If there's enough support for them then I'll continue the posts but I can't picture that happening and there's nothing wrong with these being the only three in the series.

The original posts will have their text deleted and replaced with links to the new posts. Eventually I may delete the original posts as well as any other unnecessary posts (including update posts) but for now they'll remain on the site.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Story Seeds #5 (Deity Theme)

D&D story seeds and adventure hooks for you to steal.

This week's theme: Deities (with half the calories)

41) One of Bahamut's noble Paladins has been captured. The group has seven days to rescue him before his public execution.
42) An entire island is being infested with undead. The Raven Queen calls upon anyone who can put them to rest, solve what the source of this was, and put an end to it.
43) A festival is being held to celebrate Spring and Corellon.
44) The group discovers a tome, deep within a dungeon, with missing pages. It seems impossible to decipher but they discern that it may be important to Ioun.
45) A new and magnificent kingdom is being created in the honor of Moradin. The group is hired to protect the villagers until they've completed their project.
46) A menacing warlord has taken over a kingdom in the name of Bane and already has his sights on another. He commands an army of constructs that are marching their way to their next target.
47) Worshipers of Vecna are attempting to uncover an artifact that may hold a dark secret that would aid Vecna in his goals. The group will need to solve the clues of where the artifact is hidden in order to prevent these worshipers from succeeding.
48) A male drow has become a cleric of Avandra and escaped the Underdark. Lolth is enraged and has ordered for him to be killed as an example of those who would dare go against her will. The party must protect this drow and find a place where he can remain safe.
49) After the group prevents an assassination attempt, the yuan-ti assassin kills herself to prevent being interrogated. A tattoo of the mark of Zehir is the only clue the group has.
50) The players find an abandoned temple that shows no signs of which deity it was built for. The shrine contains a hidden passage underground that leads to something horrifying.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping you get struck by divine inspiration.

Monday, April 9, 2012

VG Talk #12 Top 10 Reasons that Zombies are Taking Over our Video Games

Video Game discussion.

Zombies have it pretty rough in the video game community. They aren't always appreciated and they can't exactly defend themselves verbally. Many gamers are simply sick of seeing zombies around every corner in their video games. I can understand the frustration because it feels like game developers might be beating a dead horse (or undead as the case may be) but I'm here to help you with your woes. Not enough people are discussing why zombies happen to be so prominent in games and why they will probably remain that way for some time. There are actually plenty of reasons to be enjoying this zombie apocalypse so grab your favorite weapon and barricade your doors because we're going to look at the top ten reasons zombies are taking over our video games.

1) Guilt-free for the killing
While video games have been taking less fire from the media than ever before, there is still the ever-looming shadow of those that would point fingers at gamers that are shooting human characters in a game. All the fingers are suddenly on vacation when zombies are involved because no one is going to defend the zombies' existence. They aren't supposed to exist at all. That's the point. In fact, zombies are rather interesting in that you should only feel guilt if you don't try to shoot them.

2) Easy AI to design
While we're closer to the point of fully realistic graphics, we're far from having even halfway decent AI. Players aren't very forgiving when a human character acts unnatural or simply "dumb" because it breaks us out of whatever immersion we had. Zombies on the other hand make perfect sense to have terrible AI due to them being mindless creatures to begin with. No one is going to complain if they run off of a cliff or straight into a trap the player has set up.

3) No need for explanations
One of the wonderful things about zombies in any story is how it resonates with an audience immediately. There's no need for exposition, backstory, story-arcs, or introductions to bring players up to speed. There isn't even a need to explain why zombies are a threat or why there is a sense of urgency. Even better, there is zero need to even call them zombies. You only need a few seconds of showing a shambling or running horde of humans with rotted flesh and the player is instantly knowledgeable of the situation at hand.

4) No need for personality
Zombies aren't going to suddenly bust out monocles and have a sophisticated discussion about the etiquette of dining on brains. The character growth and personalities rest firmly on the shoulders of those taking out the zombies. The other option is going for the opposite approach entirely and focusing on gameplay rather than story. It's almost unnecessary to note that both options work incredibly well in video games.

5) Instant challenge
In a day and age where hardcore and casual gamers can rarely agree on difficulty level, it's rather interesting that most zombie games manage to squeeze into the middle ground and appeal to both groups. This is partially thanks to all of the things I've mentioned that zombies don't need which allows game designers to focus on actual gameplay elements. This is also partially thanks to zombie scenarios translating into games so easily. Zombies could be the solution to bringing hardcore and casual gamers together.

6) So much variety
Whether we're discussing magical zombies, the infected, bio organic weapons, or some other type of zombie, there is one thing that remains constant. Zombies come in many flavors. You have screamers that summon hordes, hulking masses that crash through walls with extra limbs, stumbling bombs, spider-crawling zombies with weaponized tongues, the entire animal kingdom, advanced tyrants, and the list goes on. Compare this to dragons for a moment. You can change a dragon's breath weapon (ex. breathing lightning or acid instead of fire) or what ecosystem it lives in (ex. serpent dragons that live in the ocean rather than flying in the air) but if you change it anymore than that, it isn't really considered a dragon anymore. Zombies don't have this issue and this allows them to be the only type of enemy throughout entire games whereas dragons tend to only be used as boss monsters.

7) So much variety (part 2)
They're flooding our Shooters and making appearances in our RPGs, Tower Defense, Sports, Strategy games, and the list continues to grow. This simply proves how versatile the little brain-nommers are and it isn't a challenge at all to picture zombies in other genres that they haven't clawed their way into yet.

8) They’re fun to kill
While this might be seen as the least important point on the list, it's fair to argue that this could possibly be the most essential thing a video game needs to offer: fun. Whether you're mowing down hordes or getting an adrenaline rush from barely surviving, it's difficult to not enjoy yourself in these games.

9) They push innovation
People say they are tired of zombies being in so many video games but what they certainly have never said is that they're tired of seeing the same game. That's because zombie games manage to be so drastically different even when they're in the same genre. Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, Plants VS Zombies, Dead Rising, House of the Dead, Dead Nation, Stubbs the Zombie, and just about any other major zombie title play nothing alike and manage to be completely different experiences. The primary threat may remain the same but the core gameplay and the stories being told are far different.

10) They’re an untapped resource
Be prepared for zombies to be with us for years to come because they're a completely untapped resource in both the gameplay and story departments. When everyone saw the now infamous Dead Island trailer, jaws were dropped because it seemed that we would finally get a zombie game that pushed dramatic elements that were never before seen in these types of games. That hasn't happened yet and there are still so many other areas that could be explored. I've already mentioned earlier that there are several game genres that haven't had zombies implemented into them yet and so it's only a matter of time before those games are created. Then you have several notable upcoming titles: The Last of Us, Fortnite, Lollipop Chainsaw, and the codenamed Class3. All four titles are only teased so far and they already seem like great concepts that are being made by companies with a proven track record. This show is only getting started and there's a lot to be excited for.

There are many gamers that are ready for zombies to shamble out of our video games but I'm still going to celebrate all the reasons why they deserve to be here. Long live... err... Long unlive zombies!

This is Kylak signing out to work on my zombie survival plan. One word: treadmill.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wicked Anime Reviews #31 Bakuman 2

Anime reviews delivered directly to the face!

Season two of Bakuman has wrapped up and it's time to discuss how the series is holding up.

What rocks?
-Emotional stakes are higher
A plethora of new and old plot strings take center stage and the tension is higher than ever before for Ashirogi Muto. Everything that the first season built toward comes into fruition. Our main duo goes through hell to claw their way to their goal and it's that passion that has always made this series stand out among others.

-Plot twists
The story takes a number of twists that are fully grounded in what has been set into motion previously. Characters that had minor roles manage to shake up every stone that would have been set in place while all the major characters continue their friendly rivalry for making the greatest manga they possibly can. Some of these twists were rather intense and it was great to see the series take those risks.

-Season finale
All of the pieces manage to come together while setting up new plot points for season three. The last few episodes for season two wouldn't have been possible without the setup that we've been given and it manages to leave off on several high notes that should have fans both cheering and grabbing their tissues.

What sucks?
This isn't something that I like to talk about when it comes to anime but it has to be mentioned here. This series was already under fire in the previous season but a lot of those moments that seemed sexist were able to be discussed and considered rather tame. A couple moments in particular seemed to only be played up as a joke while others could be defended in the context of the show. In this season however, it becomes very apparent that the sexism is a real issue here and it wasn't subtle in the slightest. I'm not going to dive into a deep discussion about this here because this is a giant can of worms and Japan has always been known to be rather misogynistic so this isn't exactly something we've never encountered before. I think adding this here in the "what sucks" section is all that's necessary and I'm going to leave it at that.

-Editor change
For the majority of the season, our duo has a different editor and it's honestly kind of bizarre. It becomes apparent that the way the duo feels about this is exactly how the audience not only should but will react toward the change. A major plot point is how this new character just isn't as likable as the previous editor, Hattori, no matter how hard he tries. He isn't a bad guy by any means and in fact he tries his best on a regular basis but he just isn't as interesting, experienced, or developed as anyone else in the show and he never manages to stand on his own. There was one good thing that came from this by having a different plot thread created by not allowing Hattori to be the editor for Ashirogi Muto but it still felt forced and awkward.

-Getting psyched
This is such a minor complaint but it kept slapping me in the face and so I felt I had to mention it. There will be moments where the main characters get excited and possibly have new inspiration or a new rivalry to push them ahead to work at their best and the characters will literally state how psyched they are and then usually make their rounds of phone calls to other characters to exclaim how they won't lose and yadda yadda. You know, typical shonen friendly rivalry mess. The problem I had was with how often this occurs and how often certain phrases get repeated. I couldn't help but think, "You weren't excited before? How many times do you need to get psyched up before you can actually get work done?" I realize there were moments that brought the group down and they would of course need to be pulled out of their slump but it started to get repetitive and unnecessary at some points and I couldn't help but notice it.

-Less about the industry
One of the strongest points for many viewers is that this is a show that is actually showing us what it's like to make a manga and how the industry works. There were certain episodes that did an amazing job at not only showing how the characters have to improve their work but the thought process behind the manga but there were only a handful in total and most of those were near the end of the season. There also wasn't much of anything new to learn about the industry itself which was a bit of a disappointment.

-Strange character reversal
This is a hefty mixed bag that I can't fully discuss because of the spoilers involved but it's something that really sticks out in this season and it's the focus of a large portion of what happens among a few characters. Without saying much, there is a particular character in the first season who gets a lot of time in the spotlight here who changes from having an icy heart to being a thousand times more likable. This change comes with a hefty price however and not only does another character become a terrible human being (and another becomes even worse than they already were) but the reasons for the transformations of these two characters places the sexism front and center.

Bottom line:
I'd like to point out that your enjoyment of this season will entirely depend on how much you enjoyed the previous one and what aspects matter to you. If any of the negative points stick out like a sore thumb that you just can't ignore, then you might not want to continue with this show. If you were in love with the first season then you'll enjoy this one regardless.

This is Kylak signing out and asking politely that the comment section not be blown into arguments about the misogyny.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Comment Section Leveled Up

Update posts! They're tasty and nutritious! And if I keep grinning and holding out two thumbs up, you'll eventually believe me. Nothing like the smell of forced enthusiasm in the morning. Am I right?

Seriously though, this is important stuff. You see, I've been told by posters that they literally can't comment on this blog. That's just not gravy in the slightest. Commenting is important here! We promote discussion. We promote you telling us what's on your mind. Just don't talk about the dead body you hid in the river. That will be our little secret.

As many of you may know, the comment section has been strictly Google based. If you didn't have a Google account of some kind (gmail, youtube, or whatever) then you weren't allowed to comment. I kept it this way forever since it kept out spammers. The problem now is that it's keeping out people that actually have Google accounts and that's just horrendous. I actually changed this earlier but I'm finally making it known: this is no longer the case. The new setup should allow anyone to comment. I want you all to comment because I feast on words okay?! Go crazy with it! Go find old posts and comment on them. Make it wild! Just don't make it so wild that you have to hide two bodies. I'm going to test this out for awhile and if things work out well then this will become the norm.


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