Games and Grog: Destiny with Dogfish Head’s Kvasir

For 2016, we are debuting a new column here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play: Games and Grog.  As the resident beer snob of GIMMGP, Chip is always on the lookout for new brews to sample.  He also believes that a great gaming experience can be enhanced with the right beverage.

Written on a semi-monthly basis, Games and Grog posts will highlight the pairing of specific brews with certain titles.  The beers and games will typically both be new experiences for Chip, with certain exceptions being made for time-tested combinations. Some of these pairs will be the match made in heaven, while others may be the couple from hell.  Either way, Chip will review new games and beers for your reading pleasure.

To kick off this series of articles, Chip has chosen a modern beer based on an ancient recipe and a futuristic game with flourishes from the fantastic past.  Prosit!


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Over the life of this blog, it has been well-established that I enjoy making lists.  I am a rather meticulous person; using lists to keep track of things I enjoy, things I despise, and those things that I have yet to experience.  For this inaugural Games and Grog post, I chose the game and the beer that sat at the top of their respective, “Cool-Looking Things to Try” lists.

Kvasir is a beer that has been on my radar for some time.  I am a big fan of Dogfish Head and their Ancient Ales.  The beer nerd in me loves the idea of using archeology and science to resurrect brewing recipes from the past.

For Kvasir, Dogfish Head enlisted the aid of biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern to reproduce a long-forgotten beer from Scandinavia.  From their website:

“The recipe for Kvasir was developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500‐year‐old Danish drinking vessel. The vessel, made of birch bark, was found in the tomb of a leather‐clad woman Dr. Pat says was probably an upper-class dancer or priestess. The analysis pointed to the ingredients used in this unique brew: wheat, lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, honey and birch syrup.”

Just reading over that description blows my mind.  The thought that a brewery would use such complex food science just to replicate a beer recipe is amazing.  And instead of using the results of this experiment to produce a single keg of beer for an exclusive party, Dogfish Head is sharing this experience with the world.  Thanks to their efforts, we get a glimpse into ancient Scandinavian history through our taste buds.

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Kvasir is certainly a unique brew.  This beer pours with a fizzy head and a gorgeous red-orange color.  There are golden and pink hues that shine as light passes through the glass.  The nose is very sharp; of herbs and tart berries with a hint of honey.  At first sip, there is the crisp bite of cranberry with a bit of effervescence.  As the ale settles across your tongue, the mouthfeel of a hearty wheat beer is present.  The finish leaves no lingering alcohol flavor (despite a 10% ABV), and the aftertaste of a mulled white wine comes to mind.

I won’t lie: Kvasir is not a beer for everyone.  There is little-to-no hop character, so Die-Hard Hop Heads™ may be left wanting.  The crisp fruit flavors and effervescence makes Kvasir a great beer for fans of mead and mulled wine, or for folks who enjoy wheat beers and lambics.  Overall, I really enjoyed this flavorful brew, and this Ancient Ale paired quite nicely with Destiny.

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As 2015 was winding down, Laura and I had an important decision to make.  It’s the sort of conundrum that faces any couple who has been married for a few years, and once we have chosen a path, it would affect our lives for years to come.

Of course, I am talking about selecting which console would bring us into the next generation.  What did you think I meant?

There is a hard rule in our home concerning the purchase of video game consoles: there has to be at least five worthwhile games available for the system before we invest.  We were already proud owners of Nintendo’s Wii-U, so the time had come to pick our second favorite child.  In the end, there were more console-exclusive games for the PlayStation 4 that we wanted to play.  After drafting such a list for the PS4, we tossed it out the window and just bought Destiny instead.

Both Laura and I are veteran fans of Halo, but we wanted something with a bit more flourish than the latest installment of Master Chief’s existential crisis.  Destiny had the gameplay of our favorite first-person shooter, with a deeply immersive sci-fi world.  Plus, a complete edition of the game had just hit the market with the release of The Taken King, so win-win.

Since starting our respective characters in Destiny, the differences in the way Laura and I play have been more apparent than ever.

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Laura approaches Destiny as a creative loner.  She enjoys exploring the gorgeously rendered landscapes on each planet in the Solar System.  She takes the time to examine the flavor text of every weapon, scouring over the lore and history of this fantastic universe.  Destiny meets her enthusiasm with an engaging story of a mysterious interstellar being and its ancient adversary.  The missions she is given are meant for a team of Guardians, but with skill and patience, Laura continues to make progress in the main story.  She is the Awoken Huntress; she travels alone and with grace.

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I approach Destiny like I am roaming a gigantic playground with my friends.  I refuse to play this game without at least two companions by my side, ready to shoot some badguys and blow stuff up.  I normally skip all cutscenes, crafting my own story of traveling the galaxy in search of the biggest and loudest rocket launcher.  I am always chucking weapons and gear that don’t enhance my ability to make a flashy entrance with a big explosion.  I am the Derpy Warlock, and I will fit this car through that door.

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Destiny has provided Laura and I with the option to play as we wish, and that is fantastic.  The game is an interesting intersection of first-person shooter gameplay with the trappings of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.  We enjoy the tense and often hectic firefights, as well as the deep world-building that frames the entire experience.  Destiny has a sense of a developed universe, as if Bungie took the time to write an entire alternate future/history for this world before unleashing it upon the market as a game.  This feeling of a lost and magical realm pairs quite well with the ancient-made-modern flavors of Kvasir.  I would definitely recommend this combination.

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Whiskey, Wine, and Wolves

[Chip] In the years leading up to our engagement and eventual marriage, Laura and I individually collected the Fables trade paperbacks.  We would discuss this wonderful series at length over the phone; choosing our preferred issues, praising certain characters while damning others, and hypothesizing what would come next for these magical tales.  When we moved in together, our collection was made whole and we have been regularly re-reading these comics ever since.

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Fables is a fantastic series that takes the fairy tales and nursery rhymes from our childhood and brings them into a modern age.  It has such an interesting concept: imagine that all of these magical characters and creatures are real, and they have been living in exile from their homelands for centuries, hidden by magic around our world.  The majority of these characters reside in New York, living in a small community run by the mayor Old King Cole and deputy mayor Snow White.  Nearly every children’s story has representation in this Fabletown, and they are policed by a single sheriff: the not-so-subtly named Bigby Wolf.  It is this gruff lycanthrope who is the main character in Telltale Games modern adventure title, The Wolf Among Us.

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It’s been almost 9 months since Laura and I started this digital adaptation of our beloved Fables.  We have mixed feelings about the climax of the story, but all good fairy tales (and murder mysteries) must come to an end sometime.  For the final episode of The Wolf Among Us, we each picked a beverage that would suit our tastes and compliment our last trek into Fabletown for the time being.  Laura selected the Big Bad Red Blend from Diageo Wine’s “Once Upon a Vine” collection, while I stuck with Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey.

[Laura] I came into this game with cautious optimism. Fables is one of those series that I have wanted to see translated to some other medium, but I cannot imagine any adaptation would live up to the comic experience. But all of the screenshots and trailers leading up to the release of the first episode looked so damn pretty. The noir-styled visuals and the bold colors fit with the aesthetic of the early Fables comics, which resembled a pulpy crime novella rather than an epic fantasy tale. Plus, the fact that The Wolf Among Us would be a separate story that takes place before the main comic gave it some wiggle room with established characters and locations.

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Overall, I was very pleased with The Wolf Among Us. The writers at Telltale made a fantastic murder mystery with characters and encounters that endear to the player. The underlying story of lesser known fables being forgotten by a partially corrupt government of famous fables illustrated a city with a tragically darker side. At the center of it all is Bigby Wolf, a character with a well-known past of being a literal monster, trying to make things right and battle against a magical and criminal force. As a fan of the comics, I enjoyed seeing new faces based on fairy tales that had not appeared in the main series. The Crooked Man and his psychopathic right-hand woman Bloody Mary made for fantastic antagonists in this game.

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The modern adventure gameplay suited the story.  I was happy to encounter impactful dialogue choices and environments to investigate rather than play a werewolf action platformer.  That being said, when the more eventful scenes would take place is where I found the engagement to break down.  These bits were hindered by my biggest complaint about the game: load time slowdown.  There were several moments where a transition from one location/event to another became a sluggish exercise in patience.

Even in the weaker parts of The Wolf Among Us, one element stayed fantastic throughout: the soundtrack.  Composer Jared Emerson-Johnson created a moody and sometimes haunting score that enhanced the plot.  Many songs from the game would be right at home in a crime thriller from the 1980s, with low repeating bass and somber electronic sounds that conjure images of a city at night.

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Now that we have finished The Wolf Among Us, I would definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for an well-crafted story and modern adventure gameplay.  It can serve as a nice gateway into the comic series, or an bonus story for established Fables fans.  With an engaging narrative and dramatic plot twists, The Wolf Among Us also makes for an ideal date night game.  Just be prepared for disappointment when you hear Bigby speak and realize it isn’t David Hayter.  (What can I say?  That’s how he sounded in my head.)

 

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Chip’s Picks of 2015

2015 was a year of many challenges.  GIMMGP Headquarters was moved not once, but twice.  Laura and I both started new jobs in addition to our full-time careers.  We encountered heartbreaking losses, massive setbacks, and general frustrations as we tried to maneuver our way through the last 365 days.

But as with every year, the key to overcoming such challenges is to focus on the good moments, taking the time to appreciate and improve your situation.

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2015 was a big year in creative accomplishments for us both at GIMMGP.  Laura became a full-time freelance artist, launching both her professional website and a print storefront on Inprnt.  I launched a new blog that focuses on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and I achieved a major life goal of publishing a video game magazine with my friends.

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2015 was also an exciting time for the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity.  The U-Pick Crew started running weekly streams every Sunday at 4pm EST.  We also successfully raised over $8000 across two charity marathons, and 100% of this money will be used for clean water projects in the developing world.

2015 was an odd year of gaming for GIMMGP.  Laura and I both played fewer new games than in previous years; focusing on wonderful co-op experiences and delightful retro darlings.  In spite of playing less new titles than usual, I enjoyed some excellent games over the last year, which are highlighted below.

As always, thank you so much for following GIMMGP in 2015.  We look forward to playing more games and sharing more posts with you in 2016!

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

My initial pick may seem like a redux from last year’s list.  At first glance, Plague of Shadows looks like a rather basic expansion to Shovel Knight.  Instead of adding new levels or challenges for the titular hero, Yacht Club games simply took one of the bosses from the main questline and turned him into a playable character.  “How boring and predictable,” some might say.  The same folks may consider Plague of Shadows a shallow cop-out from Yacht Club Games.  Well, these people are utter fools.

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Plague of Shadows plays like a completely different experience from Shovel Knight.  In the original game, players relied on masterfully executed shovel bounces and melee strikes in the vein of classic games like DuckTales and Castlevania.  The action was about planning your movements and well-timed jumps.  For the expansion, Plague Knight throws caution to the wind, focusing on frantic projectile attacks and wild platforming skills.  A world that once seemed dangerous and fraught with peril has become a speed-runner’s playground.  Enemies that were once potent roadblocks in Shovel Knight’s path are turned into just another thing to explode in Plague of Shadows.

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In addition to the changed gameplay style, Plague of Shadows features a new story built around megalomania, alchemy, and love.  The adorable and maniacal Plague Knight’s tale is filled with even more puns and jokes than his digging adversary.  The expansion also features some new and fantastic music from Jake Kaufman.

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All of these additions are given the same level of care and polish from Yacht Club Games, which results in a wonderfully fun experience that is included at no extra cost to the player.  This impressive DLC is provided for free with Shovel Knight, which makes it one of the best gaming experiences and values of 2015.

Yoshi’s Woolly World

How do you follow up on an amazing game like Yoshi’s Island?  Do you try to make the game more accessible, leaning into the cuteness factor and toning down the difficulty?  Do you take the existing formula and aesthetic, only add more playable characters?  How about simply including new functions based on whatever fresh technology is available? Over the last twenty years, Nintendo has tried each of these methods to make five different Yoshi games as successful as their forebear.  Yet every one of these games released with underwhelming results; none of them could match the fun and polish of Yoshi’s Island.

For the latest Yoshi game, Nintendo finally took my constant advice for improving on an beloved classic: add some fantastic couch co-op.

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Woolly World is the game I have wanted for nearly two decades: a multiplayer version of Yoshi’s Island.  With two Yoshis on the screen, this game became an exercise in breaking the rules and going off the rails. Instead of relying on environmental cues and features to acquire hidden items and get to secret areas, my friends and I would use clever jumping and frantic egg-bouncing to carve our own path. Woolly World does not limit or punish such behavior.  This game welcomes all sorts of monkey business.  There is a wealth of secrets and collectibles to be found in this game.  While all of these are available to a single player, they are much easier (read: more fun) to acquire with a pair of goofy dinosaurs.

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Woolly World also provides a new aesthetic of a craft-maker’s world, built out of yarn, felt, and so many other items that one would find at a Michaels store.  Matched with an incredible soundtrack, this game pays homage to the coloring book world of the original Yoshi’s Island, while providing a unique and heartwarming visual style.

Undertale

When Laura and I first launched this blog in 2011, I made a list of potential games to share with her for our official GIMMGP posts.  On this list, at least half of the titles were role-playing games from the 16-bit era.  These games were the cornerstone of my childhood.  I have so many heartfelt memories of playing games like EarthBound and the Final Fantasy VI with my siblings.  I wanted to share these emotions and moments with my wife.

Unfortunately, there is a high barrier of entry for role-playing games from the Super Nintendo era.  The mandatory grinding necessary for so many 16-bit RPGs means that Laura will likely never enjoy these titles in the same way that a kid with nigh-unlimited time would.  The stories and characters to which I was so attached are locked behind 30+ hours of unnecessary grinding and static battle menus.  Fortunately, the indie darling Undertale serves as an ideal surrogate for the warm RPG fuzzies of my youth.

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Undertale manages to capture the essence of classic RPGs without all of the fluff.  Instead of loads of generic enemies and boring grinding, every battle is filled with unique interactions and interesting dialogue.  The typical menu driven combat is upgraded with elements from shoot ’em-up games and dialogue puzzles.  In one encounter, you may have to play fetch with a massive Pomeranian, while another battle will revolve around a date with a skeleton knight.  All of these delightful encounters manage to showcase great variety and don’t overstay their welcome, as the main questline typically takes roughly 5 hours to complete.

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Undertale also features an earnest and heartwarming story that has plenty of surprises, both humorous and shocking along the way (Protip: Avoid ANY spoilers before playing Undertale.  You will be glad you did).  Players have the option of going through the game without killing a single creature along the way, no matter how hostile the monster may seem. Depending on how you approach the game, Undertale’s story will change drastically, without any sort of commentary on which path is truly the “right” one.

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It has been years since I have encountered a game that I enjoyed from start-to-finish like Undertale.  This game has such earnest story with well-written characters that filled my heart with laughter and tears.  The unique battle system and in-game humor made Undertale easy to pick up and share with my loved ones.  The soundtrack also stands out as one the the best of 2015, with a great mix of styles and songs to suit every story beat.  Please check out this fantastic game.

 

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Great Gifts for Gamers: 8-Bit Jesus

Every family has their holiday music traditions. Many families enjoy hearing the original Alvin and the Chipmunks (not the computer animated abominations of today) sing joyful little ballads with their surrogate father, Dave.  At my parents’ house, John Denver and The Muppets: Christmas Together is a yearly staple. Every department store in America is playing some sort of pop music amalgam of seasonal messages. Truly, the sounds of Christmas are in the air no matter where you go.

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So as you are deciding what music to play as you decorate, wrap, and basically eat yourself into a stupor, may I suggest 8-Bit Jesus for your holiday gatherings?

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A fun interpretation of classic carols, 8-Bit Jesus is an album of Christmas songs which have been arranged in the style of excellent games from the early days of Nintendo. Doctor Octoroc (the creator of this wonderful mix) has done a great job putting a digital twist on these songs, with my favorites being “Carol of the Belmonts,” and “Have Yourself a Final Little Fantasy.”  There is a preview of the album on his website, so you can hear just how awesome it is before you decide to purchase the music for your friends and family.  So if you are looking for a nice video game twist to add to your holidays, check out this album!

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Great Gifts for Gamers: Video Game Collages

It can be rather difficult to find ideal gifts for your friends and family who play video games during the holiday season.  Sure, there are plenty of overpriced trinkets and novelty t-shirts available on store shelves, but so many of these items are nothing more than mass-produced clutter.  They lack the love and care of a gift that is tailored to a loved one’s personality.

For those of you who are looking to create an amazing gift for those who game, we here at GIMMGP have an excellent suggestion and how-to article from December 2011.


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My friend Grant is a bit of a genius. A few years ago, he found himself in a predicament many 20-somethings do: you have a bunch of awesome friends, Christmas is around the corner, and the economy is in a bit of turmoil. Undeterred by this quandry, he came up with a novel gift idea, as well as a way to productively utilize his old video game magazines: turn them into gorgeous video game collages.

Collage BannerFirst, he went about the task of harvesting useful images and screenshots from most of the magazines he owns. Many of you may take issue (hah!) with mutilating your magazine collection.  But let’s be honest: the classic articles are only good for reminiscing, while most modern magazines are only good for toilet reading. Take some scissors to that pile and recycle the rest.

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Once he had a sufficient amount of material (several folders worth), Grant used scrapbooking and double-sided tape to apply these cutouts to posterboard in very artistic and methodic fashions. As you can see from these photos, there is true love in these creations. Every collage he made had different characters and screens depending on the receipient of the gift. He did this for SEVERAL of our friends. Each one is unique and equally fantastic.

Collage4Since receiving such a great gift, I have shredded several of my own magazines to craft little collages for friends and relatives, and I encourage you to do the same. Trust me, your friends will appreciate the gift, and your significant others will be glad to have more closet space now that the boxes of EGM are put to better use.

 

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Astral Breakers Mini-Review

Generally speaking, we are not a competitive gaming couple.  While each of us at GIMMGP has a genre that is our sport of choice (Chip- fighting games, Laura- racing games), these arenas rarely overlap in our play sessions.  However, there is one type of game at which we are both quite skilled and rather aggressive- puzzle games.  

Whether it’s Chip dealing out massive combos in Tetris Attack or Laura devouring piles of tasty creatures in Critter Crunch, the two of us have quite a bit of history with puzzle gaming.  Thanks to the rise of the handheld and mobile markets, we have been able to find plenty of great single-player options on our respective devices.

In spite of these portable offerings, we are always on the lookout for any fun puzzle games for two players on home consoles.  There is something wonderful about sitting side-by-side on the couch and trying to crush your loved one under a pile of brightly colored digital blocks.  Thanks to a recent release on the Wii-U eShop, the joy of puzzle game competition has filled the GIMMGP HQ once more.

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Like many puzzle games before it, Astral Breakers focuses on matching objects of like color (in this case, orbs known as Astral Spheres) and keeping your play area clear.  After dropping several spheres from the top of the screen, the cursor will begin to glow, meaning you have the option to make the next sphere an “Astral Breaker” for the current color.  These breakers are used to destroy clusters of like-colored orbs, thus keeping your play area clean while dumping loads of Astral Spheres on your opponent’s side.

Since the option to activate a breaker is within each player’s control, Astral Breakers allows for different play styles.  Some folks may choose to hold onto their breaker option, waiting until a massive pile of like-colored spheres are on the board before wiping them out.  Others will activate the breakers as soon as possible, dropping these little bombs on the board for future use.

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These options in play mean once again pitting speed versus cunning in the realm of matching colored spheres.  As Chip would try to set up two- and three-chain combos on the field, Laura would rush along, clearing her board as quickly as possible.  After numerous intense rounds with several close calls, it was Laura’s quick reflexes that won more matches than Chip’s meticulous planning.

Fortunately for Chip, there is more to this puzzler than just competitive play.  Astral Breakers features a cooperative mode called SuperNova, where two players work together to survive increasingly difficult waves of spheres being dumped onto the playing field.  SuperNova feels akin to arcade games of old, where constantly trying to improve your high score is the real goal.

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Along with competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes, Astral Breakers has a Story Mode for individual players, hosted by an adorable star named Kira.  The game also features a soundtrack of somber notes and relaxing melodies, perfect for keeping players cool during the more intense challenges.  The whole package is a wonderful puzzle title that is ideal for bringing people together to have some fun and compete for cosmic glory.

Be sure to check this game out, and while you’re at it, hop on over to the developer’s website for the equally adorable and lovely story behind the creation of Astral Breakers.

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Video Game Music Roundup and Podcast Recommendations

Over the 31 days of October, we featured daily posts highlighting ghoulishly great game music.  These spooky songs covered a wide variety of musical styles from several different consoles.  Some of these tracks are classic themes, beloved by fans worldwide.  Other tunes are very obscure and experimental, using the unique technology of a console to create a haunting or ominous mood.  Altogether, these songs showcase the power behind video game music to engage players and instill strong emotions in listeners.

As a final treat for GIMMGP’s Spooky Games Month, we have collected all of the music featured in October into a YouTube playlist for your listening pleasure.  Please enjoy these 46 spectacular and spooky video game songs with the embed below:

Just as there is a wonderful variety of video game music to be enjoyed, there are several excellent podcasts dedicated to the review and reverence of the medium.  We covered a handful of worthwhile series during October, which have been collected below, also for your listening pleasure:

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A relatively new series, Pixelated Audio highlights video game music as, “an attempt to bring music, history, awareness and some of the gaming culture to people that share a similar passion.”  Hosts Bryan and James cover a wide variety of game music, including some particularly obscure and underrated tracks.  Each episode is filled with interesting information on the game/topic being covered, along with each host’s obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm for great music.  Also, their website features tons of excellent original artwork based on the games and topics.  Episodes of note: a retrospective on the entire Punch-Out!! series, a showcase of the Pokémon Snap soundtrack and the sound technology of the Nintendo 64, and an exclusive interview with composer Peter McConnell about his work on Grim Fandango.

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The Super Marcato Bros. (composers Karl and Will Brueggemann) discuss compositional and technical aspects of game music from all generations.  So far, they have recorded over 180 episodes covering a variety of games, composers, and genres.  These brothers bring a positive demeanor, interesting analysis, and a great selection of music to their podcast.  Some episodes of note: an exclusive interview with Donkey Kong Country composer David Wisea collection of excellent game music remixes, and a showcase of the variety of music from a particularly strong year in video game history, 1991.

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VGMpire is a fantastic tribute to video game music of all kinds.  In each episode, host Brett Elston features tons of music from a single title, series, or topic in the wide world of video games.  Joined by a team of hilarious co-hosts, these video game industry veterans bring a fun and informative mood to every episode.  Some episodes of note: a double-header of Parappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy, a retrospective on the music from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games, and a showcase of composer Masafumi Takada’s work, which includes Killer 7, God Hand, and Danganronpa.

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Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – Bloody Tears

The time has come, faithful readers of GIMMGP!  That magical day is upon us.  Time to celebrate the spooky holiday of Halloween!

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Over the last 30 days, I have shared some fantastically creepy and impressive video game music.  It has all been leading up to this track.  As Halloween is a time to enjoy delicious treats, today’s song is pure indulgence for me.  Not only is this track from an appropriately spooky game, but it is also my favorite music across the whole of video games.  It is none other than Bloody Tears from Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for the NES.

This fantastic song was composed by Kenichi Matsubara, who would go on to write the music for the arcade version of Castlevania, titled Haunted Castle.  In the context of Castlevania II, this rousing theme plays the moment our hero Simon Belmont leaves the safety of a town.  As the first rolling notes of Bloody Tears hit, the player is immediately accosted by reanimated skeletons, bloodthirsty werewolves, and maniacal mermen.  The song is a perfect match for the macabre action encountered in the forests and swamps of this classic game.

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Like so many beloved themes from the NES-era, Bloody Tears became a recurring track in its parent series.  Over the course of the Castlevania lineage, Bloody Tears has been featured in 19 different games.  This song is also considered in the pantheon of excellent NES music, and has been covered in a variety of musical styles, including hard rock, soft jazz, and acapella.

For the final day of our Spooktacular Video Game Music month, I leave you with a showcase of covers and reimaginings of this rousing and spooky track.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Banjo-Kazooie – Mad Monster Mansion

Halloween means different things to different age groups.  For older adults, it is a season of decoration and preparation.  Entire neighborhood communities work together to cover their homes in increasingly scary items and fill their candy bowls with all sorts of treats.  For young adults and teenagers, this is a time to wildly celebrate and consume piles of horror media.  House parties full of costumed patrons overindulge in autumn drinks and scary movies.  And for kids, Halloween means costumes, candy, and trick or treating.  The holiday is certainly spooky, but there is a sense of goofiness just behind the scenes.  All of the ghouls and ghosts take on a playful demeanor, as kids dress up and make believe.

Typically, it is the more lighthearted media of the Halloween season that transcends the age groups.  Campy horror movies, fun animated television specials, and spooky platforming video games can be fun for a broad audience.  The Nintendo 64 classic Banjo-Kazooie provides a great example of this with the Mad Monster Mansion.

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Mad Monster Mansion is full of traditional horror elements.  The world features spooky locations like a graveyard, a hedge maze, and a creepy old mansion.  The main enemies are ghosts, skeletons, and animated tombstones.  Banjo even gets in on the act, transforming into a little pumpkin to complete certain challenges.  This haunting area also features an appropriately fun track:

Composer Grant Kirkhope crafted a bouncing melody inspired by the film Beetlejuice, and included tons of campy sound effects to enhance the playful mood of the piece.  The track matches the goofy and spooky aesthetic of Mad Monster Mansion, creating an experience that is fun for all ages.

For an episode of their podcast, the Super Marcato Bros. featured an exclusive interview with Grant Kirkhope.  Their talk with the composer is fantastic, giving all sorts of insight on the history of developer Rare and the creative process behind the music of games like GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, and of course, Banjo-Kazooie.  If you are a fan of the glory days of the Nintendo 64, or just an enthusiast of game music and composition, I highly recommend listening to this episode!

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GIMMGP Pumpkins Return In: Anger of the Gourds

On the very first year of this blog, Chip and Laura compiled a list of pumpkins that appear in video games.  Keeping in the tradition of so many horror movie franchises, GIMMGP has decided to release a remastered post, now with 30% more spooky squash!  We hope you enjoy this gathering of gourds in gaming.

MonsterPartyPumpkin

We can start with the NES oddity, Monster Party!  In the first level of the game, our hero Mark comes across a pumpkin-headed ghost who spits smaller pumpkins from its mouth.  Even more odd is the fact that this boss was originally an ape-man riding on horseback.  Since it was a bit risky to feature such a blatant parody of Planet of the Apes, the simian rider was replaced with a pumpkin ghost.  You can read all about the various changes to Monster Party at The Cutting Room Floor.

SMLPumpkinZoneSuper Mario Land 2 featured good ol’ Mario traveling to six different worlds to retrieve coins which will open a door to the palace where his Princess Daisy is being held.  One of these areas is the Pumpkin Zone, which is filled with spirits, slashers, and a wicked witch as the final boss.

TNBCPumpkinKing

Thanks to the efforts of Disney and Hot Topic, The Nightmare Before Christmas saw quite a revival during the early 2000s.  Along with piles of other merchandise flooding stores, a pair of video games was released in 2005.  While there were plenty of pumpkin decorations and sprites in the Game Boy Advance title, it was the PlayStation 2/Xbox game The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge that allowed players to take control of The Pumpkin King.  Developed by Capcom, this game featured combat similar to Devil May Cry, where players could switch between different forms for Jack Skellington: Santa Jack (who battles with booby-trap presents) and The Pumpkin King (who sets his foes aflame with lantern magic).

MM7PumpkinEven robot pumpkins exist!  A mid-boss in Mega Man 7, this cyber-pumpkin (adorably known as Van Pookin) has three gourd-geous layers that protect a tiny seed-spitting pumpkin robot core.  A fun secret in this level, if you only shoot the eyes on the outside of the pumpkin, he will bust through the floor, allowing Mega Man to face his brother, Proto Man.

SNBBPumpkin

Mega Man isn’t the only robot fighting mechanical pumpkins.  The 1993 arcade game Ninja Baseball Bat Man features a variety of odd robot ninjas, including some pumpkin-headed foes.  Although this game was extremely popular in Japan during its initial release, Ninja Baseball Bat Man had a rather limited run in North America.  Since then, this strange and wonderful beat ’em up has become a cult hit in emulation circles.

OgreBattlePumpkinOgre Battle was an interesting strategy game for the Super Nintendo.  One of the bosses you fought was the witch Deneb, who commanded pumpkin-men to do her bidding.  After defeating her, Deneb would offer to join your party, providing you with the ability to produce pumpkin soldiers who would gladly throw their gourds at your command.

FFIXPumpkinA bit of a tribute to the attack of the pumpkin-men from Ogre Battle, Quina, the blue mage/weird clown maid in Final Fantasy IX, could learn the attack Pumpkin Head.  This attack was rather strong, but very risky, as the damage it would inflict was equal to the difference in your max health versus your current health.

PersonaPumpkinContinuing with the pumpkins in role-playing games theme, the developers over at Atlus have featured the character of Pyro Jack in several of their series.  This little spectre has shown up in the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games as an enemy who can be convinced to join your team as a fire-based familiar.  Pyro Jack also starred in his own title…

JackBrosPumpkin

Jack Brothers on the now (very) defunct Virtual Boy gaming system!  Three goblin brothers Jack Lantern, Jack Frost, and Jack Skelton had to conquer several puzzle based levels on Halloween Night.

SMPumpkinSilhouette Mirage was an obscure Sony PlayStation title from Treasure Games.  In this game, the heroine Shyna has to shoot her way through two equally dangerous races, the Silhouettes and Mirages, with the basic enemy for the Silhouettes being little green pumpkin men.  Like so many other Treasure titles, Silhouette Mirage is cute, fun, and deceptively difficult.

LoMPumpkinThere are several pumpkins to be had in the wonderful PlayStation action-RPG Legend of Mana!  One of the missions in the game culminates with a battle against an evil little doppleganger witch in an enchanted pumpkin patch.  A victory in this fight unlocks a new piece of produce to cultivate in your garden in the game: the Bumpkin!

ZeldaPumpkinHead

Even Link has faced his share of orange gourds.  The boss Pumpkin Head appeared in Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color.  Link would have to knock his gourd off and then throw the pumpkin at the dungeon walls to smash this poor creature’s head.

ZeldaPumpkinNot all pumpkins in the Zelda series are sinister.  In Twilight Princess for the Wii, Link collects an Ordon Pumpkin as an ingredient for a very tasty looking pumpkin soup.  Be warned, this soup is prepared by a yeti, so expect some stray hairs in the broth.

EBTrickorTreatKid

When Ness and Paula enter the cursed town of Threed, they are accosted by several spooky foes.  Violent ghosts, possessed dolls, and shambling zombies are all wandering the streets, looking for humans to terrorize.  Marching right along with these monsters is the Trick or Treat Kid, a maniacal little ghoul that will spit pumpkin seeds at our heroes, which deal a surprising amount of damage.

CastlevaniaPumpkin

Most of Castlevania’s entries into the world of the third dimension have been… lacking.  Castlevania: Lament of Innocence was forgettable, save for a hidden character that unlocked once you beat the game twice: Little Pumpkin!  An enchanted pumpkin toy who decided to join the fight against Dracula, this hero is seemingly harmless, yet…

LoIGrandPumpkinHe can unleash a super-powerful attack known as the Grand Pumpkin, where giant pumpkin spirits rise from the ground and destroy his enemies with seasonal magic.

LBPPumpkinLittle Big Planet is a great reason to own a PlayStation 3, as it provides hours of super fun co-op play.  One of Chip and Laura’s favorite things to do in this game is dress the little Sack Boy (and Girl!) in silly costumes.  Sure enough, a jack o’ lantern mask was provided for Halloween fun!

CFIckybodClay

When Street Fighter II released for home consoles in 1992, a glut of other fighting games soon followed.  Many of these games were pretty basic imitations of the Capcom classic, but there were some titles that stood out, such as Clay Fighter.  This goofy game featured digitized clay characters who were brought to life with the magic of stop motion photography.  The aesthetic of Clay Fighter was appropriately silly, featuring punny characters like the pumpkin ghost Ickybod Clay.

BanjoPumpkinMy friend Grant would be sad if I didn’t include the pumpkin transformation from Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64.  In the Mad Monster Mansion area, our hero Banjo the Bear is shrunk down into a pumpkin in order to sneak through the hedge maze and small corridors.  He even got to keep his little blue backpack, adorable!

Well, there you have it boils and ghouls!  A list of digital jack o’ lanterns to light your way back home on this Halloween weekend.  Be safe, have fun, and make sure to dress as your favorite video game characters!

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