Category Archives: Random Stuffs

Zine Incoming! Issue Two of Component Is Now Available

Earlier last year, Chip released a video game zine called Component that featured essays and artwork from talented artists and writers.  The first issue was filled with stories about the contributors’ most cherished games, featuring titles like Mega Man 2, Spyro the Dragon, and Okami.  Now, we are happy to announce that the second issue of Component is available for your reading pleasure!

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Issue Two focuses on role-playing games.  While each player has different tastes and favorites when it comes to this genre, we have all found ourselves caught up in these adventures. RPGs provide strong narratives and complex systems in which we can become immersed and play a character in a totally different world.  At the same time in our own reality, these games help us forge lasting friendships and uncover fascinating truths about our own personalities.

Games highlighted in articles and artwork of Issue Two include Dungeons & Dragons, Super Mario RPG, Fallout 2, Xenogears, Final Fantasy VIII, Legend of Dragoon, Shadow Hearts, Fable II, Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, Bravely Default, and Yo-kai Watch.

Just like Issue One, the latest issue of Component is available as a print-on-demand magazine through MagCloud and as an instant PDF, sold directly through the Component website. The editor and contributors of Component thoroughly believe in gaming for good causes, so 100% of the profits from Component will be donated to charity:water to fund clean water projects in the developing world.

For future updates and other work from our creative contributors, hop on over to the Blog page on the Component website.  Thanks for reading and please be sure to check out Component for all sorts of gaming goodness!

 

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Inevitable Spinoff Blog Incoming! Digital Draughts is Live

Earlier this year, we debuted a new column here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play called Digital Draughts.  As the resident beer geek of GIMMGP, Chip was eager for the chance to combine two of his passions into a single series: craft beer and video games (together at last!).  With the success of these articles, we have decided to dedicate a new blog for Chip’s video game and beer pairings!

Written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts highlights the pairing of specific brews with certain titles. Typically, the beers and games will be novel experiences, with certain exceptions made for time-tested combinations.  Some of these pairs will be a match made in heaven, while others may be the couple from hell.

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Along with regular pairings and reviews, Digital Draughts will feature other tidbits on beer and video games for your reading pleasure.  To kick off this momentous occasion, the latest article features a field trip to the fantastic Adroit Theory Brewing Company; where esoteric and barrel aged beers thrive!

So please be sure to follow Chip’s new blog (which features Laura’s fantastic photography) and share the good news with your friends as well: Digital Draughts is live!

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Exciting Things Are Happening

There are several new developments going on around GIMMGP Headquarters, fair readers. Some fresh content on older blogs, a beautiful new art project, a tactical rebranding, and the debut of an Instagram account.  Let’s get to it!

PokemonPower1.1Longtime readers of GIMMGP may recall the creation of a Tumblr blog back in 2012 called Please Take One.  This site serves as a digital archive for Chip’s collection of rare and odd video game brochures.  After an extended hiatus, Please Take One is back to regular updates, and with Pokemon content, no less!  For the next several months on Please Take One, you will see multiple posts from the six “issue” run of Pokemon Power!  These mini-magazines were included as inserts in Nintendo Power back in 1998.  Pokemon Power features excerpts from the Official Pokemon Strategy Guide, fan art, a comic adaptation of the anime, and other neat goodies.  Be sure to follow Please Take One for all sorts of rare and nostalgic gaming brochures!

Meanwhile, over on Laura’s professional website, a new art project has appeared!  Titled the, “Tarot Deco Project,” this new series will feature gorgeous and gilded versions of the classic cards.  Laura plans to produce a piece for every card in the traditional tarot, starting with the Major Arcana.  Be sure to keep an eye on her website for regular updates, and check out her Instagram account for insight into the creative process for each piece!

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Finally, things are chugging along for Chip’s video game and beer pairings.  The next several combinations are planned and in the works, with many tasty brews being paired to games both relatively new and delightfully old.  He has also launched an Instagram account to share images of beers and games outside of the full length pairing posts.  With so much going on, this project has been rebranded Digital Draughts, to celebrate the delicious taste of a draught beer combined with the joy of our preferred digital pastime.  Please be sure to keep your eyes and palates here for future Digital Draughts posts, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts.

As always, thank you to all of our followers and regular readers over the last five years.  We look forward to sharing all sorts of creative collaborations and gaming goodness with you!

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Tales and Spoils from MAGFest 2016

Hail, faithful readers of GIMMGP!  I have returned from the frigid streets of the National Harbor, where the great banners of the Music and Gaming Festival once flew.  The vendors have packed up their wares, the games have been stored for future play, and the final songs have been sung. MAGFest 2016, is over.

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Unlike previous visits to the festival, I did not focus on playing arcade games or witnessing the changes from gatherings passed.  For me, MAGFest 2016 was all about the music.  I had a wonderful time at this year’s festival, where I met some amazing musicians and came home with a small pile of auditory goodies.

Of the many panels held over the MAGFest weekend, the one I HAD to see was the Q&A session with Manami Matsumae.  This fantastic composer has created music for some of the most beloved video game soundtracks, including Mega Man, Shovel Knight, and my personal favorite, U.N. Squadron.  It was a privilege to see such a prolific composer in person, and to hear so much about her impressive career.

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The panel was a great opportunity for fans to ask Matsumae all sorts of questions, including her preferred games to compose for (upbeat action titles), what instruments she can play (“Anything with piano keys”), and plenty about her history in the game industry. Currently, Matsumae is a freelance composer, working very heavily with indie developers and with the music label Brave Wave.  Please be sure to check out her more recent work at Brave Wave’s website!

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At the Q&A session, I ran into some of my other favorite people in video game music.  The Super Marcato Bros., Karl and Will Brueggemann, were also attending the panel!  Upon introducing myself, the brothers immediately threw a big group hug on me, proving that these podcasters are just as kind and positive in person as they are on the microphone. I had a chance to converse with the duo about games, music, and (of course) our mutual appreciation of Manami Matsumae and her work.

The Super Marcato Bros. have been on a roll lately, releasing episodes about game music from 1994the Mario RPG series, and a particularly interesting episode about a recurring melodic technique they dubbed the “Five Finger Fanfare.”  Please be sure to check out the brothers’ podcast, as well as their original music.  It’s great stuff!

In addition to these amazing encounters at MAGFest, I brought home several new albums for my listening pleasure:

Part Seven by The OneUps

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The latest album from The OneUps made its debut at MAGFest 2016.  This collection of jazzy tunes continues the tradition of great video game covers that was started by this awesome band way back at the original MAGFest.  Notable tracks include Saw VIII (Metal Man from Mega Man 2) and Ice, Ice, Cavey (Ice Cave Chant from Donkey Kong Country).

Fireball! and Live at San Pedro Square by Super Soul Bros.

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I discovered a delightful new band at this year’s festival.  The Super Soul Bros. are a collective of San Jose-based musicians who mix jazz, funk, and video games into a fantastic musical experience.  This band expands beyond simply playing music from video games, bringing improvisation and their own funky joy into every track.  I picked up their first studio album Fireball!, which includes a delightful version of Meta Knight’s Revenge, along with their live album from San Pedro Square, which features a whopping 11-minute journey to the Chemical Plant Zone…and beyond!

Smooth McGroove Remixed from GameChops

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This is certainly an interesting mash-up of genres: electronic dance music remixes of vocal covers of classic video game songs.  From their website, “Ten producers collaborated to bring Smooth McGroove’s famous acapella versions of game tunes to the dance floor.”

I’m not gonna lie: this album is not in my wheelhouse.  Since I have only limited experience with EDM, the tracks were very hit-or-miss to me. However, I definitely recognize that the production quality and sheer variety of styles present are quite impressive.  The artists on this album have done an excellent job, and if you are even remotely interested in EDM or game music, be sure to check this out.

Street Fighter II: The Definitive Soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura, Isao Abe, and Syun Nishigaki

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I was extremely pleased to find this album on sale at MAGFest. This comprehensive soundtrack comes from music label Brave Wave, as the first in their Generation Series, which stands for definitive editions of legendary video game soundtracks.  From their website:

“We are working with researchers, consultants and world class engineers to bring you the best possible versions of these soundtracks. We are also working closely with developers, license holders and original sound teams. All of our work will be overseen and approved by the respective composers or the person in charge of the sound team (wherever possible). On top of that, our physical releases will contain extras like interviews, art booklets and more.”

This is EXACTLY the sort of reverence and care that should be given to beloved video game music. Soundtracks from games like Street Fighter II are musical masterpieces that are part of our cultural history. I am so happy to own this soundtrack; to hear meticulously remastered versions of the music from my youth and read insightful notes from composer Yoko Shimomura on her work.  Please, PLEASE support Brave Wave and their endeavors to promote and preserve this amazing music.

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Thus ends my takes and tales from MAGFest 2016.  In addition to these musical misadventures, I was very pleased to see so many cosplayers paying homage to my favorite game of 2015, Undertale.  So as a final treat from MAGFest, please enjoy a small sample of the fantastic costumes from the festival floor!

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New Blog Announcement: Waking the Dreamer

“Do you know where dreams come from, Harry?  Acetylcholine neurons fire high voltage impulses into the forebrain. The impulses become pictures, the pictures become your dream. But no one knows why we choose these particular pictures.”

Special Agent Dale Cooper is deeply invested in his dreams.  He believes that dreams are coded truths, waiting to be broken and revealed.  In the waking world, this FBI agent encounters many bizarre situations and suspicious characters.  His experience with amazing violence and fantastic tragedy led him to the small town of Twin Peaks, where he felt compelled to solve an ominous mystery that could tear the tiny community apart.

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As the investigation of Laura Palmer’s murder was airing on television in 1990, a similar story was being influenced by the events on screen.  A small group of designers at Nintendo were meeting after hours to develop a pet project on the recently released Game Boy.  What started as an experiment with the capability of the handheld became the most unrestrained entry into the beloved Legend of Zelda series.

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Aptly titled Link’s Awakening, this game took the eponymous hero away from the familiar land of Hyrule to an uncharted island with a dark secret.  Amidst the sleepy villages and serene coastal environment, suspicious characters and horrible nightmares lurked.  As Link set out to find his way home, a singular question would occur again and again- Who is the Dreamer?  Like the parallel inquiry into who killed Laura Palmer, the answer is the least suspected and most tragic.

Waking the Dreamer is a new blog written by Chip of GIMMGP.  The site falls somewhere between a playthrough journal and a cultural analysis of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.  He will cover the interesting “afterschool club” development of this odd title, its connections to the cult classic Twin Peaks, and how this game’s unique mechanics would influence the structure of the Zelda series for years to come.

If you are a fan of the Legend of Zelda, Twin Peaks, or long form games writing, please be sure to check out Waking the Dreamer!

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Captain Falcon is a Hunter, Not a Racer.

Captain Falcon has become something of a meme hero these days, more iconic for his catchphrases and signature punch than his career of driving futuristic vehicles.  His current status as a cheesy action hero is mostly due to his inclusion in Super Smash Brothers, where his racing skills proved to have no correlation to knocking opponents off of various platforms.  But from the inception of the F-Zero series, Captain Falcon has been portrayed as more of a galaxy-renowned bounty hunter instead of a worlds-class racer.

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When F-Zero was released alongside the Super Nintendo in November 1990, it came with a rather hefty instruction manual for a racing game.  This is to be expected, as F-Zero was the first racing game to use the Mode 7 technology built into the Super Nintendo, and the start of the futuristic racing subgenre.  However, there was more than just controller guides and gameplay mechanics featured in this manual.  There was also an 8-page comic that told, “The Story of Captain Falcon.”

Written and drawn by Takaya Imamura, the character designer for F-Zero and Star Fox, this comic showcased Captain Falcon’s prowess as an intergalactic bounty hunter.  Within these few pages, the Captain wins a laser pistol duel, defends his bounty from a rival hunter, and arrests a high-level crime boss.  All of these feats occur mere moments before his first race in the Knight League, the initial competition that players face in the game.

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Since this initial glimpse into Captain Falcon’s life outside of the races, Nintendo has greatly expanded the universe of F-Zero through a 51-episode animated series and various bits of storytelling in game sequels and cameo appearances.  In spite of creating a rich science fiction world full of colorful characters and scenarios, there has not been an F-Zero game released since 2004.

Personally, I would love to see a F-Zero game with a combination of different gameplay styles.  Instead of just sticking to tournament races, there could be action portions where players can take control of Captain Falcon as he hunts down the scum of the universe.  The money earned through bounty hunting could be used to upgrade his signature racer, the Blue Falcon, as Captain Falcon tries to balance his careers as a renegade champion for justice and a Formula Zero racer.

As I continue to dream about a hybrid action/racing F-Zero game, be sure to check out the Video Game Art Archive, where “The Story of Captain Falcon” has been lovingly scanned and archived for your reading pleasure.  There is plenty of other amazing official video game artwork featured on this site, most recently including rare EarthBound and Kirby’s Dream Land 2 scans.  Please follow the Video Game Art Archive for plenty of gaming goodness, and if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, please support the VGAA through Patreon.  Great archival work deserves some support.

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U-Pick VG IV: Mission Success

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The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity is officially over!  For 48 consecutive hours, the U-Pick Crew played a pile of video games for a good cause.  We battled brutal skeletons in Dark Souls, struggled with mech controls in Steel Battalion, and slapped each other silly in GoldenEye 007.

After the dust settled (and the consoles were turned off), U-Pick Marathon IV raised over $5000 for charity:water. Thanks to these generous donations, 168 people in Uganda will have access to renewable clean water sources.

In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely contaminated.  It is amazing that the efforts of U-Pick and its supporters (along with charity: water) can make such a positive impact on the world through the joy of video games.

If you missed the marathon, fear not!  There is still time to donate to this worthwhile cause!  The current charity:water campaign is still accepting donations until June 30th, 2015.  Also, the entire 50+ hour video of U-Pick IV will be available to watch on Twitch for the next week.  Check it out here!

Many woots to Grant, Stephonee, and the rest of the U-Pick Crew!  Huge thanks to everyone who watched and donated! Please stay tuned to the U-Pick website, Twitter, and Facebook page for future livestreams and charity marathons.  And remember, GAME FOR GOOD!

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Mark Your Calendars: U-Pick IV Charity Marathon Begins in Two Days

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The time is nearly upon us- the fourth U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity starts this Friday at 8pm EST!

During the 48-hour-long continuous livestream, we’ll play the video games you pick to raise money for charity:water, to bring clean water access to people who need it in the developing world. The donation page is here:

https://my.charitywater.org/upickvg-iv-video-game-marathon

Starting the evening of June 12th and ending the evening of June 14th, we’ll play the games you choose when making a donation to our charity fundraiser. We’ll switch games each hour (on the hour), as determined by a spin on the Wheel of Destiny – a magical rotating device with all of the top games that have received donations.

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Similar rules apply from previous years- donate, pick a game from this list: http://wp.me/p47vWj-6U and leave the name of the game in your comment.  In the meantime, you can read some delightful reviews from the U-Pick Crew on the games from this year’s list, like Deadly Premonition, Steel Battalion, and Hyrule Beyblade Go Go Fight Yes!

We have increased our charity goal to $5000 this year, and we’ve already had over $1000 donated so far.  At this point, at least 34 people will get access to a renewable clean water source in Uganda. Please help us in achieving another successful marathon!

Remember, 100% of everything we raise will directly fund water projects in Uganda. And when those projects are finished, charity: water will send you proof in pictures and GPS coordinates, so you can see the actual people and communities you impacted.

So spread the word about U-Pick IV, donate, tune in, and as always, GAME FOR GOOD.

 

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The Majestic Music of Daytona USA

Most of my time spent with racing games has been in the form of dedicated arcade cabinets shaped like the virtual cars I am driving.  The feel of a steering wheel in my hands and a pair of pedals at my feet engages me in a totally different way than simply playing with a controller on my couch. However, there is a drawback to this sort of experience: obnoxious arcade noise.

Depending on the build of the cabinet and the strength of the speakers, a racing game soundtrack is easily drowned out by the ambient sounds of chattering children playing on other machines.  On the rare occasion that the music is cranked up to 11, the featured tunes are often licensed tracks from current pop music. This is a shame, because so many of these arcade racing titles feature original and immersive music that gets the adrenaline pumping.

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Recently, I became the proud owner of a Sega Saturn along with a handful of games.  Among the stack of titles included with this console was a port of my favorite arcade racer, Daytona USA.  A common cabinet across the United States, this game seemed to show up in every arcade, pizza parlor, and bowling alley around my home town.  In spite of dropping piles of quarters into this machine, I never heard the game soundtrack while playing until I hooked up the Sega Saturn.  As I started Daytona USA, I was delighted to hear this fantastic song:

This majestic ballad was used as the attract mode for the arcade cabinet, but I had never been called by its siren song before. Composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi provided the vocals for the entire arcade soundtrack via synthesizer, and he went the extra mile for the Saturn port by re-recording each song with real instruments and re-singing all of the lyrics.  Mitsuyoshi was also a member of the Sega Sound Team Band, which gave him the opportunity to perform game music in front of live audiences, including the beloved Daytona USA soundtrack.

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Every song in Daytona USA is so earnest and filled with upbeat sounds that match the colorful racing so well.  From the first bellow of, “ROLLING STARRRRT,” I was ready to put the pedal to the metal in this virtual world.  The game was eventually ported to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, where the popularity of its soundtrack led to the inclusion of a Karaoke Mode.  In this mode, players can sing along with Mitsuyoshi’s vocals as lyrics bounce along beneath the racing action.

As the arcade halls of my youth are fading away in American culture, I am a bit sad to see dedicated racing cabinets go the way of the dinosaur and floppy disks.  I will miss crawling into a bucket seat, taking hold of a steering wheel, and driving through a virtual raceway.  But I suppose being able to sing along with The King of Speed in the comfort of my own home is a suitable trade-off.

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First-Person Painting

Whenever highbrow video game enthusiasts want to chastise the state of their preferred hobby, the easiest target for their ire is first-person shooters.  This genre is the low-hanging fruit of the industry, thanks to annual releases that often do little to innovate and a multiplayer community with a rather loathsome reputation.  Too often, I hear my peers use the Call of Duty series as shorthand for sort of low quality cash-in that works against progress in video games.

Even though I have enjoyed many multiplayer sessions with my friends in the past, I tend to join in on using first-person shooters as a punch line for my video game snobbery.  As my free time becomes more precious with age, I don’t want to spend my time playing yet another iteration of a floating gun barrel, presumably attached to a grizzled male protagonist with a crew cut.  My general assumption is that if it’s a first-person shooter, then the game must be disposable and easily forgotten.

So it’s funny that many of the more interesting and memorable gaming experiences of the last decade have been derivations of first-person shooters.  In 2007, I was blown away by the narrative experience and puzzle mechanics of Portal.  Later, I was immersed in games that focused on exploration to tell engaging and emotional stories, like Gone Home and Among the Sleep. Most recently, I have enjoyed the interesting gameplay and storybook atmosphere of The Unfinished Swan.

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Like Portal before it, The Unfinished Swan replaces the traditional arsenal of death-dealing firearms with a single unique tool; in this case, water balloons filled with paint.  The protagonist of The Unfinished Swan is a young boy name Monroe, who finds himself in a completely white space after chasing a swan that has escaped from his mother’s painting.

When the game begins, the player is given control of Monroe, with no direction of how to proceed.  The first area to explore is pristine white; a world where objects cast no shadow and solid borders are practically invisible.  When presented with this space, I fumbled at the controller, mashing buttons to affect the environment while Monroe knocked his shins against phantom park benches and large stones.

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As my finger grazed the shoulder button, Monroe lobbed an inky black balloon, which left a splatter of paint in its wake. I hit the button again, throwing another paint balloon nearby its predecessor. Soon, I was hurling balloons left and right, covering the world around Monroe in a gloopy, ebon mess.  The core mechanic dawned on me- my projectiles were not meant for defense, they were meant for navigation.

The Unfinished Swan expands on this initial painting as the game progresses.  Later, there are temporary paint balloons, water balloons to manipulate growing vines, and even balloons that work like 3D printers, creating platforms for Monroe to traverse.  These mechanics reflect the theme of artistic creation and completion that is presented during the story.  Monroe chases after his late mother’s unfinished art while building on a world made up of the incomplete projects of the resident monarch.  By reinforcing a key aesthetic through gameplay and narrative, The Unfinished Swan further immerses players in an unique experience.

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The Unfinished Swan may not technically be a first-person shooter.  It certainly lacks many of the tropes and attributes of titles like Halo or Battlefield, making the game closer to the adventure genre.  But it is this sort of categorization that often causes consumers to overlook potentially exciting games because of trendy misconceptions and assumed public opinion.  The perspective, controls, and mechanics of The Unfinished Swan are not so far removed from Call of Duty, and they most certainly share a similar ancestor in the first-person games of the past.  The key as a player is to seek out and support interesting and fun experiences, so others will be encouraged to do the same.

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