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Digital Draughts: Resident Evil 4 with Flying Dog Brewery’s The Fear

On Saturdays through the month of October, we will be cross-posting the latest video game and beer pairings from Chip’s new blog, Digital Draughts!  Normally written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts will feature frightening and fantastic pairing posts through October as a treat for you, dear readers!

Please be sure to subscribe to Digital Draughts for future beer and video game pairings, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts!

There are times when I encounter a new experience and I can immediately tell that my attitude has been altered.  A previously undiscovered book becomes a new manifesto for my reading preferences, or the first taste of a new cuisine refines my palate.  But not all life-changing moments feel as though your status quo has totally shifted.  It can take years of additional experience before the proper perspective can settle for a particularly transformative incident.

When I first tried the components for today’s pairing, I enjoyed each of them at face value: the latest in a beloved survival horror series and a solid seasonal beer from an established craft brewery.  Now, with over 11 years since my first play and nearly 8 years since my first taste, I want to revisit these experiences with an updated perspective.


My love for pumpkin-flavored treats is a well-documented psychosis.  From my first taste of pumpkin pie as a child, I was hooked on the taste of gourd and spices.  So it makes sense that I would enjoy the seasonal beers of autumn as an adult.  However, restrictive distribution routes limited my first pumpkin beer options to bland offerings from domestic beer companies.  It took a massive relocation to provide me with the opportunity to try a pumpkin brew with a some bite to it.

It was the label that first drew me to Flying Dog Brewery’s seasonal beer. Ralph Steadman’s surreal and terrifying artwork of a snarling canine beast loomed from the packaging.  The side of the bottle featured an equally aggressive piece of copy; daring the drinker to, “learn to embrace THE FEAR that consumes you.”  I heeded their advice and took the challenge of this imperial pumpkin ale.

At the time, The Fear was unlike anything I had ever drank.  Instead of a sub par beer with cloying allspice/cinnamon flavor, I was treated to a hearty ale with intense flavors of ginger and baked pumpkin.  The Fear set a new standard for pumpkin beers, which I was surprised to be met so quickly by other delicious seasonal craft offerings.  With so many other interesting autumn brews on the shelf, my dance card became quite full, leaving little room for The Fear in the years to follow.  But I made sure to clear a recent evening to check in with the brew that started my journey down the dark path of pumpkin beers.


The Fear pours cola brown framed with a red-orange hue and topped with a fizzy toasted marshmallow head. The spices used in this brew are at the forefront of the aroma, as a strong nose of ginger and nutmeg lead into mild notes of baked pumpkin with a dash of cinnamon.  The ginger continues to lead with a tangy bite at first sip.  This kick of spice quickly dissipates into a pumpkin bread body with a toasty finish and a hint of dark chocolate. As The Fear is an imperial ale, the piquant bite of 9.0% ABV is present, but well-balanced against the pumpkin pie flavor.

After sampling dozens of autumn brews over the years, I am pleasantly surprised to find The Fear stands out from the crowd.  Its strong ginger flavor and roasted pumpkin notes are still delicious and unique.  With a glass of this striking beer by my side, I was ready to hook up the GameCube and take on the mission to save the President’s daughter once again.


Resident Evil 4 hit store shelves during the latter half of my junior year at college.  Around that time, I had found my gaming tribe at school and we were all eager for the latest in our preferred survival horror series.  Even though each of us had pre-ordered our own copy of the game, we all gathered at a single apartment to watch the game unfold.  Across multiple televisions in a single room, we each began our journey as Leon Kennedy.

Despite playing as a protagonist from a previous entry in the series, this game did not feel like the Resident Evil to which we were accustomed.  Instead of the foreboding hallways of a derelict mansion or the oppressive destruction of a city under siege, Resident Evil 4 dropped us in the wide open villages of rural Spain.  Gone were the mindless zombie enemies, replaced by mad villagers who could utilize weapons and actually dodge our attacks.  Even the core gameplay was changed; placing the camera over Leon’s shoulder and increasing the options within the combat mechanics.  The whole experience felt more like an action movie than a suspenseful thriller, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.


I fell hard for Resident Evil 4.  I loved the increased action and expanded verb set, but also appreciated that the tension remained throughout the experience.  Even though Leon was a well-trained government agent, he was still regularly challenged by the maniac hordes of the Los Illuminados cult.  In addition to the main storyline, there were extra gameplay modes that kept me in great competition with my friends.  We regularly tried to compete for better scores in the Mercenaries survival mode and all of us raced to collect the tiny virtual figurines offered at the Shooting Gallery.  We played through the story again and again, trying to find every collectible, upgrade each weapon, and generally speed through the game with greater ease.


Resident Evil 4 was a great game to discover and play with friends by my side.  But once I left college, I rarely found the time to replay this game that I had so enjoyed.  I dabbled with the sequels that followed, but there were so many other survival horror games spilling onto the market that I wanted to try.  To further complicate matters, there was a distinct split in the survival horror genre following Resident Evil 4.  Some games leaned into the action elements, forgoing any sort of suspense and subtlety and focusing on mowing down horrific monsters with bigger and bigger guns.  The other side of this coin gave up on empowering the player; purposefully placing you in terrifying situations with little resources or hope of surviving.

As it turned out, I started preferring the more cerebral and suspenseful horror games, which pulled me further away from the series that started me on this path.  So I was very curious to see how my feelings had changed towards Resident Evil 4 after playing so many other titles within the genre.

Right from the start I noticed one thing had changed drastically since the last time I played Resident Evil 4: my skill level.  I am downright terrible at this game.  I struggled to make well-aimed shots at my enemies, often wasting piles of bullets and dying repeatedly to basic scrubs that were previously no problem.  Despite this refreshed difficulty, I am still enjoying the tension provided by the combat.  Every encounter with basic enemies is a challenge to effectively eliminate targets while avoiding being overrun.  It’s a balance that remains impressive even years later.



The visuals and sound design are equally stunning, in spite of their age.  The expressive character models and amazing lighting still look good, even when upscaled from the GameCube’s A/V output.  The story and voice acting have not aged as gracefully, with some truly hammy lines popping up time and time again.  The main villain of the game sounds like a discount-store Dracula impersonator, and some of our lovable ally’s dialogue has only become more uncomfortable over time (“I see the President has equipped his daughter with ballistics, too”).


Quick-time events continue to be a massive frustration, often creating easy-to-fail scenarios that contribute nothing worthwhile to the game.  I was surprised how little I enjoyed the boss encounters when playing again.  Instead of feeling like clever puzzles or strategic battles, fighting major enemies felt like obnoxious bullfights; running around a tight arena and unloading massive amounts of ammo in lumbering meat walls. Alternatively, my love of the item management system has only become more acute; every moment spent arranging ammo and recovery items in that briefcase felt like a delightful little puzzle game break.

Overall, Resident Evil 4 doesn’t hold the same sense of wonder from the idyllic days of playing with my friends in college.  I no longer have the time to invest in this massive game and its many additional modes.  However, playing Resident Evil 4 after so many other lackluster survival horror titles makes me further appreciate what an impact it had on my personal taste and video games as a whole.  This game became my benchmark for quality of design and the joy of play in the survival horror genre.  I am pleased to find that Resident Evil 4 remains as that standard even after so much time has passed.  Minor complaints aside, I still recommend Resident Evil 4 for anyone looking for a great action title or survival horror game, which pairs very well with the spicy bite and tasty pumpkin notes of The Fear.

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The Night Warriors

There was a time when I regularly wrote about comic book adaptations of video games over at the Geek Force Network.  While that time has come and gone, you can still enjoy the numerous articles I penned about such media crossovers at the archives.  Here is one such post from those halcyon days, just in time for the spooky October season.

It’s that time of year once more; when the barrier between the natural and supernatural is at its weakest and little ghouls haunt the streets in search of sugary treats.  For this week’s video game comic column, it only makes sense to venture into the darker side of the printed page.  There is a rather massive subgenre of horror comics, and its tentacles stretch far into the video game world.  So let’s dive into a realm where monsters do battle in rounds of two, until only the strongest survives.


It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003.  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field.


For the Darkstalkers comic, Udon had plenty of interesting characters and settings from which to source fresh story material.  This is especially true, since most fighting games have very few details outside of “some people got together to fight in an arbitrary battle tournament held by a mysterious benefactor.”  For example, this story comes straight from the Darkstalkers instruction manual:

“When the sun sets and humanity retreats to the imagined safety of their beds, a mysterious entity appears in the sky to assemble the wicked and the evil. The unimaginable secret power of the dark is unleashed! Ten supernatural beings of destruction have materialized to wage their eternal war for the domination of the night. The Vampire, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Bigfoot. . . their very names conjure fear. But who or what has summoned them? These creatures of myth and legend, the Darkstalkers, have gathered for what is destined to be the greatest battle ever. And the fate of all humanity rests on who wins the epic struggle. The Darkstalkers are coming. . .tonight!”

From this rather bare bones plot, Udon crafted a solid story about the various machinations of the Darkstalkers who hide in the dark corners of the Earth.  In this six issue series, the conflicts between certain characters take center stage, while the sideline characters are left as mere window dressing.  So while Dimitri and Morrigan prepare for an eventual battle of the ages, Rikuo and Lord Raptor only show up briefly in side stories and single panel shots.  Every issue features plenty of great fighting scenes, complete with signature moves and plenty of nods to the fans of the video games.  There is also loads of background on many of the major characters, including several side stories that flesh out their motivations even further.


As with most of the comics from Udon Entertainment, the artwork really shines.  The horror themes of the video games allowed the artists to include plenty of heavy contrast and shadows, which really lend to the atmosphere of the comics.  The characters remain in the anime-inspired style of the fighting games, but with more vibrant colors and further detail for better expressions.  In spite of the show-stealing appeal of the characters, the backgrounds have not been overlooked.  There is plenty of detail in the settings of each scene, with some panels exclusively dedicated to moody environmental shots.

Besides the solid story work and gorgeous art, my favorite part of Darkstalkers comes at the end of each issue.  A single page is always dedicated to a gag comic called Darkstalkers Mini.  The fun work of Corey Lewis (pseudonym, Rey), these quick strips feature super-deformed versions of the fighters in silly situations, most of which end with goofy punch-lines.  Unfortunately, when Udon collected the comics into a trade paperback, all of these side stories got the boot.  On the plus side, that has made the individual issues of the comic unique to the trade version, so be sure to track these gems down!


At the end of the first issue of Darkstalkers (right before the Mini comic), there is a writers’ commentary aptly titled, “From the Darkside.”  On this page, some of the staff from Udon spill their guts about the joy they felt in creating the Darkstalkers comic books.  There is talk of the great chance to write a darker story than the usual Street Fighter comics, along with their mutual love of horror films and fighting games.  At the very end, the colorist, Gary Yeung, says that the goal at Udon was to “make a faithful interpretation of Darkstalkers from a game/animation into a book.”  Through action-packed stories and striking artwork, all wrapped up in a spooky atmosphere, it seems like Udon met their goal quite nicely.

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Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – Haunted Graveyard

The jump from 8- to 16-bit was one of the biggest shifts in video game history.  Many beloved series saw a massive improvement in visuals and sound with the move from the NES to the Super Nintendo.  Sprites were larger and more defined, environments included greater detail and flourish, and classic themes were remastered with the larger set of composition tools.


For example, the main theme from Ghosts n’ Goblins went from this:

To this:

For Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, composer Mari Yamaguchi took the theme originally created by Harumi Fujita and Ayako Mori to the next level.  The harrying melody and stark tone of the song is enhanced by the use of organ and brass samples.  What was once a sort of arcade action theme transforms into a lively dirge that encourages the dead to rise again.


Of course, the march of technology means that games will continued to be remastered, along with their classic soundtracks.  For the Sony PSP, Capcom released updated versions of many older games, including Mega Man, Mega Man X, and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.  When the Ultimate version of this spooky arcade game moved to handhelds, an updated version of the Level 1 theme came with it.

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Money Talks

Hopefully by now, you have heard about Mighty No. 9 and its Kickstarter campaign.  Just incase you missed it, let me provide you with a quick rundown: Keiji Inafune (creator of Mega Man) wants to make a new side-scrolling action title in the vein of the best 8- and 16-bit era video games.  He has gathered a well-experienced development team to work on every aspect of the game and anyone who backs Mighty No. 9 will be able to provide input over the course of the production.

Guys and gals – we need to fund these sorts of projects.  Not just because its Keiji Inafune and he is synonymous with Mega Man.  Nor because we need to squeeze another pet project out of a prolific developer.  This isn’t even about sticking it to big companies like Capcom who ignore their fans and let classic intellectual properties languish on the sidelines (okay, it’s a little bit about that).  Mighty No. 9 and its potential (read: inevitable) success are the proof that gamers can vote with their wallets and win.

MightyNo9TitleIt’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days, “vote with your wallet.”  The idea that if consumers can influence a market through the purchase of certain products and selective support of companies.  But within the world of video games, this sort of practice isn’t always applied.  A great number of the options available in major game spaces boil down to generic crap versus nothing at all.  Sadly, many gamers would rather play an inferior product or drip-fed re-releases instead of boycotting until something truly worthwhile comes along.  Companies like Capcom are aware of this situation.  Hence why instead of actually releasing a new Mega Man title or simply killing him off, they have kept him in a vegetative state to pull royalties from his previous adventures.

We can change this reality.  In the past, many Japanese game developers have lost their creative works to the companies that sign their paychecks.  Keiji Inafune may have come up with Mega Man, but he did so while working at Capcom, so the idea belongs to the parent company.  This means that when a new game in the series may (or may not) be released, Inafune has little-to-no say on the project unless Capcom wants his advice.  However, when a developer funds a project through Kickstarter or some other crowdfunding website, the work is their own.  There are no company focus groups, no board of directors which must be answered to, no mandated market analysis.  The developer can take risks and make innovative projects for passionate fans who want these games to exist.  But for these projects to work, it is up to the gaming public to lend a helping hand.

MightyNo9Screen1So please take a look at Mighty No. 9 and if you are so moved, make a contribution to the Kickstarter campaign.  On a basic level, you will be aiding in the production of a potentially excellent game, but there is more to it.  The success of Mighty No. 9 and its alternative funding could be the start of a revolution for Japanese developers.  Video game veterans who have been holding on to great ideas with no means to produce them could turn to their fans for help.  Interesting and worthwhile games will be produced, and the idea that consumers can vote with their wallets will become the new reality.  If nothing else, you will have a great game in the vein of Mega Man, and that’s a pretty good deal on its own.

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A Pause for Celebration

It was over a year ago in September of 2011 that Laura and I sat down to play Mega Man 2 for our first post to Games I Made My Girlfriend Play.  We had been talking for a while about creating a blog that would showcase our respective talents for writing and art, along with giving us a chance to bond over a shared past-time.  A list of prospective titles was made, discussions over what sort of format and style were had, and plenty of games were played in the process.  We now stand before our 100th post to GIMMGP, our hearts bursting with joy and appreciation at everyone who has supported us along the way.

We are so blessed to have great family and friends who have shared GIMMGP through email and word of mouth.  A special thanks to each of you.

We are grateful to the game designers, developers, and publishers who have provided us with so much fun since we were both little kids.  Thank you for (nearly) every game we have ever played.

We are so thankful to have found other impressive blogs around WordPress, who share their enthusiasm, great insights, and excellent writing with all of us.  Please take some time to visit each of the following:

Cheese Toastie and Video Games
Counter Attack!
Game Delver
Indie Gamer Chick
Jon Shafer on Design
The Limbo Gamer
Nerd Maids
Playing The Canon
Virtual Stowaway
Wild Man Ted

With wistful hearts and inspired minds, Laura and I raise our glasses to our first hundred posts, and look forward to the next hundred games and posts here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play.  Thanks to all, and to all a good night!

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Darkwing Duck

When I was very young, my love for cable could best be described as unrequited.  I would catch fleeting glimpses of Nickelodeon’s cartoons and SNICK programming when visiting friends and neighbors.  Colorful and fascinating documentaries from the Discovery Channel would just pass me by during video time at school.  Worst of all, the fantastic shows on the Disney Channel lived many towns over, only to be admired from afar at my grandparents’ homes.  Gummi Bears, Dumbo’s Circus, Ducktales; all of these programs were out of my league.  No one was interested in a kid without cable.

DarkwingTitleBut one day, it was announced that Disney programming would start showing up on the local channels.  So many of the shows that I had only watched once or twice in the past were fading into glorious syndication, and I could now build a steady romance with the cartoons I had longed to watch.  Additionally, the Disney Afternoon (as it was called) would feature new cartoons, which would include the likes of Timon and Pumbaa, Aladdin, and Ariel.  Of this pantheon of cartoons that would descend from on high for a two-hour block each day, my absolute favorite was Darkwing Duck.

DarkwingDuckRoguesDarkwing Duck’s story was a blatant satire of characters like The Shadow and Batman: a mild-mannered waterfowl named Drake Mallard would don a cape and cowl every night, and defend the streets of St. Canard as Darkwing Duck.  The show was silly and lighthearted, with characters who regularly broke the fourth wall to make sure the viewers knew when to laugh at each joke.  But unlike so many other derivative shows, Darkwing Duck did not rely exclusively on tread ground and cheap imitation.  Many of the characters and plotlines featured in the series were interesting and (mostly) original.  Every week, my brother and I would tune in to see what malicious plots and dastardly deeds the Duck Knight would thwart with his loyal sidekick, Launchpad McQuack.

DarkwingDuckNESAround the same time that Darkwing Duck was making his television debut, most of the Disney Afternoon stars were having adventures on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  These days, when you hear of a licensed product making the rounds on the video game circuit, it is assumed that the outcome will be mediocre at best.  But many of the Disney games in the early 1990s have the distinction of being well-made and rather fun.  For some time now, I figured that my love of games like Ducktales or Tale Spin was built on the nostalgic spices of childhood, muddling my taste for good gaming.  But now that I have polished these dusty gems once more, they are not the cut glass of so many licensed games, but the precious stones of classics worth preserving.  What could it be that made these licensed games so good, while so many other titles fall short?

TaleSpinNESLet’s look at the evidence presented: all of these games were produced by Capcom, during the years from 1989 to 1994, and most of them were featured on the NES.  The games were a strange mix of fan-service and solid gameplay, featuring many recognizable characters and items, but not afraid to toss in random people and places to make a cohesive flow of play.  Each title provides the player with an experience similar to the respective show.  Ducktales had players hopping from one exotic locale to the other, scooping up treasure along the way.  Tale Spin was a side scrolling shooter where Baloo must defeat Sky Pirates and the forces of Sher Khan.  You get the idea.

DucktalesNESUpon further research, I have found one major reason why these titles are so rich in style.  Each of these titles was developed by an already established team within Capcom.  Instead of handing off these IPs to some random group of programmers in order to produce a quick cash-grab, Disney’s properties were given to developers who already made great success with previous titles.  The producer on most of theses games was Tokuro Fujiwara, creator of Ghosts and Goblins, who also served as producer of the Mega Man series.  The creator of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, did the artwork for Ducktales, while the composer of many of the Disney titles was Yasuaki Fujita, who also composed the soundtracks for Mega Man 3, Breath of Fire, and many others.  Even Shinji Mikami, who developed the Resident Evil series, got his start on Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the Game Boy and Aladdin for the Super Nintendo.  With such a talented group at the helm, it is not a wonder that these licensed games turned out so well.

It is such a shame that most of the games are locked away in the Disney/Capcom vault, never to see the light of day.  Without the original games and consoles, there is no easy (read: entirely legal) way to play the Disney licensed games of yesteryear.  The respective owners of the games and intellectual properties just cannot seem to agree on who gets the lion’s share of profits from a re-release of these titles.  That’s the catch with licensed games: while the moneymaker’s argue over who gets to win, the rest of us lose in the process.

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Street Fighter X Mega Man

Two posts in one day!  What could the occasion be?  Well, the following announcement video hit the Internet mere moments ago, and I just couldn’t help myself:

Initially, my heart was filled with elation at the thought of Capcom releasing a cross-over of two of my favorite series.  But then that cynical voice started chirping at the back of my mind: “Only a PC release?  Why isn’t this on a console?  And why is this going to be free? Will I have to pay for each level? What are you up to, Capcom?”  Since Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe were cancelled not too long ago, I grew rather wary towards this announcement.  My blood started to boil as I thought back on the broken promises about a bevy of DLC characters and stages for Marvel vs Capcom 3.  This once-great company would not trick me again, no sir; I will not stand for this!

MegaManJumpThen I realized how absurd I was acting at the announcement of a free game that only my wildest dreams could have concocted.  I have become so jaded over the years that even good news must have some ulterior motive.  So I took a moment to calm down, drink some tea, and further investigate this story.  After reading through several bits of news (and enjoying some fine herbal tea), I discovered that Street Fighter X Mega Man began its life as a tribute project by a Mega Man fan in Singapore named Seow Zong Hui.  This young man showed his prototype to a Capcom employee at a gaming convention, with the hopes of making his game a reality.  By some divine providence (read: a shared love for Mega Man), the Capcom representative adored the idea, and, for what seems like the first time ever, a parent company collaborated on a fan-made project.

Megman-thumbsupDespite what numerous trolls may be saying on various message boards, this is big news. So many other fan projects have been shut down over the years, most of them by parent companies who have no intention of continuing a beloved series.  Consider this: if more big game companies embrace fan-made games instead of sending out cease-and-desist letters, a fresh batch of talent and ideas would reach the gaming community at large.  Stale intellectual properties could have new blood pumping through their veins.  Fan translation groups could officially work on overseas titles.  More options would be available on store shelves, which is good for fans and companies; truly a win-win scenario.

So I look forward to Street Fighter X Mega Man, and I hope that more companies will allow their honor guard to be meddled with by fans.  After all, it worked for Samus: everyone loved Metroid Prime.

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Super Ghouls and Ghosts

As a child, I was afraid of many things that simply did not exist.  Various monsters, magics, and malevolent forces were always waiting just behind my closet door, under my bed, or in other prepositional phrases.  One game in particular had an opening scene that somehow terrified my childhood self once the sun had gone down.  Super Ghouls and Ghosts was a fantastic (but ridiculously difficult) game, that was one of the first spooky titles that graced the Super Nintendo.  In the opening of the game, a Princess is stolen away from her castle by a demon who barges in through her bedroom window.  Somehow, the following intro freaked me out something fierce, to the point I had to just stop playing altogether.

It’s great being an adult and laughing at what I was afraid of as a kid.  Now I just have adult fears, which are much, much more frightening (and real, yay!).  If only I could go back to a time when the most I had to be scared of were imaginary red gargoyles.

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