Tag Archives: magfest

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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MAGFest: Then and Now (and Now Again)

After three long years, GIMMGP is finally returning to MAGFest!  We had a fantastic time playing a pile of rhythm games and watching the Protomen perform at our last visit.  This year, Chip is looking forward to seeing all sorts of amazing video game composers in their element: a huge celebration of video games and music.

As we prepare to head out to the convention center, let’s take a look back to January 2012, when Chip and his good friend Jeremy attended the tenth anniversary of the festival that started in their little hometown of Roanoke.


About ten years ago, my friends and I began frequenting a local video game store called Captain Gamestation.  The selection was rather eclectic: a couple of bins of used games, accessory odds and ends, a pile of EGM and Nintendo Power issues from years gone by, and (oddly enough) some rare Turbo Grafx-16 pieces.  Most of these items came from the personal collection of the owner of the store, Joe Yamine.

Joe was an intelligent twenty-something who had a snarky attitude and a ponytail (both of which contributed to his overall coolness).  As gamers who were just out of high school and pretty jaded with the world, Captain Gamestation was the place to be.  We would drop by the store after our summer jobs and just shoot the breeze with Joe, all while looking for any rare finds he had come across and put up for sale.  Then one day, he mentioned that he was trying to get the Minibosses to come and play a show on the east coast, and that maybe this could become a sort of Mid-Atlantic Gaming festival for our small town.  A MAGFest, if you will.

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All of us thought this was a great idea, but we were young, and such an idea could never come true.  I mean, the only idea of a video game convention that we had was E3; that joyful world of new technology which seemed like a fairy tale that EGM told from time to time.  So how in the world could we have a video game festival in our town, much less one that would be cool enough to have the Minibosses play at it?  Well, somehow Joe and his friends pulled it off, and very soon, we were promoting this little game festival throughout the city of Roanoke.

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Since that fateful day, my friends and I have attended three more of the iterations of MAGFest (the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th versions), each of which were fun in their own way (save for the 3rd, which was a bit rough).  But none have compared to the joy we found in the first festival.  This year, my buddy Jeremy and I decided to join in the festivities at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland for the tenth MAGFest.  As we journey down MAGFest memory lane, you will find that the top pictures are from that first festival, almost ten years ago in September of 2002, while the bottom are from MAGFest of this year, in January of 2012.  Hence why my good friend Jeremy looks much more refined (read: older) in the second set of photos.

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Here we have Jeremy in front of the sign of the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke and standing before the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland.  Quite a change in just ten years for the little festival!  We are still not sure why the sign at the Holiday Inn welcomed the Woodmen of the World.  The average person would assume that there was an outdoorsmen convention at the same time.  We just assumed the hotel really liked Mega Man 2.

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When we arrived at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood, the festival was in full swing.  One of the ballrooms at the hotel had several banquet tables set up with rented televisions and donated video game consoles of many different varieties.  People were encouraged to bring some of their own equipment from home, so that there would be enough gaming to go around. Overall, the competition was friendly, and the wait for each game wasn’t too bad.  The highlights of those days were the original Halo and Super Smash Brothers Melee.  As for this past gathering, Jeremy and I arrived as they were setting up the MASSIVE main gaming room, which also served as the Dealers’ Hall, LAN Party Area, and the Tabletop Gaming Room.

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Here we have the orignal LAN Party Area in its entirety.  All the computers were donated, and only a few official tournaments actually happened (I recall Quake 3 and Counterstrike).  In the second photo, the significantly larger LAN Party Area is towards the back of the photo, and the table of tabletop games (ha!) in the foreground.  This year, any person could walk up and rent a board game to play with their friends.  Everything from Settlers of Catan to Clue to Snakes and Ladders were ready to be set up and enjoyed.  A nice touch, indeed.

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Good gravy, the arcade corner certainly has grown!  From the meager two arcade cabinets of Ghouls N’ Ghosts and Pac-Land, to dozens and dozens of machines!  The arcade corner at MAGFest 10 was rather impressive, with a combination of vintage titles, import rhythm games, and tons of home consoles rigged up to arcade machines.  Jeremy and I even played Ehrgeiz as an arcade game (which did little to change how odd that game is).

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During the first MAGFest, we took a little break and dropped by our parents’ house for some lunch (which was both delicious and free).  When we made our way back across the hotel parking lot, we noticed this magnificent truck.  Someone had done a very custom (read: spray paint) job on their truck, making it a vehicle covered in video games.  Each portion of the truck had different stuff on it, adding to its… uniqueness.  At MAGFest 10, another video game themed car was on display.  While the Pikachu Bug had a more uniform theme, it just seemed to lack the individuality of the original MAGFest Truck.

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Poor little Lulu.  She was the sole cosplayer at the first MAGFest.  Can you imagine that?  Of the roughly 275 people who attended the original convention, there was only one person to endure the constant harassment and photo-taking of the crowd.  This year, Jeremy and I kept a tally of cosplayers throughout the course of the day, which came out to 31 people in costume.  Here we have one of the better cosplay: a couple who came as Scorpion (with sky blue contact lenses!) and Jill Valentine.  What’s this? A Carl Winslow cosplayer is seated right next to them!  I guess that bumps the count to 32.

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Most conventions will feature several discussion panels, which will give insight into a business or industry, or allow the attendees to meet and speak with high profile celebrities and associates.  Back in 2002, MAGFest hosted a single panel on the topic of video game rock music.  It featured the Minibosses and a band known as Everyone, and it was pretty laid back and awesome.  This year, there were panels going on in five different halls throughout the course of the festival, but the only one we were interested in was the MAGFest Origins Panel.  From right to left, this panel was hosted by two of the original coordinators of MAGFest- Pernell and Rez, along with Joe Yamine and his younger brother, and two of the members of the Minibosses.  The main topic was how MAGFest began, where the idea and inspiration came from, and lots of reminiscing about video games.  I believe Joe is trying to get a video of the panel posted, and I will repost here if he is successful.

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The very euphoric highlight of the first MAGFest was the concert on Saturday night.  We were all excited to see the Minibosses play, but we were also floored by the other two bands who performed: Everyone (hence the giant “E” in the photo) and the One Up Mushrooms.  Everyone went on first, and was made up of three talented guys (two of whom were twin brothers) playing smooth electronic/rock covers of music from titles like River City Ransom and Silent Hill 2.  The One Up Mushrooms (now known as The OneUps)were an amazing video game jazz/rock band that focused on Super Nintendo classics like Mario Kart and Chrono Trigger.  The Minibosses were the headliner of the night (and the festival, I suppose) and they played a fantastic set of video game rock medleys from the early Nintendo days, featuring games like Metroid, Castlevania, and Contra.  At MAGFest 10, the Minibosses played a concert earlier in the morning (10AM!) on the “second stage” concert set-up.  I am very pleased to report that the Minibosses still rock so damn hard, even at such an early hour of the morning. (Note: We unfortunately had to miss the later concerts, sorry for the lack of coverage.  But really, who cares?  We still saw the Minibosses play).

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Finally, we leave you with a random picture of awesomeness from each convention.  In the first photo, we have a picture of the four of us (well, poor Christian is kind of there, behind my brother) with the Minibosses and Virt after their amazing concert.  On the second image, we have a shot from the Dealer’s Hall, featuring some interesting robot sculptures made out of video game consoles and accessories.

It’s a bit strange to look back at these photos from ten years ago; to see how much things have changed.  MAGFest has gone from a small gathering of concentrated awesome to a gigantic festival, brimming with fantastic things to do.  But even though the venue is bigger, and the amount of stuff to do has multiplied, the core value of the original  festival is still there: get a bunch of people together, play video games, see some solid concerts, and have a great time.  I guess the same could be said about us, though.  No matter how far apart we may be, or how much we grow, my friends and I still value the time we spend playing video games with each other, and always have fun when we’re together.

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Shovel Knight – La Danse Macabre

Sometimes, you meet extraordinary people without even knowing it.  Back in 2002, my friends and I attended a little video game festival in our hometown of Roanoke, Virginia.  It wasn’t a very large gathering, roughly 250 people visited over the course of a weekend to play piles of video games and see some great bands.  At the time, this event was called the Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival, and I got to see an awesome video game remix artist named Virt throw up some cool tunes.  I even got my picture taken with him (I’m the goof in the Zelda shirt and he is the gentleman with blonde/pink hair in the back).

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Fast forward twelve years to 2014, I am getting ready to enjoy a recently released game called Shovel Knight.  I funded the game’s production through Kickstarter, and thanks to a very transparent and constantly updated campaign, I am well informed of the game’s development.  It seems that the same remix artist who I saw ages ago has become a rather successful video game composer, and his latest work is the very game I have Kickstarted.

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The game finishes downloading to my Nintendo 3DS, and I am hit with some of the best chiptune music I have ever heard.  It seems that by limiting himself to the technology of the NES-era, composer Jake Kaufman has created a modern soundtrack that rivals the nostalgia-bolstered music of my youth.  As a die-hard Castlevania fan, my favorite track is none other than La Danse Macabre, the theme of the Lich Yard.

The song is nothing short of excellent.  Somewhere between spooky chiptune ballad and goth-pop hit, La Danse Macabre is an upbeat track that makes me want to both play video games and dance the night away.  How could I have known that the enthusiastic guy who I saw perform video game remixes in 2002 would go on to become one of my favorite video game composers in 2014?  Life is strange and amazing.

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The Idol Arrives

People came from far and wide for a chance to walk the Great Hall where machines line the walls; altars of entertainment where the faithful come to worship.  When a soul stands before these cabinets, dreams are fulfilled.  Some titles present the chance of being a rock star, others provide the cure to dancing fever, but only one game offers the opportunity of ascension.  Most of the convention attendees passed by the station of flashing lights and colorful antics, too frightened to even attempt a play.  Only a few brave souls learned the joyful truth during their first encounter: the stage makes no prejudice; everyone gets a turn.

To those watching, the experienced players stand out immediately.  Novices are marked by their spastic in-and-out gestures; a strange hokey-pokey sort of movement.  Intermediate players perform with a sense of fluidity, their arms twine and bend like awkward snakes through the air.  But even the initiated have only glimpsed the true potential of Para-Para.  The throng of viewers grows weary of the mediocre performances, tired of uninspired dancers.  When all seems lost, and the crowd is about disperse, she arrives.

ParaParaStageInitially, the young lady seemed to be just another cosplayer watching from the sidelines.  Many of those waiting to play had ignored her until now.  After watching yet another average dancer step away from the machine, this girl with multicolored hair rises from her place in the masses.  Her bag, heavy with toys and art from the convention is set before the machine; an offering for the J-Pop gods.  An insulated peacoat is removed, revealing the elaborate costume underneath.  Silver-infused violet fabric clings to her torso, a series of petticoats blossoms from her waist, and two striped legs in knee-high boots support the entire ensemble.  The costumed player takes a deep breath, and raises her arms to the machine.

In spite of her limited knowledge of Japanese, the girl navigates the foreign menus with ease.  The crowd is impressed; she knew it was worth importing the home version to learn the logistics.  A selection is made, and the familiar cry of “THE STAGE IS READY FOR YOUR DANCE” resonates from the speakers.  She takes out a pair of glow sticks from her pockets, and cracks each magic wand to illuminate her limbs.  The music begins, and with it a flurry of arrows covers the screen.

ParaParaScreenOnlookers can barely keep up with the rapid pace of the flashing markers on-screen, but the girl seems to have no trouble.  Her arms cascade one over the other, flowing through the sensors as the song plays.  Not content to utilize only her upper torso, she steps in time with the beat, kicking her striped legs with each flourish of the music.  Her voice matches the pitch of the singer coming from the speakers, and for a moment, the crowd forgets the machine entirely.  The girl who took the stage is transformed into a diva, she has ascended and become an idol.

DealersRoomAs the music ceases, the once-human girl spins to face her audience with a quick wink in her eye and a V-gesture on each hand.  The crowd does not applaud, they simply stand in silent awe of the excited performer at the machine.  A perfect score tallies on the screen behind her, but she need not view the results; the impressed gaze of the crowd is enough for the diva.  The idol gathers her belongings and fades into the mass.  She packs up her wig and dons her peacoat, still shaking from the adrenaline rush of greatness.  With a deep breath, she becomes just another attendant at the convention.  The various booths of the Dealers’ Room call to her, beckoning for just one more piece of art to be purchased.

The idol departs.

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Touch Screen Beats


DJMAX Technika (arcade)

IMG_2392I did not like this game. Don’t misunderstand, it’s worth playing. It isn’t a bad game. I’m just a very sore loser. In my defense, this game is significantly harder and more complex than it looked. I think there is a vast network of complexity to DJMAX Technika that I was not able to experience because I couldn’t make it through even one song properly. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but it is overwhelming.

The game uses two HD displays: A lower touch screen which you, the player, uses to play the game, and an upper screen, which is there for spectators to view your humiliation. There are various mixing modes, which affect the difficulty and how many songs the player can access. Basically, the song plays and a timeline moves across the touch screen and the player taps the screen accordingly. The note system is pretty simple:

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    • Note: Tap the note once when the crosses the center of the note.
    • Long Note [Holding]: Touch note and hold until the end.
    • Long Note [Dragging]: Touch and drag the circular note along the path while keep pace with the timeline.
    • Chain Note: Hit all notes when the line passes over them.
    • Repeat Note: Press the note and hold. Tap again when the line crosses the arrows.

This doesn’t seem quite so daunting until the notes are all there at once and the tempo is set to “hummingbird heartbeat”. The mode I played might have been set too high. Yup. That’s it.

Reflec Beat (iOS and Android)
IMG_7128A game I would more happily recommend is Reflec Beat. One, it’s portable. Two, it’s free (kind of). The game uses a similar note system to DJ Technika. In many ways, these are the same game, but in many more ways they are not. For starters, Reflec Beat is a bit more forgiving to first-time users. Second, it’s a competitive game so you can get another person in on the action, to help bolster your self-esteem. Unlike the former, where the goal is to show off and rack up a high score, the objective of Reflec Beat is to attack your opponent and deflect their attacks. It takes some getting used to, but it does become very fun, very quickly.

  • Gold Note: bounces to the opposite direction if it is touched on the line.
  • Black Note disappears when touched.
  • Long Note: touch and hold until the note is finished.
  • Chain Note: Just like DJMAX Technika’s “Chain Note”. Tap
  • 2TOP Note [MEDIUM and HARD difficulty]: tap note when it overlaps the receptors on the side of the screen.

I won’t lie– I only know all of this because I just looked it up on Wikipedia. I don’t really bother with the strategy of the game; I just frantically tap the iPad like a cat at a goldfish tank. But Reflec Beat such an interesting take on the classic rhythm game that I definitely recommend at least trying it. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

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Taiko no Tatsujin

GIMMGPTaikoWhen it comes to the rhythm genre, the most satisfying and easy-to-pick-up games tend to involve slapping/banging/hitting a drum. This style of game taps into that magical part of our childhood where the top priority is making noise and annoying our parents to tears. While at MAGFest, Chip and I enjoyed the drum-pounding simulator Taiko no Tatsujin 3. In this game, the player assumes the role of a cartoon taiko drummer, and bangs along to various popular Japanese songs.  According to my research, this title is one of series made up of roughly fifteen different iterations. It seems this is a remarkably popular game series, presumably because it’s really hard not to like.

TaikoDrumThe best part of our experience with Taiko no Tatsujin was that the game was entirely in Japanese. For those of us who only speak English, this feature added an air of subtle mystery/utter confusion to whatever the hell is happening on-screen. Lucky for us, the major game mechanic was not particularly complex, so it was rather easy to follow along. There are various places on the drum that correspond to different symbols that scroll across the screen:

[Red symbol] – hit the face of the drum
[Blue symbol] – hit the rim of the drum
[Small symbols] – strike on one side (doesn’t matter which)
[Large symbols] – strike on both sides

There is also the occasional purple symbol, which signals the player to beat the living daylights out of taiko drum, until the animated cat(?) finishes eating the sweet potato, but I’m not entirely sure. Did I mention I don’t speak Japanese?

The popularity of Taiko no Tatsujin is pretty extensive and has been adapted to nearly every modern platform that comes from Japan. There are even mobile versions for iOS and Android, which unfortunately are not available outside of Japan or Hong Kong. Some of the magic is likely lost on these versions, since the most satisfying component of this game is actually playing on an enormous drum. For those of us in the States, the options are a bit more limited.

IMG_2391Outside of importing a game and drum, and modifying your console to play foreign games (NOTE: GIMMGP does not actively condone the practice of system modification, unless you are really great at it), there is only one way to have the taiko experience at home. Taiko Drum Master was released way back in 2004 for the Playstation 2 in North America. The game featured a pair of drums, which you and a partner can pound away to random pop songs and Namco game music. So if you and a friend want to spend a weekend drumming along to Britney Spears’ Toxic, just hop on Amazon and pick up this odd title for your PS2. Or just come to MAGFest and play tons of fun J-Pop music instead. Whatever works for you.

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Feel the Rhythm

magfestarcadeTo start the new year on a strong video game note, Chip and I attended our first MAGfest (Music and Games Festival) together last weekend. Apart from an excellent lineup of musical acts and entertaining panels, this convention boasts an impressive arcade set up. Nearly every kind of title you can imagine was available. From vintage arcade cabinets to pinball machines to numerous fighting games, all were free to play. Instead of overwhelming ourselves, darting back and forth between childhood favorites (most of which we could easily download from the Xbox Live Arcade), we decided to focus our attention on the pile of rhythm games we wouldn’t be able to play at home.

magfesttaikoUpon returning from MAGFest, we had a number of discussions about simulated dancing/drumming/guitar…ing, which inspired us to spend this month exploring the rhythm genre. One reason we chose to examine this particular genre here on GIMMGP is because these titles are by far and wide the easiest way to introduce a non-gamer to the world of video games. Rhythm games often feature intuitive controls and encourage group participation. Most people won’t play these types of games for nearly as long (or at all) if there isn’t anyone else around to share in the experience. It’s an awesome genre of gateway games that anyone can enjoy.

Many of the games we will be covering are more common in arcade culture than at-home gaming, but we’ll look at some rhythm games available for mobile devices and consoles as well. So to get us started, here are a few suggestions worth checking out.

The Arcade
Arcade culture isn’t as prevalent in Western society as it used to be, but it is definitely still around. For example, Dave & Buster’s has about 55 locations across the US. Most of the locations I’ve been to offer many of the games we are going to cover. While this option can become a little pricey, it’s still provides a great experience: rhythm games and alcohol, dancing and drinking. It’s like going to a club, but better because everyone is actually having fun.
Recommendations: Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up

Mobile Devices
Between the iPhone and the 3DS, we have managed to acquire an impressive array of mobile rhythm games. If your girlfriend is looking for a way to share in your hobby, point her in this direction. These games are normally short and easy to learn. Be warned: if she doesn’t like them, it probably means she doesn’t like fun, so you shouldn’t be dating her anyways.
Recommendations: Reflect Beat (iPhone), Rhythm Heaven (DS)

Console
If you don’t have an arcade nearby or you aren’t looking to interact with the outside world, there are certainly options still available. Rhythm games for home consoles normally fall into three categories, based on their input devices:

Instrument Controllers: These games generally require use of accessories based on real-life instruments to play the game properly. Most likely you already own these items, or you know someone who isn’t playing theirs anymore that you can borrow.
Recommendations: Rock Band, Guitar Hero

Motion Controls: These games are played with existing motion-sensing hardware [Wii] or with peripherals that can be used with other games [Kinect, Playstation Move(haha j/k, no one uses the Move)]
Recommendations: Dance Central (Xbox + Kinect), Just Dance (Wii)

Traditional Controllers: Some of GIMMGP’s personal favorites are from back in the days before these new fangled gidgets and gadgets hit the market. These games were great fun and many are available for cheap download, check them out.
Recommendations: Parappa the Rapper, Bust-a-Groove

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Magfest: Then and Now

About ten years ago, my friends and I began frequenting a local video game store called Captain Gamestation.  The selection wasn’t much to look at: a couple of bins of used games, accessory odds and ends, a pile of EGM and Nintendo Power issues from years gone by, and (oddly enough) some rare Turbo Grafx-16 pieces.  Most of these items came from the personal collection of the owner of the store, Joe Yamine.  Joe was an intelligent twenty-something who had a snarky attitude and a ponytail (both of which contributed to his overall coolness).  As gamers who were just out of high school and pretty jaded with the world, Captain Gamestation was the place to be.  We would drop by the store after our summer jobs and just shoot the breeze with Joe, all while looking for any rare finds he had come across and put up for sale.  Then one day, he mentioned that he was trying to get the Minibosses to come and play a show on the east coast, and that maybe this could become a sort of Mid-Atlantic Gaming festival for our small town.  A MAGfest, if you will.

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All of us thought this was a great idea, but we were young, and such an idea could never come true.  I mean, the only idea of a video game convention that we had was E3; that joyful world of new technology which seemed like a fairy tale that EGM told from time to time.  So how in the world could we have a video game convention in our town, much less one that would be cool enough to have the Minibosses play at it?  Well, somehow Joe and his friends pulled it off, and very soon, we were promoting this little game festival throughout the city of Roanoke.

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Since that fateful day, my friends and I have attended three more of the iterations of MAGfest (the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th versions), each of which were fun in their own way (save for the 3rd, which was a bit rough).  But none have compared to the joy we found in the first festival.  This year, my buddy Jeremy and I decided to join in the festivities at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland for the tenth MAGfest.  As we journey down MAGfest memory lane, you will find that the top pictures are from that first convention, almost ten years ago in September of 2002, while the bottom are from MAGfest of this year, in January of 2012.  Hence why my good friend Jeremy looks much more refined (read: older) in the second set of photos.

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Here we have Jeremy in front of the sign of the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke and standing before the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland.  Quite a change in just ten years for the little convention!  We are still not sure why the sign at the Holiday Inn welcomed the Woodmen of the World.  The average person would assume that there was an outdoorsmen convention at the same time.  We just assumed the hotel really liked Mega Man 2.

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When we arrived at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood, the convention was in full swing.  One of the ballrooms at the hotel had several banquet tables set up with rented televisions and donated video game consoles of many different varieties.  People were encouraged to bring some of their own equipment from home, so that there would be enough gaming to go around. Overall, the competition was friendly, and the wait for each game wasn’t too bad.  The highlights of those days were the original Halo and Super Smash Brothers Melee.  As for this past convention, Jeremy and I arrived as they were setting up the MASSIVE main gaming room, which also served as the Dealers’ Hall, LAN Party Area, and the Tabletop Gaming Room.

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Here we have the orignal LAN Party Area in its entirety.  All the computers were donated, and only a few official tournaments actually happened (I recall Quake 3 and Counterstrike).  In the second photo, the significantly larger LAN Party Area is towards the back of the photo, and the table of tabletop games (ha!) in the foreground.  This year, any person could walk up and rent a board game to play with their friends.  Everything from Settlers of Catan to Clue to Snakes and Ladders were ready to be set up and enjoyed.  A nice touch, indeed.

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Good gravy, the arcade corner certainly has grown!  From the meager two arcade cabinets of Ghouls N’ Ghosts and Pac-Land, to dozens and dozens of machines!  The arcade corner at MAGfest 10 was rather impressive, with a combination of vintage titles, import rhythm games, and tons of home consoles rigged up to arcade machines.  Jeremy and I even played Ehrgeiz as an arcade game (which did little to change how odd that game is).

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During the first MAGfest, we took a little break and dropped by our parents’ house for some lunch (which was both delicious and free).  When we made our way back across the hotel parking lot, we noticed this magnificent truck.  Someone had done a very custom (read: spray paint) job on their truck, making it a vehicle covered in video games.  Each portion of the truck had different stuff on it, adding to its… uniqueness.  At MAGfest 10, another video game themed car was on display.  While the Pikachu Bug had a more uniform theme, it just seemed to lack the individuality of the original MAGfest Truck.

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Poor little Lulu.  She was the sole cosplayer at MAGfest 1.  Can you imagine that?  Of the roughly 275 people who attended the original convention, there was only one person to endure the constant harassment and photo-taking of the crowd.  This year, Jeremy and I kept a tally of cosplayers throughout the course of the day, which came out to 31 people in costume.  Here we have one of the better cosplay: a couple who came as Scorpion (with sky blue contact lenses!) and Jill Valentine.  What’s this? A Carl Winslow cosplayer is seated right next to them!  I guess that bumps the count to 32.

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Most conventions will feature several discussion panels, which will give insight into a business or industry, or allow the attendees to meet and speak with high profile celebrities and associates.  Back in 2002, MAGfest hosted a single panel on the topic of video game rock music.  It featured the Minibosses and a band known as Everyone, and it was pretty laid back and awesome.  This year, there were panels going on in five different halls throughout the course of the convention, but the only one we were interested in was the MAGfest Origins Panel.  From right to left, this panel was hosted by two of the original coordinators of MAGfest- Pernell and Brian, along with Joe Yamine and his younger brother, and two of the members of the Minibosses.  The main topic was how MAGfest began, where the idea and inspiration came from, and lots of reminiscing about video games.  I believe Joe is trying to get a video of the panel posted, and I will repost here if he is successful.

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The very euphoric highlight of the first MAGfest was the concert on Saturday night.  We were all excited to see the Minibosses play, but we were also floored by the other two bands who performed: Everyone (hence the giant “E” in the photo) and the One Up Mushrooms.  Everyone went on first, and was made up of three talented guys (two of whom were twin brothers) playing smooth electronic/rock covers of music from titles like River City Ransom and Silent Hill 2.  The One Up Mushrooms were an amazing video game jazz/rock band that focused on Super Nintendo classics like Mario Kart and Chrono Trigger.  The Minibosses were the headliner of the night (and the convention, I suppose) and they played a fantastic set of video game rock medleys from the early Nintendo days, featuring games like Metroid, Castlevania, and Contra.  At MAGfest 10, the Minibosses played a concert earlier in the morning (10AM!) on the “second stage” concert set-up.  I am very pleased to report that the Minibosses still rock so damn hard, even at such an early hour of the morning. (Note: We unfortunately had to miss the later concerts, sorry for the lack of coverage.  But really, who cares?  We still saw the Minibosses play).

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Finally, we leave you with a random picture of awesomeness from each convention.  On your left we have a picture of the four of us (well, poor Christian is kind of there, behind my brother) with the Minibosses and Virt after their amazing concert.  On your right (that’s the hand that doesn’t make an “L”) we have a shot from the Dealer’s Hall, featuring some interesting robot sculptures made out of video game consoles and accessories.

It’s a bit strange to look back at these photos from ten years ago; to see how much things have changed.  MAGfest has gone from a small gathering of concentrated awesome to a gigantic convention, brimming with fantastic things to do.  But even though the venue is bigger, and the amount of stuff to do has multiplied, the core value of the convention is still there: get a bunch of people together, play video games, see some solid concerts, and have a great time.  I guess the same could be said about us, though.  No matter how far apart we may be, or how much we grow, my friends and I still value the time we spend playing video games with each other, and always have fun when we’re together.

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