Tag Archives: undertale

Undertale – Spider Dance

There are certain songs and sounds that call to mind terrifying experiences.  Classic horror movie themes rely on specific melodies to conjure uncomfortable and haunting memories to the mind of the viewer.  In the case of video games, a repeated theme or visceral noise can be used to emphasize the power of a specific scene.

Very early in Undertale, the player may find a pair of spider webs surrounding a sign that reads, “Spider Bake Sale. All proceeds go to real spiders.”  The player is presented with an option to purchase a Spider Donut or a Spider Cider, payment made by leaving money stuck to one of the webs.

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As a devout arachnophobe, this little scene made my skin crawl.  I pictured the spindly legs of spiders stirring donut batter and pouring cups of cider for horrifying local bake sales. With limited funds (and a fear of eight-legged bakers), I decided not to leave any sort of monetary gains for these little monsters.  Little did I know that by supporting the efforts of the spider-kin of Undertale, I would avoid battling their leader, Muffet.

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Later in the game, as I made my way through a room filled with cobwebs, I was ensnared by the leader of the Spider Bake Sale.  For not supporting her efforts to liberate her arachnid comrades from the cold of the Ruins, Muffet lashes out at the player; attacking with unique spider-themed strikes.

The music for Muffet’s battle (appropriately called Spider Dance) calls to mind the spindly movements of a spider.  A frantic melody launches from the start of the song; calling to mind the feeling of first laying eyes on a spider that has invaded your space.  This gives way to a minimalist string sample, which simulates the actions of a spider spinning a web to capture their prey.  The whole song is intense, engaging, and appropriate for the frantic battle with Muffet.

As with so many of the themes in Undertale, composer Toby Fox uses leit motifs across tracks to emphasize a certain theme.  In the case of Spider Dance, this song shares its melody with equally haunting tracks like Ghost Fight, Pathetic House, and Dummy!  Each of these songs centers around otherworldly encounters; where the player is faced with haunting moments that could scare them into submission.

Of course, any frightening situation can be overcome with enough… DETERMINATION.

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GIMMGP Spooky Games Month VI: Big Bag of Treats

Good evening, faithful readers!  We are moments away from the midnight hour that rings in our favorite month of the year.  Over the last several autumns, Laura and I have filled the scary season of October with piles of posts on horror games and their ilk.  This year, we’ve got a grab bag full of tricks and treats for your reading pleasure!

Each week in October, a wide variety of spooky posts will shamble forth from GIMMGP Headquarters to your computers and mobile devices. Mondays will highlight new grisly game music articles, continuing the fiendish experiment from last year. Wednesdays will feature articles from the past; resurrected from the grave and updated for a proper haunting. And on the menu for Saturdays: fresh pairings of ghoulish games and batty brews, cross-posted from my new blog, Digital Draughts!

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As we prepare for the sixth spooky season here at GIMMGP, I am reminded of a tradition from my childhood.  Around this time of year, my family would watch a recorded copy of Disney’s DTV Monster Hits.  This little special combined haunting hit tracks with spooky vintage Disney animation.  Outside of the vignettes of Mickey Mouse hunting ghosts and various evil queens plotting destruction, I have vivid memories of skeletons dancing in the moonlight to rock music.

Despite their creepy cavorting, I found these bony brutes absolutely delightful.  In celebration of these musical monsters, I’ve crafted a list of my favorite video game skeletons for your enjoyment!

Yorick – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

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I can’t help but smirk at this poor soul’s predicament.  After fighting all sorts of threatening monsters on my way to vanquish Dracula, it caught me off guard to find a skeleton kicking his own skull along the ground.  Honestly, I wish I could help Yorick reattach his head, but any attempt I made resulted in the immediate destruction of his fragile skull.  Alas.

Papyrus – Undertale

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As my favorite game of 2015, Undertale featured a wealth of lovable characters.  However, there was a certain skeleton that stood bony head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Papyrus is such a lovable goof. Despite his attempts to be a ruthless member of the Royal Guard, Papyrus simply cannot bring himself to subdue and capture the main character. His dopey enthusiasm is infectious throughout Undertale, and his battle theme is super catchy to boot.  Also, Papyrus is the first skeleton to ever take me out on a date, which makes him an extra special boy.

The Sanbone Trio – Gitaroo Man

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Speaking of catchy music, the somewhat obscure rhythm game Gitaroo Man features a fantastic group of skeletons known as the Sanbone Trio.  Armed with devilish maracas made from their own bones, this group of intergalactic warriors challenges the player to a Latin-flavored music battle (appropriately titled, Born to be Bone).  In spite of the challenge presented by these skeletal brothers, I managed to find my rhythm and take them down with relative ease (but not on Master Play, that’s just absurd).

Skeleton Biker – Castlevania 64

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Let’s be frank at the commencement: I did not enjoy Castlevania 64.  It paled in comparison to the two-dimensional versions of the beloved series; featuring poor camera work, frustrating platforming, and half-finished ideas.  However, this bemoaned sequel did feature skeletons riding motorcycles.  So I guess it did contribute a small piece of awesome to the Castlevania series as a whole.

Manuel Calavera – Grim Fandango

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I have written plenty in the past about my love for Grim Fandango and its protagonist, Manny Calavera.  This down-on-his-luck grim reaper sits not only at the top of my favorite video game skeletons list, but also in my favorite game characters of all time.  His bone-dry wit, clever quips, and earnest demeanor make him such an engaging character.  If you haven’t enjoyed Grim Fandango Remastered yet, please take the time to do so.

Dry Bowser – New Super Mario Bros.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of Laura’s preferred skeletal characters on this list.  As Dry Bowser is truly Laura’s favorite video game skeleton, I will let her words speak for this adorable monster:

I inadvertently picked Dry Bowser the first time we played the DLC for Mario Kart 8. What started out as an accident turned out to be a beautiful moment of serendipity. Do you know the feeling of finding a character in a game that truly understands you? Sure, he isn’t particularly fast, but this goes deeper than that. We are soul mates. The way he bullies the other players on the track. The way he breathes fire when excited or angry. How ridiculous he looks riding tiny motorcycles. Truly, we were made for each other.

With October imminent, I ask you faithful readers: who are your favorite video game skeletons? Let us know in the comments!

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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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Chip’s Picks of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

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

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

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

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

Yoshi’s Woolly World

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

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

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

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

Undertale

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

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

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

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

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

 

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