Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MIDI Week Single: "Ending Theme" - Final Fantasy III/VI (SNES)

"Ending Theme" from Final Fantasy III/VI on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1994)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Record Label:  Squaresoft
Game Developer: Square

When I was thinking what song to do for the last MIDI Week Single of the year, I decided to limit my search to ending themes or music played over the credits.  The "Ending Theme" from Final Fantasy VI (III on the SNES here in the US) was a pretty easy choice as it is not only one of my favorite ending themes, but one of my favorite songs from a video game.  

What I love about this track in particular is that Nobuo Uematsu doesn't rehash each character's theme, but slightly rearranges them in order for the song to blend into the next song.  Shadow's Theme in particular sounds the most different from his theme during the game, but I am so okay with it that whenever I watch the credits and the story being told as the characters are escaping from Kefka's Tower, that I get emotional.  As Relm's theme is finishing, I know what song is coming up and I feel a tightening in my chest.  A similar feeling comes about during Celes' theme as it transitions to Locke's theme in all of its slowed down fanfaric glory and is all the more meaningful when you know of his backstory with Rachel.

I absolutely love Final Fantasy VI/III and listening to this track in particular only reinforces how powerful of a game this was when I first played in 21 years ago and how much I would love to go through it again.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Sometimes Searching on the Internet Leads to Unexpected Results

During the Christmas week I was not in the Pacific Northwest, I decided that it was a good time to update the rosters on the 2008 DS game Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff, and by update, I mean I erased the memory on the game since I had already changed all of the names of the teams and players (to something other than NFL teams) and I wanted to start over from the beginning.

Unlike previous iterations in the Tecmo Bowl franchiseTecmo Bowl: Kickoff did not have an NFL license, so all of the teams, while from their respective cities/states, the names of the teams had been changed along with their team colors, and the names of the players with their jersey numbers.  What is nice in TB:K, is that all of this is customizable (which apparently is not a word), so I decided to recreate the color schemes and rosters from the 1988-89 NFL season (back when Los Angeles still had two NFL teams.  That's right, William "The Refrigerator" Perry is still with The Bears, Steve Young had only been with the 49ers for a season or two, and Joe Montana is still number 16).  One anachronism that I had to implement was that the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers did not exist during the 1988-89 seasons, but I included them since TB:K has 32 teams as opposed to the 28 teams that existed in 1988-89.

Another customizable feature with TB:K, is that you are able to change/alter the player's skin tone.  This is purely a cosmetic alteration so I began to look up players to find out their ethnicity since a name like Bryan Taylor or Gerald McNeil does not allow for profiling based on a name.

That is the context.

So there I am, looking up rosters for particular teams, let's say, the 1989 Seattle Seahawks and when I do a search for former quarterback Kelly Stouffer, I see a Google search result come up for his wife.  I first thought that this was kind of odd, in a similar way that someone might look up fan-fic porn of a side character in Star Trek. However, as I continued this customization process with other teams, I found that this was not the only occurrence.

 Granted the wife of the particular football player was not always the first result that Google suggested back, but being in the top four results I still found to be a little odd.  I even found that for one particular player, whom I forgot to write down (but I know they were on either the Seattle Seahawks, Phoenix Cardinals, Washington Redskins or the Chicago Bears), listed a search result for the players' daughters.

Without further investigative research, I can only speculate as to the reason behind these searches for a players' wife and/or daughters.  I didn't know that this was a thing, but leave it to some modified form of Rule 34.  Could it be people who failed to reach any kind of NFL status in their own football careers and want to fantasize about another athlete's life, sexual or otherwise? 

While talking with The Kid, we thought that putting together a spreadsheet to figure out if the position of the player had anything to do with the searching for a players wife.  Could it also be related to the ethnicity of the player?  Maybe it had to do with the jersey number of the player (Stouffer: 11; Mitchell: 30; Waddle: 87).  If I Or maybe it was simply that their wife was objectionably attractive to a significant portion of the population who felt some kind of connection with the particular player.  I admit that to put a couple of days into coming up with a hypothesis and collating this information into something that could result in discernible data would not only be intriguing but fun, but I don't think I would feel productive putting that much time into something that would not benefit Donald Trump's run for the republican nomination; or maybe it would, who knows.

Some people are odd, but who am I to judge?


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: All I Want For Christmas (is to Kick Your Ass)

"All I Want for Christmas (is to Kick Your Ass)" (1998/20098)
Record Label: Self Release
Album: Single
Game Developer: Valve

The Midnight Riders are kind of like the Spinal Tap (with obvious ZZ Top influences/rip offs) of the Left 4 Dead universe.  The "liner notes" for lack of a better term for the information on a Youtube video reads:

In 1987, the Midnight Riders were asked to participate in a children's charity Christmas album with their rock peers. The Riders refused. In a 1993 Guitar God Magazine article, Dusty explained: "Givin' kids charity just makes 'em weak, man. Teach a kid to fish, he can eat fish his whole life. Teach a kid NOT to fish, he starves to death. Where I come from that's murder, Homes." A few years later, the Riders grudgingly agreed to participate in a 1998 Christmas album in exchange for not having to do 30,000 hours of community service. "All I Want For Christmas is to Kick Your Ass" was written, recorded and mailed in less than one hour.

Aside from using this song, which wasn't actually used in Left 4 Dead 2, I feel like the above notes are really all you need to know about the song.  I didn't come across this song until sometime during the middle of this year so I thought its inclusion in our MIDI Week Single column would be most appropriate (in a loose sense of the word) for Christmas, seeing as how the holiday is in two days.

Til The Morning!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Thoughts on Final Fantasy VI for PC & Final Fantasy VII Remake

This month, December in the year 2015, Square Enix have announced the release and/or development of Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII Remake.  FF VI will be a port to the PC, which a lot of people, myself included have eagerly awaited (despite the fact that I still have my Final Fantasy III SNES cartridge) while FF VII Remake will be a re-imagining of the story in the game, and will not simply be an HD remake.

So first, Final Fantasy VI.  What makes me somewhat sad about the version of Final Fantasy VI is not the fact that the game is being released on Steam for the PC, which is one of the few good things about this release, but what is being released is the Android/iOS port of the game as opposed to a port of the SNES game.  The fact that the planned Steam release is a mobile phone port probably would not bother me too much if it was not for the fact that I do not like how the graphics have been "updated" with less pixelated images with smoothed out everything.  Take a look at the trailer to get what I mean.  

The information with the FF VI trailer says that "Veteran character designer Kazuko Shibuya has painstakingly recreated the graphics," which is probably in fact true, but that does not necessarily mean that the result is an amazing one.  Bill Stiernberg of Zeboyd Games, in a tweet listed the issues that he had with the Final Fantasy V Android/iOS port to Steam/PC, which I find to still hold true as both FF V and FF VI ports are in a near identical style.  The point that stuck out the most to me was that the backgrounds seem to have a lot more detail than the character sprites, which are overly saturated from the rest of the frame.  I also think that the character sprites look a lot like Playmobil representations of Final Fantasy characters.  This is not particularly what I want.

I realize that I could simply acquire an SNES emulator and pick up a rom of Final Fantasy III (VI) if I want to play Final Fantasy VI on my computer and not be annoyed or bothered by graphics that have been updated in a way to possibly attempt to look more current and less like a 21 year old game.

On the other side is the Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is a completely different game than the 1997 game.  Check out the trailer (or not, but I will be referencing what I can deduce from it, so y'all've been warned).

There are a couple of things about this remake that make it stand out from the original game.  The first being that Square Enix is adapting the game to be episodic.  How many episodes, and how much time will each episode take?  I could not tell you.  There is a translated and highlighted interview by Silocnera, originally conducted by Famitsu which contains a lot of answers, some of which I will be covering here, but the article is worth a read.  The other possible point of contention is that, from the video, the battle system looks to be closer to that of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII as opposed to a turn based system; although developer Tetsuya Nomura in the interview says that "it’s completely different from Crisis Core. It might not be as much of an action title as say Dissidia Final Fantasy on arcade or the Kingdom Hearts series, but it leans more towards there."  Not having played anything in the Kingdom Hearts series, I cannot speculate how that battle system functions.

The last thing about FF VII Remake is that it is currently only slated for release on the Playstation 4, although it may eventually receive a Steam/PC release as previous games in the Final Fantasy series have been receiving over the years; currently only III - VIII, XI, XIII - XIV are available, leaving out I, II, IX, X, and XII.

So these are my somewhat disjointed thoughts about these two games.    And maybe if the remake comes to Steam, I might finally get around to finishing Final Fantasy VII (I'm currently on my forth restart since I first played the game back in 1999).


Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Conklederp and I saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens last night.  We both loved it.  You should see it too.  It's 100x better than the prequels and a great follow up to Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.  That is all I am able to say.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MIDI Week Single: "Intro" - Alone in the Dark 2 (PC)

"Intro" from Alone in the Dark 2 on the PC (1993)
Record Label: Self Released through
Album: Alone in the Dark 2 OST

To note, I have yet to play Alone in the Dark 2, but based on the usage of "Jingle Bells" in the song, that, at least part of the game, will take place at or around Christmas; hence the decision to use it for today's MIDI Week Single.

Honestly, the "Jingle Bells" motif threw me the first time I heard it, mainly because I had not realized that I had any video game music that contained Christmas songs.  I was confused too when I saw that the music being played was from Alone in the Dark 2, but by 0:47, a more traditional Alone in the Dark melody comes in and I am immediately reminded of the time I spent in the Derceto mansion (as well in the caverns below).  I love too that the "Jingle Bells" motif comes back one last time (at 1:44), but very much in the background and not at all the correct notes (major, minor, or mode), as if the motif is trying to hide and not be noticed too much less the Elder Gods become offended and instigate a true War on Christmas.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Obligatory Post About Star Wars

I realize that I probably didn't need to put up a picture of the logo for Star Wars, but I wanted to, so I did.  

I am starting off the week with my post about Star Wars because I am afraid that I might reveal something from the movie that was not in any one of the dozens of trailers.  I know that I like to think of myself as relatively good on the spoiler-free-front, but in this case, I figured a post before I actually saw the movie would not be a bad thing.

Conklederp and I, along with a butt ton of other people will be seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Thursday, a day before it is supposed to "officially" open on Friday December 17th.  I guess long gone are the nights of actual midnight showings that start at 12:01am so that theatres could get in an evening priced movie at the latest/earliest time possible*.  I am okay with this too, although deciding on which time to see the movie required a bit of strategy.  The earliest showing is at 7pm, which I thought would be too early to see the film as a that is still a time that practically everybody could go and see the movie.  The 11pm and 12am seemed like it would to attract people who may (or may not) be more likely to yell, cheer, or talk excessively at everything that they like/hate that happens during all 135 minutes of the film.  

So in the end, seeing the film at 10pm seemed like a reasonable time.  We will be out of the theatre close to 12:20am.  Yes, we will be sitting through the end of the credits.

I guess I am just very excited on a number of levels to see this movie.  On one side, it is a Star Wars movie and I really, really, really want to love this movie, but I am not so far gone that I will force myself to love it, even if I am not at all happy with the movie.  On another side, it is a film directed by J.J. Abrams, who is a director/writer whose movies I very much enjoy.  John Williams is doing the score for which I am typically very excited about and only a very small part of my brain/heart is worried that there will be very little new music (similar to what Hans Zimmer did in the Pirates of the Caribbean parts II and III), but I have faith in Sir John Williams (if he's not honorably knighted he should be).

Going into the the movie on Thursday night, I am happy to say that I know very little about the story.  I have not read anybody's speculation about what characters did in the Extended Universe that will translate to this film.  Basically, what I talked about over a year ago when the official teaser was released is where I am at as far as speculation goes.  I want to be surprised and awed.  One thing I did read, a bit of non-spoiler trivia if you will, is that Mark Hamill, is 64 years old whereas Sir Alec Guinness was 63 when Star Wars came out back in 1977; interesting I would say.

So that is what I have to say about Star Wars for the time being.  I am excited and very much looking forward to Thursday night.

Forever We'll Believe

*P.S.  Major kudos to my Dad for being the master salesman/people-person that he is, was able to convince a theatre employee, in a very nice and not-at-all-mean-manner, that because we were seeing a movie at 12:01am, that it is morning, before the 1pm cut off time for matinees and therefore should be charged as such.  He did it all with a smile on his face and a laugh, which the the employee agreed with a smile on her face as well.  I wish I could recall which movie we were going to see, but I've forgotten.  Maybe Braveheart on its re-release in theatres back in the winter of '95?  I'll have to ask him over Christmas, but I'm not sure if even he'll remember.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Updates on the Computing Front

So I recently purchased a new computer as my previous Lenovo Z575, which I have been exceedingly happy with over the last three years has, over the last year, has been slowly dying.

I do not remember exactly, but I believe I bought the Z575 around March of 2012 after I tried offering a pint of stout to my then ASUS Eee PC netbook which I had had for just about a year.  That netbook went through a bit after replacing a screen that cracked after being kicked by someone not me (it actually wasn't me).  The ASUS, with the help of Conklederp, is what officially brought me into the world of PC gaming.  She mentioned that Steam (which I wasn't using at the time due to misconceptions about how the platform worked as well as a then still negative view of digital only games) was offering Portal for free for Steam users, so I snatched it up.  I should also mention that around that time I was also going through Diablo: Hellfire and Diablo II, so I wasn't entirely new to PC gaming, which I have brought up a number of times in previous articles already.

It wasn't until the Z575 that PC gaming really took off for me.  Portal no longer lagged like it did on the ASUS (thanks to the additional 4 Gigs of RAM and a better processor).  Later that year is when I started playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which indoctrinated both Conklederp and myself into the world of Tamriel.  Coincidentally, at some point I stepped on the Z575 while getting out of bed, forcing me to replace the screen and near the end of 2012, I accidentally tipped over a bottle of beer onto the keyboard, forcing me to replace the keyboard although the rest of the computer was "fine."  Fine in that it still worked without any noticeable issues.

Then there was the time, sometime in the middle of 2014, when I was walking out of the kitchen with a steak knife (forgot what I had been cutting) and stretched, forgetting that the fan was on.  The fan hit my hand knocking the knife out of my hand, which flew at my computer screen.  The tip of the knife hit the screen leaving a 1 1/2 inch gash in the upper left hand corner.  I only found the cut in the screen (which is visible in this picture) to be distracting when I looked directly at it, otherwise my brain tended to fill in that little white slice with what I figured was supposed to be there.

I knew that something wasn't quite right in the end of 2014 when the Z575 showed me the Blue Screen of Death for the first time.  During all of this year, my computer crashed one of two ways, no less than five times.  I would either see the BSD, typically after taking it out of hibernation, or while bringing iTunes to the forefront.  The screen became all horizontally line-y and not at all good looking.  Eventually (as in around the first of November), the Z575 stopped installing Windows updates (using Windows 7 Home Premium) and it could no longer turn itself off, constantly being in the "Logging Off" screen for over three hours in at least one instance.  I also ran into issues with iTunes not opening after having closed the program (or if the program crashed and closed itself).  Frequently, I would also be unable to have the computer "turn on" after it being in hibernation over night, or even after a couple of hours being away; the screen would remain black while the lights blinked and the fan whirred.  I also ran into issues when I plugged an HDMI cable from the TV to my computer, where it would not recognize the HDMI cable when playing sound (it would only play out of the computer and after a lot of tinkering/searching, I found out that the computer didn't recognize the HDMI cable as something that sound could be transferred through).

After talking quite a bit with Conklederp, and coming to the conclusion that a new computer would be needed for a variety of reasons, most importantly being that 87% of the classes I take are online (which helps cut down on gas consumption if I were to commute everyday to my classes).  So after a fair amount of searching, I went with a Taiwanese computer, an MSI, partly because of its processor, RAM, and hard drive space, but also because I was able to get the computer during a sale (cyber or otherwise) as well as, for lack of a better term, a gift card.  The most dramatic difference is that I can now play both Skyrim and ESO on either "High" or "Ultra High" graphics settings.  It also works quite well with taking online tests.

I am also getting used to Windows 8.1, which isn't as difficult as I had thought it was going to be.  The apps thing (like it's trying to be a phone) is a little off putting, but we'll just have to see if it becomes any more intuitive without a touchscreen.  I'm still on the fence about "upgrading" to Windows 10 too as I'm waiting until the absolute last minute to decide if it is worth it ("worth" since the update is still, at the moment, free).

Amusingly, after I transferred all my music and important files/documents onto an external hard drive, I noticed that various programs on the Z575 began to no longer work.  Simple programs like the picture viewer, iTunes all together, QuickTime, a desktop widget that showed memory usage and processing power.  Although now the computer has successfully updated and will power down without having to do it manually.

So this is where I am currently at.  Gaming wise, I have had both ESO and Fallout 3 pause in such a way that I could still hear all music and atmospheric noises, but the games themselves have frozen.  But, I can now play Dead Island: Riptide without that hideous screeching from the bowels of hell, which I am pretty excited about.

That is all I planned on saying on this less rain drenched morning (than previous mornings) while I still update ID3 tags and discover songs that I didn't know I even had on the Z575 (Dragon Quest IX Piano, and Blue Dragon Piano among others and possibly still others that I have yet to discover).  

Happy weekend.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Main Theme" - Baldur's Gate (PC)

"Main Theme" from Baldur's Gate on the PC (1998)
Composer: Michael Hoenig
Record Label: Self Release
Game Developer: BioWare

I decided to go with the "Main Theme" from the 1998 PC game from BioWare, Baldur's Gate.  I guess it could also be from BeamDog's Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, so let's also say that that is where the song is also from. . .also.

I didn't start playing Baldur's Gate until around 1999, which is about on par with the rate that I've played most computer games, and whenever I hear this theme, I immediately want to play this game.  I could be playing Skyrim or ESO, hear this song from somewhere and I start to question why I am not currently adventuring around the Sword Coast with my beloved Minsc and Boo.  Why aren't I doing that right now!?  I need to be adventuring and to hell with the Ettercaps and Umber Hulks.

Anyway, this relatively short song my German composer Michael Hoenig (who I just found out played with Tangerine Dream back in 1975) manages to accomplish quite a lot for not being as melody driven as other main themes (The Lord of the Rings, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy), but don't get me wrongly misunderstood, there is melody here, maybe I just meant that it isn't as fanfaric as melodies from the aforementioned franchises, but Baldur's Gate, although high fantasy in the truest sense of the term, has a fairly dark undertone running throughout the entirety of the game (I haven't played the expansions to either BGI or BGII).

So apologies for being a day late (again, le sigh), but I hope you've enjoyed our weekly selection.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Monthly Update: December 2015

I am a bad person.  Well, not in the typical bad horrible person who doesn't tip after a meal, just the bad kind of person who doesn't stay updated because I occasionally (frequently) have not-so-great time management skills.  I just looked and including MIDI Week Singles posts, I only wrote five for the entirety of November.  November's been busy for me if that wasn't already passive aggressively apparent.  For that I apologize.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not), I have done a bit of gaming.  I got frustrated with my lack of being about to consistently hit anything in Fallout 2, and that after six hours I find myself equipped with a semi souped up spear and no armor aside from the suit from the Vault Dweller (so basically, no armor).  I know that when told that I have a 46% chance to hit something, that that percentage is specifically for each swing and not an overall percentage, but when I have +/- 30% accuracy rating over an entire battle, it gets a little infuriating.  I know I should just restart with a new character, but I'm just too damn stubborn and I want to play Fallout 3 already, what with Fallout 4 coming out in November and all.  So I started Fallout 3 and 17 hours later, I am quite happy playing an Elder Scrolls typed-feel game in the Fallout universe.  I am a little sad that the size of the playable world is significantly smaller than that of any of the previous Fallout games (Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics) in that it's now around a single city versus an entire Southern California area.

Anyway, there'll probably be an article later in December covering not only Fallout 2 and Tactics but a couple of other games that I fell I know enough about to write full on articles about.  I could probably also go on about my first time playing in a fantasy football league, but I feel I should wait until the end of the regular season so that I don't jinx myself for the rest of the season.  No, it's not that I'm superstitious about sports (I'm superstitious about sports), it's that I'm superstitious about things that I think I need to be superstitious about, like sports and how I brush my teeth every day/night and how I exit the car each and every time I . . um, exit the car.

I am also eagerly/dreading Steam's Winter sale since I know that I don't need any more games to play since I have 150+ games that I should play already, but there's 70+ games that I'm constantly watching for a significant drop in price (<$5) and may just have to buy if that happens in the coming weeks.  Then Dementium: The Ward - Remastered from Renegade Kid (aka: Jools Watsham) was released a couple of days ago and that's a game that I really want to play on the 3DS, seeing as how I could never get through it on the DS.

So now, as the sun is setting in the west (have y'all seen The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition yet!?), I should leave you all and get back to the final stretch of assignments before loafing around for the rest of the month.

Oh, and fucking Star Wars: The Force Awakens is coming out in two weeks, for which Conklederp and I obviously have preordered tickets and will be at  the theatre no later than an hour before the movie starts because that's the way things are done.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MIDI Week Singles - "Ruins" - Undertale (PC)

"Ruins" from Undertale on PC
Composer: Toby Fox
Game Developer: Toby Fox

I've come to the realization that I really like the music in this game and will definitely be highlighting more of it.  I wanted to get started by sharing the first real exploration BGM. I like how it introduces elements slowly and by :27, the full mix kicks in and carries you along.  To my ears, this song is reminiscent of The Secret of Mana soundtrack.  It's a very nice song to have playing while you wander around.

Also, it was composed by the writer ad programmer, Toby Fox, which I think is pretty cool.  Auteurism, man.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Monthly Update: Diciembre 2015

Good evening Ladies and Germs,
I thought it would be nice to take some time out to connect with you all, as this is the start of a new month, and it's a tradition around here to give a summary of where we are at, and where we are going.  At least as far as games and media are concerned.  I throw in personal stuff too, when appropriate.  Or, when I feel like it anyway.  Appropriate is a loose concept.  Not that we're especially rude around here, it's just that we don't really have hard and fast rules about what kind of content goes in this blog.  
However, content does go in this blog, and in this arena I have been sorely lacking this past month.  The only excuse I can think of is that I've just been too damned busy and too damned tired.  I got a promotion in October, which is great and all, but it came with a bunch of added responsibilities, which also includes rushing around to cover for the positions that have recently been vacated and not filled.  In other words, I am scrambling every day, and by days end, my brain is liquid.  This usually means I have pretty bad writer's block after work and I will usually just watch some kind of TV and play Mario Maker.  And I still don't feel like I play enough Mario Maker.  
That said, I did manage to play through to the end of Undertale the other day.  It was awesome.  I'm listening to the soundtrack now, and it's my intention to crank out a few posts on the subject, including a game scores and full review.  On top of that, when Jane is over we've been playing Mario Kart 8 pretty much non-stop.  It's a great game, as Mario Kart games always are.  We just cleared 50 and 100 ccs with trophies and stars and the like, and it's on to 150 ccs, which, as expected, is super-tough.  But fun!  Did I mention I'm playing through Undertale a second time?  There is a way of beating the game without killing anybody, and I am definitely up for the challenge. I think it might go a little slower this time through. 
Umm, apart from that, Jane and I have been watching Jessica Jones on Netflix and so far we both really like it.  It's got a great tone, a steady pace, and it does a good job of shadowing the villains influence without really showing much of him.  I'm anticipating a pretty intense episode when he is finally confronted directly, and given that he's played by Dr. Who's David Tennant, I don't think I'll be disappointed.  
Finally, I want to drop a little plug for the Judge John Hodgman podcast.  Jane and I listen to this one together and we both find it very entertaining.  John Hodgman is simultaneously funny, insightful, nerdy, classy, mature and silly.  He has a deep love of nerd culture and he wears it well.  We recently listened to an episode where he settled a couple's dispute centering around Mortal Kombat X.  It was great.
Alright, that's all I've got for now.  Take that writers block!