Wednesday, August 21, 2013

DuckTales: Remastered

Let's be honest - we all love a good dose of nostalgia.  As we go through our adult lives and deal with the constant struggle of day-to-day responsibilities, it's nice to find something from our youth which triggers memories of how it felt when life wasn't so demanding.

DuckTales: Remastered is a game that feeds on nostalgia.  A remake of the original NES classicRemastered conjures up all those wonderful memories of playing the game as a kid and throws them into a brand new experience with updated visuals, remixed music, and added dialog.  Mark my word - you will absolutely love this game. Well, assuming you actually grew up with DuckTales, that is.

You see, DuckTales: Remastered relies so heavily on nostalgia that it's almost impossible for me to recommend it to anyone who isn't from my generation.  Sure, it's easy enough to learn and just about anyone can play it, but unless you have memories of watching the show or playing the original game as a kid, you won't understand why this game is such a big deal.

WayForward went above and beyond to make this remake as polished as possible.  In addition to hiring animators directly from Disney, they also went out of their way to bring back the entire (surviving) cast of the TV series.  Better yet, the dialog actually makes references to storylines and character traits from the show!  So yeah, if you're not marveling in awe at this point, then this game is clearly not meant for you.

The game itself is pretty faithful to the original DuckTales, aside from a few minor changes.  The signature pogo mechanic is back and is just as addictive as ever.  All of the stages are a bit longer and even place a greater emphasis on exploration.  Furthermore, the bosses have been completely reworked to offer more of a challenge, and a brand new final stage was added.  My only major gripe is that the pogo can feel a bit sticky and inaccurate at times.  Also, as much as I love the cut scenes, they do tend to slow down momentum of the game.  They can be easily skipped by accessing the pause menu, but an option to disable them entirely would have been nice.

Like I said earlier, it's hard to convince this generation of gamers to play DuckTales: Remastered.  If you're like me and grew up with the TV show and/or the NES game, then by all means check it out.  However, if the most nostalgic Disney product you can remember is, say, Kingdom Hearts, then I think it's safe to pass on this one.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy (2013)

A lot of people (and by "a lot," I mean two) have told me that I only like to write about songs that contain dark themes and somber lyrics. Settle down folks - even though I like writing about depressing music, I'm actually not that cynical in real life.

That said, Anamanaguchi's Endless Fantasy is the "happiest" album I've come across in years.  Anamanaguchi is a band that plays chiptune, a form of electronic music which is produced by using sound chips from vintage electronics.  In other words, it's glorified video game music.   Although chiptune has been around for years, Endless Fantasy is just a damn fine example of how well the genre works.

Even if you're not a fan of video game music (or if you're just way too cool to realize that it's a legitimate genre of music), this record is still worth checking out. Sure, most tracks sound like unused tunes from a Mega Man game, but it's actually accessible for just about anyone.  The compositions themselves are elaborate, yet undeniably catchy.  Plus, there's a surprisingly amount of variety to be heard.  For example, on "Japan Air," Anamanaguchi experiments with J-pop, and the extremely memorable "Prom Night" wouldn't sound out of place on today's mainstream radio.

My only gripe is that this record is just too friggin' long.  With twenty-two tracks, it clocks in at just over one hour and sixteen minutes. Listening to it in it's entirety is a challenge, and towards the end, the 8-bit style will feel a bit repetitive.  Still, if you're looking for some music that'll put a smile on your face, listen to Endless Fantasy.  I mean, how can you possibly be in a bad mood while listening to a track like "Meow"? (see below)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Final Fantasy VII - Worst game ever?

The last time I played through Final Fantasy VII was in 1999.  For a game that I consider one of my all-time favorites, it's hard to believe that it's been well over a decade since I've last played it.  That's not to say I haven't thought about it - I have.  However, anyone who has actually finished the entire game knows that replaying FF7 is easier said than done. It's a bit like watching Lost from start to finish.  On one hand, you know it'll be an epic journey, but on the other hand, it's length can be a bit overwhelming.  

Still, after thinking about it, the idea of reliving this classic was all too enticing.  To motivate me, I did a quick Google search of Final Fantasy VII.  And that's when I discovered a horrifying truth about this game.

People hate it.

You see, in recent years, it's become rather hipster-ish to hate on FF7.  The internet is crawling with FF7 haters; so much, in fact, that the hate is just as popular as the game itself.  At first I tried to ignore it, but it did get me thinking - could one of my most memorable gaming experiences be nothing more than just a huge dose of nostalgia?  I had to find out.  

So, I dusted off my PS2, popped in FF7, and I started a new game.  I played on and off few nearly two weeks and before I knew it, I had reached the end.  As the credits rolled, I sat back and came to a conclusion about all the FF7 haters...

They're all full of shit.

Look, I know that it's not uncommon for a group of people to hate on something that's massively popular.  Just look at how many people hate Star Wars, The Beatles, and Twilight (okay, that last one probably deserves it.)  I understand that not everyone is going to like everything, but to call FF7 a bad game?  Please.

(Note: This is not an in-depth review of the game.  If you haven't played it before, prepare to be confused and/or spoiled).

Most of the game's hate is geared towards the game's main character.  The general consensus is that Cloud Strife is a one-dimensional, self-centered emo.  Funny - I guess they weren't playing the same game that I did.  If they were, they probably would have picked up on Cloud's internal struggle to come to grips with his true past (you know, that major story line that took up nearly two-thirds of the game.)  Cloud may appear to be self-centered at first, but as his character learns about his true past, he eventually becomes an excellent leader.
The plot gets a lot of flack, too.  Okay, so it's not the most straightforward plot in the world.  Hell, the terminology alone is enough to drive a man crazy: Shinra, Mako, Lifestream, Promised Land, Cetra, Jenova, Sephiroth clones, Black Materia, White Materia, Meteor,'s a lot to digest all at once.  Still, as convoluted as it is, when you piece it together, it works quite well.  It's filled with shocking plot twists, memorable moments, and of course, classic J-RPG humor.  Sure, there are a lot of questionable moments, but I blame the less-than-impressive English translation for any shortcomings the story may have.

And finally, the haters like to point out that the game looks like awful by today's standards.  Really?  Are you really THAT naive to think that a game from 1997 would look as good as a game from 2013?  For what it's worth, some of the pre-rendered backdrops are still fairly impressive, and the majority of the FMVs look surprisingly good even to this day (the Junon vs. Weapon sequence immediately comes to mind.)

I can go on and on about how the materia system offers a near-perfect mix of customization and individuality, or about how Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece.  But alas, I'm going to stop here before this turns into a full-fledged review.  Is FF7 the greatest game of all time?  Probably not.  Does FF7 deserve the amount of hate that it has seen in recent years?  Not at all.  Haters will be haters, but unless you have a really good reason, don't try to convince me that this game is unworthy of it's praise.

And no, complaining about Cloud's spiky hair doesn't count.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Phosphorescent - Song for Zula (2013)

Love songs.  Whether you're a fan or not, I think it's safe to say that the theme of love is pretty prominent in most contemporary music.  This really isn't surprising.  After all, love is an emotion that can be understood by just about anyone.

While it's certainly not uncommon for love songs to deal with some sort of  emotional heartbreak, it's very rare to come across a song that actually admits that, is a bad thing.  Phosphorescent's "Song for Zula" boldly suggests that love is nothing more than an enemy in disguise, comparing it to a caged animal waiting to kill upon being released.

An unorthodox statement, yes; but songwriter Matthew Houck is not afraid to challenge the way love is generally portrayed in music.  He toys with the notion that love can actually change one's spirit in a negative way.  He suggests that when you open yourself up to love, it traps you inside of its cage, and you become its victim.  Therefore, the only way to prevent yourself from being stuck in this cage is to never open yourself to love ever again.

"Song for Zula" is genuine, heart-wrenching, and just downright devastating.  It's by far my favorite song of the year, and one of the few brutally honest love songs I've ever heard.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I know what you're thinking. "Dan's forgotten about his blog yet again." couldn't be more wrong!  I've been so busy lately that updating a blog that only two people read (you know who you are) is NOT a priority! Y'all are jumping to conclusions, and I'd appreciate a little respect!

Actually...I'm just really, really lazy.  Hey, at least I'm being honest. But don't worry, I'll be writing some posts soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (# 5-1)

Okay, time for my top five...

5. Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls

Boys and Girls is a tasteful throwback to 1960s blues rock.  Sure, I could tell you how it's filled rugged guitar hooks and proficient musicianship (which it is), but what really blows this album away is Brittany Howard's soulful vocals.  She's been called "the next Janis Joplin" by several reviewers, and after listening to Boys and Girls, it's very hard to argue with that statement.

4. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Oh there anything they can't do?  Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade teamed up to create this surprise of an album.  Gritty garage rock peppered with hints of new wave?  Um, yeah...enough said.

3. The Lumineers - The Lumineers

The Lumineers' self-titled debut combines everything I love about folk rock - down-to-earth lyrics, sing-along choruses, and just overall country charm.  However, the album rarely takes itself too seriously, and as a result, it's very easy to listen to on a regular basis.  I'm looking forward to see what else this band has in store.

2. Tame Impala - Lonerism

If John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a child with Strawberry Alarm Clock, and that child was adopted by Animal Collective, the result would be Tame Impala.  While Boys and Girls brought back the bluesy side of the 1960s, Lonerism takes us back to the magical land of psychedelia. Textured with synthesized undertones and melodic vocal hooks, this record is about as mind-bending as it gets; and I wouldn't want it any other way.

1. Beach House - Bloom

When I first heard Bloom in March, I knew it would be very difficult to top.  Beach House has been the only band in recent history to consistently amaze me with each release.  I'm not even going to talk about the music itself.  Instead, just listen to the album - it's incredible.  Dream pop? Alternative rock? Psychedelia?  It doesn't matter.  To me, it's just good music.

Honorable Mentions

  • Wild Nothing - Nocturne
  • Fun - Some Nights
  • Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
  • Passion Pit - Gossamer
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Here
  • Hot Chip - In Our Heads
  • First Aid Kit - The Lions Roar
  • The Beach Boys - That's Why God Made the Radio
  • Bob Dylan - Tempest

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (# 10-6)

If you read my blog this time last year, you'll remember that I wrote a post about my top ten favorite songs of the year.  Well, this year I thought I'd write about my favorite albums instead.  Please keep in mind that I haven't had a chance to listen to everything I wanted to this year.  As a result, this list is subject to change.

10. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

Okay, technically this record was released in 2011, but that was only in Iceland.  North Americans couldn't get their hands on a copy until April 2012.  And yes, it was worth the wait!  Strong folk melodies and compelling vocal harmonies make this band's debut an instant classic.

9. Shearwater - Animal Joy

Shearwater's seventh studio album may feel a bit more accessible than their previous work, but it still stays true to their signature operatic style.  With heart-pounding rhythms and majestic vocals, Animal Joy is a record that takes you on a journey that you'll not soon forget.

8. The Walkmen - Heaven

Heaven sounds a bit generic at first, but that's all part of its charm.  The Walkmen's "back to basics" mentality is in full stride on this record, and Heaven is an excellent example of how rock music can still sound fresh without being groundbreaking.

7. Menomena - Moms

To tell you the truth, I'm not too familiar with Menomena.  However, after listening to Moms, I feel like I need to rectify that right away.  This record is filled with intimate lyrics, clever compositions, and downright bizarre undertones which are all based on the theme of mothers.  It's a bit experimental, but it's also accessible enough to be enjoyed casually.

6. Grizzly Bear - Shields

I have a soft spot for Grizzly Bear's 2006 album Yellow House, as it was one of the first albums that got me interested in indie rock.  Unfortunately, it's 2009 follow-up Veckatimest didn't really do much for me.  Shields, however, completely restored my faith in the band.  Placing a greater emphasis on pulsating rhythms and concise lyricism, the band sounds less secluded, and more personal than ever before. far, so good...right?  Stay tuned next week for #5-1!