4.15.2007

Video Games Live Is Amazing

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Video Games Live concert at Yale University's Woolsey Hall. Of course, as others know, it was nothing short of fantastic.



For those who are not familiar with Video Games Live, here's a quick explanation. Founders Tommy Tallarico and Jack Hall tour all over the place, having orchestras play famous (and not so famous) pieces of video game music as a premade video showing footage from the original game or games that the music came from plays above them, with lighting effects and sometimes even a stage performance is mixed in. The end result is something that is absolutely amazing, to the point where someone who has never played a video game in his or her life can go to one of these shows and get a heck of a lot of enjoyment out of it.

So what music is played? Well of course, there are the obligatory Mario and Zelda pieces (with the Mario presentation in particular being really well done, in my opinion), but there are also more obscure pieces, such as music from Advent Rising and even some PC presence in the form of Myst and Sid Meier's Civilization. There's also a really well done opening piece in the form of an Arcade complilation, which features everything from Tetris to Donkey Kong to Dragon's Lair.



And, of course, there is also a heck of a lot of Final Fantasy. But it's all good, because Final Fantasy music is amazing.

There are also some nice diversions that actually include audience participation. One of these is a competition between two players in the Plug & Play version of Frogger for a $2500 laptop, and instead of having the standard music come out of the speakers, Mr. Hall has the orchestra play the music for the game, changing it on the fly as the audience member dies or succeeds at Frogger. It really is a sight to behold.



In the concert I ventured to, and apparently in several other concerts as well, the YouTube star, who is now referred to as the "Video Game Pianist," Martin Leung performed several pieces, ranging from Super Mario Bros. to Final Fantasy. He is nothing short of amazing, and it really is exciting to see him perform in person. At Woolsey Hall, the site of the concert that I attended, there is a large, 104-year-old organ, and what could Mr. Leung possibly play on it?



That's right. A Castlevania piece. And it was fantastic.

No matter where one is seated in the concert, the energy in the room and the absolute enjoyment one feels is amazing. There is a ton of screaming and clapping between each piece, and you know you're truly in a room of game fans and even some non-gamers who recognize impressive work.

Beforehand, there was a two-hour pre-show event, with Guitar Hero and Halo competitions, as well as the costume contest. I think I can say that my friends, i.e. the two hottest Link ladies I've ever seen in my life, were the most popular people in room; everyone kept asking them if they could get a picture with them!



The charisma in the fans was amazing, and there were so many different people there. I saw everyone from family to Rawmeat Cowboy at GoNintendo to my old middle-school principal and his kids were there.

It really was a gathering to remember, and I'd go again in a heartbeat if presented the opportunity. To everyone who even remotely likes video games, and even those who don't, your attendance is highly recommended.

4.14.2007

Super Paper Mario Rocks My Socks

I am absolutely loving Super Paper Mario. In fact, I'm not sure who doesn't love this amazing game. It is easily one of the funniest games I've ever played; Treehouse has really outdone themselves this time.

In fact, there are so many Nintendo jokes and jokes of all kind that it's almost ridiculous. It's part of what makes Super Paper Mario's worlds come to life. That is, outside of their vibrant and stylistic art style and techno-boppy music.



Super Paper Mario seems to be similar to an old-school, 2D Mario platformer in the beginning (especially since the player holds the Wii Remote NES style to play it), but it really is something quite different. It incorporates 2D, classic Mario action with a hilarious storyline, numerous puzzles, multiple playable characters, RPG elements (such as HP and the use of items), and most notably, the ability to flip between 2D and 3D with a press of the A button.

This flipping ability allows for the clever hiding of items and some interesting puzzles. For example, when it seems you've reached a dead end while in the 2D view, flipping to 3D reveals a hidden pathway that was previously unaccessible. Or perhaps you're having trouble making it past large enemies in 2D, but when you flip into 3D, you find that the enemies are paper thin at your new angle, and so you can run right by them.



It is this type of ingenuity that really makes Super Paper Mario special. The game is divided into "Chapters," which each consist of four areas. Basically, the game's levels are numbered just as they were in the original Super Mario Bros.: from 1-1 to 8-4.

After the player completes a set of four levels, he or she earns a Pure Heart, all of which are key to the storyline and will save the worlds from the game's villain, Count Bleck. The Count humorously marries Princess Peach and Bowser in the game's opening video in order to fulfill a prophecy that allows him to destroy the existing worlds and become the ruler of the new by spreading "The Void." In order to stop this, Mario and company must find the Pure Hearts hidden in said worlds and place them in "Heart Pillars" littered about the game's hub world, Flipside.

Count Bleck himself is quite an interesting character, as he often refers to himself in the third-person. His goons, especially Nastasia, are also quite entertaining. The characters in Super Paper Mario are what really keep you coming back for more; they all have such personality and they're all so hilarious that the story is really gratifying.



Any Wii user who has not considered this game at this point is truly making a huge mistake. Super Paper Mario is quite possibly the best Wii title to come since The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and any individual who misses it will really be missing one of the most entertaining experiences that has graced a console in awhile.

The game is absolutely ridiculous, and that is exactly its biggest strength. For example, in one of the game's chapters, Mario is slapped with a gigantic debt that he is forced to pay off; that is, by hard labor, which includes hitting his head on blocks and running around excessively in a hamster wheel. The game is so full of charm that it is absolutely irresistable, and there truly is nothing else like it available.



Super Paper Mario is an absolute must buy, no questions asked.

StarFox 2D? Like What?!

Okay, so let's make a long story short; a friend of mine showed me a demo of a side-project that he has been working on with a small team of people. Of course, I let of a squee like a fan-girl because it's called StarFox 2D.

This project is why I love fan-games. Even in its early state, StarFox 2D easily the best StarFox fan-game I have ever played.

So how surprised and pleased I was when this friend, Ravi, decided to make me an Admin on the game's site's forums. So perhaps I cannot talk about the game without a bias anymore now that I'm almost kind of slightly maybe involved, but I still heavily recommend that any sad soul who ventures here goes to the site and downloads the latest demo (Demo 1.0.3). It is little more than a build demo at this point, but is a pretty impressive one.

The final game will have multiple characters and levels, as well as both aerial and ground-based missions and combat. I will be mentioning it from time to time as things progress, so this is just the beginning of my self-centered ranting.

Do enjoy.

Whoa, Long Absence Thar

Sheesh...I've been lazy for awhile, haven't I been?

I guess it's just that I haven't had much of a will to write this blog since it doesn't seem that anybody reads it. But I shall press on anyway.

So! Here's to writing! And by writing I mean ranting!