Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Time Capsule: The Returners - Debut Performance

We apologize for the lack of recent discussions that resulted from a hectic end of semester and final exam schedule.  We’re back with a new entry into The Time Capsule, this time with a post on a double event: the debut performance of video game music cover band The Returners as well as the second show for Gimmick! Video Game Rock Band.  The show took place at Genuine Joe’s coffeehouse in Austin on May 11th, 2013, which is the same location where Gimmick’s debut performance took place roughly four months earlier. 

The Returners lineup includes three former members of Descendants of Erdrick – Lauren Leibowitz playing flute and providing vocals (not at the same time, surprisingly), Mike Villalobos playing guitar, and John Pike playing drums – as well as K.C. “Wedge” Hawes-Domingue playing the keyboard and Andrew Dangerfield playing bass guitar.  With Lauren’s vocal and instrumental talents, The Returners has a sound that is a bit different from most other VGM cover bands that you may have heard before.

The Returners debut performance (5-11-2013)

Their entire debut performance was recorded and uploaded to Youtube by Robert Swackhamer from the 8bitX Radio Network, this time as individual videos for individual tracks, but with a playlist containing all of the tracks included.  There is also a playlist for the individual tracks of the songs performed by Gimmick.  Since Gimmick actually played before The Returners, that’s the order that the set lists will appear in.  Gimmick plays some tunes from two games that were not in their debut set list, so even if you listened to the first show and are too stretched for time to listen to the entire second show, check out the first and last tracks for the new material. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Great Library: Star Wars: The Heir To The Empire Trilogy

Previously in The Great Library, we looked at String Theory, a web comic about a physicist headed down the path towards supervillainy.  Today on Nerd Up, we return to the Great Library to discuss a series of science fiction novels set in the expanded universe of Star Wars.  It is not unusual for many science fiction and fantasy intellectual properties that begin as a film to have novelizations based off of the original property.  Sometimes, there are officially expanded product universes created containing comic books, animated television shows, additional films, toys, video games, clothing, and just about anything else you can think of with the purpose of expanding upon the original story, enhancing the immersion into the fictional world, and making the intellectual property rights holders a lot of money.

The Star Wars universe is certainly no exception to this, and in fact the term Expanded Universe is used to refer to the entirety of the officially licensed background material produced outside of the (currently, as of the time of this writing) six feature films.  While we’re not going to go too in-depth about specific details here, the ghost writer of the novelization of “A New Hope” published the first novel in the Expanded Universe, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, in 1978 and there were also comics published during this time that contained material set in the Star Wars universe that was not directly originated from the main films.  All told, there have been over one hundred novels and multiple comics, animated series, and video games which comprise the Expanded Universe.

The Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn, also known as the Thrawn trilogy based on the name of one of the primary characters, has sold over 15 million copies since its first print, and it was responsible for bringing new interest to the Star Wars universe nearly a decade after Return of the Jedi was released in (1983).  Set roughly five years after the death of Emperor Palpatine and the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, it is a direct continuation of the events in Episodes IV, V, and VI, and features many of the characters from the original movies as well as multiple groups of new characters.  The surviving forces of the Galactic Empire are now being led by the lone remaining Grand Admiral of the Imperial Fleet, the previously unknown Grand Admiral Thrawn.  The Rebel Alliance has now begun to move away from the temporary organization during the rebellion and is attempting to create a new government, the New Republic, to once again bring peace to the galaxy.  I’m going to attempt to avoid discussing spoilers here, but that won’t be entirely possible considering these books are now over twenty years old and the characters and subjects contained within have been mentioned elsewhere, some even within Episodes I, II, and III.

Star Wars: Heir To The Empire (1991)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Listening Chamber: Metroid Metal - Metroid Metal (2003)

After a brief period of extreme business In Real Life, and with several other entries having been started but none yet finished, we’re back with another installation in the Listening Chamber.  In the last two discussions in the Listening Chamber, we featured a band that focused on the music from games from a particular console and a band that only played songs from a particular company.  This time, we will take a look at a project that only features the music from games in a particular series.

The project is Metroid Metal, and the album is the self-titled Metroid Metal, self-released in 2003.  The original Metroid Metal was a project begun by Stemage (aka Grant Henry) in 2003 with the intent to only cover all of the songs from the original Famicom Disk System / Nintendo Entertainment System title, and not songs from other Metroid titles.  Stemage later decided to cover songs from other games in the series, and the project expanded into a full band playing as Metroid Metal Live.  Additional songs have been recorded since the original release in 2003, and an extended version of the album was released in 2007 with the same title.  This discussion will focus on the original 2003 release.

Metroid Metal - Metroid Metal (2003)

Metroid Metal contains 12 tracks – all 12 of which are VGM covers from the original Metroid game – and runs for roughly 29:21.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Screening Room: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

The topic of discussion in The Screening Room this week is another older anime movie, the 1985 film Vampire Hunter D.  The film was directed by Toyoo Ashida, animated by Ashi Productions, and produced and distributed by CBS Sony Group, Inc.  The anime was based on the series of illustrated novels created by Hideyuki Kikuchi.  The series of novels also inspired manga adaptations, American comics, an audio drama, and a survival-horror video game of the same name released on the Sony PlayStation.  A second anime film, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, was released in 2000.

The plot of the film differs from the original novels, mostly in regards to the behavior of specific characters and their interactions with each other.  The story takes place in the year 12,090 AD in a post-apocalyptic world in which vampires and their mutant slaves terrorize and manipulate ordinary humans by means of both special powers and advanced technologies.  Doris Lang, the daughter of a deceased werewolf hunter, is attacked by Count Magnus Lee, a member of the vampire nobility.  She survives the attack although she has been bitten by the count, and later hires a mysterious caped hunter named D to protect her from further attacks.  Doris is attacked by Count Magnus Lee again, and is kidnapped and brought to the Count’s castle.  D must attempt to rescue her from Count Lee, the Count’s daughter Lamica, the Count’s mutant servant Rei Ginsei, and various other minions. 

Various battles with different kinds of monsters and mutants take place during this rescue attempt, and both clues to the back story of the mysterious D as well as his special powers are revealed.  The powers of specific beings, the technologies used by both protagonist and antagonist, the dress of certain characters, and even the final battle scene itself have been changed from the novel to the film adaptation.  However, the story’s conclusion does remain similar to the canon story.  The runtime of the film is 80 minutes, which is similar in length to Ghost in the Shell but shorter than Akira, Venus Wars, or Lensman: Secret of the Lens.

In North America, a dubbed version of Vampire Hunter D was published by CBS Theatrical Films, with dubbing work done by Streamline Pictures.  Streamline Pictures released the dubbed version of the film on VHS in 1992.  Urban Vision Entertainment acquired the rights to the film in 2000, and released a Special Edition DVD which included the original dub as well as subtitles done by New Generation Pictures.  In addition to the Japanese and North American markets, the film has also been released in multiple European markets in a variety of languages.

Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Time Capsule: Gimmick! Video Game Rock Band - Debut Performance

The Time Capsule is a section for quick blurbs about “current” events that don’t necessarily fit into any other category on Nerd Up, such as a movie or game trailer, an album release, an astronomical observance, etc.  The implied joke is that most of the content discussed on Nerd Up is from years or decades in the past so we need to come into a different time frame to discuss topics in the present, with the normal understanding of the function of a time capsule being to view in the present things that were preserved in the past.  If you got that on your own from the beginning, then I’m sorry you had to read the explanation… your brain is apparently as broken as my own.

The topic here is something that did happen a few months in the past from this posting: the debut performance of the video game music cover band Gimmick! Video Game Rock Band.  Gimmick! contains two former members of Descendants of Erdrick – Chris Taylor and Mike Villalobos, who have switched instruments from their previous roles – as well as guitarist Kenneth Reichelderfer and drummer Justin Olejnik.  Based out of Austin, Texas, the group performs rock versions of songs from old video games that are close covers to the original songs.

Their entire debut performance – at Genuine Joe’s coffeehouse in Austin on January 12th, 2013 – was recorded and uploaded to Youtube by Robert Swackhamer from the 8bitX Radio Network, and we’re going to embed that video here for your enjoyment.  Check it out, and keep an eye out for these guys going forward.  Rumor has it that a demo CD may or may not have been recorded and may or may not be available in the not too distant future.