Friday, December 14, 2012

The Listening Chamber: Game Over - Nintendo Metal (2002)

Previously in The Listening Chamber, we looked at the early work of Minibosses, one of the first VGM cover bands to release an album that was widely received.  This time, we’ll look at one of the first VGM bands to release an album that included original vocals to go along with their rendition of the music from various video games.  The band is Game Over, and the album is Nintendo Metal, self-released in 2002 by Game Over.  Game Over are based out of Sweden, and currently consist of a vocalist, a guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer.  The musical style is metal covers of the music from classic games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with original lyrics created by the band for most songs that tell a story pertaining to the particular game that is being covered.  All of the lyrics on this album are dark in nature, with themes of hopelessness, despair, and failure being prevalent.

Game Over - Nintendo Metal (2002)

Nintendo Metal consists of 5 tracks – 4 with vocals and 1 instrumental – and has a run-time of 17:37.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Test Kitchen: Milkshakes, Malts, and More Frozen Desserts

Desserts: they’re what’s for dinner.  Only, they’re for after you eat your dinner, so they’re for dessert.  And who doesn’t love a nice cold dessert during the winter, especially that American classic, the milkshake?  Well, some people like malts, but that begs the question: just what exactly is a malt?  And actually, if you’re from somewhere other than the USA, you might be asking “what’s a milkshake?” like a friend of mine from Mexico once did.  And since we’re trying to figure out what to have for dessert, what really is the difference between frozen yogurt and frozen custard?  And just what the hell are sorbet and gelato, and how do they figure into this picture?  Loosen your belts, unbutton your pants, and let’s find out in this discussion in The Test Kitchen.

Milkshakes and malt balls

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Screening Room: The Venus Wars (1989)

In this installment of The Screening Room, we’ll take a look at an anime movie from 1989, The Venus Wars.  The anime was adapted from a manga series of the same name that was created by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko – more known for his work with titles Combattler and Mobile Suit Gundam – and published by Gakken Co., Ltd. in Nora Comics in serial form.  The manga ran from 1987 to 1990, and was adapted to film in 1989.  The film was directed by Yasuhiko, produced by Bandai Visual and distributed by Shochiku Co., Ltd. in Japan.

The story goes that an ice comet struck Venus in 2003, stripping the atmosphere from the planet and forming acidic oceans.  Humans then begin terraforming the planet in 2007 and colonizing in 2012.  By 2089, the planet has two rival nations, Ishtar and Aphrodia, and war is looming.  A reporter from Earth for the Independent Press, Susan Sommers, travels to Venus to cover the story of the impending conflict.  She arrives in the capital city of Aphrodia, Io, and while she is meeting with her contact and informant an invasion force from Ishtar pushes into Io and rolls over the resistance.

At the same time, a roller-biking match between the Killer Commandos and the Venus Barbarians is interrupted by the invasion.  The members of the Killer Commandos, including the hotshot mono-biker Hiro Sano, evacuate the stadium and head to their garage to wait out the invasion.  Susan Sommers is picked up by one of Hiro’s teammates, Will, and brought to the garage as well.  The rest of the story revolves around Hiro and the members of the Killer Commandos, Susan Sommers attempt to cover the war, and the efforts of the Aphrodian Freedom Force to repel the Ishtar invasion force.

In North America, the film was released on VHS and LaserDisc in 1993 by Central Park Media and their publishing arm U.S. Manga Corps.  It was released on DVD in 1998 and again in 2003 by U.S. Manga Corps.  The rights were purchased by Discotek, and the film was re-released on DVD in 2012 with improved video from an improved source.  

The Venus Wars (1989)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Listening Chamber: Minibosses - Minibosses (2000)

Video games, as an immersive form of media, tie in graphics, cinematics, sound effects, music, and player input in an attempt to create an environment that absorbs the player in the action and environment of a game.  In the early years of the gaming industry, technological limitations with respect to both audio and video capabilities of systems allowed for only minimalistic approaches to the type of sounds and graphics that a game could contain.  As processing power and storage space increased over time, game developers were able to expand upon what they could offer.  Competition for sales led companies to seek out, train, and develop talented sound programmers and composers to create expansive aural themes and memorable music that would help to attract consumers to their games. 

Many memorable tunes were created in video games spanning all types of genres over the course of many years; indeed, fans of video game music are still listening to the soundtracks of games that were released well over two decades ago from the original writing of this post.  Musically talented fans of video game music learned to recreate the songs and jingles that they enjoyed listening to while playing games.  Some of these video game music enthusiasts grouped together and formed bands with a focus on playing the covers of video game music that they enjoyed.  With the open community structure of the internet, these bands were able to reach a broader audience around the world than they would otherwise have had access to, and fans of game music were able to experience what otherwise would only have been available in local markets.

In this inaugural writing for The Listening Chamber, we’ll take a look at the first album from one of the earlier VGM bands to establish themselves.  The band is Minibosses, and the album is their self-titled Minibosses, self-released in 2000 on Kraid Records.  The group plays instrumental rock covers of the music from now classic games, at this time mostly from games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  On their earlier albums, including Minibosses, the band also included original songs that they had written which are not, interestingly enough, about video games.  Minibosses also includes a cover of the theme song to a 1980s cartoon.

Minibosses - Minibosses (2000)

Minibosses contains 11 tracks – 7 covers and 4 original songs – and runs for roughly 41:45.