19 September 2012

Takin' Care of Business and...

Updates will continue to be light for a while longer. I'll be working overtime every day until the higher-ups tell me otherwise, and I have some additional demands on my free-time that will limit my ability to write about video games to the extent that I'd like.

12 September 2012

Escape From the Lavy

There was not a proper update yesterday because I spent my afternoon walking across town to pick up free a guitar. And what better way to test out a new axe than with melancholy covers of Sonic the Hedgehog songs?

I was hoping to have two updates ready today, but scheduling gets a little hard to predict when you start recording music and video. I've planned for a week of Dreamcast music, though, and all the songs I picked will make it onto Hot Lavy in as timely a manner as reality allows.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that my plans for today's embarrassing Dreamcast Music update have been rudely disrupted.

The bad news is you're getting double updates tomorrow.

While I'd hate to waste one of the bet Dreamcast songs on a half-hearted update, I'd feel terrible if you traveled all the to Hot Lavy for Dreamcast tunes and left empty-handed, so I'm going to spend a few minutes browsing YouTube for music from games I haven't played as a consolation...

This is a cool background track from Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future entitled "Dolphin's Intrigue." It's not the kind of music that demands your attention, but there's certainly a lot going on if you want to pick it apart, especially in the instrumentation. There are so many sounds here that don't typically go together. I think I can hear a sitar, an organ, and something that sounds oddly similar to the Dreamcast start-up, just to name a few.

...And that's all I have. I was really hoping to blow some minds by discovering a secretly-wonderful song from PenPen TriIceLon or Floigan Bros. or something, but, nope, it appears those games have terrible music.

I'll do something extra stupid tomorrow, I swear.

10 September 2012

Samba de Hot Lavy

Samba de Amigo is a great Dreamcast game with great music.

This video is...I don't know, you guys.

Dreamcast Music Week continues tomorrow. I'm so, so sorry.

09 September 2012

Happy Birfday, Dreamcast!

13 years ago today, a great video game system was released in America. (It was a Dreamcast if you didn't know. Maybe you're allergic to that goofy font I use for titles?)

Dreamcast, as we liked to say back in 1999, was da bomb. Like, groovy, baby. It was most Napster, dawg, and it deserves a grand tribute, but I've been kind of a loser on this site lately, so I'm instead going to go with a little tribute. Each day this week, we'll have ourselves a listen to one of the best songs to grace the Caster of Dreams.

To be clear, this week will not be highlighting the Dreamcast's best games, but the Dreamcast's best tunes, although the overlap between the two is pretty remarkable.

We'll start this feature, as is so often the way, with the beginning. Admittedly, it's stretching the definition of the word "song" to include this on the list, but when you're writing a sporadically updated video game site with an average of three hits per month, little things like "consistency" and "making any sense at all" don't seem terribly important. Jackhammer petunia dice.

What are we actually hearing here? Some echoing rain drops? A cymbal crash, slowed and played in reverse? It's remarkable how effectively a few abstract sound effects can create a mood. Every time I listen to this audio and watch that little orange bounce and swirl around, I'm back in 1999, witnessing the future. It's simultaneously traditional and forward-looking. These aren't video game sounds, or the wild techno-laser blasts we loved so much at the turn of the millennium. I think I'm picking up a Japanese vibe, which would be appropriate, but it's nothing overt. There's a sense of vastness and grandeur, but the whole thing is over in less than ten seconds.

We're dealing more in feelings than absolutes, and I think that fits a console called the Dreamcast just right. When I try to describe why I love the Dreamcast, there's always something more to it than I can convey. I can talk about the games, the controller, the modem, the VMU, its place in history, my own nostalgia...there are plenty of concrete reasons why the Dreamcast is remembered fondly more than a decade after going out of production, but the feeling of the Dreamcast - that je ne sais blah blah - goes beyond reason. We Dreamcast nuts are all a little crazy, and I think that's why the system crashed and burned in the marketplace. It was weird, and it did aspire to be great in ways that weren't easily communicable. Financially, Sega needed for it to be a console for everybody, but, fundamentally, it wasn't.

It's unsatisfying as a writer to say something like, "This is good and important and interesting just because it is," but that's the case. This sound was pure magic for me the first time I heard it, and it's remained that way ever since. For most people I know, it has no such effect. You hear this sound that so perfectly encapsulates the Dreamcast experience, and you either get it or you don't, and nothing I write will change that.

Tomorrow: Actual music!

02 September 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (V)

You may have noticed that the four previous installments of Finally! The Seventh Fantasy have dealt with specifics. I haven't made any broad statements about Final Fantasy VII's story, structure, or mechanics, and that's intentional. Reviews and criticism tend to recap the big picture upfront, but that's difficult to while writing about a game as you play it. Now that I've finally played enough to get a sense of what's happening, I can make some effort to break it down for you, dear readers. Today, we'll talk story.

Our adventure begins with AVALANCHE, a radical eco-terrorism group, attacking a few machine gun-toting guards with swords and automatic weapons of their own. To be fair, the dystopian city of Midgar is awfully bleak, but it's a troubling way to be introduced to our supposed heroes. AVALANCHE is a ragtag bunch of infighting guerrillas with their own motivations for fighting. Barret believes the Shinra company is sucking the life out the Planet, which I guess is a thing in this universe, maybe? Cloud is a bad boy who plays by his own rules, as bad boys are wont to do. Biggs and Wedge...want to remind you that Star Wars exists? That's enough reason to risk your life blowing up power plants, right?

Okay, so it's not so difficult to accept that Shinra, a gigantic energy company, could be a little corrupt, or that their plants could cause environmental harm. Let's just go with that, because your first objective as a player is to sneak into a Shinra facility and bomb a generator. It's more comforting to think that you're delivering comeuppance to an Enron or a BP than it is to imagine the lights shutting off at Midgar Medical Hospital because some guy with a gun in place of an arm told you that Mother Earth is crying, man.

After successfully pulling off the mission, the members of AVALANCHE hop aboard a train back to their hideout, and I have to say that I appreciate AVALANCHE's efforts to stay green by riding public transportation. The base is hidden in the basement of dive bar lit by a neon sign that says "Texas," which is a baffling sight in a fantasy world. Is Texas actually a place here? Is Texas a fictional brand of beer, maybe? I can only hope these questions will be answered by the game's end. For now, I am helplessly nonplussed.

The next day, our plucky crew sets out to bomb another generator, and that's exactly where we'll pick up tomorrow, children.