Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Royal Stockholm Philharmonic performs an inspired FFVI soundtrack arrangement

Strange as it might seem, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestra is quite familiar with the music of Final Fantasy.  As the symphonic group featured on the first two Distant Worlds albums, it's even fair to say that Stockholm's own is the premiere group of Final Fantasy musicians in the west.

And the best part is, they're still not done with the music of Nobuo Uematsu.

Earlier this week, the Philharmonic posted a new arrangement of Final Fantasy VI's iconic soundtrack titled "Final Fantasy VI: Born with the Gift of Magic" which features a pretty noticeable lack of poetry.

What it features instead is an amazing tour of the major melodies, leitmotifs, and themes from the sprawling 16-bit RPG from "Kefka's Theme" to the lesser known "Esper World".

And best yet, it all fits into a slender, 18-minute arrangement.

If you want to watch the Stockholm Philharmonic perform the song live, you can do so at their website.

For those curious readers out there, "Born with the Gift of Magic" was preformed as part of the Final Symphony concert series - which has yet to land on North American shores.

With any luck, western (western) fans will get the chance to hear this song, and the many others from the tour, performed live - probably by the National Symphony Orchestra, given the clout that the tour's commanded to date.

But until that chance comes, well... at least we've got the video clip.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Grant Kirkhope releases free 160+ track Banjo-Kazooie album - this man should be knighted

...or, I dunno, maybe sainted?

You might not recognize the name Grant Kirkhope right away, but chances are good that you're familiar with his works if you ever owned a Nintendo 64.  The legendary Rare composer scored the iconic OSTs for Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64 (among many other titles) - and left an indelible mark on the collective memories of millions of gamers around the world.

Recently, Kirkhope began a one-man campaign to get his music into the hands of fans again when he noticed someone selling a copy of his Perfect Dark soundtrack on ebay for $500.  Incensed at the price inflation, Kirkhope releases three of his most famous soundtracks for the low, low price of free.

As if that wasn't cool enough, he then went ahead and released the soundtrack for Donkey Kong 64 for free as well.

Now Kirkhope is going back to one of his most beloved projects - the soundtrack for the quirky 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie - which he's remastered as a 164-track "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" edition.

Oh yeah - and it's absolutely free, too.

The incredible soundtrack contains everything from full tracks used in the game to 3-4 second long sound effects that would absolutely awesome ringtones.

As always, you can pay whatever you'd like for the soundtrack - which means, of course, that you can pick it up for free.

Considering how comprehensive this one is, however  - it even contains the lobby/central hub versions of the various game worlds' themes! - you might want to find it in you to send a few bucks to the man who's single-handedly trying to bring mid-90s VG music back into the mainstream.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This Super Mario Lego lamp is all the lamp you'll ever need

The past decade or so has proven that great things generally happen when the worlds of Lego and video games come together, but - sadly - these collaborations rarely make it into the physical world.

Sure - you can find Lego Star Wars swag at just about any Lego store in the world, but it's almost impossible to find official Lego tie-ins with the likes of established game franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., or Final Fantasy.

The key word there, however, is "official".  Once you take that pesky qualifier away, you open yourself up to outstanding works of art like this.

What you're looking at is the amazing work of the amazingly named Etsy artist PugsnLegos - a Mario Bros. themed Lego lamp.

Planned and assembled by hand out of 100% pure, street-legal Legos, this super sweet lamp features a 1 Up Mushroom, super star, regular mushroom, and Fire Flower on the lampshade with accents in translucent blocks to let light shine through. The base, meanwhile, is festooned with 8-bit renditions of Mario and Luigi that'll hit you right in the nostalgia feels.

Unfortunately, this lamp will also hit your checkbook in its feels. As a one-of-a-kind piece, it carries a bit of a hefty price tag - namely, $600 (+$40 or so for shipping).

While that price is a bit on the high side for a desktop lamp, it's a bargain compared to PugsnLegs other listed Super Mario floor lamp...

...which will only set you back a cool $2,200.

If you've got that kinda cash lying around and don't have pesky things like rent or mortgage payments to worry about, then head over to his Etsy store and check out the rest of his amazing creations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Attack on Titan might end in three years - fan across the world weep, wonder what's in that damn basement

There's a bit of good news / bad news in today's post. Over the weekend, Attack on Titan's creator Hajime Isayama revealed that that manga will probably end in three years' time.

On one hand, this is incredibly sad news for dedicated superfans hoping for a titanic grand, sweeping storyline full of flashbacks and ancillary plot arcs. On the other, it might be best for Attack on Titan to maintain its "tight pace" and not verge into the 75+ volume range of some other manga I could name.

Frustratingly, Isayama's announcement gave no indication of when the next anime chapter of AoT (or SNK, you prefer) will arrive - which is sad news, no matter how you look at it since it's inarguably one of the greatest anime to make its way to the airwaves since Evangelion.

I admit, I was late to the SNK party since it looked like typical Shōnen fare where an easily overlooked teenage boy makes up for his lack of intelligence and abilities by yelling really loudly and charging forward regardless of what anyone tells him to do. Ichigo Kurosaki's been working that angle in Bleach for the better part of 13 years, and he's hardly the first to do so.

But then I sat down and watched Attack on Titan and was completely blown away. Not by its story (which is, again, nothing new for the genre) but for its amazingly progressive treatment of women.

See that bloodstain on the tree? That was a female soldier, and it's absolutely great that she's dead.


Because Isayama doesn't give women in Attack on Titan's military any special treatment. They're not mollycoddled or shielded from nasty deaths by their stalwart male compatriots. They fight, die, and have heroic moments of kickassery just like the men do - and fittingly, members of both genders meet gruesome ends with alarming regularity.

He's a real maneater 

This equal treatment of both genders in the face of death shouldn't come as a surprise, considering how uniform Isayama makes the military's, err, uniforms.

Male and female members of the military wear the exact same outfits, and there are no exposed midriffs, fetishistic rocket heel boots or super-short, super-cute skirts on the women of SNK's military.

They dress identically to the menfolk, and that's a breath of welcome fresh air in a genre that's gotten away with some pretty liberal definitions of "uniforms" in the past.

That can't be regulation...

In fact, the uniform appearance of the military in Attack on Titan has even allowed Isayama to work in a non-gendered character (who is, for better or worse, rendered as female in the anime) - which is something that would be either impossible, or treated as a punchline, in a similar anime.

Anyway, rambling aside - if you haven't watched Attack on Titan yet, get your ass over to Netflix, Crunchyroll, Hulu, or just about any other online streaming service and give its 25 episodes a watch. Chances are it'll restore your faith in the state of modern anime.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Harry Potter professor tackles vampires with chemistry - in Nebraska

Two years ago, the University of Nebraska's amazingly bright chemistry professor Dr. Rebecca Lai concocted a fun Harry Potter-themed chemistry class which aimed to bring the joys of science to a broader audience.

The class in question, "A Muggle's Guide to Harry Potter's Chemistry (Chem 192H)" was what you might call necessary, since chemistry is rarely a subject that most people - Muggle or otherwise - readily associate with fun.

It was also a complete and utter smash hit with students, and Lai's hoping to offer it again in the future. Yet the future is nothing if not uncertain, and who knows how relevant Harry Potter will be in a semester or two's time (pretty relevant, I hope!)

But you know what's relevant now?  Vampires. And Lai's looking to bring them into her next big lecture.

Just in time for Halloween, the University of Nebraska is pitting vampires, zombies, and hashtags against one another in a #TeamZomB v. #TeamVamp throwdown.

Dr. Lai's taking the side of the fanged crusaders, 'natch, with a reprisal of a talk she gave back in April called Interview with a Vampire - Decoded by Scientists which examined the scientific basis for vampire mythos.

Lai will be the first to admit that there's no scientific evidence for vampires (sorry, Team Edward!) but she'll also admit that there's plenty of  compelling scientific evidence for the fabled aversion to sunlight and craving for blood that many of us associate with the urbane undead.

If you happen to be on the University of Nebraska campus this fall, you can catch Dr. Lai square off against Doctor Raychelle Burks on October 29 to see which scientist presents the most compelling case for the supernatural. If you, like me, don't live anywhere near Nebraska, you can either follow the debate on Twitter or wait for the video to be posted after editing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't be a fool - get your emper-ass in gear and check out these Zelda tarot cards

Way back in May - which feels like it was forever ago - I posted about an eye-catching set of Legend of Zelda-themed tarot cards.

They were admittedly pretty nifty (how can you not like that card art for The Moon?), but limited as a functional deck since the artist only whipped up cards for the major arcana.

Those of you who didn't go through a goth phase in high school might not understand why that's a big deal, but it basically works out to trying to play a round of blackjack with a deck made up only of face cards.

Seems like a problem, right?

Well, not so much any more - the artist behind the cards stopped by to say that she's officially dealing with full decks now.

What you're looking at looking at is a full, 78-card tarot card deck that's completely decked out with some of the greatest hand-drawn Zelda art to grace a fortunetelling table.

But Etsy seller Pixel Perks isn't just offering the deck on its own - she's tossed in a few neat extras like 9 information cards and 3 blank cards for you to festoon with your own art if, for some reason, you'd prefer to have Midna stand in for Princess Zelda as The Empress.

The full deck will set you back $40 (+$5 for shipping), but if you're tempted to go à la card carte you can buy either the major arcana or minor arcana separately for $20 each.

No matter what you decide to do, you should absolutely check the minor arcana out since Pixel Perks didn't skimp on the art for the "lesser" cards. There's some great Wind Waker designs going on in that set, although I personally would've put Tingle on the Devil card myself.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

This Dragon Quest slime nightlight makes it cool to be afraid of the dark again

Fans of Square Enix's Dragon Quest RPG franchise are dealing with a double dose of bad news this week.

First, Siliconera reported from PAX that SE isn't too optimistic about bringing Dragon Quest VII to the 3DS-owning audeince in the west - and then Sony announced a special edition Metal Slime PlayStation 4 exclusive to Japan to go along with the release of Dragon Quest Heroes.

Sucks all around to disciples of Erdrick in the west, right? Well, yeah - it kinda does... but there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

And it's this incredibly cute, undeniably geeky, Dragon Quest nightlight.

Taking its inspiration from the iconic slimes which have engendered everything from steamed buns to super-exclusive restaurants in Japan, this nightlight chases away all the boojums and terrors of a dark room with the a placid, reassuring smile.

Better still, its modest height of ~8" makes it easy to fit into any room's decor - although it's probably designed to be a super sweet desk / entertainment center accessory.

Normally at this point, I tack on an "unfortunately..." that has to do with shipping restrictions or ridiculous prices - but this adorable little lamp only costs $19.90 over at with shipping costing somewhere around $12 (depending on how impatient you are) to the US.

Sure, that bring the total for a single lamp to $40 when all is said and done - but what the hell else were you going to spend that $40 on anyway? Not Dragon Quest VII for the 3DS, that's for damn sure!