Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Japan's top military band covers Hatsune Miku's Senbonzakura

Nico Nico Douga - Japan's answer to YouTube - is gearing up for Nico Nico Cho Party III, a two day celebration of everything that makes video sharing great.

As you might expect, Cho Party III will feature all sorts of acts pop singers to dance teams alongside video game "let's play"s and speed runs.  But it looks like the top draw might be Japan's top military musical ensemble - the Central Band of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force.

Similar in gravitas to the United States Marine Band, the Self-Defense Force Band's is often booked for prestigious events like welcoming foreign dignitaries or playing high-profile political functions.  They're setting all that aside for Cho Party III, however, and are letting their respective hair down with a medley of covers of popular music.

And one of the songs they're covering is none other than Kurousa-P's Vocaloid anthem Senbonzakura. The results are nothing short of spectacular.

In case anyone needs to hear the original for comparison, the Project Diva F version is here:

While this is the Self-Defense Force Band's first time covering a Vocaloid song, the decision to pick Senbonzakura is a natural one.

For starters, the cherry blossoms have just bloomed in Japan - so it's a good fit in terms of timing - and the quasi-nationalistic lyrics make it a natural choice for a military musical ensemble.

But I don't think they went that deep with the decision.  It's a damn catchy song, and it lends itself to an orchestral cover way more than most people would have ever expected.

Now if only they'd cover Ievan Polka...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Object of geek desire: Wind Waker HD Nendoroid Link

Earlier this fall, Nintendo pulled out the big guns to turn the Wii U's fortunes around.

The end result of this offensive was The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - a remastered version of what many fans consider to be one of the greatest Zelda games of all time.

Wind Waker HD inspired everything from pre-order bonus Ganondorf statues to a special limited edition console - but I think we can all agree that the greatest thing to come from it is this week's object of geek desire.

What you're looking at is the amazing Wind Waker HD Link Nendoroid - or, the greatest thing that a Zelda fan can put on their desk.

Standing at an understated 4" (10cm) high, Link is every bit as pint size as his 'toon counterpart should be, and comes with a variety of props and pieces to help you recreate your favorite poses from the game.

Although why you'd opt for anything other than the one above is well beyond me.

For about $32, you'll get Link, his sword & shield, a heart container, and the pieces you need to create a "smile expression", a "combat expression", and a "nervous expression" - which isn't a bad deal, consider that's way more versatility than you'd get from a $10 Funko Pop! Vinyl figure.

Now, for the downside.  Like all other Nendoroids, this one comes from The Good Smile Company which means it's a Japanese import.  The cheapest I've found it online is 3,250 Yen over at AmiAmi - but they're somewhat sticky about shipping outside of Japan.

Given that this Nendoroid is scheduled for a late-August release, your best bet would be to start saving up now and plan on parting with about $50 or so for it from your local con vendor or anime/comic book shop in mid-to-late September.

No objections here - there's a Phoenix Wright piano arrangements album in the works

The Phoenix Wright series of games have won a devout following from the Capcom faithful for their blend of courtroom drama and brain-teasing investigation puzzles - but one aspect that many players cherish about these unobjectionable games is their smooth, jazzy soundtracks.

Handled by a revolving door of noteworthy VGM composers, the music of the various Phoenix Wright / Ace Attorney games hasn't really cracked its way into the mainstream in the same way that the Objection! meme did when the series was young.  In fact, it seems like the only people who really appreciate - or even recognize - the music of Phoenix Wright are the ones who have played through the games.

That's going to change this week, however, thanks to an upcoming Ace Attorney piano collections album due out on April 23.

Featuring music from the first three games - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice for All, and Trials and Tribulations - the album will feature 19 tracks spread out across soft, piano solo arrangements (11 tracks) and CD original arrangements (8 tracks).

Check out the video below to get an idea of what your ears are in for.

Unfortunately - as there's almost always an unfortunately with these sorts of things - the Phoenix Wright piano collections album is only for sale on the Capcom.co.jp store and it's retailing for 3,000 yen (~$29.50).

Given the popularity of the franchise, however, it's very likely that it'll show up on CDJapan before too long - so, those with less scruples than Mr. Wright will probably be able to download it by the end of May if they don't feel like importing it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

This Kakariko Village cover will help you find your happy place

Most Legend of Zelda fans will smile when they hear the first few notes of Kakariko Village's musical theme.

At once tranquil and frontiersy, it's easy to picture the laid-back lifestyle of the Kakarikans (?) as they go about their days toiling at the windmill, fixing their roofs, and counting their un-smashed pots.

Kakariko Village, then, ranks as one of the most popular Zelda themes of all time - and it's no surprise that it's been covered and remixed many time over.  But YouTube cover artist Supershigi might just win the non-existent award for "Best Vocal and Piano Cover of Kakariko Village" with her arrangement.

Take a few minutes out of your day to let this one sink in, it's really quite pretty.

Supershigi (real name, Laura Shigihara) has a bunch of other great covers up on her YouTube channel including a great vocal arrangement of Fi's Theme and an equally beautiful cover of Ballad of the Goddess.  Outside of Zelda covers, she's put together a great vocal arrangement of Schala's Theme from Chrono Trigger which is well worth a listen.

Finally, as an added bonus for the Plants vs. Zombies fans out there, she has a ton of piano covers of PvZ music which all sound way more beautiful than you'd think possible.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to grab a nice tall glass of lemonade, put Kakariko Village on loop for a couple of hours, and call it a day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lady Gaga's latest opening act is... Hatsune Miku?

Lady Gaga took to Twitter this week to make a special announcement - the opening act for (most) of her upcoming artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball tour will be none other than the first lady of Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku herself.

The Tweet seemed genuinely effusive (if it was written by Gaga and not a handler), and she even posted a clip of Miku singing The World is Mine along with her praise of her "favorite digital pop star".

But there's a few things about the announcement that make it particularly interesting...

...first off, Lady Gaga's ARTPOP tour kicks off on May 4 in Florida which means Miku probably won't get the initial surge of media attention that she would have were she being used to open on the first show of the tour since, historically, most news outlets only care about the first and last shows of any tour.

Secondly, the sixteen shows that Miku will open for are all in the United States or Canada - which is a great way for Vocaloid in general and Miku in specific to get a bump in popularity from the Lady Gaga faithful - though it's a bit strange that she's listed as a co-opener with frequent Lady Gaga collaborator Lady Starlight.

Third and finally, while Lady Gaga's music might not be for everyone's taste, the ARTPOP Ball tour represents a rare chance for Vocaloid fans to catch Miku performing "live".  If you happen to be near any of the 16 shows that have Miku confirmed as an opener - and have a couple of hundred bucks lying around - you might want to jump on this one.

And lest anyone think that Miku is an odd fit for the normally flamboyant Lady Gaga, I'll point out that Miku's worn far, far stranger outfits that Gaga could even dream of.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Korean MMO Black Desert's character creator is a game unto itself

If there's one things Korean studios do very well these days, it's churn out high-quality MMOs the likes of which we can only dream about seeing here in the states.

The latest of these upcoming canticles of eye candy, Black Desert, recently took to its Facebook page to show off its powerful character creation system.

"Powerful" is actually an understatement as you can adjust everything from the shape, color, and orientation of your character's pupils to how evenly (or unevenly) their fat and muscle deposits sit on their face and frame.

There really aren't words to do this thing justice.  Watch the video below and prepare to have your mind blown.

As gorgeous as this all looks, there's absolutely no way in hell that I'll ever sit down to play this one.

I'm terrified at the simple prospect of sitting down to name a character and I regularly burn the first three hours of any MMO-styled game tinkering with how my character looks only to spend the next three second guessing trivial choices that will only ever show up when they're wearing a particular set of armor.

For this reason, Black Desert frightens me more than the prospect of a free-to-play main Final Fantasy title... but it might be worth checking out if only to create characters like these.

Black Desert is due out later this year in Korea for PC - more info on the game can be found here.

If I wind up going back to GSTAR this fall, I might just try to track the team behind this one down - if only to find out how long it took them to put this character creation system together.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Zealand builds, plans to decapitate, giant statue of King Joffrey

The people of Auckland, New Zealand were in for a rude awakening this week when a gigantic, smirking statute of George R.R. Martin's most hated character, King Joffrey, appeared in their gentle cityscape.

But there's good news for the confused Kiwis who woke up to this sneering edifice complex - the statue's already slated for an early destruction.  Or, at least its head is...

That's because - like the dragon skulls on the coast of England - the statue was erected as as part of a clever marketing campaign for Game of Thrones.  Unlike the dragon skulls, fans of the show get to help destroy this one.

Y'see, as the statute gets more popular in Auckland and online, it'll be fitted with a large, medieval-looking winch with a rope around Joffrey's neck along with a placard reading #bringdowntheking.

From that point, the rope will allegedly be pulled a bit tighter every time someone uses the hasthtag #brnigdowntheking - and HBO plans to show the progress of the statue's destruction on the appropriately named website www.bringdowntheking.com where the carnage and violence will be streamed live to the rest of the world via webcam.

Unfortunately, because this is New Zealand we're talking about, the web feed won't exactly be HD since they don't believe in a modern, broadband internet (I shudder to remember how long it took to check my email down there...) - but hey, live statue destruction!

One really has to feel badly for Jack Gleeson - the actor behind Joffrey's smirk - because, from all accounts, he's a really nice guy and doesn't deserve half of the hate that passerbys probably throw his way when they see him on the street.

Still, as an actor, there's no higher praise than eliciting a strong reaction from an audience - and when that audience erects a giant effigy of your character broadcasts its destruction live to fans around the world... well, suffice it to say that you've succeeded in your craft.