Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Block Form

I became something on Sunday. Something I thought I would never be. I am one of those guys with hi-tech cellular telephone.

I thought this day would never come, but here it is...

As a man who enjoys his gadgetry, I am familar with this feeling. It is something of a "honeymoon" phase. Said gadget is given an exorbanent amount of attention. Customization takes place, experimentation with connectivity and carefully handling are all part of the process. I know what comes next though. Day to day usage leads to familiarity, until the very apple of my eye is nothing more then a necessity or a forgotten remnant. It happened with my Ipod Touch. The thing was my night and day. Why I clumsily Im'ed from a prone position when my laptop was just a few feet away still baffles me. When scratches started to appear on the back casing, obscuring my engraved Shostakovich quote, the device became a not the very cherished item it once was, but a simple part of my arsenal.

But I digress...

In order to complete the "tricking out" process, games must be downloaded. Scrolling for reliable puzzle fare led me to one of my all time favorites, and lump of coal of the Sega catalogue, Columns.
(Puyo Pop was included, but I haven't got around to accessing it yet)

Setting down for a play session, I fell right into the old patterns. What really struck me this time was how much I loved the music and how much it embodies the aesthetic of the experience. It got me thinking about other memorable puzzle game music and how important they are to the experience.

The music of Columns is a something of a Bach invention. A cycling polyphonic venture of pure Baroque pleasure. When mixed with the odd ancient egyptian influenced art style, the experience is complete. Forgetting actual gameplay and technique, the musc/art creates a story in itself. It isn't exactly a narrative, it is something else that characterizes the best puzzle games.

As a classic example, Tetris does it correctly. The blocks are all made of unique textures that seem plausible in the mid-century Russian architeture vibe. It goes without saying that the music of Tetris is prefectly suited. "Song A" is probably one of the most well known pieces of video game compositions in history with a understandable appealing nature yet it has a deep rooted sophistication. The rapid arpeggiation and chromatic movement are defined in a prolific virtuoisic Russian mentality. "Song B" sounds like something out of Bartok's Slavic-influence piano works. Seriously, the thing is straight out of Mikrokasmos

Dr. Mario exceeds in a the same form. You have to think about the decisions involved in creating a the art style of Dr. Mario because it really is inspired. If you think about the concept alone, there are thousands of directions the project could have gone in. But as soon as you boot that thing up, you know what you are getting into. The whole game relies on some silly funk ideal that comes through in both the music and design choices. The bad plaid checkboard background synethesized with some sort of neo-future neon piping to border everything.

It's brilliantly scatallogical!

Drown the whole thing in the wittiest, most profoundly confounding funk melodies and textures and the tone is complete. It just revels in it's complete randomness.

It makes me think why an indie favorite like Gunpey didn't tug at my hear strings. The concept is fine, but considering the entierty of the gameplay sort of hinges on the music being an integral part of the experience, it is unlawfully cheesy.

I see Q Ent. as the embodiment of the new era of puzzle games and the conceptual world that they reside in. It is a undoubtedly futuristic approach. Colors are clean and contrasted and the music is tight and electronic. There is a pleasing nostalagia factor involved, a nod to the silliness and depraved design choices of the past, but in this day and age, there is a need to be thoroughly well produced, and the products should adhere to this with both a clearly manipulated strategy and a seemless overall package.

I have another short idea for a post which I should get down by the end of the week. After that, I want to work on something more thorough. Unless something compels me to write sooner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some thoughts on LBP, Patapon, Beck, Brahms etc.

Some thoughtful insight on my recent catalogue...

-I received LBP as a early Chanuka present exchange with my lady friend/fiance. To tell you the truth, I was originally resistant to the idea of LBP. It just seemed like such a polarizing idea for a game that was meant to further community and creation. I just couldn't imagine myself spending a considerable amount of time on a game that was encourages creation instead of narrative. However, I eventually broke down when it become a cultural phenomenon. 

It really is something to behold...

What really had me hooked was the simple "mood" of the whole experience. I loved how they slowly introduce you the games language with that cheeky British voice-over. It is quite quirky and really puts a smile on your face as the narrator details the intricacies of LBP's tools. I have to spend some more time with it before I can make a clear deduction, and if my Internet connection didn't cop out every 10 minutes or so, I would probably really delve into the online play.

-I finally came back to Patapon after pulling my PSP out of "storage". A friend of mine got the new 3000 and it kind of inspired a Renaissance and some thoughts on my current PSP archive. 

Patapon is fun, cute and wholly lovable. It's a game you want to get be a part of and really details the graphical strong points of the PSP unit. It does colors and textures so brilliantly, particularly with games of sharp contrast. 

My only real complaint with the experience is the way it drives playability through incessant replay for the simple purpose of upgrading your forces. I have had similar experiences with games of the same nature. It is in that category games that encourage grinding because of the vision of that next reward. That Castlevania/The World End With You category.

What happens is,  the charm fades away and you are left just feeling the "need" to finish. I chose not to complete the final boss battle, simply because I did not care for the ending and because I felt I had gotten the necessary experience that the game had originally offered.

I look back on it fondly. Even without the completion under my belt.

-Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad is a anime of rare form. I don't even want to genre-fy it by offering it as an anime, because it does so much more for simple serialised drama then it does for anime aesthetic.

If you haven't heard of it, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, is a 26 episode Japanese animated series based on a Shonen Manga and written by Osamu Koboyashi. The story centers around a young Japanese boy of 15 who discovers the raw emotional power of independent rock and music in general while learning to play guitar and becoming part of a rising indie band. If you have ever done any of the previous, the nature of the characters and story will have you waxing nostalgic in the genuine nature that it explores the experience. 

The hunger and innocence in which protagonist Koyuki approaches the guitar is so clearly founded in the realism of the experience. The story intentionally speeds and slows with rarity seen in anime, where often as much as possible will be crammed into overwrought soliloquies of pure drivel while things slowly come to light over a 50 episode arc where a good chunk of the content is hit or miss in regards to its emotional honesty. Beck knows exactly when and where to focus its lens in order to capture the most important parts of the narrative while still the entire arc to flow organically.

It comes highly suggested if you like the careful construction of Shinchiro Watanabe's work or the visionary aptitude of something like Fooly Cooly.

-I am trying to spend my 5 week Christmas vacation getting some music work done on a consistent basis. My main goal is to create a schedule that I am able to stick to which involves specific hours of the day relegated to particular goals. This is partly in reaction to my inability to spend a extended amount of time focused on one task. In this case, I spent 5 solid hours yesterday in the library, partly working on some of my own work (which I am hoping to have performed next semester) and also doing a thorough analysis of Brahms Symphony 3.

What I essentially am doing, is inserting the complete score into a Sibelius file so I can hear how specific sections work independently from the whole piece. My first reaction is to the subtle nature of Brahms' harmonies. I suppose a better knowledge of the orchestral process would allow me further insight, but I initially noticed how carefully contrived choral movement can enhance the melody in a purely understood direction.

The problem, I suppose, is rooted in my lack of direction both artistically and actually. 

I hope that administering my ideas to this blog will help me to create more concrete ideas that I can use in the future.

More to follow soon....

Monday, December 15, 2008

First Strike! 500000 pts

I'm not quite sure what this blog is going to look like. Time will tell what type of content floats to the top but I believe at first I will focus on analytical discussions concerning video games, opera, film, anime and culture at large.

Pretty much your usual pretentious, intellectual eclectic, 20-something dribble.

I'll keep the personal stuff to a minimum, ya know, unless it becomes intriguing.