UNO the ANIME [UNO DX | Sega Saturn]

600px-UnoDX_Saturn_JP_Box_FrontI remember back around the time that Yu-Gi-Oh! was at the peak of its popularity, many years ago now at this point (just one more thing which makes me feel old), people would joke by asking “what if they played UNO instead?” While a humorous anecdote, indeed, I don’t think many of us at the time knew that there actually was something which could be accurately described as “UNO the anime.”

Then again, for anyone outside of Japan, such a thing was not exactly common knowledge as it was a thing only within that country and on the Sega Saturn, where said console had its best numbers in terms of both sales and popularity. Even still, I find the game as a whole to be quite the curiosity; how and why did a Japanese exclusive video game about UNO even get made? I honestly tried to do my best in terms of research but came up mostly empty handed other than learning the fact that there’s also a Japanese exclusive UNO game on the Game BoySuper Famicom, and PS2. Also, there’s apparently a place in Japan called Uno which certainly gave me a lot of false positives in Google searches but I digress. Continue reading

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Spacewave: Musical Constellations for the Mind

For as long as I can remember I have always been completely enamored by space to the point where I’m surprised that I don’t have any permanent neck damage from looking up at the stars so much in my life. However, despite the passion and excitement, my brain could not catch up as science and math were never my strong suits so, needless to say, NASA was never going to come calling for me.

In many ways, there’s a cruel irony in being alive during this time in history. We have achieved space travel, although limited, but again it’s not for everyone nor is it at all that common. None of this was possible 50 years ago, sure, but will it be even more possible in another 50 years? Perhaps, although by then many of us will be either too old to experience it or we simply won’t be around at all.

Therefore, like most people except for those lucky few astronauts, I am left with nothing but science fiction and my own imagination. I still have vivid memories to those carefree days of my youth, back before I had to worry about a job, bills, and other responsibilities which tied me down to Earth. Summer vacations were spent pulling all-nighters, watching science fiction movies and anime, playing similar video games, all while staring out my window at the night sky and wondering what it would be like to actually go up there myself.

It would often be bittersweet as I’d watch the sun begin to rise, the stars and the moon slowly fading away, as I too would drift off at that point to a dream state where what I had just experienced second hand would now feel so real before eventually waking up back down on Earth. It’s an itch that can’t be scratched, a fleeting feeling which briefly comes and goes, so it is that some of us hold on so tightly to those alternate avenues which can only simulate the experience.

“Spacewave,” a subgenre of synthwave, is a recent example of this… Continue reading

Growing Up in Lovecraft Country

Horror, true gut-wrenching and soul-crushing horror, is the absolute absence of hope and safety. As I mused in a previous article, about the unnatural ambiance of synthetic horror, this often takes the form of the unknown and unfamiliar. However, and perhaps somewhat ironically, it’s often when we feel at our safest that we’re actually at our most vulnerable and therefore more susceptible to the horrific consequences of our follies. After all, there’s a reason as to why the most successful experiences in horror are those which tend to cut the closest to home.

That is partly why, to this day, the opening sequence to Tales from the Darkside continues to haunt me; the idyllic countryside of dirt roads, covered bridges, rivers, and woods reminds me so much of where I grew up. It was my first taste, at a very young age, that something so beautiful and serene in the light could turn so sinister and menacing at night. Combine those haunting visuals with that mental anguish, then pepper in a creepy narration with equally freaky music, and you’ve got the recipe for something which scarred me for life as a child growing up in New England. I never again looked at the world the same… Continue reading

When Fans Make Their Own Versions

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I’ve interviewed, or just casually chatted with, enough synthwave producers over the years now to come to the conclusion that a lot of them were inspired by the synth-laced soundtracks of old movie soundtracks, namely those from John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and Goblin just to name a few. Therefore, it should come to no real surprise that there is a whole subgenre of synthwave wherein those producers make “faux-soundtracks” to movies that don’t actually exist, hoping that their soundscapes can fill in the blanks for the theater of the mind.

Now, before you think you know where I’m going with this, I’m not actually going to go into an article about all that because Bandcamp did a pretty good job (although I do think they left out a lot of other great examples). Instead, I would like to use this article to talk about a phenomenon in the synthwave scene that I feel is not as common but is just as interesting: the soundtrack replacement. Continue reading

Final Fantasy VIII Saved My Life

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Final Fantasy VIII is my favorite video game of all time. That statement, right there, can elicit a variety of responses and over the years I’ve heard it all. There are those who will decry such an opinion, ready to cite all the reasons as to why I am wrong for actually having a personal opinion on something. There are others who will simply nod their heads in agreement, for they understand. While others will just shrug their shoulders and say, “whatever.”

Do I think that Final Fantasy VIII is a perfect game? No, of course not, but to paraphrase the immortal words of Kino from Kino’s Journey, “Final Fantasy VIII is not perfect, therefore it is.” Yes, drawing magic in Final Fantasy VIII can be a bit tedious for sure, the junction system is no doubt rather broken not to mention easily exploitable, and the story is a little convoluted at times but none of that means anything to me on a personal level because the game saved my life.

Continue reading

The Unnatural Ambiance of Synthetic Horror

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I firmly believe that, when it comes to horror, less is always more because no matter what you’re presented with it’s nowhere near as terrifying as what your own mind can conjure up in its stead. Now, when it comes to video games, sound design is the true key component when trying to make a top tier horror title.

That said, I’ve been playing a lot of the Resident Evil 2 remake since it came out and, other than being blown away by the game visually, I really have to hand it to the sound design for heightening the tension. There’s nothing more dreadful than entering a room you’ve never been in before, hearing something shuffling around a corner and not knowing what’s there; other than maybe hearing the heavy footsteps of Mr. X somewhere near you and coming ever closer to you.

However, I have to say that there’s really only one aspect of the game which has left me feeling rather underwhelmed if not even entirely disappointed: the music. This might sound weird, but I found the music to be a bit too “modernized” for my tastes in terms of feeling too far polished. The music is not as gritty and/or raw as the original soundtrack, which I think really comes down to something being said about the progression in recording and listening technology actually taking away the organic nature of music, like the pops in vinyl or the hiss in a cassette tape being replaced by nothing but digital silence. Continue reading

“Night City Terror” by Fatalvector

a0093791817_10The debut album from Fatalvector could not have come out at a better time; the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and the temperature is going down. This album has therefore become just the right mood music for these cold dark nights, especially when it rains, as it instills within you an equal mix of creepy vibes and blood pumping beats. Plus, as someone who has followed Fatalvector since they only had one track on SoundCloud, it’s fantastic to see them get to this point.

“Not Dead Yet” by Wolfman Muscleford

a0676532284_10While not the actual intention, “Not Dead Yet” feels like the long lost soundtrack to a forgotten action game of an earlier generation regardless. There are songs on here which will make you paranoid to turn a corner, unsure of the horrors that might lurk behind them, and then there are songs on the other hand which will get you so fired up that you just throw caution to the wind and turn that corner by going in all guns blazing.

Simply put: this album is a non-stop thrill ride. Buy your ticket.

“Midnight Tentacles” by Big Lich

a2586619619_10Big Lich has always been quite the necromantic beast to try and categorize (which isn’t a bad rap as they do their own thing and they do that thing pretty damn good) but if I were to actually try and describe their sound I’d be hard pressed not to call it akin to old-school RPG boss battle music. Combining a special blend of chiptunes, darksynth, and power metal, Big Lich is like a hidden musical treasure just waiting to be discovered by a curious dungeon delver in the mines of musical madness.