Friday, December 30, 2011


The new year approaches, and though I am not one to believe in any non-nuclear visions of the apocalypse, I find my very being vibrating with a sense of impending doom. Today I received an email from Gamefly entitled "We've Shipped: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim." Thanks to the efficiency of the USPS, I still have two to three business days before my life is stolen from me. When I was fifteen years old, my life was taken for a summer by a beast known as Final Fantasy VII. When I was 22, I became enraptured with another devil known as World of Warcraft for six solid months. I'm 28 now, and I fear that a new game will steal my life for a period of time longer than is respectable. Skyrim approaches. My question is not which booze to pair with it, but whether there is enough booze to last its duration. And also how I'm gonna pay for it after I get fired for playing Skyrim instead of going to work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Friends Are Awesome

Last night my wonderful friends Carl and Ann Marie gave me this t-shirt that they picked up at Wormhole Coffee on Milwaukee Ave. Given my blog's logo and my last pairing, I thought it would be appropriate to post a picture of it.

Thanks Carl and Ann Marie!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn with Metropolis Coffee Company's Falstaff Winter Blend

 I was excited when I received Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn in the mail a few weeks ago. Several years ago, I played through its predecessor, Path of Radiance, and had a great time doing it. The original Fire Emblem dates back to 1990, and was released only in Japan for the Famicom. Among the most revered turn-based strategy games ever created for consoles, the Fire Emblem series is known for its high difficulty level. Radiant Dawn has you leading an ever-evolving party into battle after battle. If a character dies, they die, and that's that. The enemy AI is ruthless, and making the simplest mistake often times means losing a battle. I remember Path of Radiance as being challenging, but it did not prepare me for the frustrations that Radiant Dawn delivers. The game requires a great amount of concentration.

I beat the first level of Radiant Dawn after failing only once or twice. Then playtime was over. I probably died 12-15 times on the second stage, and things only got worse after that. I was at a loss for what to pair with it, but I happened to come into possession of a bottle of Orin Swift's The Prisoner, a red blend from Napa that lovers of Californian wine seem to go nuts over. The Prisoner is little more jammy, oaky and boozy than I care for, although it did go nicely with a wedge of Colston Bassett Stilton. Well over 15% ABV, The Prisoner failed to help me focus on strategy, and I don't think I beat a single level while drinking it.

Following this frustrating experience, I shelved Radiant Dawn for a while. However, I ended up feeling guilty, and being stuck at home sick this morning, I decided to give it one last chance. Because I was sick and it was before noon, drinking booze was not an option. It occurred to me that (dare I say it?) delicious coffee might actually be a better pairing for the game anyway. So I brewed up a French press of Metropolis Coffee Company's Falstaff Winter Blend, and with fear in my heart, I fired up Radiant Dawn.

Falstaff Winter Blend is a nicely balanced, medium-roast blend. Metropolis does not divulge the origin of Falstaff's beans on their website, unfortunately. It is full-bodied with a subtle chocolatey, nutty aroma and delicious notes of mature plum (that's what those of us in the booze industry call prune). After a few sips of the coffee, I felt reasonably alert and proceeded to vanquish my enemy with relative ease. The level I beat had given me some trouble in the past, and my spirits were greatly heightened after finishing it. I immediately took on the next stage, which proved to be extremely difficult. On my fourth try, I lost the battle because some NPC's on the other side of the map from my party failed to fight off the enemy. This very large and heavy straw broke the camel's back, possibly in several places. The fraction of Radiant Dawn that I played through was a humbling experience, but unfortunately, I don't come close to having the patience to play through it. Some might call me a quitter for drinking stuff that's not booze with this game. Some might call me a quitter for quitting. But at least I'm a caffeinated quitter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sky Kid with Rum and Cokes

My brother, John, came up from Normal, Illinois the other day to look for an apartment closer to civilization. But finding a place to live was not his only mission. No, he suggested that we find a pairing for Sky Kid, everybody's favorite backwards-side-scrolling biplane shooter for the NES. Sky Kid has you flying right-to-left, which is strange, but one gets used to it. The game involves dodging the bullets and shells of planes, boats, and artillery while picking up bombs and dropping them on enemy fortresses.

Oh, but how Sky Kid takes me back! Back to the day after Christmas in 1988. The day before, John and I had struck gold. Santa had dropped off a small television and an I.O.U. for a Nintendo Entertainment System. Apparently even Mr. Claus himself couldn't track down the ragingly popular video game system. It was a rough 24 hours, but the next day my father (acting as an agent for Santa, of course) tracked one down. From my own experiences tracking down a Wii, I can only imagine the relief that he felt. This relief was short-lived, as I recall, because upon bringing the Nintendo home and opening its box, we discovered that unlike every other system that we had heard tales of, this one did not include a Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge or a light gun. It did not include any games at all. I'm sure that the prospect of going back to the crowded shopping mall to shell out another $100 did not thrill my dad, but he did just that, and a couple hours later John and I were the proud owners of The Legend of Zelda AND Sky Kid.
 In the years to come, we played both games for incalculable hours. Since Sky Kid allowed for two players to play simultaneously and was utterly impossible to beat, we probably played it much more than we played Zelda. Back then we were ignorant, and we paired Sky Kid with things like candy because we didn't know how awesome booze was. Because of John's fond memories of trying to stay up past our bedtime to eat candy and play Sky Kid, he suggested we pair it with rum and cokes.

I haven't enjoyed a rum and coke since I was a freshman in college. Not to say I haven't drank a few here and there, I just don't like drinking sugary, vanilla-y mixed drinks as much as I used to. John picked up a bottle of Kozi Bay Gold Rum from the grocery store. Upon tasting it, he readily admitted that he had made a mistake, as it was straight up nasty. Fortunately, combined with a little coke, a good amount of lime and a lot of ice, it was vaguely tolerable. So we sat down with our drinks and, courtesy of Wii's virtual console, took a boozy trip back in time.
 I maintain that little kids are stupid. They don't even know how to walk straight, let alone pilot biplanes properly. However, the sheer amount of time that we put into Sky Kid back in the day must have given us a level of skill that did not come back to us instantaneously. We kind of sucked at the game. The rum and cokes help a little bit at first. The caffeine and sugar eased the tiredness I felt after a busy day at work, and the rum obviously honed my ability to fly a fighter plane. Starting over repeatedly, at first we got better. Then, a couple drinks into it, we started getting worse and not caring any more. This pairing made for a great nostalgic experience, although it might not work out that way for people who didn't spend hundreds of hours playing Sky Kid in their youth.

Thanks to my mother, father, and brother for sharing their Christmas memories.