Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Catalunya is Awesome

I'm sitting here after a hard day's work drinking a 2009 Vinos Piñol Terra Alta Ludovicus. It makes me think about how awesome Catalunya is. In 2008 I had the privilege of spending a few days in Barcelona, and it is one of the most astoundingly beautiful places I have ever visited. Delicious food, amazing paintings, and above all else, the awe-inspiring architecture of Antoni Gaudi really struck a chord with me. Barcelona was the first stop on my tour of Spain, and it took me a while to get a sense for where and when to find good food and drink. Due to this, and to the Euro being pretty strong at the time, I didn't drink much memorable Catalan wine while I was there.

The Terra Alta I'm drinking at the moment is delicious, and it brings to mind another gift that Catalunya has given to the world: Vega. Vega, of Street Fighter II fame, is not my favorite character in the game. However, I have on many occasions enjoyed performing repetitive wall jump-swan dive-body slams on opponents who found themselves helpless in my handsome, be-clawed grasp. I think that a good Priorat might be just the thing to accentuate my smugness during such a battle. Come next paycheck, I'm going to haul the old SNES up from Hyde Park, buy a bottle of Camins del Priorat, and find some sucker who insists on playing as Zangief.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reflections on Super Metroid, Upcoming Posts, and More!

I'd like to start out this post by thanking Tiana, and to a lesser extent, Jason, Zack, and Anonymous, for their contributions to last week's live-blogging. And thanks to everybody who tuned in to check it out. It was awesomely fun. I've played through Super Metroid in one sitting 8 or 10 times, and this was surely the most enjoyable of them all. Bells Hop Slam, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and my own homebrew were all consumed during my destruction of Mother Brain. Out of the three, I thought that the wild ale that I brewed in December of 2009 was probably the best match for the game. The beer is along the lines of Orval. It's relatively lightness and funky flavor made it appropriate for my three-hour tour through the depths of the planet Zebes. The other beers were good, but they dulled the fantastically sharp Super Metroid-playing edge that I have honed over the years. It's not as if I died at any point (I did come close once or twice), but my skills were certainly not at their peak.

I'm excited about a few different upcoming posts. Mafia II deserves another chance with another Sicilian red. Faxanadu recently became available on the Wii Virtual Console, and I'll be giving that a whirl. I'm particularly looking forward to finding a pairing for We Did It Games's Path-o-Gen. Wayne, an old friend of mine, is one of the founders of We Did It, and I'm hoping to get his opinion on a pairing for the game.
The Art of Pairing Video Games and Booze is also going to be taking a temporary departure from its typical content to review The Greatest Bits' new album, Mega Man 2. I've asked Nanne of The Greatest Bits what to drink while I listen to the album, and I think it will make for a good evening.
I'll start tackling the above metaphorical fullback next week. In the next few nights, I'll be practicing hard for my upcoming show with The Bomb Sawyers at Miska's (2156 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago) this Saturday, March 26th. We'll be playing with Erik Cameron, Steven Gilpin, and architecture. The fun will get started around 8pm. The show is free, and it's going to rock.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Super Metroid and Bell's Hop Slam: LIVE!!!

Welcome one and all to a sensational live event! I'll be playing through Super Metroid and drinking Bell's Hop Slam while Tiana blogs about it and drinks Hop Slam and Jason trolls Tiana's posts and drinks Hop Slam. Will I beat Super Metroid before I pass out from exhaustion? Will a surprise guest grace us with its rare and much-
sought-after deliciousness? Keep checking back in and find out. I'm going to hand things over to Tiana now. Live-blog away, Tiana!

12:25am: finish time: 2:29. "Not a personal best by any means, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. you can quote me on that."

12:23am: adorable animals freed, which is really the whole point of this game

12:21am: Giant Metroid dies, but not before bestowing rainbow powers all over this piece. Mother Brain suffers Samus Araneurysm

12:19am: Return of the giant Metroid!

12:18am: Everybody knows she's a m****rf***king monster!

12:17am: Mother Brain freed from her fishtank
12:16am: Samus follows the path carved by the mysterious giant Metroid. All enemies have disappeared. Crateria lays silent.

12:13am: A giant Metroid grabs Samus and eats her down to the bare nub of life!

12:10am: First Metroid sighted, dealt with

12:08am: Samus runs down a misty hall of spaceship wreckage to a room where a golden statue stands. It is forged of four beasts, each with a jeweled eye. One by one, the statues crack and turn to stone. The stone sinks deep into the trembling ground....

12:05am: the numbers game: 10 energy tanks. 2 reserves. 110+ missiles. 25 super missiles. 20 super bombs. screw attack. etc.

12:02am: Today is a great day for Super Metroid.

11:58pm: In some ways, Ben feels that he's playing the game with more complete clarity than ever before.

11:57pm: If you play this game right, every five or ten minutes you get a power-up or take an elevator, which makes it in some ways the ultimate drinking game.

11:56pm: I can't even describe how smooth this one move just was so I'm not even going to try.

11:54pm: Jason describes his live-trolling as 'forsplicable.'

11:52pm: 'Power bombs don't kill people. People kill people. And Samus kills everythang.'

11:50pm: On another personal note, my right eye is getting really blurry. This live-blogging thing needs health insurance.

11:44pm: Vanquished.

11:43pm: The Chronicles of Ridley:

11:41pm: Parents, now is the time to put your children to bed, as the massacre to follow is intended for mature audiences only. Only carnage can come of this.

11:36pm: Still in Ridley's lair. Ridley's still laying low.

11:31pm: Classic Metroid switcheroo. One of those statues that's been holding your presents this.whole.time comes to life and starts bombing everything in sight! This betrayal marks the beginning of the end.

11:29pm: music gets ominous.

11:22pm: "A Mr. Shout-Out to Mr. Taco for laying a strong foundation for this game. You can quote me on that." - Ben

11:21pm: FKBS is fairly weak at 11.5%

11:20pm: space jump in tha house! 'i'll be flipping all over the place. you can quote me on that.' - Ben


11:13pm: It might be the powerful alcohol, or the trace amounts of caffeine, or the intense hit of flavor in this beer, but Ben is getting his second wind

11:10pm: We discuss the NCAA results to date. Jason has Morehead State in the Sweet Sixteen so he's acting all smug. I'm 10 out of 15 in both leagues.

11:04pm: "Damn. It must be so hard to learn a game like this that has so many secrets," Jason says. "Yeah dawg. That's why it's raw," Ben replies.

11:01pm: Ben uses the grappling beam for underwater acrobatics. Jason chastises him for his malingering.

10:58pm: FKBS is 'pretty good. Beer's pretty fresh but the coffee flavor tastes stale.'

10:57pm: Eerily silent glass tube, shattered

10:55pm: On personal note, this Wildebeest is pairing remarkably well with this slice of carrot cake.

10:52pm: Stats update - 5 energy tanks. 1 reserve. 85 missles. 10 super missles. 10 power bombs. grappling beam. charge beam. spazer. wave beam. ice beam. about to get spring ball.

10:49pm: OMG VIP! Our secret guest is revealed: Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout!!!! Released earlier today, people across the nation are straight.up.flipping.out about this beer. There's been screaming in the streets. Rending of garments. Reverence. Exctasy. This is a truly landmark moment for Video Games and Booze and indeed for the whole world, as tonight's is the first recorded pairing of FKBS with SMetroid EVER!!! Stay tuned.

10:41pm: gravity suit. heavy shit

10:38pm: Ben brainstorms other things that could go well with Super Metroid:
  • Boulevard Saison Brett
  • A nice white Bordeaux
  • Pisco Sour
[All consumed in moderation, of course. Drink responsibly, kids.]

10:33pm: In honor of St. Patrick's Day, it's the leprechaun video. Who all seen the leprechaun say YEAH!

10:28pm: Review of current pairing (Wildebeest): "This isn't the last one, but it's also a little lighter and more refreshing. Also, the yeast are kind of like little Metroids." - Ben

10:26pm: everybody says Phantoon is so boss, but I'm pretty sure he just got owned:
10:20pm: aaaaaand we're back in a hallway.

10:20pm: We're outside! (in the game I mean, not in real life) (but for the record Chicago was beautiful today)

10:16pm: For the record, Jason is waaaaaay worse at live-trolling than I am at live-blogging. That's not a burn. That's just truth.

10:13pm: grappling beam: so extreme.

10:09pm: Ben pops an ibuprofen. Best pairing of the evening so far.

10:04pm: while we wait:

10:01pm: He found a way back. In the meantime, we've cracked a bottle of the Wildebeest homebrew. Reports to come.

9:59pm: oh CRAP! Ben needed some kind of super-bomb? But he forgot and went to get the grapple instead and now he's lost and doesn't know what to do. Contemplating Samus-cide as a solution.

9:56pm: Jason admits he can't troll in a vacuum.


9:52pm: Ben uses his clout as CEO of Video Games and Booze to make Jason get us more beers. Well played, Ben. Well played.

9:49pm: Ben is momentarily flustered by an enemy in the bubble chamber. Then he finds a secret passageway.

9:42pm: Fun facts (Wikipedia-styles): Super Metroid, released in 1994 by Nintendo, was the third in the Metroid series. It's also one of few early Nintendo games not designed by Miyamoto. Even after watching Ben play this game at least 4 times, I was still surprised to discover that the plot involves rescuing a baby Metroid from Space Pirates! Samus apparently imprinted on that Metroid-lette in an earlier episode? James notes that this edition includes 'strong maternal themes.'

9:35pm: They make fun of me for thinking 10% isn't that strong. In my head, I make fun of them for being wimps.

9:32pm: We consider the ABV of Hopslam. Though it tastes fairly strong, it's actually only 10%. Great for extended gaming.

9:29pm: Jason's failing his trolling duties cuz he's too busy live-trolling Ben (IRL). Latest zinger: "This is like amateur hour. Super Amateuroid."

9:24pm: WTF is a spazer that's not even a thing

9:24pm: Going down to Norfair. Gonna get some jumping boots.

9:21pm: This dude:

9:19pm: First mini-boss - that giant Venus flytrap-looking emm-effer.

9:14pm: Ben disagrees with my judgment, saying that he can sip every time he gets a power-up, which is like a built-in celebration.

9:13pm: I'd like to comment on the pairing at hand. I'm not sure any drink that requires somewhat constant attention, like a cold beer, is great for a game like this. Tooling on aliens seems to be taking a lot of Ben's attention while the beer sweats, alone, on the table.

9:07pm: Morphing Ball! And missiles!

9:03pm: "So far the pairing is working out wonderful because everything about it is wonderful. It's not the freshest Hopslam, but it was in my fridge all along. And you know. That counts for something. It preserves the flavor." - Ben

9:00pm: "Goooooooooooooooooooo!!!" - Ben

8:59pm: Hopslams are distributed. Emotions are high.

8:56pm and 30 seconds: he put it down again and walked away. So far, so thrilling.

8:56pm: Oh shit Ben just picked up his WiiMote for the first time!!!!!

8:55pm CST: Thanks Ben! I'm honored to be part of this illustrious event. I shall strive to do my best.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mafia II and Cusumano Nero D'Avola

When the scene pictured above showed up in Google Image Search, I knew it was the one for me to use in this post. Mafia II has thus far consisted of a lot of driving to Joe's house and then driving home. And then driving to Joe's house. And then driving home. And then stealing some things, and then driving to Joe's house, and then driving home. And then going to prison for 6 years, scrubbing toilets, and fighting guys in the shower in order to avoid being sodomized. I say all of this in utter seriousness. There have been a handful of occasions where I have enjoyed running around and shooting at rival mobsters, but the aforementioned "missions" have probably made up at least two thirds of the portion of the game that I have played through so far. I do admire the game for its breaks from convention, contrived as they may be.

Perhaps a less conventional pairing would have been more appropriate for a game that is, at times, surprisingly off-the-wall. I have written before about both avoiding and embracing obvious choices when pairing video games with booze, and this time I chose to embrace the incredibly obvious. Earlier tonight, when sitting down to my fourth or fifth session with Mafia II, I opened a bottle of Cusumano Nero D'Avola. This fairly ubiquitous Sicilian red has a boozy aroma of cherry hard candy. In addition to this sour fruitiness, it tastes of earth and smoke, with liberal tannic bitterness to balance it out. It reminded me that any wine that I normally wouldn't drink without food to buffer it probably shouldn't be paired with a video game unless I have food on hand to buffer it. Unfortunately, I ate all of my leftover cassoulet before I started playing Mafia II, so I was out of luck.
This pairing was obvious, though not as superficial as some that I have described in the past. Mafia II, unlike many video games, immerses the player in a relatively real and specific culture. Thematic cultural specificity in video games can be a great aid when it comes to finding worthwhile booze pairings, though it can also be a red herring. In this case, I'm afraid it was. Red wines upwards of 14% alcohol by volume usually fail to bolster my resolve when playing games that involve the occasional pressings of buttons to scrub blood out of carpets or load crates onto trucks. These activities may be important for the dedicated mafioso. But just as I prefer my stomping on turtles and traveling through plumbing to be filtered through a colorful, fun-filled interface, there are reasons why I have not tried to join the mob in real life.
I plan to keep playing through Mafia II. If I find a better pairing, I'll be sure to write about it. But there is something far more important going down on this very blog tomorrow night. For the first time, an epic video game and booze pairing will be live-blogged. It will start at 9PM CST. I hope you can make it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Upcoming Live-Blogging Event!

In order to rinse the filth of Metroid: Other M (maybe that's a little harsh) from my soul, I feel compelled to play through Super Metroid. I have done this in one sitting a few times in the past, and it's always a lot of fun. I'm going to be pairing it with Bell's Hop Slam, and maybe a second beer as well. To make this pairing even more exciting, it will be live-blogged. My friend Tiana has borne witness to my victories over Super Metroid more times than anyone else, and she'll be doing most of the actual writing. I was going to try to write and play at the same time, but that would be ridiculous. To add yet another twist (I'm totally the M. Night Shyamalan of video game and booze blogs), my good buddy Jason has volunteered to live-troll Tiana's posts. It's going to be a lot of fun, and it should be happening on Thursday night. Let's say around 9pm CST.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Farewell, Other M

I tried to give Other M one last chance, but I just couldn't take it any more. It won me over a bit when a giant fire lizard quite suddenly jumped out of some lava and swallowed me whole, giving me no chance to fight my way out of its stomach. Too little, too late, unfortunately. It's on to Mafia II and Faxanadu. And booze.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Metroid: Other M with Salty Dogs

The Metroid franchise is one that I hold near and dear to my heart. Super Metroid may be my favorite game of all time, and every other entry in the series that I have encountered has seemed pretty damn good as well. At least until now. I don't want to write a rambling review of Metroid: Other M. I'm not here to critique games, and I haven't even come close to finishing this one. I'll try to reserve judgement in this post.

Metroid: Other M is the most recent Metroid game. It departs from the Metroid Prime formula to bring an odd mixture of fixed-perspective semi-side-scrolling action with first-person shooting, third-person exploration, and a slew of other hyphenated descriptors. The game also gives a voice, for the first time, to Samus, one of the most revered video game heroines of all time. Apparently the tough-as-nails, take-no-shit variety of heroine is played out. It turns out that Samus is actually an introspective and vaguely whiny hero. But I'm not here to criticize. I am here to drink, and the ballsy new angle of this new Metroid game makes me want to do just that. Given my attitude towards this game and the slim pickens I had in my fridge, I decided that what we needed here were some salty dogs.

I don't think that I'd ever made a true salty dog before tonight. I shook up some Seagram's gin (I'm a high roller) and grapefruit juice and dumped it over rocks in a salt-rimmed glass. For my second salty dog I used bitters, which added a little something. The drink is refreshing and somewhat light-hearted. It eased my pain a little bit while I played through Other M. When I would get to one of the various parts of the game where the camera suddenly snaps into first-person perspective and stay there while an inexplicably paralyzed Samus scans the room for about 5-10 minutes until she finds a painfully minute clue that helps to advance the so-far tiresome plot, the salty dog was there for me. Of course, many other boozes would have been adequate in this situation. I would like to give Metroid: Other M a fair shot, but I'm not sure my liver can take it.