Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mega Man 2 by The Greatest Bits: A Boozical Review

Like a beautiful tree, The Art of Playing Video Games and Booze must sometimes branch out in new and wonderful directions. A while back The Greatest Bits, a self-described "Dutch dj/producer inspired by video games from the 80's and 90's" sent me a copy of his latest album "Mega Man 2." The Greatest Bits describes his Mega Man 2 album as "'chiptune crossover' style, combining 8-bit retro-style sounds with real instruments of the 21st century." It consists of remixes of the 13 songs found in the various levels (and intro and credits) of Mega Man 2. The original versions found in the game are awesome. It is clear that composer Takashi Tateishi set out to create excellent music, as opposed to excellent 8-bit video game music. The quality of music found in NES games varies wildly, and Tateishi's makes the bulk of it look pathetic compared to his work.

In his Mega Man 2 album, The Greatest Bits fleshes out and the game's score. Drums and guitar enhance the already-rocking music that has driven me to the defeat of Dr. Wiley so very many times. Multitudes of effects are employed and songs are re-sequenced to accentuate their grooves and elevate their dramatic dynamics. But let's get down to the details about some individual tracks. Tiana, who you all know from Smoking Zora and my own ultimate Super Metroid live-blog experience, stopped by to weigh in on Mega Man 2. I had previously asked The Greatest Bits what kind of booze I should drink while listening to his album. He recommended beers from Leffe, Westmalle, Grimbergen, and La Chouffe, along with any good hefeweizen. I wanted to pick up some Ommegang Gnomegang, a collaboration between Brasserie D'Achouffe and Ommegang, but I did my shopping at the last minute. The closest I could get was Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale, which I felt was reasonably similar in style to some of the beers suggested by TGB.

I gotta say, sipping on a delicious beer and listening to this album was substantially more relaxing than playing through a video game as quickly as possible (although I did do this at one point in my research in this post. I'll explain later). Tiana and I cranked up the stereo, and scribbled out some notes on individual tracks. "Airman" was her "#1 choice of soundtrack for drag-racing down a Florida highway" and made her feel like she WAS Mega Man. TGB's "Metalman" remix increased the song's intensity, and gave it a catchier beat. "Woodman" sounded more ominous and anxious than ever before, giving me the feeling that I really was plunging head-first through a forest filled with robotic spiders and bunny rabbits armed with only my trusty Mega Buster, Metal Blade, Atomic Fire, Crash Bombs, Bubble Lead, Quick Boomerang, Air Shooter, and Flash Stopper.
"Bubbleman" may have been my favorite track of all. TGB's version sounded rich and waterier than ever. I mean that sincerely, in case you doubted me. Tiana thought that listening to "Flashman" was like robo-tripping (she would know), and that she could probably "kill some @#$*&@#*$&^" while listening to "Quickman." I agreed. "Dr. Wiley Stage 1-2" was rocking off the charts (I love flangers), as was "Ending Theme."
As part of my review of this album, I played through MM2 in the order that The Greatest Bits has arranged his tracks. The game lets you play through stages in whichever order you like, and depending on how you do it, different weapons that are collected throughout the game can or cannot be used against certain enemies. I did not enjoy trying to play through Crashman's stage before defeating Metalman and obtaining Metal Blade. Stupid birds kept knocking me down ladders. Other than that, there were no glaring problems with the order of levels that the album presents, although it is not how I would have done it. I was at least very glad that Airman came first.
The Greatest Bits "Mega Man 2" is fun to listen to. I believe that it gives the game's music a richness and intensity that shows what it might have been like if it had been composed in the Playstation 3 era. It also makes for one hell of a rave. Everybody get your 'tussin!

Next up: I got Pinot Grigio and Skateboaring, Faxanadu and mead, and maybe one last crack at Mafia II (but probably not). But all I really wanna do is play Tiger Woods 2011. I think I'll do that right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Taste of Chicago: We Did It Games's Path-O-Gen and Half Acre Beers

A spotlight has been fixed on the Chicago beer scene recently. Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island, one of the largest craft breweries in America. Goose Island played a major part in my development as a beer drinker, and I have featured their beers in several past posts. I am no fan of AB-InBev, and their acquisition of Goose Island does make me somewhat less interested in supporting what was once my Chicago brewery of choice. That said, I do not expect a decline in the quality of Goose Island's beers.
But let's change the subject. I've been wanting to do a pairing on We Did It Games's first release, Path-O-Gen, ever since it was first released a few weeks ago. We Did It Games was founded in the not-too-distant past by an old friend of mine, Wayne, and his co-founder, Gabe. Path-O-Gen is a vertical-scrolling shooter, in the spirit of such classic games as Life Force. But instead of piloting a spaceship flying through a generic outer space setting, you control Gen, an adorable pathogen, fighting her way through the body of Dick, an asshole who needs to learn a lesson.

Path-O-Gen is a wonderfully-constructed game. It is difficult. Very difficult, in fact. Befitting of its genre, it requires a balance of weaving between enemies and blasting away at them. The game's mechanics are well-executed, and it is nicely paced. Just as you learn to deal with the tricky situation at hand, something else comes along to make it trickier. Helping you along the way are some classic Gradius-style power-ups that allow you to cut through enemies like a hot knife through butter. Path-O-Gen's visuals are fantastic. The backgrounds, representing the insides of Dick, are colorfully rendered, and the various microorganisms that one battles throughout the game are remarkably expressive.
As I have already mentioned, the game is difficult. It is frustrating in the way that old-school video games were. It's unforgiving nature makes it that much more satisfying. It also makes drinking beer that much more satisfying, and I did not fail to drink beer while playing the game tonight.

I asked Wayne and Gabe what they would pair with Path-O-Gen. Wayne suggested Three Floyds' Gumballhead and Gabe recommended Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Neither of these beers were available to me last night, but I was able to get my hands on Half Acre's Gossamer, as well as their Over Ale. Gossamer drinks like a milder version of Gumballhead. It has a nice fruity aroma and a wheaty, hoppy flavor. At 4.2% alcohol by volume, it is refreshing and very much appropriate when it comes to playing video games that take a long time to master. Over Ale is a delicious brown ale. It is very well-rounded, with a pleasant roasted malt character and just enough hops to round it out. It is fairly dry, which I usually consider to be a good thing in a brown ale. While it is not as sessionable as Gossamer, it was still very enjoyable drinking it with Path-O-Gen.
I had a great time playing this game with these beers. The beer was brewed just a few miles from where I live, and the game was, at least in part, created in Chicago. The fact that I was able to put together such a good pairing from local products goes to show one thing: I'm trendy as hell, and I'm also great for the environment.