zophar53's Blog

Posted on Aug 5th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Video game music, VGM, music, podcasts


Two of my favorite things are video games and music. It's a wonderful thing, then, that there's been some pretty incredible video game music over the decades. Not all of it is quality, but even in the medium's earliest days composers were able to create some shockingly good tunes. Once I started following the game music community on a regular basis, I learned to appreciate the fact that even the simplest-sounding tracks on the most basic sound hardware are chock full of intricate details. In fact, I might argue that composing a quality game score in those early days took even more skill that it does now, since the limitations of the hardware forced musicians to have a deep understanding of music theory and get quite creative to make certain soundscapes work. Game music has become one of the aspects of the industry I appreciate most.


Continue reading Game Music Podcasts: Hear Your Favorite Game Tunes Like Never Before



Posted on Jul 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Nintendo Power, NP, magazines, Nintendo, nostalgia

Note the two small stacks in the upper right. I have the first 8 issues in zip lock bags

In the months following my becoming a new homeowner, I began the process of sorting through the pile of boxes consisting of the those things we all own that aren't necessary enough to survival to warrant unpacking the first weekend after the move. Among the boxes of games, consoles, and books were the boxes I knew were there but I hadn't decided what to do with just yet. These boxes contained my collection of Nintendo Power magazines.

As I began to pull them out and assess their condition after having been in storage for a year and a half, I got curious. It didn't take long before I learned that this July marks 31 years exactly since the publication's first issue, provided we don't include the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter that was its progenitor. With it's over 24-year production run, it would be too much for me to try and do an exhaustive NP retrospective here. So what I'd like to do instead is celebrate it's anniversary by looking at the impact it had on a young Travis (and kick myself for not picking up on this last year for the 30th anniversary).


Continue reading Happy Birthday Nintendo Power, and Thank You



Posted on Jun 2nd 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Detective Pikachu, Pokemon, Pikachu, movies

This would be so noire if it weren't for all the blue and yellow

While live-action movies based on anime have been met with mixed results in recent history, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu has the benefit of the insanely popular title characters. Between that, a trailer that looked not terrible, and the star power of Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, I was fairly confident the movie would make scads of money regardless of its quality. That said, I was interested to see if it held up for someone who doesn't know a pokeball from a dive ball.


Continue reading RF Cinema: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu



Posted on May 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Review, books, Boss Fight Books, Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars


The year was 1999. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had fans of the franchise more excited than they'd been in a decade and a half. Lucasfilm and LucasArts were churning out merchandise and video games like crazy. The past handful of years had given us some pretty great games, including Dark Forces, Rogue Squadron, and Shadows of the Empire. As great as those games were though, LucasArts wanted a grand, story-heavy RPG, and this was the perfect time to get that going.

Thus began the process of bringing Knights of the Old Republic, which many consider to be one of, if not the best, Star Wars video games of all time, into being. It's a little surprising it took as long as it did, but the latest entry in the Boss Fight Books collection seeks to shed light on the process of making an epic Star Wars RPG a reality.


Continue reading Boss Fight Books: Knights of the Old Republic



Posted on Apr 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Festers Quest, nonguilty pleasures, Addams Family, frustration, soft spot


In the late 1980s, as the NES was dominating the children's toy landscape like few other pieces of electronics ever had, one developer in particular stood out to 9-year-old me as something truly special. Sunsoft had churned out some of my favorite games of that era, such as Blaster Master, Batman, and Gremlins 2. The things that stood out to me most about them were the relative difficulty, graphics, and, of course, their soundtracks. While they always tested my skill, I rarely ever cared because they were visually interesting and that proprietary Sunsoft sound chip made the NES sing with rocking beats like no other game out there. In retrospect, the best way I can describe it would be if you could take the punchy bass of the Sega Genesis and strip out the tinny-ness and twang.

But there was one Sunsoft game that no one I've ever talked to has ever enjoyed, Fester's Quest. I would always be confused when I heard people hate on it, thinking that I had a lot of fun with it as a kid. Was I crazy, or was I more enlightened and everyone else was crazy? Yeah, that was probably it. Do I still feel this way, over 30 years later?


Continue reading Criticizing the Media You Love: Fester's Quest



Posted on Mar 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Review, 8BitDo, Retro, Controllers, Genesis, Mega Drive


For the past handful of years, 8BitDo has been bringing retro controllers and adapters to its fans at a regular clip. In general their quality has been pretty high, and the combination of retro styling and modern conveniences has made them the aftermarket manufacturer of choice for many gamers looking to add wireless controller support to their NES Classic or get a SNES-style controller with dual analog sticks for their emulator setup.

The M30 is 8BitDo's newest release, and to my knowledge it's the first Genesis-styled offering from them. I own a couple other 8BitDo controllers and have been considering dipping into the Genesis library recently, so I figured the timing was perfect to put the new gamepad through its paces.


Continue reading Review: 8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Gamepad



Posted on Feb 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under NES, Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, Action Set, NES Challenge


It's been a lot of fun following the thread of our site's NES Challenge, as members rediscover old classics or finally dive into games they were always curious about but never got around to playing. I've dipped into a handful of games myself, may of which I haven't played in decades. There's also been a fair amount of discovering how much better I was at games back then, when I had nothing but time on my hands and my reflexes and pattern recognition were better.

It's also given me reason to tell a story that I've been meaning to for some time now; how I got my first NES. I've mentioned bits and pieces of context around the edges here, but figured the story itself was worth a full article. So how did 8-year-old me get a Nintendo?



Continue reading How I Got My NES



Posted on Jan 3rd 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Top 10, GOTY, Game of the Year


2018 was a weird year for me, with some high highs and low lows. On the broad scale, the world continues to be....what it is. We'll just have to see how things go there. But for me it was a year of rebuilding, one in which I had a plan. Kind of a one step back in order to make two steps forward thing. Thankfully, I was for the most part able to achieve what I'd set out to do. Not necessarily in the ways I'd hoped or expected, and there were some bumps along the way, but the last few months of the year were pretty great, and my efforts were met with reward.

What does this have to do with games, you ask? Well, unfortunately, the work that needed to be done took a toll on some things. I didn't read as much as I wanted, I didn't game as much as I wanted, and in the last month or so in particular I unceremoniously withdrew from quite a lot of things to make sure I ended up where I wanted to be, one of which being the video game golf tournament on this very website. Still, I was able to make it out to RetroWorld Expo 2018, which was a fantastic trip, the RFCinema feature I started was met with success, I had a great time taking part in the Doom 2016 playcast, and I was pretty proud of the content I was able to produce for RFGen. And while my list this year is more of a "Top 8 Games of 2018 and Top 2 Games of 2017 That I Didn't Play Until 2018", I did manage to play some great stuff. And that's what it's all about, getting all the enjoyment we can from the time that we have. So here's to putting a bow on 2018 and making 2019 all it can be! Let me know what you think of my selections in the comments below.



Continue reading My 10 Favorite Games of 2018



Posted on Dec 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck It Ralph, movies, game movies


Wreck-It Ralph was a wonderful movie that took the concept of Toy Story and applied it to game characters in a small town arcade. In the most Pixar way possible, it was well-written, uniquely respectful of the source material, and had a story underneath it all with so much heart that you genuinely cared for the main characters. There was even a small number of real life Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade machines that were made to promote the film. They're pretty rare to find in person, but the game can be played on Disney's website here.

It's been six years since our feels were charmed by Ralph, Vanellope, Felix, and Calhoun, and as the title suggests, the sequel leaves Litwak's humble arcade behind to focus on the entirety of the interwebs. Does the new film manage to keep the personal feel while expanding the adventure? Read on, my friends, for the latest episode of RF Cinema.



Continue reading RF Cinema: Ralph Breaks the Internet



Posted on Nov 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Tetris Effect, Tetris, preview, demo

Tetris Effect turns everyone's favorite puzzle game into an audio/visual feast

While everyone is losing their minds over the latest AAA game from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption 2 (which I hope to play someday, once I get around to playing its predecessor), I'm playing something that couldn't be more different.

If you ask 100 people what the best game of all time is, you'll get at least 30 different answers. But while a "best game of all time" debate could go on forever, I would argue that Tetris is the answer that, while not everyone would choose, almost no one would think that answer to be crazy. It's been ported to every device capable of running it, and I'd bet money 90% of the civilized world has at least heard of it, even if they haven't played it personally. Tetris Effect is a new take on a tried-and-true formula. How does it stack up (pun absolutely intended)? Let's find out.


Continue reading Preview: Tetris Effect



Posted on Oct 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Spooky Plays, Halloween, October


Ah, October. It signals not just the start of Fall and all things pumpkin spice (for better or for worse), it also rings in the season of scares, creeps, and frights. For most holidays, the way in which I enjoy and appreciate them has changed as I've gotten older. But with Halloween, the reasons I love the season haven't changed at all. As an adult though, I'm able to enjoy all the same things in much more elaborate and fun ways. I'm able to get better costumes, get all my own candy, and find bigger, more intense ways of scaring myself. It's for this reason that Halloween has become my favorite holiday of the year as an adult.

In the spirit of that evolution, I thought I'd put together a history of some of my favorite spooky games over the years. These are in no particular order, and this is by no means a comprehensive list, as I tried to shy away from the most obvious choices in favor of more off-beat or oft-forgotten titles. There are also a bunch of games I'm sure would make the list if not for the fact that I haven't played them. So let me know what you think of my choices below, and feel free to recommend your own in the comments below.


Continue reading Spooky Plays: Anthology Edition



Posted on Sep 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Xbox All Access, Xbox, subscriptions


I was browsing through my Twitter feed during a slow moment at work, as one does, and came across a piece of news that was both unexpected, and intriguing for its potential to change the way traditional console games are acquired.

Last Monday, Microsoft announced the introduction of something they're calling Xbox All Access. Most of the info about All Access is easy to find at this point, but there's some interesting nuances that are worth digging into.


Continue reading Could This Be A New Business Model for Console Gaming?



Posted on Aug 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Backlog, Pile of shame


With each passing year, my game collection grows, and with it my gaming backlog. I used to think I would eventually make time for all the games I wanted to play, but the older I get, the more my thinking changes. The most recent of these evolutions has been to start thinking about making some tough decisions. I'm starting to think I may have to let some games go, at least for the foreseeable future, in the interest of making it clear which games really matter to me. Part of the reason I find it daunting to hack away at my backlog is simple choice paralysis. So to help make those decisions and to cope with a certain level of resignation, I've decided not to make this yet another "oh whoa is me I'll never get to my pile of shame" post, but to instead work through some kind of prioritization process. At the very least, I'm hoping that thinking through it will make me feel like I'm actually doing something about it. Also, maybe by doing this in a public forum it'll motivate me to make time for some of the most egregious of these blank spots in my gaming history.



Continue reading This Is Me Starting To Prioritize My Backlog



Posted on Jul 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Distant Worlds, Music from Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy, orchestra, symphony, events

Cleveland Play House's State Theater

Walking into the theater lobby, it was pretty obvious this was no ordinary stage performance. It wasn't quite the crowd one might see at a con, but it was close. Some were in cosplay, some were wearing tshirts proudly displaying their love of what we'd all come to see. Part of me felt a little overdressed, but thankfully, I wasn't the only one who'd dressed up for the event. I'd thought about trying my hand at some cosplay, but this was theater, and I'm of the mind that theater should typically be dressed up for. Besides, considering I don't have many instances in my day-to-day life when I have a reason to be all fancy-like, I tend to do so when an opportunity arises.

Started in 2007, Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy wasn't the first FF symphony performance to come together, but it's by far the longest running. And so, me and about 3400 other fans decended on the Cleveland Play House to watch conductor Arnie Roth take us on an orchestral journey through some of the most beloved music in all of gaming.



Continue reading My Second Musical Journey Through Distant Worlds



Posted on Jun 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Nostalgia


I've been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. It kind of came to a head in the wake of watching the Ready Player One movie, but the kernels of my thoughts go back to the last handful of years. It's undeniable how fascinated people are with the concept. Every remake, re-release, prequel, sequel, and reference, we eat it up. Whether it's converting Tron to blu-ray with "never before seen" interviews, making a miniature NES that's effectively a Raspberry Pi with a few ROMs on it, or filling Ready Player One with every 80s pop culture reference Ernest Cline could think of, history has proven that people will buy into the phenomenon, but why is that? More importantly, what does nostalgia mean in a digital age where nearly every piece of media ever is available at our fingertips anytime we want it? Does the way we think of nostalgia need to change?



Continue reading What is Nostalgia in 2018?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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