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Zac Bentz's blog

11:15 PM on 08.24.2009

Why I love Destructoid


7:29 AM on 04.14.2009

Japanator's exclusive interview with Final Fantasy's Nobuo Uematsu

On Saturday, April 11th, I found myself shaking hands with on of my heroes, Nobuo Uematsu. The man has written not only some of the best video game music around, but some of the best music ever, period.

I talked to both Uematsu-san and Distant Worlds director and conductor Arnie Roth before their performance in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was an amazing day and night all around. They granted me a huge amount of time to talk, and the performance was absolutely spot on.

Some of the highlights of the interview:

DID YOU KNOW: Uematsu actually puts very little of his own feeling into his video game work?

DID YOU KNOW: He doesn't really like writing battle music?

DID YOU KNOW: The Distant Worlds program is a sort of "greatest hits," but is also changing constantly

Head on over to Japantor for much more.

[You can also Digg it here.]   read

8:54 AM on 04.02.2009

Freezepop mid-west tour starts this weekend!


Chances are good that most of us around here first heard the band Freezepop in some Guitar Band Rock Hero game. Oh maybe you saw my interview with them a while back here on Destructoid.

Well, now's your chance to get your fat ass up and out of the house and into a sweaty, smelly club and see the band in person. Freezepop will be kicking off their mid-west tour this Friday, ripping it up through April and into May. Check it out, and pass it on! BLEEP BLORP!

Midwest tour!
Friday, April 3 - New York City, The Studio at Webster Hall, 125 East 11th St btwn 3rd and 4th Ave. With Miss Michigan, Echostream, and Turbotronics. Early show, doors at 7, we're on around 10. 19+, $15.

Saturday, April 4 - Tekkoshocon Anime Convention, Pittsburgh, PA. At the David L. Lawrence Convention Center/Westin Hotel, 1000 Ft. Duquesne Blvd. We're on around 9:30. $40 for Saturday pass, $50 for 3-day pass, all ages!

Monday, April 6 - Toledo, OH, at Frankie's, 308 Main St. With Sinker. Doors at 8. $10 in advance, $12 day of show, All ages.

Tuesday, April 7 - Lansing, MI at Mac's Bar, 2700 e. michigan ave. With Dr. Device. Early show! Doors at 5, we're on around 8. $8 in advance, $10 day of show. All ages.

Wednesday, April 8 - Chicago, IL, at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave. With Glasko and Boho Paisley. Doors at 8, we're on around 10:30. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 17+.

Thursday, April 9 - Indianapolis, IN, at Talbott Street, 2145 N Talbott St. Doors at 9. $11 advance, $16 at the door. 21+.

Saturday, April 11 - Minneapolis, MN, at Triple Rock, 629 Cedar Ave. Early show, doors at 5, we're on at 7. With Somegirl and Avenpitch. $10 in advance, $12 day of show. All ages.

Sunday, April 12 - LaCrosse, WI, at the Warehouse, 328 Pearl St. Doors at 7, we're on at 8:30. $10, all ages.

Tuesday, April 14 - Covington, KY, at the Mad Hatter, 620 Scott St. Doors at 8, we're on around 10. With Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, the Seedy Seeds, and the Koala Fires. $10, all ages.

Thursday, April 16 - Washington, DC at Chief Ike's Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW. Doors at 9, we're on around 10:30. $12 advance, $15 day of show. 21+.

Friday, April 17 - Baltimore, MD, at The Depot, 1728 N Charles Street. With Red This Ever and DJ Doug. Doors at 9. $10, 18+.

Saturday, April 18 - Philadelphia, PA, at North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar Street. With Plushgun and In Secrecy. Doors at 9, we're on around midnight. $10 in advance, $13 day of show. 21+

And beyond...
Sunday, May 3 - Pittsburgh, PA at Pegasus Lounge, 818 Liberty Ave. Doors at 8. $12 in advance, $14 at the door. All ages!

Saturday, May 9 - Wilmington, NC at The New Deal, 3709 Oleander Drive in The New Hanover Center. It's a fashion show/handmade market to benefit the DREAMS Center for the Arts, and it's all ages! Sponsored by Edge of Urge, lots more info on their site here.   read

11:23 AM on 03.11.2009

First clip from SquareEnix tribute concert Symphonic Fantasies


The video above is the opening fanfare written by Jonne Valtonen for the forthcoming Symphonic Fantasies concert. Symphonic Fantasies is the new SquareEnix tribute concert arranged by Valtonen and conducted by Arnie Roth, the man behind the baton for many other video game themed productions (including Germany's previous Symphonic Shades event and the forthcoming Final Fantasy-centric Distant Worlds world tour...more on that later.) According to organizer Thomas Boecker:

"The concert will be performed on September 12, 2009 by the WDR Radio Orchestra, WDR Radio Choir, and several soloists (e. g. Rony Barrak), conducted by Arnie Roth. We are glad to have more than 120 professional musicians on stage again, this time at the beautiful 2,000+ venue Philharmonic Hall in Cologne, Germany. We will perform 70+ minutes of music, and for that we decided for the Final Fantasy series, the Kingdom Hearts series, the Mana series, and the Chrono series."

As for the opening fanfare, Valtonen describes it himself:

"My fanfare is a spirit lifter and appetizer that hopefully takes your mind off from your normal daily activities and sets you in a concert hall. Like when you start reading a book, it always takes some pages before you really get into the story and the real world disappears around you. So that when the music of SquareEnix starts, you would already be tuned to the orchestra and on the music and not somewhere else mentally."

More info on the show should arrive sometime in April.

(Special thanks to Thomas for the continued updates!)   read

8:40 PM on 02.20.2009

Indie J-rockers Beat Crusaders use LittleBigPlanet for new music video


That's the new video for "Phantom Planet" from Beat Crusaders Obviously it's not made 100% in LittleBigPlanet, but they did a good job of emulating the style and breaking it out into the "real world."

You might also know these guys from the opening theme to the Beck anime series, "Hit in the USA":


(via JPop Japan)   read

11:09 AM on 02.15.2009

Flower: ZB v. Dtoid

This post is a response to Topher's review of Flower. It's also about Anthony and Brad's review as well, but to a lesser extent. This could have just gone into the comments, but it ballooned in size pretty fast. Instead of clogging the comments with a few hundred words (and probably having them lost in some spammy troll war), I thought I'd try and break down my arguments here.


Sorry Topher, but I feel that your entire review is based on a false premise. The problem comes from your preconceived notions, not the game itself.

The kinds of MASSIVE SPOILERS you're talking about are there to do exactly the things you are having problems with. The game is about a city that has lost its life. Death has been moving outward from its twisted shell, spreading across the land. The wind/flower is tasked with setting things right, bringing life back to the world. Things are all fine and happy in the fine and happy natural world, then suddenly the wind/flower sees that things have gone horribly wrong. Yet it doesn't relish the fact that man-made steel and electricity are finally destroying themselves. Instead, it struggles to make that city a brighter place, working together with the humans, celebrating the great things they can accomplish.

Working together with nature is the real story behind Flower. It could easily have gone far off into another direction, where the wind/flower forever eradicates the city, leaving a huge field full of nothing but grass and flowers. It could have done a flappy-armed hippie dance on top of humanities grave. It doesn't, and that's what takes Flower to a much more profound level than many other simple “do one thing and do it well” games. It has a greater depth and sophistication than you are giving it credit for.

The "shifts" you talk about are the perfect way to convey this sense of shock. Remember, this is a game without dialog and without any real characters. The story is told through the changes happening outside the room while the wind/flower is working hard to make things right, telling the story from both sides at the same time. We see the broken city from the inside, as the wind/flower works from the outside. The shock of having a blackened world suddenly appear out of the darkness is when the real game begins. I think that all of the reviews have pointed that out, but for all the wrong reasons. Think about it: What if the game just continued on for another three or four levels of the exact same leisurely pace? Would you have been happy with that, or would you have been complaining about how it never really did anything interesting beyond the basic gameplay? I never hear people complaining that there was too much shooting in Doom or too much jumping in Mega Man, but I'll bet that if Flower was nothing but the first stage over and over for two hours that people would be giving it a universal thumbs down. There needs to be some sort of story, some sort of reason to keep playing.

I think you approached the game from a completely incorrect angle. You were looking for some sort of pretty, simple and "zen" (whatever that means) experience. Something that was easy and wasn't going to make you "play a game." Instead of eating hungrily from the ripe fruit it provided, you spit it out because it had too much taste.

To be fair, I think that Brad giving it a 10 is also off the mark. I don't really like talking about numbers and scores, but I think it's safe to say that Flower is not a game for everyone. If you're the type of “hardcore” gamer that only uses games to measure your virtual penis, then Flower is not for you. If you play games because you actually love to play games and experience the quiet joy they can provide, then Flower is a must have.   read

10:44 PM on 08.10.2008

Album review: Final Fantasy Remix (Hint = it sucks chocobocock)

I was just minding my own business, sifting though the batch of new music in an attempt to cobble together the next episode of Japanator Radio. I usually put it off until the last minute on Sunday night, then brew up some coffee and leisurely make my way through the list.

One of the first things I jumped into was the new album Final Fantasy Remix from Square Enix featuring newly remixed songs from the Final Fantasy series. All 12 tracks are remixed by a single entity known as Ante, which is actually the duo are Ian Hartley and mattb.

If there's one thing you can count on after death and taxes, it's Final Fantasy remixes. Check out any listing of video games remixes and it is sure to contain at least one FF remix, if not millions. This is surely do to the franchises popularity, but also to Nobuo Uematsu's brilliant original compositions. They are at time both very simple and very deep, making them rife with gems just waiting to be mined and polished up.

So, in and of itself, the idea of yet another collection of FF remixes isn't news. What makes this one special is that it is official sanctioned by SE and Uematsu himself. You know you're getting the good stuff when the grand master has at least waved his hands over the project at some point, and that was why I was really looking forward to firing it up.

Obviously, by the title of this post, you know where this is going. What I'm trying to do here is make sure that you know how much I love not only the FF series, but, frankly, that I love the music far more. I'm willing to suspend a great deal of my usual elitist bastardism when it comes to FF music and instead just enjoy its greatness. I'm also willing to see how other people interpret it, adding and taking away different sections, morphing sometimes obscure bits into something new.

Anyway, back to reality. Let's just start at the beginning.

The comp starts of as any good FF music comp should, with the "Prelude" theme. This track is also a perfect example of the disaster that follows. All this track does is jaggedly mix the original arpeggio melody in and out underneath some really wooden and lethargic dance beats. Nothing is developed or expanded. It's just a quick look at what is actually a really complex piece of music.

This same "technique" is used on "Eternal Wind." The original short melody is played under a few factory pre-set synth sounds. All that's added are a few tabla and shakers and an uninspired bassline. Nothing to see here. Move along.

"Terra's Theme" is a jazzed up version of the Piano Collection track. This one has just a bit of originality to it, adding a nice upright bassline, but again, the other drum and synth pad sounds are nothing to write home about. It's almost as if the Ante guys were writing for an actual PSone release. MIDI sounds abound, and it leaves everything absolutely flat and lifeless.

"Opening Bombing Mission" tries to inject some life into the quickly dieing album with a dose of drum n bass. Again, the almost amateurish sonic treatment of the drums negates any chance for real down and dirty bassbin explosions. Again, like the previous tracks, that actual source material is used in a very spotty fashion, simply punching the melody in and out, running it though some dub-style delay and reverb, then going back to the yawn inducing drum and bass tracks. Snore.

Now, it's got to be almost impossible to go wrong with "JENOVA." Am I right? It's a brilliant song, full of beautiful melody and soaring progressions, tons of movement and life. Well, these dudes prove that they can killing anything, turning one of the best FFVII moments into a lumbering oaf. I can't even go into detail on this one. It's just too sad.

Speaking of best tracks, "Liberi Fatali" certainly rides very high on my list of greats. Again, there just doesn't seem to be any way to miss. In a way, they don't, because they don't really do anything with it. On the other hand, once again they simply use the original samples, but in an extremely anemic way, verbing them out and riding them extremely low in the mix. They are simply faint echos. The wimpy break-beat is bland and overly repetitive. Even the chosen samples get overused and, gasp!, become boring. Way to go guys!

Why anyone would want to remix FFVIII's "Blue Fields" is beyond me. Sure, everyone has their own favorites, but "Blue Fields?" I don't know. Anyway, the pattern is now firmly in place. Bland beats over a few bits of the original music. Absolutely nothing new added. Nothing developed, no artistic re-interpretation. Seriously, did these guys just get paid to run a few pre-set Casio drum loops over the original tracks? Really? While we're at it, let's just copy paste that last paragraph for "The Final Battle" too. Hey, if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

"Zanarkand" is up next, and this one actually manages to add a little something to the equation. Sure, it's still just the original piano melody run though some reverb and delay, but the added drums manage to add some nice groove, and the atmospherics add some appropriately soothing swirl. The out of time drum ticks in the middle, while probably intentional, totally ruin the mood. Almost got it guys. Almost. Again, the same goes for "Ronfaure."

Now we get to some sensitive territory. Up next is what is essentially a remix of a remix. For those of you unfortunate enough not to know, The Black Mages are a band fronted by Mr. Uematsu himself. They do somewhat heavy rock, almost metal versions of the more aggressive FF tunes, usually the battle themes. Oh, and they are 100% awesome. Again, it would seem nigh impossible to ruin that, and I suppose Ante don't go quite that far. The just totally mangle and destroy the great song "Maybe I'm a Lion." All they do is cut it up into weird little bits and re-arrange a few things. I wouldn't call it a remix so much as a train wreck.

Finally, finally, this whole mess ends with "Mambo de Chocobo," another no-brainer. They do an OK job here, though again it seems like they would rather just listen to their own drum machine run than let any melody get into the mix. In fact, if you don't pay attention, you'll miss the actual Chocobo theme entirely.

I honestly have no idea how this auditory abortion ever saw the light of day. It's flat, boring, uninspiring in the extreme and practically an insult to the original Final Fantasy spirit. It is awful. Plain and simple. There are dozens of better (and free) remixes available all over the web on sites like OCRemix. Nothing about Final Fantasy Remix show quality work or talent. It's almost as if the people working on it were expressly forbidden to re-interpret a single note of the original songs and instead could only add a few effects and some crappy drums. I'd be stunned if it took more than a couple days to record the entire album from start to finish. There is no love here, my friends. Stay far, far away from this one.


BURN IT!   read

8:59 AM on 08.08.2008

I Am 8-Bit 2008 Zelda art from Elizabeth Ito

Elizabeth Ito is a super cool artist/illustrator and sort of a friend of mine. She's done a lot of really great work for various animation studios, but what I really love is her regular arty art stuff.

She's got some work appearing in the upcoming Totoro Forest Project (people working together to save the real forest in Japan that inspired the film) and she also did some work on the forthcoming Astro Boy animated film. Oh, and she sent me these really awesome, super limited edition Polysics Mister Monster figures.

Last year she made a really cute Mega-Man piece as part of the I Am 8-Bit art thing where a bunch of artists got together and produced original art based on various 8-Bit video games. Looks like she's in it again this year. This time around she's done this gorgeous set of Zelda illustrations, placed in an equally swank frame. I really love Zelda's frilly dress with its simple yet really expressive lines, and Link's pouty, girlish expression.

If you're in the Hollywood area on August 14th, make sure to swing by World of Wonder Storefront Gallery and check it out!


11:13 AM on 07.30.2008

A cast of thousands: Brown (Rule of Rose)

When it comes to heroic characters in games, it's no surprise that they are almost always the main character in the game. Putting the player into the role of the hero is the main purpose of most games. We all want to be the ones showered in glory and adoration. We all want super powers. We all want to save the world (or watch it burn, in some cases.)

While the supporting cast may be interesting, even well developed from time to time, most often they are only there to provide the hero with information or items, or simply to get caught up in something that the hero then has to save them from. It's not often that a secondary character is far more heroic than the actual hero.

Then again, Rule of Rose isn't your average "hero" game. The main character Jennifer isn't trying to save anything, much less the world. She's simply stumbling around trying to figure out just what the hell is wrong with her. Not dying is really the only task she's faced with. Really, that's enough, because the game's awful control system and absolutely abysmal combat system make staying alive a Herculean feat. Ultimately, RoR is a story about a girl and her faithful dog, Brown. Brown is the real hero.

Throughout the game, Jennifer uses Brown as both a clue finder (in fact, you cannot find anything without him) and bait. He's not simply an accessory, he's really the central character in the game. Without him, Jennifer is literally useless.

The biggest example of Brown's heroism? He is always the first to go through a door.


Every time.

No matter what the odds or how beat up he has become, Brown always leads the way. He always puts himself between Jennifer and danger, and he always does it willingly. He doesn't know why the bad guys want to hurt Jennifer, all he knows is that he has to protect her. He is never afraid to run headlong into the darkness and flush out the monsters. He does it all in unquestioning service to his owner.

It is there that we see his true supremacy over Jennifer and all of the other human characters. Brown is simply a good boy, unflinchingly protecting his master whom he loves without question. Unfortunately, his master does not share this same adoration. Sure, she wants to keep him safe as well, but it's obvious that, to Jennifer, Brown is just another possession. In fact, we see at the very end of the game, after Jennifer goes though all sorts of dangers related directly to another character wanting to essentially "own" Jennifer, that Jennifer is blind to the fact the Brown wants to be free. Instead, she slips on a collar and ties him to the ground in a shed, alone. She has become just as selfish and villainous as her enemies.

What does it mean to protect someone? To have total control over them? To want to keep them for yourself? To own them? You won't find the answers in a heroic splash of zombie brains or a blast of machine-gun fire. You'll find them at the end of a leash.   read

9:08 AM on 07.23.2008

Very cute Dhalsim and Blanka art

Andrew Fulton is an illustrator working in Australia. He creates all sorts of super cool and sometimes super cute pieces. I hesitate to call them "cartoons" or "strips," but I guess that's what they are. Sort of.

Anyway, here is his newest piece, a simple illustration of Blanka gnawing on the noodly arm of Dhalsim. Simple, to the point and awesome.

Check out more of his stuff here. He does a lot of stuff with pants-less super-heroes and lovable monsters that eat things.   read

6:23 PM on 06.19.2008

Best Japanese Albums of 2008 (so far...)

Right now over on Japanator lives my glorious list of the The Best Japanese Albums of far, that is. Why wait for the holidays when everyone has their heads firmly shoved up their materialistic/family-loving asses for a look back at the year in music?

There's also the audio version of the list on this week's 41st episode of Japanator Radio. Actually, that is only the first half of the first half of the best albums of 2008. Make sense?

Head on over there and check it out. Make sure to take some time to flame me in the comments for all of my totally lame and myopic selections. It's what all the cool kids do.

You can also Digg it. Aren't you lucky?   read

7:52 AM on 06.14.2008 takes on LiveJournal music sharing community


There is currently a bit of a war of words going on in the file-sharing-o-sphere. Our friends over at have thrown down the gauntlet with jmusic_uploads, a Japanese music sharing community on LiveJournal. The digital music distributor has crossed paths with the community several times in the past, citing several members of illegally providing downloads of their artist's music. The company often went directly to the powers that be at LJ, who then yanked user accounts with little to no notice. This brute force attack was met, unsurprisingly, with some outrage and confusion.

Now it would seem that has once again approached the community, this time offering up something of an olive branch. While they are still standing their ground in regards to the zero-tolerance of illegal downloads, they are now attempting to work with the community. Instead of their previous slash-and-burn tactics, they are now offering to regularly keep the community up-to-date with their artist list, notifying them of new acquisitions as soon as they go live on their site. They then expect all tags, posts and links to be removed from the community within 48 hours. It is only then that they will pursue legal action.

They've even gone so far as to set up their own LJ account to directly field questions and concerns from community members. The truly amazing thing is that the member reactions have been extremely civil and downright intelligent (with a few exceptions of course.) Right now it seems like the community is still skeptical about, their tactics and even their legitimacy as a company. Head on over to Japanator for's initial email, and the resulting FAQ in which they answer a few of the users' biggest concerns.


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