Ballad of the Wind Fish (Reliving Link's Awakening)

Link's Awakening holds some of my favourite memories from my childhood in it's grasp. The days that I spent sitting in my kitchen, trying to catch the sunlight at just the right angle while my dad watched over my shoulder as we figured the game out together are moments that I will never forget, and they are really the moments that formed me as a gamer. So when I recently entered a bit of a retro game kick, Link's Awakening was the first game I sought out. After searching for weeks, I found a copy at a local retro game store, and was finally able to relive the game that started it all.

Bow Wow!

The moment that I turned the game on and woke up in my bed in Mabe village, the memories game flooding back. There was the very Mario like man standing over me, with his shining red nose, who handed me my shield as I stepped out the door. When I turned to the next screen I was greeted by the Chain Chomp (yes, from Mario) named Bow Wow that I remember being so afraid of the first time I played the game, and there was Marin. Oh, Marin, how I used to love you. It took minutes for me to reacquaint myself with the surroundings of Mabe, despite the fact that I hadn't played the game in over 10 years, and I felt like I was home.

As the game chugged on, I remembered more and more memories from my childhood. The feelings this game managed to bring back out were... amazing. The fact that I was playing on an old GBA SP with a bad backlight, forcing me to play in the sunlight so I could see the screen properly, added to that. It all felt so right, entering back into my old school gaming mode of chopping every single little bush down to get every ruby I could, talking with every NPC until they had no more to say, exploring every cave as much as I could, it was fun, more fun than I've had in a while, no doubt thanks to nostalgia.

Unclean! Unclean!

But nostalgia aside now, really, Link's Awakening is a WEIRD game. Like, really weird. You encounter such things as the previously mentioned Chain Chomp (and other Chain Chomp puppies, who are adorable), a Yoshi doll, pictures of Princess Peach, and even Kirby and the occasional Goomba as enemies. This is thanks mostly to the dream setting of the game, with it being said fairly explicitly that this whole thing is one big dream, and your goal being to wake up, and sadly, leave the island.

To do this, you have to go through eight dungeons and find the instruments required to wake the creature known as The Wind Fish. All of the classic notes are hit throughout these dungeons, along with some incredibly weird stuff, but that isn't really where the best of this game lies. In my opinion, the best of this game lies with the characters and interactions between them, and exploring this weird, wonderful little island. You come across some great characters throughout like a Rat photographer who follows Link around to take pictures of him at the oddest of times, the previously mentioned Marin, who acts as Link's love interest, and some other really just... odd things.

Awwwww yeah!

By the time that I collected my last instrument and Link was ready to go wake the Wind Fish, I really wasn't. I played this over a couple weeks and thouroghly enjoyed revisiting the island and the characters that inhabited it, so it was kind of bitter sweet to play the Balled of The Wind Fish to open the egg, take on the final boss, and wake up from the dream, leaving it all behind.

With all that said (phew!), I believe that everyone should experience Link's Awakening at some point in time, especially if you area fan of The Legend of Zelda series. It has some very weird, very obscure moments that will leave you scratching your head at times, but it is absolutely worth banging your head against to experience what is in my personal favourite game in the franchise, and one of my favourites of all time. If you haven't yet, I'd say give it a chance. You can get it a multitude of different ways, or just do as I did (the crazy way), and bust out your old gameboy and play it that way. That'd be my suggestion.

Thanks for the read, if you've read to hear, I always appreciate it, if you've played through Link's Awakening in the past, feel free to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

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Waking up in the Bastion: Rambling Edition

Bastion was a game that I was absolutely aware of leading up to the games release last year, thanks almost entirely to the fantastic pre release coverage that Giant Bomb provided. But despite following the game from it's infancy, I never really latched onto it. I watched the videos and laughed along as I tend to do while watching some good ol' GB content but never did I think "Man, this looks like one of my favourite games of all time."... and boy was I wrong.

Little Bo

I ignored Bastion when it was first released. I saw it come and go and figured that I'd play it when I had nothing else to do, or when it became so cheap that it leave much of a dent in my wallet. It took about 8 months before I finally picked it up on a whim when I had noticed that it dropped down in price 50%. Later that night I decided to start playing and see how the finished product had finally turned out, and was absolutely floored by what I saw, heard, and played. I knew the main gimmick of the game was the narrator, played by Logan Cunningham, going in, but what I didn't expect was just about everything else. The tightness and accuracy of the controls were wonderful, the art style was stunning, but what surprised me the most was the music.

My god, the music. Even as I sit here writing this I am listening to soundtrack on my phone, as I have been doing almost every day since I played the game. What could have been generic fantasy music was instead not only pushed aside but thrown off a cliff by composer Darren Korb who managed to bring in such an unique style that really helped the game stand out for me. It's amazing thinking about all of the elements and instruments that he manages to bring into this soundtrack and not have it sound the least bit cluttered. Whether the song features violins, a xylophone (!!), horns or just an acoustic guitar, all of the songs have their own unique and cohesive feel. On the couple of occasions that vocals are introduced,

You should own this.

The soundtrack is, as I said, fantastic, but it could go unnoticed if it were not for the songs being played at the right moment. Instead of being lost in the shuffle of all of the other great things in this game, though, SuperGiant manages to place them perfectly. On the couple of occasions that vocals are introduced, I found myself freezing in place not only in game but in my seat, just absorbing the perfect moment that I have just stumbled into and doing whatever I can to make it last as long as it possibly can. There is a moment later in the game where one of these songs hit, and the moment is so well down that I became completely lost in the moment and had to do what I could to hold back a few tears. Even as I sit hear listening to Build That Wall, one of the sang songs from the soundtrack, I have to grab a hold of myself to concentrate because all I do is think of the first time I heard it. Needless to say, I think that you should go out and buy the soundtrack now. Like, right now. I did, you wouldn't want to feel left out, now would you? All the cool kids are doing it.

I could honestly go on all day talking about just the music in Bastion, but there are so many other things going on. As I said, the gameplay itself is great, after you get used to the controls and choose the weapons that you wish to use, you will moving in whichever way you want without the game catching up to you and telling you no. It's really a great experience... and then, finally, there is the art.

This too, just to be safe.

Immediately after beating Bastion I did two things. First, I ordered a physical copy of the soundtrack, because ohmygodyouguys, and second, I ordered a print from SuperGiant signed by Bastion's resident totally awesome artist Jen Zee. The art style for the game is breathtaking and attention grabbing. As soon as you turn the game on you are greeted with vibrant but not overbearing colours and just some fantastic design. The characters and monsters have a very distinct feel to them, and the Bastion itself is quite a stunning piece to look at when you first arrive there. Unfortunately I burned myself out a bit with my fanatical music talk, but one look at a screenshot of this game will tell you just how great the art style itself is.

Now, we find ourselves at the end of my insanely long supposedly little blog about Bastion. If you are like me and are one of the people who followed the game up through it's development but never decided to pull the trigger and actually play it yourself, I beg you to stop that right now and stop being stubborn, please and thank you. If you already have, good on you! You are awesome, and I love you.

Bastion took my expectations and threw them back in my face. I expected a fun weekend, and instead I got an incredibly memorable, fun, beautiful and absolutely gut wrenching experience that I will never forget. If you've read to this point, you are an absolute mad man (or mad woman), but I thank you for listening to my sometimes incoherent rambling. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some music to go listen to.

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Stumbling upon the Weekend Riot Club (Live music)

You know, festival shit.

So I was walking around my town's annual Canada Day celebration called the Friendship Festival (not cheesy at all, I know!) which was your usual carnival affair, it had games, rides, food that is so bad it can kill you but you'll eat anyway (because come on! It's a festival!) and some live bands. In years past we've had bands such as Hedley, Finger Eleven, Our Lady Peace, and some other fairly big names. Lately, however, that's kind of changed, so this year we had nothing but local bands that I had honestly never heard of before reading their names. So that said, I really didn't plan on checking out any of the live music this year, but as I was walking around I heard an incredibly powerful woman's voice backed by some decent guitarwork. I immediately took off for the stage, but I was with my family, niece and nephew included, and I'm kind of the dedicated family photographer so I decided I would stay with them and take some pictures of the kids while I walked around.

Almost an hour went by before we were just about ready to go, so I let everyone know and decided to take off for the stage hoping that the band I had heard was still playing. Luckily, as I came closer to the stage, I realized that they were still playing, so I booked it over there camera in hand to listen to them and snap some pictures of them. When I finally rounded the corner I was a bit... disappointed. Not by the band, who I now knew as the Weekend Riot Club,because they not only sounded great, but they looked like they were playing for thousands, I was more disappointed in the crowd. I stepped into the courtyard they were playing in and walked past maybe two dozen people who were just enjoying the shade and planted myself in front of the stage a good 50 feet in front of anyone else in the area. It came as a bit of a shock to me that so few people were here, yet lead singer Melissa Marchese was singing as if the crowd was packed and screaming for the band to play louder. There was an enthusiasm that I have not seen in some time, and one that I have seen bands playing in front of 20,000 not match, yet I seemed like the only person really into what I was hearing there.

Weekend Riot Club playing at the Friendship Festival in Fort Erie

Needless to say, I loved every second that I heard and saw, but herein lies my problem. I showed just in time to hear about 90 seconds of them playing before their time on stage was up and the show was over... ouch. Despite the time I heard them being so short, for me it was 90 seconds of unexpected bliss, having never really expected to hear walk into anything so damn good, and alittle heartbroken that I didn't show up to cheer them on earlier. I guess that is part of this though, having heard and seen the passion that they put into their music despite having a silent crowd made me want to make more people aware of them, to give them a chance so that the next time I see them I won't be the only person who is enjoying their music, as nice as it was to have a usually crowded concert area be so open to me as a (amateur) photographer.

Looking them on online later I found a few songs of theirs, and the fact that they are releasing their first studio album later this year, which has me pretty excited. Listening to their recorded music, I'm not sure if they are a band that I would have payed any attention to if I had heard that first, but the way that they played live that day made me excited to see them in the future, and yeah, they now have a supporter in me. I love getting excited about music, especially because it happens so infrequently for me, so stumbling upon someone that I like on a hot, frankly, quite boring day at my local festival was a really nice surprise. Needless to say this has also sent me into a kick where I'm starting to search for good local bands in my area, though that search has so far come up empty, but hopefully at some time I will. Until then I will just hope to stumble into some more music that I like in the most random of ways.

I'll end this little blog with a song, as I said they are so damn great live, so this song doesn't quite do them justice, but it should give you a bit of an idea.

Random music fever! Catch it!

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My unexpected expedition through Journey (Spoilers)

I just finished playing Journey for the first time. I went into it expecting... well I have no idea what I was expecting. I've heard many things since it was released, and it's been something I have wanted to try for a while, so I decided to give it a shot.

When I first began playing I was alone, it seemed interesting. Looked beautiful, sounded nice, and the controls worked great for what they were. As I was nearing the end of the first section I thought that I saw the tail of another player, inexplicably excited I moved as quickly as possible to chase it. When I came out on the other side of the door, encountered another player, but we basically went our separate ways until the path to the next section opened. From that point forward, I have no idea why, me and this random person stuck with each other like glue, waiting if one took a break, signalling to one another if there was a symbol we missed, etc.

After finding our way through these increasingly dangerous areas we came upon a snowy mountain. The snow was sticking to our cloaks and we were getting progressively slower and our singing progressively quieter. As we continued to climb we were barely able to move at all, and then I saw my buddy fall to his knees, and finally flat onto his face. My heart sank. I don't know how, but Journey made me feel a sense of loss that I'm not sure I have ever felt in a game, all over some person that I know nothing about, and haven't spent more than an hour running through this with. Then I fell myself.

Much to my surprise and delight we rose once more in the afterlife. We both excitedly fly beside each other singing as much as the game allowed. Filled with said excitement I raced forward to a ledge overlooking the area that I had just traversed. So I stood there and waited. Waited for my buddy to come up beside me so we could finish this... but he never came. I ended up searching for a solid 15 minutes looking for this stranger only to come up with nothing. I figure now that he/ she had to drop for the night, but the fact that I had to push forward myself compounded the loss that I was feeling. But still, I had to, so I did, climbing up a final hill, by myself, and walking through a narrow valley into a white light until I could not see myself anymore... and then the credits rolled.

It's kind of funny and weird to think. This game managed to make me feel something so strong when I truthfully only spent about an hour and a half playing. But in that hour and a half I found one of the most interesting, beautiful and surprisingly hard hitting experiences I have ever had in a game. Journey managed to break my heart without ever having said a word.

Kudos, thatgamecompany, and thank you.

Goodbye, my friend.
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