PC planning

We don't upgrade computers very often. When we do, we tend to go excessive. This is mostly a case of applying Vimes Boots Theory to PCs, and going big just to give ourselves room to grow. Our current machine was a "holy crap, what are you ever even going to play that would require even a fraction of these specs" purchase when we got it. Our current machine is also named COYOTE, after my fursona's species at the time. The fact that I just got a warning message prompt in Excel re: "Hey, you do realize we're going to end-of-life this in a couple months because it's Office 2010 and that was ten years ago, dipshit" should tell you something about how long this thing has been hanging in there. And to be honest, since my gaming habits are mostly things on the level of indie nonsense and/or Istaria, our machine can still handle 95% of the things we throw at it just fine, even today. However, three recent to semi-recent developments have led to the poor dear finally starting to show its age:

1) VR, though.

2) Not that I was seriously intending to get for-real into Final Fantasy XV, but that time I ran the benchmark out of curiosity and it was like "lol, uh, maybe if you want it to look like the N64 version I guess" kind of hurt my feelings.

3) (Most importantly) this system is starting to struggle with very large images. We recently bought a certain furry comic that came with the high res images (4000x5500, roughly 32 MB or so per page) and our system seems to choke so hard even so much as navigating into the same folder as them in file explorer (well, Directory Opus but shh) and doing all the thumbnail/icon generation/space calculation/etc. that sometimes the process outright fails and randomly corrupts a page or two. I keep the original .zip files on hand to re-extract and replace them as necessary.

Still a champion other than that, and we still don't need to upgrade, but it's finally getting to the point where maybe I just kind of want to anyway. We came up with this build, which is ridiculous but see above about wanting to splurge and bask in the feeling of being overpowered for now and then not have to do this again for a while. Posting it here for kinkshame our PC "Hey does this look good, are we missing something obvious, etc." purposes.

Breakdown of the various parts and the reasoning behind them:

AMD vs Intel: I kind of don't care about this issue as much as a lot of people seem to. Like, I kind of defaulted to an Intel build early on but a lot of people I showed the early list to had OPINIONS about this and I was like... o-oh, uh, okay I guess. Really, I just want whichever one is currently on top, which... appears to be the 3900X for now? I guess? (Well, technically the 3950X if you want to go into the "twice the cost for a very slight improvements in very specific circumstances, no one actually needs this unless they work for Pixar" tier of the bleeding edge, but we had to draw the line somewhere.) Anyway this one seems fine.

Hard drives: The idea behind the hard drives is that the SSD will have the operating system, games, programs, and basically anything and everything one would install, and is a single drive instead of a mirror RAID to save some money and because I'm told SSD RAIDing works a bit differently and generally isn't as necessary anyway, especially if I back up to the storage drive regularly. The two magnetic drives will be for a mirror RAID, which will join forces to become the aforementioned storage drive, which will then house all the pictures and music and saved video files and generally anything that isn't a verb. In theory, I could cut the price of those in half by going with WD Blue drives instead of Black; there's room to question (even by our "make an overpowered build on purpose" standards) whether I need WD Black-level performance just for the storage drives where all the furry porn media goes. But, uh. Point #3 above makes me nervous about this, so I don't want to take chances.

Case: The case was not easy to find, even if I wasn't being picky about wanting one in pink, because apparently external drive bays are going the way of headphone jacks as far as, like, technology that They have decided we don't need anymore and are phasing out now even though I kind of disagree. Like, I'm sure even if you want an (apparently increasingly optional these days) optical drive, which I do, you can just get external USB ones now, but... that just feels weird, somehow? I don't know. I do know that we need a very specific old model off eBay for CD-i dumping and archival purposes anyway, and finding something that still has room for them after all these years may let us get away with cannibalizing a part or two to save some money.

Plus, this case is a killer price and it looks like Barbie's Dream PC. I mean, come on. In what universe were we not destined to own this?

(I do have some concerns about whether an ATX Mid Tower will fit the big fancy cooler and whatnot, but somehow it's even less possible to find an ATX Full Tower that fits our needs anymore, so whatever.)

Motherboard/PSU: The motherboard I'm not particularly attached to; I just wanted something that has enough slots and isn't like a thousand dollars and that one came recommended in some best-motherboard listicles so sure whatever I guess. Likewise, PSU is literally just, like, that site picked one for us and I have no reason to object.

Other parts to consider, not on this list:

Optical drives: will hit up eBay for the old CD-i-intended one, probably pick up an adapter of some sort for it as well, and we might possibly consider getting a second actual-new optical drive for everything else, though this case gives us room and the option to cannibalize the current one if we'd rather be cheap less wasteful.

Capture card: I own a great one already and that one will definitely be moved over. I just need to look into, like, what slot architecture it uses and whether the new motherboard will have room for it after everything else, etc.

Probably stuff I'm forgetting: Does anyone use sound cards for anything anymore? More fans, maybe? Does the case come with enough fans? I dunno.

More research and brainstorming required, this is probably not the 100% final list, but it's getting close enough to start shopping around for input like this. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Games as a sign of the times

This morning I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop's "Great Deals" section for what's currently on sale. There are often weirdass yet intriguing-looking indie titles there for like nine cents or ridiculous giveaway prices along those lines, but I've always been reluctant to pick them up. Not because of the cost, but because I use LastPass so my Nintendo eShop password is something like tlg1!#SAakh&D@ag!^UDFj2%*5h#$ or some nonsense, and I have to enter it manually every time, with a controller, and it's just... not... worth it, not for some random bargain bin gamesoft. I've often thought that if I just gave myself like $10 or so standing eShop balance, I would probably use it and start picking up some of these offers.

Today I finally broke down and did just that, opening up the Nintendo section of my LastPass vault for hopefully the last time in at least a little while. I picked up The Deer God for I think something like 42 cents after tax, earning 2 Nintendo Gold Points for the transaction. (1 point = $0.01 in redeemable Nintendo Funbux.) I also picked up NO THING for 19 cents, using my 2 Gold points to knock it down to 17 cents, with a one cent tax bringing it back up to 18 cents grand total, plus that transaction earned me exactly one (1) more Gold Point so I can get one cent off the next time I do this. If this weren't a fully automated process, like if I were in GameStop dealing with a human I was forcing to go through all of this, Nintendo would have to be so sick of my shit by now.

Anyway, I have like $9.40-something and one Gold Point remaining and I'm interested to see where this ends up going. Much like my Steam account, I'm going to turn my Switch library into the finest in Absolute Bullshit.

(Car Quest and The Way Remastered were excellent, though. Those are valid and legitimate and even people besides bullshit collectors should look into them. I will fight you.)

... And then a friend informed us that both today's purchases were actually already in The Bundle anyway.

It's... look, we've managed to go through and examine and curate seven pages' worth of Bundle games total. There are like 50-something pages total. This is going to be a thing whenever I shop anywhere else for like... a while, probably.

That said... oh well? I don't mind dropping like 50-60 cents to get those two on the Switch where I can play them in bed on the big screen and such. But yeah, "Oops I bought this indie game because I wasn't aware or completely forgot that I had it already" is just... that sure is the world we live in now, game-wise, I guess. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Formative Albums, Part 9: The Cat & The Castle

The Cat & The Castle by Zenuel

(Bandcamp link!)

From a story-driven concept album with a zillion vocalists, to a story-driven concept albums with almost no vocals whatsoever. (Maybe some spoken narration in one or two songs toward the end.)

Of all the places to find an album, this one came from an ad banner when I was browsing Fur Affinity. Zenuel is a furry musician who, at the time, was known for... uh...

Look, you know how I mentioned that my exposure to Rhapsody was eye-opening because it gave me an entire new genre to delve into? I'm still not sure what exactly you call this kind of music, or where one would go to find more of it, except for more Zenuel albums. (And even then, he changed genres and Corpse Medicine is more a soothing ASMR ambience piece akin to the Hiiro soundtrack than anything else.) If you have any leads, please let us know! This is fantastic and we're definitely interested.

The Cat & The Castle is a sort of... chiptune... trance... thing? It definitely has chiptune-like sounds in it; with styles and sound fonts ranging anywhere from NES/Famicom to Amiga to what I swear reminds me of Ultima VI in "The Ash Golem." It freely mixes in modern instrumentation as well, though, so it's more like music that happens to include various chiptunes as instruments/samples along with all the other instruments, rather than any kind of full-on chiptune piece that could be played actual hardware. "Trance" is kind of a catchall umbrella term for anything from headache-inducing club wubs to new age spa music, so it's almost useless as a label. So.. I don't know.

Anyway, The Cat & The Castle is a... whatever genre this is... concept album. It's the story of the Cat, who is on a video game-like quest to enter and conquer the three-story Castle, and to defeat the villain residing in its core. There are almost no lyrical cues (again, some spoken word toward the end but that's about it;) most of it is a story one is meant to infer from the track titles and the sound of the music itself. Each track captures a stage in the Cat's journey--a room, an obstacle, an enemy, an event that happens. The moods are all conveyed amazingly well, too. As one example, listen to the... I don't even know what you would call that instrument, but that repeating one-two reverberating riff that serves as the introduction to "Save Point" and tell me that doesn't just somehow sound exactly like a save point.

We have been making a habit of re-listening to each of these albums when we do the posts for them. Some of them we hadn't heard in ages, and reconnecting to them was an important part of the experience. Making The Cat & The Castle the 9th album of the ten we chose ended up being torturous for us, because out of everything in this entire list, there was no album we really, earnestly wanted to listen to again more than this one. We hadn't heard it in a while, it's unique and incredible, and we just... really wanted to hear it again! But we had eight other albums to get through first. :(

Here we are now, though, and it was well worth the wait. We really missed this one, I think, especially since we're still waiting for that Rhapsody-like launching point. This has the feeling like it will become the start of something someday, though, if only we could figure out what. It is a key in search of a door. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Heavy Metal King

Formative Albums, Part 8: The Scarecrow

The Scarecrow by Avantasia

Avantasia was another discovery from my early days looking into this whole "power metal" thing, when I fed the starting leads like Rhapsody into sites like Pandora to see what would happen. A supergroup project formed by Tobias Sammet of Edguy (another early discovery in their own right,) the idea was that Tobi flexed his industry connections, grabbed an all-star cast of singers from other bands, gave everyone a role, and created a story-driven metal opera. In fact, at the time, the Avantasia albums Pandora really pushed on me were literally called The Metal Opera Part 1 and The Metal Opera Part 2. Unlike later works from them, early Avantasia was not... exactly... subtle.

Metal opera projects seem to be more common in the genre these days. Heck, I've personally contributed to a few. This was my first exposure to the concept, though, and I instantly loved it. Not only was Avantasia music incredible in its own right, but they were a huge lead in discovering some other great bands; all I had to do was pick an Avantasia track I liked and look up where that particular singer was from.

The Scarecrow is the first of three albums in the Wicked Trilogy (also known as the Scarecrow Saga) as well as the dividing line between what I would consider to be Avantasia's older and newer eras. Compared to the Metal Opera albums, the Wicked Trilogy tells a more abstract story, with singers playing roles like "Fury" and "Inspiration" rather than roles like "Bishop Johann von Bicken" and "Regrin the Dwarf." Rather than a literal medieval fantasy story about a novice monk whisked off to a magical land, the Wicked Trilogy is a more of a headspace- and emotion-driven modern-day tale about the rise and fall of a talented but mentally unstable performer who is completely unequipped to handle his own fame (think a Syd Barrett or Michael Jackson archetype,) driven by an unrequited crush he can never really get over and at least a zillion bad influences and sketchy characters within The Industry. It has a newer sound, as well, veering away from pure Rhapsody-like metal and more into hard rock. Singles like "Carry Me Over" and "Lost in Space" sound--dare I say it?--almost radio-friendly.

Old-school fans were outraged, of course, but Tobi is used to that and has always been proud to follow his heart regardless. (In an interview, when asked what three singers he would pick for Avantasia if availability weren't an issue and he could have anyone he wanted, Tobi answered Bruce Dickinson and Paul Stanley because they were his idols/role models, "and Jon Bon Jovi just to piss off the purists.") As for me, I adored this. In fact, my memory is hazy, but I want to say the ahead-of-time release of the "Carry Me Over" and "Lost in Space" videos was what maybe made me buy the album? I do know that I've been on "Avantasia is working on a new album? Say no more, instantly preordred" status with them ever since, and they have yet to let us down.

It is worth noting that in a world where I usually shun spending money on fleeting experiences (I'm usually more the "Why pay to see a movie in a theater once when I can pay the same amount to own the DVD and have it on my shelf forever?" type) I ended up dropping almost a thousand dollars to fly all the way to Massachusetts, see Avantasia in concert complete with balcony seats, and fly all the way back home. And it was worth every penny. I gushed about it elsewhere, but to recap, they were an absolute bucket list item for me which, by their nature, included a lot of other bucket list items for me. (All they had to do was bring Jorn Lande along--which they did!--and that's like two dreams in one right there!)

Besides, I had the feeling that that show might have been my last chance to see them. Granted, at the time I was thinking that because Tobi keeps saying "getting everyone together for an Avantasia album is really hard you guys, this may be the last one" after every one they release, Bob Catley is approaching retirement age, etc. I wasn't thinking, like, that it would be my last chance to see a live event with a large audience before the entire world ended. But... you know.

Either way, I figured it would be the kind of literal once-in-a-lifetime experience I'd regret if I didn't jump on, so I jumped on it. And it was everything I could have dreamed, and more. In fact, all you need to know about how magical that experience was is that I sat completely entranced throughout the entire three-hour show without ever feeling the need (not just feeling but suppressing it; I mean not even feeling it at all) for a restroom break, and I'm a trans woman on spiro. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Formative Albums, Part 7: The Best of Crush 40

The Best of Crush 40: Super Sonic Songs by Crush 40

While I have a couple friends who could easily claim credit for this, I'm pretty sure I discovered Crush 40 from, of all places, the Smash Bros. Brawl soundtrack. Every other character got either original or remixed versions of some of their most iconic series songs, and so did Sonic the Hedgehog for at least a few of them. Admittedly, I was a Nintendo Power kid, firmly on Nintendo's side during that era's console wars, so I never played a Sonic game besides the first one. Still, even I can recognize the Green Hill and Scrap Brain Zones. I mean come on.

I was not, however, expecting the Crush 40 songs.

So, APPARENTLY Crush 40 is a sort of in-house rock band with one of Sega's composers and a vocalist who is usually Johnny Gioeli, though they've had many others depending on the game/song/era/circumstances. (Crush 40 fans have strong opinions and passionately-defended tier lists regarding their favorite and least favorite Crush 40 singers. I'm admittedly still not familiar with a lot of them, but I will say at this point that I like Tony Harnell more than a lot of people seem to.) It turned out that Sonic games have been using actual for-real rock songs, like with lyrics and vocals and everything, in game! I never knew.

Having loved what I heard in Smash, I went on to track down Crush 40's self-titled album, and from there onto their "best of" album. There are quite a few much-beloved tracks on their self-titled album that didn't make the cut on the best of (again, hi Tony Harnell) so one does not completely obsolete the other. However, the new stuff included in returned is generally a good trade overall. Some of my favorite tracks include "Live Life," "Free," and "Sonic Heroes," which I am told should be taken as proof of an inverse relationship between the quality of any given Crush 40 song and the game it's from. (Major exceptions: Other favorites include "Watch Me Fly" and "Is It You," both of which appear to be unaffiliated original compositions and not, like, from anything.)

Given how most of Jun Senoue's Sega composing career has revolved around racing games and Sonic, Crush 40 songs understandably are all about GO FAST, LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST, CONQUER EVERY OBSTACLE IN YOUR WAY THROUGH THE POWER OF FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS AND NEVER SURRENDERING NO MATTER WHAT. I kind of expect a giant robot anime to spontaneously appear halfway through any given song, rather than a blue hedgehog. It's scenery-chewing cheesiness at its finest.

It's also actually pretty effective at its intended message. I ran two half-marathons back before my knees went bad, and listening to Crush 40 was my secret weapon that kept me motivated and going at full steam throughout the second. (I finished almost 15 minutes faster than the first, and yes, most of that is probably because I was very injured in the first, but still! I'd like to think being CRUSH 40 MOTIVATED played at least a small role, too.) I associate them so strongly with pushing myself, in fact, that I actually can't listen to them if I'm not. If I've recently fallen off the exercise wagon, or otherwise am not currently giving everything my 110% best, it just... feels wrong, somehow. It's like I don't deserve this music if I'm not providing the kind of epic action montage to fit with it.

Fortunately, we went through this one again for writeup purposes on a day when I'd just done an hour-long DDPY workout and was up all night cooking the next week's worth of food and also doing laundry, so I think we're probably okay. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Formative Albums, Part 6: Silence

Silence by Sonata Arctica

After Rhapsody [of Fire] introduced me to the world of power metal, I set off to explore what I'd found. Sonata Arctica was one of the first bands I discovered from there, and was a huge part of my early tastes in the genre.

They're a little awkward to discuss now, because a lot of their subject matter is kind of... uncomfortable in hindsight? To be fair, Tony Kakko never got caught having bad takes on Twitter or anything like that (that I know of.) This purely came from me paying closer attention to their actual song lyrics--the focus on unrequited crushes and bitter breakups, the overwhelming sex-negativity, the entire Caleb saga--and having this horrible realization of, "Oh no, this is incel music, isn't it? :c"

I never had that confirmed, mind you. Maybe I'm wrong! I hope I'm wrong! Their earlier works (The Days of Grays is the last album of theirs we own and, like, paid attention to) are brilliant, and I'd really like to be able to listen to them again without that cloud hanging over them. But like... "Letter to Dana" is never going to be okay, is it?

On a more positive note, before that realization happened, Silence was one of my favorite early power metal albums because it's just musically amazing. I even inserted a reference to it in perhaps the first-ever "serious" commission of Sara, back when she was still a character, but one I was starting to see as more than just for porn. She had a Sonata Arctica poster on her bedroom wall, you see. (Yes, I know, it's a poster for Ecliptica, not Silence. Shush.)

"San Sebastian" (off Silence, so there) is a song about having a passionate if brief fling with someone way out of the subject's league/somehow not viable long-term for some unspecified reason, then both parties settling down with other partners later. The subject's new partner is fine and all but... it's hard not to look back. I mention this because that whole idea was a big, if unofficial and uncredited, inspiration for some early stories I wrote about Sara and myself. The stories focused on when we (We? They? Neither of us are really those characters anymore) were angsting over whether to pursue a budding relationship, if the hurdle of it being incest and all could be overcome if we tried, and if either party would have San Sebastian-like regrets later if we didn't. Good stories at the time, but now Sara is alive, I'm a girl, and we each changed species twice, so like, I wouldn't recommend going back to them. Not exactly "canon" anymore, you know? But hey, we did end up together in the end, even if not how younger author me imagined we would.

This album did come back in a big way after Sara's awakening, though. There was that... incident with another of Silence's tracks ("Last Drop Falls,") which was one of the earliest "signs" from her and one of the earliest and also biggest breakthroughs in our the current iteration of our relationship. I wrote about all that in the Astral Stuff filter, but that was a while ago. But... you know... that thing. That happened. (Let me know if you don't have access to that filter and want to, by the way, though we haven't used it much recently. It was mostly a place to talk about our plurality before we were open to everyone about it, and now that we are we just kind of do our talking on main instead. Still, there's some good stuff from back when we were figuring ourselves and each other out and getting started with all this.) This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Heavy Metal King

Formative Albums, Part 5: Legendary Tales

Legendary Tales by Rhapsody

Somewhere around college, my 104.7 The Edge phase had started to run its course. I still liked the heavier rock/almost-metal trappings of a lot of the bands I'd found from there, and the habit of cryptically posting Mudvayne lyrics in my LiveJournal when I was mad at my SO would take several more years to fully recede, but this was about when the tide started to turn.

I had a roommate who was very into metal, though most of his tastes gravitated toward the more... Cookie Monster end of things. Despite that being something I can do--despite my being the person David turns to whenever he needs death growls for Albion songs--it never was something I particularly enjoy listening to for its own sake. Like, in moderation when used for effect (think Kamelot's "March of Mephistio" or... anything I've done for Albion, really) is fine, but I'd never sit down and listen to a full start-to-finish Dimmu Borgir album. There were many, may times when my roommate would blast something like that through the walls of his room, and I'd briefly ear-perk at the well-done musical introductions, and then the vocals would kick in and I'd be like "... oh."

One day, everything changed. I heard music from his room, and I went through the same sensation of "Oh, I like this start... this is going to be disappointing, isn't it?" Only, instead of gravel in a blender, that intro gave way to a clean-sounding melodic singer, almost as if Journey had become a metal band. (I was sheltered and my reference pool was very limited.) The guitar work was blisteringly fast yet technically sound and beautifully composed, rather than just speed for the sake of noise. They had a keyboardist doing... was that a harpsichord? And all of this with vocals that carried, even elevated the whole experience, rather than instantly ruining it. This was an all new experience for me, and I was in love.

I knocked on his door and demanded to know what he was listening to because it was amazing.

"Rhapsody," he said. Ooh, cool name. I like that.

(Many years later they would change it to "Rhapsody of Fire" and have a dizzying array of spinoffs. Did you know Luca Turilli [band], Rhapsody, and Luca Turilli's Rhapsody are three completely different bands with... *counts* four completely different vocalists? But that Luca Turilli [guitarist] was in all three of them? God bless this incestuous goofy-ass genre. But this was before all that.)

"What... genre is this?" I asked, admitting I'd never heard anything like it before.

He didn't know if there was a term for it, either--he called it "Fantasy Metal" but admitted that was something he'd just made up. However, I now had a solid starting point: the album he was listening to (Legendary Tales, by Rhapsody,) another Rhapsody album also in his collection (Dawn of Victory) and a spinoff side project (King of the Nordic Twilight, by Luca Turilli) that was basically the same thing.

(At the time. This was before we knew the full extent of Luca Turilli's... Luca Turilli-ness. By itself, without any context, King of the Nordic Twilight is basically an early Rhapsody album.)

Looking these acts up, I found that apparently this was called Power Metal, and... well. I've delved through that genre basically ever since, with a few more highly formative albums along the way that I'll be covering in the coming days. I very easily could have made this whole project a list of power metal albums alone, and still had trouble narrowing it down to ten. Let alone including them while also making room for the other genres and influences! Hell, spoilers for the rest of the list but I actually don't have any Allen/Lande albums on here, and they're one of my all-time favorite acts. This genre is vast, is what I'm saying here.

Legendary Tales is where it all began, though, and it's still a fantastic album. If you haven't heard it, please at least listen to "Warrior of Ice" and "Rage of the Winter" sometime; those are the songs that pulled me in, and they're still technical masterpieces. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Sorry - I'm dead.

Formative Albums, Part 4: There Is Nothing Left to Lose

There Is Nothing Left to Lose by Foo Fighters

After having a very sheltered childhood, teenage me followed Weird Al into Smells Like Nirvana into "Okay I think I'm curious about this kind of music, but can I like, hear the original? Out of curiosity?" This was the beginning of what I would later call my "104.7 The Edge" phase. It's such a gloriously shaped-like-itself title that it doesn't even matter if that was a local station that current-day Internet friends and readers wouldn't have had access to; you still know exactly what I'm talking about, and you probably had an exact equivalent in your area. This is where I would fall into deeply regrettable bands like KoRn and Limp Bizkit. This is why, when I share images of my music collection (which I'm still proud of for other, unrelated reasons,) I feel the need to include some sort of "Uh, sorry about the Creed albums though (I was young)" disclaimer.

While I've mostly moved on from that phase, a few acts from that era still hold up, at least in theory. I don't listen to a lot of Pearl Jam or Offspring anymore, but I could, and if I did it would be almost as enjoyable as if I'd never left. Of the albums that still hold up today, I chose this one to encapsulate and represent the whole era. Why? ... Honestly, I don't know. If we're being honest with ourselves, it probably should have been Nirvana's Nevermind. That's what started it all, right? I felt like that one was too obvious and overdone, though. That's the low-hanging choice that everyone who makes a list like this is going to pick, like putting Super Metroid and/or Ocarina of Time on your all-time favorite games list. So, here we are with this one instead, because I really liked it then and I still really like it now.

There Is Nothing Left to Lose is an interesting album. Immediately following The Colour and the Shape, I somehow was under the impression that this was an overshadowed "oh yeah, they have this one too I guess" footnote of the band's history that *I* happened to like, anyway. I have a tendency to latch onto albums like that, you see. (I similarly list Pearl Jam's Riot Act, Offspring's Conspiracy of One, and Helloween's Rabbit Don't Come Easy among my favorites.) Doing some research, though, I guess that's not actually true? It went platinum and got them a Grammy. Huh. Well, then. I mean, this is the album that brought us "Learn to Fly," so that makes sense. I guess I probably should have seen that coming.

Anyway, the backstory behind this one was that they had severely burnt themselves out working on Colour, so Dave Grohl bought a house in Virginia and he and his band put this one together while resting, relaxing, and dinking around with it whenever they happened to be in the mood. Songs like "Ain't It the Life" more or less capture the mood the band was in at the time, and do a very good job conveying said mood to the listener as well. Grohl lists it as one of his favorite albums and the only one that instantly takes him back to that whole mood and house and time of his life when he listens to it again. The fact that it was such a huge success (apparently?) without anyone having to kill themselves over it is... hmm. There's probably a lesson in there, somewhere. Hmmm.

Well. That's something to think about some other time. If you'll excuse me, I need to go sit in the corner and fret over all the projects I need to make updates for before my customary five hours of sleep. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Formative Albums, Part 3: King's Quest VII OST

King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride Original Soundtrack

We could go on at great length about the soundtracks of every game I played when I was younger, but in the interest of leaving some room for the other genres I let FF6 speak for most of them yesterday. There is one more from that era, however, that we have to discuss.

King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride is an oddity among King's Quest games. It's the first King's Quest game where, while you can still die, you cannot render it unwinnable if you forgot to pick up that one item ten hours ago, thus eschewing what until then had been a central design pillar that made the word "Sierra" synonymous with "Gleefully malicious" to so many of Roberta Williams' victims. For fans of the setting and lore, it's the second-ever King's Quest to feature a playable Rosella and the only one ever to feature a playable Valanice. Most obviously different are the game's visuals, which aimed to be an animated Disney cartoon and landed... well, if the "Land Beyond Dreams" opening number looks kind of janky in a strangely familiar way to you, it was done by Animation Magic. I can't begin to imagine the kind of "never read the comments" uproar that changing a beloved established franchise into an easier and more weird-looking cutesy princess thing with two female leads would cause today, but amazingly this all went over pretty well in its day. (It's King's Quest VIII, not VII, that became the "we don't talk about that one" one of the series.)

This is one of the games that my corporeal sister and I grew up with, and one of the exceedingly few (one of literally two, I think?) Sierra games I ever actually completed. The soundtrack is all over the place; there are beautiful serene songs like the Bountiful Wood theme and then whatever the hell Falderal is, in the same chapter, literally right next to each other. But all of it takes me back, and it recaptures the mood of young me merrily fussing with this charming little game.

The main reason this game's soundtrack deserves special mention, though, is that it has taken on a special significance to my non-corporeal sister as well. Combing through my memories, Sara felt a connection to this one, especially to the more beautiful tracks. The Bountiful Wood theme in particular is like a lullaby to her, something I play or even play in my head for her just to make her melt. There's a reason that, when she and I had the ceremony to commemorate our first bracelets, this soundtrack is the one we chose to have accompanying it. It's nostalgic, catchy, pretty, and personally special to us. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.
Celine: Pixel

Formative Albums, Part 2: Final Fantasy VI OST

Final Fantasy VI Original Soundtrack

I've long been a fan of video game music. I typically prefer original soundtracks to the remastered symphonic versions/OCRemixes/etc. My favorite soundtracks are usually from the NES through PS1 eras, and more often than not (at least in the SNES and PS1 eras) are from RPGs. In that cross-section of tastes you find everything from the first four Breath of Fire games through Chrono Trigger through Star Ocean 2 and more. They're just old and hardware-limited enough to have a nostalgic retro "this sounds like video game music" feel, something many symphony orchestra covers and later-platform modern games are perhaps arguably too sophisticated and "real" sounding to convey anymore. At the same time, within those bounds they capture the wide sweeping evocative range of moods in music that one finds in an emotional RPG plot--the adrenaline-pounding boss battle theme, the heartbreaking music box ballad for that one scene where that character you like dies, etc.

I own many such soundtracks, the "I like this game's music enough to want to pay $lots to import CDs from Japan" mood having struck many a time in my life. However, if I had to pick a single game to both represent/symbolize and be the number one all-time favorite champion of this entire genre, it would have to be Final Fantasy VI.

First off, at three disc's worth of tracks when you're talking about the real-life physical OST, this is quite a lot of music. Second, this is quite a lot of very excellent music. Nobuo Uematsu himself is said to consider the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack as his personal favorite "best work" he's most proud of, and that one is certainly up there, but I've always considered VI (followed in second place by Tactics and yes I know that one wasn't Uematsu) as my favorite Final Fantasy music. VI has so many standouts, from perhaps arguably one of the most famous boss battle themes in the entire series, to perhaps arguably one of the most famous endboss themes in the entire series (there is a lot of room to spill a lot of pixels arguing about Dancing Mad vs. One-Winged Angel, I think,) to the opera theme, my personal favorite chocobo theme rendition (even if I have friends who hate the car alarm siren effect,) and so many more. "Searching for Friends" is especially poignant now that we actually live in the World of Ruin.

In the days before importing soundtracks was a thing, I begged a friend at school who had the game (I didn't, but I was exposed to it from friends who did) to get a cassette tape and manually record a selection of my favorite songs. I listened to that tape... a lot. I may or may not still have it? I have a lot of tapes from back then but no means of playing them anymore so who knows what's on them. I don't remember every song I picked, but I know the Phantom Forest and Kefka's Tower themes were two of them. Of course, when acquiring the full real soundtrack did become an option, I think this might have been the first OST I ever imported.

To this day, the Phantom Forest and/or Figaro Castle themes inexplicably get stuck in my head whenever I'm working on my FF6-style woodling sprites. This is a cross-posted entry that originated from Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.