Author: M

Artist, ne'er do well, militant queer.

Abnormal Mapping 58: The First Annual Soundtrack Showcase Part Deux


Welcome to the very end of the year, where we talk about the good, the bad, and the musical. Please enjoy over two hours of hot, banging audio content. Please enjoy the end of 2016. Please enjoy the end.

Next Month’s Game Club: Tomb Raider Legend, Tomb Raider Anniversary, Tomb Raider Underworld, Tomb Raider (2013), Rise of the Tomb Raider

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

The Best Game Music Choices of 2016!

Witcher 3 – Priscilla’s Song – Marcin Przbylowicz, Mikolai Stroinski
Wolf Among Us – Intro Theme – Jared Emerson Johnson
Stellaris – Gravitation Constant – Andreas Waldetoft
Super Mario World – Athletic Theme – Koji Kondo
Link to the Past – Dark World – Koji Kondo
Super Castlevania 4 – Simon’s Theme – Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Majora’s Mask – Milk Bar – Koji Kondo
Majora’s Mask – Giants’ Theme – Koji Kondo
Sonic the Hedgehog – Starlight Zone – Masato Nakamura
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Metropolis – Masato Nakamura
Sonic CD – Stardust Speedway Zone (Bad Future ver) – Spencer Nilsen, David Young, Mark Crew
Sonic Adventure – Azure Blue World – Jun Senoue, Fumie Kumatani, Kenichi Tokoi, Masaru Setsumaru
Yoshi’s Woolly World – Clawdaddy Beach – Tomoya Tomita, Misaki Asada
Kirby: Planet Robobot – Float Islands (Blue Lab Area) – Hirokazu Ando
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – Mangrove Cove – David Wise, Kenji Yamamoto
Picross 3D Round 2 – Track II – Megumi Ohara, Hirokazu Ando, Shogo Sakai
Super Hexagon – Courtesy – Chipzel
Streets of Rage 2 – Wave 131 – Yuzo Koshiro
Thumper – Road – Brian Gibson
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst – The Shard – Solar Fields
No Man’s Sky – Blueprint for a Slow Machine – 65daysofstatic
Rez – Rock is Sponge – Joujouka
Stardew Valley – Summer (Tropicala) – ConcernedApe
Stardew Valley – Winter (Nocturne of Ice) – ConcernedApe
Kingdom Hearts – Hikari (Orchestral) – Yoko Shimomura
Auld Lang Syne – Frank Stanley

Backing Music

Rise of the Tomb Raider – Main Theme
Uncharted 4 – Nates Theme 4.0
Firewatch – Hidden Away
The Witness: Ambient Sound
Bullet Hell Monday: Stage One
Heart & Slash – I ❤ You
Chameleon Run – Trailer Theme
Oxenfree – Main Theme
The Last Guardian – Main Theme
Call of Duty Infinite Warfare – Menu Theme
Inside – Main Theme
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Main Theme
Pokemon Sun – Welcome To Alola
Thumper – Tunnel
Rez Infinite – Stage 5
Super Hot – Menu Theme
Stardew Valley – Starwatcher

A Call for Podcast Guests – A Kingdom Hearts Journey

khhd03Hey everyone, M here! I’ve been replaying Kingdom Hearts recently, and I was thinking that it would be great to do a series of podcasts about them similar to what Jackson did about Metal Gear. But as much as everyone likes to poke fun at Kingdom Hearts, I don’t actually know that many people who are REALLY into Kingdom Hearts. So that’s why I’m making this, and trying to get people who want to be on. I want to do fun, positive podcasts probably about an hour long about each of the games individually. Ideally we’d talk a bit about the game, and about your relationship with the series in general, and maybe some disney/square games goofery.

Here’s the games I intend to cover. The ones that are crossed out are the ones that have been claimed already!

  • Kingdom Hearts
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom Hearts II
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance
  • Kingdom Hearts Unchained x

THEY’RE ALL CLAIMED! Thanks everyone, this’ll be recording throughout the rest of the year and start going up once I feel like I have a comfortable buffer. I’ll keep you updated!

That’s a lot of games! And I know people mostly only played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. But I want the broad, sweeping look at what Kingdom Hearts is. So here’s the guidelines for anyone who wants to be a part of this.

  • send me a twitter message @em_being or an email at
  • we’ll set up a time to record. I’m planning these deep in advance to make sure interest is there, we won’t record until late summer or early fall at the earliest.
  • these will go up in early 2017, one a month, probably, to allow for production time and having any free time

If you think you’d be interested, drop me a line, we can talk about it. If you just want to signal boost, that would be great. If you know someone who might be interested, please send them this. Kingdom Hearts is a series that is most beloved by people who are often ignored by the usual games discourse, and those are the people I really want to talk to. If you’re going to throw your hat in, please let me know which games you most feel like you could talk about, and recognize that I’m going to get a lot of interest in the main numbered series, so its less likely you’ll get those ones. As usual for anything Abnormal Mapping related, queer people, PoC, and women will get preference. I’m not about to have a cis white dude cast about Kingdom Hearts, of all things, for obvious reasons.

Thanks for sharing or joining in, whichever you do. I’d love to make this real, but that needs us all to join hearts across time and space!

VaniaMania: Super CastleVania IV

VaniaMania, the sister series of Morning Mario, sees M trying to tackle the earliest games in one of their favorite series one continue at a time. How can you stop Dracula when you’re only limited to three lives a day?!

Super Castlevania IV is a Konami game from 1991, for the Super Nintendo. A remake of the original game, Simon Belmont once again suits up for the first time to tackle the forces of darkness and Dracula himself. Now with graphical flourishes and 8-way whipping!

M Plays Freedom Planet

On a planet of fractuous furry factions, a cold war is made red hot as an alien faction descends to find a source of unimaginable power. Only the good intentions and fast feet of the dragon Lilac and her friends can save the day in Freedom Planet!

Freedom Planet is a 2D platform game by GalaxyTrail, released in 2014 and available on Steam and Wii U. It’s very good and you can find out more at

VaniaMania: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Long before Simon Belmont stormed Dracula’s Castle to end evil’s reign, there was another Belmont! This man gathered friends to help him seal away evil once and for all, only to prove that darkness doesn’t end with one hero’s quest. This is his story!

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the third and final Castlavania game released by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Originally out in Japan in 1989, the version we’re playing is a translation of the Japanese original, keeping intact the custom sound chip-driven soundtrack that made this entry so notable.

Great Games: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

928900Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Platform: PlayStation, Xbox 360
Release Year: 1997

Symphony of the Night is a game of excess. Castlevania itself is already a cornucopia of creepy, cribbing heavily from Universal’s slate of horror icons and injecting as many public domain monsters as one can shake a stick at until the most baroque, Halloween game comes out the other end of an otherwise traditional NES action platformer. By the time Symphony of the Night (the tenth game in the series) came out, the world was ready to move on. 3D was in, and everything about the Castlevania formula had been hashed out. Fans would enjoy whipping through some stages, but nothing truly new was happening with the series.

It’s into this world that Symphony of the Night emerges, confident and light-footed, just as its protagonist rushes through the woods into Dracula’s eponymous castle(vania). This is Alucard, estranged son of Dracula, a moodier hero for a more dramatic game, illustrated with Ayami Kojima’s now iconic gothic bishonen style. The castle he finds himself in is not the stage-level format of most of the prior games, but instead a constant, contiguous world that cribs heavily from the structure of Nintendo’s Super Metroid. Not only do you have a map and save rooms, but you have RPG mechanics, as Alucard levels up and equips armor and weapons in his expanding skill set.

These familiar mechanical developments are in service of something much more profound, however. Utilizing 3D game console hardware to create a sprawling 2D game, Symphony of the Night grants Dracula’s castle an unknowable power in just how elaborate it is. Baroque only hints at the castle’s variety and impossible geometry, as marble hallways open up into vortexes of stormclouds, where statuary pulls back to reveal occult laborities, where the catacombs underneath the castle expand into lakes and tombs so deep your path is surrounded by roiling lava. Every part feels whole unto itself, but in concert the array of structures bolted onto each other feels impossible to navigate, dizzying in its chaos and fundamental inscrutability.

Which is the world that Alucard finds himself within. This lone, tragic hero enters his fathers house only to find that it is actually as complicated and strange as the idea of a mythical super-Dracula’s castle would evoke. Much has been made of Castlevania as a narrative of asserting identity and reclaiming sense of self over abuse or trauma, and that makes sense given the basic mechanics of the game. Alucard enters what should be his home, and he and the player find it challenging—in finding its many secrets, in fighting the foes within, in even surviving its spaces without harm—until you and Alucard both begin to slowly make headway against the evil forces and geometry in front of you.

Each square uncovered on the map is the reclaiming of the unknowable into the dominion of your understanding, each shortcut or hidden room a growing of your knowledge and a lessening of the power your enemy holds over you through secrets and illusion. Even the literal inversion of the castle, an entire second world where Alucard’s world is literally turned upside down, only slows you down until you begin to doggedly chip away at the edifice of this hurdle in pursuit of the inner peace Alucard seeks at the end of his journey.

Symphony of the Night is a game out of time depicting a world out of time, a strange amalgam of new technologies and old design to create something that sits in the middle of the history of game development as a testement to the power of both in unison. Later that year, Final Fantasy VII will emerge as the torchbearer to the future of cinematic 3D storytelling. On the SNES, the power of moving pixels and scaling sprites could only create a dynamic action version of Castlevania with rocking music, but it couldn’t give you the spaces of quiet and beauty and the insurmountable myriad obstructions with the assured, methodical atmosphere and melancholy of Symphony of the Night.

Of all the games people consider great games, Symphony of the Night exists firmly in one of the most important crossroads in the history of the medium. That it triumphs as the last bastion of an old generation of games speaks not just to the power of an ethos supposedly long-gone, but of the marriage of old and new, artistic and technological, in an elegant assertion of mastery over one’s powers and the forces of darkness that threaten to engulf us all.

Great Games: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl

81ux19hIa5L._SL1500_Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl

Developer: Atlus
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Year: 2013

Like most RPGs, Etrian Odyssey Untold has a bunch of side quests, and most of them are of little import outside of the hefty chunk of XP and item you get as a reward for completing them. So when I took a quest that challenged me to spend 5 real time days on floor 8 of the single, massive dungeon that comprises EOU’s gameplay, I hopped to it expecting little more than a boring back and forth shuffle, killing now-trivial enemies as I waited for the in game clock to tick towards my goal. What I found instead was the heart of this game, and of Etrian Odyssey in general. (more…)

Visiting Jackson’s Homeland

I don’t travel. Partially that’s me being a stubborn, introverted butt, but partially it’s just a function of being poor and working on too many things all the time. One of the things I’ve always liked about video games is their possibility to take us to places we wouldn’t otherwise see, and allow us to explore spaces that we either can’t afford to go to or that simply don’t exist at all. Blame a childhood with CD-ROM Encyclopedia’s with Myst-like slideshows of famous locations. Blame the interactive Star Trek: TNG encyclopedia, which allowed you to slooooowly see every floor even if they only had four set photos of corridors to show.

It’s why I like ‘walking simulators’—not because I’m especially into them as a subversion of games, but because I think walking around a space is one of the coolest things games can do.

So when Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture came out, I relished its spaces. I don’t want to talk about what those spaces meant, but I did appreciate the six hours I spent crawling through them, happily stopping to watch smoke rise from an ashtray or rain pool on pavement. It’s a great game, even before you get to the story it’s telling. And I got to take a bunch of pictures! Jackson did this too, but I followed in his footsteps in order to explore a land he claims is pretty accurate to Real Life Britain, which is supposedly a place you can visit? It sounds like magic.

I guess there are spoilers here, if you count locations as spoilers? Nothing narratively is given away, though. Just how pretty houses and plants and lighting can be. So please enjoy. (more…)

Let’s Play Fallout: New Vegas

A woman is left for dead in the desert, with only a dim memory and a thirst for knowledge. What happens when she braves the wastes of a post-nuclear American southwest in search of the truth and of adventure? Athena is going to find out, one bullet at a time!

Fallout: New Vegas is a sequel to Fallout 3 made by Obsidian Entertainment and released in 2010. We’re playing the Ultimate Edition on PC, which you can buy pretty much anywhere fine video games are sold.