Spotify Plays Game Music

Let’s talk music streaming for a bit. I bet you already have your go-to place for tunes. Me, well, I’ve jumped around, tried a few things.

It took a long time for me to break from the iTunes a-la-carte model. That ability to purchase one song rather than a whole album was liberating; I came from a time of cassettes and CD’s. If I wanted that-one-hit-song, I ran to the radio and mashed the record button – and groaned when the tape wasn’t queued.

Fast forward to streaming music services. Their monthly subscription fees seemed like too much commitment, but I started to try them out.

First, I sampled Apple Music. It was nice… Then I dove into Spotify; I loved it! Part of the reason I bothered looking into it was knowing that Google Play Music would soon be killed off by Google, but I digress.

Well, despite loving Spotify, I wanted to later try YouTube Music Premium. I did, I liked it, and most of all I enjoyed the perk of ad-free YouTube Premium for only $2 more a month.

But then something happened.

When I first opened up to YouTube Music, I realized quickly that I’d have to give up some official soundtracks; Spotify had them, YouTube Music didn’t. I thought I was willing to live with that.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

Towards the end of Summer, when I got back into playing video games, I wanted the soundtracks to the games! The official soundtracks for all the Final Fantasy games are on Spotify! There’s even the album for Octopath Traveler!

There were a few other albums I missed too. So, there was no choice. I had to have my tunes!

Despite the benefits of YouTube Music, I couldn’t resist the greatest feature of Spotify, the most important reason for choosing it: my songs. Like, music by Nobuo Uematsu!

Aside: Why video game music? When you play certain games, like role-playing ones, the music sets the atmosphere and draws you emotionally into the story. Those tunes stick with you. And you feel sonically obliged to immerse in them.

So, all that to explain why I switched something again. I’m back on Spotify and am loving it!

Ah, but there’s one more thing.

I’m now also trying something else again: Apple Music…on Android!? Yes, it’s true. I’d always thought Apple Music on Android was bad due to poor reviews. But now that I’m in an actual free one-month trial, I’m surprised at how well it works! It looks and feels just like it did on my old iPhone 7!

Not only that, I discovered Apple does, in fact, make a cloud based web player for Apple Music. And it’s working well on my Chromebook!

I love Spotify, so why am I trying Apple Music after leaving Apple devices behind? Long story short, my wife is an iPhone user and likes Apple Music. If she doesn’t switch to Spotify, then I may switch to Apple Music so we can save money with a family share plan.

And yes, the first thing I did was check to see if Apple Music has all my video game soundtracks; it does! Moreover, to my surprise, Apple Music also has a particular game soundtrack that Spotify lacks: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch!

What’s your gotta-have music? Care to share a sample of your library? Comment below.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Three Great Gamecasts

These days, lots of folks binge watch shows on “Awesome Streaming Service.” Other fun things you might enjoy: a hobby, cooking, music… I bounce between different things. Lately, I’ve enjoyed the imaginative worlds of video games. The interactive escapism makes for rich entertainment.

When not playing video games, it’s fun to geek out over them with others. Sharing gameplay experiences and anticipating new ones adds excitement. So the social game-cataloging site, Grouvee, is a joy. But I’m here to focus on another avenue for gaming geekery: podcasts.


Gamecasts

I’m sure there are a ton of podcasts about video gaming; I’ve found three good ones. You might like’em too.

The first two focus on Nintendo Switch games. The third one is all about RPG games across various platforms besides the Switch, like on Playstation or Xbox.

What they all have in common is intense or serious enthusiasm for gaming – something I relate to. Or you might just say there’s fun and joy.

The people on these podcasts exude passion for gaming when they review games, discuss upcoming ones, and talk about the gaming industry as a whole. They’re informative and bring excitement.

Do these podcasts encourage escapism? You bet! This is a good thing. America in 2020 has been less than enjoyable to say the least. So having something fun to distract from bad news is helpful.

What Else?

Maybe you’re not into video games. No problem. Whatever you’re into, I’m sure you’ll find podcasts for it. Have you thought about it subscribing to any? It’s super easy!

There are many apps for downloading and listening to podcasts on your phone. Best of all, most are free (ad supported). If you’re into writing stories or underwater basket weaving, and you need some fuel for your fun-fire, check out some podcasts by like-minded folks to geek out with.

I’ll leave you with links to some popular podcast players:

Enjoy!


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Pokémon Fun Reshuffled

This past weekend, I played something besides a video game: Pokémon TCG. My interest was rekindled by last Friday’s release of the new Champion’s Path expansion. The previous one, Darkness Ablaze, helped fuel the flames. And the new Standard Rotation reinvigorated the playing field.

Eternatus
Eternatus

Put Down The Controller

Yeah, I paused Final Fantasy X, docked the Nintendo Switch, and fully diverted my attention to rebuilding an all-new battle deck. With the recent Eternatus cards, how could I avoid revitalizing my Darkness game!?

So I took my Dark-type deck and started swapping out old cards. Thankfully, one of my favorite strategies remained intact with Weavile GX; I love his Shadow Connection ability! But now I can use his Nocturnal Maneuvers to set up my new main attacker, Eternatus VMAX.

I won’t bore my non-Pokémon readers with too many of the details. Yet you might relate.

Eternatus VMAX

Stratagem

Pokémon is very involved; it engages the brain’s problem solving capacity. The numerous cards and abilities are somewhat daunting, but the game boils down to a few basic strategies. And while that translates to costing a lot of time and money, it’s also much fun.

The strategic part captured my brain this weekend. With so many new cards and abilities, I saw time fly by while my mind weighed all the options. You can be imaginative in discovering sneaky tricks or certain knock-outs in the game. But you must always weigh the trade-offs with the benefits. And Pokémon TCG is balanced well; it requires careful planning.

Family Fun

So for the first time in months, my whole family went to the Pokémon League meet-up. My kids and I had fun! I scored great trades for new cards, adding them to my arsenal. Then it was time to start testing my revised Dark deck. It worked, but it has weaknesses; no surprise. So I’ve begun addressing those and will tweak my deck to victory.

And I can’t wait for more! It’s nice to have good family fun, especially during otherwise stressful times. Balancing books, video games, movies, and all forms of escapism is a great problem to have; I’m thankful.

A cool bonus: playing Pokémon with my kids helps me be involved with them more. For example, my oldest son asked me to help him tweak his new Water-type deck. So I’ve started suggesting certain cards and strategies to him – even made a good trade. And my youngest son, still too young to actually play, enjoys trading cards with daddy and his brothers.

Weavile GX

So bring it on. I’m eager for the next expansion, Vivid Voltage. It might electrify the game even better, giving the family more to buzz about.

Lastly, speaking of buzz, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo announced yesterday that the newest expansion, The Crown Tundra, for the video game, Pokémon Sword and Shield, will be released on October 22. The biggest news to me: it includes ALL the legendary Pokémon from previous games! That means I’ll finally be able to catch my favorite, Zygarde!

Gotta catch’em all!


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Star Wars Saga Sentiments

Laser-swords and Force-chokes! Star Wars is a cultural force that I’m sure you’ve heard of. The world-building of George Lucas inspired a whole expanded universe. I’m reading part of that now in a Star Wars Legends novel. It got me thinking, what’s my take on the main canon of the 9-movie saga?


The Saga

This is my sort of for-the-record stance on the Star Wars saga. Many who loved the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, & VI) despise the prequels with a hatred matched only by the darkest Lords of the Sith. If you really want to know the power of the dark side of the Force, mention Jar Jar Binks. You will incur the wrath of many light sabers.

The final trilogy (Episodes VII, VIII & IX) by Disney seems to have everyone split down the middle. And you know such fence riding doesn’t work. The Force is not so ambiguous; it has two sides. Pick one, you must. Light or Dark? Good or Bad?

So whose side am I on, Vader’s, or Luke’s? Answer: Skywalker’s…

And what order should the 9 movies be watched? What about the expanded universe movies, Solo, Rogue One, The Clone Wars? (Sorry, Disney+, I have not subscribed to watch Mandalorian. Yet.) Plus, how do I rank all 9 from worst to best??

Before I answer, I admit I’m not too hard to please with sci-fi escapism. Especially when a light-saber is involved. And it’s purple. And it’s wielded by Samuel Jackson.

Order

First, let’s look at the sequence. I say watch the movies in the order they were originally released, simple as that. There’s really no other way to see them if you want the true cultural experience of Star Wars. Not chronological, just logical. So that’s:

  1. IV, V, VI
  2. I, II, III
  3. VII, VIII, IX

Midquels

These three episodes are modern classics now. Most people love The Empire Strikes Back most; it’s great! The, “No Luke, I am your Father” reveal may never be outdone. I love the inescapable constraint on Luke. Either the devil cannot be your dad, or your dad cannot be a devil. Luke chooses to believe the latter!

Swashbuckling, family drama, and sci-fi somehow mesh together in a believable and exciting manner. Sentient droids, Chewbacca, tractor beams, giant slug-like gangster, cute fuzzy Ewoks, moon-sized space station with epic explosion…what’s not to like?

There’s controversy about things like: Did Han Solo shoot first? Should later cuts have been made that added CGI? Personally, I don’t quibble over these. The overall stories and cinematic experience stand up despite a little tarnish. Life’s too short to die on a hill of fiction. Star Wars is entertainment, not religion.

Prequels

I can see why the prequels are derided: bad acting, sappy love story, kid Anakin, CGI Yoda… While many would love to Force-choke Jar Jar Binks or torture him with finger-lightning, I don’t think he alone ruins the prequels. To think so gives Jar Jar too much credit (or blame, if you must). There’s enough good backstory, action, and lore in the first three episodes to outweigh the annoying antics of Mr. Binks. No need to dwell on the negative. Only a Sith would think so absolutely.

Overall, the formula of the first three episodes works. There’s good escalation of events and action scenes, especially light-saber action. Double-saber, curved-hilt saber, two sabers at once, four sabers at once, purple saber!

I appreciate how the prequels fill in the back-story about Skywalker, the little details of Palpatine’s rise to power, the fall of Anakin, the birth of Luke, the clones, etc. The immaculate conception of Anakin via midichlorians is very interesting. It makes the Force more concrete yet more mysterious at the same time.

Sequels

The Disney owned conclusion to the Star Wars saga is a tough one. New, modern, great CGI and FX, good fresh acting, lovely performances by the original cast, intriguing story line. But contrast that with misdirection from the Director swap and somewhat convoluted story-telling. 

The Force Awakens was a fantastic blend of nostalgia and potential. But The Last Jedi, while good, was simply too unorthodox. The tone was wrong, and the enigmatic Force balancing could have gone better. This gave The Rise of Skywalker shaky ground to stand on. It propped itself up well, but it could have also been better.

The resurrection of the Emperor is almost too big a stretch. Snoke was an unfortunate distraction. The First Order is wasted opportunity. Maz Kanata had more potential too.

The sacrilegious treatment of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi was too jarring. But then I embraced the challenge that the story is not about the Jedi, or even the Sith, it’s about the Force. The protagonist and antagonist is the Force itself that somehow finds completion in the convoluted Skywalker genealogy. Okay, fair enough.

Also, there had to be a way to work in a purple lightsaber. Missed opportunity.


Overall

Everyone gets hung up by some part of the Star Wars saga, myself included. But by and large it’s a great franchise of fiction for many fans. The lore of the Star Wars universe pulls me in. The characters are interesting, no matter how unbelievable. The sci-fi sets a standard.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe grabs much attention, but I’d rather see more of the Star Wars universe on the big screen.

I really like the movie, Solo. And Rogue One is excellent! More please. Seriously, I want a whole movie about Mace Windu with crazy amounts of purple light-saber action!

My ranking of the 9 episodes, worst to best:

  1. I
  2. IX
  3. II
  4. III
  5. VIII
  6. VI
  7. VII
  8. IV
  9. V

This list is tough and will likely change as the movies age. 


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Now Playing YouTube Music Premium

YouTube Music kicked Spotify’s tail. But it wasn’t a fair fight! That’s because YouTube, the video service, jumped into the ring. It took a lot to pin down Spotify for 10 seconds. In a future match, who knows? For now, my money is on YouTube Music Premium.


Playing Now

About a month ago, I decided to give YouTube Music Premium a full 30-day try. Go all-in!

So how’s that going? I’m sticking with it!

Spotify (Premium) was my music streaming service of choice. It’s great! It was the catalyst I needed to finally understand music streaming, helping me break free from my music library I held onto for years.

YouTube Music (YTM) is very similar to Spotify. There are only a few minor differences. One of those I happen to prefer is that YTM has a dedicated “Songs” list unlike Spotify.

There are two main reasons why I switched.

YTM is built-into my Android phone (can’t uninstall) and integrated by default with Google Assistant. Being all-in with Google, this makes sense for me. Third-party services have their place, but living on a first-party ecosystem (Apple is the gold standard) is best. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The larger reason is the bundle option with YouTube Premium. For only $2 extra per month, I get YouTube ad-free on top of YouTube Music Premium. Nice!

At first, I thought having music videos mixed within YTM would be an ugly intrusion. But guess what? It’s not. In fact, it’s quite nice. Music videos are integrated in an elegant fashion. They’re present and available yet not obtrusive.

I also find a nice synergy between YouTube and YTM. Seeing my music playlists on YouTube makes their similarities consistent in my mind. I feel more connected to both YouTube and YTM. I’m sure this is by design. It makes the services more sticky. But that’s fine with me because I’m loving them both.

Sure, there are a few small downsides to YTM when contrasted with Spotify. The only significant one is not every official album on Spotify is available on YTM. Yet for every “official” song missing from YTM, they’re often found on YouTube itself. And since that is integrated, you can play any song you want almost always. 


Playing Next

Whether you download or stream your songs, YTM is a great music subscription service on par with the premium level of Spotify.

I’d also say it’s comparable to Apple Music, but I’ve only tried that one for 90 days. Apple Music is available on Android phones, but I doubt the app and service works well based on app store reviews. If you’re going to use Apple Music, then you’re going to have an iPhone (like I did) anyways, right?

I have not used YTM long enough yet for it to learn my music tastes well. But based on my past usage of Google Play Music (which is being euthanized later this year), I trust Google’s eerily impressive machine learning will figure it out.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy YTM and ad-free YouTube! 

And if it doesn’t work out, I know I can always fall back to Spotify Premium.

It’s good to have a few great options.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!