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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Favorite Tunes #99: Darkness, Clubs and Shovels?

Woo! Favorite Tunes has sure come a long way. This is the first series of posts that I've attachted a number to that has a 99 on it. Considering my love for video game music, I guess that should come as no surprise. I've got a little something special planned for the 100th edition of Favorite Tunes so check back next week for that. Until then, enjoy some music from Driveclub, DuckTales Remastered and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to name three outta six.

Be Here Now - Driveclub (PS4)

Well now, what have we here? Some music from a PlayStation 4 game? Driveclub has the honor of being the first PS4 game to get music featured in Favorite Tunes. I haven't played the game as I don't yet have a PS4 so if you're looking for opinions on how it plays from me, you're outta luck. I can, however, comment on the game's soundtrack, since it was released on iTunes last week. The game's audio was handled by Hybrid, a band that specializes in, among other things, trance and electronic music, which is what you can expect from Driveclub's music. I know this style of music isn't for everyone, but I personally love to work, write and exercise to this stuff, so you'll get no complaints from me.

Dark Lord - Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (3DS)

Did you ever play Find Mii? You know, that game that was built in with the 3DS system where your own Mii was captured and you had to recruit other Miis to find you? Leave it to Masahiro Sakurai and his team to remind you of something that you'd long forgotten. The Smash series has always been good with that. At the end of Find Mii, you'll find yourself held captive by the Dark Lord, the game's final test, with an incredible music piece bursting from the 3DS speakers as you fight him. The theme received an excellent remix for Smash 4 3DS.

The Moon - DuckTales Remastered (Wii U, PS3, 360)

Such TLC went into the 2013 DuckTales remake. All of the surviving cast members were called in to reprise their roles, the visuals were given an incredibly sexy HD make over and the music was handled by one of my favorite composers, Jake "virt" Kaufman, who adores the original NES 8-bit DuckTales soundtrack. When I found out his name was attached to this project, I knew we were in for the good stuff.

Space Dojo 2 (Billy and the Breakers - Firebird) - Double Dragon Neon (PS3, 360)

We've got a good virt vibe going so let's keep rolling on. In 2012, the 1980s made a big splash all over again in the form of Double Dragon Neon, a digital release for the PS3 and 360. While there are plenty of nods to numerous Double Dragon games before this one, Neon is still very much it's own game with lots of tongue in check humor. That 80s feel is in full effect with the musical score, featuring arranged themes from previous titles as well as brand new music.

Theme of Tara - Metal Gear (MSX2)

The original platform that Metal Gear was developed for was known for not being able handle scrolling. Taking into account the MSX2's limitations, Metal Gear was design with this in mind, Rather than all out action game like Contra, Metal Gear emphasized stealth. When that word comes to mind, one obviously thinks of sneaking about, a feeling echoed all throughout Theme of Tara, one of the franchises most popular themes.

High Above the Land (The Flying Machine) - Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS)

I sure am giving virt a of love, huh? Let's keep the chiptune groove going. As the title suggests, this background theme is accompanied to a huge flying airship with lots of bottomless pits, and no shortage of wind gusts. Cripes, I reminded of Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. The Flying Machine is without question one of the most challenging levels in the game before you reach the final stages. After you suffer a few deaths and lose some gold, stop and listen to this theme. Some of that rage will cool off a bit and you'll be ready to give it another go.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Banjo-Kazooie: Everything and the Kitchen Sink!

Anyone that had an N64 should remember Banjo-Kazooie. The bright, colorful title from Rare was one of the system's outstanding games, one of the few that could actually rub elbows with titles like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and F-Zero X. Not only did it serve up some up terrific platforming, the soundtrack was among the console's best offerings. Some would argue that the music to Banjo-Kazooie is Grant Kirkhope's finest work.

There have been a few soundtrack releases to the game here and there over the years. The first was given through the now defunct Nintendo Power (RIP) and  in 2013, Grant himself released a digital version of the soundtrack on his Bandcamp page at a name your price cost. The only problem with these soundtracks, as good as they were was evident to anyone that played a hefty amount of Banjo-Kazooie: they didn't even come close to scratch the surface with all of the game's music. Seventeen tracks spanning over an hour's worth of music is all well and good, but what about those oh-so lovely variations? That's where Banjo-Kazooie: Everything and the Kitchen Sink! comes in.

I don't think there has ever been a more appropriate name for a soundtrack. This album contains every single track from Banjo-Kazooie. You want each variation of Treasure Trove Cove? You got got it. Boggy's Race Win/Lose Fanfares? Present and accounted for. Every track, every jingle, every victory fanfare is all collected for your listening pleasure. That's adds up to 164 tracks and nearly 400 minutes worth of bird and bear music. Everything and the Kitchen Sink! is definitely one of the best soundtrack releases. Like the previous Banjo-Kazooie digital music offering, Everything and the Kitchen Sink! has a name your price tag download. So you can cop this baby for free if you like.

Releasing on October 3, the same day as Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, it wouldn't surprise me if lots of game music lovers were unaware of this one. Grant Kirkhope also wrote the music for Banjo-Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, both of which also received digital soundtrack releases last year. Here's hoping those games soundtracks get the same excellent treatment Banjo-Kazooie has.

Banjo-Kazooie: Everything and the Kitchen Sink!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wan Nyan Slash - Original Soundtrack

Ah, how I love me some chiptunes. The NES was my first foray in to the expansive world of video game music. As much as I appreciate how much game music has evolved over the decades, I will always have a soft spot for chiptunes. So whenever an album surfaces that is done in the style, I just have to take a look.

Wan Nyan Slash - Original Soundtrack, is a four track album based off iOS/Android game of the same name, that as of this writing, is still in development. The album released on October 10 and is ridculously short, spanning a mere four tracks and clocking in at a little over 6 minutes in length. Despite the brevity, the original soundtrack of Wan Nyan Slash is composed of quality tunage, but then I'd expect nothing less of chibi-tech, one of the most prominent chiptune artists. As if you couldn't tell by the soundtrack cover, the audio represented here as an ancient, samurai flair to it that rings clear as a bell even in 8-bit form. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess that chibi-tech was inspired by music from the Legend of the Mystical Ninja series. The In-Game BGM track certainly reminded me of something that I'd hear in Knoami's off-beat ninja adventures.

Wan Nyan Slash - Original Soundtrack is a name your price download. So you can give some funds to chibi-tech (she certainly deserves some) or snag the album for free. I find albums like this one to be great for repeated listening or something to go have between extended alums. You'll love every (short) minute of this one.

Wan Nyan Slash - Original Soundtrack 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Currently Playing #22: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

This is another one of those games that has been sitting on my shelf for months. With everyone and their mother playing Hyrule Warriors and myself feeling left out because I can't afford a $60 game right now, this seemed as good a time as any to finally crack this bad boy open.

Why on Earth did I wait so long to get around to this game? I've always had great adoration for A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds feels like one huge lover letter to that game and more. Let me just say that I have no qualms with the Zelda series shifting to 3D. Ocarina of Time is still one of my favorite entries in the series and Wind Waker is a marvel as much as it is visually impressive. But I couldn't help but feel as giddy as a school girl as I traveled the dungeons of Hyrule from an overhead perspective. Yes, Phantom Hour Glass and Spirit Tracks play with the classic overhead view, but I haven't gotten around to playing those games yet (still on the shelf sealed), so A Link Between Worlds is the first new Zelda game I've played with the old view in a very long time.

The Hyrule in this game feels very familiar and that's no coincidence. The overworld is is a carbon copy of the one from A Link to the Past so I immediately felt at home. Even so, having been to this Hyrule several times in the past, that doesn't keep things from feeling old hat. The wall merging mechanic is quite the clever innovation. More often than not, wall merging is the solution to many of the game's puzzles, at least from what I've played thus far.

Another thing I love about A Link Between Worlds is how it kicks linear gameplay to the curb. Before I tackled the three first dungeons, I Revio rented out many familiar Zelda items to me. The Hook Shot this early in the game? Yes, yes and yes again! This meant I could go to any of the three dungeons in the order of my choosing. I do hope this keeps up when the inevitable shift to the Dark World comes into play.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Man, the wait for this game was killing me (probably you, too, I'd imagine) but when October 3rd finally rolled around, the waiting was over and it was at last time to Smash. I had to work on October 3rd but when that was done, I was finally (for real this time) able to get my Smash on.

Even after I've spent time with the demo version of the game that I received as a Club Nintendo member, playing it did very little to scratch the surface of the full game, though I am grateful I did get the opportunity to play the demo to get me ready for this version of Smash. I've mostly got the controls down, though the 3DS thumb pad still takes some adjusting to for the kind of game that Smash is. I really wish you could switch over to directional pad controls for movements instead of just taunts. Control wise, that's my only gripe with 3DS Smash.

When I started the game up, I was surprised at how many characters were available from the get go. I was pleased that Mega Man and Pac-Man were characters that I wouldn't have to unlock. While most fighters are there from the start, you still do have to do some work to make a few of them playable and some of these combatants to not want to be playable. I was really taken aback when Duck Hunt was fighting tooth and nail. It took me three attempts to unlock Duck Hunt, including one failed attempt with King Dedede. When I unleashed the Mii Gunner, Duck Hunt got his retro butt kicked something fierce. Even I was surprised at how well the Mii Gunner handled against Duck Hunt because when all was said and done and I sent that mutt and mallard flying, my percent meter was at 0.

As I did not follow Smash leading up to it's release as closely as I should have, I was in the dark about Smash Run, which takes elements from Kirby Air Ride, another Masahiro Sakurai game and implements them into Smash Run. Like City Trial from Air Ride, you have 5 minutes to power up your fighters stats and face off in random challenges. What's more is that you get to keep these stats to customize your fighter and use these customization options in other modes. So I can replace Mega Man's Crash Bomb's with the Ice Slasher, or the Metal Blade with the Shadow Blade. Its mind boggling to think that you'll be able to do this sort of thing with each and every character in the game.

Some fans are miffed that The Ice Climbers, Lucas and Wolf are gone. I do miss the Ice Climbers as they were some of my favorite characters to use, but to say you won't be picking up the game because they or your most coveted third party character didn't make it? Come on, how needy do you have to be? With a roster of over 50 characters, I think you can get over the fact that (insert character here) didn't make the cut. There are way too many cool characters in this game to feel butthurt about a few missing old favorites.

The tweaks that have been made to the old characters and the new ones has be switching from fighter to fighter on a regular basis. Bowser isn't just standing up right. The dude is a freaking tank. And not those crappy Grand Theft Auto Vice City and onward tanks. I mean a GTAIII tank, the kind that dished out so much destruction and took an unfathomable amount of damage to stop. I think Smash 4 has my favorite Bowser to date. Little Mac is a tiny titan, netting me the highest score in Home Run Contest as well as Endless Smash. Link has been improved after he was nerfed in Brawl. I still prefer Toon Link, but if I ever feel like switching it up with the Links I definitely will now.

I really love how 3DS Smash has levels specifically for this version of the game. Even a level from Find Mii was included and has one of favorite songs. One of the Kirby levels I've yet to unlock takes place inside a Game Boy, similar to a few of the Flat Zone arenas from previous Smash Bros. titles. Of course the Boxing Ring representing Punch-Out!! is in both versions of Smash 4. I like that you can jump off the ropes and even make your way to the ring lights and better still, said lights can be brought down on combatants below. The Mute City stage is cool for representing what has now become one of Nintendo's forgotten franchises and I love how it uses SNES graphics.

If you couldn't tell, I love 3DS Smash so much that it's difficult to get back to my other games, including  A Link Between Worlds and Mario Kart 8, but I'll just have to tear myself away from it. Obsession, they name is Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (they really shoulda called it something else)

Still Playing: Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels (All-Stars ver.), Shovel Knight

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Latest Purchases #75

A Latest Purchases post, featuring stuff I picked up in September. Well as they say, better late than never.

I was pre-ordering the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. when I saw this lone 20 inch World of Nintendo Mario. I'd never seen a Mario that frickin' huge before. It was jaw dropping. I must say, the World of Nintendo toy line is quite superb with mini figures, plushies and the like, but this? Duuuuuuude. I just had to snatch this bad boy up before someone else did. My dad actually asked me what I was gonna do with him. The same thing I do with all my other gaming merch: display it. Agh, parents.

Adding two more mini figures to the World of Nintendo set I already own, I picked up Donkey Kong and Wario. These things are quite easy to find, making collecting all six one of the easiest things to do. Now DK has his side kick and I finally have something Wario that isn't a game. 

I was hoping I'd find the Yellow Pikmin after I picked up the Red Pikmin a while ago and sure enough, Target had one left. Now Red has someone to keep him company but they Pikmin plushies feel so incomplete without the other colors. Perhaps Nintendo will add the rest to the lineup. I already know other Pikmin color plushies exist, at least in Japan. Perhaps I'll just order those someday.

This New Super Mario Bros. Wii Mario plush is a few years old but it's only the second Mario plush I've ever bought, where as I own three different Luigi plushies. I wasn't too fond of this thing at first but since you can actually sit this one down, I find that to be a big plus. 

I love my Classic Sonic plush but I figured I could use a Modern Sonic plush as well. At 5 inches, he's smaller than I thought he'd be, but he looks quite nice and like the aforementuioned Classic Sonic, I can hang him on my wall. He's currently resting above my TV right next to the Pac-Man plush you see there, which is the smallest plushie I own. Pac-Man was also the cheapest plush I've ever picked up. Not including shipping, the little guy was only $2.87.

I picked up these plushies so I could take photos like this...

It's almost time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Favorite Tunes #98: It's Dangerous to Go Alone

Well, the wait is over and Hyrule Warriors is out. I'd love to sing the praises of Zelda meets Dynasty Warriors but after bills, I'm outta moola so, I've gotta wait until I can get some more green to afford it. In the mean time, here's a selection of Zelda tracks to celebrate the latest game where the main character never gets top billing.

Opening Demo - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

After Zelda II's side scrolling antics and brutal difficulty (ironically now fans whine that Zelda games are too easy), the third Zelda title returned the series to the overhead style of play but with a 16-bit paint job via the SNES! Princesses being held prisoner, an evil wizard about to leash unspeakable evils upon the world? That sounds like a good way to sum up the game's opening, but for an added touch of enthrallment, throw in Koji Kondo's masterful composition skills.

Sword Search - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB)

The first game in the series where Zelda never makes an appearance. And Link gets his name in the subtitle a second time! Link's first portable adventure tends to be the oddball of the series, much like Super Mario Bros. 2 gets it's black sheep status for being so different. But just like the aforementioned game, the differences in Link's Awakening are a large part of why those that have played it love it so much. Wart makes a cameo, a Chain Chomp dog helps assists you. Heck, there's even a Yoshi doll! It also has one of the most bitter sweet endings in the entire series history. Don't expect me to spoil it for you.

Spirit Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)

This is often hailed as the greatest game of all-time. Whether you think such a claim is deserved or overrated is entirely up to you. I firmly believe Ocarina of time is a fine game but by no means the very best the medium has to offer. The soundtrack of this game still gives me chills. There are jovial themes for when you enter lively towns, forbodding music for those puzzle filled dungeons and atmospheric tracks such as this one. If only I had picked up the game and registered it back when the 3DS version released, I'd have my own soundtrack to this game.

Lorule Castle - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Fans have been clamoring for a Zelda game in the vein of Link to the Past for decades. From my understanding, A Link Between Worlds is the game they've waited (im)patiently for. It has an overhead view just like Link to the Past but has a deep wall merging mechanic that greatly enhances the gameplay. It can also be played in a non linear fashion just like the original Legend of Zelda. All of this is a rich soundtrack as the cherry on top.

Kakariko Village - Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

I've heard several soundtracks from the Dynsasty Warriors series, which, despite the setting, uses lots of rock music. So I'm not too surprised to find that a great deal of the music in Hyrule Warriors also fits that same genre, though I do think this is certainly going to miff more than a few fans. But since this is a spin-off game, why not opt for a different style of music? And when it sounds this good, who cares if it strays from the norm?

Main Theme (Classic) - Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

What would the Zelda series be without this iconic tune? Had it not been for a copyright issue, Koji Kondo would never have composed this baby and a vital piece of the Zelda mythos might not even have existed. And he wrote the song in a day! This version in Hyrule Warriors sounds orchestral, but you can clearly hear some 8-bit tunes in there, a nice nod to the series NES roots along with Zelda's theme.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Favorite Tunes #97: Getting Hyped for Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros. released on the 3DS in Japan on September 13. The game will release in America on October 3. Gamers fortunate enough to have gold/platinum status as Club Nintendo members were e-mailed demo codes with unlimited use with Nintendo occasional handing out demo codes before the public demo release on October 19. I'm as stoked for this game as the next guy and to get even more jazzed, Favorite Tunes is Smash Bros. centric.

Note: Not every song featured here is in Super Smash Bros.

Yoshi Star Galaxy - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

Leading us off is Mr. Video Game himself. The debate rages on whether Super Mario Galaxy 2 is superior than the original. I tend to prefer the first game more, but there's no denying that both titles are superb. Outside of a cameo appearance with his face making up a small planet, Yoshi was MIA in the first Super Mario Galaxy. This travesty was rectified in Super Mario Galaxy 2, with everyone's favorite everything-eating green dino making regular appearances. Koji Kondo stepped back and let Mahito Yokota handle most of the compositions for Galaxy 2 as he did in the original game, only writing a handful of songs. One such track was Yoshi Star Galaxy, a jazzy, tropical, upbeat piece of tunage.

Aquatic Ruin Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

Lots of gamers toute this as the greatest Sonic game. It's not a statement I can personally really behind, but Sonic 2 is still a fantastic hedgehog game, regardless. As the title implies, Aquatic Ruin is home to Sonic's kryptonite, H2O. The nice thing about the way this zone is structure, however, is that the water can be bypassed. You can stay on the top path, which keeps our heroes high and dry or take the lower route, leading to wet depths.

Dr. Cossack Stage 2 - Mega Man 4 (NES)

So many gamers say the Mega Buster was a crutch that made Mega Man too powerful. And yet no one complains about the brokeness of the Metal Blades. Meh, whatever. Mega Man 4 has always been one of my favorites. It was the first time Wily tried to blame others for his crimes and it was the introduction to one of my favorite supporting cast members, Dr. Cossack, who got a super awesome theme for his third and fourth levels.

Tilte Screen - Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (PS3, 360, Wii U, 3DS)

Mario, Mega Man, Sonic and now Pac-Man in the same game? Talk about history being made. Of the four video game legends that make up red, blue and yellow, Pac-Man is the oldest of the bunch, and is Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto's favorite video game character. This theme is actually a remix from the arcade game Pacmania, which, intrestingly enough has been arranged and will be one of Pac-Man's musical themes for Super Smash Bros.

Mute City - Super Smash Bros. (3DS, Wii U)

The announcement that Captain Falcon was returning for the fourth entry of Smash was indeed a welcome one. He was one of the original Smashers but given Nintendo's current stance on the F-Zero series, so fans were a little worried that the days of throwing Falcon Punches were long gone. Nope. The Captain is back and with a kickin' new Mute City remix. It's already become one of my favorite arrangements for Smash 4, done by Kenji Ito, known for his glorious work on the Square Enix's SaGa series. YES!

Spark Man Stage - Super Smash Bros. (3DS, Wii U)

With all the nut hugging Mega Man 2 got in Smash, what with that freaking Wily Castle stage and the music, I was pleased to see that someone remembered that there were other games outside of the second NES game. Spark Man has always had what I believe to be the pinnacle of the electric based stage level music in the entire Classic series. I was really hoping this theme would get some love for Smash 4.

Favorite Tunes Database