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Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorite Tunes #48: Living in the City

If you're one of those country bumpkins, don't let that discourage you from sticking around for this edition of Favorite Tunes. After all, not every theme mentioned here is based around big city life. Why, some of the best city-like themes belong to those of towns and villages and not all of them come from RPGs.

Village - SimCity (SNES)

Before all of those tall buildings, crowded streets and whining citizens, you start out with a blank field that evolves into a village. Soyo Oka's theme for the village reflects the calm, quiet nature before your village erupts into a metropolis over time. It makes you wanna forget all about your troubles and chill.

Dragon Roost Island - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)

Toon Link is my favorite incarnation of Link and the Wind Waker has one of the most unique visual styles in the whole Zelda series. Even today, the game looks gorgeous. The HD remake on the Wii U should make this GameCube classic look even prettier. The game had some very memorable locations to visit like Dragon Roost Island, a island that had a theme so good, it was included in Toon Link's stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Spagonia Hub Night - Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2)

Traveling the world to make it whole again, Sonic also works day and night to rid himself of his Werehog form and help his companion Chip recover his memories. Like the first two Sonic Adventure titles, there's a hub world for each location but depending on which version of the game you play, you can either transverse these hubs on foot or just instantly warp to your destination of choice by selecting it on a mini overworld screen. One thing each version of Sonic Unleashed does have is a superb soundtrack and this includes the day and night hub themes.

Martial Law - Final Fantasy VIII (PS)

Responding to a request from SeeD's headmaster Cid, Squall and company head to Timber, Rinoa's city. Timber has been under martial law for nearly twenty years since the Galbadia forces invaded. Naturally, a resistance force has risen up but it hasn't been very effective. The name of Timber's background theme, Martial Law, comes from Timber's state of being.

Castle Town - Lufia & The Fortress of Doom (SNES)

The Genesis had some good RPGs with the Phantasy Star series and LandStalker, but the SNES was the console to get your RPG fix. Not just from Square Enix, but from other companies like Taito, who gave us the first two entries in the Lufia series on the SNES. The game only has a handful of town themes but all of them are quite good. I'm very fond of this one.

Some Like it Red Hot - Viewtiful Joe (GCN, PS2)

A beat 'em up with a twist. Viewtiful Joe and can speed up and slowdown time to his advantage. Viewtiful was slated to be one of the Capcom five but it was later ported to the PS2 where Dante and Trish of Devil May Cry fame were made playable characters. The PS2 version also got another difficulty setting called Sweet. In Japan, sweet means naive. Ouch.

Karariko Village - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, GBA)

The third game in the Zelda series, A Link to the Past returned the series to it's overhead perspective and style of gameplay of the original. For a lot of fans, this is considered the best game in the Zelda series. It's certainly one of my favorites. Karaiko Village is a nice, quiet place where Link can gather a few items, collect information and avoid combat. So long as you don't talk to the wrong villagers. This village theme was arranged twice in Ocarina of Time, but I've always liked the sound of the original more.

Apt. 102 - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

When you aren't piecing Patch Land back together, a neat time waster is decorating Kirby's apartment and playing mini games with the neighboring tenants. This music sounds like something they'd play on a sitcom or in a book store. Come to think of it, it'd be perfect for Barns & Nobles.

Fourside - EarthBound (SNES)

Fun, serious, weird and downright creepy, EarthBound has a bit of everything. At a time when most RPGs had mid evil settings, EarthBound was set in modern times but lacked the same visual polish of games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI, which could be one of the reason it was overlooked upon release. But those that did play it were treated to a RPG experience that couldn't be found anywhere else on the SNES and to this day, the EarthBound series has a strong cult fan following. For my money, Fourside has the best city/town theme in the whole game.

Down Town (3st. BGM) - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (ARC)

Back in the day, this was THE reason to go to the arcade. Konami's TMNT beat 'em up let up to four players beat the crap out of an endless wave of Foot Soldiers and other recognizable characters from the 1987 cartoon series. The music was just as good as the beat 'em up action and contained numerous riffs of the TMNT theme song.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Currently Playing #12: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)

I'm late on the Final Fantasy 25th anniversary celebrations, but Mega Man's 25h anniversary happenings are taking place all throughout 2013, so who says one has to do the celebrating within the exact year? I've been reading Final Fantasy articles (I have some of my own planned for this very blog), listening to my Final Fantasy music playlist which is currently at 197 songs (that will upped significantly in the coming days) and playing the series 25th anniversary game, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

Ask any fan what one of the most memorable aspects about the Final Fantasy series is. Pretty much all of them will agree that the music is a key element that helped make this franchise so great. Whether it's the pressing cords of an intense battle theme or the somber melodies that signify a fallen comrade, the Final Fantasy games are home to some of gaming's greatest pieces of music. After playing Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, I'm surprised this concept for a game wasn't materialized so much sooner.  You tap, slide and hold different colored Triggers into Marks using precise timing with the song's rhythm. Red Triggers are tapped, yellow Triggers are slid and green Triggers are held until the last note. This may sound simple but it took me a bit of time to get the hang of as I spent more time than I thought practicing before really getting into Music Play mode.

Right now I'm playing on the Basic difficulty setting and I still need lots of practice. Even on this setting I end up missing a few Marks or end up with a bad rating on some notes and all it takes is a few misses or bad ratings to get you into the C and D ranked territory. So I'm already doing a lot of replays on songs I've already done.

The music selection in Theatrhythm is wonderful. Some 40 songs from Final Fantasy I-XIII are here from the get-go and nearly double that can be unlocked. There is also some DLC at 99 cents a song, so that's some DLC I really can't complain about. Matoya's Cave, In Search of Light and This is the Last Battle is among the DLC so I'll be forking over the bucks for those when I get paid next week among other tracks. I really like how many of these songs are in their original format. When you select to play some songs from the original Final Fantasy, you're getting the original 8-bit chiptune tracks like the classic Battle Scene, Prelude and so on. That may not fit to well with some players, but as a huge fan of Final Fantasy and chiptune music, I find it very nostalgic and welcoming.

I ADORE the chibi character designs of this game! Terria, Warrior of Light, Cecil, Zidane and the rest of the gang just look so darn cute! And they even say randomly strung together battle cries before each song that never fails to amuse me.

Still Playing: Luigi's Mansion, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Latest Purchases #45

I saw these K'nex Mario Kart Wii toys on Classic Game Room a year or so ago but it wasn't until I was looking around in K-Mart that I saw some for purchase. There are far more of these racers than I originally thought and they come in various sizes. K'nex even has several Mario Kart Wii buildable track sets that you can purchase so it could be some time before I have the whole collection. For now, I'm content with Mario and Bowser on the standard bike.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was draw. I was pretty good at looking at an image and recreating it on paper. My free hand, however needs a lot of work and I've longed to get back into drawing. I've often been frustrated for slacking and not being nearly as good as other artists but I've only myself to blame for that. I figured it can't hurt to have some help in improving so I picked up How to Draw Anything.

Italy from Above offers tons of pictures of Italy from a bird's eye view. I'll probably never go there so a nice picture book is the next best thing. The pictures are very detailed and colorful. I picked this up at Barns & Nobles and it was only $3.

Sometimes it takes a massive price cut to get one interested in your product. I've heard of War of the Worlds, but I've never read it. For $3, I can easily have access to it and other science fiction stories. Another Barns & Nobles purchase.

What kid didn't love Fairy Tales? I'd often seen Disney versions of classics like The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling so it will be nice to read the original stories. Best-Loved Fairy Tales also contains stories I've heard of but never read/saw like The Little Match Girl and The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Currently Playing #11

Luigi's Mansion (GCN)

A launch title for the GameCube and one where Nintendo's mascot was not the star of the show. Instead, the spotlight was centered on Mario's twin brother, Luigi. I haven't played Luigi's Mansion since I finished it a few days after the GCN launch. I loved it back then and I still love it now. This game feels like it was custom made for the GCN controller. Despite the struggle the ghosts put up when trying to catch them, everything still controls as smooth as silk when combining movements of the analog stick and the c stick. It makes me wonder if I'll truly have to invest in that cumbersome second thumb pad accessory for the 3DS when Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon releases.

I think I'm about halfway finished with the game. I've already unleashed the Boos, which are by far the most annoying ghosts to catch since they like to run away so often. I think you have to capture at least 40 to be able to fight King Boo. I have around 20 or so Boos caught. Bogmire gave me trouble when I fought him years ago and he gave me trouble when I fought him recently, so much that he nearly gave me a game over. I've seen a YouTube video showing that there's a way to easily subdue Bogmire in record time, but I sure can't do it.

Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 (PS2)

I was in the mood for some old-school arcade gaming action so I pulled out one of my favorite compilation games, Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1. Mercs, Final Fight, Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, there are so many good titles on this collection. Mercs is hands down one of the best top-down run and gun shooters I've ever played and Final Fight never gets old. Why Capcom hasn't released more of these collections outside of Vol. 1-2 is beyond me.

Still Playing: Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

Favorite Tunes #47: Love Edition

I originally planned to post this on Valentine's Day, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I missed the date and well, here we are. Regardless, the theme of this edition Favorite Tunes still stands. It's all about love, not just couples love, but love in general.

Pulifia Flowers - Lufia & The Fortress of Doom (SNES)

This Taito RPG tells the tale of Maxim's descendant and his three companions battle with the Sinistrals, four wicked beings that plagued the world 99 years ago. Among the main protagonist's allies is Lufia, his childhood friend and love interest. When the hero goes off to investigate the return of the Sinistrals, Lufia fears for his safety and decides to go with him. This scene takes place outside of the hero's hometown in a field of flowers while the game's romantic theme, Pulifia Flowers plays.

Theme of Love - Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

The fourth entry in the Final Fantasy series and the first one to be released on Nintendo's 16-bit baby. Romance has always been a huge factor in the long running series, but Final Fantasy IV was the first game to really pour it on. From the get go, the game makes it very clear that Cecil and Rosa are in love with each other. Theme of Love is the theme dedicated to these two love birds and in Japan, the song is actually part of the sixth grade music textbook learning curriculum.

Romance in the Air - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

The game to celebrate the series 25th anniversary and the one to introduce a new method of fighting. Skyward Sword utilizes a gorgeous art style and 1:1 sword fighting controls for precise sword strikes, making combat a whole new ball game.

Love Theme - Mass Effect (360, PS3, PC)

A much hyped series that I've never played so I don't have much to say about it. This theme is here because I was looking for other love themes to make up this list and I liked the way this one sounded. It's good to throw in a series you really don't mention every now and then.

My Mind - Final Fantasy VIII (PS, PC)

As I mentioned when talking about Final Fantasy IV above, love has always been a key in the Final Fantasy games, but in Final Fantasy VIII it was the primary focus of the game. Even the logo showed main character Squall embracing Rinoa. I could have put Final Fantasy VIII's vocal theme, Eyes on Me in this spot, but I wanted to go a different route so I included My Mind, Riona's theme. Besides, you can hear traces of Eyes on Me in My Mind anyway.

Love Theme - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

Taking place five years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2, Snake's genetic cloning structure sees him physically age to that of a man in his 80s even though he's in his early 40s. That's not the only thing to go downhill. The Patriot's War Economy isn't doing the world any favors and as a result, war is at an all time high. Metal Gear Solid 4 is rife with extended cut scenes, by far the longest the series has ever seen. You'll probably spend more time watching this game than playing it, but even so, Metal Gear Solid 4 still packs the legendary stealth action gameplay that made the Metal Gear name so famous.

Dearly Beloved - Kingdom Hearts (PS2)

Square and Disney were in an elevator one day. The resulting conversation was Kingdom Hearts, a combination of Square and Disney characters in this action RPG series. Dearly Beloved is actually the title theme, a lovely piano piece composed by Yoko Shimomura who wrote most of the music for the Kingdom Hearts games.

Interrupted By Fireworks - Final Fantasy VII (PS, PC)

Depending on the way Cloud treats his fellow party members he can end up on a date with either Tifa, Areith, Yuffie and even Barret. The date takes place at the Golden Saucer and one of the activities Cloud and his date can enjoy is riding the gondola and getting a better look at the attractions. During this scene fireworks light up the sky. The conversions between Cloud and his date varies depending on who you end up with.

Love Theme - Mother 3 (GBA)

I originally thought Mother 3 was going to have so many laugh out loud moments. There are plenty of humorous scenes, sure, but Mother 3 also has an abundance of dark, tear jerking moments and they come as early as the first chapter in the game. Despite it's simplistic looking visuals, Mother 3 has a deep, moving story that will make even the toughest of the tough guys weepy eyed.

Cuddle - Star Ocean The Second story (PS, PSP)

The Star Ocean series began it's life on the SNES but Second Story was the first title to be published outside of Japan. Second Story was originally released on the PlayStation but in 1999, but in 2009 it received a PSP remake. At one point Claude gets separated from Rena and the rest of the party. Rena fears the worst until Claude appears before her unharmed. The moment she she sees him she runs to Claude and throws her arms around him, relieved that he's safe. Annnnd cue this song.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Downloads #22

Final Fight 2 (SNES)

The general belief is that Final Fight games after the first installment started to decline. While this may be true, I still got considerable enjoyment out of Final Fight 2. I never got around to picking up a cartridge version of this one and since it tends to be more of an uncommon find when compared to the first SNES Final Fight, I was more than happy to settle on a digital version.

Breath of Fire II (SNES)

I've had Breath of Fire on the brain a lot lately so maybe that's why I downloaded Breath of Fire II instead of Final Fight 3, like I had originally intended. I have the GBA version of this game, but I've always wanted to try out the SNES version.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Street Fighter X Mega Man X-tended Vol. 1

The music of Street Fighter X Mega Man fused 8-bit versions of the audio from both franchises to create some of the finest chiptune beats that our ears could have ever been blessed to hear. When version 2 of the game released back in January, it brought with it another hidden warrior, Sagat who is arguably harder than Akuma. Sagat was given an 8-bit version of his classic stage theme which, if you were skilled enough to get to him, you probably heard a million times over all the while she spammed Tiger Shots and Tiger Uppercuts at you. If you're wondering where you can get Sagat's theme, wonder no longer. On February 8, A_Rival released Street Fighter X Mega Man X-tended Vol. 1. This four track album contains music not found in the original Street Fighter X Mega Man Original Soundtrack release, including Sagat Theme, Yang Theme, which is an unused piece of music, which combines Yang's stage theme with Quick Man's theme, a Voice Collection (the voice samples are sooooo cute) and a remixed version of Ryu Theme.

As was the case with the Street Fighter X Mega Man Original Soundtrack, this album is a name your price deal, so yes, it can be yours for the price of free. If that Vol. 1 is any indication, A_Rival should have more Street Fighter X Mega Man music for us somewhere in the future.

Street Fighter X Mega Man X-tended Vol. 1  

Favorite Tunes #46: OutRun Edition

SEGA's classic arcade racing game, OutRun turned 25 years old in 2011 and I was completely unaware of it's anniversary. I feel like a total chump because I've been a big fan of OutRun since I picked up the updated OutRun 2, OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast back in 2006. OutRun has some of the most impressive video game tunes on the planet and I'd rank it right up there with Mega Man beats. Yes, I love OutRun music that much. Enjoy various renditions of classic OutRun themes.

Passing Breeze - OutRun (ARC, SAT)

One of my good friends says Magical Sound Shower is the best song in the original OutRun. Eh, it's good, but I have to give the edge to Passing Breeze. It's the perfect audio embodiment of pleasure driving, sounding oh-so peaceful.

Magical Sound Shower (1993) - OutRunners (ARC)

No disrespect to Hiro (the composer of the original OutRun's score) but Takenobu Mitsuyoshi's arrangement of Magical Sound Shower is, in my humble opinion, heads and shoulders above the original. I love the faster pace and the overall more wild nature of this version.

Step on Beat - OutRun (GEN)

While it may not be the best home port, the Genesis version of OutRun did a more than admirable job of emulating the music from the arcade version. Not only that, but this version got it's own original, exclusive track, Step on Beat. Why on Earth this song wasn't included in OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, I'll never know.

Rush a Difficulty - Turbo OutRun (ARC)

Released in arcades in 1989, Turbo OutRun could considered the first true OutRun sequel, even though OutRun 2 would release more than a decade later in 2003. Turbo OutRun added a checkpoint system, road obstacles but it was vastly different from the original OutRun, containing no forks in the road, which was probably a sore point for many fans of the first game. But like any good OutRun game, Turbo OutRan had a catchy soundtrack. All of the music from Turbo OutRun was included in OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast and I gotta say, it is so much fun thrown your car around those curves with this jam playing.

Who Are You - Turbo OutRun (FM-Towns)

I think this may be the first time I've ever mentioned the FM-Towns system on this blog. I've never owned or played one, but I can remember reading up on it in an article of Retro Gamer. Anyway, Turbo OutRun was ported to the console and it was given some arranged music. This version of Who Are You is quite different from the original, with numerous samples thrown even, one even being a burp among all things.

Splash Wave J Arrange Ver. - OutRun 2 SP(ARC)

The SP stands for Special. An upgraded version of OutRun 2, this game featured 15 new courses, the music from the original OutRun, Turbo OutRun and OutRun 2 as well as some sick new arrangements. You're probably thinking this arranged version of Splash Wave sounds like it belongs in a Sonic game and that's because Jun Senoue arranged this piece. His distinctive guitar skills are easy to spot. OutRun 2 SP's new content would appear in 2006's OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.

Speed King - OutRunners (ARC)

OutRunners had some outstanding arrangements of the original OutRun themes, but the new music composed for OutRunners is definitely worth talking about. I'm positively baffled as to why none of OutRunners music was included in Coast 2 Coast. It's a crime, really.

Risky Ride - OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (PS2, XB)

Sometimes it can be difficult to choose a tune to drive to in OutRun 2006. You've got the original OutRun music, Turbo OutRun tunes, OutRun 2 beats and a ton of remixes. Risky Ride is one of the newer tracks made for OutRun 2.

Night Flight - OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (PS2, XB)

The lyrics may be awful, but hey, I love Sonic R's soundtrack, so the words to Night Flight don't bother me one bit. Composed by Fumi Itoh with vocals by Brenda Vaughn, Night Flight is generally the vocal track I always pick when I play Coast 2 Coast. Brenda's voice is amazing and the guitar work here is brilliant.

Passing Breeze 1996 Arrange ver. - Sega Ages: OutRun (SAT)

As if an arcade perfect version of OutRun for the Saturn wasn't good enough, the game included some excellent arrangements of the original OutRun music. The arrangements were handled by none other than the original OutRun music composer, Hiro. Initially released as a standalone title only in Japan, OutRun was included along with Space Harrier, and After Burner II under the Sega Ages label for the Saturn and released in America and Europe.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Game Art #53: Fire Emblem Gallery

Since Fire Emblem Awakening recently released on the 3DS, I thought it would be a good time to feature Fire Emblem in this edition of Game Art. As always, enjoy the art.

By Kosato
By Midwinter
By Midwinter
By Hanasaki Ulm
By AZN-Porkepik
By Algae
By Algae
By Algae
By Hanokage
By Fox
By Uwa Taigi
By Morii
By sk
By Agahari
By BlueSky
By Urashima
By That Mao
By The cage