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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fantastic First Level Themes Vol. 4

They say you never forget your first. First kiss. First car. First level of a video game. We're here to focus on that last one. The first level of a video game can say a lot about the rest of the game. It can be a great way to grab the player for invested play time. For a lot of us, not only do we remember the first level because it is the start of a game, but because the music with that beginning level really stayed with us.

Scene 1 Stage 1 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (ARC ver.)

Most would agree Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games were at their peak when Konami had the license in the late 80s and early 90s. The first beat 'em up is widely considered one of the best in the genre and probably the second best TMNT game. The first level has you charging in to save April from an out of control fire. The music which use cues from the main 1987 TMNT cartoon show (something you find a lot of in this game's soundtrack) fills you with the overwhelming urge to kick the crap out of anything in your way. Good thing there's a near endless wave of Foot Soldiers to slay, eh? For the record, the NES version of this theme is also pretty boss.

Billy and Jimmy's Theme - Double Dragon (NES ver.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I really don't care for the arcade score for Double Dragon. I've nothing against arcade beats, but Double Dragon's arcade music sounds like horrid, twangy synth. Double Dragon's NES tunes are a vast improvement to it's arcade cousin and really do this opening level theme the justice it deserves.

Good Egg Galaxy - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Super Mario Galaxy was the first game in the Super Mario series to use a full on orchestra. Not every track is orchestrated but when they do bring out the big guns, you'll know it. A nice touch to Good Egg Galaxy is that the music actually doesn't begin playing until Mario touches down in the first official course. When the music starts, you know you're in store for something truly special.

The Shinobi - The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)

Ninjas are freaking cool. That's not an opinion, that's a freaking fact of life. Revenge of Shinobi was one of the earliest games available for SEGA's 16-bit console and it turned out to be one the best looking and sounding games to boot. Scored by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro, the first level theme to the game isn't a guns blazing or in this case, sword swinging adrenaline filled piece one might expect, but rather a silent but deadly sounding tune. Quite fitting for a shinobi.

Theme of Simon Belmont - Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

The first Castlevania began with Vampire Killer. Castlevania II started with Blood Tears. Castlevania III opened with The Beginning. All splendid starter themes. How do you follow tough acts like those? By giving Simon Belmont his own empowering theme. Its perfectly fit for storming castles and dishing out justice the only way a Belmont can. You know you've made an impression in the gaming world when your own theme has your name in it and it sounds this awesome.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Favorite Tunes #128: Underground Jazz

Super Mario Maker has been blessed with check points, Cloud Strife is coming to Super Smash Bros., Splatoon got a new stage with 3 more on the way and the first generation of Pokemon games are at long last getting a digital release. Can you guess how all of that fits in with the 128th edition of Favorite Tunes?

SMB Underground (Edit Mode) - Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Half the joy of Super Mario Maker comes from playing other people's creations. The other half comes from constructing your own courses. When making your own levels, the game gives you an arrangement of the background theme's tile set. Super Mario Bros. Underground edit music is video game jazz at its finest.

Electric de Chocobo - Final Fantasy VII (PS, PC)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt heard that Final Fantasy VII star Cloud Strife is going to be a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U, complete with Midgar as a stage, No doubt we'll be getting a hefty does of FFVII music for Cloud's stage along with several remixes. FFVII doesn't have my favorite FF score but the music is still quite good. The game does have what is arguably the best Chocobo theme.

Opening - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a huge part of my childhood. I watched the 1987 cartoon show, I had a ton of the action figures and of course, there were the games. the first NES TMNT game is often given much flak for its insane difficulty but the game isn't the disaster so many make it out to be. It has some slick visuals and the soundtrack serves up some of the best rock on the NES. That killer opening theme still amazes me to this day.

Friend List - Splatoon (Wii U)

Who did you go with during the Pirates vs. Ninjas Splatfest? I went with Ninjas and while it was the popular choice by a super wide margin, Pirates came out on top. Oh well. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Anyhoo, Splatoon might just have my favorite video game soundtrack this year. So many standout tracks in both the single and online multiplayer mode. Friend List is my second favorite multiplayer theme right behind Ink or Sink.

Battle! Wild Pokemon - Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow (GB)

The first generation of Pokemon is at long last making its way to the 3DS eShop in 2016, complete with virtual link cable capabilities for local battling. The original Pokemon games are home to some of the finest chiptune GB music. For many a Pokemon fan, this battle theme is one of their favorites, not just because it was one of the firsts but because this piece of music is just that good.

Staff Credits - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN, Wii)

I've never really played much of Twilight Princess despite owning a copy on the Wii. With an HD remake heading for the Wii U, I intend to give that version my attention and see just why this game gets the adoration that it does. While I haven't played it, I have sampled some of its music. The staff roll music as a beautiful arrangement of the game's main theme and my favorite staff roll music of all Zelda games.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cloud Brings the Strife to Super Smash Bros.

On November 12th, Nintendo had their first Nintendo Direct since the passing of former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata back in July of this past year. Many wondered if the Big N would even continue with the directs with Mr. Iwata no longer being with us. Nintendo Directs have become a Nintendo staple and since they were originally the idea of the late Mr. Iwata, I'm pleased that Nintendo has decided to continue on with them. Nintendo came out swing with news including a release date for the delayed Star Fox Zero, the next wave if amiibos, a female version of link for Hyrule Warriors, capping it all off with a bombshell announcement that central protagonist Cloud Strife will be duking it out with the rest of the crew in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. Man, I still cannot believe I just typed that.

They said it couldn't happen. They said it was impossible. We'd have a better chance of seeing world peace than a Final Fantasy character joining the Super Smash Bros. family. The final minutes of last week's Nintendo Direct showed the naysayers just how wrong they were when Cloud stormed in and started slicing video game icons up with his Buster Sword. Mario, Pac-Man, Sonic, Mega Man, Ryu and Cloud Strife are going to be in one mindblowingly awesome game. I'm sure it has been said a zillion times since the blonde spikey one's reveal, but it truly is a great, great time to be a video game fan.

Of all the characters that could be chosen to represent the Final Fantasy series, some gamers are no doubt thinking "Cloud? Freaking Cloud?! Really?!"to put it mildly. To that I counter, why not Cloud? I mean, of all the characters from the ever extending franchise of Final Fantasy, Cloud was the obvious choice. Much as I love the cast of Final Fantasy VI, my personal favorite Final Fantasy, the decision to go with Cloud is crystal clear. When  Square Enix was selecting characters for the first ten Final Fantasy games for Dissidia, they went with the central protagonist and antagonist from each respective game, If Strago had been chosen over Terra to represent the hero side from Final Fantasy VI, that definitely would not have felt right. Of course Dissidia had reps from individual games. For Super Smash Bros., a character had to be selected to represent the entire series as a whole. Thanks to Final Fantasy VII's immense popularity, pretty much everyone on the planet is aware of who Cloud Strife is.

Midgar looks to be an amazing battle ground.

I realize Cloud isn't the easiest guy to like. This is due in equal parts to his personality and the game he comes from. Despite Cloud's somewhat bland personality, he's never been a character that I've ever disliked and besides for a game like Smash, persona isn't really an issue. The game Cloud originates from, however, is definitely going to be a sticking point for some.

Final Fantasy VII is an easy game to despise, While it did open the floodgates for RPGs to become mainstream in popularity outside of Japan, it carries an "FFVII is god-tier"status for that very reason, making it an easy hate target. I played FFVII when it came out and I've played through the game several times since then. I think FFVII is a good game, but in no way is it the pinnacle of what the genre has to offer. But Cloud being a character in Smash is something I can rally behind 100%. It doesn't matter that the latest Super Smash Bros. already has an abundance of sword users. This particular blade wielder is coming from one of the biggest game franchises in history so his inclusion is certainly something to get excited about. Cloud being in Smash is a big deal in every since of the word.

Some are speculating that Cloud being in Super Smash Bros. could mean that the Final Fantasy VII remake could also be headed to the Nintendo NX. "But the FFVII remake is a Sony exclusive!" I don't recall Square Enix ever saying that. main Final Fantasy titles have been multiplatform for a while now and the trailer for the FFVII remake said "Play it first on PlayStation 4," the key word being "first" as in, the remake is more the likely going to be on other gaming consoles. Square Enix has given Nintendo side Final Fantasy games and spin-off titles but a Nintendo platform hasn't had a main series Final Fantasy that wasn't a port since Final Fantasy VI on the SNES. If the FFVII remake does wind up on the Nintendo NX, then things would come full circle since FFVII was originally going to be on a Nintendo system but jumped ship for the PS since discs were a better fit for the game over cartridges.

But even if the FFVII remake doesn't come to a Nintendo system, I'm still stoked for Cloud's arrival in Super Smash Bros. The Midgar stages looks killer and I cannot wait to battle it out. How much music will we be getting from FFVII? What about the remixed music? Will we get music from other Square Enix games besides Final Fantasy? The release date for Cloud in Smash cannot get here soon enough.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Hype Can Ruin a Game For You

Hype is no small thing. When your get bombarded with ads or word of mouth about a game, it can be easy to buy into the hype. But hype is also a double edged sword. Just as it can sway you to buy into a came, too much of it can turn you off from a game. The funny thing about hype is that this applies to games new and old and for my examples below, I'm going to be focusing on the former.

For many a Super Smash Bros. fan, Super Smash Bros. Melee is regarded as the finest game in the franchise. While Smash has always been a fantastic party game, Melee did wonders for the tournament scene and it boasts the fastest speed of any Smash. I never got into competitive Smash but Melee has always been my favorite GameCube game. Even before I was even made aware that Melee had a tournament scene, Melee was one of my most played games for years. When I did find out just how big Melee was, and saw all of the hate Super Smash Bros. Brawl was getting, it struck me as being quite odd. Brawl had new modes, a larger cast of characters and even more stages than Melee. Not that those things guarantee a sequel being better than its predecessor, but all the negativity on Brawl was lost on me. This was due to my lack of knowledge on competitive Smash. Wave dashing and L canceling, two of Melee's more advanced moves were nowhere to be found in Brawl. Brawl was also slower than Melee and felt floaty. I could go on, but these are a few of the reasons that Brawl is seen as a misstep when compared to Melee and hardcore Melee fans are rather quick to jump down anyone's throat for not seeing Melee as the best Smash ever.

Masahiro Sakurai wanted to make Brawl a different game from Melee and I commend him and his team for doing that. Sure, tripping sucked and the game wasn't the hyper speed of Melee, but that didn't stop me from pouring tons of hours into it.

The argument of "Why Brawl  and every other Smash after Melee sucks" can be summed up in a single sentence: These games aren't Melee. It really is that simple. It isn't as if Melee can't still be played, but you've got die-hards getting upset that Melee's thunder is being stolen by the new kid in town, Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Rather than adapt to the way Smash Wii U plays, these people want to throw a hissy fit because the game doesn't play like an HD version of Melee with more characters.

The best Smash, like no Smash ever was! All
other games are inferior! *End Sarcasm*

I may not play Smash on a competitive level, but I do enjoy watching competitive matches and sadly, the bulk of competitive Melee matches come down to a sliver of the cast, usually consisting of Fox, Falco, Marth and Shiek. A cast of 25 fighters and only a handful of them are used by the competitive Melee community at large. If only a small token of the crew is seeing any screen time in what people claim as the best Smash ever in competitive matches, then I must say, that really is pathetic. I've grown so tired of all this talk about how Melee is the greatest game ever made, of how its "the perfect game," of fanatical fan's knee jerk reaction to vehemently defend Melee that I no longer like the game the way I once did.

The constant fawning over Mega Man 2 really makes me roll my eyes sometimes. Yes, the game is a superb sequel and its one of my favorite Mega Man games but it isn't perfect. One particular boss requires a full supply of Crash Bombs and leaves zero room for error. You lose all of your Energy Tanks when you get a game over, which is really problematic since the final boss has no power-ups whatsoever. Speaking of the last boss, if you run out of his weakness, you're pretty much screwed, because once again, the last stage gives you no power-ups. Even the first Mega Man game didn't screw that up but then it had a final boss that could be beaten with Mega Man's default weapon.

"Mega Man 2 has the best set of weapons!" What, you mean the Metal Blade that makes just about everything else pretty much useless? Go ahead and try to make an argument that any other power in the game trumps the Metal Blade. Yeah, it doesn't work on everything but it works on the majority of threats you encounter. The funny thing about the brokeness of the Metal Blade is that while so many MM2 lover's adore it, the Charge Shot introduced in Mega Man 4 is bemoaned for being too powerful. The hypocrisy makes me hang my head.

The only Mega Man game that matters! *End sarcasm mode. Again*

Former Mega Man head honcho Keiji Inafunae has only added fuel to MM2's fire. He's made it no secret that MM2 is his favorite and its the primary reason Mega Man 9 plays the way it does. I was as happy as the next gamer when the news let out that MM9 was in development but when I finally played the game I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, MM9 is a fine game, but and it felt like it was trying to be another MM2, right down to reusing MM2's jingles. Removing the Slide also rubbed me the wrong way as did the removal of the Charge Shot. But these abilities were passed on to Proto Man, who was DLC, which made me wonder why the abilities were for Mega Man were axed in the first place if they were just going to be given to another character. I actually prefer MM10 to MM9 because it feels like its trying to be its own game rather than Mega Man 2 2.5. It would be nice if the gaming community would stop treating MM2 it like its the only Mega Man game worth your time.

Call of Duty is hated by lots of hardcore games because the game is everywhere and people won't shut up about it. That along with the yearly sequels are why a good chunk of people are opposed to playing the games. I liken it to listening to a song over and over again. Even if the song is really good, overexposure can make you dislike it. While I don't hate Super Smash Bros. Melee and Mega Man 2, I am more than a little tired of the hype they keep getting, especially when better games have been released since then.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fantastic First Level Themes Vol. 3

They say you never forget your first. First kiss. First car. First level of a video game. We're here to focus on that last one. The first level of a video game can say a lot about the rest of the game. It can be a great way to grab the player for invested play time. For a lot of us, not only do we remember the first level because it is the start of a game, but because the music with that beginning level really stayed with us.

Opening Stage (X) - Mega Man X4 (PS, SAT)

Mega Man X3 allowed players to play s Zero for the first time but the experience was extremely limited. Mega Man X4, the series first 32-bit outing truly let you step into the shoes of the Red Ripper. X and Zero play vastly different from each other. X is a long range fighter with his X-Buster while Zero prefers to get up close and personal with his Z-Saber. The duo also have their own distinct opening stage themes for X4. Zero's theme is fine and all but nothing gets me ready to take down robots like X's action filled theme.

Ground Theme - Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

One of my personal favorite Super Mario games plays vastly differently from the other games in cloth. This is of course, due to the fact that Super Mario Bros. 2 was cut from a different piece of fabric. Even so, much from Super Mario Bros. 2 ended up becoming series staples and the franchise is all the better for it. The early Super Mario entries often reuse the same music for stages but when you've got Koji Kondo writing the score, repeat material isn't a bad thing. Super Mario Bros. 2's Ground Theme is super catchy and upbeat and I can't imagine throwing veggies at Shy Guys on outside levels without it.

Tropical Resort Act 1 - Sonic Colors (Wii)

What's this? No opening story cut scene before playing the first stage? Nope. Sonic Color throws you into the action right off the bat. Contrary to popular belief, good Sonic titles have come out since 2006's abomination known as Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Colors is one such game. A mix of 2D and 3D gameplay, Colors is widely regarded in the Sonic fandom as one of the blue blur's crowning achievements. Sonic games have always had outstanding musical scores and Colors is no exception, bringing back remixed versions of each zone's opening act. And on the note of opening act, Colors has a pumping one with Tropical Resort Act 1. It truly captures the feeling of a lively theme park.

Paternal Horn - NiGHTS into dreams... (SAT)

Back when SEGA was willing to be more innovative and take risks, we got games such as NiGHTS. Despite being an on-rails style of game, NiGHTS features some of the best use of flight in video games. Elliot and Claris each have their own levels, complete with their own music themes for those levels. Paternal Horn plays in Spring Valley, which is Claris' first stage and is a wonderful opener for the great NiGHTS music to come. If you missed NiGHTS on the Saturn, the HD remake is up for grabs on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Caught Red Handed - Mighty Switch Force! (3DS, Wii U)

There's been a prison break and the only one capable of catching the blonde Hooligan sisters is none other than brunette Patrica Wagon. I always get goose bumps whenever I find out Jake Kaufman is attached to a game. The man has a phenomenal gift for composing soundtracks from chiptunes to modern melodies. The first Mighty Switch Force! is home to some pretty jovial, dance-inspired music and its all kicked off with the very first level, or incident, as the game likes to call them.