Alas winter is cruel, aside from the freezing cold temperatures I've come down with the flu, the flu at Christmas, that's just cruel! Anyway my last music blog certainly went some lengths towards making my day better last time so here's the second part, some more recent examples of musical excellence in games. My personal definitions of New School and Old School are a tad shaky so bear with me if you think some of these don't exactly fall under the 'New School' category.
I am going to hold up my hands here and admit, very first entry in the list and I'm cheating a little bit. This song was in the original Super Famicom version of Tales of Phantasia, but when it was remade for the Playstation it's quality improved several times over, hence why I'm including it here, plus it kinda slipped my mind last time. This song is just a great opening, it sounds so hopeful and bright, without being overly cheery and I personally think the singer is just excellent. The song almost has waves to it, it starts off solemn and quiet as the story does, then becomes more triumphant as hope grows stronger, then it ends quietly again. To me it's just a pretty song, I have no idea what the lyrics are, I just really like listening to it over and over again.
This is the SNES version if you're curious what it sounded like back then.
Garou Mark of the Wolves - Spread the Wings Rock Howard's theme from Garou Mark of the Wolves, hoo boy! This ranks right up there with Ken's theme and Terry Bogard's Big Shot theme. It starts off kind of slow and then builds up to an exciting rythm and it's just like Rock himself, fast and unpredictable. It's always important to me that music in fighting games be fun to actually fight to and this song is just perfect, it makes ever fight feel epic whether you're winning or losing.
The arranged version is actually even better, I suggest you have a look at that aswell.
Honourable mention goes to Hotaru Futuba's theme ' Fullmoon: Heartful' which is just a damn pretty song.
Persona 4 - SMILE Let's be basic here and assume that since you're on Giant Bomb you probably have at least a fair knowledge of Persona 4. I'll not bore you in that case going on and on about how Persona 4 has possibly the best soundtrack known to mankind and simply draw your attention to one of my favorite probably lesser known songs. SMILE is the song that mostly plays upon the completion of a social link and it's a song that truly lives up to it's name, if this song doesn't make you smile you must be a very depressed person, I know I am and it makes even me smile. There's just so little to say other than it's an incredibly pretty and moving piece of music and that's saying something when it's in a game that's just full of that.
Shadow of the Colossus - The opened way Daaaayum, this is an epic piece of music worthy of such an epic game. I challenge you to listen to this piece and not picture an epic struggle taking place. If you played Shadow of the Colossus and remember the feeling of excitement, clinging for your life to a gigantic monster that would stomp you flat should you actually survive falling off it, I swear a huge portion of that was thanks to music like this. It's truly an amazing track that gets the blood pumping without even the need for crazy electric guitar music or anything.
Alone in the Dark - Who Am I? This game does not deserve such an awesome soundtrack, it's poorly written, unfinished and really not that scary and worst of all I actually bought it, lucky I got the soundtrack CD with it and that my friends was worth the price of admission. Most people will recognise this as the track from the trailers from the game, funny how a mindblowing trailer can get you to buy garbage. This particular song is just so excellent though and you barely ever see game soundtracks done in this style, this song would be so great if it were just paired up with something like Silent Hill or Resident Evil.
Metal Gear Solid 3 - Snake Eater As a young British chap who likes a nice cup of tea (real tea, not like you americans drink) and a nice crumpet with that tea, I'm also a big fan of James Bond. This song and the opening that goes along with it is just the perfect homage to the old James Bond movies and even surpasses some of them in it's sheer awesomeness. Yes it's supposed to be ripping off James Bond, even the final chords sound pretty much identical to the James Bond theme and the ones who cry foul over that are missing the point. The game even makes some hilarious references to James Bond in the radio conversations, it's really all tastefully and respectively done. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you like James Bond, go play MGS3... that is what I was trying to say right?
Skies of Arcadia - Airship battle Let's face it, all of the battle music in Skies of Arcadia is absolutely amazing and there's rather a lot of it to take it, but this particular piece is one of my all time favorites. There's nothing like watching a couple of airships swoop and dive to this piece of music, made all the sweeter by the fact that you're there desperately trying to think of your next orders. There's not much to say since it's a short piece but I like that fact that it's a battle theme that doesn't go for all out adrenalin and instead adds a majestic note to the experience.
Valkyria Chronicles - Desperate Fight I have to give a lot of credit to a piece of music when it essentially manages to sell me on the entire rest of the game. Similar with the last piece I love how this music doesn't go for all out adrenalin rush but instead has a certain epic majesty to it. The entire soundtrack of Valkyria Chronicles is worth listening to, but I suppose the only piece that might be better than this is the main theme. In fact just go buy the game, everything about it is perfect, then you can hear this excellent soundtrack for yourself. (Is it too late to change my answer? The main theme is actually probably the best piece in the soundtrack)
Final Fantasy IX - You are not Alone! Because I oh so enjoy ending on a positive note. You Are Not Alone is probably one of the very best tracks I can think of in recent memory aside from maybe the theme of Aerith's death, which is by the same person so it's a moot point really. This song is just wonderful, it's got so many layers, so many messages and the fact that it only plays once during a very emotional sequence makes it all the more powerful. This song is so excellent it demands to be listened to in better quality so here's the orchestrated version and while we're at it, let's listen to the fan vocal version which is just stunning in every way.
So there you have it, your recent examples of musical greatness and videogame music only has the potential to get even better as time goes on. Truly I think that a lot of the time, the music in videogames manages to surpass most movie soundtracks, perhaps it's because of the interactive medium allowing for more emotional connection to the music, but either way it's a good sign. Music is personal to us all and this is my personal list, I encourage anyone who reads this to share their own personal moments of videogame music greatness.
This kind of list is no stranger to the gaming community, yet another person who thinks they know good video game music is stepping forward to tell you about the gaming music they love. Indulge me for a moment however, I like to think that I can share with you a few pieces of music you may not have come across yet or if you have already, remind you of just why that music is great. In this blog I'll be taking a look at some old school video game music, around the SNES era and earlier.
Okay I admit, I almost went with Ken's theme for this one, then I remembered Street Fighter II's incredible ending music. I think a fair amount of people forget this piece which is a shame because for a fighting game which focuses on raw action it's really quite a pretty piece of music. It's nice after all your battles are done, you've beaten the final boss and seen the ending to just relax to this music and reflect on a fight well won.
Fatal Fury III - Big Shot Oh yeah, Terry Bogard's theme from Fatal Fury III. This is the perfect theme music, it's lively, exciting, intense and yet it somehow feels laid back and cool, it fits the character perfectly. It's a great track to fight to aswell, it's got just the right pace to it, it's easy to get into a rhytm. It feels like this song could play in a casual setting or a battle setting, it's somehow so versitile. I'll quite happilly lose a mirror match to Terry just to hear this song again.
Sparkster - Lakeside This could easilly just be called Sparkster's theme, it's an excellent triumphant track and it plays on the first level as if announcing Sparkster's arrival. This just feels like a hero's theme all around, it's triumphant and epic but it's got a certain lightheartedness to it, afterall Sparkster is a badass but he is still just a rodent with a sword, it doesn't take itself too seriously. This track actually has a quality to it that reminds me a little of the Corneria theme from Star Fox, another of my favorite tracks.
Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu - The theme of Celice Ah this is one of my favorite moments in gaming. Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu is a rollarcoaster of emotions all the way to the end and when you're on your final approach to Celice's home he stops to have a very intimate and inspiring conversation with Oifaye and this song plays. The song sums up exactly who Celice is and what his mission is about, he is the last hope for the world and his theme sounds triumphant, but his life has been torn apart by tragedy so the song also sounds sad. It reminds us all that even though the world is full of darkness, that small glimmer of hope always remains.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles - The Doomsday Zone Enough of this sappiness, let's have something more crazy and epic! This was my favorite part of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, beating what you thought was the final boss at the end of the game only to suddenly be thrust into the Doomsday Zone and then this music starts playing. This music just feels frantic, it helps to make you feel more like you're really dashing through space and that you're in a tight situation. If Robotnik escapes here it's truly game over and Sonic has nothing to look forward to other than a screaming plummet back to earth as he burns to a crisp on re-entry.
Castlevania Dracula X - Bloodlines Ah yes almost everyone has their favorite Castlevania track, this one's mine. Again I like how this track announces Richter's arrival on the first level, like the Belmont family is returning after a long absence and they mean business. Aside from that I enjoy the melody of this track, it's got a real feel good vibe to it, makes you feel like a hero. It also has a good beat, it could just be me but it almost seems like Richter actually walks to the beat of this track.
The Terminator - Taking to the air Oh yeah I'll bet you didn't know about this one did you? Well if you owned a Sega CD like me you'll be treated to the best game adaption of the Terminator movie along with it's mind blowing soundtrack. This is the music for the first stage which is just my personal favorite but the entire soundtrack's just excellent. It's got a sort of cyberpunk sound going on and it just makes you feel right in the thick of the action.
Snatcher - One Night in Neo Kobe City I think a lot of people will have heard of this game but much less are likely to have played it. I really like to hear alternate forms of music in games and this jazz melody is just great, it sets up the mood of this game nicely. It does sound very much like the opening to a classy noir detective story (which is what Snatcher is I guess), the music also has a real liveliness to it which partners well with images of Neo Kobe City, it almost sets the city up as a character in itself.
Super Punch Out! - Fight music I'll end with a bit of a curve ball here. I'm sure you're all familiar with the Punch-out fight music and how could you not be, it's a pretty iconic tune. I really like the music for Super Punch-out though, it feels so lively and hard hitting, like each of the heavy beats is a punch. Again it's a good beat for playing the game to, it moves along with a rhytm similar to an actual boxing match and it really just feels excellent in the game. Now this track really really reminds me of the Star Fox Corneria theme, I wonder why all these songs sound similar to me.
Well that's it for the Old School edition, if you liked it check back in later for my personal new school picks.
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Starting out with a somewhat niche title. I think Skies or Arcadia is a game that a good number of people will have heard of but less people have played, which is a shame cause it rivals almost anything Square has made recently. I always enjoy the degree to which you can customize your experience in this game by switching out parts of your airship and your crew in order to make everything work the way you want. This game also has some of my favorite music in the genre and I always like the little touches, such as the way music changes on the fly during boss battles in order to reflect how you're doing (ie. winning, losing or just doing okay).
2001- Final Fantasy X ( PS2) I'll probably catch some flak for this but in my opinion Final Fantasy X is probably the last truly good Final Fantasy. People may argue that point with me for two possible reasons, the first reason is that they think the last good Final Fantasy came before Final Fantasy X and the second possible reason is that they somehow think Final Fantasy XI and XII qualify as good. Don't get me wrong, I played the last two Final Fantasies and many of the spin offs all while scoffing at them, which I think only proves what a fanboy I am, but it's all beside the point.
Back when the PS2 first came out, this was the game that most of us looked forward to along with Metal Gear Solid 2 and it was mostly due to how gorgeous it looked. I liked the story and the gameplay plenty, I was even fond of the music, but I think this is one game that sold me mostly with looks alone.
2002- Resident Evil Zero ( GCN) Okay I'll admit, I haven't always been the rabid fan of Resident Evil that I am, in fact I was too downright terrified of the games to play them, up until this point and with some assistance from a game that will be showing up later that should be no surprise. Resident Evil Zero was the turning point for me where I really started to enjoy the classic Resident Evil formula. It's definitely not the scariest or even the hardest game in the series, in fact it's kinda easy. What it is is a good introduction to the series for new players like me. Also is it just me or do Billy and Rebecca seem like the only smart protagonists in the series, it's a zombie outbreak people, stay the fuck together!
2003- Fire Emblem: Blazing sword ( GBA) Alright, last Fire Emblem I promise, but this one's possibly the most important since it marks Fire Emblem's first entry into the western market. This is easilly one of the best games in the series with incredibly strong characters and a great story, it also has some beautiful artwork that's used to tell certain sections of the story. Most people will be familar with the protagonist from the previous game in the series, Roy, which was the game that introduced me to the Fire Emblem series. This game stars Roy's father Eliwood and in my opinion it features a stronger storyline. If you're looking for an introduction to the Fire Emblem series this game is definitely where you should start.
2004- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater ( PS2) I've managed to get this far without mentioning Metal Gear Solid, which is impressive since I'm a big fan of the series, I was however saving myself for this, my favorite game in the series. For starters, being a stereotypical brit who likes vinegar on his chips and a nice cup of tea every now and then, I'm a sucker for James Bond. This game has a better James Bond style storyline than any of the actual James Bond games and even features a James Bond style intro sequence. Aside from that it's got some of the best characters in the series and generally speaking manages to avoid the mindfuck plot twists found in the other entries in the series.
2005- Resident Evil 4 ( GCN) Okay I admit it, somewhere along the way we hopped on the train to Obvious Town, but Resident Evil 4 really is one of the best games ever and it's what really got me into the Resident Evil series. It's more action focused and if I'm going to play a game that's scary that's kind of how I want it. It's got some great atmosphere and at times succeeds in being one of the scariest or at least one of the most tense entries in the series. It also has some great unlockables and secrets that make it satisfying and well worth it to play through multiple times.
2006- Dead Rising ( Xbox360) Perhaps I'm a sucker for killing zombies because I hate the lazy bastards but aside from that Dead Rising does feel significant for me. It's a game that truly manages to do a good job replicating a zombie outbreak, for starters there's going to be tons of the buggers and secondly you're going to have to make the choice to save yourself and let others die or rick your life to help people. I personally enjoy the fact that there's a lot more in this game to find than you might think and it's great to see the effects different weapons have on zombies (I still think it's hilarious to break plant pots over their heads.)
(Honourable mention, the game I would like to put in this spot but I've barely played: Okami)
2007- Mass Effect ( Xbox360) You may think we're still on the train to Obvious Town, but think about it, Call of Duty 4 came out this year aswell and I'm not putting it in this spot, do something about it! In all seriousness though I'm a pretty big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek (if being a fan means I watched the original series and next generation and refuse to watch any further) and Mass Effect generally feels like playing a truly interactive version of those. I enjoyed the character interaction and feeling like I was actually having an influence on the story and my character's actions. I admit the combat was a little clunky in spots, but I very much enjoyed it for what it was.
2008- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 ( PS2) Train to Obvious Town? Well, the Endurance Run aside, this is still a pretty niche title outside of this particular website, which is a shame because it's one of the best examples of story telling I've seen in ANY medium. I love the characters, I love the music and I love the story and the relavant message it tries to get across, it truly is a masterfully crafted package. For the people who have only seen the Endurance Run I highly recommend playing it for yourselves, it's really something that should be experienced first hand.
Okay, we've made it to this year and it's hard to pick just one game from this year, not least of all because it's about that time of the year when everyone'll be talking about what was their personal game of the year. In the face of such a choice, for me it has to be something that holds an actual personal significance for me, something that I've been waiting for for a very long time and that I expect to be playing many years down the line...
2009- Street Fighter IV ( Xbox360, PS3, PC) Yeah I'm gonna call my personal game of the year Street Fighter IV. This was the game I was by far the most hyped about this year, I got the collector's edition, all the clothes packs, all three of the official controllers made by mad catz and I just bought it again for the Xbox360 just so I can play against a different set of people. This game is excellent, I'd go so far as to say the best fighting game ever made. It's created a new generation of fighting game fans just like Street Fighter II did years ago and it's something I've always wanted to see make a comeback. Personally I can't wait for Super Street Fighter IV next year.
So that's a it, a favorite game for every year I've been alive. I was lucky to be introduced to this medium at a very young age and it's been with me for pretty much my entire life, which I'll always be thankful for. I'd be interested to see what this list would look like in another 22 years, whether games continue to evolve as a medium and an art form as they have been doing. I for one can't wait to share years 2010-2032 with you someday.
I've finally decided to use this space for something other than collecting dust and housing the family of doormice I found on my front step the other night. I'm a regular at Giantbomb but I'm one of those people who lurks around, offering the occassional input on something but otherwise just keeping to myself. Well here's where that's going to change, I've decided to start my blog with an introduction to my life, my favorite game for each year of my life to be exact. This list goes from 1987-2009 so that's 22 games for people who have a tough time counting, also I don't really care about exact release dates, as long as it was released somewhere that yearit's good enough for me. These games aren't necessarily the games I was actually playing that year (well how could I play them if I was a baby), they're my favorites now. So without further ado let's get this personal reveal going.
Ah the glorious year of my birth and not just because it brough me into the world, this was a hell of a year for gaming and I had a tough time picking just one. Ultimately I have to fall back on Final fantasy, the original for the NES. Final fantasy has always been one of my favorite names in gaming and even today the first game is arguably one of the best, which is saying a lot. Without this little gem, the company we know today as Square-Enix might not even exist, which would be a real shame.
The story of the game is bare bones, you play as the four Warriors of light and it's your mission to save the world. That's about it, though it does have a couple of twists along the way, none of which I'll bother spoiling here. What always brings me back to this game is the fact that it lets you create your own adventuring team from the start and you can make them anyway you want to. It's got a degree of personality that wasn't duplicated in any of the later games.
1988- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) Okay this year gets a little tougher, but it's certainly not without it's great games. One that I only just discovered fairly recently is Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This game had actually come out earlier in Japan on the Famicom disk system (another thing I only just got hold of) but this was the year of it's western release. I remember admiring this game from afar in the odd issue of Nintendo Power my brother would occassionally get hold of (since we didn't have Nintendo Power in England) and thinking it looked like the best game ever made.
I like this game for the way it attempted to change up the then very new Zelda formula and it actually works very well. The game's pretty tough though, but that's part of it's charm, still one of my favorite entries in the Zelda series.
1989- Ninja Gaiden ( NES) This is a great game to just jump in and play for awhile, it feels surprisingly satisfying to play despite the fact that it's hard as hell. It features some interesting innovations for the time, including some pretty nice looking cutscenes. Aside from that it's just a fun game to play, there's not much more to say other than it's a stellar example of simple 2D platforming on the NES.
1990- Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikaru no Tsurugi ( FC) Haven't heard of it? Neither have a lot of people I'm sure, but this is the game that started the Fire Emblem series and the first game to star Marth, known mostly over here due to his appearance in Smash Brothers. It's very primative compared to later games in the series but it's remarkably advanced for it's time. I won't bother explaining the story because anyone who's interested should definitely check out the DS remake Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, it's pretty much a 1-1 remake.
1991- Street Fighter II ( ARC) Oh yes, now we're getting serious. Street Fighter II is and always will be one of the best fighting games (THE best fighting game depending on what circles you're a part of) ever made and I really did sink hours and hours of my youth into this game despite barely understanding how to play. I remember most fondly playing against my brother who played as Ken, whereas I mostly played as Ryu, it was truly an epic and fitting rivalry. Actually did I mention my brother's 11 years older than me and one night shattered any notions I had of being decent at the game by utterly crushing me in less than 10 seconds? Well he did and from then on I vowed that I would become better than him.
1992- Sonic 2 ( GEN) The first but certainly not the last appearance by the hedgehog on this list. When I was growing up you were either a Sonic kid or a Mario kid and most people I knew were Sonic kids. I played a lot of Sonic 2 growing up, I was always blown away by the graphics and the speed of the gameplay. Sonic was my hero for the better part of my life, I read both the english and american versions of the comic, watched the first two TV shows and bought way too much of the merchandise. I was also always a fan of the dynamic way it handled 2 player co-op play, if one of your friends wanted to join in as Tails all they had to do was pick up the controller and start playing, simple as that.
1993- Rocket Knight Adventures ( GEN) I fear that once again this is a game not too many people will have heard of. I myself never actually got to play it when I was younger, but I did read the short lived comic strip that appeared in the english Sonic the Comic. Sparkster was Konami's attempt to create a mascot along the lines of Sonic or Mario and Rocket Knight Adventures is certainly a great attempt. It's a fun and original game full of that trademark Konami quirkiness. Also, it could just be me, but I think an opossum with a sword and a jetpack is pretty badass.
This game was followed by some great sequels, both called Sparkster and released for both the SNES and the Genesis, though both were completely different games. Unfortunately after that Sparkster disappeared into obscurity.
1994- Sonic 3 ( GEN) Now this is the Sonic title that I truly played to death. It took everything that was great about Sonic 2 and made it even better, with bigger levels and set pieces and it even included a save feature which let you play any level you like over and over. It could lock onto the later Sonic and Knuckles and become an even bigger game, joining all the features of the two games into one. You could now play as 3 very unique characters, all of which had slightly differing storylines. Fans of Mario may lynch me if they wish but I think this is the best 2D platformer ever made.
1995- Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness ( PC) From the best 2D platformer to what I believe is the best real time strategy ever made. Nowadays it's all World of Warcraft, but back in the day it was just plain old Warcraft. I remember sinking hours and hours into both of this game's campaigns and then where I was bored of that I'd make my own scenearios using the game's easy to use map editor. Most people will try to tell you that Starcraft is the best RTS ever made, but they're wrong I'm afraid, Warcraft II is where it's at.
1996- Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu ( SFC) Fire Emblem's back on the list with easily my favorite game in the series and possibly my favorite game ever. The story of this game plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy and there's plenty of sacrifice before it's over. The hero, Sigurd is one of my favorite characters in gaming and with good reason. I can't really say enough good things about this game so I guess if you want to know my complete thoughts on it check my review on Giantbomb.com, that's a website.
1997- Final Fantasy VII ( PSX) Once again the second appearance of a game in the Final Fantasy series, it's my favorite in the series and another contender for my favorite game of all time. I think the reason I really like Final Fantasy VII so much is because I really like it's characters, mostly Cloud who I think I identify the most with out of almost any fictional character I can name. This is another game I could go on about for a very long period of time but I won't for the sake of keeping things brief. Just for the record though I was one of those poor saps who thought that there was actually a way to bring Aerith back to life.
1998- The legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ( N64) Oh let's keep it simple shall we since I'm getting sleepy. This game was mindblowing at the time, it's awesome even now and if you don't agree you obviously missed out and I feel for you in the deepest part of my heart I really do.
Alright so a little more than that, Ocarina of Time was Zelda's jump to 3D and it was perfect in ever single way. Some games of this age struggled and a lot failed to make the jump to 3D, but Zelda became several times better.
1999- Garou: Mark of the Wolves ( ARC) Another niche title, but one that I think deserves a lot of respect. Garou gets points with me for pulling of some very fluid looking 2D animation without making the controls feel stiff. All in all it's a very satisfying fighting game and one that I greatly prefer over more popular alternatives such as Street Fighter III. I also like the characters a lot in this game, mostly Rock Howard who almost strikes me as a character who's a little deep to be in a fighting game.
Apparently I've been alive for a long time, who knew? Break music anyone?