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Shop 'til the Drop

All right, time to christen this site with a new list. I won't be going for this fancy new "click trap" mechanic just yet (but man does that look like a tempting way to annoy people), so instead I'll do something to honor a lost feature of the old site: Specifically, the Gerstmann-endorsed "what Giant Bomb is" banner slogan that had included up until its disappearance, "the shop music from Hot Rod".

The following are a list of shop themes that go beyond simply setting the mood to do some commerce. They're either entrenched in the spirit of the game and its sense of humor and style, or they're just unusual for the sake of being unusual. Shopping for new items/power-ups/equipment can sometimes be such a customary and inescapable part of certain genres that savvy games will often seek interesting ways to subvert the experience. And, if only rarely, the shop themes can actually turn out to be the highlight of the soundtrack. Here's a few good examples:

(OK, so the new list tool doesn't allow for links inside the entries. For simplicity's sake, I'll add them all up here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. Just click the number that corresponds to the entry.)

List items

  • Starting with a classic, I suppose. Jeff probably has a whole discography of quirky shop themes from the Arcade/C64 era locked up in that melon of his. I'd like to crack it open and feast on the goo inside someday. Figuratively speaking, of course.

  • The only element of apocalyptic sadness porn Fragile Dreams that has any sort of optimism and cheeriness to it is the theme of the Item Merchant, who occasionally pays protagonist Seto a visit whenever he rests at a bonfire. The Item Merchant turns out to have some dark secrets of his own, but you wouldn't think it to look at his bizarre, disheveled chicken mascot head and glowing red eye. Well, actually, maybe you would.

  • Hell Yeah! is one of those Indie games with a ribald sense of humor. Fortunately, it's one of those rare cases in which that sense of humor actually benefits the game, rather than the usual cringeworthy mix of internet memes and randumbness that permeates so many of the humor-driven Indie titles. As much a goofy parody as the rest of the game, the shop theme satirizes the single-minded pursuit of wealth and status with an appropriately hip-hop jingle.

  • Lords of Thunder, the next game to be featured on TurboMento-12, is an obsidian throne of action gameplay sitting upon a pile of skulls that is a playlist of heavy metal insanity. Even the shop theme, which are typically a bit more serene than the rest of a game's soundtrack, is turned all the way up to 11.

  • Like Lords of Thunder, the Tapesmith's theme music is appropriately heavy and metallic. Unlike that game, Double Dragon Neon's ode to headbanging is a little more tongue-in-cheek and ironic, as is the rest of the game's 80s-flavored aesthetic. Can't fault its fidelity to the source material, though.

  • Of course, if we're talking games with senses of humor, very little comes close to EarthBound. The honky tonk music of the drugstore is so utterly incongruous to its sterile whiteness that you can't help but smile every time you come in for Prozac or Zoloft. Well, not that you'd be smiling much if you have antidepressant prescriptions, but you know what I mean.

  • A joke that gets less funny each time you hear it, the way Suda51's Lollipop Chainsaw plays the licensed song "Lollipop, Lollipop" by the Chordettes every single time Juliet needs to take five for some internet shopping might well be the game in a microcosm.

  • The old site isn't the only thing this list is sending off on a bittersweet note. The Wii's shop music - once such a staple of the Bombcast - was perhaps the best part of Nintendo's white, slanted monolith. The shop themes of the modern Nintendo consoles, as serene as they are, can't hope to match the Wii Shop's muzak-y magnificence.

  • Like everything else in Isaac's world, the store music is tinged with the right amount of sinister. This is because the store represents the sin of Greed (and occasionally the mini-boss of Greed), and the horror-filled lower environs of Isaac's home is forever ready to test the piety of its bald little visitor.

  • Tom Nook's an entrepreneurial raccoon that knows to path to riches isn't paved with quality customer service and bargains, but with ruthless loan sharking and the legion of indentured servants it engenders. An early lesson that not all of Animal Crossing's adorable menagerie are as wholesome as they initially appear.

  • Torneko's bassy theme, as rounded and jolly as the man himself, is full of Dragon Quest's characteristic whimsy. It does, of course, serve to belie a truly diabolical mind for finances and commerce that will in due time fleece the entire world of its riches, but until the DQ equivalent of AOL Time Warner (Slime Warner?) arrives, Taloon works hard for his beloved family.

  • SWERY only knows why the town of Greenvale has a singular store named the Milk Barn, or why it has such a groovy rocking-around-the-clock riff playing throughout. It's all part and parcel of the game's inscrutable sense of style.

  • DK64 is perhaps unfairly considered to have the Hitler of video game soundtracks for its signature theme alone. However, its unusual emphasis on guns that causes the once laid-back surfer Funky Kong to switch careers to a fully loaded merchant of death, comes complete with a worrisome battle march theme that's actually kind of catchy. What happened to you, Funky? You began life as a long-haired rocker, but now you're suddenly Ted Nugent?

  • Jets'n'Guns is a fairly feature-loaded shmup with plenty to recommend about it, but the power metal chiptune soundtrack from Swedish band Machinae Supremacy elevates it to something else entirely. The shop theme, despite being OTT as hell, is actually one of the less bombastic tracks.

  • Now this is the kind of music that ought to be playing when you're picking out artillery parts for your giant mech (or "wanzer", a portmanteau of walker/panzer, as the game refers to them). Purchasing several tons of ordinance has never sounded so smooth.

  • I... I don't even know. Fucking Malo Mart, man. Twilight Princess is a weird, weird game.

  • For such a tough-looking manly game of muscles and lasers and spiny dragons, it sure does have a plinky-plink shop theme. (Thanks for the suggestion, buzz_clik!)

  • You want to talk about a shoot-em-up where plinky happy music is entirely apropos? Fantasy Zone, Sega's saccharine answer to Defender, has a shop theme as upbeat as everything else in the game.