Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "BGM" - Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (NES)

"BGM" from Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1990)
Composer: Tim Follin
Album: No Official Release
Developer: Software Creations

I can't pinpoint what it was that made me decide upon "BGM" from Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (S:TQftSoD) this morning.  It must have been some conglomeration of video game songs that.  It might ahve been some combination of music that was playing from Super Meat Boy, and Little Nemo - The Dream Master that for whatever reason made me immediately recall this odd treasure of a game and the music.  When I thought of this game, I first thought that the music I would immediately recognize was going to be the opening title music, but what it turned out to be was the background music.

Also, I decided to keep the "BGM" (for "BackGround Music") as the title because there was no official soundtrack release and I was unable to locate an official title for the song.  Hell, even what is now known as the Super Mario Bros. theme was originally titled "Above Ground BGM."  I guess you could thank Satoe Terashima and Kinuyo Yamashita for setting the high standard back in 1986 for coming up with titles like "Wicked Child" and "Poison Mind."  Anyway, moving on.

What immediately stands out to me is the "dinging" noise that opens the song that is very reminiscent of someone tapping on the side of a bottle or vial that may or may not be holding some type of magical elixir.  The other two things are, that this is a roughly two minute song, which may not sound like a long song, but for a song on the NES, it is a long song, playing until around 1:52 before it starts to loop.  This is probably due to the fact that the rest of the soundtrack consists of five short, less than 30 second songs, and two longer songs ("Title" and "Ending") which run 2:47 and 1:20 respectively.  The other thing that I am blown away by this song are the number of digital instruments used in this one song.  Composer Tim Follin talks a little bit about the music in Solstice in a documentary from 1990, which is pretty crazy when you look at his method for creating the piece of music here.

And you know, even though I was never able to get very far in Solstice, I do have fond memories of playing this game with one of my friends in elementary school (let's call him RedDeth), as well as panicking when I temporarily lost the password that was essentially the Konami Code.  Either way, I hope you at least find this 27 year old bit of Nintendo music as entertaining as I at least find it to be.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Jaconian's Favorite Game of the Year - Part IV: 2010s

For everyone just joining us, this is Part IV of a four part series where I list and briefly talk about my favorite game that was released during a particular year.  This time around I am covering 2010 - 2017 (2017 as of Friday April 21st mind you), and 1980 - 1989, 1990 - 1999, and 2000 - 2009 can be found in those links.  Also I feel like I need to mention that while these games may not have been the best game or the highest selling game for their particular year, they all happened to find a place in my brain where they took root and I have never forgotten them, although I may have forgotten the year they were first released.

Something that had not occurred to me until I started doing Part IV of these lists, were episodic games, which I was not fully aware of (I think) until The Walking Dead: A Tell Tale Games Series came out in 2012.  How do you decide on what year episodic games were released in?  Is it the year the first episode came out in or the year the last episode was released?  Well, for me and the purposes of my own list, I decided to go with the year that the first episode in the series was released, similar to how I decided to not count DLC as a stand alone game when taking into account when certain DLCs were released after if it were not in the same year as the main game.

So, now down to the last eight games (and who knows, in 2019, I may decide to revisit this last decade):

2010:  Amnesia: The Dark Descent (September 8, 2010)
There were quite a few games released this year that I had also considered: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, BioShock 2,and Dementium II.  And I think A:TDD ended up becoming my favorite game this year, sadly not while playing it, but after I had finished and I had time to think about the game; you can read some of my frustrations from my review back in 2012.  What endeared this game to me ended up being the approach to how the story was told, the logical use of amnesia as a mechanic, and the futility of the characters in the story.  I will admit though that I was a little disappointed by the "sanity effects" believing that they would be akin to those from Eternal Darkness, but once I figured that that would not be the case, I came to enjoy the game a bit more.

2011:  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (November 11, 2011)
Ah jeez.  Skyrim, Dark Souls, Portal 2, Radiant Historia, The Binding of IsaacDead Space 2, RageDead Island, and probably others that I happen to be not including either.  I landed with Skyrim because of how much time I have personally put into the game, something like 200+ hours with my first character, then probably close to another 100 hours with various other characters in order to play out story points that I didn't feel that one character would partake of.  Additionally, I do not think that I could ever talk about Skyrim without mentioning the amazing score that Jeremy Soule wrote, and unbeknownst to me at the time when I first played Skyrim (December 2012), that I was already familiar with Mr. Soule's work from Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights.  

This was my first experience with not only episodic games, but also games from Tell Tale Games and I feel that as long as like the subject matter, they have created a customer for life.  Already a fan of zombie apocalypse stories and The Walking Dead universe, I quickly took to the story and the Choose Your Own Adventure format of how this game played out.  By the end, I was emotionally attached to a lot of the characters and found my eyes becoming itchy as the final scenes played out in the last episode.  I seriously love this game.

2013:  Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs  (August 8, 2013)
This year was a tough one too.  It ultimately came down to either The Stanley Parable, Papers, Please, Path of Exile, and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.  And what makes it harder is that each game is very different, although both A:AMfP and TSP are both point of view operated, but genre-wise could not be more different.  I think what draws me to games like A:AMfP is the discovery of the story as the game progresses and then the emotional impact as the PoV character and the player discover major elements of the story about the same time.  I had an easier time with this than Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but that could have been due to Frictional Games' more focused story telling along with The Chinese Room's attention to plot, atmosphere and level detail.  (You can read more of my praise from my Full Review article from November 2013).

2014:  The Elder Scrolls Online (April 4, 2014)
For 2014, I feel In some way how much I enjoy this game surprised me, only because I had mentally sworn off MMOs since I never liked the idea of having to pay for a game more than once in order to play it.  Having already fallen in love with the Elder Scrolls games definitely acted as a gateway drug for me to signing up for the beta back in 2013, playing the beta in November and pre-ordering a copy for myself and Conklederp so that we could quest together online, something that neither of us had done.  And while both Conklederp and I often go months without playing ESO, I am very much looking forward to the Morrowind expansion and exploring a more visually detailed land that I have not visited in a while.

2015:  SOMA  (September 22, 2015)
By this point, it should be of little surprise that I fell in love with another game from Frictional Games.  I have already talked quite a bit about SOMA in my Game Review from late last year, so I will try not to rehash too much.  Basically, SOMA gave me a major case of the philosophical questions and the feels.  The voice acting was pretty amazing, which is something that I have come to expect from Frictional Games.  The only hang up I had was that there were times the game ran slow, but that was due to my computer's capabilities, but it actually worked in the underwater sequences.  Still a game that I would love to go through again, but I might need some time before taking such a taxing (but worthy) emotional journey again.

2016:  Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS  (December 2, 2016)
I was kind of amused by the fact that I had only played two other games that were released in 2016, Pokémon GO and Cluster Truck.  I played a couple of demos though, but I am not counting those since, well, they are demos and not a full game.  I also decided to count Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS as a separate entry from the Wii U game that was released in 2015 since it is almost the same game, but operates differently in how various tools are gained and I know that people were upset about the lacking online features.

2017:  Fire Emblem Heroes (February 2, 2017)

I do not know if this means anything or not, but I landed on Fire Emblem Heroes as my favorite game this year, mainly because I have realized that I have played no other game that was released this year.  But what Fire Emblem Heroes has helped do, is rekindled my love of tactics games and introduced  me to the games in the Fire Emblem franchise, sadly none of which I have played to this date.  And because of how much fun I have had playing this game, I pre-ordered my first game (let alone 3DS game) since. . .The Elder Scrolls Online back in 2014.  I would highly recommend this game if you have a smart phone, enjoy tactics games and don't plan/want to spend any money.

So that is where I will leave you all.  30.4% into 2017 and I have no idea how many games I will get to that were published in the last three years that could possibly change the standing of any of the games I have listed in this series.  And there could even be games released back in the '80s and '90s (Like if I ever get around to finishing I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream) that could possibly topple one of my earlier choices.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into me as a person and a gamer, but if not, then you have a list of games written by someone here on the Internet.  One of the more interesting aspects of writing these articles was seeing when games were originally published versus when I first played them.  For instance, I did not realize that there was only a one year gap between when the first Final Fantasy was released on the NES in 1990 and Final Fantasy IV was changed to Final Fantasy II for the North American SNES release in 1991.  I like information, even if I never make anything out of it, at least that nugget is tucked away somewhere in my brain now.  I will say that I very much enjoyed these last two weeks, even if some years were agonizing as I seemingly chose one beloved game over another for no other reason than I happened to love that one just a little bit more than the other, but that is sometimes all it takes.

Stuck In All This Madness

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Podcast Corner - Hello from the Magic Tavern

I love podcasts, and don't talk about them nearly enough.  Just yesterday I started listening to a fiction podcast that is right in our blog's wheelhouse- it's called 'Hello, from the Magic Tavern' and it is hilarious.  Here is the description from the Magic Tavern website:  

Hello! I’m Arnie. I fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found myself in a strange magical land called “Foon.” I’m still somehow getting a weak wi-fi signal from the Burger King so I host a weekly podcast from the tavern the Vermilion Minotaur, interviewing monsters, wizards and adventurers.
There are worlds other than our own!

Arnie is joined weekly by his two buddies:  Chunt, the shapeshifter in the form of a badger, and Usidore, the Blue; a Wizard whose full name is a paragraph long.  They have guests on each week who are citizens of Foon, and they generally riff with the cast, with hilarious results.  They have a clear understanding of fantasy tropes and a creative sense of humor.  The overall vibe makes me think of something that might air on Adult Swim, if it were a TV show.  

Anyway, it's a blast, and I'm goign to listen to them all.  My understanding is that they build the world of Foon each episode and are very methodical about keeping everything that happens canon, even though it's clear that some of it is just them doing improv.  I'm interested to hear if they paint themselves into some interesting corners.

I love the idea that this guy is transported to a magical world, but what he wants to do is to start a podcast, rather than to go on an adventure.  I highly recommend this podcast.
first episode

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Pyramid~Marana" - ActRaiser (SNES)

"Pyramid~Marana" from ActRaiser on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990 / 1991)
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Album: Actraiser
Label: G.M.O. Records / Alfa Records (distributed by Warner-Pioneer)
Developer: Enix

Dr. Potts' usage of "Into the Darkness" from Final Fantasy IV (II) as last weeks MIDI Week Single got me thinking about music used in caves and subterranean areas in games; although I recognize that the pyramid is not actually below ground, but it is similar in feel to a cave. Then last night, I had the soundtrack to ActRaiser playing and "Pyramid~Marana" is definitely one of those songs that exudes subterranean exploration, at least in my opinion; and yes, I know the Marahna (localized spelling) is all about deep jungle exploration, but it works well for that setting too without losing anything in the music.

I admit that since I first played the game back in, probably 1992, this song reminded me (a little bit) of one of the songs from the film Top Gun.  It is the the section from about 1:00 - 1:17 here that sounds a lot like the music Harold Faltermeyer wrote for after Goose and Maverick's plane goes into a tale spin.  Maybe that is a little silly (the mental connection, not the scene in Top Gun), but that is what my brain goes to every time I have ever heard this particular song.

Something that I really like about this song is that there seem to be two distinct sections.  There is the first part that has the kind of harsh sounding horns accompanied by some type of flute/recorder type instrument that has some hints of a melody.  Then at around 0:30, there is the the rest of the song which is much more somber, but has the main melody which seems to wisp its way through until the horns come back when the song loops.  It is all a little unsettling, to come back to those horns after the much calmer B section, which easily could have been taken out on the loop, but the fact that it was a conscious decision to loop the entire song is something that I really like.

Maybe this is just one of those songs that I heard during my seminal development years that has solidified, along with "Into the Darkness" as being what a cave or subterranean song should evoke.

Hovering Over Me At Night

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jaconian's Favorite Game of the Year - Part III: 2000s

Well, we are back for another 10 years of which video games from 2000 through 2009 made such an impression on me that they will probably stay with me until the day I traverse Bifröst to Asgard; I make no allusions to believe that I will ever enter Valhalla as my warrior status is somewhat lacking.  If you are new here, check out Part I which covers 1980 - 1989, and Part II for 1990 - 1999, where I list and briefly talk about what my favorite game that was released that particular year was.

So now on with the 2000s!

2000: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (October 26, 2000)
You know, for being a game that I thought was going to be horrible, this became one of my favorite Legend of Zelda games.  The music was more of what I wanted from a LoZ game on the N64 and was creepily appropriate music; I think I may have gotten used to the sound chip of the N64 and was no longer expecting a better sound quality than when Ocarina of Time came out.  I also felt that the much darker tone worked well, even for a LoZ game, and didn't feel out of place.  What I also loved about this game was how attached I became to various characters and their stories, and really that was where Majora's Mask excelled above Ocarina of Time.  There was a certain point in the game when I started feeling guilty about not having time to help people who I may have previously helped during a previous sequence of days.  And really, I actually liked the three day limit and how that time frame constrained how I approached each sequence of days.  Awhwhwhwhwhw, this was a great game.

2001: Conker's Bad Fur Day (March 5, 2001)
What I love about Conker's Bad Fur Day (the release on the N64, as opposed to its 2005 re-release on the XBox), was its take on parodying pop culture movies and video games, and even how video games themselves operate.  Robin Beanland's music for the game was pretty amazing too.  It could even be the evolution from what the original Conker game was going to be and what it became in the end, plus it is pretty easy to see how a lot of the level design could have been used in a GA rated game more akin to Super Mario 64.

2002:  Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem  (May 1, 2002)
Let's just say that this was a toughy of a year.  Not only was Eternal Darkness released, but so was Neverwinter Nights which I played the ever loving buh-jeezus out of, as well as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which has, in the last five years, become one of my favorite games of all time.  What I think pushes Eternal Darkness ahead was the amount of times that I replayed this game considering that the each playthrough took anywhere between 12 and 18 hours.  And dear Odin the sanity effects!!  No other game I have played since has come close to the level and number of things that happen while your character goes insane.  Everything from things that happen frequently (rooms becoming upside-down, head exploding during while casting a healing spell) to infrequent or single instance events like having a phone ring and your dead grandfather giving you words of encouragement.  Graphically, it probably does not hold up, but it is such an entertaining (almost more than terrifying) game that those shortcomings are forgivable.  Additionally, I do not recall having a played a game with such amazing voice acting, especially from Mr. William Hootkins.

2003: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (September 8, 2003)
If you look at a lot of the games that were released in 2003 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Silent Hill 3, Final Fantasy XI, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow), you might be surprised by my choice as FFTA being my favorite game, but damn did I spend a lot of time on this game.  Twice no less since I thought I had lost my Game Boy Advance with FFT in it until I found it a year later, but by that point, I had already re-purchased the game and was again, over the 50 hour mark.  I know some people had issues with with law system, but I though it was an interesting take on making battles more varied.  I was probably also very excited to play another tactics game, even if the story was not nearly as developed as that in FFT.

2004: Doom 3 (August 3, 2004)
How, do you ask, do I find Doom 3 to be a more favorited game than either Half-Life 2 or World of Warcraft?  Well, my answer to you is that I have not finished Half-Life 2 because I got annoyed with yet another drawn out driving sequence in the game, and I have never played World of Warcraft.  What I loved about Doom 3, was the great mix of the Doom universe/setting, along with a more horror experience than what either Doom or Doom 2 were intended to be, even Doom as a series was never a horror experience.  I liked not being able to have both my flashlight and gun out at the same time as it made the choice of either being able to see, or shooting whatever hellish demon was charging you.

2005:  TimeSplitters: Future Perfect  (March 21, 2005)
You know, despite the fact that this game gave me motion sickness for the first month or so I played it, and the fact that I was never good enough to beat the game on all difficulty levels, I still have a blast playing this.  Even the years I spent at Pool House, I played multiplayer about as much as I did with Goldeneye 007, which is a lot when you take my multiplayer gaming into account.  I just really liked the animation, the sense of humor, and even the mini side games like Penguin Curling.  This was a fun game and sad that it was the last in the series.

2006:  Final Fantasy XII (October 31, 2006)
I bought a PS2 from Dr. Potts when I heard that Final Fantasy XII was going to be going back to the world of Ivalice, the world that the games in the Final Fantasy Tactics series takes place in.  I do not recall how many hours I put into this thing (well over 150, but my PS2 memory card is long since lost so I cannot confirm), and I even tried completing all of the side quests and hunting missions, but when I later found out about the monstrosity that is Yiazmat, I am glad that I decided to just go and beat the final boss (which still took a long time and an long of patience; stupid pailings).  My biggest criticism with the game was that the story was a little hard to follow in parts, with so many side characters, some of which I felt weren't fleshed out enough, or were stereotypically bad-guy-looking. And to this day, I still find the encounter between Basch fon Ronsenberg and Judge Gabranth to be some damn good and emotional voice acting.

2007:  Portal (October 9, 2007)
This was a semi-difficult year, in that my top two games that didn't make the number one spot were BioShock, Penumbra: Overture.  What I love about Portal, again is the voice acting by Ellen McLain as GlaDOS and equally impressive (and hilarious) was the script writing by Ken Levine.  I also cannot fail to mention how Portal actually made me think differently about first person games, that they did not have to be all run and gun, and the fact that Portal was built around solving puzzles was that much more amazing to experience (granted for me it was in 2011 when Conklederp told me that Steam was giving away free copies, which is what got me to download Steam, but I was aware of the game since 2008).

2008:  Dead Space (October 13, 2008)
Well, I have written entire articles about how much I love Dead Space.  And playing other games in the series and reading books set in the same universe have only solidified this game as one of my favorite games in the last 10 years.  Something about the level of detail in the first game, combined with the hints of a larger mythology and cosmology is something that I found myself really drawn to.  True I felt that the final boss seemed to come out of nowhere, but I guess I am willing a certain level of forgiveness due to my own internal biases.

2009:  Left 4 Dead 2 (November 17, 2009)
I think what I ultimately love about Left 4 Dead 2 is that it is not a complex game with complex mechanics and a complex story.  You are a survivor during the zombie apocalypse and you have to get from Point A to Point B, those are the basics, and at times, it is really nice to play a well crafted game that does not require a lot of brain power.  The world building though is very entertaining, especially when you take time to read the things people write on the walls in the safe rooms, I feel that is where the majority of the story is told in the game, although the locations too have a bit of story to them, but not so much that if you miss that one thing hidden in the swamp, you are going to miss the whole point of that series of stages.

So that is it for the 2000s which started out with my love of console games and my move into games that were released on PC.  I did find it interesting that four of the games listed were released in October, and seven were released in the second half of the year.  Speculations abound!  The next seven years will be interesting as I seem to be a late comer when it comes to a lot of games, but that is something I have come to terms with.  So stay tuned until this Friday which concludes this series with Part IV: 2010 - 2017 (and maybe a "Most anticipated for 2018" if I have the chutzpah for it all).


Friday, April 14, 2017

Jaconian's Favorite Game of the Year - Part II: 1990s

If you're just joining us, I have below, a list of my favorite video game that was released in each year from 1990 through 1999, and I recommend that you check out Part I of my Favorite Game of the Year, which also includes my reasoning behind using the North American release date for games as opposed to the release date in the country where the game was originally developed (more than likely being Japan).

So let's just get down to it then.

1990:  Final Fantasy (July 12, 1990)
Final Fantasy was the first game that I can distinctly recall being moved by the music; even though by 1990 I had already been letting the opening to Legend of Zelda play at least twice before actually starting the game.  Early in the game, after the King of Coneria builds the bridge to allow access to the rest of the continent, the player is greeted with a prologue of sorts as well as the first introduction to what has become the Main Theme of the Final Fantasy series.  Additionally, being able to create a party of unique characters that are basically blank slates for the player to fill in personality-wise was fun, coupled with what turned out to be a semi-complex story line involving time travel and paradox. 

1991:  Final Fantasy II  (November 23, 1991)
By now we all know the reason behind Final Fantasy II on the SNES being renamed instead of using the actual Japanese title of Final Fantasy IV.  This game, whenever I first played it, probably in 1993, is what truly made me wish that video game soundtracks in North America were something that existed.  Plus the mechanic of dividing the main character from his main party was so mind boggling that at the time, I was convinced that everyone else was dead.  The storytelling here is something that I wish I could re-experience for the first time.

1992:  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (April 13, 1992)
Dr. Potts and I talked a bit about TLoZ:ALttP, when I was last down in Northern California, and we both concurred that this is what we both believe to be the quintessential Legend of Zelda game.  The large over world map that basically doubles when you gain access to the Dark World, the music, the developed mythology from the previous games in the series all helped to create one of the better games on the SNES.

1993:  The Secret of Mana (October 3, 1993)
I feel just a little bad picking The  Secret of Mana for my favorite game of 1993, mainly because I never finished the game.  I recall reaching a part where I knew that I needed to level up my characters and their skill with their respective weapons, then I reached a point where I didn't know where to go next; this was before the heyday of the Internet.  But what I loved about The Secret of Mana was the character design, the music, and the classic JRPG storyline of lone village kid being exiled for touching the legendary sword of old that had been holding the world's monsters at bay.

1994:  Final Fantasy III (April 2, 1994)
There really is no question that Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) is one of my all time favorite video games, regardless of system.  I believe I must have bought it shortly after it was first released since I had already fallen in love with Nobuo Uematsu's music by the time I left Jr. High in June of 1994.  The combination of world building, story telling, and music helped to create a setting and characters that I will never forget.

1995:  Chrono Trigger (August 22, 1995)
This year was particularly difficult, probably because I am finishing up the 2008 DS port of Chrono Trigger right now, but Tetris Attack, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest were all very close contenders.  I think what pushed Chrono Trigger over the edge compared to the other games was the emotional impact that the game had on me when I first played through the game, as well as replaying it now.  The music in all four of the above games were all enjoyable to listen to, but something about Yasunori Mitsuda's music is just so varied that I cannot help but love this game.

1996:  Resident Evil (March 30, 1996)
The first Playstation game to grace my favorites list is a game that I first played in 1999.  While the acting and voice acting in the first iteration was everything to laugh at, the world that was created in this game, and they were also the ones that coined the term "survival horror.".  Anyway, at the time when I first played Resident Evil, I apparently got one of the rarer endings where you don't have a final showdown with Tyrant and I felt that that was an amazing way to end the game; and at the time I knew about Resident Evil III and had seen what Nemesis looked like and mistakenly thought that this was where that character came from; obviously wrong.  And when Capcom released the remake on Game Cube in 2002, really solidified that Resident Evil was a damn good game.

1997:  Goldeneye 007 (August 25, 1997)
I landed on Goldeneye 007 because once I bought that game and popped it into the N64, it did not leave for well over six months.  I recall this specifically because I wrote to Rare complaining that they had created a game that made me lose interest in all other games that I had, to which they responded that they were happy to have created such a game.  And even years after I took the game out, I still played it fairly consistently.  Now I just need to get my N64 back up and working, or replaced.

1998:  Final Fantasy Tactics (January 28, 1998)
Bloody hell 1998 was a powerhouse of a year for games I've loved.  From Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, 1080° Snowboarding, Baldur's Gate, F-Zero X, Resident Evil 2, Pokémon Red, and Star Wars Rogue Squadron.  Ultimately though, everything from the music to the mature level of story telling in FFT is what makes this game my favorite for 1998.  Coupled with the fact that I bought Chreekat's PSP from him when he offered, mainly so that I could play the revamped game that was coming out later in 2007.  Even writing about it now makes me want to play the game all over again, despite the stress that some specific battles cause me.

1999: Silent Hill (January 31, 1999)
And then 1999 hit and I apparently have only played a handful of games that were released, and of those that were released, I have only beaten two (Silent Hill, and Half-Life: Opposing Force), but neither of those games have I played multiple times.  I enjoyed H-L:OF more than the first Half-Life, but that's not why we're here.  Silent Hill genuinely made me anxious about a lot of areas in that game, even if some of the storyline was a little confusing and I did not complete all of the NPC's stories because I was too busy running away from whatever monstrosity was hunting me down.  I even completed the game with the Bad Ending and have not had the stomach to attempt it again to get whatever semblance of a Good Ending is possible.  Maybe in time.

So that was the decade where video games went from an 8-bit cartridge to Playstation games having upwards of 730 MB by the end of the 90s.  The middle of this decade was particularly difficult to choose from, especially from 1995 - 1998.  Truly what I consider to be the Golden Era of Video Games.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: Mist Cave Theme - Final Fantasy II (IV) SNES

"Into the Darkness"
composed by Nobuo Uematsu for Final Fantasy IV for SNES

I love this song.  This song invokes a very specific emotional response in me.  It is a sense of wonder and exploration.  A sense of diving into something new, of venturing away from the familiar. Of mystery.  This is nostalgic in such a powerful way as to send me right back to the space and time of playing this portion of this game for the first time.  This song is the very definition of a MIDI Week Single, for me.

I love the way this song starts, with it's slow repetition and rising volume.  It resembles a slowed down version of a battle theme alert - battle themes often have a little intro to grab your attention.  I love the way the song swings gently, and I love how the instruments sound.  

In some sense, Final Fantasy IV might be the most influential soundtrack to me.  I think it is because it represents the biggest leap in musical quality at the most formative time for me.  I may have played FF VI more times, and may like it better, overall.  But FF IV brought video games as whole up to a much finer level, and in no place better than the music.  

While the game's dialogue and pacing didn't hold up as well the last time I played it,  the scene of the mist cave is vivid and alive in my mind, and I am very thankful for that.  I have only to think of this music, and I can recall it with perfect clarity of feeling.  I can't ask for anything more in a single.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Monthly Update - April

Here are some miscellaneous details regarding the last month or so.  My writing brain won't let me phrase that in a better way. 

Jane and I finished up watching Buffy: the Vampire Slayer on Hulu.  Seven long seasons; that's a lot of time to invest in a set of characters.  This is the longest show I've ever watched on a streaming service from beginning to end.  It's also one of the best shows I've ever seen.  Certainly one of the best shows of its time (mid 90s- early 2000s).  This is entirely due to the writing and the character development.  Like any 22 episode season style show, it can be pretty uneven.  There are straight up bad episodes, but there are amazing, fantastic episodes, and there are always great moments along the way.  

All this is to say that I didn't much care for the conclusion of the series.  It had its moments, but it lost me when a particular character died.  The ol'  Joss Whedon's gotta kill someone to make sure the stakes are appropriately high trick.  While I can accept this sometimes, I am not happy with it in this instance.  Oh well.  May still read the 'Buffy, Season 8' comics.   Or I might just take a break from the whole thing.  For the record, Anya is my favorite character because she is hilarious.  

My current main hobby is playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Wii-U.  Breath of the Wild is a lot of fun.  Super-absorbing gameplay.  Jane watches me play and gives me suggestions to help solve puzzles.  She gets pretty absorbed too, often saying 'I'll just watch for a few minutes' and then hanging out for an hour.   It's just that kind of game.   And I love it when my lady participates in gaming with me.  That being said, it will be good when I can look at other things again.  Like the whole bushel of games Jaconian gifted me with, when I saw him early last month.  

I now I have copies of Bushido Blade, Final Fantasy XII, Super Mario 3D world and more!  Jane and I tried out Super Mario 3D world, and found it to be a nice little fun game.  It has kind of a 'party game' vibe, because it is co-op on the same screen, so you are paying attention to what you're doing and what you're partner is up to, and what the level demands.  There are mini-games, and a playable world map, and cat suits and other fun powerups.  It's a nice game to have in the library.

While he was visiting, Jaconian and I watched Logan, which was a great movie, full of bloody action, and a cool take on Professor X and Logan's characters.  Possibly the best X-men franchise movie.  Jane and I also watched 'Get Out' recently, which was also great.
I've found I'm much more interested in the horror genre of late, though I am also identifying and developing my taste.  I really like intrigue in my horror, some kind of mystery to solve, something to figure out.  I also like ghosts, I love the 'unfinished business' trope of ghost-haunting stuff.  All in all, I might just prefer 'scary' or 'spooky' to 'horror', per se.  Being horrified is not necessarily the point, when I enter into this sort of movie; I don't really like much gore.  That being said, I did really enjoy seeing Logan tear people to ribbons in all its glorious slicing.  

Okay, given that I am typing this at work, now it's time for me to tear my task-list apart, like Logan or X23, in a berserker rage of productivity.  yeah... sweet... 


Jaconian's Favorite Game of the Year - Part I: 1980s

Today's article will be part one of four, in a series that, for me, will run from today through April 21st.

When I was down south the other weekend, I was able to catch up with Dr. Potts for the evening.  He told me about something he saw/read somewhere that involved one of those lists that you could probably turn into a slide show, but since we're not about slide shows here, we're going to stick with the good old tried and true list format (but broken into parts because otherwise we'd end up with and unwielded article).  So this list involves listing your favorite video game from each year of your life, but broken up into decades here (it helps being born in 1980) because I cannot just list a game without giving some type of explanation as to the reasoning behind my choice.  At some point the list probably was turned into a "Best Video Games. . ." but since "best" is subjective, let's stick with "favorite" for this particular individual.  And even then, trying to select what my favorite game without being influenced by the more industry influential games was pretty difficult, especially I could not tell you when specific games came out during the early 1980s.

And lastly, while Dr. Potts was developing his list, he ran into the common occurrence of a game being released in Japan one year while it was released in the U.S. the following year (or years later in some cases).  Then in the early '80s, you run into games that were released as an arcade cabinet in one year, then ported to a console four years later.  And then there are some arcade games that I only played as a console port.  So which year to choose?  For the purposes of consistency, I am going to use only the year that a game was released here in the United States, be it the original year if it was released as an arcade cabinet as opposed to a console port.

So let us begin!

I played this game a lot on Mattel's Intellivision while on summer vacation in the early-mid '80s.  I know that Pac-Man or Missile Command could be more obvious or influential in the video games industry, but I have never been very good at Pac-Man and Missile Command is a game that I play a few times before putting in another game.  As a kid, I loved the fecal matter out of baseball (and a baseball video game was simply amazing!) and was a pretty ardent follower until the the strike in 1994 and my interest never recovered to the same pre-strike levels.

1981: Astrosmash
Again with Mattel's Intellivision, this time with Astrosmash, which is akin to Space Invaders meets Asteroids, meets Missile Command.  Along with Major League Baseball, this was a game that I played a lot of over summer vacation.  That's basically all there is to this game, blasting asteroids and objects falling from the sky in different colors and patterns, and eventually the game just becomes crazy and nearly impossible to not lose a your ground cannon.

1982: Pole Position (November 1982)
Jesus 1982 made things hard.  Between Pole Position, Pitfall!, and Demon Attack being the top contenders as well as other games that I have fond memories of such as Dig-Dug, and Donkey Kong Jr., I inevitably went with Pole Position for the following reasons: It was the first arcade game I played that had a steering wheel, a primitive gear shift, and an acceleration peddle.  Even today, if an arcade has Pole Position, I will give that game a couple of quarters before going to have my ass kicked at Killer Instinct.

I borrowed the NES port of this game from Dellaños a lot in the late '80s and early '90s, and despite typically not being able to get past the fourth stage (or maybe the third?), I loved this game.  I remember (kind of), being excited when I found out that you are able to crush your enemies with the elevator (either above or below).  I have played the arcade cabinet a few times at a local arcade, but it just doesn't have the same appeal as the NES console port; but I will still play the game if I see it available.

1984: Tetris (June 6, 1984)
Tetris was first released as an arcade cabinet here in the US, although I first played it on the NES, probably around 1988 or '89, but since the concept is the same and the gameplay did not really change, 1984 it is.  I could never reach the level of Tetris Master that my Mom has been able to achieve.  I do not think that I am even able to beat Level 9 Height 5 (on NES or Game Boy), but something about the simplicity of the game and the addictiveness of the game play easily puts it at my favorite for this year.

1985: Super Mario Bros. (October 18, 1985)
If you read my previous post about Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, you will understand while this was my favorite game of 1985.  Back in the day of the late '80s, I would sometimes sit and beat this game two or three times in a single sitting, if only because I could.  Once the Goombas are replaced by Buzzy Beetles, it ups the challenge a bit, but not so much that the game loses its fun.

1986: Rampage
This was an odd year in that a lot of games were released in Japan, but did not reach North America until between 1987 - 1990.  I decided that Rampage would be my favorite game released in 1986, and I kind of feel bad that such a fun game won out only because other games were disqualified by my preset rules.  But being, in essence, King Kong or Godzilla (and a giant Wolf Man apparently) destroying a city is such a fun concept for any kid under 10 to come across.

1987: The Legend of Zelda (August 22, 1987)
The Legend of Zelda is one of those games that was first released in Japan in 1986, but didn't come to North America until 1987, hence its inclusion here in the 1987 category.  I cannot tell you how many times I beat this game and then attempted the famed Second Quest, although I was never able to beat it.  Perhaps I should probably get around to that.  But for LoZ, the combination of music and legitimate open world where you can attempt most of the dungeons in any order you want to is a thing of beauty.

1988: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (December 1, 1988)

I did not play this game until a number of years (maybe one or two) after it was first released.  I recall being told by Dr. Potts Sr. not to either play his save file, or to save the game when I died, which sounds much harsher than the intent.  After I acquired my own copy, I understood how the game operated and I loved the inclusion of towns, citizens and the massive expanding of the Hyrule world/universe.

1989: Dragon Warrior (August 1989)

Admittedly, I did not play Dragon Warrior until after I received it as part of Nintendo Power's subscription promotion in late 1990, but next to The Legend of Zelda series, this was one of the games that helped cement my love of role playing games, a category  that I did not know existed by name.  To this day, possibly because of Dragon Warrior, role playing games in many different media are one of my favorite forms of story telling.

Well, that brings the 1980s to a close, although technically the official decade should have been 1981 - 1990, but for the sake of convenience, we will stick with '80 - '89.  I did not anticipate the mid to late '80s to be as difficult as they turned out to be, both in determining when a game was released in North America and which game had not only the greatest impact on my personally, but was a game that I loved to play.  In my next article, we will look at the agonizing years of 1990 - 1999 as the end of the NES, and the introduction of more Game Boy games, as well as the SNES, N64 and Playststion consoles.  Those are going to be some tough years considering I have multiple platforms to sift through as well as many more games being developed and released.

So until next time. . .um, keep it real. . .and um, keep that chin up m'lad.  I'm horrible with outros.

Your Beauty And Form Appears As Great Wonders

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Middle Tower" - Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)

"Middle Tower" from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)
Composer: Ryuji Sasai
Developer: Squaresoft

I mean sure, you probably read that Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was released to US markets, and was even titled Final Fantasy USA because it was a dumbed down version of a Final Fantasy game because Americans SNES consumers want a simpler experience than the rest of the world was looking for.  And while it wasn't a great JRPG, it was a pretty fun game that had a really good soundtrack.  

I recall my first time playing through the game and it was this track, which happened early in the game that made me reconsider all of the negative preconceptions I had developed before this game even came out.  What I like about this track in particular, is the slightly militaristic introduction (although I cannot pinpoint why it strikes me in this way) which covers the first half of the song, followed by a faster paced section that only lasts for about 14 seconds.  You know what, I do not think I can accurately say why I like this song other than that I do.  Maybe it is just the nostalgia about having a positive feeling about this song the first time I heard it?

Either way, I really like this song (and really the majority of the soundtrack), which is why it is being share with you all today.