Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Aztec Complex" - GoldenEye 007 (N64)

"Aztec Complex" from GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 (1997)
Album: No Official Album Release
Developer: Rare

You know, we here at Stage Select Start really love GoldenEye 007, but not only the game, but the music as well as this will be the third time we have used the soundtrack for a MIDI Week Singles article (I, II, III).  I got the idea to use this song from GoldenEye 007 from The Kid who is currently in the Middle of Nowhere, aka: I-5 South.  At first I was not sure about using it since I could not initially tell you how the song went, but within the first five seconds, I immediately had a nervous feeling, like I was about to do something very aggravating and did not want to mess up; again.  That was when I thought, "Yup, perfect song to use!"

As for the classification of this song, there was no official soundtrack release for GoldenEye 007, and because of that, I was unable to find out who specifically wrote this song, be it Graeme Norgate or Grant Kirkhope; although I do know that Robin Beanland wrote the two elevator songs.  Additionally, the name for the song, "Aztec Complex" came from whomever put together the rip of the soundtrack, but it was basically the name of the level (specifically being called "Aztec"), so I left the title as is.

You know, it is almost like I can hear the pop of the PP7 followed by the ratchet/clicking sound of switching weapons, and then the rapid fire from the AR-15 as you take down one after another of those yellow suited bastards, then finally you come across the prsewing Moonraker Laser and, maybe wreck havoc?  I think most of the time I dual wielded the AR-15s (after killing Jaws), but the damage output and unlimited ammo of the Moonraker (and later dual Moonrakers) was pretty great nonetheless.

But as for the music, is one that I do not think that I will ever forget, even if it is a tune that I cannot hum on a regular basis.  I do like that around the 48 second mark, the song sounds like it is almost playing a drawn out version of the "Theme from Dr. No" which is more commonly known as the Bond Theme.  And for me, it is really the snare drum and kettle-type-drum sounds that drive the song forward, which is kind of what the Aztec level is about as there is very little time to sit and rest, especially after the launch sequence has been initiated.

Hopefully this song not only reminds you of days gone by, but like myself, causes a bit of anxiety and nervousness, because sharing is caring.


Monday, May 29, 2017

First Game Impressions EXP: Ultimate NES Remix (3DS)

This is going to be a short(ish) article, partly because I haven't finished the game, partly because I don't have a schnazzy way of capturing images from my 3DS, partly because it's not the type of game that I would have pegged myself for liking, but mainly because I think it is a really fun(strating) game;  sorry, that attempted pun didn't turn out.  But I picked up this game back in January with funds gifted to me from Beardsnbourbon after falling hard for Nintendo's offering of Wario Ware Touched! and realizing that I enjoy playing short bits of classic era NES games.

My first impression of Ultimate NES Remix, before I even played it, was that is was a Wario Ware type title where you played a bit of game with a specific goal, then quickly moved onto the next title to see how long of a streak you can do.  However, the game is a little different than that, and if you had read any of the Gamestop reviews, you will see that people thought that it was a 3DS version of what the now defunct NES Classic turned out to be.

What Ultimate NES Remix is, is playing a short excerpt from a stage from one of 16 NES games with a specific goal in mind (not necessarily beating a stage either), which can be completed in anywhere from 10 seconds to whenever the timer runs out.  Such as in Donkey Kong, your goal is to "Jump Over 10 Barrels," or in Super Mario Bros. 3, to "Defeat Boom Boom" from multiple stages in the game.  A lot of the stages are presented with progressive difficulty, which seem mind numbingly simple having grown up with a lot of these games, but then there are titles like Balloon Fight that I find myself constantly struggling with.

What struck me about the game, is that it seems to be geared towards people who would normally be drawn to speed-running, something that I personally do not find attractive.  I like to take my time with games, looking at scenery, understanding how the game works, not really trying to figure out how to beat a game as quickly as possible.  With Ultimate NES Remix, I have found myself restarting stages over and over because I missed grabbing a hold of a ladder, or did not land in the right spot, or any number of other things so that I ended up with a final time of 15.3 seconds instead of the 8th ranked player who had a time of 14.7 seconds.  That is another thing with this game, is that there are online leaderboards, some of which I have managed to put myself into the top 8 for the North American region (that's me at #2 on Stage 7 for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link*).  I do admit though that for some of the faster times, I watched how other players completed a level, but only after I completed it first myself.

So far, there have been only a few disappointments, but none of which make me regret buying this game.  The first and foremost considering the system, is that there is no 3D effect anywhere.  Perhaps this should not have been surprising since this game was a selectively combined port of the two Wii U NES Remix titles.  Then there was my preconceived notion that the stages were not randomly selected like a Wario Ware title.  I was also sad that there was no "infinite challenge" option to see how long you could play before you lost all your lives.  I think that's really it as far as complaints go.

So after playing 11 hours and still having a lot of stages left to both unlock and play, I am really loving what the game has to offer and the mash up levels, such as beating the first level in Donkey Kong with Link from The Legend of Zelda (who cannot jump, or reach the hammers) is the kind of fun that I did not think that I would initially enjoy.  I guess as long as you go into the game knowing that you aren't getting full games and like NES games, there is a good chance that you will find some fun in Ultimate NES Remix.


* Proof, because it did happen.

P.S. Thanks to Nintendo World Report for "letting" me steal the logo they have up for UNR.

Friday, May 26, 2017

First Impressions: Dark Fall: The Journal

I picked up Dark Fall: The Journal during GOG's most recent horror games sale (forgot the context under why it was a horror related sale) for less than $2, which is almost a good a selling point for a PC game that was released back in 2002.

Page 1 of  4 of my own notes.
Dark Fall: The Journal is a good old fashioned point-and-click psychological horror adventure game.  But so far for me, what makes DF:TJ stand out is the quality of the story, the sound editing and voice work, and the depth of puzzles that make me feel like I am a crazy person who is convinced that every little thing is an important detail that needs to be recorded for a later in the game.  It didn't help that early on in the game you can find a series of six numbers, that to me seemed important, which turned out to be needed to be used with a piece of surveying equipment (one of those), but I have yet to figure out what to use the resulting clue on.  Maybe I missed it earlier?  The point is, is that there seems to be a lot to unpack, but more on that later.

What initially drew me to DF:TJ was not that it was a point-and-click game, although I do like the mechanic, but that it was touted as a psychological horror game.  Intrigued by this combination of exploration and static screens, I dove in hoping for some genuine scares and so far, the game has delivered.  Through reading some various documents (journal entries I think), I found out that some people staying in a hotel heard someone whistling outside before they heard someone knocking on their door, then those people went missing.  A few screens later I clicked on a window and was greeted with a view of outside the building and heard the sound of somewhat whistling.  Nope!  Noped right back to the previous screen and after a few seconds, I decided to check back through the window and the same whistling came through, which gave me time to think about it as opposed to being initially frightened.

May or may not be said hallway.
In another instance, I was going down a hallway and could not find the cursor to further continue.  It was then that the lights in the hallway started going out one at a time towards me.  As the last lights went out, they all flickered, turned back on and my cursor returned.  There was no ominous music, and there may not have been any sound effects as the lights flickered, but the effect was nerve wracking.

Lastly, I was going back into a room trying to make sure that I had not forgotten anything and a whispering voice said "Get out of my room!"  I promptly complied.  What was frightening was that previous times I had been in the room, I had heard a voice speaking, but not to me and they came across as rhetorical questions.  Being given a command by this voice was unnerving to say the least.

Now, aside from frequently being set on edge, another aspect of the game that I am presently loving, is how much there is to read.  In a room, you might find a desk drawer filled with newspaper clippings, which are all readable.  Everything in that drawer to the left can be clicked upon and read, and I am pretty sure that the envelope contains a letter.  Something else that I have noticed after only playing for three hours and despite my penchant for note taking, is that not everything that I have read has been important.  The letter addressed to Matilda Fly may not have clues that lead to a secret compartment in Room 4B that has a key which is used to unlock the safe in 3A which has rope that will let me climb down the side of the hole in the wall of 2C, and so on and so forth.  A lot of what I have come across is there to add flavor or background on the people who are no longer there.

But, then there are things like this:

And what's more, you can't take this paper with you! So either file it in your memory or copy it down.  Or take a picture.
Which is a piece of paper from the notepad that I was able to tear off, which was then place over the pad on the desk that already had writing on it, so I clicked on the pen there and what turned up scribbled on the paper with numbers and lines is confusing to say the least.  There is nothing that lines up with the pad on the back, although the ink blots do kind of line up with the 6-3-1-3-5-5-5, but that might just be a coincidence?  And also, what does the "ES 4 DW" mean?  Or the "Order More Gin."  And what it Lucifer's name is in Room 3a!!

The UI for the game is a bit different that what I am used to with point-and-click games, but I am getting used to the system and I am very much looking forward to further exploring the building and learning all that I can about the people who once resided here and why everything is as it now is.  I am also trying very hard not to look on Gamefaqs for as long as I can since exploring and discovering for myself (with Conklerderp's help) is part of the fun and what makes me excited and want to finish playing Dark Fall: The Journal.


The Rain A-Pouring Down

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "BGM" - Mr. Do's Castle (Arcade)

"BGM" from Mr. Do's Castle on the Arcade, Atari 2600/5200/8-bit, MSX, ColecoVision, Commador 64 (1983)
Composer: Unknown
Album: No Official Release
Developer: Universal

I came upon this game this last weekend while at a barcade in SoCal called The One Up.  While there with Conklederp and Beardsnbourbon (whose idea it was to go), Conklederp found a game that she had only heard of from her parents who used to frequently play this game enough to know the theme music when it was shared that this game was played the previous night.

After a bit of searching, I was unfortunately I was unable to find any information about who wrote the theme from Mr. Do's Castle.  Something interesting that I did find out was that the main theme was present in each iteration of Mr. Do's Castle, which I feel says something about the music used.  Or for all I know, it is a pre-existing song like the theme to the first game in the series, Mr. Do! which is just a small section from "The Infernal Galop" from Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.

Now, I admit that I only briefly watched over Conklederp's shoulder while she played this and at the time, I could not hear the music as the general noise inside was quite loud and all but the loudest and harshest of sound effects could be heard.  And after giving Mr. Do's Castle a go (and getting to Level 3), I can say that the song is catchy enough, although the game is too similar to BurgerTime for me to feel that I will be anything but a casual player, but I do love that you can move the stairs, and that falling does not kill Mr. Do.  Maybe I will be giving the game a legit try when I see it in an arcade or next time we make it back to The One Up.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Game EXP: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Well, yesterday (being Thursday May 18th) I made a final push and completed the main quest in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on PC; although I did play with an wired 360 controller.  I did briefly try KB/M controls, but the controller felt more intuitive in most cases (a little more on that later).  And after 52 hours in a game that is supposed to take between 23 and 54 hours, I think I did fairly well considering I left a handful of prisoner and weapon quests un-completed.  Basically, after I found out that Shadow of Mordor was taking up 52GB of space on my hard drive, I felt like I should hunker down and finally finish the game.

So I did.

The Death of Skûn Grog-Burner.
You know, this game had my opinion all over the place and on more than one occasion, I definitely questioned not only if I really wanted to finish the game, but if I was actually capable of finishing the game.  For those seven of you that have yet to play this game, Shadow of Mordor is not as forgiving to the player as you might initially expect.  First off, there is no dedicated save function, but the game auto-saves at times that it alone deems necessary.  The main reason it seems is because the game does not want you going up against an Orcish Warchief (think mini-boss) and one strike before you are dealt your death blow, exiting out of the game.  The player's reason for doing is, is because any time the player is killed, time passes in the game, Orc Captains and Warchiefs level up and become stronger, thereby making the Warcheifs more difficult the next time they are encountered.  In the first half of the game, there definitely was a time that with nearly every quest I attempted to further gain levels (and become more and more used to the game and fighting type), I would frequently die and there were a handful of Orc Captains that seemed god-like progressing up to and past Level 18.  One Orc in particular; Skûn Grog-Burner, a javelin thrower who seemed to have impeccable aim, and an army of constantly re-spawning Orcs from just around the corner there.  I felt annoyed that the game mechanics punished the player for not being good enough.  So like was demanded of me in Dark Souls, I guess I just had to get gud.

And as long as we are on the topic of game difficulty, Shadow of Mordor had no difficulty scale, which apparently bothered some people, but only those who felt that the game was way too easy and actually wanted a challenge.  In the late game, there was one Orc Elite Captain who was both immune to ranged damage (and therefore to Shadow Strike/Kills; it's a teleporting attack), was a combat master (could not perform execution attacks, which would normally do a chunk of damage if an execution was not possible) and apparently because of this, I was unable to block a killing blow.  Oh, and like a lot of Warchief and Captain battles in Southern Mordor, this Legendary Captain seemed to have a never-ending supply of re-spawning Defenders and Berserkers.

So pretty.
Now that we are half way through the article (maybe?), I want to say that this is a damn beautiful game, and even though my computer could run most of the cut scenes around 60 fps, while playing, the game typically ran between 28 - 20 fps.  This, believe it or not, did not bother me, and only one time (during a cut scene for The Bright Lord DLC), did the frame rate drop to 8 fps and the visual was very choppy, but lasted only a few seconds until the cut scene ended and everything went back to normal.  Sadly though, I do not have as many pictures that were not combat execution related since most of that time was traveling from Point A to Point B and being distracted by side missions such as rescuing slaves or trying to upgrade one of my weapons.  Actually, you know what, hold on a second:

There, that is a somewhat decent depiction of how good looking this game can be, even on a limited system.

One of the criticisms I had with the game, was how leveling was done.  During the game, you game experience points though quests, finding "hidden" items, and chaining hit streaks, which can be used to purchase skill and weapon upgrades.  Somewhere around the 30 hour mark (or maybe less, I did not keep track, but that seems about right), I maxed out on the skills I could purchase (I still had a couple that could only be unlocked through quests), but still had a skill point to spend.  Maybe this was some result of having the Game of the Year Edition, but either way, it seemed a bit off.  It was around this point, coupled with a couple Warchiefs that were exceedingly difficult to activate, that I began to lose interest in the game.  That I had no character skill advancement left to do felt a bit disheartening.  The game definitely felt that it had wanted to go in a direction that made the player feel that customizing Talion to focus more on either Ranger abilities or Wraith abilities meant that he was either retaining his humanity or losing it.  I loved the idea in the beginning of the game, but I apparently played the game to learn abilities and had done more than what was expected of me.

I will admit though that I did not complete all of the weapon quests, which are there to "forge the legend" of either your sword, dagger (which starts as your broken sword), and bow.  On each, due to the difficultly level, I stopped at having acquired either seven or eight out of the ten available quests for each.  And, the other thing that held be back a bit, was that aiming the bow with the controller was woefully more difficult than with the mouse.  This made my accuracy drop significantly and wasted a fair amount of time trying to aim at Orc heads (one hit kill) and not their chestal regions.  These were the only times I wish I could have been using KB/M.

And speaking of accuracy (kind of, but not really), I was never able to get a hang of dealing with the Caragors.  Even when prompted by the game to press "A" for some reason I could not get the timing down and even one of my last deaths in the game was to a pack of Caragors that chased me across Southern Mordor while trying to find some healing herbs or some arrows to replenish my Elf-Shot.

Lastly, (I think) despite being a little confused as to how much the game was going to (or able to) pull from Tolkien's vast sources of Middle Earth lore, I was quite surprised with how the writers/developers handled most of the information.  Scattered throughout the game were artifacts that gave experience points and offered bits of story for both characters and for the areas where the items were found.  Talion was then able to listen to bits of narration, presumably from one of the last people who used the item.  This trowel, for instance apparently belonged to a farmer who lived on Númenor just as Sauron was attempting to influence King Ar-Pharazôn to invade Valinor in order to claim the gift of the Elves and no longer be mortal.  What I loved was that this information is not necessary at all to the plot and for people who have not read The Silmarillion, may have gone over their heads, but it was a juicy little nugget that I loved.  And a lot of these narrations were sooooo very well voiced.  One in particular was the "Coded Journal Entry #3."  Just give it a listen, I will wait.  See!  That is some Eternal Darkness quality madness!

One thing that I recalled hearing about Shadow of Mordor while in the process of playing, was that the ending was very unsatisfying, and that Talion never fought Sauron in an epic final battle.  I was actually not expecting a showdown with Sauron because that would mean the end for our main character since Sauron cannot be defeated until Frodo and Sam bring the ring to Amon Amarth.  I do admit though that the game's final encounter was a bit lackluster, but I was honestly thankful that I did not have a one-on-one battle that I had to do over and over because of my lack of fighting skillz.

I mean, just look at his sad beady little eyes.
So that is my spiel, although I am sure that I could probably go on a bit more about the bit of sympathy both Conklederp and I felt for the Orcs once I learned to pull information out of their tiny little brains, or about how despite the robustness and diversity of the Nemesis System, there are only a few Orcs that I could give any kind of information on despite the fact that they are now dead and their names forgotten to the annals of time.  I am sure there is something tucked away in my brain too about the similarities to a particular game about assassins or more about Monolith's take on Tolkien's lore such as the creation of Caragors, or that all of the slaves were male and looked identical with the exact same animations, or that sometimes that characters or the environment would break and splinter off into infinity.  Or that I felt that exerting energy to save the sixth slave would just be too taxing.

I think I may wait before tackling The Bright Lord DLC since I initially felt that it was too similar to the game that I had just finished and I might want a new adventuring experience, but that 52 GB of space is semi-prime realestate, so we will just wait and see.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Fort Morn" - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)

"Fort Morn" from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on Linux, OSX, PC, PS3&4, XBox 360&One (2014)
Composer: Nathan Grigg

What I like about this song, is that it takes a portion Tolkien's Ring Verse, uses the Black Speech of Mordor and turns it into a song that sounds like it could have been butchered together by the Orcs.  Although the biggest difference between that hypothesis and the music that Nathan Grigg here composed is that this actually sounds good, while I would be somewhat afraid to hear what Mordor Orc classify as music; thankfully their Goblin kin in the Misty Mountains at least have skills.

Something that I find a little disconcerting with "Fort Morn," and it is probably just additional testament to the song itself, is that I really do not like being in Fort Morn, one of the Orc strongholds in Mordor, and ho-boy do I hate anything that takes me into a stronghold.  Too many Orcs, not enough space, and too many Orcs.  Coupled with the ugliness of the black speech sung/chanted by Orcs, definitely makes Fort Morn one of my least favorite places to have to go.

Lastly, what impresses me with this, is that the composers of this soundtrack, Gary Schyman and Nathan Grigg (although I only noticed the use of the Black Speech in songs composed by Nathan Grigg) is that they used existing translations that were used in their songs.  I am happy that they did not try to create something that would go up against what Tolkien had already written, which I guess is basically what Monolith Productions did by creating the story for Shadow of Mordor, but there it is.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Game EXP: The Witcher: Enhanced Edition (PC)

Well this game was quite the ride. I first started playing in May of last year (2016) and gave my First Impressions last October after having played just over 22 hours.  Well, now after 78 1/2 hours (although actual in-game time is probably a bit lower due to having left the game running without playing on a number of occasions), I can say that I have been taken in by the world created by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and visualized by CD Projekt.

Something I found out during the process of playing, was that this game comes chronologically after the existing stories by Mr. Sapkowski, none of which I had read prior to playing the game, so the Geralt in-game was a complete blank slate for me, without any idea as to how the book character reacted to situations or his relationships with any of the characters in-game.  What made this somewhat okay for me (although the storyline explanation was a little thin, but fine), was that Geralt had been killed by a mob, brought back to life at the Witchers' stronghold of Kaer Morhen where he is revived and subsequently has lost his memory.  Throughout the game, Geralt develops his identity through interacting with a wide cast of characters worthy of Twin Peaks.  This explanation is utilized similar to the Samus Effect in Metroid games to explain the reason why Samus has "lost" all of her gear and power ups from previous missions.

And since we're talking about skills, I present to you how I built my version of Geralt by the end of the game; although to show you the complete picture, I would have to take 15 screenshots to show how I leveled each of the 15 different skill trees, and we do not really have time for that.  But I ended up, around Chapter 4, deciding that I was not going to focus on either the Quen or Axii spells since I wasn't finding that I was using these signs all that often, although for a short while before going against the Striga, I did put some points into Quen as semi-instructed to by the game.  One skill type that is not visible on the skill tree above, was the bomb making skill, which I never ended up learning, nor did I use any bombs at all, so I do not know how effective they are.  I did pour a lot of skill points into the base attributes and tried to equally distribute amongst both steel and silver sword styles.

And sword styles is something that I really liked about this game.  That depending on who you were fighting dictated (to some extent) which sword you should use and which type of attack to use on your enemies.  With a strong, fast, and against a group styles, there is a bit of thinking to do rather than just button mashing when attacking.  Coupled with clicking when the "attacking sword reticle" is on fire allows Geralt to perform additional attacks, which is essential in later battles.  

What I like about this type of fighting, is that it allows the player to perform attacks that they would otherwise not be able to, such as having Geralt pirouette (something that is often described in the books), flips, and other sword techniques that really make you feel like you are a bad ass (a Polish Jedi perhaps?) and make you look like you know what you are doing.

The music in the game is something that I also very much fell in love with; you can check out a sample of said music from the MIDI Week Single article I posted back in March.  The rest of the music too was very fitting for the world and I never felt like I was being taken out because of either the compositions or the instrumentation.

But, The Witcher was not all glitz and glamour.  I did have some graphical issues (some of which were previously mentioned in the First Impressions) that persisted through to the end of the game.

And while the above is kind of an extreme example, which I purposefully angled to look really bad, it never did get to the point that the game was 100% broken.  When things like this happened, I would either just save the game, reload and everything would be fine, or the game would crash, I would be upset because I had not saved in the last 45 minutes, or I would just continue on to another area and the clipping would no longer be a problem.  There were also times when the game would momentarily freeze, the screen would black out, and a few seconds later the game would come back, none the wiser.  And then times the game would just straight up crash.  The game was not perfect, but still a lot of fun, which is the important part.

Storywise, there are three different paths to pick that occur throughout the mid to later part of the game.  For the sake of mentioning it, I sided with the Scoia'tael (the non-Humans) since I felt that that was how I imagined Geralt felt as a mutant and looked down by certain aspects of society.  I would very much be interested to see how the game unfolds under different factions, but that might be at a later date.  I also noticed that while there were specific one time potions you could brew that gave you certain skills or feats that you could not acquire any other way, I found that I rollplayed according to the character and not towards powering up Geralt to gain the highest dps or dots.

In the end, I did have a lot of fun with The Witcher, so much that I went out and bought the first book in the series (The Last Wish), which is a collection of short stories (review to be posted soon).  I am not eagerly awaiting the next GOG sale to pick up The Witcher 2: Assassins and Kings as well as the rest of the books in series.  In short (too late), a fun game that took a bit to get used to, but has a well designed world and visual aesthetic that felt familiar, but not too familiar.


P.S.  A Few more screenshots because GOG Galaxy came out of beta and now allows screenshots (most of the time anyway).

Vizima. I really loved the design and feel of the main city in the game.

In the Grassy Fields near a house that barely came into play, but looked great no matter where you were in the map.

One of the cut scenes from later in the game.  Only complaint was that I had a better sword, but this is the default steel sword.

The Swamp Cemetery loading screen.  

Geralt and his horse (never appeared in-game) walking through a village (never appeared in-game).

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Game Scores: Katamari Damacy (PS2)

I've mentioned before that Katamari Damacy for the Playstation 2 is the complete package.  It has well designed graphics, controls, themes, and this extends to the soundtrack as well.  While the iconic first track is so great and representative of the game that we featured it twice here as part of our MIDI Week singles series, the rest of the soundtrack is fun an delightful as well.

Walking on a Star
This song has a lush blend of acoustic and electronic instruments, creating a very strong sense of Whimsy.  This whole game is whimsical, and this is the music that plays in between stages while you choose what you want to do.  I particularly love the funny Vocal synth that shows up every few measures, in the first part of the song.  Occasionally, the sensation of the song rises to a steady forward march before mellowing out again.  Almost as if saying "alright, let's head forth!  ...No?  Okay, let's hang out." 

Lonely Rolling Star
The chorus of this song is so catchy, yet so gentle and soothing.  This song is a perfect background to the early stages of hte game, where you are learning how best to prioritize your rolling, to gather up all the right sized items, and move ahead, unimpeded.  This levels have low stakes, and are contained in small buildings, this soundtrack encourages you to just relax and have fun.
Scatting?  Why not?  This song is very silly and I love it. It's a fun, upbeat piano jazz song with a really great vocalist scatting along the way.  Not knowing Japanese, the scatting blends seamlessly into her singing.  It has a lot of hop, and I can see my katamari rolling when I hear this song. 
The tone on this song is very hard to place.  By all rights, this song seems to be dramatic, but it comes across as so cheesy, I can't help but imagine that this is on purpose.  I mean, you have a look at this silly game, and it seems clear the makers must know a thing or two about camp sensibilities.  Ultimately, it is a distinctive song in a soundtrack full silly sensibilities.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Katamari on the Rocks" - Katamari Damacy (PS2)

"Katamari on the Rocks" from Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2 (2004)
Composer:  Yuu Miyake
Album: Katamari Fortissimo Damacy
Label: Columbia Music Entertainment
Developer: Namco

I think that this, expanded version of the theme song is the track that sticks with me the most, but there are some great alternate songs as well.   I was just humming this song, because it entered my mind, unbidden, months after the last time I played Katamari Damacy.  While I was humming it, Jane  knew the reference right away, and joined in for a "ka-ta-mari, do your best!" at the chorus.  

Katamari Damacy is a game with unique mechanics, visuals sounds and music.  It is the complete package.  It is noteworthy that, similar to Koji Kando with the Mario series, Yuu Miyake was both the composer and Sound Director of Katamari Damacy.  I'm glad to share this song with all of you, and I plan to share some more from this classic game.


P.S.  Jaconian originally featured this song as a MIDI week single back in September, 2015.  I hadn't realized that before I completed this post.  So, I decided to find some alternative tracks from the game, which easily could have been my first choice.

These are all silly and fun songs from a silly and fun game.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May I have have this Monthly Update?

Puns. hehe, what's not to love?

Okay, let me get down to brass tax (tacks?).  I haven't been posting a lot for the past couple weeks.  The main reasons for this are A: my sister and her family moved to town from Texas, and have been taking a lot of my spare attention.  B: any remaining energy has been dumped into Amonkhet, the latest set of Magic.  I also had a bout of what I've been calling the 'Texas Plague,' which knocked me out a couple days. I've recovered, and what remains is just allergies, so I'm going to try to get a hold of myself and start posting once in a while.

My sister Mz and her family moving to town is a big deal.  She's been away for the better part of twenty years, and out of state for more than half of that time.  Just under two years ago, she had a baby, which is the first niece or nephew in our family.  The baby is super smart and cute, and generally very smiley, and I've been having a great time watching her while Mz and her husband have run various errands, mostly around the subject of buying a house.  I've gotten the impression that the (still new) parents really appreciate some time to themselves, and Jane and I have been happy to oblige.   That said, I'm not as young as I used to be, so I find myself pretty drained afterward.  Additionally, Jane and I are both pretty introverted, so we often just want to shut ourselves down after a long family session.

My downtime is mostly spent playing Magic.  While I have said, repeatedly, that I need to cut back on this habit, it always seems to flare up when a new set is released.  This new set has been very intriguing, and I had a nice run of wins when it first came out.  This hooked me in, but it's been all downhill from there.  Loss after loss, it's disheartening.  Jane is going out of town for a few days, so my plan is to go to my Local Game Store (LGS) and play a draft there.  Depending on how that goes, I will close the book on this set.  Or, keep it open and play more, always more!  Magic Online makes it so easy.  

I started playing this set while I was sick with teh Texas Plague (Mz and her family were all sick when they arrived out or house).  While I was sick I also watched a few new TV shows, including 'Into the Badlands', 'Mr. Robot' and 'The 100.'   I think my favorite out of those was Into the Badlands, it had some great kung-fu movie action choreography.  Mr. Robot was a bit too dreary for my taste, and I dropped it about halfway through.  The 100 is perfectly serviceable sci-fi that has a real Young Adult vibe to it.  it will probably be a show I only watch when sick. 
Finally, Jane and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which was great.  Maybe not as great as the first one, but I could see how someone might think so.  Drax and baby Groot are the best!  Tip of the hat to the Blue people in the movie as well.  


Monday, May 8, 2017

Game EXP: Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile)

I wish either Google or the actual game of Fire Emblem Heroes would keep track of how much time I have spent playing, because I would not be surprised if it was upwards of 20+ hours, which may not sound like a lot, until you realize that it is a mobile RPG tactics game.  Coupled with the fact that I also do not really favor mobile games, if only because I would rather save my battery for actually using my phone as a phone or to keep track of the hikes that Conklederp and I go on on the weekends.

If I were to describe this game to you, I would say that it is a simplified tactics game with a battle system similar to Rochambeau (Water>Fire>Earth>Water etc) with some variations (Archers>Flying Units; Rogues>Mages; Healers. . .).  Apparently FEH follows the "Complete Gacha" model for mobile games, which I too had to look up.  For me though, I feel that I have not played the game with the "I have to get the highest ranking characters in order to enjoy the game."  Instead, I will use my in-game currency to "purchase" characters and if I do not like them, for whatever reason, I will have some of their abilities absorbed by another character, or turned into another item that allows characters to, in essence, level up.  If you are patient, there are plenty of ways to acquire the in-game currency, not to mention additional ways if you connect your Nintendo account.

One of many "generic" battle area maps.
I would also like to preface everything that I am about to say with the fact that I have never played any games in the Fire Emblem series, mainly because I don't know why.  I really enjoy tactics games and apparently that is essentially what these games are all about.  

So what I love about FEH is the simplicity that they have injected into the tactics genre.  You first create your party from your existing characters, then you select which battle you want to enter, and you are given the level and general composition of the enemies you are fighting. So you would not want to bring in four blue characters against four green characters; well, I guess you could for the added challenge, but there are times when an opponent is too strong and your attacks will do 0 damage; you are even shown what amount of damage your attack will do and how much damage you will take if there is a counterattack before you even commit to the move/attack.  You then move your characters and have them attack or not, then the enemy (computer) moves and attacks and you fight until one side wins.  

You also have the option (as seen in the picture to the left) to see where your enemies can attack you so you can best avoid moving to an area where you will be attacked on their turn.  The main benefits of this is in the early game when the computer will (typically) not move/attack until at least one character can be attacked so it gives you a bit of time to move your characters around as opposed to their starting positions; but this is not always the case as I have had the enemy start moving before I breached the barrier.

The fight screen that pops up to show attacks.
The way that I have played this game takes advantage of the fact that it is a free-to-play and not pay-to-win, unless you focus all of your attention on the arena mode where you can fight automated versions of other real players (at least I think it is an automated battle).  I played through the story mode (battles with a bit of story thrown in) without spending any money to try and acquire better, higher ranking characters, and leveled up a lot in Training battles.  And while there is a Stamina meter (currently starts at 99), which recharges 1 stamina every minute and since battles typically take more than one minute, you might be hard pressed to run through your stamina (or just use Stamina potions which I do not think I have ever used despite having 25+ of them).  That is, unless you are doing a lot of higher level battles which can use up upwards of 15-20 stamina per battle.  

What I usually end up doing is leveling up a lot of my low level characters in Training battles, as low level characters level more quickly which is more satisfying, then boost their rarity level (from a three star character to a four star which grants additional skills and higher starting stats), then do it all over again.  Granted it is not actually progressing the game at all and what FEH essentially has turned into for me is a simplified tactics fighting game.

Okay, I think that is enough as I probably could go on a bit longer, but what it all boils down to is that I recommend this game.  It is free (in the best and maybe worst possible ways if you are susceptible to gambling tendencies) and you do not have to spend any money to actually enjoy playing.  And because it is me, Hiroki Morishita has written some pretty great music for the game (which may or may not have already been written for previous Fire Emblem games).


P.S.  Here are a couple more random pictures that I didn't include because I didn't want to use that many words.
Beginning Layout
Enemy Attacking!