Feature, Music, Video Games

The Memory in the Music

Everyone has a song they listen to that reminds them of times past. Music is something that permeates almost every experience. Video games especially use music to help them weave their interactive tales. Even a terrible video game can have great music. That’s why I’m going to list some of my favorite video game songs. This list will be far from comprehensive, to the point where certain people might feel “slighted” that I didn’t include their favorite song. For this, I’m sorry. I wish I could post links to every song ever made…but I can’t.

Some of these will be boss themes. Some of these will be regular tracks. They’re all great, so I’m not even going to number them. I’ll list them as I think of them. But here goes it anyway.

(I’m trying to avoid being obvious here, so you’re not going to see the Mario theme song or something everyone resonates with. Just a note)

I could probably dedicate an entire article to the purely amazing music in the Metal Gear Solid series, so I’m just going to pick one…and why not The Best is Yet To Come from Metal Gear Solid? After traversing the menus and beginning your game, this song is the first you hear…and it’s beautiful. You only hear the first (maybe) 30 seconds of it, but you hear the entirety of it during the game’s ending credits. It’s chilling and absolutely wonderful to listen to.

 

Shadow of the Colossus was truly an amazing game. Your only enemies were the 16 imposing Colossi and each battle felt like an epic encounter. None fit this bill better than Malus, the 16th and final Colossus, however. The fight against Malus was the best in the game and this song, entitled Demise of the Ritual, added so much to it. The scene and the imposing nature of the creature were only accentuated by this orchestral accomplishment. A lot of it is relatively understated and quiet, however the impending sense of dread you feel just listening to it, knowing exactly what you’re facing…it’s unbeatable.

 

Like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy is one of those series that could (and probably should) take up an entire article about game music by itself. With this, however, I find myself needing to pick a few different songs (though I’ll only embed one). The one I choose just so happens to be Liberi Fatali, the main theme of Final Fantasy VIII. While it’s no secret I wasn’t overly fond of FF8 (battle system being the heart of the issue), that doesn’t take away from the amazing music. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started this game “back in the day,” but this made me feel epic in every way.

 

Of course, Final Fantasy has many fantastic main themes. Final Fantasy VII (on piano being my preferred method of listening) and X are great. I’ve also got to hand it to Dancing Mad and One Winged Angel (the final battle themes of Kefka Palazzo and Sephiroth, repsectively). Dark Messenger is also probably one of FF’s coolest songs. And of course…this beauty. There are many many many (many many many) more songs, and I don’t want to get yelled at for leaving them out. I love them all.

Banjo-Tooie was one of my favorite games on the N64. Despite all of the music being super awesome, the music that plays while you run around the Witchyworld level has a special place in my heart. It creeped me out when I was younger, but the level itself was really fun and the music added to its atmosphere. Also, the Mr. Patch boss battle? Yikes.

 

I’m now going to jump into The Legend of Zelda and upset more people who don’t agree with my song choices. The one I’m choosing for this article is the music that plays during the Blizetta boss battle in Twilight Princess. It’s a good song and it’s something that seemingly comes out of your worst Tim Burton-y nightmare. But also while we’re on the subject of Twilight Princess…ugh. This being said, Koji Kondo’s music endures throughout the series in every way, and all of it is fantastic. But yes. Blizetta.

 

Pokemon has some wonderful music in it, but I chose Ho-Oh’s battle theme from Pokemon Heart Gold. Despite Lugia being my preferred legendary choice, Ho-Oh’s theme demolished Lugia’s no problem. Such a fantastic song. The Asian influence in it sounds great and matches up with the locale and the Pokemon fantastically.

 

People can say whatever they want about Asura’s Wrath (interesting being one of the words I’d use), but its music was great. Specifically the use of Dvorak’s Symphony No 9: From the New World, 4th Movement during the battle with Augus. An epic battle accentuated by a truly epic song.

I love the Phoenix Wright games. They’re great for many reasons, and the music is one of them. The song Objection! resonates with me because it usually plays when there’s a break in the case. When the work I’ve done pays off and Phoenix finally makes some incredible headway, I shout “OBJECTION!” and this song plays. It’s a gratifying feeling because I know that I was successful with my choices at that moment.
Have you ever heard Journey‘s soundtrack? Why not? I honestly have no words beyond this for how beautiful the game is, but the soundtrack leaves me similarly speechless. The soundtrack is the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy award (to be determined at the 55th edition of the show this coming Sunday). I chose the song I Was Born for This, a truly moving piece of music…but the whole soundtrack deserves to be consumed wholly.

 

You didn’t actually think we were going to get away with something from Kingdom Hearts, did you? Of course, I love the music of these games, but only being able to pick one…I chose the music that plays while fighting Terranort in Birth By Sleep. It’s such an epic song, but given what just happened in the story at that point, it reflects the sadness and urgency of the situation perfectly.

 

I was going to stop with ten songs, but I couldn’t in good conscience…so you get three bonus songs. That’s thirteen for the price of ten! Boy howdy!

(If we’re being real here…there are way more than thirteen selections in this article, but who’s counting? Not me, obviously.)

Devil May Cry has always had crazy intense music, and it’s hard to pick one song. This is why I’m going into my recent memory to pull out the boss music for Bob Barbas in DmC: Devil May CryThe fight with Bob is one of my favorite boss battles in recent memory. The obvious parody of extreme right wing news organizations (Bill O’Reilly most prominently) is great and the music adds to the atmosphere, especially the beginning as if you’re about to tune into one of Bob’s news broadcasts. It’s a classic fight with some great music behind it.

At the beginning of Assassin’s Creed II, you race Ezio’s brother Frederico to the top of the church. It is at this point that you hear Venice Rooftops for the first time. This is the song that plays during race sequences during the game. The song is perfect for race sequences. The heart pounding drums and guitar add a sense of urgency to complete the race on time, but the lighter tones of the song (through certain wind instruments and choral singing) add a sort of free feel to the equation. Assassin’s Creed II (and the series) have fantastic music, but this is one of my favorite for the energy it conveys. (Special mention to the heart wrenching Ezio’s Family, which is a tonal flip in the other direction)

 

Last, but not least, I give you a Mass Effect song. This song, called The End Run, plays as part of the suicide mission during Mass Effect 2. There’s not a whole lot to say about it, because it says a lot for itself. The suicide mission was a very intense way to end the game. This really adds to that. The beginning really makes you feel like you’re about to attack something monumentus and the ending/last half is really ambiguous. The suicide mission could go either way and the ending kind of feels like a triumph and a failure, adjusting itself to the situation you’re in. I don’t know how it does it…but it just does.

Hm. I guess there was some stuff to say about it.

 

That is the end of my list, but not the end of my favorite gaming music. The songs in video games trigger memories. Good, bad, or otherwise…the music of games is truly key to bringing the most out of them. There’s music in every game and more often than not, it’s fantastic. I regret that I could not include more (for space’s sake) and I encourage suggestions to add to this list. They are always welcome.

Though I do still anticipate a few “how could you forget ___’s soundtrack?” type dealies, I’ll counter with an all encompassing “I like the soundtrack and all the songs from [insert your favorite game here].”

Good day.

Feature, Video Games

DmC: Devil May Cry (Review)

I’m not too sure what I was expecting out of the new Devil May Cry. It was a drastic departure from everything about the old series (short of the intense combo based combat) and really rubbed certain people the wrong way. Of course, what doesn’t anymore? In truth, DmC does a lot of things right. It was a reboot no one was expecting, but in many ways it manages to do better than its source material.

The first thing I have to give props to is the combat. Ninja Theory managed to make an incredibly exciting and fast paced combat system for this one. Over the course of the game, you’ll find yourself with so many options and combos to dispatch demons with, that you’ll constantly surprise yourself with a new combo chain out of nowhere. If you pay attention to the loading screens, you’ll notice a silhouette of Dante dispensing pain in the way of nonstop combos and you’ll begin to wonder how you’ll manage to do anything close to that. Let me tell you, I’m not exactly the most deft of hand and I was able to bust out satisfyingly gruesome combos left and right. Boss battles grant you new “attachments” (for lack of a better term) for your weapons. At first, you have Rebellion (Dante’s classic sword) that can dish out a great deal of pain. From there, however, you begin to unlock new weapons. Angelic weapons, like the scythe Osiris, are designed to be lightning fast and incredibly effective. Demonic weapons like Eryx, the super awesome flaming death fists, are meant for high damage and high impact. Then you have your three different choices of guns that offer mildly low damage, but are great for continuing combos.

If this seems like a lot to take in, it’s OK. Where DmC shines is its ease and simplicity in picking up the catalog of weapons and combining them in useful ways. With a tap of the D-Pad (up, left, or right), you can switch the weapon you’re using on any side of the equation. Holding down the left trigger lets you use your angelic weapons, holding down your right trigger lets you use demonic weapons, and holding nothing let’s you use Rebellion. As simple as that is, chaining together heavy attacks and light attacks by swapping weapons and weapon types on the fly comes second nature to you as you rack up your score. Afraid you’re going to lose your combo? Ninja Theory even threw in grappling hooks to either pull enemies towards you or pull yourself towards enemies to continue the fun. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and incredibly satisfying. I will admit that I had to fight with the camera during several encounters, especially ones taking place in hallways and small spaces. That is usually one of my pet peeves, but sometimes you ignore pet peeves for the greater good. The combat is indeed the greatest good of this game.

Devil Trigger also plays a part in the combat, offering a hefty boost to your attack and defense for a limited time. And yes, Dante does get white hair.

The one thing to say about this, however, is that fans of the original series might lament at the drop in challenge. I will admit, for someone who got frustrated at the originals without fail, I had no problem racking up my scores and getting the various S-Rank combos. For people like me who find deep satisfaction in dominating and not having to deal with super frustrating nonsense, this is absolutely OK. For everyone else, the increasing difficulty levels you unlock as you beat the game offer sufficient challenge. Culminating in the absolutely ridiculous Hell and Hell mode (Dante dies in one hit, but enemies have their regular health), you’ll still be able to get your masochistic jollies off with this one.

Of course, the story has to be the biggest departure in this one. Taking place in Limbo City, a New York inspired metropolis under the control of Demon King Mundus, the setting and tone of this game are truly new for the series. Mundus takes the form of banker Kyle Ryder, who controls the world through media and financial debt. Spreading his own propaganda through world-wide news, operating cameras to monitor his “subjects”, and poisoning the most popular soda in order to make humans lazy and docile, Mundus has a tight grip on the world until Dante decides to take interest. The plot, I’ll save for you to experience, offers a more serious and political tone than the campy past of the series.

The gameplay is joined by the tonally off balance (though mostly decent) story and the relatively likable characters.

This isn’t to say that the game is without cheese. You’ll mostly find this in new Dante, whose nonchalant attitude make him slightly less jerk-y than old Dante and a heap more likable. His snap backs and constant use of the F-Word in random moments really make you remember you’re playing a Devil May Cry game. Unfortunately, the story sometimes falls flat and a lot of the elements introduced fall to the wayside once they stop being an immediate problem, something a bit unexpected from Ninja Theory (who made two of the best stories this generation in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved). At certain points, it seems to be trying to take itself too seriously, but then it mellows out to a comfortable level. The concept of “control” seeds itself throughout the story, however, and it’s easy to get engrossed in it while you’re playing. I even found myself laughing at some of the most basic stuff (I mean…dick jokes? Really?) It’s just that darn hindsight that gets you in the end.

(I should give credit to the voice acting, though. When I think Capcom, I don’t think great voice acting…historically, at least. But this game has some really good voice acting no matter which way you slice the story.)

The story does lend itself to the level design. The missions all take place within Limbo, a twisted version of the real world that bends itself backwards to impede your progress. It offers some really unique level design and does a lot of really creative things with its world. It’s actually one of the coolest game worlds I’ve been in. As you traverse through platforming segments, you’ll find yourself using the two different grappling hooks to pull terrain and fly through the radically altered reality. Sometimes they even make you switch grappling hooks on the fly, offering a fast fingered challenge. They do offer some nice twists to this on occasion. A level later in a game that takes place in a Limbo version of a “hot” night club makes for an interesting place to traverse. A certain level that sees you trapped in Limbo but traversing through the real world offers little in the way of things to do, but adds a flipped sense of helplessness. There’s even a level where you’re attempting to reach a boss encounter by running around avoiding a giant spotlight laser. It’s a truly unique world to go through. If you happen to fall, the game really doesn’t punish you too badly. You get a small piece of your life bar taken away and reset on the platform you were jumping from. If you altered any terrain mid-jump and fell, it even stays in place. It’s not designed to be too big of a hindrance, but more like demonic busy work as you jump between combat and story segments.

 

Just a normal day in Limbo.

(I should also, quickly, make mention of the soundtrack. The crazy rock music and the pumping dubstep really do add to the world. It’s, essentially, a bunch of music I’d never listen to that makes sense accompanied by Limbo and the fast paced combat.)

If you’re big on collectibles, fear not. The platforming and world also lends itself to hidden collectibles in the way of keys, doors, and lost souls. You might simply stumble across a few of these as you traverse, but thinking and exploring every nook and cranny is necessary if you want to get everything. You’ll even need to go back and replay levels with new toys to get a few of them. The keys and doors, especially, work in conjunction to offer secret missions that challenge your abilities. The replayability is there, as you need to collect everything and complete levels in a competent amount of time to get an SSS rank on all of them. Between these and the ramping difficulty selections, you’ll have a lot of reason to go back to this one.

The new characters and new imaginings of old characters are good, the story is good (despite its tonal wobbliness and its blatant sequel-bait ending), the platforming is good, and the replayability is good. What really should get you excited about this are the spectacular mind-bending world and the superb combat.

As it stands now, DmC as a total package is good enough to get an 8/10 from me. Ninja Theory, bring your stunning storytelling and character development for numero dos and we’ll talk about that 10.