Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Guile's Theme from Street Fighter 2

Song: Guile's Theme
Game: Street Fighter 2 (Also other Street Fighter games)
Composer: Yoko Shimomura

This coming Tuesday Street Fighter V will finally be out. No more betas, just the real deal. I'm very excited about it, but there is one thing that kind of bums me out. One of the most iconic Street Fighter characters of all time won't be in the game at launch. He'll eventually be a DLC character, but that's many months away. That means that when Street Fighter V comes out there won't be anyone with an American flag tattoo. There won't be anyone who puts on dope shades. There won't be any Guile's Theme....

Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to music. The same goes for music in video games. However, I have never met a single person who doesn't like Guile's original theme. Hell, it even spawned a meme. Go look up Guile's Theme goes with everything and revel in the results. Do you want to see someone eat a bowl of cereal while Guile's Theme is playing? Sure you do!

It hurts me that I won't be able to listen to a new version of of Guile's Theme this Tuesday. It's okay though, because sometime in the year 2016 a new iteration of this musical masterpiece will grace our ears once again! Remember, Guile's Theme makes everything more epic!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Game Time - January 2016

Despite the fact that no games I wanted to play came out in February, I didn't catch up on the games I left behind in December. Instead I celebrated the new year of 2016 by watching all of the episodes of Steven Universe, and I don't regret anything.

I tried to play both Fallout 4 and Xenoblade Chronicles X again, but ended up bouncing off both of them. Fallout made me angry with the sheer amount of bugs I encountered, while Xenoblade was a lot more daunting and expansive than I wanted to deal with at the time.

I kept my experiences light in terms of video gaming to prepare myself for the 900 million titles I'll be playing in February. I started the month by playing Amplitude, which took me about two hours to beat. Then for some reason moved on to Tales of Hearts R on the Vita, which I had bought over a year ago. Finally I finished up by smashing my head against Jonathan Blow's new game The Witness.

Let's do it!


When Harmonix announced that they were kickstarting a new Amplitude I was psyched and backed it immediately. Apparently the public hunger for new rhythm games isn't super high, because it barely made its goal. I guess Amplitude is kind of a niche game though. In their early days Harmonix made a rhythm game called Frequency, which had the player moving between different tracks in a song while pushing buttons to the beat. The tracks were all in a circle, so moving between them looked insane. They followed it up with Amplitude, which still had the different tracks, but moved everything to a flat plane.

A couple of my friends played both Frequency and Amplitude in high school, and I always thought ithey were interesting. For some reason I never got into it myself, so I figured this new version would be the time. Very early in the month the game was released to backers, but I haven't really heard anything about it since then.

Still looks like old Amplitude.

This seems like a game that will not see a whole lot of sales outside of the people who backed the game. It's essentially the same as the original Amplitude on PS2, but without licensed tracks to back it up. Since Harmonix is essentially indie now they didn't necessarily want to go out and license tracks for the game. This means that most of the music was done in house. Thankfully it still has Freezepop. It's also good, because now there won't be outside copyright claims on YouTube videos of people playing the game.

All of the music is techno/electronica, which fits the games theme of traveling along neural pathways to fix a patients brain. The story is a light wrapper to give what you're doing context and isn't really fleshed out more than a few 3D renderings of a brain with a robot voice talking. Luckily no one is coming to Amplitude for the story.

Sadly once you've played all the songs there isn't a whole lot left.

The gameplay of Amplitude holds up. You switch between tracks and push one of three buttons to the beat. It starts easy, but you can ramp it up to insane levels of difficulty. The issue is that this kind of game isn't destined to sell very well. Since Harmonix isn't putting out any DLC for the game it has around 30ish songs in it. Once you master the songs there isn't really anything else for you to do. However if you like rhythm games, or were a fan of the original Amplitude you'll enjoy this for sure.

Tales of Hearts R

I bought this game when it first came out, I pre-ordered it from Gamestop, and an employee lied to me about not receiving any copies. I texted my friend who was excited about it to tell him they didn't get any copies, and he informed me that he had already gotten his copy from the same store! I called back and got mildly upset and they admitted that they hadn't received enough copies, but more would be coming the next day. Why not tell me that at first? It's a freaking Vita game. I would have understood. Anyways, we're not here to talk about Gamestop!

I was in the mood for a JRPG, so I decided it was time to try Tales of Hearts R. It's okay, but it made me realize two things. The first is that all Tales games have been a lot worse since Tales of Vesperia. The second is that the plot of every single Tales game is the same. Warning, I'm going to spoil every single Tales game right now. There is always an overly emotional main character. There is also always an evil organization that is being used by another evil organization. Finally there is always a party member who betrays you, but then betrays the people they betrayed you for less than a half hour later. Seriously, these happen IN EVERY ONE!

Can you guess who betrays you!?

The plot doesn't really matter though. Tales games are always of a certain level of quality. The characters are normally the draw and some have more pull than others. The characters in Tales of Hearts R are nothing special. Normally I love at least one character per Tales game, but this time I don't feel overly enthusiastic about any of them. They're all a little too typical .

On top of the familiar story the gameplay is familiar as well. The combat is as always the main draw of a Tales game. They're entertaining action RPGs that take place on a two dimensional plane that you can move in 3D on if you so choose. The combat is generally what evolves the most with each iteration of the franchise and this one falls somewhere in between Vesperia and Xillia. The combat is relatively simple like Vesperia, but has a bit more combo potential when using skills. The added mechanics of Hearts R make it so that you can teleport around and rack up huge combos. It's not quite as robust as Xillia in that regard though. It's okay overall.

Teleporting all around is super fun.

I'm actually surprised that this game made it to the U.S. Handheld versions of these games rarely leave Japan, because they just don't sell well enough. The fact that they need to pay for a lot of voice acting is most likely why as well. That's why I imagine that this is the only Tales game released in the U.S. that uses the original Japanese voiceover. However, I am led to believe that at one point the game was going to be dubbed into English. The main reason for this is that in Japanese the main character's name is Shing Meteorite. In the sub titles he is named Kor Meteor. Why? All the voice acting is in Japanese, so they literally say Shing Meteorite constantly. It's not even like they made it a more western name. I have no idea.

In the end I probably won't finish it for a long time. It filled the JRPG shaped hole in my heart, but now I've had my fill. It's fun enough, but definitely not one of the best games in the series,

The Witness

Initially I wanted nothing to do with The Witness. All I knew is that it was a puzzle game with insane scope made by "Braid" creator Jonathan Blow. I saw some gameplay and was intrigued. It's a puzzle game where you mostly draw lines on weird looking touch screens. As you go the puzzles get gradually more complex and introduce new rules. What I find to be frustrating is that the game never directly tells you anything. It's all supposed to be intuited, or taught to you in a series of tutorial puzzles. However, since the game is non-linear you can easily come up on puzzles you have not been taught yet. I've also thought I figured out a puzzle element only to find out in the next puzzle I only figured out the previous one by accident.

People are going wild for this game in a way that I am not. It does feel good when you figure out a puzzle, but then I just get pissed off when I'm stuck on one for more than an hour. I guess I might not be as smart as everyone else on the Internet who I've seen talking up this game. I've probably solved around 80 puzzles and played for five or so hours. I want to go back to it, but I get so frustrated. I could just look up the solutions to all the puzzles, but I'm trying very hard not to do that. Since the game is all puzzles I feel like that would cheapen the experience.

It takes place on an island and there are no people. The landscape and environment types on the island vary greatly. It looks super nice, but everything is empty. I am led to believe that when you get further in the game there is some type of crazy reveal about the nature of the island. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get there though. It's definitely a cool game, but it might not be my cup of tea. I'll keep chipping away at it over time.

It's Time

Digimon came out today, but Amazon didn't have release day shipping. Normally I'd get it Thursday because of that, but by some miracle I will be able to play it tomorrow! My excitement for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is unreal. A good Digimon game hasn't come out in the U.S. for too long. It helps that this one looks exceptional. You can bet I'll be streaming it as soon as it shows up.

The following week Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 hits the U.S. as well. For some reason that I can't really fathom I will also be streaming that piece of garbage!

Then... the next week starting on the 16th it's all over. Street Fighter 5 is finally out for real! I'll be playing that a ridiculous amount. Finally three days after that I'll be getting both Fire Emblem games! IT'S GETTING OUT OF CONTROL! There is too much happening in February, so I guess it's good I didn't play a whole lot of video games for a month huh?

If I make it out of February alive I'll see you at the end.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Podcast Episode 12 - Undertale

I've talked a lot about Undertale here. I even made it my game of the year. I thought it was time to get out my feelings, so I talk about it for 50ish minutes in the newest episode of the podcast. It's a few days before the end of the month, but I won't be able to record the next few days, so I decided to put it up now.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Epilogue ~ The End of the Night

Song: Epilogue ~ The End of the Night
Game: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Composer: Masakazu Sugimori

Ghost Trick seemed like the kind of game that would be right up my alley. However, for some reason didn't purchase it when it came out. I instead told myself I wouldn't buy it until it was $20. A few summers ago one of my friends called me to let me know that there was a physical copy with the case still intact at the local Gamestop. To this day I am still mad at myself for waiting to buy the game. Without a doubt Ghost Trick is one of my top five favorite games of all time. It has a unique premise, compelling story, and most important of all, an amazing soundtrack.

Masakazu Sugimori is well known for his work on Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and Phoenix Wright: Justice for all. Both of those are great, and really add to games. The soundtrack he produced for Ghost Trick is no different and I personally think it's the best out of the three. If you asked me to sing/whistle songs from the first two Phoenix Wright games I couldn't do it on cue. Ghost Trick is another story though. 

One thing that makes a video game tune particularly memorable to me is when it ends up being tied to a particular scene in my mind. In the case of this one it's tied to the credits of Ghost Trick, because that's  the point where it plays. Man, the ending of Ghost Trick is insane. At first I didn't even believe it. I had to set my DS down several times in shock as it played out. The ending continues into the credits as scenes detailing what happened to the characters play out. Interspersed between the character vignettes are the credits. 

During the credits I felt gleeful. The game was a wild ride that had some great twists. Epilogue is a combination of the main theme of Ghost Trick and a new melody that makes you feel victorious, It says that the struggle is over and it's something to be happy about.

Thinking about the Ghost Trick ending gets me all warm and fuzzy inside. This song sure is a doozy, What a great game! Capcom needs to put out more stuff like this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Title Sceen from Spelunky

Song: Title Screen
Game: Spelunky
Composer: Eirik Suhrke

When I started streaming I wasn't the best at talking while playing games. I'm still not great at it, but I have definitely improved. In order to hone my speech skills I started streaming myself playing Spelunky daily. It's a challenging game, but there is so much to talk about. The game is dense in a way that I don't think many other games are. There is so much to know, and that's what makes Spelunky great.

I used to have a definitive list of my ten favorite games of all time. Over the past three years that list has been shattered and rebuilt numerous times. At the moment I think that I would put Spelunky on the list.It was the first Roguelike I tried, and it's still my favorite. At this point I don't know that anything else can replace it. If you want to hear more about my love for Spelunky you can head over to the podcast page and give the Spelunky episode a listen.

We're here to talk about music though. When you boot up Spelunky it goes to a title screen like games of old. It stays on screen until you push start, and loops the same melody forever. Every time I hear the title screen song for Spelunky I get psyched. It means that it's time for some runs. Maybe I'll die instantly, or maybe I'll run train on everything. You never know what you're going to get and that's exciting. The title screen song is one of the only constants in Spelunky I can count on, so I'm glad it's great.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Battle! Champion from Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal

Song: Battle! Champion 
(In reality I have no idea, because there is no official OST for this game. It's just the music that plays when you battle Lance and Red.)
Games: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Composer: Junichi Masuda

I used to be way into Pokemon music. The original battle theme will forever be in the dark reaches of my mind ready to strike out at any moment. I would assume that it's the same for anyone who played Pokemon as a kid. I've been looking for Pokemon songs to put up as Memorable Melodies, but haven't been able to find anything I really like. The issue is that the music from the original Gameboy is kind of hard to listen to. It's a bunch of very harsh tones that aren't super pleasing to the ear. Just give the video above a listen as an example. 

The new issue is that I think all the music in the newer Pokemon games runs together. If you asked me to hum a track from Pokemon X and Y I wouldn't be able to do it.

That brings us here today. I still think that the music that plays during the champion fight in the second generation Pokemon games is amazing. While the above track doesn't hit as hard as it used to it was remixed for the second generation remakes on the DS. It sounds nicer to the ear, but doesn't get me as pumped up.

During the champion fights you're supposed to be amped up. You're at the end of the road and it's time to prove that you're the best Pokemon trainer around. In this specific case you need to take on Lance and his super tough dragon type Pokemon. It's a tough fight, but it's a lot of fun. 

As a hot bonus I'll leave you with the dope remix of this song that I listen to all the time. It's ridiculous. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Thoughts After Finishing Life is Strange (Marked Spoilers)

Man, Life is Strange certainly was a video game.... Aghhhh.... I literally just finished the final episode, and I honestly don't think it was very good. However, I do think that if you take all five episodes together they add up to a solid story.

In case you don't know Life is Strange is an adventure game that takes place in the seaside town of Arcadia Bay. You play as Maxine Caulfield who has recently transferred to a private school to further her dream of becoming a photographer. Five years prior to the game's start she moved to Seattle with her parents. Arcadia Bay may have been her home town, but she finds that not everything is as it used to be. To start she didn't talk to her childhood best friend after her move and she feels guilty about it.

To cut down on spoilers I'll be talking a bit surface level here. Max encounters her old friend Chloe in the school bathroom. It's not exactly a happy reunion though, because Chloe gets shot by the school's resident creeper! In a shocking turn of events Max finds out that she has the power to rewind time. 

Time rewinding is the crux of the entire game. Most modern adventure games feature a slew of hard choices, and Life is Strange is no different. You can however, change any of the "life changing" choices you make. If you make a decision you can rewind time and take it back. On occasion the game has you solve puzzles with Max's time rewinding power as well, but most of the time you're just talking to people.

More than trying to shake up the traditional adventure game formula Life is Strange tackles some interesting topics in its narrative. Video games often don't take on controversial real life topics, but Life is Strange definitely does. Off the top of my head I can think of bullying and suicide. I'd expect these subjects to be eye roll inducing in the average video game narrative, but this one pulls them off exceptionally well. 

*sigh* I really like the characters of Max and Chloe. The game can be a bit try hard at times, but there's something endearing about it. Even though a lot of the "teen" dialogue felt fake I still got invested in the characters. 

If any of this sounds interesting, then I think you should probably play the game. It's five episodes and each one is around three to four hours long. You're looking at a twenty hour experience maximum. It's available on PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

As I said, I have some thoughts on the ending of this game that I need to spill out into the vastness of the Internet. If you don't want to spoil the entire game, then do not cross the line below!





As soon as I started Life is Strange I figured out how it was going to end. Max wakes up in class after having a vision of a tornado destroying the town. She then leaves class and goes to the bathroom where she takes a photo of a blue butterfly. Chloe comes in, and gets shot and Max saves her by rewinding time.

Time travel stories tend to all blend together at some point. It was fairly obvious (to me at least) that the storm was a result of Max messing with time and space. I had a feeling that the game was going to end with Max choosing whether she wanted to save Chloe, or everyone in the town of Arcadia Bay. It did end that way, but the ending was a lot more rough on me than I thought it would be.

Chloe is a punk who's rebellious on the surface, but good at heart. Over the course of the five episodes you learn that she's actually pretty cool. Her dad died in a car crash shortly before Max and her family moved to Seattle. Chloe was extremely close with her dad and it crushed her emotionally. Max moved shortly after and didn't really keep in contact. Understandably this left her emotionally devastated as well. She then began her punk phase and got expelled from school. Around that time her mother fell in love with a man who is a gigantic tool and got married. She felt betrayed by this. She then became friends with a local girl, and "replaced" Max. It eventually became more than a friendship and Chloe fell in love with the girl.

That girl was Rachel Amber. At the beginning of the game you find out that she's been "missing" for months. Chloe seems to be the only one still looking for her. I don't have it in me to explain the entire plot of this game, but Rachel got into some awful shit. 

Despite the fact that Max wasn't in touch with Chloe for years it's very obvious that they're still close friends. Pair this with all the shit Chloe has been thorough and it makes the final choice that much harder to make. Max learns that she can travel through time, because she wants to save Chloe from dying. In fact, Chloe dies multiple times in the game and you have to save her every time. Max's entire goal is to find Rachel Amber, and make Chloe happy. There are times when Chloe flies off the handle and acts like an insufferable child, but as you learn about her deep depression it's totally forgivable. 

The final scene of the game sees Max and Chloe in the midst of the world ending storm. Chloe realizes that the only reason that the storm is happening is because Max saved her in the first place. She then asks you to go back in time and let her die....

The screen then blurs out and you are given two choices. Sacrifice Chloe, or sacrifice Arcadia Bay. It was at that moment that I put my head in my hands and didn't know what to do. Do you want to kill your best friend, or kill literally everyone in town. On the surface it seems like an easy choice. Chloe told you to let her go, and that's the choice I ended up making. 

What makes me sad is that if presented with that option in real life I probably wouldn't choose it. In video games I always try to choose the selfless options, but in real life I don't know that I'd be able to let go so easily. In the end I watched Chloe's funeral and got ridiculously sad. I think what makes it harder is that I can relate to a lot of things in Life is Strange. I've been severely depressed, and I've had a parent die much before they should have. It sucks. 

I don't even really know what I'm trying to say here. Words are just kind of happening at this point.

I really liked the final choice in Life is Strange, but everything in the final episode leading up to it was complete bullshit. The entire plot had already been resolved, so the game presents you with a bunch of dream-state bullshit to pad itself out until you have to sacrifice Chloe or not. It sucks, because everything else came together pretty well. This is generally what happens with time travel stories though. They collapse in on themselves and turn out lackluster in the end. I won't even get into the fact that Max still has to go back in time in order to have Chloe die, so she still ended up messing with time travel. Negating the entire purpose of sacrificing Chloe in the first place...

Life is Strange was cool, and the ending made me sad. Chloe shouldn't have to die. That is all.