Video Game Music of the Week – 31.12.2012-06.01.2013

Thanks for your continued support and all the best wishes for 2013! – Between Life and Games

For its mere ~9 months of existence, Between Life and Games has already gained a solid readership base, with visitors’ numbers climbing steadily month-to-month. It’s been a successful year in which I’ve reviewed 19 games and done several lists, comments and other articles. Of course, it also marked 35 continuous weeks of Video Game Music of the Week, the feature which happened to coincide with the last day of 2012.

Today, I’ll share with you a theme from one of the very, very few shoot ’em up (“shmup”) games I was pretty good at – Taito’s Metal Black. I’d play it very often at arcades in my hometown some 15 years ago… Never beat it with a single credit, of course, but I remember being able to reach much farther than my peers at the time. It’s a really good game, and, on top of everything, it has a decent story for a mere arcade shooter. The song is called “Born to Be Free”, and I do recommend checking out the game, as well.

Again, have a happy 2013!

Composer: Yasuhisa Watanabe
Game: Metal Black
Song:  Born to Be Free

Sonic the Hedgehog

The 16-bit era was incredible, to say the least. Maybe not the best one in terms of games (though quite close), but certainly the best in terms of rivalry. SEGA vs. Nintendo, Sonic vs. Mario. It was unforgettable. Already back then, despite having played quite a bit of Mario on the NES before I got my hands on a SEGA Mega Drive, I developed a strong preference for the Sonic games, due to their faster pace, better protagonist, and more fun setting. They also just looked so much cooler.

Yet, I hadn’t beaten the original Sonic the Hedgehog until just recently. I’d first played (and beaten) the second one, and I’ve also beaten the third one (though without Sonic & Knuckles attached). My efforts with the first one back in the day ended quite miserably, I don’t think I ever made it past the Marble Zone, maybe I reached Spring Yard once or twice. But it was just too hard for me to beat on a regular console. Thank goodness we’ve got emulators and save states nowadays. 🙂

Sonic the Hedgehog Title Screen

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Mega Drive/Genesis; Saturn (as part of Sonic Jam),  Dreamcast (as part of SEGA Smash Pack), PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC (Sonic Mega Collection/Plus), PSP (SEGA Mega Drive Collection), DS (Sonic Classic Collection), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (as part of the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection), PlayStation Network, XBox Live Arcade, Wii Virtual Console, Steam, Mobile
Original release: 1991
Territories: All

Sonic is a great start for the series. If you’ve started with Sonic 2 or 3, some things will be sorely missing (especially the spin dash – you have to roll up yourself when you have enough speed to attack on the ground, you can’t do it from a static position). However, the game has laid a solid foundation that the later entries built upon. It’s just Sonic vs. Robotnik, the whole crew of friends of Sonic only appear later in the series. In a way, that’s not bad. The difficulty is indeed quite high, as I said, but also remarkably fair. Unlike Mega Man, a decent level of knowing the stage will be sufficient, and furthermore, bosses, even the final boss, can be defeated fairly once you understand their pattern. On the other hand, Sonic doesn’t offer infinite continues – actually, you start without any.

This is another review that provides screenshots captured by me.

Read full review

Video Game Music of the Week – 24-30.12.2012

Merry Christmas to all Between Life and Games readers!

I really wanted to have a song from a Christmas-themed game today, while also keeping with the arcade theme that recently started. The best I could come up with was Snow Bros, a fun little game by Toaplan of Zero Wing fame. It was a very charming game, if similar in terms of gameplay to other arcade stuff from those days, like Tumblepop and Bubble Bobble (though a quick fact check shows that Tumblepop came a year later than Snow Bros).

Composer: Mikiko Suzuki
Game: Snow Bros
Song:  Stage Theme 1

Video Game Music of the Week – 17-23.12.2012

This week’s music comes from another Technos arcade hit from back in the day, called Xain’d Sleena, or Solar Warrior. While my awesome friend and namesake Vlado has very fond memories of it, I unfortunately wasn’t that good at it. Still, some of the music was quite awesome. Shame I can’t find the name of the composer – if anyone knows it, drop a comment.

Composer: ?
Game: Xain’d Sleena / Solar Warrior
Song:  Planet Basis

Why Anita Sarkeesian can only do harm to gaming

Anita Sarkeesian Kickstarter

Recently, the name of a self-proclaimed popular culture critic has been all over the major game sites. Anita Sarkeesian has managed to take the full attention of the gaming press by storm. Her site is called Feminist Frequency, and she tries to be a warrior of justice defending the oppressed women in the world of gaming. Fighting for her righteous cause, she focuses on both the harassment women have to endure while playing games online, and the portrayal of women in games, which is, according to her, usually overly sexualised. Recently, her Kickstarter project aiming to gather funding for a video series presenting just how badly women are objectified in games, raised over $160,000 – a large part of which came not from women, but from “white knights” – an embarrassing portion of male gamers internet users that feel the urge to defend a woman whenever they think she needs defending. Now, I hate to be confrontational in any way on this site… But, as a relatively objective, not to mention male gamer with quite some experience with not only gaming, but also the way it is portrayed in media, by both game journalists and ones not very familiar with what gaming really is, I am sure you can already tell that I think Anita Sarkeesian is full of crap.

I give credit where credit is due, and Anita does deserve quite a bit of credit. For one, I have a great doubt whether she’s even really much of a gamer – her videos so far have not really proven that, the fact she decided to buy a bunch of games with part of the Kickstarter money she got only further shows it. Yet, she’s managed to make herself into the speaker of female gamers, she’s been invited to comment on the problems women face in gaming on several major websites and even on TV. And, again, the Kickstarter. She managed to strike a chord with her presentation, and not just any chord, but a $160,000 chord. Nearly 7000 people actually donated. Fame (15 minutes of it, but hey, a vast majority of people never get that far), check. Money, check. Anita is a success. But how does that affect gaming, the very tool leading to that success?

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Video Game Music of the Week – 10-16.12.2012

In the good old days, the good old arcade cabinets ate quite a few of my coins… And, naturally, the beat ’em up genre was flourishing. I’ve already mentioned my love for The Punisher back then, but the true classic of the genre I first got the chance to experience was Technos’ Double Dragon. The first stage theme is one of the many memorable things about this rather clunky, but highly entertaining and extremely important game. And here it is, Arrival of the Black Warriors. The arranged version is also worth checking out, easy to find that one on YouTube.

Composer: Kazunaka Yamane
Game: Double Dragon
Song:  The City Slums (Arrival of the Black Warriors)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – an action game, but with great potential

I’ve been skeptical about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ever since it was first announced. It was clear that it would be a departure from the Metal Gear (Solid) formula, that it would be an action game about Ninja Raiden cutting people up in Ninja Gaiden style, rather than a Metal Gear game that focuses on stealth. They even changed the name itself from Metal Gear Solid: Rising to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – the Solid part disappeared altogether because Kojima wanted to deliver a message to fans – this is NOT a Metal Gear Solid game in anything but the setting and some characters.

After the project was handed over to PlatinumGames, the studio that’s now home to Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil creator, and Hideki Kamiya, director of Devil May Cry and Okami, as well as others from the former Capcom Clover staff, a studio that has already made a name for itself in the action genre (they’re the makers of well-received games like Bayonetta and Vanquish), it was clear that the goal was to create a solid action game in the Metal Gear universe with the new, badass Raiden as the star – nothing more, nothing less.

And, when I received the Zone of the Enders HD collection last week, it was more than clear that the first content I’d tackle would be the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo included on the disc.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance Title Screen

Game: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developer: PlatinumGames
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Expected release: February 2013
Territories: All
Price: $59.99

Read full impressions

Sideway: New York – fun platformer at the right price

During my visit in England recently, I came across a PSN demo on my friend Ranulf’s PS3 that he really liked. I thought I’d give it a shot, and it turned out to be a game that’s just over a year old, and one that I’d seen before, probably on Youtube, but hadn’t tried myself. It turned out to be just as cool as it initially looked – a 2D platformer with graffiti-inspired story and style. The main character Nox has to navigate his way in a graffiti-world that he unwillingly gets sucked into, and needs to find and fight the evil Spray. In the modern gaming era, the 2D-platformer genre has been diminished to a state where it’s mostly getting indie, modestly-priced entries on PSN/XBLA/Steam. There are some notable exceptions, like Rayman Origins, but those are quite few and far between. That said, having indies work on 2D platformers is not a bad thing at all – nowadays, they’re the ones most willing to innovate (be it due to willing to make a name for themselves, or just sheer passion and desire to deliver something unique – a drive that many big companies in the industry have either lost or are too afraid to exploit anymore). Sideway features some of that much-needed innovation, combined with game design concepts that have been tested and proven through the years.

Sideway New York Cover

Game: Sideway: New York
Developer: Playbrains
Platforms: PlayStation Network, PC
Original release: 2011
Territories: All
Price: $9.99

Read full impressions

Video Game Music of the Week – 03-09.12.2012

I recently played and reviewed Valkyrie Profile, a game that’s not that well-known, but is truly among the best PlayStation RPGs. In the review, I chose the beautiful song “Behave Irrationally”, which describes the mood of the game very, very well. But there are a few other songs I liked quite a bit, and I’m sharing one of them with you today. It’s called “Blameless Thoughts” and plays after you defeat the boss in a dungeon, while you’re collecting the loot and then making your way out.

Composer: Motoi Sakuraba
Game: Valkyrie Profile
Song:  Blameless Thoughts