Video Game Music of the Week – 28.01-03.02.2013

SNK are known for the notoriety of their fighting game bosses… But back in the day, games were just much more difficult than they are now. To beat a game was an achievement in itself, and some games took it even further. Take Rare’s Battletoads, an NES gem and probably one of the first games people (at least those who have played NES games) will think of if you ask them to name incredibly hard games. It’s a huge hurdle to even make it past a quarter of the game, and playing co-op actually made your job harder rather than easier. Aside from the difficulty, the game also had some really rad music, with the Pause theme being particularly popular (in more recent times, partly also thanks to AVGN). And this week, I’m sharing one of them with you – Stage 2’s theme.

Composer: David Wise
Game: Battletoads
Song: Wookie Hole

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Video Game Music of the Week – 21-27.01.2013

With games like Samurai Shodown, Neo Geo was the heaven for fighting game fans. But, of course, the true flagship of the console was SNK’s King of Fighters series, uniting stars from various former SNK franchises. True to the name, the games provide an amazing 2D fighting experience. Today, I’ve chosen a song from one of the last King of Fighters installment on the trusty and quite old by then Neo Geo hardware, The King of Fighters 2003. The theme I’ve chosen is called “Splendid Evil”, and is the theme song of the game’s newly introduced anti-hero, Ash Crimson. Just like last week’s theme, it is composed by the acclaimed SNK composer Tate Norio.

Composer: Yasuo Yamate (a.k.a Tate Norio)
Game: The King of Fighters 2003
Song: Splendid Evil

Mass Effect 3

Already since the first game, I felt that the Mass Effect series was the grandest undertaking of the current console generation. And now, having finished the trilogy, I am absolutely certain of it. While none of the individual games are perfect, this is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The vast, detailed universe (actually, that is just the Milky Way galaxy) BioWare have created, with all the different intelligent species, with hundreds of planets, with complex political relationships, is beautiful. Just beautiful. I can only think of a handful of cases in the history of gaming where comparable amounts of effort have been put into crafting a game/series’ universe. And Mass Effect may actually be THE most complex one of all.

Since I first played the game quite a few months after it came out, I couldn’t help expecting a mess of an ending, as that was the almost unanimous opinion among gamers on the internet. However, I can now safely say that those claims are incorrect. Mass Effect 3 provides a very fascinating conclusion, staying true to the principles of the series. It’s natural that there are people who don’t like it, but, given the size of the saga, there is no possible ending that couldn’t have ticked someone off. So fear not, BioWare did NOT mess up with Mass Effect’s ending. It’s a fitting conclusion to the saga.

Mass Effect 3 Cover

Game: Mass Effect 3
Developer: BioWare
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Wii U
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

The third game in the series is another solid entry. Like the second one, it improves on some things in the predecessor, but is then weaker in other aspects. The thrilling struggle against the Reapers and the brilliant finale have Mass Effect easily leapfrog the second game in terms of overall story. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up as far as conversations/development of your teammates goes (even though we are already familiar with a great part of them). Annoying gameplay features from the second game like streamlined stats distribution as opposed to precise, point-by-point growth, and thermal clips (ammo), sadly remain here. Neat things like hacking are completely gone. It was clearly important for BioWare to keep the game tuned for the average gamer and maximise its sales. But those issues still do not detract much from the overall excellence of Mass Effect 3.

Seeing as I played the game on PC, this is another review where I provide my own screenshots.

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Video Game Music of the Week – 14-20.01.2013

For this week, I’ve chosen music from another arcade hit on the immortal Neo Geo – SNK’s Samurai Shodown. The Samurai Shodown games are among the finest fighting games ever created, and easily the best weapon-based ones. There are plenty of awesome songs in the whole series, the one I’ve chosen here is Earthquake’s theme, Ground. It’s an awesome mix of heavy metal and Japanese traditional music, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Composers: Yasuo Yamate (a.k.a Tate Norio), Masahiko Hataya (a.k.a. Papaya)
Game: Samurai Shodown
Song: Ground

Video Game Music of the Week – 07-13.01.2013

The first video game music of the week to be posted in 2013 comes from another arcade shooter – Sammy’s Viewpoint on SNK’s glorious Neo Geo. I remember the game being insanely difficult with its rather weird isometric view, I don’t think I ever made it past the first stage. On the other hand, the music was quite groovy, and thus, I’m sharing the first stage song with you.

Composers: Sizla, Masaki Kase, Megumi M.
Game: Viewpoint
Song: Not There At All

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.

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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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