Video Game Music of the Week – 11-17.03.2013

Captain Tsubasa had some awesome entries on the SNES, but when one thinks of SNES, one of the first games to jump to mind is inevitably Square’s dream project, Chrono Trigger. It’s one of my absolute favourite games in history with its beautiful tale of time travel, interesting cast and energetic battles. Its soundtrack is also quite amazing, the first true masterpiece work by then rising, now well-established game music composer Yasunori Mitsuda. While Chrono Trigger’s very titular music is among the video game themes I like the most, for the Video Game Music of the Week feature, I’ve chosen another one I like a lot, which is still one of the not-so-famous Chrono Trigger songs (even though pretty much the whole soundtrack is famous), Corridors of Time. It plays when you enter the Kingdom of Zeal.

Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda
Game: Chrono Trigger
Song: Corridors of Time

Video Game Music of the Week – 04-10.03.2013

Captain Tsubasa V was a relatively big departure from the established style of the Tsubasa games, but, after more careful examination, the difference was mostly visual. You could see players in a side view on the pitch now, but the ability to pause play at any moment and select your action remained. Still, some changes to important mechanics, like offsides finally being introduced, made the game quite unique within the series. But what I loved most about it was the important role given to Nitta, one of my favourite Tsubasa characters. It was also fascinating that V featured quite a few real-life footballers’ fictional representations (Batistuta, Effenberg, Papin, etc.). Like its predecessors, Captain Tsubasa V had a nice soundtrack, the final match being quite awesome with both teams’ themes being really good. The one I’ve chosen is Japan’s final match theme, which is based on the old penalty kicks theme, but quite different.

Composers: Hiroshi Miyazaki, Chinatsu Okayasu
Game: Captain Tsubasa V: Hasha no Shougou Campione
Song: Japan’s Theme – Final Match

Video Game Music of the Week – 25.02-03.03.2013

Captain Tsubasa IV was quite the pioneer in the series, introducing awesome stuff like branching scenario paths (there were 4 different main scenarios), and different weather during matches. Unfortunately, some simple things kept it from being truly great, such as the fact that aerial shots (volleys and headers) were WAY stronger than ground shots, to the point where hitting a normal volley with a player was more powerful and more likely to turn into a goal than using that player’s special ground shot. But still, the conversion of Tsubasa and company to pros was imagined and presented in a fascinating way. And, in 2-player mode, the game even featured legendary Japanese “real-life” footballer Kazuyoshi Miura, also known as “King Kazu”, or simply “KAZU” in the game. Captain Tsubasa IV also had a really good soundtrack, and I’m sharing one of my favourite songs with you today – Italy’s theme, which plays during one of the four possible final matches of the game.

Composer: Hiroshi Miyazaki (a.k.a. Sugito Miyashiro)
Game: Captain Tsubasa IV: Pro no Rival Tachi
Song: Italy’s Theme

Video Game Music of the Week – 18-24.02.2013

Captain Tsubasa III was a great successor to the glorious second game. As the first entry of the Tecmo series on the SNES, it kept strictly to the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” rule, adding some sweet things like 2-player mode. Some small shortcomings like the relatively low difficulty in comparison to the ruthless Captain Tsubasa II, less exciting story, and graphics and character art that couldn’t quite match the second game, which had achieved pretty much the maximum possible on the NES, kept it from being as revered as Captain Tsubasa II in fans’ hearts, but it was still a really good game. The soundtrack had a few gems, too, even if the composer was different this time. One of my favourites is the first Japan theme, which I’m sharing with you today.

Composer: Shake Keijin
Game: Captain Tsubasa III: Koutei no Chousen
Song: Japan’s Theme (1st)

Video Game Music of the Week – 11-17.02.2013

In the good old days when I’d rent NES games (primarily of the bootleg kind), the cartridge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project was on when I first came across it was one of those many-in-one carts. It had neat games like Binary Land, Arkanoid and Wrecking Crew… But it also had an amazing game that pretty much took over my life at the time, and has been my favourite ever since. Tecmo’s Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker – the football/soccer RPG whose excellence I already talked about in the Top 10 Hidden NES Gems list. I remember when I first found out the sound test menu by accident, I was so happy I could listen to my favourite music from the game for as long as I wanted. Today, I’m sharing my favourite theme from Captain Tsubasa II, the theme of Hyuga and Wakashimazu’s Toho FC, which you’ll hear during one of the most difficult matches in the game. It’s quite badass, fitting the team and especially its captain nicely.

Composers: Mayuko Okamura, Mikio Saito, Keiji Yamagishi
Game: Captain Tsubasa vol. II: Super Striker
Song: Hyuga’s Theme (Toho FC)

Video Game Music of the Week – 04-10.02.2013

Battletoads were, of course, considered a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoff back in the day. In reality, the two had little in common aside from being about fighting human/animal mutants. Another thing they had in common was awesome NES games. The first TMNT NES game is quite notorious for its difficulty, much like Battletoads, and a lot of people hate it. Not me, though, it’s one of my favourite NES games. But my true TMNT favourite is The Manhattan Project, the third game in the NES turtle series. Aside from being a really balanced beat-’em-up, unlike its predecessor, the shoddy port of the first turtle arcade game, it also had a really good soundtrack – not uncommon for an 8-bit Konami game. My favourite theme plays in Scene 5, which takes place in the sewers.

Composer: Yuichi Sakakura,Tomoya Tomita, Kouzou Nakamura
Game: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
Song: Scene 5

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

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.

Read full review

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