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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Favorite Tunes #194: The Platform Boys are Back in Town

Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot. Three of the biggest names in platforming, all of which had or have big games coming out this year, making 2017, a great year for platform fans. Besides, some platform kings, there's also music from Final Fight and Rad Mobile.

Level 4 (Venus) - Descent (PC, PS)


Descent was one of my earliest entries into 3D gaming. It was a one of the first FPS I ever experienced and it was the first time I ever got motion sickness from a video game. The AI could learn and adapt to your attacks, which was pretty impressive stuff for the times. And of course, the soundtrack was killer.

Fall Head Over Heal - Rad Mobile (ARC)


If Rad Mobile is remembered for anything, it would have to be it's killer soundtrack with a few, ahem, interesting track names that I'll probably get around to posting sometime in the future. The other thing Rad Mobile is famous for is that it is the first game that Sonic appeared in. It's a cameo appearance but Sonic was a air freshener before running around in Green Hill Zone in 1991.

Katana - Final Fight (SNES)


Originally concieved as part of the Street Fighter series, Final Fight broke off and became it's own animal, but was still set in the Street Fighter universe. When it came time to bring the arcade hit to the SNES, this version was hit some some serious santization. The two player mode was removed, among other things and the boss of the second level, Sodom, was changed to Katana. The SNES sound chip is understandably different from Capom's arcade boards, but I still dig the SNES renditions of Final Fight's music. Gotta love that guitar whaling in this theme.

Treetop - Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)


When thinking of some music to represent gaming's most iconic plumber, I was originally going to spring for something from his console releases, but decided to go for one his earlier handheld titles on the Game Boy. Super Mario Land 2 has a wonderful soundtrack that reuses it's main theme to great affect. This is still some Kazumi Totaka's best stuff.

The Eel Deal - Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)


While Crash's long awaited return is in the form of remakes, it is no less a joyous occasion. The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has done remarkably well and could pave the way for brand new Crash adventures. Despite the copious amounts of frustration I've endured, I've really enjoyed my time with N. Sane Trilogy. The instrumentation for the sewer levels may not quite match that of the original game, but I find this version playing in my head more than the PS original.

Tabloid Jargon (Press Garden Act 1) - Sonic Mania (PS4, XBO, NS, PC)


I actively avoided hearing any remixed or brand new music in Sonic Mania leading up to it's release because I wanted my experience with it to be as fresh as possible. Tee Lopes blew us all away a year ago with his Studiopolis Zone Act 1 track and it's probably still his most popular track from the game. When I arrived in Press Garden Zone, I could not believe the music that my ears was being blessed with. More over, Studiopolis Zone Act 1, there's a new king of Sonic Mania tunes, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Favorite Tunes Database

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Sonic Mania Effect


When Sonic Mania was revealed a year ago, the reception was overwhelmingly positive. A brand new 2D Sonic game done in the spirit of the early Genesis era titles. Developed by the same team that brought us those outstanding iOS/Android Sonic the Hedgehog 1-2 and Sonic CD remakes, there was little to no doubt that Sonic Mania would be a phenomenal game. Now the game is out and it has been scoring 8s and 9s, which is of course, splendid news. Having spent some quality time with the game myself. I can say that it does live up to the hype. Unfortunately, Sonic Mania's success has caused some to once again hop on to the ridiculous notion that Sonic games have been terrible since the character entered 3D, leading to eye rolling, click bait videos like WhatCultureGaming's "Sonic Mania Finally Nails What Sega Messed Up for 23 Years."

Nostalgia, as warm a feeling as it is, can a be very blinding. It can cause one to focus on nothing but the good, completely dismissing or even failing to acknowledge any faults. Whether it is with critics or fans, many Sonic players suffer from one of the worst cases of selective memory that I have ever seen.

While Sonic's heyday may ave been the early 1990s, even those games had their fair share of flaws. Sonic 2, what many consider to be the best Sonic game puts the camera focus on Sonic at all times and Sonic's sprite is pretty dang large. because the camera is centered on the Blue Blur, enemies often get the drop on you. Mystic Cave Zone has an infamous spike pit that's easy to fall into, Metropolis Zone is home to to some of the worst Badniks in any Sonic game, often placed in the worst spots and the aforementioned camera focus only compounds this problem. The first Sonic game had level design and a speed cap that mitigated surprise enemy attacks, something Sonic 2 fails at.

It isn't unusual to hear Sonic CD being labeled as the best Sonic game ever. The game has some cool, interesting concepts like time travel and the levels encourage exploration even more than Sonic 2, but the zones in Sonic CD are some of the worst of any Sonic game. I'm not saying that to make a bold statement or get people riled up. I'm serious as a heart attack when I say that. Collision Chaos takes the pinball nature of earlier Sonic games and goes way too far, culminating with a boss fight that can either be finished in seconds or be drawn out. Wacky Workbench has a crazy floor mechanic that sends the player bouncing sky high, making it exasperating to play through. Metallic Madness is a maze that's irritating to navigate because so much of it looks the same. To make matters worse, Sonic CD's stages are loaded with more springs and spikes than in any other Sonic game and springs are often positioned to where they will launch you into said spikes or an enemy. Stardust Speedway is one of the zones from Sonic CD that was used in Sonic Mania and when I arrived there, I was met with a sense of dread. The same annoyances from Sonic CD cropped up when I played the level in Sonic Mania for both acts. Stardust Speedway is a mess of a level that has you bouncing back and forth from springs and curves more than anything else. I can appreciate Stardust Speedway from a cosmetic and audio standpoint, but that's pretty much it. It has always been a crappy level and as much as I like Sonic Mania, the level's inclusion (with the exception of the killer Metal Sonic fight) is a low point for me.

Do those mars make Sonic 2 and Sonic CD awful games? No. Sonic CD doesn't crack my top 5, but I certainly would never call it bad. However, these games do have problems, problems that have been ignored by both fans and critics time and time again. Any 3D Sonic game that has the issues I mentioned above are heavily scrutinized. So why do Sonic's earliest games get a pass on this stuff while his 3D games with camera troubles, cheap deaths and whatnot get crucified? Just because one style of games gives you the warm and fuzzies does not make them immune to criticism.

Things labeled against the early 3D Sonic titles are usually the voice acting and bad cameras. Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes like any other games released during the periods are products of their time. How many games released at the time actually did have good voice acting, good lip syncing or a camera that didn't suck? Mega Man 8's voice acting is well known for being atrocious at this point but Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game held in very high regard, had a lackluster voice acting. Even Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time had camera problems. Yes, the first Sonic Adventure is glitchy, but some of those glitches you have to go out of your way to trigger. Dunkey brought up the glitches of Sonic Adventure when reviewing Sonic Mania, and this struck me as odd because one of his favorite Mario games is Super Mario Sunshine, a game that is rife with glitches and a host of other problems. Not enough to make Sunshine bad, but you can tell that his bias is clearly showing when he's willing to let early 3D Mario get away with it, but not early 3D Sonic.

This lovely thing called "middle ground" gets tossed out the window for a lot of people when it comes classic and modern Sonic games. It's either good or bad, and when it comes to these games, often the case being good if it' a classic game and bad if it's a modern game and I've never understood that.

Sonic Mania is not perfect. It's still possible to suffer from some cheap deaths and due to SEGA's meddling, we've got numerous Act 1 stages that are basically ripped from old games, which means a good chunk of the levels are not original. It also includes one of the worst zones in a Sonic game. Despite those problems, though, Sonic Mania is still an awesome game. Best Sonic game ever? I'm not ready to make such a claim this early, but it is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of 2017. I'd love to see more Sonic games like Mania, but at the same time, I don't feel the entire franchise should be dictated by it because contrary to what many would have you believe, Sonic can be good outside of two dimensions.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog



OverClocked ReMix has done a number of Sonic albums over the years like Hedgehog Heaven, Project Chaos and Temporal Duality. The latest in the line of soundtracks to center around the Blue Blur is for his big 25th anniversary, which was actually last year, but whatever. Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog (whew, that's a long title) was released on June 22, so like just like this album and Sonic Mania, I, to, am late with this blog post.

What I really like about this album, outside of the excellent arrangements, is that it covers a good chunk of Sonic's history. Not only are Sonic's early days represented in the form of Sonic 1-3 and even the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, but Sonic's later adventures like Sonic 2006, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World get some love. There's a variety of genres covered across this three disc digital album including two of my favorites, jazz and rock. The third disc is the shortest of the bunch, consisting of a club edit and two instrumental tracks on the other two discs.

If you haven't checked this album out, give it a listen. A lot of effort went into this thing and I firmly believe it is near the top of the list of the best Sonic albums OCR has put out. Besides, you could use you sweet Sonic tunes to listen to while you count the hours down until Sonic Mania's release.

Speeding Towards Adventure: 25 Years of Sonic the Hedgehog

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Favorite Tunes #193: Surf Punks

Inching ever closer to 200, this week's Favorite Tunes is a dozy. There's from consoles, handhelds, the 8-bit era as well as current gen titles. I even picked out some music from a very infamous kickstarter title. Three guesses as to which game that is.

The Silence of Daylight - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)


Castlevania II has not enjoyed the same level of fame that the original or it's sequel has. While far from being one of the worst games on the NES, Castlevania II is rife with Guide Dang It movements that make it hard to enjoy the game. Bloody Tears is often the first track that springs to mind when music from this game comes to mind, but really, this game is filled with great tracks like Monster Dance and this town theme.

Surf Punks - Conker Live & Reloaded (XB)


One of the last games to be released for the N64, Conker's Bad Fur Day would later be remade for the Xbox, which fans are quick to label as an inferior remake due to swearing being censored even more. I'm not going to weigh in on that argument, but I will say that the original had some great music and a lot of it benefits from the real instruments used in the remake, especially tracks like Windy and another of my personal faves, Surf Punks.

What the Heck - Earthworm Jim: Special Edition (SCD, PC)


Much how shooters are everywhere today, back in the 1990s, platformers were in no short supply and after the debut of Sonic the Hedgehog, emphasis on mascots with attitude really kicked into high gear. There were copious amounts of also-rans, but there were some real contenders in the bunch like Earthworm Jim. The Special Edition release of the first game had an arranged soundtrack that took advantage of the improved CD-based hardware. Nothing like going through a level that is clearly meant to be Hell only to have the background music have the record scratch and turn to something peaceful. With a side of screams.

It All Begins Now - Mighty No. 9 (Multi)


You cannot talk about Mighty No. 9 without bringing up the controversy that surrounds it. What began as a very promising kickstarter that was funded in a few days back in 2013, spiraled out of control and led to a game that wouldn't be released for three years, a very flawed game at that. Mighty No. 9 certainly isn't Beck at his finest, but there's some good in there. You may not be able to tell during gameplay, but the soundtrack isn't too shabby.

Opening - Style Savvy: Trendsetters (3DS)


I found out about the existence of this game by scrolling through My Music in Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Style Savvy: Trendsetters is actually the second game in the Style Savvy series with the original being released on the original DS. The third game, Fashion Forward finally made it's release outside of Japan in 2016. You could dismiss these as casual games for girls (the series is actually called Girls Mode in Japan) but you'd be wrong. No doubt you've heard the remix of this theme in Smash, so here's the original.

Infinite Azure - Tekken 7 (PS4, XBX, PC)


Will those Mishima boys ever settle their differences? Probably not. If there's no Mishima drama going on, where's your Tekken story? Some have argued that Tekken music has gotten worse over the years, favoring the soundtracks from the earlier Tekken titles. Tekken 7's soundtrack can get quite drum 'n bass and dubstep heavy (the later genre, something most people tend to hate) but there's some good music to be found. This track is very much a throwback to the type of music you'd hear in Tekken 2.

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tekken 7's Jukebox Mode is One of the Game's Best Features


By no means am I competitive fighting game player but I've been a fan of the Tekken series ever since I played Tekken 2 on the PlayStation in 1996. I've played just about every entry that has made it to consoles except Tekken 6 and while I'm a few months late to the party (as per usual), I finally picked up Tekken 7 earlier this week. The game has more Mishima drama then all the previous Tekken games put together, tons of old faces along with a few new ones (I'm liking Lars a lot), and as always, it feels great landing combos on your opponents. Maybe it's the sound effects used, but there's just something so satisfying about connecting hits. And for all the great technical and gameplay stuff Tekken 7 has going for it, I found myself getting super jazzed about the PS4 version's Jukebox mode.

Anyone that reads this blog knows how much I love video game music. Can't get enough of the stuff. Just as I became a fan of Tekken's 3D fighting back in the mid '90s, so too did I become a fan of it's music. When I booted up Tekken 7, I was met with a pleasant surprise in the form of Jukebox mode. This mode allows you to make playlists featuring the music from every single Tekken entry that was given a console release. That's Tekken 1-6, Tekken Tag Tournament 1-2 as well as the music from Tekken 7. This also includes the arcade versions of Tekken 1-3 as well as Tekken Tag Tournament. That's a whole lot of Tekken beats to choose from.


Tekken 7 does have some good music but a lot of it is on the "too loud" side, almost to the point of some tracks being not much else besides noise. So you can imagine what an amazing feature the Jukebox mode is. Not only can you replace Tekken 7's more grating tracks, but the music in previous Tekken games is just really freaking awesome. Some of my favorite tracks from past Tekkens include include Ring a Bell (Tekken 2), For Hidden Characters (Tekken 3), The Strongest Iron Arena (Tekken 4, and Poolside (Tekken 5). 

You can select whatever song you want from any of the above listed Tekken games to play on any of the stages in Tekken 7, two songs per stage. However, It isn't just limited to stage music. Like Tekken 2's PS arrange of the character select theme, Are You Ready? Or what about Tekken Tag Tournament's PS2 arrange of Character Select? You can throw down to both of those. Even the numerous Staff Roll themes can be selected. If you don't feel like going through Tekken 7's many stages and hand picking a bunch of tracks, you can just set it up so it only plays music from a specific Tekken game such as Tekken 5 or Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

The amount of music options Tekken 7 gives you is astounding. Well, for the PS4 release, that is. I have no idea why such a feature is exclusive to the PS4 and XBO and PC owners get screwed. Maybe Sony thew some money to Bandai Namco to keep the Jukebox mode on PS4. Your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully, this feature hits other versions of Tekken 7. Along with the fighting, having complete freedom of your music in Tekken 7 is an incredible feature, one of the game's best.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Favorite Tunes #192: Hard Road

Favorite Tunes is back to the usual Saturday slot. In time I may switch it to a later day, but for now, Saturday is it's home date. For this week, I've selected music from Rave Racer, ARMS, and Cave Story to name half the list.

Scrapyard (Mechanica's Theme) - ARMS (NS)


As much as I enjoy hearing ARMS Main Theme get arranged many times over, it was quite refreshing to hear some tracks break away from it. Battling in the scrapyard treats you to a funky, dance-tastic beat. If I had to pick a favorite stage theme in ARMS, it would be pretty close between Ribbon Girl and Mechanica.

Wrong Love - Rave Racer (ARC)


Unlike Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, Rave Racer never received a PS port. Rave Racer's two brand new courses were included in the PSP Ridge Racer 2005 release as well as a few remixed tracks from the game. Sadly, none of the original songs from Rave Racer have ever been included in any Ridge Racer title outside of the original Rave Racer. Sucks because Rave Racer's soundtrack is really freaking good.

Gravity - Cave Story (Multi)


Originally released on PC in 2004, Cave Story later landed on Nintendo platforms starting with the Wii in 2010. The latest release is Cave Story+ for the Switch, a port of the 2011 Steam release with a remade soundtrack by RushJet1. One of the many great things about Cave Story+ is that includes it all of the remade soundtracks as well as Daisuke Amaya's original score.

Scene 2 Stage 3 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (ARC)


Often hailed as one of the best Turtles and licensed games, Konami's beat 'em up  was a shell of a good time (I am not sorry for that). You could partner up with three buddies or three strangers in the arcades to show Shredder what's up. This bad boy finally recieved a home release in 2007 on Xbox Live Arcade but the game was removed years ago, making MAME the only option for anyone wanting to play this arcade classic. Much of the music was 1980s synth goodness, often arranging the main theme of 1987 cartoon show.

Korok Forest (Day) - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NS)


Exploring has never felt better in a Zelda game and there a numerous methods of taking out enemies, weapons in hands or not. After going through one of the coolest versions of The Lost Woods, you'll arrive in Korok Forest, home to the Korok race. There are a few arranged themes in Breath of the Wild, but most of the songs are original tracks and I'm all for new music. This just might be my new favorite Lost Woods jam.

Hard Road - Super Hang-On (ARC)


While being different games, Super Hang-On and Out Run do share some similarities. Both games take you around the world and offer an blistering sense of speed thanks to SEGA's Super Scaler technology. Like Out Run, Super Hang-On has a super soundtrack. The game let's you choose from four tunes and each song is quite lengthy. If you're picking the Expert course, which consists of 18 stages total, then you've just gotta have Hard Road as your listening music.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cave Story+ Famitracks


Cave Story+ is the latest release of the hit indie game that was originally released on PC way back in 2004, though in truth, this is a re-release of 2011's Cave Story+ on Steam. The Switch version of Cave Story+ has all the content the Steam release had, plus a remade soundtrack by RushJet1, who did a fantastic job covering Daisuke Amaya's original chiptune compositions.

If you picked up Cave Story+ on the Switch, you may have been surprised to see that not only did the game come with a colored instruction manual (a rare sight these days) but also a soundtrack CD containing 13 tracks. Pretty nice bonus for a re-release priced at $30. Anyone that knows Cave Story, however, knows that the game's soundtrack is comprised of far more than 13 tracks, in actuality, more than 40. RushJet1 has the entire Switch soundtrack of Cave Story+ Famitracks up on his Bandcamp page at a name-your-price download. So you can pay nothing or throw some cash his way.

I actually haven't heard Cave Story music in years and listening to it all over again reminded me of how rich this game's soundtrack is. If you haven't heard this game's music in a while, give it a re-listen. If your ears haven't been exposed to Cave Story jams, you don't know what you're missing.

Cave Story+ Famitracks