Sometimes, all you want to do at the end of the day is go back to a time when you had no commitments, responsibilities, or anal retentive professors breathing down your neck (Grrr). For me, this usually means dusting off the ole gaming systems and going back in time to the early 90's when I was just a kid. Mom listened to me plead for an SNES or Sega System but only had enough money to buy a used NES and a few of the classics. I was disappointed at the time, but now I make sure to thank her whenever I remember how much geek cred owning one has gotten me. I'll give you a hint: It's a LOT of 'cred'.
As I was saying, the moment I slide that cartridge into the slot I'm 7 years old again and saving Princess Zelda or getting pissed off that Princess Peach is in another castle. But what brings me back more than the familiar story or gameplay is the music that accompanied the game. When compared to the music you hear in modern games it might not sound like much, but not only has it become legendary within the gaming community, it's become an iconic part of pop culture. Play the Super Mario theme for literally anyone and they'll tell you what it is at the drop of a hat or say 'That's the song about that plumber dude, right?'
Mario aka 'Plumber Dude'
It would seem that the composers realized how much of an important their work has been to gamers because the familiar themes have never really gone away. Over the years we've seen many new versions of the 'ground zero' games and while the soundtrack has been packed with new content, the melodies we've come to know and love keep coming back and sound better each and every time.
Here's the thing, out of all of the games that qualify I would have to choose the Zelda series as my top soundtrack. It's a super hard decision, but to me Zelda stands apart because it has evolved in such a way that it's become an entity standing apart from the game. This is especially apparent when you listen to the 25th Anniversary Special Orchestra CD. For the fan who's played every game in the series it evokes all the images and memories of their experiences, but for the casual bystander it may be the soundtrack to a film or an industrious television show. Some pieces may have even been written by classical composers, who are they to know? The songs convey the whimsy, adventure, and magic that the Zelda series is all about.
For the especially nerdy fans (aka Me) there's even more to appreciate about each new soundtrack hiding just below the surface.
In The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (one of my all-time favorites), we explore an alternate timeline in the Zelda universe where after the events of the classic installment 'Ocarina of Time' the Gods have saved the world from evil by flooding everything so that there are now nothing but islands everywhere. When you sail across the vast seas instead of riding across plains or fields, like you would have in previous titles, you get a particular 'Pirates of the Caribbean' feel to the adventures and the music reflects this. But amongst the new and beautiful compositions you can hear little nods to the original games and locations featured in them.
In Wind Waker, Outset Island is the home of the hero of the story (An incarnation of Link) and if you listen closely to it's musical theme there's a small part where a wind instrument plays the theme from the Kokiri Village which is the home of the hero featured in 'Ocarina of Time'. This subconsciously gives players who are familiar with the franchise an emotional tie to the island! In fact, Wind Waker's soundtrack is loaded with remixes and new renditions of the music of its' predecessors. This clever move by the composer and developers reels the Zelda fans in by their nostalgia nerve (That's a thing, right?) all while delivering an exceptional game that definitely deserves it's spot in Zelda lore.
It's just so freaking beautiful!!! Gah!
Something similar happens in one of the more recent Zelda games, 'Skyward Sword'. Now in Skyward Sword we're in what is believed to be the prequel of sorts to the Zelda franchise. But all you really need to know is that the dynamic of Link and Zelda's relationship is much different. To me there's always been something separating them emotionally, but in SS they have always been good friends and you can really sense that they care deeply about each other, maybe they're even in love.
Now this game has gotten lots of criticism for how the motion controls operate and general complaints about gameplay, but I happened to enjoy it. *Ducks flying tomatoes. Yes it has problems, but the story touched me in a way that I wasn't expecting. Zelda is captured (Of course) and Link goes to save her (Of course) but both of them go on a simultaneous journey to realize what they are destined to become and achieve. For Zelda this is to go into a deep sleep to keep evil locked away, something that breaks her and Link's hearts but she does it to keep the world safe. Link finds that there is another way to keep evil sealed away by getting the Triforce (Of course), thereby awakening Zelda from her sleep to be reunited with Link. The whole thing is quite touching and uplifting, really.
So, in nearly every existing Zelda game we've heard the track 'Zelda's Lullaby' played at least once. Ask any fan and they'd tell you it's become a staple of the franchise. This song can be heard again when she goes into her deep sleep, fitting right? Now, the main theme of Skyward Sword is called 'Ballad Of the Goddess' and it can be heard throughout the story, most notably when we first meet Zelda in the end credits after Zelda wakes up. If this theme sounds vaguely familiar to any Zelda fan that's because it is the melody of 'Zelda's Lullaby' backwards. So when she goes to sleep the 'Lullaby' plays but when she awakens we get 'Ballad'. Get it?
Yeah, I just blew your mind, right?
It's apparent that The Legend of Zelda franchise has a rich lore all it's own and I truly believe at least half of it is rooted in the music. The developers understand how instrumental it can be in keeping their faithful fans coming back for more of the epic story of The Hero all the while enticing newcomers to the franchise. You can almost see the story unfold as you listen to the soundtrack and that's a true mark of a talented composer.
If you're a fan of the games, chances are you've probably bought at least one album already, if not then you need to remedy that fact ASAP. If you're not a fan but enjoy instrumental music that kickstarts your imagination, I'd recommend buying one of the soundtracks, in particular the 25th Anniversary.
What are your favorite nostalgic game soundtracks? Think I made the right choice? Tell me in the comments below!
This week, I'm starting a new feature called "Casting by Phoebe" where I take an existing IP (intellectual property) that hasn't been adapted into a film or TV show and present to you, the actors that I'd like to see in the roles of the IP's major characters. It can be a video game, comic book, novel, toy line or anything else!
For this first one, I'd like to present my casting choices for a video game that nearly everyone loves, Final Fantasy VII. While the Final Fantasy brand has seen many semi-adaptations in the past including films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, we've never seen a Final Fantasy VII live action movie and if they ever did one, the first one they should do is Final Fantasy VII as it has the most hard core fandom of all of the games. Heck, the fans somehow have manged to convince Squaresoft to remake Final Fantasy VII with updated graphics, so when it comes to a live action adaptation, never say never...
Although Final Fantasy VII has enough story to be probably be a TV series, I could see a movie studio like Sony, presenting a Final Fantasy VII movie in a cool three-part story ala The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. So without further ado, here are my selections.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin, Kingsmen: The Secret Service
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He is an actor that has a great intensity and can be humorous.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Sarah Manning, Orphan Black
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: She has a great range for this rugged woman and can kick butt as seen in Orphan Black.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Scarlet Witch, Avengers: Age of Ultron
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: Has the right look and can gain the sympathy of the audience when she dies.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Terry Jeffords, Brooklyn Nine Nine
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He has the energy and sensitivity to pull off the role of a man with difficult decisions to make.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Sam Flynn, TRON: Legacy
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He can pull off the swagger and voice for this oddball character.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Gollum, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He can deliver a dynamic and fun mo-cap performance of both Cat Sith and the Moggle that would be unforgettable.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Nicole, Fresh off the Boat
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: She has the maturity and comedic timing to do this young sprites character justice.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Gally, Maze Runner
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He can dig deep to play this dark immortal.
Red XIII (Voice)
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Tywin Lanister, Game of Thrones
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: He plays a lion already on GOT and had a rich voice that speaks with authority.
BIGGEST ROLE TO DATE: Loki, Marvel's Avengers
WHY THEY'D BE GREAT: Because, I mean, this would cause every fangirl's head in the wolrd to explode, right?
So there they are. Agree? Disagree? Let the arguments begin!
If you saw the Emmy's earlier this week, than you noticed that everyone seems to be obsessed with Game of Thrones. Who am I kidding, I'm most definitely obsessed with it too. It's both gratifying and strange for a geek when the entirety of pop culture suddenly shares the same obsessions as you do. You get so used to people not knowing what the heck you're talking about that when others talk circles around you about the latest episode and theories or predictions therein you freeze up and look like a deer caught in the headlights! The HBO hit has become so popular that it's even gotten it's own video game. You know you've made it when video games are being made of your work.
Congratulations, good sir!
A company called 'Telltale Games' helmed the Game of Thrones game and, surprise surprise, it became a hit. For those unfamiliar with Telltale, they started back in the early 2000s and are best known for releasing their titles episodically in a similar fashion to television and for the game mechanic of having the players make choices throughout the game that effects what happens and how it ends. They had a so-so start with some great titles as well as some pretty terrible ones.
But in recent years they've really come into their stride and it has a lot to do with a little title called The Walking Dead, yet another franchise people are obsessed with. Telltale beautifully crafted a bittersweet story that made it's players care desperately for the protagonists all with the backdrop of a devastating zombie apocalypse. The game took elements both from the TV show most people know about as well as the graphic novel series, from which the TV show is based on. Telltale's greatest strength right now seems to be making interactive fan-fictions from the most famous properties and giving players the opportunity to choose what happens in them.
Though if I'd really had a 'choice' this annoying asshole would've been dead in five minutes.
What most people seem to forget in their GT and TWD craze is that Telltale has adapted comic books more than once and made a title that was not only well put together but intriguing and fun, heck it got amazing reviews from video game websites across the board! It was a sadly forgotten tale known as 'The Wolf Among Us'.
'The Wolf Among Us'
The Wolf Among Us was released in October 2013, in between TWD Season One and Season Two, and is a prequel to the main storyline of a graphic novel series called 'Fables'. The basic premise is that all the fairytale characters we know and love have been banished from their own world by an enemy known only as 'The Adversary' and sent to live in our own. Most of the conflict and drama comes from them being stripped of their 'happy endings' and having to deal with the harshness and moral ambiguity of the modern world we live in. Fables is mostly a mystery/action series that follows how the characters we thought we knew live amongst us 'Mundies' (normal humans) as well as with each other, all while fighting 'The Adversary'.
Before I get to the game, I'd like to just quickly say that you should really check out the graphic novels! Not only are the stories fresh and captivating, but the art and character design is spectacular. Check it out when you get the chance.
The Wolf Among Us takes place before the events of the first issue of the Fables series, the late 80s in Manhattan. Our protagonist is Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of the fables's community known as 'Fabletown'. He is none other than the Big Bad Wolf from every fairytale you've read, now reformed he has the arduous task of hiding the Fables from the Mundy world as well as keeping fables in line. After saving a fable prostitute from his old, drunken foe The Woodsman, she has a cryptic conversation with him and later that evening Bigby finds the girl's decapitated head on his doorstep.
You play as Bigby in the game, trying to find the prostitute's killer and uncovering what may be a far bigger and more sinister crime involving the whole of Fabletown. Like most of the Telltale games, you make decisions throughout like where to go search for clues first or how to interrogate a suspect. Players will also have to respond to quicktime events for chase scenes and fights that are some of the best, if not THE best, that Telltale has ever developed. Wolf Among Us has all the tropes from the crime mystery genre and pays it's respects to classic noir. It's odd to see such fantastical elements and characters play around in this type of medium, but by God does it work well!
Screenshot from game.
Screenshot from game.
The art style of the game takes a different artistic approach than the comics, using much bolder and vibrant color schemes while playing around with shadows and light in a way that I haven't seen in Telltale try before. They still manage to keep the classic comic book style though, it's especially noticeable when you see the faces of the characters up close. You could probably compare this style to what is seen in TWD games, although TWD has a much more subdued color scheme with lots of bright red thrown in. They're in a zombie apocalypse after all.
Wolf got rave reviews when it was released and even won an award, yet TWD and GOT has gotten all the attention. Wolf baits us with a possible sequel at the end, so it's presumed that we haven't seen the last of Bigby, but at the same time, Telltale has yet to announce its production. We know they're giving us another season of Walking Dead, more GOT, some Borderlands (also very good), and a TBA Marvel production, but no word on more Wolf.
I just hope that they haven't ruled out TWAU as a weak contender against their other games. The game does have strong following online and in the gaming community, though the more popular titles draw in newer players who wouldn't be interested otherwise. Don't give up on Bigby, Telltale, please! We need more of the Big Bad Wolf!
Yes, I've had a bit of a preoccupation with scary things as of late but can you blame me? Stores are already putting out Halloween decorations and there are trailers for horror films everywhere. Hey, if we're gonna start celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving then why not start celebrating Halloween now!
But seriously, I've gotten into the spirit of the season and lately there hasn't been a better way to bask in the spookiness then by listening to some music fit for the mood. No I'm not talking about One Direction (sorry, it was far too easy), I'm talking about soundtracks. Whereas most normal beings have popular music in their library, mine is filled with soundtracks from all manner of films, video games and television shows. It's not that I think all pop music is bad (though some of it REALLY is), but to me music is supposed to inspire and speak to you in a way that nothing else can. Soundtracks do the trick for me. I know I'm not the only one, everyone within my geek clique owns at the very least several soundtracks, all of which they highly recommend.
Today I'm going to recommend a soundtrack perfect for the Autumn season, one that you'll want to listen to with all the lights on: Silent Hill.
Or if you're a glutton for punishment, listen to it with headphones on in the dead of night.
Silent Hill is a PlayStation video game that came out in 1999. It was helmed by Konami Entertainment and created by Keiichiro Toyama who is also known for the 'Siren' series. Silent Hill is considered by many to be the father of all current survival horror games as it brought new and creative ideas to the horror genre. Rather than simply throwing monsters and scary locations at the player (though it certainly does that as well), SH gets under the players skin by playing with the psychological aspects of horror. We follow a widowed father named Harry Mason as he traverses the small town, 'Silent Hill', to find his daughter, Cheryl. As he explores the not-so-abandoned town he stumbles into an occult plan to bring about a terrifying deity that my have some connection to Cheryl.
The game masterfully makes the player on edge during each second of gameplay. I won't get too far into why the Silent Hill game or the series in general is so amazing, as I'll probably go over it closer to Halloween, but I will tell you why the soundtrack is a huge part of it's success.
A huge component of horror is atmosphere. If you can't convey a sense of dread or unease then it'll be harder to make others feel anything, let alone scared. Akira Yamaoka composes a soundtrack that perfectly conveys what SH is all about. The opening theme sets up the game perfectly, the urgent strumming of the mandolin at the beginning has a haunting, creeping melody to it which goes into a more 'rocky' portion of the song that, while catchy, feels vaguely sorrowful and hopeless. When listening to the soundtrack on it's own you'll discover that most of the songs can't quite be classified as, well, 'songs'.
It is cold, hard ambient music that barely contains a melody. They're constantly riding the line between music and noise. Yamaoka relied heavily on industrial music as the influence for his music. 'Beats' and 'melodies' are made from clanging metal, disembodied growls, crazy rapid drums, static, ghostly cries and even rasping breathing. Imagine running from monsters all while that plays incessantly in your ear. Don't get me started on the theme in the final battle; the high-pitched static feels like it's trying to grind you into submission. I nearly had a real life panic attack when I tried to soldier on and beat the final boss!
'Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!' ~Me
However, like the opening theme, there are some normal songs scattered amongst the more terrifying tracks. The song 'Not Tomorrow' is a sad, guitar heavy melody that fits very well with the scene it's paired with. 'Killing Time' sounds like it should be in a grindhouse flick with a freaky as heck guitar. 'She' is a rather emotional ballad that reminds me of a certain famous folk rock song. While I swear that I've heard 'Silent Hill (Otherside)' in an episode of Twin Peaks.
All in all, the SH soundtrack is designed to make you feel distressed and paranoid and it does the job perfectly. I actually wouldn't suggest you listen to the soundtrack by itself too often, as it does it's job too well. You'll start seeing things out of the corner of your eye and swear on your grandmothers grave that someone or something is watching you from out the window. But for ambience at a Halloween party or even a haunted house? Definitely. Still, I encourage you to buy the album if only to appreciate the genius and importance this music had on a genre that's going strong to this day. If only the games they made today had this caliber of music...
Would you agree with my opinions on the game and it's soundtrack? Is there another soundtrack I should talk about? Let me know in the comments below! And please support these amazing artists by BUYING their songs and not downloading!