Monthly Archives: July 2012

Musical Monday VI – the DS wants a turn

[I am on holiday until Saturday 4th August, so to prevent Musical Monday from missing a second week this post is brought to you via the magic of scheduled publishing.]

Musical Monday returns for its sixth episode today after a week’s absence to help us celebrate all things great and good in video game music. As I promised at the end of the previous post, this week we will be shining the light brightly on the Nintendo DS and some the games that have helped it to become my favourite handheld gaming system.

For this week’s first choice I think I’ll go with my most recent DS purchase, Pokémon: SoulSilver. I bought this game at the same time as Kirsty (my sister) bought its counterpart, HeartGold. The plan was, as you can imagine, to play through at a similar pace to ensure that we can continuously trade and battle with competitive and fair teams. This plan worked well in Diamond and Pearl, which were the last Pokémon games we played together. We both made it to the Elite Four battles with there never being more than one gym battle separating our progress. I currently have a one victory lead over Kirsty in our battles in these games, thanks mostly to my level 68 Gyarados, which she caught for me at level 5 to trade for one of my Pokémon, though I can’t recall what it was. In SoulSilver I have been slacking behind, with just over half of Kirsty’s total playtime. We are both taking our DSs on holiday, so I hope to make some progress towards catching her up during the downtime in the evenings. This is especially important now, because she has just added one of her all-time favourites, Entei to her ranks.

On to my choice of music now. So far I have enjoyed all of the music this game has presented to me, but I had to choose one so I settled on the New Bark Town theme. This theme is responsible for welcoming you back into the Pokémon world. Beautifully peaceful; it’s there to convey a sense of adventure and make the player look forward to the journey they are about to embark on. When I first heard this theme, along with the sounds of the ocean waves crashing onto the beach I just fell in love with it. I personally don’t think there are many gaming experiences that are quite as magical as starting a new Pokémon adventure. I just need to give it the attention it deserves over the next week and beyond, and start catching Kirsty up too.

My second choice today comes from graphic adventure game, Hotel Dusk: Room 215.  The graphic adventure genre has always been one of my favourites throughout my gaming life, so when this game was recommended in a review by Gamecentral I knew it was one I had to experience. When it finally crashed through my letterbox I wasn’t disappointed. I really like the art style this game employed, with black and white characters that contrast well against the coloured backgrounds. The piece of music I have chosen from this game is one of a number I enjoyed listening to both during the game and after completing it via the BGM player on the main menu. Titled ‘On the Rocks’, it is the theme that plays during certain interactions with your fellow hotel guests. I want this to remain as spoiler-free as possible, so I will finish by saying that this music fits the atmosphere in these situations perfectly.

This game seems to have slipped under a lot of people’s radar. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it though, and if you get the opportunity I certainly recommend taking a look at it. Kyle needs your help to track down his buddy Brian.

My final choice this week stars an individual who must surely be regarded as the most enthusiastic defense attorney to ever step foot in a courtroom. Of course, that title can only fall to one individual, Phoenix Wright. I owe my initial experiences with this series to my good PSN and Xbox Live friend Luke, who kindly allowed me to borrow his copy of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I fell in love with this series straight away. The protagonists are very likable, which meant I was easily able to engage with them and relate to their feelings and emotions about each case. This is especially true during the final stages of each case when there is joy and happiness aplenty flying around. I am currently on the fourth case on Trials and Tribulations, and am looking to finish it off during the next week or two, alongside making progress on Pokémon SoulSilver.

The music that I have chosen is played during the court proceedings. Phoenix has caught his victim in a story-crippling lie, and now it’s time to put the case to rest. One must wonder, with all the lies told in this court, how the prisons aren’t full of people sentenced for perverting the course of justice. I guess it’s just a good job that the judge is so forgiving in these instances.

That’s all for this week. Thank you as always for reading, and I hope you enjoyed listening to these choices as much as I do. For next week’s post I will go back to not restricting myself to one platform, but there are still a number of DS titles that will be appearing over the next few weeks.

If you have played/are playing any games in these franchises I’d certainly be interested to read about how you are progressing once I’m back from holiday. Also, if you have played the sequel to Hotel Dusk (Last Window: The Secret of Cape West) I would like to read your thoughts about it and how you think these two games compare with each other. I’d quite like to pick it up myself sometime over the summer.

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Holiday and a thank you

After I press publish on this post I will most likely be seen flying around the house in a similar fashion to how you’d expect a hyper-active cazador from Fallout to behave. This is because my family begin our holiday today, and in a classic holiday preparation move we’ve left everything until the last possible moment. That 9:30am target for leaving Rugby is looking more and more unlikely as the seconds flick by. Everything I want to take with me is sat on my bed, just waiting for me to put it in bags, so I wanted to write a quick post on here to cover a few topics before I go.

Firstly though a little bit about our holiday. We’re heading out to Skegness for a week, which is a common holiday destination for us. We didn’t have a holiday last year, but the two years previous to that Skegness was our destination. The site we will be staying at is about 20 miles outside of Skegness, which means it doesn’t get the same level of customers as sites in Skegness. This means that it has a lovely and peaceful atmosphere that is difficult to find at the more popular sites. Overall, I quite like our holidays to Skegness, but after visiting Snowdonia National Park earlier this year, I would quite like to spend a week there either next year or in 2014. There will most likely be a blog post appearing about what we did when I return.

The next topic I wanted to talk about is Musical Monday. I have written next weeks episode, which is scheduled to be published in my absence at around 8pm BST on Monday. I wanted to ensure that there wasn’t a second week where one wasn’t posted because I know, with my habits, that two weeks would become ten before I could even imagine. That’s certainly not what I want to happen.

And finally I wanted to give a big thank you to everyone who has visited my blog and had a read this month. The number of visits I have had through July has completely blown my previous highest out of the water. It did actually equal this back on the 16th July if I remember correctly, which I couldn’t believe, and since then it has gone on to all new heights of its own. After holiday I plan to add a lot more variety to the content that I post, so I like to think there are exciting times ahead. I do have some posts that are nearing completion that I originally wanted to post before my holiday, but I haven’t been able to complete them as yet. They will definitely be posted shortly after I return to Rugby though.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and thank you as always for stopping by. Now, I guess I should go and get packed. 🙂

Musical Monday V – some forgiveness required

As I look back at the games that have entered my life over the nineteen years of gaming I have enjoyed I can easily recall many fond memories which will always stay with me, and I will certainly still look back on with a smile long into the future. From my beginnings helping my Grandad complete some of the puzzles in Pushover and working my way through the timeless classic Lemmings, to finally picking up the platinum trophy in Wipeout HD and completing Mile High Club on veteran in Call of Duty 4 after losing my will to continue on more than one occasion. During my time writing my Musical Monday posts I have enjoyed going back to some of these games that have left me with fond memories and celebrating them through their music. For this episode though I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to shine the spotlight on two of the games that I have been meaning to play for some time, but have yet to do so. I do ask in advance for your forgiveness for the second game I’m going to mention.

I can think of only one game to start this week’s selection off, and that is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Ever since I took a friend’s advice and bought Oblivion back in the winter of 2008 I have loved this series. This was one of the first role-playing games that I had experienced, and I am so glad I did. Fast forward a few thoroughly enjoyable months and the same friend said that they had recently turned their attention to Morrowind. This conversation planted the seed of thought in my mind, and after taking a moment to look into it, I decided that I too would like to experience this game. Whilst I am yet to play Morrowind myself I did find myself deciding to search for a ‘let’s play’ on Youtube one quiet afternoon last summer. After a little bit of searching I settled down to watch one by GixG17. He had taken the same step back from Oblivion to Morrowind that I was planning to take, which allowed me to relate to his comments about the game and experience easily. His commentary and self-made interactions with the NPCs also added a very interesting and entertaining aspect to the videos and simply made the play through a pleasure to watch. I loved listening to the music playing in the background whilst watching his videos, and quickly found myself searching for it to listen to the soundtrack in all its glory. Relaxing and upbeat, it’s the sort of music that I could easily lose hours of my day listening to. I love all of the Elder Scrolls’ soundtracks, but I think Morrowind’s might just take first place if you asked me for my favourite. Since my recent return to PC gaming early last week I have decided that the time has come to finally experience this brilliant game for myself, so I’ve made a note to buy it at some point in the coming weeks.

The second game, or more accurately, series in today’s spotlight also needs no introduction. It has received almost universal critical acclaim since its first appearance as a part of The Orange Box back in 2007. It is, of course, the Portal franchise. I honestly have no good excuse for why these two games have not made it into my collection, especially when a quick search of the internet shows I can pick up both The Orange Box and Portal 2 for less than £15 each. Both have been on the list of games I want to buy for some time, and I know that I will definitely enjoy playing them as I do love a good puzzler. It wasn’t until me and my college friend were discussing some of our favourite gaming music from times gone by and he brought these games up that I realised how good the Portal soundtracks are. I love them! Especially the two credit themes. I am planning to correct this issue of not owning either of these games in the coming weeks, but in the meantime the soundtracks are doing a brilliant job of keeping me entertained.

That’s all for Musical Monday this week. I’d like to give a huge thank you to my sister Kirsty, who possesses a graphic design ability that I can only dream of, for designing my new Musical Monday banner. Thank you to you guys as always for stopping by and having a read. I hope to add a touch of variety to my content here between now and next week, when Musical Monday will return to celebrate some of my favourite Nintendo DS game soundtracks. It seems only fitting considering that’s what I’ve been listening to while writing this week’s post.

[Video credits: Morrowind – TurinMroczny, Portal 2 – TheMediaCows, Portal – OverTheGun]

Musical Monday IV – from libraries to mountains

It’s Monday again, which means it is once again time for me to bombard you with some of my favourite video game music from times gone by. Last Monday I was saying that I hope for a July filled with pleasant weather. Since then we’ve seen our country drenched under a month’s worth of rain. I have been ill since last Thursday though, so a positive in some regards is that I was never caught out in it. Unfortunately, it also meant that this post suffered a delay in being written, and was still in progress as Monday became Tuesday.

The first game I have chosen to be in the spotlight this week takes us back to a point-and-click adventure game by the name of The Longest Journey. This is another game that I have to be thankful to my Grandad for helping me discover, after he shown me the demo during one of my weekend visits in 1999. Without him sharing this with me, it is quite possible that this wonderful game would have completely passed me by. It would have been a great shame if this was the reality because I have always been a big fan of point-and-click games, from Monkey Island to Broken Sword. I remember that when I was given The Longest Journey for Christmas that year my computer’s hard drive required a quick spring cleaning session before I was able to install it. The 1GB of space it required was a sizable chunk of my 6GB total my computer had to offer. Whilst this was an annoyance at the time it was certainly worth it to experience such an enjoyable game.

The theme I have chosen sits comfortably in the middle chapters of the story. At this point in the story April is required to visit the Library of the Sentinel Enclave to learn more about The Divide and history of The Balance between the Magical world of Arcadia, and her home world, the technology driven Stark. This theme is played in the background while you are reading a selection of the library’s vast collection of books. I would always take my time reading the various stories and historical accounts, taking in every detail while thoroughly enjoying this music. I really wish that other games would include music similar to this when you are reading books. I would happily sit for hours in my character’s Arch Mage quarters on Skyrim reading through the books I have collected on my travels. I still do of course, but I feel music like this would certainly add to the atmosphere.

My second choice for this week’s post welcomes one of gaming’s most well-known characters into the Musical Monday spotlight. Lara Croft will be reborn in her upcoming game, currently scheduled for release in early March 2013, but for this choice we will be going back in time to her second adventure. The story was an interesting one; Lara, and her adversaries, were on the trail of the Dagger of Xian, an ancient artifact with the mysterious power to grant those brave (or stupid) enough to stab themselves through the heart the life and luxuries of a dragon. I think if I was presented with this opportunity I would kindly refuse and go and play one of my Spyro games. To use a saying that may only just fit this situation, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  Tomb Raider II was also the game that first introduced the popular sport of locking butlers in giant freezers (admit it, you couldn’t resist doing this at least once).

My chosen theme is one that you will encounter in the later stages of the game. Simply named ‘Skidoo Pursuit’ it plays when, you guessed it, Lara hops onto a skidoo for the first time during her adventure through Tibet. This first experience of skidoo riding never lasted for a few seconds because I insisted that she switched that noisy contraption off and listened to this music. After the music had finished she was more than welcome to continue her journey, but silence ruled during these two-and-a-half minutes.

As always, I hope you enjoyed listening to these themes as much as I do. For next week’s episode I plan to talk about some of the video game music that I enjoy listening to even though I haven’t actually played the game it belongs to myself. Some will be music that I have enjoyed while watching Let’s Plays on YouTube, others will be music that has been recommended by friends. Rest assured that each game that I will mention has a secure place on my ‘to play’ list. I will also hoping that I won’t be struck down with illness next weekend, resulting in another post being fresh off the keyboard at 2am the day after it was meant to be posted.

[Credits: The Longest Journey theme video – SuperGuitarDude, Tomb Raider II theme video – MioRaem]

Musical Monday III – the ‘Main Menu’ edition

Musical Monday returns today to help us welcome what will hopefully be a warm, sunny July. This series has found itself on an extended hiatus so far this year, with the last post being back in December 2011. Things were quite different back then: I had rather different career goals to what I do now (more on that soon), snow was falling across WordPress (I hope this makes a return in the winter), and the new Tomb Raider still had a 2012 release date. I’ll just put all that to one side for the time being, and move on to introducing my chosen game soundtracks for this week.

My first choice for this week’s edition takes us back to one of my favourite PC games of recent history, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl. I remember the day me and my Dad went into town to buy it better than I do with most games. This is because it actually shared its release date with the European launch of the PlayStation 3 (23rd March  2007), which I admit did give me a level of minor amusement at the time. I had the scene I expected to find at the game store made up in my mind — me and my Dad with our copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R standing in the middle of a long line of fellow customers, each cradling a shiny new PS3. This vision of mine never made the transition into reality though, because we shared the store with just one other customer. He was actually purchasing a PS3, but it still made for a very underwhelming reality compared to how I had imagined it would be. I would have happily joined this individual in purchasing a PS3 myself, but back then, with that £425 price tag it was far beyond anything we could afford.

The theme I have chosen will be easily recognisable by everyone who has allowed a copy of any of the three S.T.A.L.K.E.R games to enter their PC. The music that plays on the main menu has remained the same across the entire series in the same manner as another favourite of mine, the Uncharted series. This is something that I like game developers to do; I feel it gives you an open-arm welcome back into the series and also encourages you to cast your mind back to how it felt to play the previous games. I think this theme does a brilliant job of introducing you to the eerie atmosphere ‘The Zone’ possesses (Lab X18 and X16 especially), and to the hopeless survival situation the characters find themselves in. I always had to wait for it to finish before I moved off the main menu to play the game, which is something I also do with Uncharted and Skyrim. I’ll be quiet for a few moments now to allow you to enjoy this piece of music.

The next theme I have chosen takes us a little further back in my PC gaming history, to a game by the name of Far Cry. I first played this particular game as a demo at my Grandparent’s house. I fell in love with it almost as soon as I first set eyes upon it. Never before had I seen a game with scenery this beautiful: stunning tropical backdrops, golden beaches and a crystal clear ocean. It’s true that I have always had a fondness for the (much) smaller features in games. In this game’s case it was the ability to throw rocks to lure away enemies. In that moment of discovery, I had no doubts that this was the best idea to ever find its way into a game, and it’s entirely possible that I was guilty of giving a number of these rocks a watery new home just off the coast.

After getting Far Cry that Christmas I found it to be as good as I could have hoped based on my impressions from the demo. I fell in love with tropical settings during the course of this game, and through the course of the story many more rocks went splashing into the ocean. As far as I can remember this was the first game I have played where I found myself choosing to wait on the main menu for a few minutes to take in the music. I’m not sure what else to say about this theme other than it did a brilliant job of putting me into a mood to play the game. It made me want to hunt down and kill any enemies I crossed paths with. It left me wanting help Jack find a way out of this situation he found himself in. It made me want to send a jeep crashing through the gates of an enemy outpost. Now with the third entry in the series just a few months away, and a return to a tropical setting shown in the various trailers we have seen, there isn’t a better time for me to pay homage to one of my all-time favourite PC games.

[Video credits: Far Cry – ilikesmecookies, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – xRussianYulia17x]