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Musical Monday IX – the unabandoning

Musical Monday

Something really great happened last week. A gamer in the outskirts of the town of Rugby was finally able to rekindle his enjoyment of gaming. With his consoles finally reclaiming the much more significant role they had previously been known to enjoy in his life, and inspired by the helpful placement of Monday, he thought to himself ‘what better time to finally sit down and create the ninth episode of Musical Monday?’

And so it became known. Almost ten months after the previous episode Musical Monday once again washes up on the shores of The Formula Magician. So put that sand castle construction project on hold for just a moment, and let’s have a listen of some of that video game music we all love.

Purple and gold sit proudly in second and third place on my list of favourite colours. They’re colours shared both by my Musical Monday logo and the main character for my first game this week. It was a game that was thoroughly enjoyed by both myself and my sister Kirsty back in those fabled days of the original PlayStation.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon had everything we could have hoped for from one of our favourite series at the time. It had an interesting storyline, all of the characters that helped Spyro on his journey were likable (well, maybe Agent 9 was an exception. I can never seem to find as much love for him as the others). It also had the skateboarding mini-game that me and Kirsty lost hours enjoying as it provided more entertainment than any actual skateboarding video games have ever managed to match.

We found our copy of Spyro 3 last week and wasted no time in returning to the early days of Spyro’s gaming career. The series has never really been able to provide the same touch of excitement since the arrival of the PlayStation 2, and the quite disappointing Enter the Dragonfly. Kirsty also discovered the secret to performing the Raging Ripto skateboard trick. We had only managed to pull this trick off once before, but now Kirsty can do these time and time again, and has since taught me how to do it. Needless to say, poor Hunter no longer stands a chance in those face offs he challenges you to.

Anyways, onto my chosen theme. The music from the level Frozen Glaciers brought the memories of this series flooding back when we arrived in the snow-covered world. This world remains well known for the great yeti boxing match for the grand prize of Bartholomew’s ball, which could easily be one of the game’s most frustrating sections. The frustration would melt away, even on the frozen fields, once you left ringside and allowed this music back into your living room. Such a calming theme that I could happily listen to for hours.

The second game I have chosen for this week’s post is also enjoying a spot on my ‘currently playing’ list. I finally finished the story of Jak II this past weekend. My original plan, as you can imagine, was to move straight onto Jak 3 to continue the story. Unfortunately I realised that I’m currently unable to do this thanks to my decision last year to buy and download each of the Jak and Daxter games individually from the PlayStation Store. This left me without Jak 3 and, with the family holiday and an A2 textbook purchasing spree coming up, limited funds to commit to buying any new games. My attention was there for the taking. Then came a voice.

“Hey, madhatters13! Why have you never played me? Remember when you spent an entire night downloading me in all of my 7GB of glory? Why do that for nothing? You know I’m an excellent game, and don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve heard you listening to my soundtrack. Forget all those other games! Just click my icon, and prepare for a fantastic journey. How about it?”

In my defence, my mind did jump straight to my usual disclaimer that games may be left abandoned for indefinite periods of time. I couldn’t deny it did have a point though, so I took it up on the offer. I clicked Shadow of the Colossus on my PS3’s XMB and have loved every moment of it since. I’m currently on my way to the fifth colossus, Avion, which has been promised to be a pain just to catch. So far things are going pretty well though and I’ve only been reduced to the height of a pancake once. This came curtsey of the third colossi’s sword.

The soundtrack I have chosen has always been one of my favourites ever since I first heard it while listening to the game’s soundtrack. The Opened Way does a fantastic job of building the excitement and tension while you are struggling your way up and attacking the colossi. Hanging on for dear life as each head shake and sudden movement sends Wanda flailing around and leaves you hoping that he doesn’t lose his grip completely. That’s also happened twice to me so far, and it didn’t make for a fun sight seeing Wanda falling from those heights.

[Video upload credits: Spyro: Year of the Dragon -Ronaldowen273 | Shadow of the Colossus – ZEROxxCross]

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Musical Monday VIII – “Let’s go!”

Musical Monday returns for its 8th episode this evening, hoping that it can bring a little smile as we look back on some great video game music. I found it rather more difficult to choose what games to include this week, due to all of the brilliant games my friend James reminded me of on Saturday. Hopefully I will get around to including all of these games in a Musical Monday post eventually, but for this week I have chosen two franchises that we both love: the ever popular Lemmings, and everyone’s favourite holiday destination Silent Hill.

Let’s start with Lemmings. As far as I can remember this was one of the first franchises that I played when I first started out on my gaming career at the wee age of four. At this age there was a large element of trial and error involved with trying to complete levels, especially in the later stages. I quickly lost count of the number of times I managed to trap my lemmings in a hole I’d told them to dig where the only escape is a perilous drop into some unkind elemental nasties, resulting in certain death. The good thing about Lemmings though was that even in the face of complete level failure you could still have one last bit of fun before retrying. This was to give those poor guys five precious seconds to live before blowing them sky high. I can’t begin to imagine what thoughts went through their minds in these last moments of life, although I think there may have been some curse words in there somewhere. In the later levels failure became a much more common occurrence, and my little end-of-level mini-game was to see how much destruction I could cause to the landscape with the final explosions. It was almost a disappointment if a lemming’s death didn’t take anything else with it. I still enjoy playing Lemmings on my PSP from time to time, and I don’t think any other games have ever allowed you to quit a level in such style.

And now to a world that couldn’t be further from the colourful and jolly lands the lemmings inhabit. My first experience of Silent Hill was when a demo of the first game came with Metal Gear Solid. This was also the only time that I have played any of these games by myself, and after scaring myself silly in that elementary school, I decided that I would only ever play it again if friends or family joined me. I do enjoy playing these games, but even now my imagination always gets the better of me when that radio static kicks in walking down those deserted streets, so I can promise that you will almost certainly never see me playing them when the darkness of their world is shared by our own. So far I have managed to soldier my way through Silent Hill 2, 3 and 4 with my Dad. My favourite of those would have to be Silent Hill 3. Even though it successfully managed to scare me faster than any other game I have ever played with those overly cheerful looking, but blood covered bunny costumes in that theme park. I liked the main protagonist Heather more than her counterparts from the other games, although there isn’t that much between her and James Sunderland. Even though I was almost always too scared to play it alone, I would sometimes brave putting the game on just to listen to the opening music before the days of YouTube made it so much simpler. I wouldn’t venture passed the main menu screen if no-one was willing to join me in playing it though.

I’m not sure why Silent Hill has always had this effect on me. I can play other survival horror games like Dead Space and Resident Evil and do little more than jump at some of those sudden attacks. I haven’t played Slender yet, but I’d like to see which of the two categories that fits into. I have a rough idea.

That’s all for this week’s Musical Monday. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to these soundtracks as much as I do. If you still have an appetite for more video game music goodness after reading this I’d certainly recommend hopping into your boat and setting sail for No Tune Unturned on Twitter, where a new tune hops into the spotlight each day. I definitely think it would be worth the trip.

Musical Monday VII

Carrying more delays than an overstretched train network on a Friday afternoon, Musical Monday makes a return for its seventh episode this evening. This week’s post looks back at the series that I shared my first experience of the Xbox 360 with. It is also the series that has occupied the majority of my gaming time over the last few weeks as I play catch up on the story in preparation for the next addition to the series which hits the shelves early next month. All this is a particularly long-winded way of saying Halo.

I’m quite pleased with the speed that I have been bringing myself up-to-date with the goings on in the Halo universe. Normally when I buy a game everyone else who starts playing it around the same time as me finishes it long before I would ever do so myself. On my travels around WordPress this weekend I read a post where the author reminded me that Skyrim has been out for almost a year now – that I have had it for almost a year. Unless you looked through my questionably high number of backup saves you probably wouldn’t think so given the progress I have made. I love the game to pieces, but I’ve only racked up about 55 hours play time due to my inability this year to play any game continuously for an extended period of time. Halo has been different so far, I have completed Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and am currently working my way through Reach’s campaign. Once Halo 4 comes out I should have been successful in my mission to replace ‘bringing’ with ‘brought’ at the start of this paragraph, although if I do that I should probably get rid of the ‘have’ too. But anyway, let’s go find us some of that brilliant Halo music.

The first theme that I have chosen will almost certainly come as no surprise. The main theme is up there with my favourites from Uncharted and Far Cry. Like those games’ menu themes it never fails to bring back memories and emotions felt through the story, and considering it was the first theme that I heard on my shiny new Xbox 360 four-and-a-half years ago it has a permanent place in my memories. The menu theme for Halo Reach has also had a similar effect on me. If I had to choose a favourite though I’d still go with the original theme.

The final theme this week tells you exactly what you’ll be doing during this brilliant piece of music. Titled ‘Warthog Run’ it helps to bring Halo 1 and 3 to a thrilling close during that frantic escape. Fora a few seconds in the middle it also manages to remind me of some of the music from the Playstation 3 game Warhawk, so it gets bonus points for that. I’d love to hear if it reminds you of Warhawk, or if I’m just being strange.

That’s all for this week’s Musical Monday. I’m certain you have enjoyed listening to these themes many times yourself, but it just doesn’t seem right to continue posting my favourite game soundtracks without including some of these fantastic pieces of music.

As always thank you for reading, and I look forward to seeing you on the battlefields of Halo 4 next month.

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.

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]