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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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5 years on PSN: The Musical – Year 1

The 14th February marks the day when my PlayStation Network account turns five. The ingredients for the cake are in the cupboard and ready to go, but since Musical Monday has been feeling left out recently, I thought it would be neat to run through some of my favourite games and most memorable pieces of music that my PS3 has allowed me to bring into my home. If everything works out these posts will all be finished by the dawn of February 14th and this month will take the title of most active month of posting for me on here.

Let’s start with the game that began my PS3 gaming experience, Ridge Racer 7. This is a game that takes all the physics of driving and drops them in the trashcan outside the studio. What you’re left with is a brilliantly unrealistic masterclass in the art of drifting. Cars flying around corners sideways is normal for this game, and for this reason both singleplayer and multiplayer were never unable to provide enjoyment. Progress far enough in this game and you were rewarded with a rocket-powered limo and a vehicle that’s closest comparison I can think of is the Shagohod from Metal Gear Solid 3. It lacked the missile launcher of the Shagohod, but it didn’t look much like your average car either. Let’s call it the happy medium for now. The soundtrack was brilliant throughout, and here we have one of my favourites. My ‘lucky music’ as it were.

My second choice for year 1 is still my favourite third-person shooter, and was the first game that I put any significant amount of time into playing multiplayer. Please welcome Warhawk to the spotlight. During my time playing I reached the lofty rank of Command Sergeant and was somehow able to obtain the Master Tank Medal, the game’s mid-level commendation. Warhawk may have been criticised in some camps for being an multiplayer only game, but I had many fantastic evenings playing it with my friends. In my opinion it also has the best capture the flag model on the PS3. Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten around to buying Starhawk, but the happy memories of the shenanigans me and my friends got up to while playing Warhawk will remain forever more.

The music I have chosen comes from the pre-1.3 version of the game. The old main menu music still makes me smile today.

My final choice for year 1 comes from one of my favourite video game developers, Naughty Dog. Having already won me over during the PS1 and PS2 days with the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series, it went without saying that their PS3 newcomer Nathan Drake would be finding his way into my home. Uncharted didn’t disappoint. It had my favourite video game setting, hidden away in the islands and jungles of lands far sunnier than my home. It had three brilliant protagonists in Nathan, Sully and Elena Fisher. And to top it all Naughty Dog had even included a few trinkets to remind us of their past games. The soundtrack fitted beautifully with the game, and I still don’t think it’s possible to listen to the title music without having an urge for adventure surging through your veins. This was my favourite of all the games I played in year one, and here’s Nate’s theme in all its adventurous glory. Please give us more, Naughty Dog.

Musical Monday II

Mondays are depressing, there’s no denying that. But they don’t need to be, because another video game soundtrack visits The Formula Magician to help lift the mood and wash away the stress.

This week’s edition brings the clocks forward to early 2009, when a game known as Persona 4 landed on our shores. Before reading its review on Game Central I had never heard of Persona, or its parent series Shin Megami Tensei before. Over the years I have come to be very trusting of Game Central and it’s reviews, so when I saw that it had received — if memory serves me well — a nine, I knew it was a game I had to keep an eye on.

In the weeks following this review readers of GC were writing in to sing the praises of Persona 4 after purchasing it on their recommendation. I started to feel like someone stood looking into a room full of people laughing and joking. What exactly am I missing out on here? There was nothing to do but hit the internet and get myself a copy.

Fast forward a few days and a familiar sound comes from downstairs. Why, it’s the sound of a game crashing through the letterbox, so like my cat when he hears biscuits pouring into his bowl I was downstairs in a flash to collect the game that had occupied my thoughts since the moment I ordered it.

Before placing the disc into my PS2, I stopped to think for a moment. This was the moment when, if asked if I’d played a turn-based RPG before, I could give a better answer than “Well, I helped my sister raise her Blastoise to level 100 on Pokémon Leaf Green.” Considering all the highly regarded turn-based RPGs out there, this answer never seemed to be received too well.

There were two key factors in ensuring that this soundtrack was going to become one of my favourite of all time. The first was the intro music, which was so upbeat that I couldn’t help but love it. This game had me hooked before I’d even gotten to the main menu! Every time I play Persona 4 I will always watch the opening cut scene, and I often find myself cranking up the volume too (it’s not known whether my neighbours appreciate the free sample of the soundtrack). The other key reason was that every copy came with a soundtrack CD, something which is often reserved for special editions, sold separately or just never makes it into existence. In the following days I wasted little time in putting the soundtrack on just about everything capable of playing music that I could lay my hands on: my iPod, PC, PSP and a few weeks later, my PS3 (it might be incompatible with PS2 games, but Sony weren’t stopping me from listening to the soundtrack on it). It’s a real shame that more games don’t come with soundtrack CDs, because as I’m sure you can guess, I’d certainly appreciate it.

With next Monday being Boxing Day I have something a little different planned to mark the occasion, but I think I’ll step aside now and let you enjoy some of Persona 4’s music.

[Video credits: Uploaded by Zaramie and Slayer0]

Musical Monday

A question posed itself on one of the websites I frequent a few days ago: do you enjoy listening to video game soundtracks?

Ever since a fairly young age I have appreciated how much a good soundtrack can add to a gaming experience and, conversely, how much a not-so-good soundtrack can take away from said experience. In the past few years I’ve also come to realise how much more enjoyable some of life’s more mundane tasks become when listening to some of my favourite game’s music. Why, even now I’m listening to one of my favourite game’s soundtracks — not to say blogging is mundane, because it certainly isn’t, but to state how habitual it has become for me.

Because I have such a fondness for game music, I thought this idea of a series about my favourite soundtracks would be a nice addition to my blog. So each Monday from today I will be picking a game and posting about the songs that have a special place in my memory.

After spending a while over the weekend thinking about which game should have the honour of going first, I figured where better to start than with the game where it all began as a game-loving 10-year-old: Metal Gear Solid. Before playing this game I would often turn off any background music, but the very first song that played in Metal Gear would guarantee that I would never be doing it with this game. Known as ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ it first plays as Snake makes his entrance into the Shadow Moses base. I’d never heard anything like it before, and it  managed to reach out and grab me almost effortlessly.

The second time this song made an appearance it had an even more powerful effect on me. In the later stages of the game you meet Sniper Wolf for an ultimately final confrontation. After the dust of battle has settled this song plays once again as Snake speaks to Sniper Wolf before she succumbs to her mortal injuries. I can’t remember what they say, but I know it was depressing. How do I know this you ask? Well, because it was the first time the events of a game had brought me to tears. Every playthrough after that I skipped this particular cut scenes whilst wishing there was a way to progress without having to end Sniper Wolf’s life. Have I cried because of a game since then? Well my good readers, that’s a secret!

There are many other great songs in the soundtrack, but this next song deserved a mention for being the only song I’ve ever played through almost an entire game just to listen to — a title it is almost certain to keep thanks to YouTube. It is of course ‘Rex’s Lair’:

After making your way through a room which honestly has more CCTV cameras than even an extreme case of paranoia could explain you find yourself at the end of a short corridor, which opens out onto a cavernous warehouse. This music plays, and you find yourself standing head-to-toe with Metal Gear Rex itself. It does a brilliant job of reinforcing how powerful Metal Gear is and how hopeless the situation Snake finds himself seems.

Now it’s over to you guys. Do you find yourself listening to game soundtracks when you’re not gaming? What are you favourites? Please share them in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.

[Video credits: Uploaded by alvaroduck]