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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]


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 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 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 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]