Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Pokemon Music

How can I not talk about this of the Midweek Music Box?  Really, you should have seen this coming. I mean, seeing as Pokemon Go has stormed not only mobile gaming, but the world at large.

"Only now do you understand. Only 
now do you begin to see our true power....

Yes, it seems only fitting to devote this week's Midweek Music Box to a collection of songs from the franchise that helped Nintendo to reconquer the world: Pokemon

Original Game Intro/Title Music:

"Intro/Title Music Pokemon Red and Blue"

How iconic can you get? I mean, it was amusing, adventurous, and cheerful--exactly what you have come to expect in any given Nintendo property when it comes to the music.  Little did we know at the time this simple tune would 20 years later----

"Has it been that long?"


20 years later become one of the most iconic tunes in gamedom, taking a spot up there with Legend of Zelda and Mario. And, much like those two beloved franchises, it spawned a TV show with a theme song that entered into history itself. Speaking of which:

Pokemon: Indigo League

"Theme Song"

I'm guessing there's a world of difference between belting out, "I want to be the best, like no one ever was," and "Do the Mario!" It was wise of the cartoon creators to keep going and making the series and it's pretty incredible to think that the series has kept on going in one form or another. Even Mario and Link didn't get that opportunity. For many of us though, this particular song and intro music still represents the one and only Pokemon TV show theme song. Yes, there are numerous spin-offs and leagues and such based on the follow up games, but none of them quite have the same go-get'em attitude of the original. It's lyrics not only spell out the goal of Pokemon trainers, but has a catchy and energetic beat. Sure, it seems corny now, but to encourage kids to be the best (even if it was in Pokemon catching) seems inspirational by today's standards. Of course, if you want to go really bizarre when it comes to Pokemon themes, then you need to go a little Weird:



Egad! Is there anything that doesn't become that much more awesome with a generous helping of Weird Al? I mean, really, the song just makes you want to dance along crazily. Not only does it have those typical Weird Al hallmarks of zaniness and merry-go-round gone mad attitude, but it actually names several dozen Pokemon over the course the song in a way that both helps you to remember the names and smile as you say them in a way the original Pokemon rap never quite could.

Well, however you choose to jam while playing Pokemon, you can't deny the impact it has had on our culture, even without the insanely popular Pokemon Go app, Pokemon has worked it's way into our hearts both through well-executed gameplay and a soundtrack to get you ready to catch'em all.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Opinion: The Re-Rise of Nintendo

If you're like me, you've probably seen this particular image all over your Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media this week:

Whether used in front of a back drop or just shown on a stock white background; this image of a hand holding a miniature original Nintendo Entertainment System aloft like a waiter about to serve you a delicious portion of retro gaming goodness has made the rounds in a big way. But there's more going on here than people simply "geeking out" or seeing an opportunity to play a sample of the best games in one simple package. It signals not only the premiere of another emulation system, but the return of Nintendo as the dominant system makers next console generation. Why do I make a such a bold claim? 

The Rise of the Retro Gaming 
Just a small helping of your childhood...

For several years now, collecting video games, specifically retro games, has gained not only in popularity, but momentum as well. What once was just small-time hobby for some and a chance to replay childhood favorites has morphed into a fun and ever more popular pastime . Collectors and gaming geeks of all ages will avidly seek out everything from Sega Master System to Turbografx 16 to even the old Pong consoles. Anywhere from Craigslist to Ebay to local garage sales can yield gaming gold. However, the most coveted of these finds are almost always those dealing with Nintendo, specifically the original Nintendo Entertainment System, games. As this interest has risen it has spawned countless Youtube creators with content devoted to the beloved NES, blogs such as this one, and various "Twitch Plays"--what once a niche hobby has transformed into a trip down memory lane by many 20 to 30 somethings.  While Xbox and Playstation are promising ever increasing eye-candy and more-of-the-same-First Person Shooters (FPS), Nintendo has gained foothold in people's heart by reminding them of their great past. Mario has become this generation's Mickey Mouse. Many people have an affection for Nintendo that even they may not realize, and that leaves them primed for something fun and new.

E3 and the Breath of the Wild

Coming soon...I hope.

The increasingly irrelevant E3 showcased the usual hodgepodge of upcoming releases and plans for system upgrades meant to catch the attention of consumers and creators alike, but for the most part it was underwhelming. Playstation upgrades? Xbox upgrade code name Scorpio? Interesting, but not interesting enough, least-ways not interesting compared to the fully immersive display at this year's E3 that was Nintendo's Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild experience. Boasting a demo that reportedly could take up to three hours to finish, Nintendo made a big splash with a long overdue playable demo for the next installment in one of its biggest ip's.  For days afterwards, tech and gaming blogs were talking about how it compared to other games with open-world concepts, speculation on whether the long wait will inevitably be worth it, and what the game meant for Nintendo as a whole. Microsoft and Sony plans for the future were given a few articles here and there, but no where near the coverage of Nintendo. 

NX Speculation, Fake Controllers, and the Naysayers 

At last! The "real" NX controller
Ah, the "NX controller" that we've all seen. Yes, it's a fake and there was even a recent attempt to sell a fake one on Ebay. Even though it's a fake, and has to be pointed out as such seemingly every other month, there's a contingent of people who seem hellbent on criticizing every move Nintendo makes in regards to the forthcoming NX. Naysayers of the NX aren't strictly limited to the XBox fans or Playstation enthusiasts though, even business insiders seem to heap criticism on Nintendo with reckless abandon. I can't even begin to speculate as to why there are some who seem to have nothing better to do than pick on one gaming company, especially one as devoted to just having a good time as Nintendo is, but I digress.  All the speculation from controller design to false rumors that NX will be digital download only have only served to continually keep Nintendo not only in the spotlight, but has also kept the public yearning to know more and to separate fact from fiction. PS4K and Xbox Scorpio announcements have made it clear that Sony and Microsoft intend to pursue VR tech as a possibility in the future. The tech for VR still remains barely out of infancy, yet there's an interesting conundrum here. Consumers know where Sony and Microsoft are headed, and they've seen VR helmets everywhere from the cover of Time magazine to Amazon to cheap knock-offs in their local mall. By the time these two companies or 3rd party developers can even start to produce games for the upcoming VR technology, it could already seem like yesterday's news. Nintendo hasn't put all their cards on the table yet, and this makes people interested and even excited to see just what they have in store.

The Pokemon Go Phenomenon 

"What are we doing tonight Nintendo?"
"The same thing we do every night Miyamoto..."
By the time you've finished reading this article, thousands more people will have already signed up for the fastest growing mobile game in recent history, Pokemon Go. Whether you think of it as a fun way to get in some exercise, a trip down memory lane that comes with augmented reality, or even if you are a joyless soul who likes to post memes about how much more "adult" you are for not playing Pokemon--you cannot deny Pokemon Go has become a bigger smash hit than possibly even Nintendo anticipated. Server issues notwithstanding, the game has actually had a societal impact and for a game that hit mobile gaming barely over a week ago at the time of this writing that's huge. Retailers are trying to figure out how to set up there businesses as virtual gyms, people are wondering around malls and parks talking with one another about the Pokemon they've caught, and Nintendo is raking in billions of dollars. They've gone from having no interest in mobile gaming to utter domination in a single app. Pokemon may have hit the scene 20 years ago, but thanks to multiple sequels and the enormous success of the Pokemon Go app, it's as fresh in people's minds as it was when it first premiered. From memes to terrible political jokes, everyone is talking about Pokemon Go; and this means people are talking about Nintendo.

 End of the Console Wars and Nintendo's (Likely) Upcoming Victory 

No, the title of this last section doesn't show what a Nintendo fanboy I am. (Or rather, it doesn't only show that.) What I mean by declaring an end to the console wars is that I think we are entering the last cycle of consoles with physical media. In an increasingly digital world where games are more and more often downloaded; it's hard to imagine the idea of going out and getting a gaming system lasting much longer.  Not that I think we will all switch to PCs, but that innovation needs to come in a form other than VR tech next.  We need an inbetween step, and Nintendo may have found it.  Rumors have circulated for months now that Nintendo's newest system will feature a hybrid mix of console and portable gaming. If these rumors prove true, Nintendo, already the dominant force in portable gaming, will likely find themselves on the forefront of something not only eye-catching, but truly innovative and enjoyable as well.  It won't just be a fad, but it will be the next step in gaming.

Of course, my speculations could find themselves proven totally false and unworthy of consideration, but it's fun to think about and that's okay. After all, didn't the late Satoru Iwata say that's what video games should be; fun?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Midweek Musicbox: Darius Twin

This Jester has tanned, rested, and returned ready for some music! Back from vacation and back to the grind doesn't have to mean back to dull music though. Nothing gets me in the mood for some retro game time than a good ol' Shoot'em Up! So it's time for a quick look at just a few of the choice tunes from the soundtrack of exceptionally difficult shoot'em up, Darius Twin. (Okay, so they're all difficult shooters to me, but that doesn't mean the soundtrack is hard on the ears! In fact, it's quite easy on them and downright fun and...well, you'll see, I mean hear.)


Fun, energetic, and inviting; the first track you hear in the game has it all. I like the digital sounds and synthesized horns that permeate the track. Sometimes there's a bit of "cheese" factor in shoot'em up music that can really bog a soundtrack down. Some shooters have tracks that should engage you but instead leave you muting the sound and turning on the Metallica. Not so with Darius Twin. It gets you pumped up from the start, and it just keeps getting better.



The action turns up in Zone D or "Lankus" and although the wailing sections that permeate this particular track aren't my favorite, they have a feverishness about them that I enjoy. I don't know if I'd listen to this track separate from the game, but when it plays it really helps me not to mind getting blown apart time and time again. Speaking of time and time again, let's talk about the boss theme.

Boss Theme

"Boss Theme"

I never was able to get that far in Darius Twin, but I appreciated the separate boss music when I actually got to hear it. It felt like a reward in itself to not only have gotten far enough to have a boss battle, but to also hear the music which added to the experience. 

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, I had to go to Youtube to hear the full soundtrack as I really haven't managed to get the knack of old-school shoot'em ups to the point I can beat them. It was great to hear them all and cycle through and find the songs I enjoyed the most. I tried to avoid listening to the end music, as I'd really like to hear that in all its glory one day as it was meant to be heard--meaning when I eventually beat the game...I hope. In any case the soundtrack to Darius Twin has the energy and pop you come to expect from early 90's shooters, and that's not a bad thing. I feel like too many modern shooters go for a bombastic, serious tone rather then a bit of pep and cheese; either that or they slather it on too thick. What's wrong with a bit of overly exciting music? I'm not playing Batman all the time, so why does some shooter music today sound grim? Anyways, if you haven't had a chance to hear the soundtrack to this game, check it out and find a way to grab an MP3 for it. It'll take you to time when blasting through a fun shooter meant also blasting through a fun soundtrack as well.