Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Night Rental: Deadly Towers


Image result for deadly towers

Perhaps Atari Hard would be a better term for the game than Nintendo Hard. After all, Broderbund produced a number of games that I recall enjoying on the Atari 800 my folks had. Not only that, but the graphics, sounds, and overall movements of the main character remind me more of a later Atari game than a Nintendo game--even a harder one. Was it worth renting back when I was a kid, or did Broderbund leave me feeling like I wasted not only one, but at least two or three weekend rentals on this thing?


Gameplay:

You are Prince Myer, on the eve of your coronation ceremony a mysterious shadow with a name that will make you scream like Shatner (Khan) informs you that Rubas, the "Devil of Darkness" has designs to conquer your kingdom. What can you do to stop this threat? Ascend the Seven Deadly Towers, capture the mystical bells held by their masters, and vanquish the evil Rubas. To call the game an action puzzle game doesn't do justice the literal hundreds of screens you will need to navigate through in order to find your way to the top of the towers. Navigating these mazes can get especially difficult and frustrating as many of the screens are similar in layout, enemies respawn as soon as you leave a room/screen, and color differentiation just doesn't happen. The dull colors and unimaginative enemies are also a problem as killing them gets tedious within minutes of play. Also problematic with the game is the fact that you have to make the choice between chopping your way through enemies and collecting health and coins, or "ludder" as Deadly Towers calls it, or make an attempt to avoid them all together in order to advance as fast as you can. If you spend forever killing enemies (and it will take forever because your knife, unless right on the enemy, the game will not let you re-throw it until it has reached the other side of the screen.) You can lose all the health and money you just gained only to start back at the bottom of the tower.

Graphics and Style:

I can sum up both the graphics and style of game very simply: This feels like an Atari game from top to bottom. Not that I didn't love and still love Atari games. It just so reminds me of an Atari game that I can't help but feel I would be more forgiving of the repetitive colors and bland, flat graphics. James Rolfe of Angry Video Game Nerd fame hit it on the head in his review when he points out that fighting slinkys and the usual assortment of bats is just old, even at this point. I know that they were going for an isometric-ish view, but really nothing pops, nothing looks 3-D in the slightest. The poorness of it makes it feel even flatter if such a thing were possible. It sometimes looks like paper pieces moving across a cut out scene like for paper dollhouse.

Music and Sound:

The sound is passable, which I think is a perfect summation of much of the game. The plinks and plunks again really remind me of something I would find on the Atari and all but the earliest Nintendo games--which this is. So I guess it's earliness shows? But maybe that's no excuse, because the sound design in the original Legend of Zelda was awesome! But I digress...let's talk about the music.

While sufficient, the music for the soundtrack to Deadly Towers never gets memorable. The loops get old, the tunes are forgettable, and border on annoying. Truthfully, I never heard much beyond the title screen music and the first castle floor music when I was a kid. While YouTube now allows me the luxury of finding other soundtracks from the game, none of them are something I would plan on listening to again outside of this review. Take a listen and see what you think:






Memories and New Thoughts:

When I played this game as a kid I just took it for granted that some NES games were super hard, and others were super easy. Both styles can get dull rather quickly, and I think playing the game now as an adult I feel like dull pretty much encapsulates the whole experience. I mean, I don't think that it's quite as terrible as some other games out there. For the most part the controls function, bad guys take dozens of stabs--but at least they die, and if you can work your way through it all, Deadly Towers does have an ending that satisfyingly wraps up the game's story. The problem though remains now the same for me as when I was a kid. I just am not satisfied when I am playing the game. I'll call the feeling I get from the game "chopping wood syndrome." Meaning I feel like playing through the game is tedious work that feels like it "needs" getting done. If I don't chop the wood, it won't get done. If I don't plow down all these bad guys, it's not going to get done. I get that there's this epic quest where you've got to stop a great evil from conquering your kingdom and all that stuff, but every slime ball, every bat, and every monster just may as well be blocks of wood. While the controls seem workable and it's fair in that you can kill enemies if you are patient it enough...in the end, I think this kingdom is going to fall because I'm ready to leave it and never come back.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Midweek Music Box: Intro to Awesome



Were you ever uncertain about a game but the moment you popped it in the music sent tingles up your spine and you knew you were in for an awesome time based on that intro music? It doesn't have to necessarily have a bombastic feel or an epic quality--thought that certainly helps--what it does do though is it makes you not only ready to play, but it immerses you in a way that should shout to the world, "I'm no longer here, I've entered the game." I love intro music, I've talked about it before with many of these Midweek Music boxes. Well, rather than just doing one, I wanted to do three because I love me some intro music and I love the way these games get me in to the game. Let's take a quick look at some intro tunes that help pull you into the world the game creates.

Metroid Prime Trilogy:



Having Metroid kick this off should be a shock as not only did it act as the title card for this review, but I've talked about how awesome Metroid music is on Three Separate Occasions. Kenji Yamamoto rules and it's about high time you learned that! From the intense, low drums, to the ethereal chants; the music from the Metroid Prime series ranks up there for me (and it should for you too) as some of the best game music--no I take that back--best music period. Yamamoto does it again with the intro music for the Metroid Prime Trilogy intro. Every time I hear it I get tingles up my spine and wish I had a week, no I take that back, a MONTH to set aside to beat every one of the Metroid Prime games as the single continuous story it represents.

Kingdom Hearts (original PS2 version):



I know there are in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 variations of each individual Kingdom Hearts game. I could be lowballing that number though. Well, until we finally get a proper "3" in the title, it seems gamers are forever doomed to endless HD remakes and version 1.2 , 1.3, 1.FOREVER!  In any case, I really was surprised how much I fell in love with the game as a whole. Even now, 15 years later, the concept of Mickey and his pals fighting alongside and against Final Fantasy characters seems absurd. Yet it worked then and works now. I wouldn't be willing to put up with the craziness that is now on a 2.8 Final Prologue if I hadn't gotten sucked in years ago by Yoko Shimomura's score. The music that plays over the intro has such a Disney feel with it's big brass instruments and grand orchestra feel, it's hard not to smile at its charm. You couldn't ask for a more warm, and some how epic introduction. Now, can we can past introductions and prologues and point-ohs and just get a proper sequel please?


Super Mario World:




Cute, charming, simple, and it makes use of the Super Nintendo's musical capabilities in a way that lets you know just what you are in for. I know it may seem like a stretch to think that the intro music for Super Mario World could in any way "pull you into its world," but I was a kid at the time of this game's release, and to me this was a true wonder. From simple chiptunes to...well, better chiptunes. Like I said, I was a kid the time this came out. However, this game was not just my first game on the Super Nintendo, but it made me realize just how much greater the sound was going to get in the future. I didn't love the NES' music any less; just, I realized that this newest Mario game was really going to sweep me away. It was built on pure awesome. As soon as the opening animation was over, I was ready to enter this world of Mario's. It wasn't just me goofing around with a new system and game. There was Bowser to defeat, a kingdom to restore, and Princess Peach to rescue. It wasn't just a fun game, it was a tale to be told, and fun one at that, thanks to the intro music by Koji Kondo.

Like I said at the start. It doesn't always have to be epic, just awesome.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Night Rentals: Ghosts'N Goblins



Intro:

Hard games can sometimes act as the gateway for our memories. We look back and say things like "Nintendo Hard," when it comes to certain cartridges of the Nintendo Entertainment System's heyday.  Ghost'N Goblins by Capcom easily enters that pantheon of retro gaming with the "Nintendo Hard" label with its difficult jumps where there was no turning back, relentless enemies that literally spawned on top of you, and one-touch deaths all set against a back drop of sometimes pant-less knight on a quest fighting the forces of darkness. When playing this game as a kid, I readily remember not just the frustration of barley making it to level two, but being absolutely convinced that the game was cheating somehow. (This was in the time before we knew games like Super Mario Kart really were cheating, but I digress). So, was it just as frustrating to play as an adult as it was a kid?


Gameplay:

You are King Arthur, and one day while courting the princess Prin Prin none other than Satan himself comes along and kidnaps the object of your affection. And so begins your quest to, what else, rescue the princess. While the scenario seems familiar, the added bonus of fighting the father of all lies is a nice twist on the genre. You battle your way through zombies, ghosts, demons, and an assortment of big boss fights on your quest to defeat Satan and rescue Prin Prin. Along the way you can collect various weapons, such as torches and knives, and power ups ranging from simple point bonuses to extra lives. Each time you get a weapon it replaces the previous weapon you had, and you even keep that new weapon after you die--until you acquire a new weapon. The challenges in the game can seem on the unforgiving side as you have no control over your character once you make a jump. If you mistime a jump on to a floating platform, there are no Mario-physics to help you undo that jump, you are committed. Flicker is also a minor issue here. Though it's impressive the game can get a number of sprites on the screen at the same time without too much in terms of slowdown, flickering can sometimes cause difficulty in tracking the various monsters.

One of the more notorious "features" of Ghosts'N Goblins is the, "false ending/untrue ending" you get after beating the game. As it turns out, you have to beat the game twice in a row in order to truly win and receive the proper ending. The game had no passwords, so were you to manage to navigate your way through Satan's minions and defeat him, you had more of the same to look forward too. At the time, I had no idea that when games did this sort of thing, it was a way to artificially extend the game and keep you playing. Today, we tend to think of it as just adding to the frustration of the game itself.


Graphics and Style:

I like that the backgrounds for the game are always pitch black as it helps set the tone of game. With monsters that sometimes boarder on too colorful, (red, white, and blue zombies?) to enemies that can look like a frank in a blanket--the game needs some darker colors to help make some of the monsters look scarier. Now, the red gargoyle demon and little trolls looked evil enough on their own, for sure--but those monsters weren't all winners.  

For what it was worth though, a great job was done on the detail when it came to the monsters, tombstones, ladders, trees, and the various elements that provided setting for Ghosts'N Goblins. The sprites may have flickered, but I wasn't noticing them so much and I think that was because of the details thrown in by Capcom.

Music and Sound Design:

As far as music goes, I don't know that I have too much more to add from my separate Midweek Music Box about Ghosts N Goblins. Everything I said there still applies. The tunes create that horror movie feel and make the soundtrack an instant classic. It's hard not to think of the music for the first stage just seeing the image for the game:

"Stage One OST"


All the music tracks in that game have this appeal. With literally hundreds of games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was could have been difficult to make a soundtrack that stood out. Capcom was in their prime here not only in game making, in sound composition. Ayako Mori created a sound and feel for this game that puts you either in the mood for hard gameplay or Halloween. Sometimes both. Also, as a lover of the harpsichord, I have to say that hearing the NES do it's best to emulate that sound is pretty darned cool as well.

When it comes to sounds used within the game. It's not half bad. I know that AVGN said the odd-flying hot dog-like creatures were annoying with the high-pitched squealing noise that they made, but I guess I find it midway between annoying and atmospheric. Admittedly, the sounds are lackluster compared to not just modern games, but even games from the same time period. But when you think about it, the creepy/annoying sounds work for the tone of the game. You are in a land filled with Satan's minions; of course they are trying to freak you out by squealing and growling at you.






Memories and New Thoughts:

Castlevania shares a large brunt of the reason why this game was so much more difficult back in the day. Why is that?

Image result for ghosts n goblins

I had already rented Mega Man, Section Z, and Gun.Smoke by the time I got around to trying this game. I knew that even if the game was hard and at times frustrating; that it was Capcom and Capcom meant was "State of the Art" just like the boxes promised. I have to say that the two times I rented this were some of the most aggravating experiences I've ever had on the NES, second only to Cybernoid. Had I known that the knife in Ghosts'N Goblins was the weapon to have, I think my experience could have been different as a kid.

I mean, come on! As a kid, everyone knew that you used pitchforks and torches to fight off monsters. You'd think that this would be especially true of a game with a horror movie type feel. Nope. It was and always has been the knife. I have Angry Video Game Nerd to thank for that bit of knowledge entirely. If I had to guess why a seemingly simple dagger trumps a torch or spear, I would guess it has something to do with the animation. The spear is a large object that explodes when it hits an enemy. The torch lets loose with a nice tall wall of flame if it hits the ground. When you lob the knife, it has less pixels to animate across the screen, has a relatively quick "shatter" animation when it hits, and if you miss it goes across the screen quickly--meaning you can throw a new one more quickly. Again, these are totally layman guesses though.

As it stands, playing this game decades later can still lead to frustration. Death comes easily, and quickly. However, knowing that the what I once took for granted as the weakest weapon was, in fact, the best one, makes it a little more likely that I may actually see the end of this game.


If only I could get a bit further than the first level now that I actually know all this...









Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Midweek Music Box: From Annoying Pop to 8-Bit Awesome?


Image result for 8 bit music note





Can annoying pop hits become tolerable if they undergo an 8-bit makeover? I'll let you be the judge, as well as share my own thoughts.

"Ironic" by Alanis Morissette

I could not honestly tell you if it's possible to hear this song as many times as I've heard it. I don't hate, or at least, I try not to. In any case, it's usually a fast dial switch for me when it comes on the radio these days. However, I think I could almost tolerate it if it were used as background for something like a Harvest Moon-type game or something along those lines. I dunno, I see losing hours farming fake farms to this. Other than that, you have my permission to pop on over to the next song.




"Mmm-Bop" by Hanson

Believe it or not, there are more annoying versions of this track out there. Including the original! I kid, I kid...But seriously though, I actually think I enjoy the 8-bit version of this. I could totally see it as the background music for a kids game on the NES or the SNES. "Mmm-Bop" has nothing but goofy, goody vibes too it. No, that's not me saying that I ever really liked the song or the group. Just that I think I can kinda get into Hanson if it were made as background music for a kids game.




"Hero" by Nickelback, yes Nickelback

I hear the song, I think about that first movie, and truthfully, I'm not ashamed to say that I still like the song. I know there's some sort of internet heresy I just committed by saying this, but by golly I will admit that I like it. I've enjoyed the Gameboy version of Spider-Man more than it probably deserves. So I think that "Hero" by Nickelback probably gets more love from me than it should. I think it would be great as an end song for an 8-bit Spider-Man game. Oh well, I like it, and I love the 8-bit rendition too. Whether you think the 8-Bit version helps you to somewhat enjoy it, or if it's still as annoying doesn't matter. It was a flash-in-the-pan hit in the day, and for me the song evokes feelings of nostalgia from when I worked at a movie theater. The original version played during the end credits of Spider-Man starring Toby Maguire. It was the last song many heard before exiting, and it's the song I'll leave off with for this week's Midweek Music Box.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Night Rentals: Bad Dudes (NES and Amiga)



Image result for bad dudes nes

If you asked me about this game, Bad Dudes, I would have told you how much I loved playing the game. I would gladly answer the call back then and I would answer it now:

Yes, that call.

I don't know if I was ever a Bad enough Dude to save the president from Ninjas, but what I did know was that fighting ninjas sounded awesome back then, and frankly it still sounds awesome now. Politics or no, if I was asked to embark on a potentially deadly mission where I had to fight ninjas in order to save the president, I'd jump at the privilege. Even if I died, can you imagine the tombstone, "Died of Ninjas?" How many people in the world would get to say that?

In any case, I had this long, fond nostalgia tied to the game. I was prepared to wax nostalgic about how the game still holds up on a few levels as a decent beat-'em up.   However, it turns out that I have a long, fond nostalgia for a game called Dragon Ninja for the Amiga, a computer I spent many hours gaming as a kid, but sadly no longer have access to. My brother and I loved playing the game. Sure, it took forever to boot up, but we had a blast and the music was pretty good, and still sounds good now. Take a look:

Dragon Ninja Long Play

Everything about this game, the one with the cool video above? That's everything that the NES version was not.

We're talking about this one...
Gameplay:

You are one bad dude, not to be messed with, and yet evil ninjas have kidnapped the president and you must battle your way through a seemingly endless stream of ninjas who don't get the point that you are, indeed, a bad dude. Or at least not to be messed with. You scroll along in a fairly flat looking 2-D world made up of train rides and what looks like a world tour of industrial areas. One thing about the standard beat'em up was they were light on plot, usually a "rescue the princess scenario," and bad guys throwing themselves at you left and right. Power ups such as weapons, soda to refill health, and clocks to extend time are sometimes dropped by enemies, but never in amounts that feel satisfying. It's hard enough just making it through regular ninjas, let alone getting to the end of the level. You proceed either right or left, depending on the level, punch to death all who stand in your way, and fight an end level boss. Again, pretty standard stuff.

Graphics and Style:

It's so blocky and chunky, I just don't know where to begin.
Granted we are talking a 1989 NES game, but I feel like the odd, stuttering movement has almost no excuse. Sure, Double Dragon didn't exactly have you full articulated, but games like the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle were released this year as well, and the movement wasn't distracting like this was. As far as style goes, it just seems so...dull. I remember a joke about 1970's era Doctor Who was that they constantly shot in rock quarries and corridors due to budget constraints. Why not have a level where you go across mountains, or deserts or...or...anything but another train and another industrial yard. I get copy and pasting stuff with a slight palate swap was easy, and probably well in some budget of some sort but...man. I know the Amiga version, Dragon Ninja, had the same locals, but it had better graphics overall, so it was easy to ignore when you had that repetition. NES games? If the game itself isn't engaging, it really sticks out.

Music and Sound Design:

Unlike my previously reviewed "Totally Rad," Bad Dudes only gets the title right when it comes to talking 80's/90's 'tude era stuff. Everything from the punches, to the hits, to the poorly digitized voices make me yearn to put in the Amiga version. Only I don't have an Amiga on me, all I have is tinny sound effects and this, this for a soundtrack:



Forgive me, I had to do my duty to today's blog and share the track. If you really like this version of the track, please give the Amiga version a try. It has a feeling that just has so much more going on, so much more 16-bit feel. So much more...everything.

Memories and New Thoughts:

As I may have mentioned before, I loved the Amiga version. My older brother and I played this game so many times on so many weekends. I am pretty sure that we never beat the game as we would run out of lives and continues before the end, but watching the let's play I posted a link to above, I can see that we got to what appears to be the next-to-last level. I could easily go off about how superior the Amiga version is--oh wait, I think I have. But I think the reason I have gone off so much is because of how spectacularly Data East let me down with this port. I honestly can't recall if I ever rented this version. I don't think I did, and I'm glad I didn't. I can forever hold my Amiga memories on the pedestal they belong on.

When I picked this up at a local gamers swap, I was so enthused, so ready to see if I was a Bad enough dude this time around. Would I save the president? Was the Nintendo Entertainment System version on par with the Amiga Would I beat an entire army of ninjas?

custom tombstone


Nope.






Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Midweek Music Box: Heavy Metal 8-bit Covers



Yes Virginia, there is a Metal Claus, and he is here to rock--in 8-bit, chip tune awesomeness!  Heavy metal can come in all forms from your standard head banging ball, to Sir Christopher Lee rocking out some Christmas tunes:

Image result for heavy metal NES
Seriously, this is a real thing! An awesomely real thing! Check it out!

So let's do something a little different for Midweek Music Box. Let's take time to recognize a few chip tune covers of some of the best (but by no means not all) of what heavy metal music has to offer. I don't need to really say too much of the songs themselves; however I will offer my brief thoughts on what I like about them. At the end of this article, please click the links leading to the artists behind these interpretations; 8 Bit Universe and Omnigrad.

Enter Sandman:

Enter Sandman 8 Bit by 8 Bit Universe

Let's start with Metallica, because of course we're going to start with Metallica! Practically everything they put out is instantly classic metal. Wouldn't this make epic last stage music? I mean seriously, the driving rhythm Enter Sandman would kick all sorts of butt. If you kept losing lives and had to restart said final level, wouldn't it be worth it to hear this track from the beginning? I hate losing and starting over in games, but sometimes the music makes it tolerable. A loop of this as I try to reach the end boss? Yes please.


Symphony of Destruction:

Symphony of Destruction 8-bit by Omnigrad

Again more, music that would rock in some form of a last stage for a game. Maybe part two of said stage? It's a little more "mellow" in comparison to the Enter Sandman 8-bit, but really, it works not just as an interpretation, but as something you can see as a calm before the storm situation. Not that Symphony of Destruction is calm mind you, just it gets you pumped in the right way.



Du Hast:
Du Hast 8 Bit by 8 Bit Universe



By itself, Du Hast stands as a heavy metal song for the ages. Transformed into an 8-bit track, this track sounds so much like it belongs in a boss battle. I've always had a love for rhythm of this song, and it is no less glorious in 8-bit. If some one were to do a game mod or 8-bit homage game, I'd want this to appear as the music for the final boss battle of the game.



Final Thoughts:

Seriously, as I listen to these various interpretations, I feel like they all belong in final stage of some unpublished NES game. As I said before, we need a game mod or some 8-bit style game where these things are featured. Not only do the individuals who did the 8-bit interpretations deserve credit for their tribute, but they deserve credit for making tunes I'd love to hear in a video game. In my music review for Blackthorne, I mentioned everything about the tunes conveyed that heavy metal feel. Obviously this is true more-so with actual heavy metal tunes turned into chiptunes, but it's worth mentioning because of how well the tunes have been done here. I instinctively know they are songs I've heard before. However, I can't help but picture a game like Mega Man where you progress through Dr. Wily stages at the end of the game, or maybe a Ghosts N' Goblins-esque game where you fight the devil himself.  

So big shout out to the artists of these songs who deserve your follow on Twitter, YouTube, or cash when they've made the track available for download:

8 Bit Universe Info:


Du Hast 8 bit available HERE FOR DOWNLOAD

Enter Sandman 8 bit available HERE FOR DOWNLOAD


Omnigrad* Info:



*User hasn't uploaded anything new in two months, but their other stuff is pretty awesome. Check out their channel, increase their view count, and maybe they'll make more!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Night Rentals: Totally Rad

Image result for totally rad nes



Totally awesome? Totally Tubular? No! It's Totally Rad! (Man) Are you craving a mad mix of platforming and 90's attitude with the wild and crazy colors of the late 80s? Well look no further than this 1991 release from Jaleco! Why did the box art have this bright color scheme? Why was there a purple-eyed punk rock alligator replete with pink mohawk crawling out of the cover? Who cares?! It was the time of Ninja Turtles, skateboards, and punk hair-dos. Why not have a game that actually embraced a phrase that would not only ensure it stuck out at the time, but would stick out over 25 years later? (Only this time as a sign of being a product of the time.) Cover art and radical title aside, was it worth it to have rented at the time? Would it be worth picking up now. Time to take a look at Totally Rad by Jaleco and see whether the game is a totally bodacious time warp or a totally bogus flop, man.

Gameplay:

In Totally Rad you play as Jake, gnarly apprentice to a creepy-faced magician known as Zeb. One day while training, Jake's bodacious girlfriend Allison is kidnapped by an evil king. Now Jake must set forth into a subterranean world in order to rescue his girl and defeat the evil king all while sporting surfer dude 'tude. Yep, it's a "rescue the princess" affair, only this time with a magical surfer dude with lots of 'tude. You have an array of spells immediately at your command ranging from health restoration to transformation of the main character into a weapon slinging creature.

You can get extra lives by defeating a certain number of enemies, however, for each extra life you earn, each subsequent life must be obtained by beating more enemies. Meaning you get your first life after getting 50 points, but the next one doesn't come until you reach over 100 and so on and so forth. While there are spots in the game where life-farming is possible, and there is no time limit, like most farming situations, it can get dull after a while. The action in the game is decently paced and enemy encounters and boss battles feel fair. If you lose a life or take a hit, it's your fault and you know it. While the mechanic of having access to a variety of weapons right off evokes a little bit of Mega Man, I was disappointed that despite the different things I could select from in the magic screen, I oddly felt as if there was a lack of variety and more just novelty to the spells that I was casting. Obviously health restoration was great to have on hand for boss battles, but aside from that I just was never over-wowed by the various powers. It felt great to wield cut blades and quick boomerangs, magically being able to flap wings was okay, but it was no saw blade.

Graphics and Style:

With cut scenes in the style of Ninja Gaiden and 90's 'tude banter abounding; Totally Rad firmly establishes itself as the best of the magician's apprentice surfer dude genre. Colors are bright but never garish, character sprites are well designed and well animated, and level designs are unique and mapped out fairly. (I hate it when games have what purposely feels like cheap deaths or trial-and-error map design simply out of laziness or attempts to extend gameplay.) Totally Rad was a later release in the Nintendo Entertainment System's life cycle, so by this time games had a more polished look to them and usually competent choices in design.

Music and Sound Design:

From the weapon charge to the enemy hits; the sound effects in the game are probably some of the best of the genre for the time. When you have a platformer like this which tries to mimic some of the better aspects of the Mega Man series, you want to feel a modicum of satisfaction when you fire your weapon, and Totally Rad delivers.

The music for Totally Rad stands up both on its own and the test of time. Too often with platformers for the NES you get an annoying song loop that either feels like it isn't trying or loops too soon. Take a listen to the beats from Act 1 Part 1:

Act 1 Part 1

It's high energy, has a decent bass line that keeps with the surfer/rocker tone of the game and conveys that sense of excitement you'd want from a platformer about a surfer dude with magical powers. Now take a listen to the music from Act 2:

Act 2


It's got a funky beat, uses the base line well, and goes at a pace that while not energetic, still has a higher quality to it. It's obvious that the composer put some real effort into making the tracks not merely functional, but in tone with the spirit of the game and a pleasure to listen to. Most of the tracks, if not all, are good enough to act as music you'd listen to separate from the Totally Rad itself.

Memories and New Thoughts:

So what kind of game was Totally Rad when I rented it back in the day? Was it everything that this ad promised it to be? Was it indeed a game that finally spoke my language, dude?

Image result for totally rad nes
*Hat tip to www.gamesdatabase.org for this "Totally Rad"
throwback ad

Well, when I rented this game as a kid, I remember it as one of the harder, but satisfying games to play. I don't recall if I beat it at the time, but I do remember it had a certain, "Just one more level, then I'm quitting" appeal to it. Each level felt difficult at the time, and it felt like a real accomplishment when I did beat a level. Totally Rad gave me the same feeling that a Mega Man game or Ninja Gaiden game would when I finally beat a level. Coming back to it decades later, does it still have that appeal to me? Does it hold up after all this time?

Yes and no...and I'm not sure how much of that has to do with the way the game has aged in comparison to Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man. Whereas those games have had numerous entries into their franchise, Totally Rad never turned into a franchised game with multiple sequels. Though the adventures were gnarly and awesome at the time, the whole world that the game exists in doesn't so much feel dated as it does locked away in another reality. ...And yet I still really like this game.

Perhaps I'm a bit too wistful when I look back on Totally Rad. Egad! I just love this era of gaming, don't you? I mean really, how often do we get a game this off the wall in concept and storyline? A magical surfer fighting subterranean monsters is right up there with taking a super battle tank underground to rescue your pet frog. I do really miss the time and place the game comes from. A time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular and there was nothing better than skateboarding or surfing the afternoon away. A time when saying, "That's radical dude" or "That's totally rad, man" were perfect ways to say how excited your were and how awesome something truly was.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Midweek Music Box: Rayman Legends

Image result for rayman legends


So much of Rayman Legends represents the best of what platform gaming can offer. From excellent controls, tons of replay value, and fun storyline--the game hits it out the park. Of course, our interest today concerns the phenomenal music composed and arranged by Billy Martin and Christopher Heral. 

With this particular game, we need to break down the soundtrack into two parts: the regular background music, and the musical homage levels. Let's dive in with the instrumental/orchestral music:

Medieval Theme:
"Medieval Theme"

The "Medieval Theme" greets you on the main screen, and I've come to think of it as the main theme for the game. Not only do the trilling flute, chanting voices, bombastic booms and string sections evoke the feeling of a medieval festival; it also offers a hint of what's to come. Yes, Rayman Legends boasts an orchestral soundtrack and makes use of said orchestra in the best ways possible. The game itself has a high fantasy feel in many sections with the good guys battling dragons and trolls, so it's more than fitting that this music introduces you to the world of Rayman and his pals. Everything feels more epic when given a medieval flare, and the limbless lad really feels at home under this umbrella.

Dive Another Day:

"Dive Another Day"

"The name is Man, Rayman. *cue iconic Bond Theme*"
At least, I imagine this was partially going through the composers minds as they put together this particular song. With low bass and guitar riff that with an air of mystery, it's hard not to think of MI 6's best international spy as you run through corridors and plumb the ocean depths. It's nice that this particular song, and indeed all the songs from this particular section of the game, don't give way to some goofball, madcap fast pace just to fit the bright colors and upbeat tone of the game. So often a game soundtrack seems to forget itself and gets overly frenetic in all the wrong places. This track breathes at a slower pace, and that's very much welcome. One of the touches unrelated to the music itself, but still helpful in setting the mood along with the music is that while, you still get the array of miscreant monsters one would expect from the game, but as if to fit the music, the levels set to this theme feature toad creatures equipped with spear guns and wet suits.

The Chief Whistler:

"The Chief Whistler"

Light strumming on the banjo and a pleasant whistling fills the air for this tune. While it doesn't boast the full-bodied orchestra sound of the other tracks in the game, it never-the-less adds a richness to the game in vaguely easy-going, pleasant way. It's going nowhere in a hurray, just ambling along and enjoying the scenery and inviting you to do the same.  You could listen to a loop of it to drift off to sleep at night, or have it playing in the background as mosey about your day. It's neither epic nor bombastic. It's just a pleasant tune to listen to you. It's the Bob Ross soundtrack of the game basically.


The Music Levels:

Really, these just need to be played to get the full impact of how awesome these homages are. From the "Black Betty" singing trolls that were part of the game demo to the "Eye of the Tiger" Mariachis; you can't help but smile when playing through these levels. They are great renditions in their own right, but really, if you needed at least one more reason to get the game, the music levels are your reason. One of the big reasons I got a Wii U was so I could play this game for these levels. For those that can't wait to play or don't have an opportunity to, here's a clip of the music levels in a long play form:


Music levels


As I write this review, I can't help but want to play this game again just to enjoy the music again. Such great blend of whimsy, rock, and fun await, you just need to download the soundtrack now.
Seriously, just download the soundtrack here. It's one of those awesome opportunities to actually give the artists some sort of compensation for the fantastic work they do.