With Soulcalibur V now unleashed upon the fighting game community, it’s time for BGM Mode to take a look back at the series’s epic soundtracks. And that’s not “epic” in the Internet forum sense–the Soul series has always done things on a grand scale, whether it’s the flashy action, the panoramic stage vistas, or even the ultra corny announcer. It follows that the music would be appropriately grandiose, usually sticking to a rich, orchestral sound but occasionally throwing in the odd electric guitar just because.
Let’s start off with Soulcalibur II‘s opening movie for good measure:
It’s the end of January and that refreshing winter lull is finally coming to an end—hope you carved a decent chunk out of your backlog! Triple-A titles are officially back in season with this week’s two big releases, and boy, are they big.
Despite the generally disappointed reactions to its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 remains the most anticipated game out this week. Following the precedent they set nearly a decade ago with Final Fantasy X-2, Yoshinori Kitase and his team have dreamed up another direct Final Fantasy sequel, which is unusual for a series known for introducing a completely new setting and storyline with each game. You’ll play as Serah, sister of XIII‘s heroine, and encounter familiar faces and locations along your adventure, which is shorter than a typical Final Fantasy but does attempt to address some of people’s complaints about the original, like its infamous linearity.
We’re in a bit of a winter release lull, but that’s OK with all of us at VGH since it gives us time to catch up on allthoseamazinggames from 2011. (Or, more realistically, we’re doing a few more tours of duty in Battlefield 3.) With that said, there are some new games out this week, so we’re teaming up here to give you the lowdown.
Although this actually came out towards the end of 2010, 999 struck such a chord with me that I’m happy to feature it alongside the best games I played this year. I haven’t played many visual novels (the closest maybe being Hotel Dusk: Room 215), but I loved that the game took its time building up an elaborate mystery which, despite the many unexpected twists, all seemed to make sense in the end. The ways the creator managed to incorporate genre tropes and even the DS format into the story and gameplay were nothing short of genius and had me scrambling to play the game over so I could experience it again from a new perspective. It’s like The Prestige of video games—the deception is right under your nose the entire time, but you’d never in a million years suspect it.
Did you know Square Enix actually put out a Christmas album last year? It’s mostly (actually, entirely) the Square side of S-E (no holiday Dragon Quest arrangements in sight), but it’s still worth a listen just to experience some unusual and very jingly versions of a few classic Square tunes. Here are some of the more notable ones in case you’re tired of playing the same old Christmas Eve background music.
HO HO HO, I’m here to “WRAP UP” our gamer gift lists for this year. Some of these are things I mentioned when we all discussed our lists in Episode 33, but there’s some new stuff as well, so read on!
Games for Non-Gamers
Trying to get someone into gaming? Valve’s Portal 2 might be the key. It introduces a lengthy co-op mode with hours of the series’s trademark puzzles and wry humor. For new gamers, the first-person controls might be a bit of a shock, but reassure your non-gamer recipient that they can ease into them at their own pace, since there won’t be mobs of angry teenage boys shooting at them over Xbox Live.
When Q-Games announced in 2009 that their new PixelJunk title would be called PixelJunk Shooter, despite it playing more like Solar Jetman than Gradius, the 2D shooter fan in me cringed a little. Fast forward a couple years and Q-Games has spun elements from that game into a new title that plays more like a traditional shooter but, in a small twist of irony, is called PixelJunk SideScroller to set it apart from its less shootery siblings.
(Don’t worry. There will be time for questions at the end.)
It’s Mario Kart 7 week! The last big release of the year (provided you’re not devoting your life to Star Wars: The Old Republic in a couple weeks) zoomed onto shelves this Sunday, and I’ve been playing it a ton since then. You won’t find any odd mechanics like doubled-up drivers or motorcycles in this edition of Nintendo’s classic kart racer–they’ve opted to play it safe and give the 3DS a more traditional Kart. I’m totally fine with that.
The end of the year is rapidly approaching and we’re preparing a special episode to wrap up the first season of Video Game Hangover, but we want your help! We love hearing your responses to our weekly topics, and for this episode we’ll be reading and responding to listener questions and comments throughout the show. If you have a question or topic you want discussed on the air, now’s your chance to send it in. Want to know who’s Paul’s second-favorite Canadian game developer? Is all that metal in Randy’s face for real? We’ll be answering anything (within reason), so feel free to get creative.
There are a few ways to submit your question or comment. If you want to actually be played on the air, you can leave us a Google Voice message by calling 682-999-VGH1 (682-999-8441). (Long distance charges may apply.) If you don’t need to be heard or just don’t feel like calling, you can always message us on Twitter (@vghangover), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just leave your questions in the comments below.
Whatever method you choose, make sure to send your message by the morning of this Saturday, December 10th to ensure we’ll receive it in time.
Thanks to all our listeners for all your support this year, and we can’t wait to hear from you!
Is the brunt of the Fall releases over? (I secretly hope not, because if I can’t complain about all the games coming out I’ll have to figure out some other way to introduce these posts.) Anyway, it’s definitely waning but we still have a few more big releases left in the year. So what are they?
The biggest this week is undoubtedly The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for (what else?) the Wii. If you already listened to Episode 30, you know it’s a bit controversial among the VGH crew for its decision to use only motion controls, but I’m optimistic. Nintendo says they’ve prepared a cool, 1:1 swordfighting experience, and I want to see how well that works. I found the waggle-laden sword action in 2006’s Zelda: Twilight Princess to be pretty pointless, so at the very least this should be more engaging.
It was inevitable that I’d eventually have to feature Namco’s Ace Combat here in BGM Mode, since Ace Combat 5‘s soundtrack was directly responsible for piqing my interest in the series. Actually, Soulcalibur–another Namco game–also deserves some credit; after countless hours spent playing SC2 and 3 and enjoying the catchy and bombastic soundtracks, I started looking for more work from the series’ main composers, Junichi Nakatsuru and Keiki Kobayashi. As it turned out, they both worked together on the Ace Combat series, along with Tetsukazu Nakanishi. Somehow I settled on Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, picked up the soundtrack, and–after being totally blown away–finally played the game.
Eventually I made my way through each of the PlayStation 2 installments, and while their quality went up and down, the soundtracks were consistently excellent. Here are a few of the most memorable tracks, starting with Ace Combat 04, from all the way back in 2001, and wrapping up with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, which just came out last month.
By now, you probably don’t need to be reminded that we’re in the middle of the holiday release season. (Your smoldering or about-to-be-smoldering bank account is probably enough reminder of that.) You can tell the storm’s reaching its peak when a new Call of Duty shows up, though. That is this week. Hold onto something while we go over that and some other stuff coming out.
Battlefield 3 is out today and it’s a big one. Developer DICE is calling it the successor to 2005’s Battlefield 2, which is to say it’s not a new entry in the Bad Company offshoot series that featured slightly scaled-down Battlefield gameplay and (rather successfully) introduced destructable environments. Destruction does return to some extent in BF3, along with series staples like jets, squad leaders, and 64-player Conquest games played over expansive maps–although the latter is exclusive to the PC version. No matter which version you pick up, though, you can expect the same world-class, team-based FPS gameplay that DICE has engineered down to a science since Battlefield 1942 nearly ten years ago. That’s provided you can ride out the launch week server woes and patches, of course. I’ll be making an effort to play it, in one form or another.
With this week’s Lore in a Minute retelling the history of Mega Man, I’ve had the Blue Bomber on my mind lately. So, what better time to showcase some music from one of the biggest game series–in fact, the biggest–of all time? I’ve already extolled the virtues of Magnet Man’s theme in VGH Episode 8, so I’ll spare you this time. (Although really, you should go listen to it anyway.) But, I’ll still kick things off with some Mega Man III.
It’s almost time for the annual Extra Life gaming marathon for charity, where gamers around the country team up to play for 24 hours straight to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 2008, Extra Life has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for these hospitals, all thanks to the generosity of gamers like you.
Unfortunately, because of some last-minute scheduling conflicts, Video Game Hangover won’t be able to participate in this year’s marathon. If you’ve already joined Team VGH or were planning to support us, we’d like to recommend you redirect your support to Jeromy Adams, captain of Team Sarcastic Gamer and one of the founders of Extra Life.
We regret that we won’t be able to stay up all night playing games, but we hope that you’ll still be a part of this amazing opportunity for gamers to help children in need by doing something they love.
There’s been disappointingly little buzz about Aliens: Infestation, so I’m making it my responsibility to tell you about it. First of all, this isn’t Aliens: Colonial Marines, Gearbox Software’s console FPS that’s due out sometime next year. Infestation is a 2D, sidescrolling shooter that drops you and a squad of marines back onto xenomorph-infested planet LV-426 to rescue fellow soldiers, who will live or die based on your split-second decisions. You’ll wield classic weapons like flamethrowers, smart guns, and, of course, the M41A pulse rifle, and maybe even drive a power loader or two. Developer WayForward is the studio that brought us the excellent Contra 4 and, more recently, BloodRayne: Betrayal, although Infestation looks a bit more Metroidvania than the all-out action of the former two games. However it ends up playing, I am firmly on the ready line.
Several weeks ago, I had never even heard of Cubixx HD, only learning of it a few days before its release on the PlayStation Network. Things have changed since then. I’m now all too familiar with it: When I close my eyes, I can see its neon-lit, geometric enemies patrolling the six-sided playing field. I can still feel the controller in my hands as I guide my cutting laser across one of the cube’s surfaces. And, most of all, I can hear the electronic KA-CLANG that announces I’ve died and it’s time to try again. There’s a good chance that if you spend any time with Cubixx HD, you’ll find yourself in a similar situation. But let’s go back a bit first. (more…)
But wait, there’s more! Not content with releasing seven PSN exclusives over the next four weeks, they also casually mentioned that they’re kicking off the month by pulling a handful of classics out of the PlayStation 2’s back catalog and putting them up for sale on the PSN. That’s right–PlayStation 2 games on the PS3! Cue the floodgates of gamers begging for re-releases of their favorite discs, or the cynics saying that this was Sony’s plan all along when they phased out backwards compatibility. Personally, I’m happy to see Sony making this surprisingly tasteful lineup of obscure games available to a new generation of gamers.
So what PlayStation 2 games will you be playing in October of 2011?
First, my personal favorite: God Hand, the outrageous 3D brawler from now-shuttered Clover Studio that’s famous for its litany of martial arts moves, an insane sense of humor as only Japan can deliver (absolutely don’t miss the trailer), and for having no illusions that it’s “ball-bustingly hard.” Here’s what I had to say about it back in 2006:
God Hand is the greatest baseball batting, face stomping, button mashing, uppercutting, crotch kicking, drunken boxing, rocket launching, kick-me signing, arm chopping, gay bashing, barrel rolling, demon spawning, haymaking, clown crushing, wall clipping, poker playing, repeatedly continuing, mach speed pummeling, woman spanking, mighty morphing, Devo singing, massive damaging, chihuahua racing, Clover closing, double-or-nothing, surf rocking, gorilla suplexing game I’ve played this year. STRONGLY ENDORSE.
Five years later, I still strongly recommend you show your support for God Hand. Maybe Capcom will listen up and put Gene into Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Arcade Edition.
We’ve mentioned on the show how excited we are that two of our favorite games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, are getting rereleased in gorgeous HD (and with a stable framerate!) on the PlayStation 3. We’re equally excited to give one lucky listener the chance to experience these games themselves by giving away a copy of this brand new collection, which is finally out this week!
There are two ways to enter to win. The first is easy: Just follow us on Twitter and retweet this message:
RT and follow @vghangover for a chance to win the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection for PS3! http://j.mp/qxaijM #vghangover
By doing this, you’ll receive one entry into the contest. Tune into this Thursday’s episode, VGH #24, to find out another way to enter and increase your chances of winning!
The contest will run until Monday, October 3rd at 3 PM Eastern, and we’ll randomly choose a winner around 5 PM. Make sure you’re following us and include the #vghangover tag in your tweet so we can find your contest entry!
One final note: this contest is only open to those with a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada.
Between fruitlessly trying to teach myself how to play Street Fighter III and following the Soulcalibur V and Street Fighter X Tekken news coming out of TGS, I’ve had fighting games on the brain lately. And, somewhat inspired by Capcom’s surprise announcement that they’ll be releasing past Street Fighter soundtracks to use in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online, I thought it would be a good time to serve up a selection of my favorite fighting game themes. Following Paul’s lead from our last installment, let’s kick it off with one of the great classics:
At the height of their popularity in the 90s, fighting game characters would each have their own unique stage, and along with it, their own theme song that represented their background and personality. If you’re an arcade veteran, hearing any of those themes is sure to drum up powerful emotions on both ends of the spectrum—whether it’s because you spent hours perfecting moves with your first “main,” or because you had to hear the song endlessly since it belonged to that one rival that always shut you down. No matter which way you think of him, Street Fighter’s Ryu has one of the most memorable themes of any fighter, from the adrenaline-pumping bassline to the synth melody that’s always sounded strangely wistful to me—perfect for Ryu’s melodramatic, neverending search for new battles.
All the arcades I’ve been to seemed to only have either Street Fighter III: New Generation or 3rd Strike, so I’ve never actually played 2nd Impact, the middle game in the trilogy. But, that hasn’t stopped me from logging some serious hours with the soundtrack, which originally got my attention because it was so weird—a blend of jazz, drum and bass, and even some Brazilian samba. It’s definitely not your typical fighting game music. This track comes from Sean’s stage in Brazil, and a variation of it plays during the bonus stage when he helps you practice parrying.
The King of Fighters '96 – Arashi no Saxophone #2 (Iori Yagami Team)
SNK was dropping jazz influence into its King of Fighters soundtracks long before Street Fighter III got the idea. This is probably the most memorable song to me out of the series’s nearly 20-year run. It’s Iori’s theme, and I always like to imagine it’s actually him playing the saxophone. It seems like kind of an antiheroic thing to do on his days off.
This one’s just silly, but I still love it. The third entry in the Darkstalkers/Vampire series went full-on dance/electronica for most of its soundtrack, so it’s just natural that Hsien-ko, the Chinese ghost, would have this Asianized dance track playing in her idyllic garden stage.
It’s always fun to hear a different take on a favorite song—it might be a cover that casts it in a completely different light, or it could just do enough things differently to give you new appreciation of the original. In this case, Keiki Kobayashi took one of Soulcalibur III‘s songs—a solid track, although admittedly not one of my favorites at the time—and reworked it for the sequel. The result comes off as more majestic and less frantic, with a deliberate, dramatic opening that gives way to an anthemic rendition of the original. It’s an excellent accompaniment to the stage itself, which has you dueling on a raft traveling down a castle’s moonlit moat.
And speaking of alternate versions, I’ll wrap up with one of the best. This is Balrog’s (M. Bison in Japan) stage, remixed by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro for this album made to celebrate Street Fighter’s 15 anniversary. To me, Yuzo Koshiro is synonymous with ActRaiser‘s orchestral soundtrack, so it always puts a huge grin on my face knowing that he’s capable of something like this.
What’s your song of choice to have playing as you land that sneaky surprise attack at the start of the round? Let us know in the comments!