Wildcat’s 100 Favorite Game Tunes (2012)

Last year, I put up 100 tracks from gaming that I absolutely loved. However, as the year has rolled by, I think that I’ve cooled off on some of those songs and fell in love with others I had omitted. With that in mind, I feel that it’s a good time to revisit that idea and update the list. This year’s edition will increase the Top choices to ten. I will continue to operate under the rules set last year by keeping the list diversified through not picking all of, say, Mega Man 3’s soundtrack. Only two tracks per game will be allowed. Youtube clips are provided so you can sample the music, however, I can not constantly update this page with new links as Youtube users or copyright owners shut clips down! I’ve done quite a few Song Highlights on these tunes if you’d like to dig through and read why I like some of these songs. Enjoy!

TOP 10


Mega Man 3, Protoman’s Whistle Concert, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uikEuigprFE


Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna’s Lament, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7GWf3e_I3w


Chrono Trigger, Memories of Green, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr9-OcPLO3M


Beyond Good & Evil, Home Sweet Home, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTdcJWDNsao


Castlevania, Wicked Child, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7PFm7mrdVY

rdr1
Red Dead Redemption, Far Away,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IkvAb6THQY

Okami, Shinshu Plains (1 and 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yKG-Qu4WvM

Silent Hill 3, You’re Not Here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz3ufaZCoVw

Secret of Mana, Into the Thick of It, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3N9lrq-rks

Skies of Arcadia, Lower Valua, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlJxG1FmMOU

The Rest:
A Boy and his Blob (Wii), Forest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC_u7bmVsSc
A Boy and his Blob (Wii), Plains, http://youtu.be/pfmiI9AttYc
Age of Empires III, A Hot Meal, http://youtu.be/jB1R5s3PVEM
Age of Mythology, Suture Self, http://youtu.be/KhvklZT0LMg
Age of Mythology, Chocolate Outline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBpz9S6I07g
Batman (NES), Stage 1/5, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlGDKfgz4fA
Batman (NES), Stage 3, http://youtu.be/zERK-4IgQAg
Beyond Good & Evil, Hillyan Suite, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p48dpXQixgk
Bionic Commando (NES), Area 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hl5UCCBCXI
Bionic Commando (NES), Area 2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIvcYCbWMfY
Blast Corps., Angel City, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2eRyyj_NCo
Blaster Master, Level 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUnwRFMo6D0
Blaster Master, Level 2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIjIUyXrBJg
Body Harvest, Outdoors (Violin), http://youtu.be/pC41_–XeqQ
Body Harvest, Indoors (piano), http://youtu.be/wURLANzjDLk
Breath of Fire, Deep Forest, http://youtu.be/1iCbSLFrqrU
California Games (NES), Flying Disc, http://youtu.be/5iYMN2FKkoY
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Bloody Tears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjazC45Qkww
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Jail of Jewel, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtRdjcXfXsc
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Dracula’s Castle, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgF0uBjCds0
Cave Story, On to Grasstown, http://youtu.be/VlmOhXoKmoQ
Chrono Trigger, Wind Scene (Yearning of Wind), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqZaFDA7PXY
Contra (NES), Level 3, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U58a-svZok8
Deus Ex, Hong Kong Streets 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzvw8uSWucM
Diablo, Tristram Village, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8jJJXgNLo4
Dragon Quest IX, Heaven’s Prayer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myjd1MnZx5Y
Dragon Quest VIII, Strange World, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN9Up_0zuUs
Dragon Quest VIII, Heavenly Flight, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taVdFgxvhRg
Ducktales, Transylvania, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UuHesrJROw
Final Fantasy, Temple of Fiends, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW56QbT0lrM
Final Fantasy VI, Terra’s Theme, http://youtu.be/W7RPY-oiDAQ
Fire Emblem (7 in series order), Wind Across the Plains, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFWOvIrBCgc
F-Zero GX, Captain Falcon’s Theme, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L0pW3Eol6k
Grandia II, Mirumu, http://youtu.be/ZG_oW5XH71Y
Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Swamp Lands, http://youtu.be/Cffc_s0eN5Q
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, The Last Sleep, http://youtu.be/BwdCg8Gqqfk
Jet Grind Radio, Magical Girl, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h9f939bW3c
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Butter Building, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfdJbaCfXjQ
Kirby’s Adventure, Ending, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OVKyjZs-nU
The Last Ninja, Stage 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiLvoMpLQFA
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Forest Temple, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4o3EMdYaKw
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Spirit Temple, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0PVz2pIEcw
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Kakariko Village, http://youtu.be/LdERRFGaUjY
Mario Kart 64, Credits, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYwZT3CvpMw
Mega Man 2, Air Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FINefcN9pPc
Mega Man 3, Snake Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM-Fub7Oc_A
Mega Man 5, Wave Man, http://youtu.be/Nd2O6mbhCLU
Mega Man 6, Flame Man, http://youtu.be/qdWeTin2mho
Mega Man 6, Mr. X stages, http://youtu.be/uhJ7Ss-puVY
Metroid, Ending, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQeUkUp4uRc
Metroid Prime, Phendrana Drifts (second version), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbbUv1hz6mE
Metroid Prime, Tallon Overworld, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mziw3FQkZYg
Monster Tale, Ancient Ruins, http://youtu.be/iQ1D6UJW5Jg
M.U.L.E., Main Theme, http://youtu.be/VI2e-jwjhN4
Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Seifu Meigetsu A, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUF1lkbvoUs
Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Bosyoku Souzen A, http://youtu.be/c9qBwD4bxO8
Ogre Battle 64, Premonition, http://youtu.be/Rel-IOyQTX0
Ogre Battle 64, The Sensational World, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSnlp1YAUJ0
Okami, Reset, http://youtu.be/zpuGNH75pUc
Perfect Dark, Chicago – Stealth, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJbwLjKhVGw
Persona 4, Your Affection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ChrBp1pEGM
Persona 4, The Almighty, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNVMKpk__HQ
Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, The Dark Fragrance of Coffee, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxzTrWUajZg
Portal, Still Alive, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ljFaKRTrI
Portal 2, Want You Gone, http://youtu.be/jBdRaGSI4jU
Power Blade, Level 4 – Tower, http://youtu.be/c-R6Zp3n608
Rayman Origins, Sea of Serendipity – Panic at the Port!, http://youtu.be/5UVPJxSmt54
Rayman Origins, Sea of Serendipity – Lums of the Water (“Glou Glou”), http://youtu.be/oNV2uakCtzs
Secret of Mana, A Wish, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLK8IrYrZxA
Shadow Hearts: From the New World, Dead Fingers Talk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5clzlxOZQeU
Shadow Hearts: From the New World, Adios, http://youtu.be/-lkRjV7Zp-k
Silent Hill, Silent Hill, http://youtu.be/_EN-_1OGtUY
Silent Hill 2, Laura, http://youtu.be/6LB7LZZGpkw
Silent Hill 3, Breeze ~in monochrome light~, http://youtu.be/OneUwrYiGIw
Skies of Arcadia, Kingdom of Ixa’taka, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F-hJjD3XAs
Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Dmitri’s Nightclub, http://youtu.be/RCX3tV7lSdk
Sonic CD, Sonic Boom, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJXKoubh9sQ
Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Ice Forest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4URokdL-dfM
Super Mario 64, Koopa’s (Bowser’s) Road, http://youtu.be/0rygsWPCjNQ
Super Mario 64, Water Course Theme (Dire Dire Docks), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqcPSbkS9TQ
Super Mario Galaxy, Gusty Garden Galaxy, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z2kxFCQ_mQ
Super Metroid, Maradia, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxobPQMNY_w
Super Metroid, Brinstar (Plant Overgrown), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ULlqfeNLWY
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Bramble Blast, http://youtu.be/G3rnyqI7dFc
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metroid Theme, http://youtu.be/3MRznLSFGFQ
Tales of Symphonia, Like a Glint of Light, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFWadiZkA_8
Xenoblade Chronicles, Guar Plains, http://youtu.be/xweRl4LZlmo
Xenoblade Chronicles, Title Theme, http://youtu.be/nNR-wsFAfiU
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II, Dungeon Theme #2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF-30Dg9Xs4
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II, Dungeon Theme #6, http://youtu.be/22ATqffTkIk

 

Dropped from last year:
Banjo-Kazooie, Click Clock Wood (spring)
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Aquarius
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Hail from the Past
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Crystal Teardrops
Contra (NES), Level 1
Donkey Kong Country, Theme (Simian Segue)
Dragon Quest IX, I Won’t Lose
Grandia II, Carbo
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Big Dreams
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Outer Rings
Legend of Zelda, Death Mountain (Final Dungeon)
Mega Man 2, Wood Man
Mega Man 5, Charge Man
Persona 4, Reach out to the Truth
Resident Evil 4, Sorrow
Super Mario Galaxy 2, The Tico and the Hat
Super Mario RPG, And My Name’s Booster
Tales of Symphonia, Dry Trail

Modified on 12/26/2012, JF

Looking Back – My Favorite Game of 2004

2004 was overall a very good year…but it was a little tumultuous for its first few months. I was confused, that I was. You see, I wanted so badly to be in a relationship. It took me way too long to figure out who I wanted to try to ask out. I had been shot down three times by now, and the fear of rejection was pretty high. The early months of 2004 was me puzzling and debating over that kind of mental torture. Who gave off the best vibes about liking me back? The real sticking point about that question was that Grace was interested in me. She made her own difficult approaches to get me to go out with her to see a movie or something twice in that chaos, and due to me being a big dumb idiot, I declined. XD I regret absolutely nothing about my life with Grace beyond that bit of gloriously blind stupidity. However, she said the other day when I mentioned that to her that it had worked out just fine, and I don’t disagree. I just wish I was able to be with her earlier.

Anyway! After a trip to Ashland, Oregon with the drama club, I finally realized that Grace liked me too and we agreed to meet to discuss my (quite crappy) poetry the following weekend. That turned into something beyond either of our expectations and with it came the realization that we were suddenly a “thing”. Unfortunately, her sister and her boyfriend were sent out to “rescue” her, so we couldn’t spend the whole night together. Once that was cleared up, we officially began dating a couple of days later. It was a little rocky, because we both were new at this dating thing and had our own preconceptions of what it all meant. However, it all panned out and we got engaged a year later, on the day of our first “date”. But that’s next year! I’ll continue on with that next time.

School wise, I started taking journalism that year, which I really liked. I spent a year and a half editing the college paper, and that helped springboard my interest back into English. Drama was my major to that point, but I didn’t feel that I wanted to do that forever as a career. It is a lot of fun, but it puts a lot of strain and attention onto you that I didn’t want to deal with. With the journalism major essentially eradicated, I went with English, which was a lot of fun. I had a couple of teachers that clashed with me one way or another, but the majority of my classes were awesome and worth the time. It helped build the desire to write that I have now.

I don’t think I picked up anything new or exciting in 2004 system wise. My DS was bought in 2005. Gaming had a pretty solid year, though. Not as marvelous as 2003, but a pretty good year regardless.

Shortlist:


Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA, Nintendo)

A complete remake of the original Metroid. It updated Samus’ arsenal with some tricks from Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion and some new abilities, redid the level design to make it more like the later games, and threw in a whole new section after you beat Mother Brain. Beyond a couple of missteps, this was a great way of reinventing a classic.


Tales of Symphonia (GC, Namco)

Sensational music, a fantastic cast, an engaging battle system and mostly impressive visuals power the Gamecube’s best original RPG.


Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2, Sony/Sucker Punch)

Sly Cooper returns to steal more loot from a new host of bad guys, all in the hopes of collecting the pieces of his nemesis, Clockwork. His pals Bentley and Murray join the playable roster, and the three make for a rewarding gameplay experience.


Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GC, Nintendo)

Despite being somewhat crippled in its design due to the GBA requirement to play multiplayer, Four Swords Adventures is a surprisingly good installment in the franchise. It is radically different from the other Zelda titles, but it retains plenty of the charm and puzzle-solving the series is known for. Underrated.

In my opinion, the best game of 2004 was…

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2, Sony/Sucker Punch)

To be written.

(more…)

Artistic Discussion: Gloriously Bad Box Arts Anniversary Special – 8/6/2012

It’s been a bit since I’ve slammed some poor box arts as a collective. Let’s do that!

Last Ninja 2 – Back with a Vengeance (C64, System 3)

When half your box is a needlessly large logo, particularly that nastily drawn “2”, there may be a problem. When you have a creepy set of eyes overlooking the city, I think serial murderer or sick pedophile or something from a movie about those types of people. Not so much do-gooding ninjas. The yellow and blue tones for the skin aren’t helping. The cityscape isn’t bad, but the rest of the piece is just appalling to me.

Anticipation (NES, Nintendo)

BEFORE THE WII OVERTOOK AMERICA, NINTENDO TRIED TO WIN OVER THE STATES IN THE 1980’s WITH THE NES HIT ANTICIPATION…

Not only is Anticipation a lousy game (honestly, you have to type out words with the NES pad!), but this “family fun” box is sort of embarrassing. It’s the ’80’s casual fashion personified, which makes it scary in itself, but who in their right mind would get this excited over Anticipation? Super Mario Bros. I could see, but this is false advertising at its sleaziest. Cheesy, obnoxious and a blatant lie.

Tecmo World Wrestling (NES, Tecmo)

Ah, muscle-bound dudes drawn funnily. I seem to run into that problem more often than not. Remember Power Instinct or Lone Soldier? Tecmo throws their hat into the awkward anatomy ring, and do a pretty good job! The unmasked man has odd shoulders, stranger abs, a broken right wrist and his stance doesn’t look all that macho. His masked adversary has a left hand disattached from his arm gauging by the perspective, and his head may be decapitated from the rest of him, too, not sure. Yuck.

Spear of Destiny (PC, id Software)

This is a good game from what I understand, but it doesn’t try very hard to sell itself on its box art. XD This is incredibly amateurish. The glass shattering is the best part, but everything else is a mess. The hero here has anatomy issues as well as our wrestling friends above, and his face doesn’t really scream out manliness (I’m presuming that it’s trying to). The gun appears to be an afterthought, and I hope for his sake some glass doesn’t set off that trigger! The background has an abstract approach that clashes with the foreground. The logo is trying to look neat, but the stained glass-esque effect makes it look sloppy. All and all, a rather lackluster effort. Good thing Brom was recruited later for Doom.

Song Highlights – Xenoblade Chronicles, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Party, Rayman Origins

Guar Plains – Xenoblade Chronicles (ACE+, Wii, Nintendo/Monolith Soft)

Man, this soundtrack is incredible, with this one track a highlight of its quality. I adore wandering around to this theme. So adventurous!

Bramble Blast – Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Michiro Naruke/David Wise [original composer], Wii, Nintendo)

The original song Wise performed is nice, but I really do enjoy listening to Naruke’s arrangement. It has great instrumentation that take the original composition into peppier places, and I am a big fan of the way it sounds. Shame I don’t like the DK level it plays on. :(

Mario Party – Peaceful Mushroom Village (Yasunori Mitsuda, Main Menu theme, N64, Nintendo/Hudson)

A short loop but a really good one. Very relaxing, very mellow, and is the best thing I can recollect from this game. My palms still ache, Nintendo. :p

Rayman Origins – Lost Beats (Christophe Heral/Billy Martin, Desert of Dijiridoos stages, PS3/Xbox 360/Wii/PC/3DS/Vita, UBISoft)

The musical talents of Heral cannot be ignored. I don’t know how much Martin did, but most of this soundtrack screams out Heral to me. :p This is a lovely mix of instrumentation that is just amazing to listen to. It’s 10 minutes long, so it’ll keep you entertained for a bit.

Eurogamer Unearths Second Sight

I am a fairly big fan of Free Radical’s Second Sight, a game that got lost in the midst of massive releases (Half Life 2, anyone?) and the more advertised Psi-Ops from Midway. However, Eurogamer does the gaming world a service by revisiting the forgotten title, analyzing its various qualities and recommending a playthrough. It is indeed a splendid little game, hampered a bit with some convoluted controls as the article states. Still, if you can bypass that issue, you’ll be rewarded by the game’s fascinating plot (which I warn you now the article completely spoils the twist at the end!) and well-done gameplay mechanics.

Wildcat’s Ten Favorite PC Games (Updated 8/23/2012)

Well, I fell off of the “favorite games per platform” bandwagon for a couple months…school can do that to you, I suppose. With a bit of a break in my workload, I wanted to finally share my personal picks for the best in PC gaming enjoyment.  This will include Commodore 64 titles alongside the contemporary. Let’s start!

Portal (Valve)

Portal really is one of the most astoundingly brilliant games I’ve played. It balances an amazing gameplay mechanic, clever level design and a gripping narrative into one seamlessly glorious experience. Well worth looking into this one!

Morrowind (Bethesda Software)

Morrowind is by far one of the most engrossing games I’ve sunken time into. I love wandering around in its vast world with my avatars, creating their mythos and fleshing out their characters. The combat is a little boneheaded, but otherwise I have no complaints with this game whatsoever. More on it here.

M.U.L.E. (Electronic Arts/Ozark Software)

Man, I am still stunned this game is as old as I am, because it’s so sophisticated for its age (see here). The creators of M.U.L.E. were incredibly progressive, and this gem of a strategy game shines because of it. Consider Planet M.U.L.E., the game’s modern update, if you’re curious to try it out.

Deus Ex (Eidos/Ion Storm)

My first taste of the gameplay philosophy of Warren Spector went incredibly well, I must say. This melding of FPS and RPG is wonderful to play, and it provides plenty of replay thanks to its extensive skills/augmentation tweaking.

Age of Mythology (Microsoft/Ensemble Studios)

I really like the mechanics of this game, making it one of the few cases of real-time strategy I’ve enjoyed. Although the difficulty is a little skewed towards experts of the genre (Medium brings the pain), I have relished playing all three civilizations and leading them to victory.

Heroes of Might and Magic IV (3D0/New World Computing)

This is such a great game, it really is. It may climb a little higher in time when I get the chance to refresh my memory, but this is an excellent example of PC strategy at its finest.

Sam & Max Season 1 (Telltale Games)

I love these guys, I really do. I need to get more episodes. *ahem* The narrative power of the first three episodes is among the finest writing in any game I’ve played, and the quirky world of Sam and Max is endearingly charming (even with all the threats of violence!).

Agent USA (Scholastic/Tom Snyder Productions)

Edutainment done right. Agent USA mixes in compelling gameplay into its educational mission, and succeeds at both teaching and engaging the player. Kudos.

The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight (Electronic Arts/Interplay)

My favorite of the trilogy, probably due to it being the first western RPG to really capture my interest. It’s a massive beast of a game and I never got very far, but the atmosphere was compelling enough for me to think fondly of the time spent with it. More here.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! (2K Games/Firaxis)

Man, I really do love this game, too. I wish the “siege” and “stealth” parts of the game were a little better than they are, but this medley of gameplay concepts is otherwise exceptional.

Contenders:

Jumpman (Epyx)

Cave Story (Studio Pixel)

Diablo (Blizzard)

Age of Empires III (Microsoft/Ensemble Studios)

Way of the Exploding Fist (Melbourne House)

Song Highlights – Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Final Fantasy, Blast Corps, Street Fighter II

Terrain Swamp, Heroes of Might and Magic IV (PC, 3DO/New World Computing, Paul Romero, Rob King, Steve Baca, Paul James)

Man, I forgot how lovely the Heroes music was until I was listening to a few of the songs recently.  This is among one of my favorites from the game.  I love the overall ambiance of the instrumentation and vocals.  Great song.

Temple of Fiends, Final Fantasy (NES, Square-Enix, Nobuo Uematsu)

I heard a remix of this Darangen did (I’ll put it up later on this week as part of the Spring Break Remixfest) and was reminded of how great the original Final Fantasy music actually is (apparently, this is a “something reminded me” type of post. XD ).  Anyway, this is menacing and well-tempoed.  A good way to build the tension on the way to Chaos.

Angel City, Blast Corps (N64, Nintendo/Rare, Graeme Norgate)

Surprisingly rocking stuff on the N64 soundchip.  Rare was no stranger to making that thing rock, but this is one of the better examples of a hard-hitting tune.

Chun Li’s Theme, Street Fighter II (Arcade, Capcom, Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, Yoko Shimomura, & Tetsuya Nishimura)

Another piece from the SF2 STK, this time the theme to Chun Li’s stage.  I like the distinctly Chinese sound this song eludes.

Gamer’s Playlist – Vikingguitar Shreds Apart Cave Story


I am a big fan of Vikingguitar’s work – he’s quickly become one of my favorite remixers with hard-hitting takes on Blaster Master, Chrono Trigger, Metroid, Castlevania and plenty more.  Recently he released a new EP focusing on games with robots called “Made of Metal”, and it’s full of Cave Story remixes such as this one.  This reaffirms my belief in his excellence – I hope you feel the same.

His Bandcamp page can be found here.

Make or Break – Tutorials

Man, I really meant to do these more than every one and a half years. XD

Anyway, welcome back to Make or Break, where I analyze a particular aspect of gaming, with good and/or bad examples.  Last time way back when was Sound Repetition, a rather lovely topic that spun around several games like Madworld, International Superstar Soccer 98 and King of Fighters, discussing how the abuse of sound and voice can be okay in some cases and not in others.  This time, I’m going to dig into the tutorial aspect of games.  Let me begin with what inspired me to write this in the first place.

I really want to love Zelda: Skyward Sword.  It does a lot of things beautifully.  It looks incredible, has some astoundingly good music, the motion controls are mostly solid and fun to play around with, and the dungeons and bosses are up to the usual Zelda standard, if not more so in some situations.  However, it suffers from a particularly fatal flaw in that it truly must think that the player is a fucking idiot.  Fi, a fascinating character design with moments of awesomeness, unfortunately gets saddled with being the most overbearing nuisance of a guiding figure I’ve experienced in a long time.  Her computer-styled personality does not aid her in this regard.  She has a nasty habit of overexplaining the obvious, offering advice when it really wasn’t necessary, and, through her ability to allow Link to dowse for items and people, forces the player to mandatory open the dowsing menu whenever she creates a new one, even if the location is clearly somewhere the player can get to without the dowsing (i.e. getting to Lanrayu Desert).  She could have been a contender for coolest assistant, but Midna continues to wear that crown.

Beyond Fi, though, it boggles me to no end that Nintendo must sincerely suppose their Zelda fanbase has forgotten how the franchise works, or that they need constant refreshers on common items, because it takes the pleasant “you found a ‘item'” messaging to the extreme in Skyward Sword.  In Twilight Princess, it wasn’t too bad getting the occasional 20+ rupee notice, but did they take it to fucking 11 here with the consistent stopping of the game to prattle off whatever crap you picked up each and every time you start the game up.  I don’t need to be reminded about the Jelly Blob all the time, and I certainly do not need to be shown where it is in the damn menu EVERY startup.  It really makes the game drag in short playthroughs, which is what I’m able to do right now.  It’s truly a shame, because that one quibble is enough to ruin what is otherwise exceptional gaming joy.  The game just can’t stop tutoring the player.

Another example of tutorial done wrong is the lengthy Oblivion intro.  It seems I find myself attracted to nitpicking Oblivion in these articles, and it’s not anything deliberate (despite my belief it’s the weakest of the four I’ve played in the Elder Scrolls series), but let me explain my grief and maybe you’ll see why I’m attacking it again.  Oblivion begins with Uriel Septim marching into your jail cell (as a sidenote, why are you always a criminal when you begin these games?), which features a hidden passage.  He’s under attack from Morag Bal’s minions, and the Blades, his bodyguards, believe this is the safest route out of the castle.  Septim chats you up for a while, which always the player to determine their class, race and facial features, and then the group march off.  Since you’re not an fool, you follow behind in order to escape yourself.  Well, this is all well and good, but this soiree becomes a 20+ minute dungeon crawl that forces the player to experiment with gear and quickly learn the ropes in a confined, anti-Elder Scrolls fashion.  You see, the beauty of this franchise is to be able to create a hero or heroine (or villain or villainess, or anything in between, really) and let them be exactly what you think they ought to be.  This tutorial breaks that mold.  It drags on and on and on, forcing you into situations you may not want to do (like getting face-to-face with goblins, say), and requires use of items or weapons you may not care to use (the bow, for one).  I was very pleased Skyrim ditched this approach and allowed for a shorter, more engaging introduction to its world, and it gave the player the chance to determine what they yearned to be and act upon it.

For a tutorial done right, it may surprise you to learn that I consider Dead Space Extraction to be one of the finest tutorials ever implemented in a game.  It’s unobtrusive, popping up if it feels the player needs some guidance, isn’t backed by some annoying buzzer or garishly large font (it’s tucked under the RIG bars dead center), and it doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the game.  It’s the ideal system – helping when it needs to, and leaving the player along if they don’t.  Even the later Dead Space 2 didn’t quite master Extraction’s smooth tutorial explanations, preferring to go a more or less Skyward Sword route with pop-ups that block chunks of the screen that force the action to grind to a sudden halt.  They at least don’t occur in battle often.

In conclusion, I feel that the aiding of players to understand mechanics needs to be more than an afterthought and done in a way that it doesn’t hinder the overall experience.  The ability to shut off tutorials and hints would be a good place to start, as would following Extraction’s example of detecting the player’s ability and giving appropriate response (or lack thereof, if they seemingly have got the game’s controls and abilities down).  Perhaps making the tutorial a completely separate level that can be bypassed (a la Half Life or Perfect Dark) by expert players or those just wanting to get their feet wet would also be a good plan.  Tutorials can be beneficial, but only if they treat the player with the proper respect.  Don’t drag it out, don’t belittle the gamer’s intelligence, and don’t make it mandatory (at least for replays).

I may expand this down the road, but as of right now I’m pretty pleased with it and feel it expresses what I want it to.

Stripping Away Silence – The Oregon Trail and Winter Games…for Science Class?

I don’t want every SAS to be a negative soapbox rant.  Sometimes I can be cheery (well, most of the time).  Even in elementary school, something I frequently document as being a bit hellish for me, there were moments of joy.  For example, I was reminded at the HG101 forum of my science class, which occurred between fourth through sixth grades.  Maybe a third of the time, we actually did science lessons.  More often than not, it was the freedom to play primitive yet awesome Apple iie software.

I’m surprised to discover that my school wasn’t the only one providing ample time to die by dysentery or shoot down half the animal population of the midwest.  Apparently many elementary teachers believed in the early promise of educational software to deliver an enlightening yet interactive touch to expand (or provide, depending on the teacher’s ability to teach) lessons on history.  The Oregon Trail was able to plop kids into a pixelated time machine, whisk them back to 1848, and wonder why everything was so blocky and why green pants were all the rage back then.  Enough sarcasm – the game did do its simulated trek across the plains and mountains decently, and it actually was entertaining.  Hell if I can remember any history about the game, but I do have fond memories of actually surviving the journey with the majority of my family intact.

I have more recollections of not managing to get to Oregon at all, though.  Flooded rivers swallowing my wagon, carrying off family members, oxen and important supplies in varying quantities.  Of hunting, oftentimes killing far more than was necessary and doing my part in eliminating the buffalo from the plains (tragic, isn’t it?).  Of outfitting the wagon in different ways, never sure if I should cart more wagon supplies or bullets this time out.  It was an amusing way to spent a hour…especially considering it was not gaming time at home, but class time at school.

My other science class pastime was Epyx’s Winter Games.  When I was a wee lad, I had no idea that the NES California Games I rented and the Apple Winter Games I dabbled with for science were in the same series.   I don’t know if I ever truly unraveled the controls in my youth, but I do remember quite distinctly finding the NES Winter Games, botched by Acclaim quite horribly, and was really wondering how in the hell I liked the game in the first place.  Luckily, I got a Commodore 64 shortly afterward that had Summer Games I and II included, and I finally pieced together the puzzle and realized that all of these games (plus World Games) were made by the same people and that they were all pretty amazing on their original hardware (I’ve yet to play the C64 California Games, but Rare did a competent job in porting it).

Did you have the opportunity to game for your education?  Feel free to add your memories in the comments!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 142 other followers