Gamer’s Playlist – Yoshihiro Arita, his band, and Seiko Visit Lon Lon Ranch

Another surge of schoolwork marks another little break from me, but don’t fret! I’ve got you covered with a post up to Sunday, and I hope to have some art drawn up for you this week. :) *ahem* As for today’s Gamer’s Playlist selection, this particular track, a delightful cover of Lon Lon Ranch and Epona’s Song from Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is taken from Mario & Zelda Big Band Live!, a splendid little concert from Japan covering a slew of Mario and Zelda tracks in…big band style! Who’ve thought it? This one however is special, as singer Seiko re-imagines Malon’s hymn to Epona wonderfully, and the backing instrumentation of Yoshihiro Arita and his band is perfect. Enjoy!

Wildcat’s Favorite Gaming Soundtracks (2012)

A little bit ago I revised my Top 100 tunes in gaming, and had the thought of deciphering my overall favorite soundtracks as well. I’ve decided to select 50 games to represent the best of the best in terms of gaming music, and here they are. There are no limits on this one, so you’ll see a few franchises well represented here. The Top 15 will be at the top, including links to the individual playlists. The remaining selections will be below and merely listed. All are in alphabetical order. I hope you all like these soundtracks as much as I do!

TOP 15:

Age of Mythology (PC, Microsoft/Ensemble Studios, Stephen Rippy/Kevin McCullan)

Batman (NES, Sunsoft, Naoki Kodaka/Nobuyuki Hara)

Beyond Good & Evil (Multi, UBI Soft, Christophe Héral)

Body Harvest (N64, Midway/DMA Design, Stuart Ross/Allan Walker)

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS, Konami, Michiru Yamane/Yuko Koshiro)

Chrono Trigger (SNES, Square-Enix, Yasunori Mitsuda/Nobuo Uemetsu)

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of a Cursed King (PS2, Square-Enix/Level-5, Koichi Sugiyama)

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS, CiNG/Nintendo, Yuhki Mori/Satoshi Okubo)

Mega Man 3 (NES, Capcom, Yasuaki Fujita)

Metroid (NES, Nintendo, Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

Okami (PS2, Capcom, Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Hamada, Rei Kondo and Akari Groves)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2, Atlus, Shoji Meguro)

Skies of Arcadia (DC, Sega/Overworks, Yutaka Minobe/Takayuki Maeda)

Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo, Koji Kondo)

Super Metroid (SNES, Nintendo, Kenji Yamamoto/Minako Hamano)

The Rest:

Age of Empires III (PC, Microsoft/Ensemble Studios, Stephen Rippy/Kevin McCullan)
Banjo-Kazooie (N64, Rare/Nintendo, Grant Kirkhope)
A Boy and his Blob (Wii, Majesco/Wayforward, Daniel Sadowski)
Castlevania (NES, Konami, Kinuyo Yamashita)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami, Michiru Yamane)
Contra (NES, Konami, Hidenori Maezawa, Kyouhei Sada, KONAMI KuKeiHa Club)
Deus Ex (PC, Ion Storm/Eidos, Alexander Brandon, Dan Gardopée, Michiel van den Bos, Reeves Gabrels)
Dragon Quest IX (DS, Square-Enix/Level-5, Koichi Sugiyama)
Final Fantasy III (SNES, Square-Enix, Nobuo Uemetsu)
Fire Emblem (GBA, Nintendo/Intelligent Systems, Yuka Tsujiyoko)
Goldeneye 007 (N64, Rare/Nintendo, Graeme Norgate)
Heroes of Might and Magic IV (PC, New World Computing/3DO, Paul Romero, Rob King, Steve Baca, Paul James)
King of Fighters Evolution (NeoGeo, SNK Playmore, NeoGeo Music Performance Group)
Kirby’s Adventure (NES, HAL Labs/Nintendo, Hirokazu Andō/Jun Ishikawa)
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii, HAL Labs/Feel Good/Nintendo, Tomoya Tomita, Hirokazu Andō, Jun Ishikawa)
The Last Blade 2 (NeoGeo, SNK Playmore, NeoGeo Music Performance Group)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, Nintendo, Koji Kondo)
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GC, Nintendo, Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota)
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (DS, Neverland/Square-Enix/Natsume, Yasunori Shiono, Tomoko Morita, Yukio Nakajima)
Metroid Prime (GC, Nintendo/Retro Studios, Kenji Yamamoto)
Monster Tale (DS, Majesco/Dreamrift, Ian Stocker)
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii, Vanillaware/Ignition, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, Noriyuki Kamikura, Kimihiro Abe, Yoshimi Kudo, Azusa Chiba)
Ogre Battle 64 (N64, Square-Enix/Quest, Hayato Matsuo, Masaharu Iwata, Hitoshi Sakimoto)
Power Blade (NES, Taito/Natsume, Kinuyo Yamashita)
Rayman Origins (Multi, UBI Soft, Christophe Héral/Billy Martin)
Red Dead Redemption (PS3/Xbox 360, Rockstar/Rockstar San Diego, Bill Elm/Woody Jackson)
Secret of Mana (SNES, Square-Enix, Hiroki Kikuta)
Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2, Nautilus/Aruze/XSEED, Yoshitaka Hirota/Tomoko Imoto)
Sid Meier’s Pirates! (PC, Firaxis/Take 2, Mark Cromer/Michael Curran)
Silent Hill 3 (PS2, Konami, Akira Yamaoka)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo, Koji Kondo/Mahito Yokota)
Tales of Symphonia (GC, Namco Bandai, Motoi Sakuraba/Shusaku Uchiyama)
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii, Monolith Soft/Nintendo, Yoko Shinomura, ACE+, Yasunori Mitsuda, Manami Kiyota)
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II (NES, Nintendo, Y. Hirai/T. Kumegawa)

Fan Art Fridays – Itsuki Hoshi’s Revisionings of The Legend of Zelda

It ought to be clear by now how much I love Skies of Arcadia, right? One reason is illustrator Itsuki Hoshi’s exquisite character designs. Well, he dabbled a bit in fan art at his site PRANK, and before he shifted it around to its current state he had two Zelda sketches that are pretty damn awesome if you ask me.

That’s what I’ve wanted to do all week long. Just sleep. Maybe not with pigs, though.

I’ve also been a little rage-fueled due to being sick. So I suppose Hoshi’s work is a good analogy for how I’ve wished to be and how I’ve been. :p

I am back, BTW, at least for a little while. Being sick with so many important assignments being due is craptactular, but at least the assignments part is done for a bit. Now I just need to rest for a bit this weekend.

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

Song Highlights – The Music of Legend of Zelda

With the Legend of Zelda reaching its 25 year anniversary this year (among so many others – yikes!), I felt perhaps it would be prudent to give the series’ exceptional score a tip of my hat.  Koji Kondo and his cohorts in later years have done splendidly rendering the worlds of Hyrule with musical joy, and these are ten examples that I cling strongest to.

The Legend of Zelda – Title Theme (NES, Koji Kondo)

About as epic a ballad the NES has ever done, I find this slower take on the classic Zelda theme preferable over the overworld standard, myself.  Fantastic at establishing a mood and a great way to gear up before venturing into the first Hyrule. (more…)

Wildcat’s Ten Favorite Nintendo 64 Games (Updated 8/22/2012)

I adore my humble N64. It was my second gaming console, and I think I’ve put as much time into it as I did into the old NES. I’ve got three N64 games floating in my Alternate list of my favorite games, with plenty of others not too far behind, so I have plenty of solid memories of the system. If I had to pick ten essentials for the platform, these would be them (note! If the title is on the VC, I’ll have an asterisk [*] next to its name, or if it’s on Xbox Live, it’ll have a pound sign [#]):

Super Mario 64* (Nintendo)

I once held Ocarina of Time as the greatest N64 game, but I don’t think time has been as kind to it as it has to Mario’s triumphant debut. This also remains my favorite Mario title by a long shot. Why do I love it so? Perhaps a quick look at my 1996 Looking Back piece will explain!

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time* (Nintendo)

Yes, perhaps age has been a tad harsh of Ocarina. Twilight Princess and Wind Waker both made significant strides in improving Link’s mobility and smoothness, and going back to Ocarina is a step back. Honestly though, that’s the only factor of its age. The dungeons, the music and the overall quality still shine through. I’ve got plenty more to say about the game elsewhere, with my best comments here in my 1998 Looking Back article.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber* (Atlus/Quest)

Before being gobbled up by Square-Enix, Quest was an independent developer best known for the Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre series of games, with this entry being a highlight of the N64 lineup as its best RPG. It takes a hands-off approach in terms of battling: the player is in the commander’s seat, issuing commands to squad leaders marching on an overworld map, equipping those armies with gear, changing classes of your troops, and keeping an eye on the coffers in the midst of all this. Despite battles being CPU-controlled (you can issue commands to retreat, alter formation or, if you have them, unleash powerful Elem Pedra spells in the hope to take advantage in a tight battle), it’s gripping stuff. It remains my favorite strategy RPG (side by side with Fire Emblem), and I can highly recommend it for fans of the genre.

Body Harvest (Midway/DMA Design)

I like this game a lot. I’ve written an article for HG101 on it, which may indicate that I enjoy the open alien-filled worlds of Body Harvest more than most people. Despite me taking a more or less impartial stance in that article, I think it’ll explain my passion for it better than a paragraph here would.

Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo/Rare)

Ah, Mr. Bond. You went and shocked the world with your amazing game back in 1997. Incorporating a first person shooter with objectives that change depending on the difficulty, a wide cache of weapons to carry out your mission, and surprisingly not sucking like so many other movie-based licenses do. While time has not been entirely kind to you, with so many refinements and advancements in the genre in the years following your arrival, I still consider you a 00 agent worthy of deployment. More to be said in my ‘97 Favorite Games.

Perfect Dark # (Rare)

Joanna Dark is not as quite an effective agent as 007 was, alas. Her single player campaign starts off very well but fizzles out when aliens enter the picture, culminating in a terrible final boss encounter (see here). However, PD truly shines in multiplayer, despite some frame rate problems. I’ve spent over seven days in multiplayer mode with friends and/or AI bots, and it takes a significant amount of time for it to get old. It was perhaps too ambitious a project for the humble N64, but I’m glad I had a chance to experience it nevertheless.

International Superstar Soccer ’98 (Konami)

Konami did support the N64 pretty well in its third-party drought, with the ISS series standing out as their gem. This is, without question, the best sports game I have ever played. It’s incredibly smooth, the AI is sharp, the ambiance is great, and the frame rate holds firm in gameplay (chugging only for the celebrations). Bar none the greatest game of pitch you could find. I’d like to try the Pro Evolution games, since they spun off from this, but I’m afraid I will be disappointed. :(

Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)

Capcom ditched Nintendo for most of the N64 lifespan, finally showing up to the party well after most of the other guests went home. Luckily, they did bring along two of their more acclaimed PS1 games (this and Mega Man Legends), as well as a goofy Disney Tetris game. Resident Evil 2 happens to be one of the technical masterpieces of the hardware. It managed to compress two CD’s worth of data onto a large cartridge, kept in the voice work and FMV, and magically doesn’t look atrocious at all. The models look better than the PS1 original, but the textures (the bane of any N64 developer) aren’t as sharp. This game kicked off my RE fandom, so that ought to be a decent indicator of how good this port was. It’s the best of the old-school RE’s, in my opinion.

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask* (Nintendo)

The boldest Zelda title since Zelda II on the NES, Majora’s Mask took many creative risks, and most of them worked out in the game’s favor. The three-day cycle was a neat gimmick that Nintendo built a proper town life around, making it seem one of the more true-to-life locales in any game up to that point. Link’s transformations added some variety to the Ocarina template, and the dungeons, while fewer in number, stand as some of Zelda’s most intriguing. Add in some ominous mood (in part thanks to the creepy Moon hovering over you all the time) and some truly bizarre characters (Tingle?) and you’re in for an interesting ride.

Banjo-Kazooie # (Rare)

Rare’s attempt to mimic Mario 64 wasn’t quite as stellar as Nintendo’s effort, but it certainly packed in more variety. Banjo and Kazooie’s ever-growing moveset made the experience a little Metroid-like, and it played up the platforming level tropes with much success. Rare’s finest platformer on the console, without question.

Contenders:

Blast Corps (Nintendo/Rare)

Starfox 64* (Nintendo)

Waverace 64* (Nintendo)

Mario Kart 64* (Nintendo)

1080 Snowboarding* (Nintendo)

Wildcat’s 100 Favorite Game Tunes (2011)

Kurt Kalata over at Hardcore Gaming 101 is running a poll to determine what video gaming tunage is most liked among the forum and blog there, and I decided to participate and compile my favorites.  I’ve done quite a few Song Highlights on these tunes, and will be doing plenty more in the near future spotlighting them and providing some explanation, but here’s my list (with Youtube links to sample the song – hopefully they all work!):

TOP 5


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

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 Mythology, Suture Self, http://youtu.be/KhvklZT0LMg
Age of Mythology, Chocolate Outline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBpz9S6I07g
Banjo-Kazooie, Click Clock Wood (spring), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXoaTcf_3vo
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
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 III: Dracula’s Curse, Aquarius, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MORo75YOHWs
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Hail from the Past, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg1PDaOnU2Q
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
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Crystal Teardrops, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWwJEQt90qk
Chrono Trigger, Wind Scene (Yearning of Wind), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqZaFDA7PXY
Contra (NES), Level 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UqXbEwqwF8
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
Donkey Kong Country, Theme (Simian Segue), http://youtu.be/nLT1-5laF0A
Dragon Quest IX, Heaven’s Prayer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myjd1MnZx5Y
Dragon Quest IX, I Won’t Lose, http://youtu.be/aycArJW4klo
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
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, Carbo, http://youtu.be/1XqprRUVSJo
Grandia II, Mirumu, http://youtu.be/ZG_oW5XH71Y
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Big Dreams, http://youtu.be/cgy5_a9fx4g
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, Outer Rings, http://youtu.be/y3DAHtoitXY
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
Legend of Zelda, Death Mountain (Final Dungeon), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_NPA7caCsc
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 2, Wood Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbK2uCp4-sQ
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 5, Charge Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PEukLWNKsg
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
MULE, 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, Shinshu Plains (1 and 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yKG-Qu4WvM
Okami, Hanasaki Valley, http://youtu.be/EtKh1Uac2Og
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
Persona 4, Reach out to the Truth, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzFl6sWHmXI
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
Red Dead Redemption, Far Away, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IkvAb6THQY
Resident Evil 4, Sorrow (end credits), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0k4kGkH6Bk
Secret of Mana, A Wish, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLK8IrYrZxA
Secret of Mana, Into the Thick of It, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3N9lrq-rks
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
Skies of Arcadia, Kingdom of Ixa’taka, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F-hJjD3XAs
Skies of Arcadia, Lower Valua, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlJxG1FmMOU
Silent Hill 3, You’re Not Here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz3ufaZCoVw
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 Mario Galaxy 2, The Tico and the Hat, http://youtu.be/Xev0rnBJIzA
Super Mario RPG, And My Name’s Booster, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJoGF1oLd0o
Super Metroid, Maradia, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxobPQMNY_w
Super Metroid, Brinstar (Plant Overgrown), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ULlqfeNLWY
Tales of Symphonia, Like a Glint of Light, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFWadiZkA_8
Tales of Symphonia, Dry Trail, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvnAkAQK82E
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

Wildcat’s Favorite Franchises – Legend of Zelda

Sometimes there’s a game that just seizes upon you, and you become so taken with it that you need more to satisfy some inner longing built from its excellence.  In these cases, there’s been plenty of ample sequels or prequels to fulfill that itch for me.  These are the franchises I have been following the closest over my gaming existence, the ones that I hold the highest standards to and anticipate the greatest.  They are not in any real order, because that would be agonizing to determine what I love more.  It’s hard enough with individual games – uniting them all would be a nightmare.  However, I will go into what game left the impact and which of the series I adore the most, as well as discuss each game I have (or have not, and explain why) played and its furthering impact upon my feelings.  There’s nine that I consider the finest – here’s one that’s celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary today.

Legend of Zelda (Nintendo)

Game That Left the Impact – Legend of Zelda (NES)

The Game I Adore – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

I have to consider the Legend of Zelda franchise to be one of gaming’s finest.  It has wowed me many times, and I have grown to feel very partial to the realm of Hyrule and its major characters Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf.  I would have to say that as of right now the Zelda franchise is my overall favorite in all of gaming, with very few glaring faults.  It’s one series that I have followed without fail…save two chapters for the DS, but I’ll explain that below.  Enjoy my retrospective!

What I’ve Tried

Legend of Zelda – The originator of this series remains such a fantastic game, despite its relative simplicity.  Having replayed both quests (completing the second quest for the first time!) last year, I stand by my conviction that this is among Miyamoto’s finest creations, and it’s just a brilliant piece of early NES programming.

Zelda II: Adventures of Link - I don’t enjoy this game at all.  Can we be done with the topic? :p  In all seriousness, I find Zelda II to be an abomination of the series, with an awkward gameplay transition and feeling very much disjointed compared to the other games.  I didn’t like it much when I played it as a kid, and time has only deepened the dislike.

Link to the Past – Link to the Past rectifies Zelda II’s grievous sin and returns to the overhead perspective of the original, and manages to completely refine and expand upon that core quite nicely.  One of Nintendo’s stellar efforts on the Super NES, without question.

Link’s Awakening - I would consider Link’s Game Boy adventure to be the handheld’s finest game without a doubt.  It’s got one of the best plots, maintains Link to the Past’s upgrades and adds in a few of its own, and has one of the more surreal ending moments in any game in the series.  A highlight.

Ocarina of Time – One of the N64′s shining stars as far as I’m concerned.  Moving the gameplay into three dimensions worked wonders, and while it has lost some of its marvel thanks to the march of time, I would argue its importance and greatness to this day.  It’s a fine experience well worth taking, and is still the best game in the franchise.

Majora’s Mask – Heh, Majora’s Mask is among the craziest games I’ve played, not just in the Zelda canon but of all time.  It twists and distorts the Ocarina engine into a fascinating new world full of trippy moments and a unique time-rewinding mechanic that you will either love or hate.  While dungeons got a bit of a downgrade in terms of content, the depth of the ones here are incredibly rich.  I can understand the appeal this has over Ocarina, but personally I prefer Ocarina’s overall polish over the brazen experimentation Majora made.  That being said, I recommend Majora’s Mask as well, as it’s a excellent game that isn’t afraid of taking some risks.

Oracle of Seasons/Ages – Capcom’s first stabs at developing Zelda doesn’t reach the level of greatness Link’s Awakening provided, and are a little bloated-feeling.  Not a bad set of games, but I’ve never really felt compelled to plow through either of them.

Wind Waker – There’s been plenty of verbiage spilled on LVLs. about Wind Waker (the link is merely a taste), so I’ll sum up: a wasted opportunity to be the finest game in the series, with fantastic early dungeons, beautiful graphics, tight controls and versatile weapon switching that makes combat a sheer delight, and some great boss fights get overpowered by dominating boredom as you sail constantly to get anywhere, an atrocious choice to of making players hunt random Triforce shards in the vast ocean (aka The Tingle Triforce Shard Parade – see link above) over dungeon dives, and slapping unresponsive allies with a horrible way of commanding them onto two dungeons.  The good or the bad will conquer the other in terms of how players will think of this Zelda (I’ve seen enough people who I respect like this game despite its issues to be unable to ignore this fact), and while I adore the early moments of WW, the overall game becomes a unrewarding chore.  …Jeez, this is a summary? XD

Four Swords Adventures – This was a much more enjoyable off-shoot than Zelda II was. :p  The GBA requirement was a bit sucky, but the game was designed very well and proved to be a fun trip through Hyrule alone or with Grace.  I am yearning for Nintendo to give the concept a second chance for the 3DS.

Minish Cap – Capcom’s second attempt was a much more pleasurable game, with charming graphics and a neat world to poke around in.  The kinstone concept was a solid addition beyond a couple of “need to be there at the right time or miss out for good” moments, but I think Minish Cap did a fine job at being an enjoyable 2D Zelda, and fits right in with the franchise despite the outside development.

Twilight Princess – This comes so close to being my favorite 3D Zelda, but it has a few too many nitpicks for me to give it that lofty prize.  It’s the best overall ‘Cube Zelda, and I love the addition of Midna and the Twilight Realm to the mythos, but overall it falls a bit short due to the game’s relentless drive to the end once you get to a certain point which removes the awe of exploring prior Zeldas had in-between dungeons, some under-realized concepts (the hawk, for one), and the overuse of Wolf Link early on.  It is such a great game, though…

Skyward Sword – I think Nintendo did a lot of things right with Skyward Sword, but then dropped the ball on others so badly that I’m really wondering where my final thoughts will lie.  Positively, they did a great job on the dungeons, the overworld being more dungeon-like, the first 3D Zelda game where exploring hasn’t been a massive chore since Majora’s Mask (Twilight Princess was almost a little too large), and the control scheme is mostly excellent.  Add in a charming visual style and excellent music and I should be happy.  Alas, Nintendo overdid the tutorial aspect of this game to almost make it condescending.  Fi could be fascinating, but her constant reminders and interruptions slide her next to Navi in the “worst sidekick” category.  There’s also moments where the game would have benefited from a button press over motion control – Link plummeting from the sky, for example.  I’m in the Trials part of the game now, so I’ll update this with further thoughts – currently, I’m enjoying the game but not as much as I could be minus some babying.

What Haven’t I Played?

Phantom Hourglass - Using the touch screen to control Link wandering around on the touch screen is a stupid, stupid idea.  It may just be that my left-handedness screwed me here, but I can’t bloody see enough the screen to be able to make the informed decisions I adore making in a Zelda game, and that doesn’t sound like any fun to me.

Spirit Tracks - Ditto.

The CD-i Titles – Lacking a CD-i and the insanity to play these terribly licensed games…well, I don’t think I’ll ever get around to that. :p

What Makes It One of the Best?

Engaging Weaponry - From the get-go the series has prided itself on having Link be one of the more dynamic heroes in gaming history.  Loaded down with a plethora of weapons, magic, gadgets and outfits to maximize gameplay possibilities, Link is able to walk into most battles and be able to treat each one uniquely.  On top of that, all of that gear comes into play beyond encountering monsters and villains, as the overworld and the dungeons also require strategic use of Link’s artillery to solve puzzles and traverse.  There’s been some missteps along the way (some of the gear in Twilight Princess seems a bit too limited in its use, becoming relatively useless past its respective dungeon, for example), but overall Nintendo gives the player an extraordinary toolkit that’s a delight to play around with.

Memorable Soundtracks – Koji Kondo and his fellow composers have done an exquisite job providing Zelda games with some of gaming’s finest aural melodies.  I count so many Zelda songs as favorites that rattling them all off would take too long. :p

Rewarding the Diligent Explorer – Similar to Metroid, there’s a bunch of hidden secrets littered around in every Zelda game, and half the fun in wandering around is finding some place that looks suspicious and seeing if your hunch was right.  And usually these lead to neat mini-dungeons hiding a heart piece or a fairy fountain or some other positive for hunting them down…a very pleasant diversion from the main quest.

Brain-Teasing Dungeon Designs - The meat of a Zelda game will always be its dungeons, and any fan ought to be able to spout off a few favorites – a couple of mine include the Spirit and Forest Temples in Ocarina of Time, Level 9 in the original Zelda, and the Great Bay Temple in Majora’s Mask, for example.  They make you think about the best way to proceed, figuring out what item you may be getting from the miniboss to aid in getting deeper in, and forcing you to tackle tough foes with everything you have.  And then the conclusion of each dungeon leads to my last reason I love Zelda games…

Incredible Bestiary and Boss Battles - The years have been very kind to Zelda in terms of its foes.  Many of its creatures would fill “Best Enemies in Gaming” titles – the sinister Like-Likes and their shield/outfit swiping potential, Wizzrobes for their magical assaults that shred unsuspecting players to ribbons, and Wallmasters, whose grip can render any sense of progress null and void.  What’s even more awesome is the boss line-up Nintendo’s built up over the last twenty five years, with the crown jewel being the vile King of Evil Ganondorf. I can consider him one of the best antagonists in all of gaming, and I always look forward to seeing how he plays into the latest chapter…or if he’s involved, in the case of a few.  Beyond him, many gamers will likely recognize the dinosaur-esque Dodongos (and their hatred of bombs), the arachnid Gohma (and its oversensitive eye), and the centipede-like Moldorm.  I adore this facet arguably more than anything else in the franchise.

Looking Back – My Favorite Game of 1998

1998…a big year.  I became a sophomore, losing the stigma of freshmen status, which was nice.  It was the last year I spent hanging out with Chad, who had begun to get pretty heavy into drugs at this point in his life.  He also felt isolated, like the whole high school was against him, so he transferred out to an alternate high school that helped troubled students get through school the following year.  It was a pretty big loss to me.  Chad and I had been essential pillars of strength to each other (as far as I’m concerned, at least) through some difficult years, so it was odd to not see him anywhere near as often as I used to.

1998 also introduced me to a guy named Trent, who was and is one of the coolest people I’ve ever known.  To be honest, I wish I had known him longer than I had to chance to.  He walked on his own path, marched to a different beat…any sort of goofy metaphor you can come up with for an individual, he was it.  He was a big inspiration on me, and really helped push me towards becoming such a big believer in individualism.  Sort of odd how I was inspired to be individualistic by someone else (sort of goes against that premise :p ), but I can’t imagine myself now without the convictions I hold for it, so I appreciate the nudge Trent provided.

Chris and I also spent a ton of time together, and began our fighting rivalry with the arcade version of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, which popped up at a local arcade.  We also battled in a completely unexpected game – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Chris had a few friends over when he had just picked the game up.  I was amazed, enthralled even about what I was watching.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  When I started the game at his house, I recorded it.  I got through the Deku Tree, but not much farther.  When I returned home, I asked my mom if we could go and get it, but alas, she was busy working and didn’t want to take me.  I had the game on reserve as it was, but I just had to witness the game again, so I watched my tape.  My mom walked in while I was glued to the screen…and decided to take me down to pick it up if I got it quickly.   What’s best about this story is when I got it, I became completely addicted to the stellar gameplay and level design.  So much so, that I beat the game in about 20 hours in 4 days. The best part?  I beat it 5 minutes before Chris, who had it a week before I did.  I called him after the credits rolled to let him know I had conquered it and he was (I paraphrase) “What?  I’m fighting Ganon now!”   Years later, when I brought this back up, he told me that he was quite upset at me. :p

Let’s see, what else happened…my crush told me her story I mentioned last time.  Took some time to get over that one. XD  It was around this time that I came up with my OC Claire.  I was so devastated by losing my crush to alcohol that I made Claire up to be what I considered at the time my ideal dream girl.  It’s really hokey and stupid to look back on, but that’s what I did in order to try to counteract the heartache I felt.  I did have real crushes following this :p – two in high school (both wanted to stay as friends) and more than a few in college (only two I dared ask out, though – one I wanted to stay as friends with, but my brain was all fucked up with emotive feelings, so I just wanted to get that resolved with, and the second…I married ^_^ ).  So that wraps that that tangent. :p

It was around this time that I began reading The Bard’s Tale series of books put out by Mercedes Lackey and various co-authors.  I adored them.  I still consider them the best fantasy books I’ve read.  I don’t know if they are all that literary, but they do their fantasy spiel quite well, and despite having next to nothing to do with the games they plucked the name from, they are engaging and quick to read.  I was quite taken with these, and was inspired to venture out a new game concept utilizing the license (I had no clue about copyright back then).  As I’ve gotten older I’ve removed the Bard’s Tale from that concept, but I still fiddle with the thought once in a while, and you may see some fruits of that labor in the near future.  Maybe. :o

Shortlist:

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, Nintendo)

Link’s first foray into three dimensions maintained the Zelda legacy, if not exceeding its predecessors with its rich gameplay, enormous world and puzzling dungeons.  Definitely a milestone in gaming history.


Body Harvest (N64, Midway/DMA Design)

A tense action game that requires quick reflexes and a fast trigger finger, DMA Design’s alien blaster may not have the critical acclaim it deserves, but is a fine example of 3D action games at their best.


Marvel Vs. Capcom (Arcade, Capcom)

The third Vs. game with Marvel, mixing in Darkstalkers, Strider, Mega Man, Captain Commando and Cyberbots characters on top of Street Fighter for Capcom’s side, plus plucking the best reps from Marvel’s (plus Venom), this was a frantic free-for-all fighter that entertains for hours.


International Superstar Soccer 98 (N64, Konami)

Building upon its earlier success, ISS 98 perfects the gameplay set into motion prior, adding in a ton of new technical aspects to the core, and delivered a soccer experience unlike any other.  A landmark in sports gaming, and is possibly the best one ever made.

In my opinion, the best game of 1998 was…

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, Nintendo)

I mentioned that Goldeneye was in the Top 5 of games that left an impact on me. Ocarina of Time is at the top.  There may be four games ahead of it on my favorites list now, but Nintendo’s N64 Zelda debut shook me to my gaming core back in the day.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been so mesmerized by a game as I was with this.  I really wish I could go back in time and revisit myself discovering the intricacies buried within this golden cartridge a second time.  Alas, I will have to live with the memories alone.

Starting up Zelda: OoT was such a pivotal point for my gaming career.  Prior to my exposure with Ocarina of Time, I had beaten the first NES game, dabbled with Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening, and couldn’t get myself to comprehend Zelda II’s unusual gameplay alterations.  I can’t say that I was a fan of the franchise, though.  As the opening cinema began, with Link riding Epona through Hyrule Field, with one of the more poignant intro themes I had heard at the time, I knew I was in for a very special treat.  Getting past the menu and into the game’s exposition was thrilling.  Settling in to control Link was even more so.  Link was amazingly responsive – not quite as loose as Mario was in Mario 64, but his ease of maneuvering through the environments was awesomely done.  The game prodded you along to progress deeper, but allowed plenty of freedom to explore and poke around (minus Navi griping at you all the time XD ).  Secrets were everywhere – rolling into trees, bombing walls, dropping bugs into patches of dirt, firing hookshots into trees and treasure chests, diving deep underwater…just a taste of the hidden surprises awaiting persistent players.

The visuals were unprecedented for the system, too.  It was a visual feast for the eyes.  Naturally, it’s lost that appeal to the march of technology, but it was quite a tour de force for my young mind to undergo.  The music has not lost its edge, however, remaining as rich as it did over a decade ago.  And the cast of NPC’s Link could interact with are still some of the finest in the series.  The Happy Mask Seller, Malon, Talon,  and Ingo, the Carpenter Brothers, the Kokiri children, and of course, the emerging wickedness of one of gaming’s oldest villains, Ganon.  His new “human” form as the Gerudo Ganondorf added something new to his character, and the game’s handling of his villainy made him much more devious than the prior games were able to convey.  And I will eternally remember crossing blades with him.  That is a hallmark of a boss battle, let me tell you.  Zelda too had a chance to grow as a character, and despite falling into the damsel-in-distress role the moment she ceases being her alter ego Sheik, the expansion of her was greatly appreciated.

All and all, I consider Ocarina of Time to define the finest of early 3D games.  It is huge, deep and had a profound emotional significance to me that not many other games can claim, and remains one of the greatest joys I’ve had in my life, gaming or not.  A massive, massive thanks to Nintendo for this crowning achievement.

Some personal anecdotes…

My fun story of topping Chris in beating the game above is probably the best anecdote I have of Ocarina of Time, and a solid testament to how attached I was to this game…man.  Five minutes ahead of him.  I still am floored by the fact I beat him to the end.

I’ve gotten everything in this game.  I’ve even abused the bottle duplicating trick on items I rarely or never used. :p

The Master Quest variant of the game you can track down on the Gamecube is a nice remix of dungeon delving.  Jabu-Jabu’s Belly in particular stands out as one of the more surreal moments in a Zelda title, and yes, I have played Majora’s Mask. :p

The 3DS remake has me naturally interested, but seeing what Nintendo did to Mario 64 DS makes me a little weary.  The analog nub will resolve control issues (with any luck), but will Nintendo make unnecessary additions to the game that could jeopardize what made Ocarina so incredible in the first place?  We’ll see soon, I guess.

And lastly, comparing the later 3D Zeldas…

Majora’s Mask – While having a far more intriguing atmosphere and some cool gameplay ideas with the various masks, the steep decline of dungeons (which were excellent, I must say) and the reliance on timing things just right to achieve everything made the overall game a little paler than Ocarina.  It is very good, though.

Wind Waker – Link’s first Gamecube adventure would have been wonderful if that damn boat wasn’t used so much, the AI buddies in two particular dungeons were easier to switch to (and controlled better), and if the game didn’t rely on the Tingle Triforce Shard Parade over dungeon dives or some other form of gameplay than the tedious sailing, I would consider it in my top 25 without question.  Has the best combat engine for Link in the 3D games, too, which makes it unfortunate that it got saddled with some poor design choices.  More on that here.

Twilight Princess – My second favorite Zelda of all time, it has so many things that are awesome about it for me to rattle off here.  I’ll focus on what makes it not quite an Ocarina killer – namely, a stretch of the game where the story takes a back seat to constant dungeon trips, ruining the earlier plot focus; mechanics that needed to be fleshed out a little more (the hawk or horse combat, for example) to not feel fluffy, and the slight downgrade the combat engine received.  It’s fluid, but not quite as smooth and transition-friendly as Wind Waker’s.

1080° Snowboarding

Banjo-Kazooie

Body Harvest

F-Zero X

Forsaken (video game)

International Superstar Soccer 98

Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu

Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete

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Gamer’s Playlist – Spirit Temple by ZREO Team

The Zelda series has some amazing music attached to it over the years, and Zelda Reorchestrated has taken it upon themselves to send up every song in the Nintendo Zelda canon with a sweeping orchestral remix.  I fully support their endeavor, especially when they can make such amazing aural tunage that much better, like they do with one of my personal favorites from Ocarina of Time, the Spirit Temple theme.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Spirit Temple, performed by ZREO Team

More can be sampled at their official website.

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