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)

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

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

Gamer’s Playlist – Retro Remix Revue Recaptures and Expands Upon the Wonderful Super Mario 64′s “Dire Dire Docks” theme

Let’s take things back a bit – we’ve been rocking out a bunch the last two days, but today I bring you a fantastic rendering of Super Mario 64′s Dire Dire Docks theme, done by the Retro Remix Revue.  I don’t know much about these performers, as I just discovered them, but they are a talented bunch, without question.  This is a beautiful mix of a beautiful theme, one that pushes it beyond the scope of the N64 hardware it was created on and really lets it stretch out.  Well done!

This is from their first album, Retro Remix Revue, V. 1, which is up on iTunes.

Wildcat’s Favorite Franchises – Super Mario

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 – let’s finish up the Mario Madness at last.

Super Mario (Nintendo)

Game That Left the Impact – Super Mario Bros. (NES)

The Game I Adore – Super Mario 64 (NES)

I owe an incredible debt to Nintendo for Super Mario Bros. – I was hooked on Donkey Kong, but it was Super Mario Bros. that really got me into gaming in my youth.  It wasn’t until SMB that I became an avid fanatic of this lovely medium, and it was this franchise that kept me loving it more and more as I picked up further chapters.  SMB3 began my interest in gaming design, my interest in role-playing (which led to my drama degree), my early improvements in drawing, and cementing me as a diehard Mario Maniac.  I suppose that as time’s gone on, I’ve cut Mario the most slack due to his incredible history, with only one game not resonating with me all that well (Sunshine, which may have been obvious).  I love the wacky world of the Mushroom Kingdom, and admit to giving Mario an edge whenever game purchasing decisions are on the line…which more often than not come out aces.  But, I think I’ve babbled enough here – let’s focus on the games.

What I’ve Tried

Super Mario Bros. (NES) – What more could I say beyond it was the game that got me all addicted to playing games?  An innovation that has left its mark on gaming forever.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) – While it goes off the beaten path (and takes the scenic route), I like SMB2 a lot, too.  It’s not as solid as SMB and SMB3, but it’s a well-made game in its own right, and its imprint on the franchise is unquestionable.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) – The finest of the 2D adventures, a earth-shaking titan of the industry, and one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.  I need to replay this. XD

Super Mario World (SNES) – A good game, without a doubt, but I’ve never quite resonated with it as much as other games in the series.  It’s charming and challenging, and I’m not questioning its placement in the Super Mario canon, but I’ve just not enjoyed it the same way as others.  *shrugs*

Super Mario 64 (N64) – This revolutionary attempt to bring Mario into three dimensions remains my favorite of the series, and is one of my absolutes.  I’d take it to a desert island.

Super Mario Sunshine (GC) – This is the one Mario I think is a bit of a disgrace to the name.  It feels unpolished, gimmicky, and convoluted.  I don’t miss owning it.

New Super Mario Bros. (DS) – A good, but conservative return to the 2D plane.  A flawed save system and hokey boss fights don’t help much.  The sequel, however…

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) - A fun romp soaring through the galaxy, but also feels a little refrained.  And again, the sequel…

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) – The best Nintendo-made Wii game.  Case closed.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) – Creative, crazy and improved, this is a brilliant sequel that only stumbles at the very end…but not all that badly.  I’d recommend this over the first Galaxy for its overall awesomeness.

What Haven’t I Played?

Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins – I’ve bypassed the two Super Mario Land titles on my list, but it’s more due to the distance of time since I’ve played them than deliberate omission.

Super Mario 3D Land (DS) – No 3DS to give it a shot!

What Makes It One of the Best?

Kookiness – Super Mario games have from the outset done some weird things.  Mario eats a mushroom and grows bigger?  He can sink into pipes?  Hit coins out of blocks?  Find hidden coin vaults?  Battle hammer throwing turtles and cloud-riding creatures who throw endless amounts of eggs covered in spines that hatch to reveal spike-covered beetles?  The audacity to be imaginative is what drives this franchise home for me.  If the game feels at all restricted (like Sunshine and New SMB), I lose the connection.  My favorites are unhinged.

Stellar Level Design – The best Mario titles feature amazing levels that are wonderfully memorable.  Level 5-3 in SMB3, Hazy Maze Cave in SM64, the final gauntlet with Bowser in New SMB Wii…and countless others in most of the other games.

Beyond Perfect Controls – Mario set the standard for platformers in terms of tightness and responsiveness, and man, it’s hard for anyone, including Nintendo, to reach that plateau.  But, despite a few setbacks here and there, Super Mario games tend to continue the fine tradition by being some of the greatest games to control in the industry.

Infectious Music – Koji Kondo and his allies over the years have given gaming some of its aural treasures, and half the joy for me is hearing how well the music is in a Mario title.  Luckily, I’ve rarely been disappointed.

Power-Ups Aplenty – The last major factor for me digging a Mario game is Mario’s ever-growing repertoire of items, abilities and suits that grant him new powers.  Starting small with the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower and Starman, Mario’s got a small warehouse packed with excellent game enhancers by now, and I’m sure it won’t slow down anytime soon.  It’s always a pleasure to see what Nintendo’s cooked up for Mario to utilize this go-around, and while some end up falling flat on their face (the Koopa suit from NSMB, for example), most are really, really pleasurable to try out.

Atrocious Enemy Encounters – Chill Bully (Super Mario 64) and Spider (Ducktales)

Cheap Boss that Sucks – Chill Bully (Super Mario 64, N64)

Bullies were first introduced in Super Mario 64, and their debut in Lethal Lava Land wasn’t too bad.  The pushing match reminded me some of sumo wrestling.  However, Nintendo pulled a double-dip and resorted to reusing a Boss Bully in an ice level, and there’s some problems with his second appearance.  One, slipping on ice makes the once-jolly shoving much more against the player, as they will slide far more than the Bully does.  It makes it harder to combo him closer to the edge.  Second, because of the frozen water underneath the ring, he’ll bounce high into the air, often getting trapped banging his head on the arena above, prolonging the rematch (with plenty of loud shouts, too).  Compared to the rest of the level, this encounter is stale and frustrating, making it one of the least enjoyable parts of the game for me.

Vile Enemy from Hell – Spider (Ducktales, NES)

These sporadic arachnids have infuriated me for years – they were one of the first enemies that I truly did not like seeing.  They seem to have a pattern, but it’s very jittery and difficult to time.  They also tend to make their homes over pits, making the platforming much more of a chore than it needed to be.  While they do appear in the Amazon as well as the Himalayas, the slippery, snow-covered mountains make these enemies far more irritating.  Scrooge’s pogo cane is much more of a problem here thanks to sinking in the snow, and the reduced traction makes it far easier to inadvertently bump into these assholes.  Not a whole lot of fun.


Super Mario 64 – Reinvention

Super Mario 64 (N64)
Pub/Dev: Nintendo
ESRB: K/A/Players: 1

With the launch of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo once again turned to their superstar to launch the system.  However, Nintendo had a console that was designed for 3D graphics and gameplay, so Mario’s 2D adventures would not be a sufficient way of showcasing the power of the hardware.  Something new would need to be created to compete with Sega’s Saturn and Sony’s Playstation, consoles that had beaten Nintendo to the punch with their own 3D games.  Luckily, Nintendo’s experiment paid off, in the form of the marvelous Super Mario 64.

The game opened up with Mario’s face, which players could manipulate if they grabbed parts of it.  This clever minigame served as a nice way of introducing Mario’s new look alongside showing off a bit of foresight into allowing gamers to fiddle with these newfound polygons that would revolutionize gaming forever.  Once the game started, a traditional Mario plot ensued – Bowser kidnaps Peach, and Mario has to save her.  Nintendo decided to run with the secret aspect that has always been in the background for Mario’s latest quest by utilizing Power Stars as its primary collectible.  As Mario explored Peach’s castle, he would uncover paintings that led to gigantic worlds packed full of Power Stars – 7 in each world, to be exact.  Six would be given short hints as to how to find them, while the seventh required 100 coins to make appear.  The castle itself held 15 Secret Stars that would require extra effort from the player to track down without guidance. These Stars were needed to make further progress into the castle.

The worlds themselves took on common platforming tropes, like two ice worlds, two water worlds, a desert world, a lava world, etc.  It was the excellent execution of these stereotypes, though, that made them so memorable.  The first water world, Jolly Roger Bay, was a fog-filled cave.  As Mario poked around, he discovered a vast underwater canyon, with a sunken ship at the very bottom.  As players sunk deeper into the depths, a large head could be seen inhibiting a window.  With some careful prodding, the head would reveal itself to be a giant eel, and would swim around in the canyon.  Players who went into the eel’s former lair would find a platforming challenge to get at a Star.  The ship will rise up following the Star’s removal, and additional challenges would revolve around the ship and the eel.  And that’s half of the stars here.  Three others lurk in the bay, alongside the 100-coin star.  Further exploration would uncover a cave in the canyon, where another star could be found.  Another required finding a Pink Bom-Omb to enable a cannon, which Mario could enter and try to snag a Star perched on a spire.  The last would require a new power-up in order to snag – the Metal Cap (I’ll get to that momentarily).  There’s all six Stars for one of the 15 worlds.

Mario lost all of his earlier powerups for Mario 64 – only the 1UP mushroom would make a return.  In their place, Mario was granted a wide plethora of moves, gaining the ability to punch, kick, long jump, wall jump, triple jump (with greater height with each jump), backflip, sideflip, dive, slide, do a ground pound in midair, sneak, pull off handstands, and pick up new items to gain additional talents – Caps.  To use them, you’d have to enable them.  This worked like the !-Block Power Switches in Mario World: you had to find their hidden activation room, clear the obstacles, and stomp the switch.  Suddenly, the power-up boxes would appear in their respective stages, and Mario could swap hats and take on new traits.  There were three in total – the Wing Cap, Metal Cap and Vanish Cap.  The Wing Cap is probably the most fun, as it allowed Mario to soar in the skies.  It worked a bit like Mario’s Cape powerup in Mario World, dive to gain speed and then lift Mario back up to gain extra air.  The Metal Cap had a ripping musical theme and was the closest to a Starman in Mario 64, as it granted Mario invincibility alongside its extra weight and nifty sheen.  The Vanish Cap allowed Mario to become invisible, slipping through special walls he normally wouldn’t be able to.  All three had their uses, and were great additions to the Mario universe.

Many of Mario’s enemies would make the leap into 3D – Goombas, Koopa Troopas (who were rare, but coughed up the awesome ability to surf on their shells!), Lakitu (who served as both a foe and as the camera operator), Spinies, Chain Chomp, Pokeys, Shyguys (Fly Guys to be exact), Wiggler, Thwomps, Boos, Bom-Ombs, Piranha Plants, Bullet Bills, Snifits (apparently renamed Snufits for American audiences, but I’m ignoring that), Swoopers, Monty Moles, and of course, Bowser himself.  Three notable omissions are Bloopers (who would return in Mario Sunshine) and Cheep Cheeps (who would replace the Bub enemies here in SM64 DS) and Buzzy Beetles (who would pop up in Paper Mario games, returning to the main series with New Super Mario Bros.).

As I mention here, I think Mario 64 is the pinnacle of the series.  I won’t repeat myself again here (I’ve already blabbed enough, I think :p ), but I really do adore this game.

With the launch of the DS, Nintendo remade Super Mario 64 for its launch.  The big selling point was that the game was no longer a Mario-only affair, as Luigi (whose absence from Mario 64 was quite noticeable), Yoshi (becoming much more than an end-game cameo) and Wario (entering his first major Mario platformer as a protagonist…which, so far, has been his only excursion into this realm) joined the familiar plumber as playable characters.  The graphics saw a massive overhaul, becoming much more attractive than the N64′s.  A bunch of new content and extra Stars were also added in.  Unfortunately, this remake sullied a lot of what made Mario 64 so charming.  First off, the DS has no analog stick.  To try to make up for this, Nintendo allowed gamers to use the stylus, which was not a suitable replacement for me.  It may be that my left-handedness doomed me, but I hated using the stylus to control the game.  The digital pad tried, but it too failed at recapturing Mario’s smoothness from the N64 original.  The lack of refined control made simple tasks become more difficult, and I found it more frustrating than fun.  Secondly, the game suffered from a Donkey Kong 64-style of character switching.  Mario, Luigi, Wario and Yoshi all had unique talents, and each could use a bonus ability, now powered by a Power Flower.  Mario could inflate a la Super Mario World’s P-Balloon, Luigi would gain the Vanish Cap, Wario the Metal Cap, and Yoshi would gain his Dragon Breath from Mario World.  Mario was the only one who could grab a Feather, which would allow him to gain access to the Wing Cap.  Unlike DK64, which had swap barrels in their levels, you had to track down caps floating around the level in order to become other characters, which became a bit of a bother.  It also overcomplicated the game’s mechanics.  Why not allow all four to use the same powers?  In my opinion, this isn’t worth the time to play…unless they remake it again for the 3DS, which does have an analog nub…


Looking Back – My Favorite Game from 1996

This was the first year in quite some time that I had gotten a new console into my life – in this case, the Christmas introduction of the Nintendo 64.  Experiencing Nintendo’s newest console so close to its release was euphoric for me.  Now I was part of the console action I read about!  I could purchase new titles!  I was stoked.  I wasn’t quite as excited as the N64 kid on Youtube, but I was really happy.  I started out with Super Mario 64 and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and added Mario Kart 64 and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter to my list not too far afterward.

Speaking of Turok, I was 14 when I bought it, and needed my mom’s approval to make such a purchase.  I support the ESRB fully, and consider gaming ratings to be as vital as movie ratings in terms of enforcement nowadays, but I do remember the thrill of buying my first M-rated game.  And in gore factor in ye olde days of 3D, it did not disappoint.  I had a discussion about it with my parents before the purchase, and both felt I could handle it, which I think I have.  I have not shown any signs of violent behavior due to my exposure to Turok and other M-rated games I have played following my first experience with the rating.  I find the hullabaloo to be a little ridiculous, to be honest.  Parents, supervise your children.  Be a part of what they do, and what they buy.  It’s that simple.  I suppose I’ll test that theory when I have my own kids…however, I was (and am) a little squeamish outside of the gaming sphere.  Go figure.

In the world outside of gaming, I finished up the hellish seventh grade and entered the slightly-better eighth grade, which was better for two things – being a higher grade meant power (as goofy as that sounds), and meeting Chris, a person I’ve talked about at length in my Zelda: Ocarina of Time and fighting game posts.  Chris and I would become fantastic friends, and would spend a lot of time hanging out at each other’s houses for several years.  Our senior year in high school led us to different paths, as he got a little hooked into drugs (and I abhor them), but the time we spent growing up through the teenager years was golden.  Chad and I also spent a ton of time together in middle school, and we would pour so many hours into the N64 that it is almost frightening looking back on it.  Mario Kart 64 was the beginning, and Goldeneye cemented it.  If Nintendo did one thing right with the N64, it’s building such a capable multiplayer system.  Weekends were often revolving around the TV with three friends playing some sort of competitive game, and it was lovely.

Shortlist:


Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo)
Mario’s stunning 3D debut showed off the Nintendo 64 better than anything else could have.  Tight controls, fascinating levels and plenty to accomplish, not to mention the fantastic score and charming (although now simplistic) look, made Mario 64 a marvel to behold.


Waverace 64 (N64, Nintendo)
The sequel to the original Game Boy racer revolutionized racing games forever, with its random dynamic tracks with erratic waves and its responsive and engaging gameplay.


The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (PC, Bethesda)
Bethesda’s second Elder Scrolls game pushed the open-world sandbox far beyond its predecessor.  Its massive world, heaps of items and a horde of beasts and demons to battle made playing it an absolute joy.


Kirby Super Star (SNES, Nintendo/HAL Labs)
Despite the game splitting itself into six distinct chunks, Kirby’s platforming excursion here was brilliant, with plenty of diversity and awesome moments.

In my opinion, the best game of 1996 was…

Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo)

Super Mario 64, to me, was heaven.  It was a pioneering piece of software that replicated the glory I had felt with the 2D Mario platformers on the NES, but managed to exceed them handily.  It was beyond my wildest dreams.  As I first manipulated Mario through the new N64 controller, I was mesmerized.  He was incredibly responsive, and acted exactly the way I would expect Mario to in the 2D realm.  His new actions made sense, and although he was saddled with some moves he did not need (the multitude of attacks, mainly), Nintendo made each one fun to perform.  Punching Goombas was novel, as Mario never had the ability to before, for example.  Figuring out all of Mario’s maneuvers was part of the joy I took in this game.

The rest of it came from the clever worlds Mario had to explore.  I love exploring, and this game kept up the tradition earlier Mario titles prided themselves on with secrets.  120 stars were packed into the 15 levels and Peach’s castle, and I poured over every nook and cranny trying to uncover them all.  I loved the stages in Mario 64, so much so that I feel that they are the best in the Mario canon.  They were creative takes on some standard level stereotypes, or were imaginative concepts never before touched upon by Mario’s earlier quests.  Bowser’s levels pushed the game’s engine to extraordinary heights, causing me to use all of the lessons and tricks I had thought I mastered earlier.

I must mention Koji Kondo’s music as being phenomenal, too.  His new takes on Mario themes were perfect for this new world Mario was a part of, matching up to each stage beautifully.  Mario’s voice made its first proper appearance here, too (Charles Martinet did provide Mario’s voice for an edutainment title called Mario’s FUN-damentals, but Mario 64 is the game that made it famous!), adding in more depth to his character without becoming obnoxious.

All and all, Super Mario 64 is the ideal Mario package.  It hit every checkpoint I had for it, and then some.  I still consider it Mario’s finest moment after all this time.  Excellent work, Nintendo.

Some personal anecdotes…

I remember the first time I hopped on a Koopa shell and suddenly surfing my way all over Bom-Omb Battlefield.  What a clever mechanic!  I sort of wish it was utilized more often than just as a nifty sidenote.

Favorite levels have to be Lethal Lava Land, Dire Dire Docks, Jolly Roger Bay, Wet-Dry World and Hazy Maze Cave.   Odd how all of the water levels are my faves.  I blame it on the beautiful Water Theme in this game.

Fighting Bowser was epic…especially the final encounter.  I loved that fight.  I’d consider it in the three best run-ins with him, no doubt.

Super Mario Sunshine disappointed me so much.  It really did.  I applaud Nintendo for trying a different direction, but they lost so much of what made Mario 64 so special in the process.  Galaxy found a lot of that missing magic, thankfully.

Cleopatra Fortune

Crash Bandicoot (video game)

Diablo (video game)

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

Heroes of Might and Magic II

Kirby Super Star

Mega Man 8

Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters

Metal Slug

Neo Turf Masters

Quake (video game)

San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing

Sonic 3D

Sonic the Fighters

Soviet Strike

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (video game)

Street Fighter Alpha 2

Super Mario 64

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Twisted Metal 2

Virtua Fighter 3

Wave Race 64

X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Back to 1995Forward to 1997

Song Highlights – The Best of Super Mario’s Legacy

I’m taking a small reprieve from my features covering the history and personal memories of Super Mario tonight (and possibly tomorrow – depends on how tired I am after the dig), but to tide you all over, I’m going to do a special Song Highlights on my favorite songs from the franchise.  I’ve covered four earlier – Space Junk Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy, Booster’s theme from Super Mario RPG, the end credits to Mario Kart 64 and the Dire Dire Docks theme from Super Mario 64, which I’ll be including clips to in order to minimize bouncing all over the place to find them. ;)  There will be another four songs to accompany those, though!

Mario Kart 64 – Credits (N64, Kenta Nagata)

Super Mario Galaxy – Space Junk Galaxy (Wii, Koji Kondo, Mahito Yokita)

Super Mario RPG – And My Name’s Booster (SNES, Yoko Shinomura)

Super Mario 64 – Dire Dire Docks/Water Theme (N64, Koji Kondo)

Now that those are all out of the way, here’s four more!

Super Mario Bros. 2 – Overworld Theme (NES, Koji Kondo)

This is a marvelously catchy tune.  Since Mario 2 had different origins, its music was a drastic shift from the first game, yet managed to fit the Mario universe it was recast into.  A great song.

Super Mario Bros. 3 – World 1: Grass Land (NES, Koji Kondo)

What a gentle, yet peppy tune to start off the game with.  It’s a perfect match with the level hub it represents.

Super Mario 64 – Koopa’s Road/Bowser’s Stage Theme (N64, Koji Kondo)

This is how you need to compose music leading up to the main villain.  Ominous, dark and brooding, it made me want to plow through the stage to show Bowser up.  Great music.

Super Mario Galaxy – Gusty Garden Galaxy (Wii, Koji Kondo, Mahito Yokota)

The orchestration on this is gorgeous.  What a soaring track for a game full of fantastic music.  And it’s incredibly well-suited for the stage, too.  Beautiful.

The next Tunage, by sheer accident I assure you, will be the music of Koji Kondo, so stay tuned for that in the next week or two!

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