Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 18 ~ Trophy~ (Super Smash Bros. Melee)

Origin: Super Smash Bros. Melee
Plays In: Trophy Lottery/Mini-game/Trophy Event Matches
Status: Original Composition
Composers: Hirokazu Ando, Shogo Sakai, Tadashi Ikagami

Hey, what can I say? I've been in Smash euphoria all month.

So why this song? Turns out, it's one of the selectable menu themes in the My Music feature for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! Much of my Smash Bros. Brawl playtime was actually spent tinkering with the music ratio in My Music, and from the two examples we've witnessed in the recent Direct (Battlefield and the Menu...there's also Skyloft, but my anti-Skyward Sword bias refuses to acknowledge it), I'm already planning the high-low ratios for both selections.

I'm not quite sure where to place this song, though. Describing my meticulous arrangement with My Music could take quite some time, so here's a general idea: a stage's "main" theme will typically rank the highest while the most dynamic or dissonant tracks are set quite low, and the rest of the songs are balanced from there. As an example, take Distant Planet from Pikmin: the ripped Main Theme from that game is set alongside the Forest of Hope and World Map among the highest, while the quirky Environmental Noises only has a silver of a chance at playing. While I've picked the first three as the representative songs for Distant Planet, this sets the shock for the rare occasion Environmental Noises--a calming menagerie of the sounds of nature--decides to present itself.

For the Wii U game's menu, it's less clear-cut. The main menu theme will be the highest, no doubt, but what about the rest? We have the stellar Menu 2 from Melee, as well as the menu themes from that game and Brawl. As the menu theme pervades the entire title, I believe the game will be at its freshest with that song at the forefront, but I think turning those three songs on could serve as fun nostalgic throwbacks. Menu 2 will likely be set to halfway, while the Melee/Brawl themes will serve as occasional cameos.

And then there's this song. By far one of my favorite tracks from Melee, it's a stellar representation of Nintendo memory lane. I can see it now: me combing through the game's trophy descriptions for hours on end, browsing the fan sites of old (Nintendo Land and Nintendo Database ring any bells?), learning about the fabled legacy of my favorite's a long-gone era, but the Trophy theme brings just a twinge of tumbling through the internet's recesses again.

Having not played Super Smash Bros. Melee in quite some time, it's rather heartwarming knowing I'll be getting acquainted with this song again! It's an oddball choice for the menu that I'm sure will raise eyebrows from my college hallmates, but I dearly look forward to it's return.

...even if I haven't figured out it's play frequency. I'll work it out, I promise!

Final Thoughts: Oh, by the way, I'm quite fond of the orchestral arrangement found in the Original Medley's midpoint from the Smashing...Live! concert. Have a listen!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tomodachi Life Review (Gaming Grunts)

Review Here

Now here's something new. As one of those charmed by the silly Nintendo Direct for the game ("THIS. IS. TOMO. DACHI. LIFE."), I knew Tomodachi Life would be right up my alley...and I was right! I was hooked for at least a month and a half, and I ain't done yet. Just like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I'm still checking in on the hijinks of my island residents.

It's a shame we never did get the original title, yet I can't help but wonder how limited in scope and features it is compared to this iteration...? I suppose I'll find out one day, but for now, I'm plenty satisfied with watching my Mii idly scratching his butt.


Sorry guys, no Biweekly Music Wednesday! today; too much college work. Check back next week!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions Review (Gaming Grunts)

Review Here

What a night this was.

I never did end up writing a Symphony of the Goddesses review due to personal drama on my end, so writing one for Symphonic Evolutions was a real treat.

I don't want to spoil too much of my impressions, but if you've followed the blog long enough, I'm sure you know which suite was my favorite. All I'll say is that they could not have chosen a better song to express the mystery and adventure of a certain region, and I still get goosebumps from the Youtube recordings.

For those behind the Nintendo-approved Symphonies and Nintendo itself....please consider a Smash Bros. Symphony! Please!

One Piece Unlimited World Red Review (Gaming Grunts)

Review Here

Around the blog's inception, I cited the manga One Piece as something I'd potentially discuss whenever I felt the need to go off-topic. I guess that time is now.

In my nine or ten or so years of reading manga, I cannot think of one I have loved and been more loyal to more than One Piece. I've had falling-outs with Dragon Ball and I've long since relinquished my fan-status for Bleach and Naruto, yet One Piece continues to capture my heart week after week, month after month, year after year. It's the best sort of fantasy adventure story, where the ambitious setting provides the perfect "the sky's the limit" levels of imagination and comedy, with a pitch-perfect blend of profound themes involving tragic heartbreak and the limitless, inspiring potential of people's dreams. For seven years, I've laughed, I've cried, I've cheered, and I'll continue to do so until the end of its run.

I've dabbled into the video games as well, and I suppose they were pretty good. The Pirate Warriors games were some fun timewasters--if not uninspired and more than a little deranged in their story execution--and I found some joy in Unlimited Adventure for the Wii. Yes, it's undeniably low-budget and tends to be repetitive for the sake of being repetitive, but golly, I was just adventuring in a One Piece game! And the score sounds just like the anime! And it's the dub cast from the Funimation dub! And the combat actually felt great! The flaws stuck out like a sore thumb every time I played, but I didn't care because it was frickin' One Piece.

If only I held the same enthusiasm for Unlimited World Red on the PlayStation 3. It's funny how I can readily admit Unlimited Adventure wasn't that great and I've never played the (apparently superior) Unlimited Cruise sequels, yet the sharp decline in quality was still evident. I still can't get over the enforced linearity, which cranks the repetition up to maximum bear in mind, I don't have a problem with linearity in itself, but that was one of the few great features of the previous iterations! Why downplay on it?!? Agh!

I could elaborate on my other disappointments, be they the reduced usefulness of unique character abilities or the boring music score, but then there'd be no point in linking to the review. Give it a read if you haven't, why don't you?  

Friday, October 10, 2014

WarioWare Inc., Mega MicroGame$! Review (Gaming Grunts)

Review Here

Random choice, you say? Thankfully, Gaming Grunts allows games new and old for review, and so I figured why not a title I've been revisiting lately?

WarioWare, Inc., Mega MicroGame$! is still, to date, one of the addictive and funniest games I've ever played. For the former, it all has to do with its ingenious concept of relentlessly chucking five-second "microgames" at the player. The more you clear, the faster and sillier they become to the point where microgames last only 1/3 of a second while the music and sound effects becomes ridiculously sped-up.

But my identification with its humor is why I cherished it so much. Absurdist, off-the-wall humor was my brand of comedy as a child--not exactly common among my peers, you understand--and I was astounded at how this game was proof the geniuses at Nintendo possessed the same exact humor as I did. Everything from the face-sprouting potatos to "YAAAAAaaaaaAAAAA!!!" of a falling nail and to how one microgame literally just has you picking some guy's nail never ceased to induce smiles and laughter.

Heck, I'm still laughing as I play it today. The contrast between the no-nonsense Haru-Natsu-Aki-Fuyu song--Japanese lyrics and all--and the absurd nature-themed microgames of Kat and Ana is absolutely hilarious, and I'll never get tired of how the final boss of the game is just a square with eyes. It's a game I'm dying to write about on here, and I'd like to think it'll be a special review.

If there's any series I miss from my youth, it's this. Bring back WarioWare to its roots, Nintendo!


I actually totally forgot to mention my Gaming Grunts reviews on here! College life does something to ya, heh. Thankfully, I only have two more articles left so I'll be introducing them tomorrow.

The Wonderful 101 Review (Gaming Grunts)



Poor The Wonderful 101. Despite the highly-acclaimed resume behind director Hideki Kamiya (Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta, Okami), his Nintendo-funded debut title on the Wii U never stood a chance with both retail and public perception alike. While the former was no surprise given the relative obscurity of developer Platinum Games (not to mention Nintendo's horrendous marketing), the game's overt complexity blindsided potential buyers and fans alike, and the gaming world at large still doesn't know what to make of it...or worse, has already forgotten it.

As a fan of the game, I can readily admit Wonderful 101's flaw lies in its inability to explain what the hell is going on. I still can't wrap my head around how vital defensive maneuvers are left unlocked in the game's the shop, and it's further compounded with frustrating, inexplicable gameplay flub-ups like how your Wonderful One leaders can randomly switch or why your whole group isn't piling together into a designated spot (did any of that make sense? haha). It's a real shame the game is so daunting, particularly when you consider how the aforementioned Bayonetta/Viewtiful Joe had quick, interactive tutorials and the same wasn't applied here. The forced gimmicky interludes involving shmups and the like also do it no favors (granted, I do like a couple of 'em, but they tend to mess with the overall pacing).

And yet, I still love it. How could I not? The game's so obviously made with love, going the extra mile with the super-fun "Saturday morning cartoon" being propelled by its Platinum-brand of epicness. Kamiya was correct in the Iwata Asks column for the game in how the first playthrough is much like the tutorial, and now I'm able to play through normal difficulty without much issue (excluding some of the latter enemies, yowch!). I'm still not the best at stringing together combos, but I can still manage to earn a Platinum trophy (as opposed to my former collection of consolation prizes and bronze statues).

Maybe this is a little selfish, but I take obscurity as something of a special treasure. While it was undeniably frustrating how Nintendo marketed The Wonderful 101, it's safe to assume it never would've done that well. But in the end, we got what was most important: an amazing game to play. I can still laugh at the hilarious script, get pumped-up from the heart-pumping soundtrack, and further improve myself in the satisfyingly deep combo system. With the sheer amount of unlockable characters and lore peppered across the levels, I don't think I'll be done anytime soon.

As Kamiya said on Twitter: stop worrying about scores and sales and play the damn game!

By the way, I used to play this and Pikmin 3 every weekend, yet have recently taken a break...I should get back into that groove.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 17 ~ Menu~ (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS)

Origin: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U
Plays In: The Menu and Smash Run.
Status: Arrangement (the main theme for the games)
Arranger: Junichi Nakatsuru

A new Super Smash Bros. game is being held in my hands.

It's unbelievable. I remember once fully believing--at a time where I was undoubtedly too naive--that Brawl was the finale for our beloved Nintendo crossover, and here we are with two versions coming out in the same season. Isn't that crazy? The 3DS version has been released for nearly a week (and, provided you had access to the Japanese release, almost a month), and the Wii U sibling will release first on our shores this November. My dreams of Animal Crossing's Villager, Punch-Out's Little Mac, and Mega Man joining the battle have all come true alongside Sakurai-esque surprises in the form of the freaking dog from Duck Hunt and the entire Koopaling family all stuck into one swiss army-equipped Junior Clown Car. Amazing.

And that theme. Why must every Smash theme be so godly? Truth be told, I wasn't so convinced by it at its E3 2013 debut; granted, that particular version isn't present in the final version (or in the 3DS version, at least), but the instrumentation was so weak and just that it was hard to get excited by it. The closet sense of excitement I could derive from it was listening to this fan-made piano arrangement--which elicited a classic Melee-esque vibe--and I found that more than a little...well, sad. After the stunning glory that was the Brawl orchestra, could this dingy little tune really have what it took to set the pregame atmosphere for the upcoming Smash?

I guess I knew it was only just for the initial trailer, so I held out hope. And it delivered: not only did the arrangements found in this April's Nintendo Direct manage to hype me, but the final version blasting from the E3 footage successfully won me over. Unlike Melee's classicism and Brawl's orchestras, Smash for 3DS and Wii U goes for pregame Monday Night Football, right down to the revving guitar. Every time I hear it, I'm just so pumped to try out everyone in this glorious cast of all-stars.

And just like Brawl, the theme's peppered throughout the game via numerous arrangements. Many fans aren't so happy with this direction, but I don't really mind since this new theme is so goddamn good. Yes, it does mean we miss out on unique themes like Melee's Menu 2 and Trophy theme, yet at the same time every arrangement is such a fresh--even occasionally downright beautiful--take on the song that they lend the game even more character. Katsuro Tajima's Trophy Rush is a wonderful cacophony of fast-paced action, Yoshinori Hirai's Gallery/Hoard is a prestigious little blend of march and techno, Torine's piano rendition of the Classic: Final Results screen is both gorgeous and reflective, and let's not forget Taku Inoue's chiptune StreetSmash!

I'm just so happy, you know? Six years ago, when the toxicity pervaded the fanbase following Brawl's release, I never dreamed another Smash would arrive to placate my sadness...and yet here we are, ready to relish in another era of Smash Bros. The fun's only just begun with the 3DS version, and I know that when the Wii U version launches, this song will be there with me when I'm ready to jump into the floating temples and mountain crags of Battlefield and beyond.

Let's settle it in Smash!