Saturday, 26 March 2011

Retro Monday: Metamorphic Force (Arcade)

I know we haven't done one in a while, but for the last year, Retro Monday has been churning out the nostalgic goodnees on a weekly flex. We're now going to be slowing down a bit. Our brains have quickly dumped all the sweet and cherished game memories, so we'll be releasing Retro Mondays on a more sporadic note. When the games or inspiration hits us, we'll write about it. After all, you can't really plan memories.

But this is one such time, a time when a memory takes hold, and reminds you about how good gaming can be. This is Metamorphic Force, a Konami arcade brawler from 1993:

It's nothing special, if I'm completely honest. A standard 90's-era Konami/Capcom brawler, it's got all the standard features one would expect. The USP of this particular one being that the characters transform into beasts with the help of a power-up.

In fact, I don't expect ANYONE to have heard of this, let alone have played it. It took me about an hour of typing in various game features into Google to track it down properly. But this is one of those games that completely encapsulates everything your childhood represented, and just how gaming can take you back there. I remember this being at a campsite in the Lake District, at the first and last time I saw it. I remember pumping a shitload of money in it the weekend I was there, and I remember vividly the characters and the enemies.

I recall completely obsessing over it, the friend I was with and I running through the woods, actually acting out the game when we weren't playing it, and then begging our parents for some change so we could go and play this bombardment of flashing lights and colours. I only went to this campsite once at a young age, but this was more than enough to firmly seal this game into my sub-conscience.

Playing it today is an absolute joy. The gameplay isn't particularly brilliant, and the graphics are good (although dated), but this obviously isn't why I love this game. It's that feeling of nostalgia, and it always amazes me how much games can affect me like that. Games seem to encapsulate time, perfectly preserving a feeling and place, easily remembered when that start screen lights up.

Games do this to me more than most things. And I think that's one of the reasons I love them so much. This game is from an awesome time in my childhood, a time when I had no worries, and could pretend I was a French Swordsman called Claude, who could also transform into an Arctic Wolf. I still believe that one day that will happen to me, of course, but back then it felt a little more achievable. And by playing it again, I remember all this good stuff, and good times. Games are the closest thing I have to a time machine, and are often much cheaper than forking out for a Flux Capacitor.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A soundtrack for the Retro generation....

Orchestral soundtracks, 8 Bit jingles, soothing mellow tones. All great games scores have the ability to burn into your brain and stay there; sitting. humming away at the back of your head. We all have fond memories of the first time you heard 'that' track or being moved by a beautiful piece of in-game music.
So, because their are so many superb tracks that spring to mind, the other day (for laughs!) I decided to challenge a colleague and myself into coming up with a tracklist, a 15 strong 'Ultimate Video Game Soundtrack' any game, any system the only rule being NO covers or remixes. I also asked the fellow Gainboy community on facebook to contribute, so thanks one and all for your suggestions. It was really hard to chose so don't be to mad at me if you don't agree on the finished list. Each to his own etc...
Ok, here we go may i present to you, in no particular order (this is an album, not a top 15) Dr Lucian Sanchez's 'Ultimate Video Game Soundtrack' :-

Track 1. Area 5 (fear is a mind killer) by Adam Freeland - Rez.

Amazing track, a great walking song and 'that' sample .... epic!

Track 2. Tour of Venice by Jesper Kyd - Assassins Creed 2

First time i heard this, escaping from a rooftop chase, i found myself on top of a church looking out onto the beautiful Italian vista the song hit its soaring peak at 1:30 (clink the link) Wow, needless to say i had a moment...still one most moving games I've played.

Track 3
. MegaMan 2 title theme by Takashi Tateishi - MegaMan 2

A brilliant little ditty that encapsulates the feeling of pixel perfect jumping and charging headlong into robotic battle. The tune also sounds great as the notoriously hard game's protagonist stands aloft a building, hair blowing in the wind. A classic action-hero pose!

Track 4.
Mass Effect main theme and intro by Sam Hulick and Jack Wall - Mass Effect

As a 'noob' to Mass Effect (having never finished the first game OR even touched the sequel) I'm not well versed in the full spectrum of the score. I do know, however, from the moment the title card fades in, Joker's voice coming through the Comm system and Shepard stepping onto the deck of the Normandy... BOOM! done, quality game moment.

Track 5.
Sewer Surfin' by Masahiro Ikariko - TMNT Hyperstone Heist

Yay childhood, i remember playing this over and over again on the megadrive, messing with the various BGM's on offer in the option screen. It fits the feel of the level so well, in fact when i play it now i can still hear the muffled digitized voices of Michelangelo exclaiming 'Pizza time' whenever i'd run over health.

Track 6.
The Moon by Yoshihiro Sakaguchi - Ducktales

Starting with a few notes that perfectly capture space and the surrounding lenvironment of the level this track (apart from the AWESOME title song) is the standout melody for Ducktales. Hey Capcom you've done it again!

Track 7.
Metropolis Zone by Matsato Nakamura - Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Probably one of hardest choices i had to make when sorting the list, it's well known (if your a geek) that the Sonic series had a tonne of excellent songs. Marble Garden, Greenhill and Chemical Plant all had brilliant bits to them, but i needed something that had it all...
Metropolis HAS. The scratch effect, the 'guitar' sections, mad synth notes and the best drum pattern in any sonic level. Yeah, this had to be on the my album.

Track 8.
Evil Destroyer by Toshiharu Yamanishi, Takeshi Yoshida and Tomomi Ootani.- Thunder Force 4

The Metal runs deep in my soul....Amazingly epic boss fights over 16 bit music was the best recipe for HOURS of level re-try's on TF4. Some great remixes of the originals can be found on Youtube also. J-Rock at it's best.

Track 9.
International Karate theme by Rob Hubbard - IK+

Now hear this, you can keep your street fighter's and your Marvels, the real battles lie in this Commodore 64 fighting gem. There is only one track in the game that loops every 10 mins but wow those 10 minutes get filled with all sorts of Sid player goodness. Trust me, it goes all over the shop.

Track 10.
Downstream by Shira Kammen - Braid

A genuinely moving and brilliantly arranged piece of music that can't help but move me every time i hear it. The combination of the story and the artwork in Braid married with this track, oh it gets me every time. Perfect !

Track 11.
Under Logic by Yuzo Koshiro - Streets of Rage 2

On a list like this you must have a track from S.O.R 2, the greatest side scrolling beat'em up ever. FACT! This song in particular i always thought was a sound-alike to Shamen's 'Move any Mountain' honestly, have a listen = ... see!
A great slice of 16bit heaven.

Track 12.
The Necromancer Theme by John Guy , original title Simple Sight - Castle Crashers

A great game needs great music, look no further than this mental piece. Hyperactive as fuck and unrelentless to boot! I dont think it matches with the boss of the level too well, but it's still a superb piece of tunage. It's that penetrating double drum kick pattern that cements this as one of the best. The soaring synth middlepart deserves an honorable mention also.

Track 13.
Mute City by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai - F-Zero X

There are several versions of this track, earlier mute city songs on the older F-Zero games were good but i think this one is the best. Heavier sounding with a better arrangement this adrenaline fueled powerhouse really makes me feel like I'm going at 300mph when I'm bombing through Mute City.

Track 14.
Bubble Bobble theme by Tim Follin - Bubble Bobble

A pure classic in every sense, released in 1986 and available then (and now) on 26 systems! Its the tune you hear when you'd walk into an arcade and scramble to get that 20p from your pocket. It's dream like feel and light touch never really intrudes into the game, and its a simple enough tune that you'll be humming it for hours after your last bubble has been popped!

Track 15.
Loops of Fury by The Chemical Brothers - Wipeout XL

Boom, and a banging track to go out on. This somes up everything about Wipeout for me, the moment the extra beats kick in on the 0:42 second mark i can feel the speed of these machines rip through the course. Playing this gives me a similar feel to when i play F-Zero and the song i chose for that. They blend so well, the pace of the track and mood of the race. Great stuff!! Oh, and it's the Chemical Brothers so, yeah its gotta be on the list somewhere !

So there you have it the 15 track Album complete with links for your listening pleasure, no doubt i'll do a Vol.2 at some point so keep commenting and posting on mine and Gainboy's Facebook and our forum on P-Town.
Hope you do enjoy the tunes and i apologise if your 'fav' isn't on the list. It was difficult narrowing down from a list of 30 odd songs.

Until next time boys and gals

Dr Lucian Sanchez