Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Archive for the ‘Music Games’ Category

In Case You Missed It

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Despite how many times he insults me, I’m almost positive that a certain bearded  co-worker actually likes me because he supplied me with a Playstation 2 complete with Nerf controller. I will be repaying him soon with beers. If SNES and Sega Genesis were the consoles of my childhood, the PS2 epitomized my adolescence. I’m I proceeded to spend all of the trade credit I’ve amassed at a local used media store and got some classics as well as some games that slipped past my radar. Here’s a few that I didn’t get the first time around:

Space Channel 5

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

King of Fighters: XII

Kingdom Hearts

Psychonauts

First of all, I’m so happy to have a used console with one of the largest libraries of stellar games – especially those that I’d never played before. I’m thoroughly enjoying Kingdom Hearts as it’s so poignant yet extremely simplistic. Psychonauts has strikingly adult subject matter as seen through the eyes of kids with psychic abilities at summer camp. Space Channel 5 is probably the weirdest of the bunch – a rhythm game about aliens invading and forcing people to dance – but is still highly enjoyable for such a silly game. All in all, I expanded my library for relatively cheap and have a few long gaming sessions to look forward to with each game.

What are some games you neglected to play until years after they were released?

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High Score’s Best Scores

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Silent Hill: Downpour was released earlier this week, but I decided long ago that I would not be buying it. Not only has the series lost the atmospheric and unsettling feel (which it lost quite a few releases ago), it also lost one of the main reasons I continued playing.

Akira Yamaoka served as the musical motor behind the series from the original game through the embarrassing Wii rerelease of the original as well as the few great ones in-between. Listening to the soundtracks for the first three games, it’s obvious that Yamaoka had a clear sense of the creepy, haunting ambiance the player would experience and his music heightens the experience. When I learned KoRn would be providing some of the music for Downpour and Akira would not be composing any pieces, I hung up any second thoughts of buying or playing the game. Joystiq also shared some of the same sentiments in their review saying the loss of Yamaoka is possibly the game’s “biggest detriment”

That being said, I don’t want to focus on terrible in-game music. Instead, we’ll listen to some of my favorite gaming scores. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

One of the best musical compositions in a game comes from one of my favorite games: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Symphony, while also being my first foray into the Castlevania series, made me more aware of atmosphere in games. Voice acting aside (“Have at you!”), Symphony brought a more holistic approach to gaming – not only was the gameplay fantastic, the music and art served as an incredibly immersive experience for that console generation. Composer Michiru Yamane gave us the ethereal and classic pieces that are as timeless as the game itself.

Some music fits the game so perfectly, it’s almost impossible to play without it. Garry Schyman’s Bioshock soundtrack and score are the best examples of this. The decaying world of Rapture was almost magical when coupled with his haunting compositions while the in-game licensed music heightened the “roaring twenties” aesthetic, the mingling of the two made Bioshock ‘s ambient sadness a little more perceivable.

And of course, who could forget the Tetris theme? It was the first bit of gaming music that continually got stuck in my head. Wikipedia guesses that Hirokazu Tanaka is the likely composer of this piece. Here’s a dubstep remix… for some reason…

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March 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

What Games Can’t Teach

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I remember when the first Guitar Hero came out on the PlayStation2. At the time, I was drinking Smirnoff Ice (in hindsight – Ew), playing Twilight Princess on GameCube and going to class in what was my freshman year of college. Video games were what I did in between naps and homework, but Guitar Hero changed a lot of what I thought about gaming at the time.  It was frustrating, fun, accessible, and even if I was just watching a friend play, it was still entertaining.

Since I actually played guitar, my friends and I were surprised when I was terrible at first. Then with practice (probably too much practice), I worked my up to expert and by the time Guitar Hero 2, 3,  Rockband, etc. came out, I could rock some plastic peripherals like nobody’s business.

But now, I’d be hard pressed to even want  to play any rhythm based music game because I’ve played them all and would rather play an actual video game or actual music. Not only did the market become over-saturated with peripheral based games, some attempted to capitalize on the craze by suggesting certain games could help you actually play guitar. While I can’t speak to how true those claims were, it’s clear to see that these types of games have fallen out of favor after dying a very slow death of release after terrible release.

What I find most interesting is the fact there are certain kinds of games that try to crossover to more “tangible” skills. When I see commercials for any dancing games like Just Dance, I’m reminded of Dance Dance Revolution and how that craze gave way to Guitar Hero, etc.  It seems to me the people creating these games are perpetuating an idea of gaming as a means to an end, instead of an end in itself. Either that or they are constantly recycling trends that make consumers feel like they’re doing more than “just gaming” and then gutting whatever falls by the wayside to make profits off customers outside their normal demographic…

Little bit of both?

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March 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm