This is it. The votes are tallied, the verdicts are in. Two retro systems enter, only one may leave. It’s retro-geddon!
In this latest VGMortal you’ll hear: Dave stutter uncontrollably, Wes confuse Streets, Dave overplay his hand on lame jokes, and Wes bitch about songs not included. Our best show yet!
Make no mistake, the Genesis is definitely the underdog in this fight. The SNES library of songs, from top to bottom, is just too fucking good. BUT, when Genesis does it right, they really do it right. Team selections are going to make all the difference in the world, I think (Sega’s A-Team is looking crazy good).
The teams are listed below, with their track ranking, game title, track title, and composer(s).
The betting favorite in this knockdown drag-out, the SNES has put out hit after hit. With goliath publishers like Square, and of course Nintendo’s in-house devs, some of the finest VGM ever created rests on those little gray carts. But do these tracks have the chops to take down the hated rival, Sega Genesis. Probably. But maybe not.
The teams are listed below, with their track ranking, game title, track title, and composer(s).
Flame war, on! It was debated on many a schoolyard in the 1990s: Genesis vs. SNES. It pitted family members against one another, drew lines in the sand among friends. Were you a Genesis kid, or a SNES kid? I was a SNES kid, through and through, loving games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and Link to the Past. But I eventually got a Genesis in 1994-ish, enjoying titles like Sonic 2, Streets of Rage 2, Road Rash 2 (lotsa 2′s). It didn’t make me waver from my admiration of the purple and gray juggernaut, but I started gathering more of an appreciation for Sega’s biggest claim to fame. Gameplay was pretty good on some games, but the music ranged from really great (Streets of Rage 2) to really crunchy and awful (so many other examples).
For years and years I was always under the assumption that Genesis music, for lack of a better phrase, fucking sucked. Sure, there was a good tune here and there, a game with worthy tunes (usually Sonic-related). This VGMortal grudge match, however, is meant to put that preconception I harbored, lo, these many decades, to rest and prove that both systems had very choice tunes. The SNES tunes were easy to identify, for the most part. I knew what I liked and I knew what was good. But for the Genesis–I listed to a lot of different soundtracks for a lot of different games. What I found was when Genesis music was done right, playing to the strengths of the hardware, shit was tight.
So, rules. It would be far-too exhausting to pit the chosen top-50 Genesis tracks against the chosen top-50 SNES tracks. Instead, because GameDrunk HQ is located deep within college basketball country, this good ole fashion slobberknocker is being engaged through a team-against-team tournament. The tracks have been ranked 1-50 for each system. Each team will consist of five tracks, put together via a serpentine draft. Meaning the #1 track will be paired with the 20th best track, then the 21st best track, followed by 40th and 41st best. Hopefully this will allow a little more balance in these match-ups, providing a decent representation of which console harbored the best music.
Other rules: 32x tracks are legal but Sega CD games are not. No more than three tracks can be chosen from any single game.
We’ll post playlists of the top-50 for each and conduct the majority of our tests off-mic. Then, when the final four–the best of the best–are decided upon, we’ll broadcast the results via another incredibly exciting podcast!
Well, six hours per game was apparently far too ambitious with a newborn. I’ve also found that I don’t need six hours to know if a game is worth playing or not. Still, I’ve been able to devote between two to three hours to Guacamelee, The Swapper, and Solar 2, and I was pleasantly surprised with all of them.
Guacamelee was first up. To me it was equal parts Castle Crashers (with the action and stylized environments) and Metroidvania. If that has you salivating, go purchase and play this game immediately. There are some puzzle/platforming elements present in the game, so not strictly a beat-em-up. There are also various combos to unlock and perform, furthering the play style beyond a game like Final Fight or Streets of Rage. But Guacamelee clearly harkens back to those early titans of the genre while it also pays service to other gaming giants.
Tons of references to Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Metroid can be found throughout the world–Metroid, in particular, right down to the Chozo statues that unleash power-ups.
The music is astounding–simultaneously Mariachi and ambient–and the visual appeal is very high. You’ll definitely want to play it with a controller versus keyboard/mouse. I can’t recommend using the 360 controller enough, it felt perfectly attuned to the game’s design. In terms of an evaluatory system, which is based on equating the game to a certain type of libation, this game is scored as: Inebriating, like a house margarita. That’s pretty good!
The Swapper, I loved. Reminiscent of games from yesteryear you are thrown into a world and expected to move forth with no explanation at all. Like Guacamelee, The Swapper utilizes a Metroidvania layout for its world while gameplay is more akin to that of Portal. It’s a puzzle game that provides you with an item, The Swapper, which allows your character the ability to create up to four clones of yourself. These clones can be placed in various points, depending on the Swapper’s line of sight, allowing you to solve puzzles and progress through a space station filled with mystery and questions.
The puzzles in The Swapper are intriguing. Several times I sat thinking about how I didn’t even want to attempt a solution, being perplexed from the very start. Yet I was compelled to try, and compelled more so to figure out the key to unraveling said room’s enigma. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when a puzzle is solved that provides great motivation to keep pressing forward.
The music in The Swapper is background ambiance, if present at all. I was actually playing WinAmp in the background while I moved through the station, only to find out a good bit of the plot is told to you by a scientist moving through the station, dropping hints as to what is going on. A couple of different occasions saw me miss some vital plot point because I didn’t hear everything she had to say. Still, the lack of really good VGM is not anything to keep me from coming back to The Swapper. I score it: Top-Shelf, our highest grade.
Solar 2. I can best describe this game as a more-rudimentary Sim City but on a universal scale, which seems highly contradictory but still fits. You start off as a chunk of space rock, free to roam around the open planes of existence, searching for greater meaning by way of gaining mass through the absorption of other rocks. Eventually your hurtling boulder evolves into a small planet, then a life-bearing planet, then different levels of a star. The final form you take is a black hole which can swallow anything in its path, provided there isn’t a larger black hole gunning for you. Eventually you achieve The Big Crunch and everything becomes what it once was, you being a wayward rock trying to find your place in the universe.
More impressive an image when it is in motion.
I spent a great majority of my time with the game simply roaming through space, growing my system, saving various iterations, evolving my stars and planets. It is strangely gratifying and didn’t get stale. I eventually took part in the ‘missions’ laid out before me, which added some challenge and structure to the game.
The music in Solar 2 is very good, extremely laid-back and ethereal–what I would expect for a game about deep space and the evolution of a universe. It never got old and never got in the way, it just remained in the background, occasionally peaking upward while subsequently piquing my attention. The visuals of the game are pretty basic for this day and age but they have a certain beauty to them. The controls are challenging because you can FEEL THE PHYSICS. Seriously, though–gravity is ever-present and you have to quickly learn how to manipulate your surroundings before they manipulate you. Venture too close to a star and you’ll be pulled in. Capturing space rocks or new planets is not just a matter of getting close to it in all cases, but sometimes making a motion more conducive to putting something in orbit.
My only knock on Solar 2 is I can’t imagine I’ll ever go back to it. I loved every moment I spent with it, but I kind of feel like I did everything I wanted to in the game. Because of that I withhold the esteemed rank of ‘Top Shelf’ and bestow the next-best award: Intoxicating.
*** Update ***
After I wrote the first draft of this post I started playing through a few more titles on my list of backlog: Half-Minute Hero, Starseed Pilgrim, and Dust. Here are some brief thoughts.
Half-Minute Hero struck me in a similar way as The Swapper in that I felt resistant towards completing an objective but at the same time felt compelled to continue through it. The point of this game is that you are playing an RPG in which you have 30 seconds ‘to save the world’. Time freezes in towns and can be reset by p(r)aying near a statue (the Time Goddess, like many other major religious figures, loves money).
Save the world in 30 seconds, many times over.
Now, those who have tortured themselves in the past by reading articles I’ve written or listened to podcasts I’ve bitched on know that I am not one for time limits in games. It was one of the ruining factors for me in Majora’s Mask. I feel like it cheapens my experience because I am one who likes to play a game deliberately and explore the worlds game devs have laid before me. I totally understand the point of a time limit, as it does intensify a particular game experience a dev might be seeking to convey, not too mention it ramps up difficulty, with increased anxiety and adrenaline serving as by-products. Nevertheless, it still remains a turn-off for me.
Battles are auto-fought. Kinda boring.
I played Half-Minute Hero for about an hour and progressed through several different areas in which I had to save the world (the whole game doesn’t end after 30 seconds, just the scenario you’re currently faced with). The game has some very interesting aspects to it and is not altogether unfun, but it is not a game I see myself indulging in too much. While it is an RPG, it is not so much an RPG as it is a puzzler, giving you obstacles to overcome and forcing you to find the most apt route in solving those dilemmas. Quick-score equivalent: Shot of Whiskey (not a bad experience, but over too quickly).
Starseed Pilgrim–I don’t know what to even say about this one. I tried playing it for maybe 10 minutes. It has extremely rudimentary graphics, which is not a problem for me. But I had no idea what the fuck I was supposed to be doing and, honestly, I didn’t feel compelled to try and figure it out. Nothing from the game grabbed me, urging me to play on. I realize this is a very book-by-its-cover judgement, but of all the games in the world for me to be playing at any given time, this one did not present its case well to be one of them. Quick-score equivalent: Toilet Wine (you know its there, but you don’t really want to drink it).
Dust: An Elysian Tail was the last one I started up and I’m happy to say I cannot provide a good evaluation of it yet because it is definitely a game I want to sink my teeth into more. I can say, firstly, that the presentation of the game is top-shelf. The visuals are simply-stunning–hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds that are beautifully colored and have a real pop to them. I didn’t get much sense of the music, but there is full voice acting which is handled in a serious, yet tongue-in-cheek, fashion. I’m going to sip on this one for a while, but my gut-reaction, quick-score equivalent:Bubbly.
My son is hours away from birth. What better way to serenade him into this new world than with the soothing sounds of sweet VGM classics like these, presented before you.
There are some pretty rad, proggy VGM tracks out in the wild. Here are just a few of the best.
Another new feature! Let’s see if it sticks.
If you, as a player of games (I don’t like the term ‘gamer’), are anything like me you likely have a large backlog of titles you have collected after seeing various deals and sales. And if, like me, you have nowhere near the amount of time needed to play these titles, you’ve noticed that backlog is full of stuff you want to get going on. But where to start? I’ve got so many games, console and PC alike, that I want to play, but with the attention span bestowed upon me by my Gen-Y/Millennial upbringing I end up playing an hour or so of everything, never really knowing where to settle and devote serious time. That’s where this series of written accounts come in to play.
For too long I’ve been wanting to play missed PC classics like Deus Ex, Planescape: Torment, and Baldur’s Gate II. And while previous PCs could run these older titles, they always slipped in behind newer, fancier, console-oriented games that grabbed my attention. We’re talking your standard Halo 4s and Legend of Zeldas. Titles that, in my mind, usurp the unknown-to-me classics of yesteryear all too easily. To combat this tunnel vision I have devised a 6-week program to get through 14 PC games I’ve collected and have eagerly anticipated. These games have come to me through various Humble Bundles and Steam/GOG sales, all a value at time of purchase but lacking in value as they sit unused on my hard drive.
Each of the 14 games will be given two hours a day of gameplay (minimum) for three straight days. So at least six hours to determine if I like the game and want to continue or feel OK with putting aside for bigger experiences.
The games in question, listed in the order they will be played, are:
Baldur’s Gate II
Dust: An Elysian Tale
YS I/II Chronicles
Rreactions and impressions will be added to the site regularly, not necessarily with each game, but perhaps in groupings of 2-3. If you give a shit about reading any of this, keep an eye out. Or don’t, I’m not your boss. But seriously, please do.
There’s a pretty obscure SunSoft NES/Famicom game out there, that apparently sells for hundreds of dollars, called Gimmick!, or Mr. Gimmick!. In what looks almost like an early version of modern Kirby games, this lovable little tyke traipses through the game doing things to a completely-astounding soundtrack. Thus, Gimmick! is the MusicBox OST of the Day.
Have a LISTEN! courtesy of a YouTube playlist curated by explod2A03.
Gimmick!, we salute you!
Wes and I talk about games we’ve played and the music from those games that we remember. Our sound quality is not great, I talk a lot about things in which Wes is clueless, and Wes explains that he’s drunk.
Games include: Street Fighter II Turbo, Jurassic Park (SNES–because Wes HATES the Genesis version), Actraiser, Dragon Quest VIII, ToeJam & Earl, Super Mario 64, and Golden Axe.