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I’ve long had an obsession with video game music. The simply-complex tracks that used to fill my bedroom emanating from my NES left quite an impression, enough so that I felt compelled to create this feature dedicated to some of the finest video game music (VGM) I have come across.

This introductory post seeks to lay out the vision I have for the feature. With awards season violently thrust upon us I began pondering silly questions like, ‘Which series has the best music?’ and, ‘What is the best overall VGM track?’. So, with that in mind, you can probably expect to see that sort of bullshit in the near future.

I also plan on delving into good sources for VGM, like podcasts that give the medium its due, fan sites like OC Remix, and other artistic recreations of the finest tunes found on YouTube. Exciting, I know. But, if you’re anything like me, you understand what a profound effect good VGM can have on you, creating the want to play that title all over again as nostalgia comes sweeping over you.

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Half way through the first month of our official Game(s) of the Month Club, Dave and I have each completed our selected games. The swap has happened, now it is time for Dave to tackle Stranger’s Wrath and me to dive into Metroid Other M. But, before we do that, here are our thoughts on the games we picked out ourselves:

Oddworld-Stranger's Wrath Coverart

Wes’ Take:

I was a fan of the weird art style and atmosphere that was created with the Oddworld franchise. While I enjoyed Abe’s Oddysee and Exodus, I generally lean to games with more action – or at least more powerful protagonists. Stranger’s Wrath provided the perfect combination of ass-kicking protagonist and overall oddness that I had always wanted from an Oddworld title.

There is no convoluted back story hampering the introduction to the game. You are thrust into your role as a bounty hunter and you begin your bounty-taking killing spree from the time you press start. When you take your bounties into town, the story begins to unfold and you begin to piece together the mystery of your character; the on they call, The Stranger. This is not Citizen Kane. In fact, at some points the missions are presented to you in such a blunt and straight-forward manner that it almost seems as if they are making fun of the all too common mechanics used in video games to progress the story line.

Early bounty missions are very similar and start to become very repetitive right around the time they start switching things up on you and the story moves in a completely different direction. Cool characters, good dialogue, hilarious characters to interact with, spot on controls and just an overall high level of attention to detail and production value make this a game worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Pros:
  • Great art style / atmosphere
  • Hilarious situations and clever dialogue
  • Good mix of game mechanics (stealth versus aggro)
  • Beautifully rendered CG cut-scenes – hold up against those being made today
  • Interesting, if a little minimalist story line
Cons:
  • Repetitive missions
  • Lack of variety in enemies – maybe a dozen or so different foot-soldier-type enemies
  • Wild fluctuations in difficulty – just seemed a little inconsistent
  • Limited ammo quantities hindered gameplay in some situations

 

Metroid Other M box art

Dave’s Take:

Some of you may remember any number of drunken diatribes I’ve scrawled upon these parts of the Internet in times past wherein I lambaste Metroid: Other M mercilessly. I am an admitted Metroid fanboy, having cut my teeth on the NES original and played through each iteration since. I was pumped about Other M upon release, then I played it, then I started hating Nintendo for what they did to my jam. Time has passed, though, and I’ve grown as a human. The Game of the Month Club offered a chance at redemption for Wii-troid, and I’m pleased to say, it didn’t help all that much.

The story in the Metroid series was always appealing to me, but I never thought it was Ivanhoe or anything. They used lame and uninspired names like “Space Pirate” and referred to an overly-attached Metroid hatchling as “the baby”. This shit is science fiction; let’s get creative! This go-round, Samus, who is a bounty hunting loner, is constantly seeking the approval of her former superior officer. She has an arsenal that has laid waste to the Metroid species as well as the Space Pirate conspiracy, but she doesn’t use it until Adam suggests it might be a good idea. “Samus, you’re getting your ass kicked down there. Maybe you should use your Plasma Beam.” Solid fucking thinking; this is why you are in charge. About 75-80% through the game the story picked up to a point where it was kind of enjoyable, but then it reverted back to its overly-contrived ways and started shitting melodrama again.

The last point I want to touch on here at the mid-month update is the game’s control scheme: it is not good. A, the Wii-mote is terrible to begin with. The nunchuk is not utilized; the classic controller is not expoited. It’s just you and the Wii-mote, left to trudge through the Resident-Evil-esque-fixed-camera-angle environments until a 1st-person view is required. At that point you have the pleasure of turning your remote towards the TV and waiting for the slowest of on-screen transitions as you move from 3rd-person to clumsily attack anything that happens to be directly in front of you, hoping your lock-on does its job and hones in on an enemy for a missile shot. It’s shit like this, Nintendo.

My expectations were as low as they could be, so at least I can say I wasn’t disappointed with the game any more than I had been. I’m glad I played through it because now I don’t feel bad when I complain of Team Ninja’s steaming turd that is Metroid: Other M. The characters are shallow, especially the series’ heroine, and the story, while it has some good points, feels like it was written by a forlorn teenager who got their fan fiction published. Metroid Prime had a good thing going, Super Metroid an even better allure, while Other M just feels like a monumental step backwards.

Pros:
  • Excellent graphics, especially for the Wii
  • Story provides a good bit of fan service at times
  • Cinematics are impressive-ish, especially if TV is on mute
  • It didn’t suck as bad as I expected it to
Cons:
  • Music was forgettable at best, and the voice acting is…just terrible
  • The controls, especially transitioning from 1st- to 3rd-person, are shit
  • The story, and the writers for making Samus a scared, approval-seeking, little girl
  • Uneven difficulty; tough in spots just for the sake of being hard
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Our newest (and probably only) on-going feature takes the form of a game-of-the-month club, akin to a book club. Wes and I will both choose a game for the month, play it for two weeks, then play each other’s game for two weeks. This format allows both of us to play the same game from start to finish and bring our own, unique perspectives to the table for some in-depth dialogue over a chardonnay and mild brie. We are both picking games that we have never played before but always wanted to, or games that we’ve played before but never given much of a chance, or games that we’ve played before and wanted to beat but never put forth the effort. Some games are retro (8-, 16-, 32\64-bit) while some are newer (within the last couple of generations), but all piqued our interest enough to be included in this year’s grouping.

GameClub is sophisticated as shit!

The two games chosen for January 2013 are Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, from Wes, and Metroid: Other M, from me. Anyone that has followed this site in any capacity likely knows my bloodfeud with Nintendo started upon the release of Other M because, in my eyes, they ruined what was great about Metroid. It was a waste of $50 then (because I bought it brand new, obviously) and only got about 4 hours’ worth of my attention before I wrote it off as a steaming pile of dog shit. My expectations at that time were so vast that the game was likely to disappoint no matter how good or bad it actually was. The fact that it disappointed me so greatly, though, really soured me on the Wii experiment (which I kept trying to believe in) and led to my refusal of support for their subsequent offerings, like the WiiU and 3DS. The gimmick-filled nature of Nintendo has grown tiresome to me and left me disinterested, and a little hurt. So, I figured with the absolute lowest of expectations possible, I might actually be able to even slightly enjoy Other M and, thus, get my money’s worth. Plus, being a huge Metroid series fan, my perspective has not been anywhere close to objective, but Wes comes in as an unbiased gamer, never grasping on to Metroid in the same fashion I have. I’ll be very interested to see what he thinks of Other M as just a game because, for me, it is very hard to judge the game by itself with the series so dear to me.

It can't be any worse, right?

Wes picked Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath because he always wanted to play it but never did, I think. You’ll have to ask him for a more-long-winded reason…if you really want to.

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I’ve been out of school for 3 weeks now, a newly-graduated Masters student, and yet I haven’t done a goddamn thing to the site since. Call it laziness, if you must, because quite frankly, you wouldn’t be wrong. Still, the year 2012 is coming to a close, and with that I have some shit I want to talk to you about. Oh, sure; you may not care about what I want to say, nor do you feel the need to proceed any further through this article. To that I say deal with it and keep reading. If you don’t, I will find you.

Bought myself Assassin’s Creed III for a graduation gift. The prevailing feeling so far is one of awesomeness. It’s still Assassin’s Creed, but the setting is fucking terrific. It is a completely under-utilized era in video games, which is what helped make the first two games of the series interesting. The game throws you through a slight loop about  20% into it, switching characters on you, a la Metal Gear Solid 2. Still, despite the connection I made with the first character, I ended up enjoying the change much more than I expected. I never completed either of the first two games, which has me a bit lost in the story of ACIII. Actually, the premise of the game (rather, the implications), seem fucking ridiculous. I find myself completely uninterested in the plot points taking place in the game’s “present”. Instead, I thrive on the events that take place in Old Boston and the Massachusetts frontier, just as I embraced Venice and Rome’s exploits in ACII.



Video streaming by Ustream

Wes and I just completed our annual play-through of ToeJam & Earl, which was streamed live (and judging from the zero viewers, I’m willing to bet you didn’t fucking see it). I can’t tell you how skeptical I am of this game year-in and year-out. “I don’t really give a shit about this game, but I know Wes really likes it, and I really like playing old games, so what the fuck.” And then I start playing it, and I’m indifferent for about 15 minutes, and then I am totally fucking hooked. ToeJam & Earl does something very incredible in that they craft a ridiculous, random world for you to transverse (preferably with a compatriot) with a new experience each and every time. Wes and I always beat the game, but it does not lack for the drama that it might not happen. We played for about 2.5 hours, and by the end, I found myself yearning for next year’s play-through. In fact, the game has sparked a Genesis resurrection within me, creating a need to play so many of the old Sega games that I never had much experience with in the past. It was this very feeling that led me to Half-Priced Books afterwards in search of Genesis gold. I found only one cartridge worth buying (at least in my eyes), and that was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, the true gem I discovered was the copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the XBOX 360 for $8.00. Needless to say, after playing through games like Fatal Labyrinth, Space Harrier (admittedly, a Master System game), and the Streets of Rage series I am smitten with Sega like I’ve never been before. The music has really come alive for me, and I always hated Genesis music because I thought it sounded muddy and uninspired. How very wrong I was; tracks on games like Shinobi III and Sonic and Knuckles help prove that the 16-bit era was the definitive Golden Age of video game music.

On the radar: The only game I am mildly interested in is Ni No Kuni for the PS3 because, hey, Studio Ghibli. The problem is my PS3 has not worked since April and I haven’t replaced or fixed it yet. I was briefly (and I mean, like, 5 minutes’ worth) interested in a WiiU when I came into some extra graduation dollars, but I wisely squandered that money on Magic cards and my wife.

Up next for the Drunkards:  Wes and I will be introducing a new dynamic to the site in January. We will be initiating a game of the month (two, actually) feature whereby we’ll play games that we always wanted to play, always meant to play more of, or games that got a bad rap the first time around and deserve a fresh attempt. We’re still trying to narrow down candidates, though I think for my first choice I’ll be playing Deus Ex on Steam. The idea is I pick a game, Wes picks a game, we play those games for two weeks, then we swap and play the other person’s game for two weeks. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide a more-balanced take on games that have been called classic over the years. I personally am looking forward to a few other titles, like Grim Fandango and Baldur’s Gate, neither of which I’ve sampled before.

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Everyone knew Halo 4 was going to be a juggernaut, the question was whether it was going to be any good. Let me assuage any concerns you may have immediately and say, yes, it is good. Quite good, in fact. 343 Industries grew out of Bungie’s Halo team, so it knows the series. 343 is responsible for the canon, the art design, the controls…everything. But Bungie is Bungie, which is akin to saying Samuel Adams knows how to make beer well. Halo 4 is a crisp, draft Sam Adams cascading into your glass, golden-amber bubbles invigorating your senses and aromatics inciting your salivary glands into overdrive. [SPOILER: For those who don’t know, I drink the Halo Kool-Aid in epic proportions. Though I will also be first to tell you if  something I thought was so promising sucked. I’m looking at you Metroid: Other M.]

Lifelike, even.

Why is Halo 4 exemplary? Firstly the goddamn graphics of this game are ridiculous; 343 is seriously pushing the 360’s hardware. Gone are the blocky, blurry humans of Halo games past. The art crew for this game really captured basic human expressions and movements. I’d have to think motion capture was used, though I’m too lazy to delve into that right … … … OK, motion capture confirmed. Beyond the “actors” of the game, though, as always, Halo’s environments are astounding to look at. There are areas where sterility has set in, but those areas are meant to look that way. Apparently the Forerunners just couldn’t nail down interior design, but my god they figured out the whole floating tower thing.

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It’s true.  We really do.

Enjoy.

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Future of Retro Games

New retro games is a booming enterprise. Slapping on HD filters, (sometimes) adding network play and other small additions and reselling games you’ve already made money on is a no-brainer. It’s also much easier for today’s consumer to pay $5, $10, $15 for a digital copy of the old games we used to (and still do) love than it is to maintain a museum of past-generation consoles and games. Needless to say, I love this trend for a couple of reasons. At the most basic level, I simply love older games. I grew up playing the Apple II, eventually upgraded to the Commodore 64 which more than satisfied my gaming needs into the console era of gaming when I moved on to the NES and I have been a fanatic and collector of gaming consoles ever since. As fanatical a collector as I am, I was and am still limited by financial constraints and thus missed out on many classic gems. This trend is providing me the opportunity to experience some of these classics that I missed in my youth. Also, as a father I feel it is my duty to ensure that my son’s video gaming experiences are well rounded and reenforced with milestone games of the past that paved the way for the games he loves today so that he appreciates where video games have been, enjoys where they are and anticipates where they are going. Read the rest of this entry »

Donkey Kong’s huge, monkey hand has shed fame on folks like Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell in years prior. Now, this barrel-tossing, female-stealing simian has gathered one more simple human into his orbit of fame: Me. I, Dave Funk, can now be addressed as Dave Funk, 1Up Member and Oral-History-of-Mario contributor. Behold! My debut on a media forum that people actually read!

While I plan on being the same, level-headed simpleton as before, I can’t help but feel more important than all of you, our readers. I also can’t help but use this opportunity to further explain my love of Donkey Kong ’94 for the Game Boy, one of the more under-appreciated games of the 90s. As mentioned in my blurb, I didn’t ask for this game but received it due to parental error. Maybe they also thought it would be ‘so cool’ because they remembered the days of Donkey Kong machines in bowling alleys and pizza parlors. When I was first handed the game I was intrigued, although not exactly thrilled. I had played Donkey Kong before in arcades; a quarter or two was all I was interested in feeding a game like that, and there sat a mobile cartridge featuring the angry ape for my perusal.

The game was inserted into my Game Boy because, hey, new game. I felt the disappointment wash over me when the first four levels were those I had played before in bowling alleys or pizza parlors.  The game was over, I had saved Pauline. What a fucking bummer this was, until that legendary antagonist (and protagonist!) popped back on-screen and stole Mario’s lady love (?) once more, leading him on a chase ’round the world.  You, the player, are whisked away to a whole new set of puzzles and platforming mayhem. An ‘overworld’ layout (this phrase is used extremely loosely) highlighted several stages within each level to defeat, while every fourth stage is either an attempt to save Pauline (who is on-screen) or a battle with DK, himself, turning his beloved barrels against him. Each time, though, Donkey Kong would grab the damsel and squeeze his large, monkey derriere through a comically-tiny door, leading you to pursue him yet again.

Beyond the great puzzle elements and platforming whimsy added to this newest iteration, Mario also has learned some new skills to help him traverse increasingly-more-dangerous traps and baddies. As I noted on the 1UP.com piece, these new moves led to staples like the backflip, used extensively in Mario 64 and subsequent later-gen Mario titles. And while the new moves and obstacles certainly make the game challenging (I’ve still never devoted the time to beating it), the game provides opportunity a-plenty to see it through to completion. 1ups are easy to come by through collecting items and playing the minigames that pop up every so often, and the game has a save feature, allowing one to save after completing an especially tough level.

I see it is available through the 3DS Virtual Console, so if you have a 3DS be sure to check it out.  And if you don’t already, be sure to read 1UP.com; they run an excellent site that focuses on new games but devotes so much energy to the games of yore, which really appeals to the Brain Trust here at GameDrunk.

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If you are reading this (thanks to all three of you!) you almost certainly enjoy video games. Enough, in fact, that you are willing to read an article about video games written by a nobody on a unknown site. So in that vein it is logical to assume that you find video games to be fun but also a way to pull yourself from reality for just a short time. Rough times have fallen upon The Brain Trust here at GameDrunk, and I know that I, personally, have sought solace in the games of yore.

I’ve taken the dive into all-games retro, completely immersing myself in games that I never played much before or never beat. One of those games was Maniac Mansion for the NES, which, after owning for over 20 years, I finally completed. I’d never devoted the time and energy to figure out this game’s amazing puzzles, so creative and intuitive. I completely underestimated the level of brilliance of this game for so long because I had no idea that video games played in such a way. It never once dawned on me, for instance, to use the Hunk-o-matic weight-lifting machine to grow one of the characters stronger which, in turn, allowed them to open the heavy garage door.

Along with this gem I’ve been playing through games like Final Fantasy IV (DS) and Earthbound, both games heavy on story that try to pull you away. And with a glass of bourbon in hand, pulling away from reality with games like these is not difficult. So, thinking on this begs the question: What are your favorite games to immerse yourself in, evading reality?

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I am being virtuous to you all!  Sign up for the Beta!

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Nintendo has been making a lot of headlines lately. Mostly terrible, terrible headlines that we all hate.

Again, let’s start off with an easy one:

Wii U online services will be free

Click below to continue…

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Borderlands Treasure Chest

Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Genre: First-Person, RPG
Rating: M

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There are deals abound for cheap games, as evidenced by this link; XBLA is slashing costs (“Oh my god, we’re having a fire!…sale.  The burning!”).

I have a feeling games like Perfect Dark Zero and Advanced Warfighter (each $5) will end up on my hard drive.  Never played either of them to any great extent, so what better time than now (again, for $5)?

Also cheap ($5…getting repetitive, right?) on Steam is Civilization III, which I purchased earlier this week.  Having never played Civilization before I was willing to try it out.  Two days and $5 later, I’m fucking hooked…on an 11-year-old game…that was $5.