From a Gamer’s Basement

So, gang, here we are again! Last week we talked music in games, and I asked you to write me. Well some of you did, but one guy really came through with a well thought out, long, and insightful e-mail, so he’s gets credit where credit is due for this addition of From a Gamer’s Basement. So below is a bit of his e-mail, telling us about some of the games he liked that had amazing soundtracks.

You know how your mind works in these kinds of situations. You battle your brains for minutes trying to remember something but nothing comes out of it. But the answer you’re looking for comes to you out of nowhere hours or even days later. I was laying on my sis’ living room floor waiting for sleep that night (small apartment), and there it hit me! THE WALTZ FROM FINAL FANTASY 3’s OPERA!!!! My family was pretty creeped out by me busting out in laughter in the middle of the night.

Final Fantasy 3. Now, I had played games with good soundtracks before, but this game is just wow. When I first plugged the game, after the title screen and the intro, the opening credits started rolling through, with the magiteks armors marching towards for something exceptional. I was loving that opening so much I let it run through twice before I hit a button to actually start the game. I don’t care whatever criticisms some people throw at that game, I’m still very fond of it, in large part thanks to the soundtrack. Some of these songs are easily overlooked among so many great tracks. Shadow’s theme, Cyan’s theme, Forever Rachel, the final battle… oh yeah, a four part battle waged upon a song split in four parts that blend perfectly into one another as you advance in the fight… splendid. And just after that, you’re treated to the ending. All characters’ themes remixed, sewed together, playing as they escape the tower, then the ending credits and that great triumphant march that played through the speakers. Su-Blime! As I’m typing this I’m recalling those songs and I’m getting the urge to pick up the game just to hear the final battle and ending theme again, but that urge goes away when I’m thinking about the 20 hours of game play I’d have to do to get there.

Lucard did a column on game music a wee back at 411. He got to talk about his usuals in that regard: Rhapsody, Legend of Mana, the Velvet Room Operetta… I mentioned FF3 to him, his response: “Ewwwwww”! Probably the only time I’ve ever disagreed with him. Sure, the Velvet Room Operetta is great, sure I have yet to play Rhapsody, and maybe some games’ soundtrack are better than FF3’s, but it gave this game an unparalleled ambiance. Music wasn’t an after-thought in this game, it MADE this game. It made the game convey emotions unto me, to a level I’ve never felt from a game before or since. For the first time I deemed a game as a work of art instead of just a mean couldn’t care less if a better soundtrack was done before, or after, FF3’s remains my favorite. FF3 may not be my favorite game of all time, but it’s the one that moved me the most.

Honorable mentions goes to these other memorable games I’ve had the pleasure to lend my ears to:

Soul Blazer: Fun little RPG made even better by the great soundtrack that came with from it. Especially the theme from Dr. Leo’s lab, it was excellent! The main reason why I didn’t dig the sequels, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma, are because their soundtracks don’t even compare to Soul Blazer. A good example of how a great soundtrack can by itself improve a game immensely.

Maximum Carnage: If you didn’t know, a metal band named Green Jelly contributed to that game’s soundtrack. I had never heard of Green Jelly before, but I’m a metalhead. When I heard the opening theme of this puppy I was in auditory heaven, and the game continued to provide rocking tracks through the end. Very fit for the revamped spider-man universe, on par with the theme from the new TV show (at the time). Needless to say, this got me into learning more about Green Jelly, and after hearing all their albums, I think that strangely enough their best work ever was what they put into this game!

Rock ‘N Roll Racing: How to make an RC Pro Am sequel that doesn’t look like one? You pack a soundtrack that contains 4 or 5 rock and roll classics and you call it Rock ‘N Roll Racing. …That’s it, really. The game rocked because the songs rocked. Remove the songs and what you’re left with is really just an RC Pro Am sequel… well, one in which you can blast the other racers to hell, too.

Lunar The Silver Star: Besides Luna’s great singing, this game was packed with really good music all around. Battle themes, characters’, villains’. Best of them all: Luna’s Black Songstress song. I’ve watched the Grindery vs. Vane battle sequence where she performs that song (with very creepy orchestration mixed in for an amazing result) more times than I can count. An example of a game where everything was well done: the game play, the story, and the music, all of which contribute to make a classic. This may just be my favorite game of all time, either this one or:

Chrono Trigger: Again a great combination of everything that makes a good game. And this one’s music, combined with a great battle system and cheerful characters, help conveyed an overall atmosphere of pure teenage fun. Throughout the game I always had the impression that Crono and the gang were having a blast slashing their way through the enemies. The battles never got tedious to me, unlike in Lunar. The strength of this soundtrack was the characters’ themes. Not a single one of them was “not good”.

Chrono Cross: Wait, don’t leave yet! Yes, that game was bad. Well not THAT bad, but a sequel that failed miserably to recapture the magic of the original. Despite its flaws, this game had some good thigs going for it. First, the main character’s name! Best name EVAH!!! ;) Ok, the graphics then, very warm, colorful, an amazing feat for the PS1. Oh, this is music we’re talking about. Well sure, this game came through in that aspect as well. There were lots of great songs to be found in there, my favorite being the theme playing when you’re in the port town of Termina. Sadly I can’t remember much more from this soundtrack, for as good as it was it couldn’t save a bad game play and incite me to play through this game a second time.

Whew, that was pretty long, and I even cut some out. Anyways thanks to Serge for the kick ass letter. I have to agree with a lot of what he says. And while I generally find a lot of Square-Enix games to be pretty mediocre (with the exception of my hardcore love for Final Fantasy IX and the PS1 Tactics), I do think they usually hit the soundtrack department of their games especially well time after time. It should go without saying, but any RPG that is going to set itself apart, HAS to have a great soundtrack. Without it, the RPG in question will surely just fade away into obscurity. Sound really does remain perhaps the most underrated aspect in the gaming world today, something that is really taken for granted more often than it should be.

Anyways today’s topic is a bit different. How many times, would you say, you’ve played a game based on a movie? I’m willing to bet more than a few since it seems like every major movie these days has some kind of lame video game being cranked out. Now with that said, how many game are made into movies? More than there used to be at least. My point is that Hollywood and the Video gaming industry have a lot of crossover. So I got to thinking about other industries and video games, and I got to thinking about books and video games. After a lot of debate I pretty much said to myself, “It’ll never work, and besides putting faces to book characters has always been a pet peeve of yours anyway.” Pretty sound logic I suppose. However there is one series of novels that I really would like to see turned into a video game series. The potential is just so amazing, yet I know (and anyone who is a fan of the series knows as well) that it will never ever happen. And no I’m not talking about Harry Potter and the excuses for games that franchise spits out every time one of those books or movies hits the streets.

The Dark Tower series is, to our generation, what great classic series of the past were to there generation. Spanning seven volumes, the story of Roland and his quest for the Dark Tower goes across different worlds and times. Started before many of us were even born (and I’m 21 and this series started before I entered this world), it is the apex of one of the 20th centuries most prolific writers. The last, and final volume, literally a work that has been anticipated for a couple of decades was just released in September. Have you ever read a book or series that, literally, gave you chills, made you cry, and made you care about these characters like they were your OWN family? That’s what the Dark Tower is to a DT junkie like me. I’m hooked through the bag, and I think I’m still experiencing a bit of withdrawal since the story came to a close. The cincher here, and for once I’m happy about this, is that I will never see this series on the big screen. Stephen King himself has said it’s simply too big for a movie, or even a mini-series. There is just too much there for any movie or TV series to effectively capture its essence. I like it that way I think. No actor in Hollywood could ever do Roland justice, with the very possible exception of Clint Eastwood in his prime if we could turn back the hands of time.

But what about a video game series? Doors all of the sudden swing open in my mind. Perhaps that would be the perfect medium for a huge series like this to come to life outside of their imaginations. Seven books — seven games. Video games have a lot of advantages over movies, simply because a game has no limit on how much you can put into it. You can fit the story without cutting out vital parts simply due to time constraints. The characters can all be there, animated in a way the stays true to the artwork of the books, and many, many fans will be happy. But, like I said: It’ll never happen. No Stephen King book has ever become a video game, and never will. Perhaps it’s for the best. Because will a diehard fan like myself may want to see an Eddie Dean special being cracked on my console, a part of me is selfish. A part of me wants Roland’s ka-tet to forever stay in my mind, where my imagination always houses a special place for them and their adventures. And that’s probably why I always have usually been against books being turned into video games, and usually movies as well. They just never compare. No matter how excited you get, or how much you want to see it, 95% of the time you’re going to be going home disappointed. Something it gets done right. More often; however it doesn’t. That’s it for this week folks. Next week I’ll have something for you all. Until then take it easy