Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Archive for March, 2009

Prog Rock and Video Games

Posted by Mike on March 20, 2009

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motoi_Sakuraba

I came across this page today and my eyes popped out when I realized how dominant this ex Deja Vu kekyboards player is in the video game soundtrack world. Now this isn’t something I’d probably normally care about, but for some completely odd and unknown reason, I do enjoy a good segment of the bombastic Japanese keyboard prog style (although Deja Vu itself wasn’t one of them). It’s an odd thing because the dominant influence, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, I don’t really like at all, and there’s also quite a bit of Japanese symphonic rock (like Teru’s Symphonia, Mu-gen and others) I don’t like either.

I think maybe it was really etched in stone when I saw Gerard live in concert towards the end of last decade. In many ways the Gerard style’s very close to Motoi Sakuraba’s, heavy organ, lots of bombast and drama, in fact when Sakuraba played live in 2003 he used Gerard’s bass player. Sakuraba I’ve also always liked, although I haven’t kept up on his stuff in recent years, but I was kind of surprised to realize that most if not all of his music comes from video game soundtracks, including Shining the Holy Ark and Beyond the Beyond, both of which I really liked when I finally came across copies (most of the Sakuraba canon doesn’t even really make it over to the US, small copy pressings and such).  I think the latest games he’s worked on which are on Xbox 360 are Star Ocean: The Last Hope and Tales of Vesperia, so I’m pretty curious (I admit that the Star Ocean soundtracks I have heard are a bit foofy, although I suppose that’s like complaining that a brownie hot fudge sundae has too much chocolate in it).

Anyway I’ve noticed before just how so much professional work of previous electronics and progressive composers are in the world of video games. Such as Michael Hoenig’s work on Baldur’s Gate and even when the names aren’t obvious how similar music is to previous composers, the Genesis-like cops in the Elder Scrolls series, the almost scary Pulsar – Halloween like soundtrack of Diablo, etc etc.

I think I’ve just proven that symphonic rock is childish. 🙂

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Spot on!

Posted by Mike on March 4, 2009

AKA the “get a life” non sequitur. Can’t wait for the rest of this series!

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Bioshock, Halo 3 and my new Xbox 360

Posted by Mike on March 2, 2009

I spent almost all of last week with a really bad back sprain or injury, which started last Monday morning at work where some slight movement caused me to double over in pain and I spent the next few days hazing on pain medication and not really able to sleep comfortably for more than a couple hours at a time (and most of that sitting up). So it was fortunate my new Xbox 360 (which had I planned on ordering it a day later would have passed on it given a new $600 car bill) showed up to keep me company.

First of all I think the HDMI cable makes a slight but positive difference over the component cable, maybe the difference between 1080i and 1080p. I suppose I could have been imagining it but Halo 3 seemed just a tad sharper after I switched to an HDMI. Whatever the case, it’s an astonishing and gorgeous game on a 46″ HDMI’d Samsung. It was kind of funny, I switched to a new Comcast plan on Saturday. I had the TV on some program I wasn’t watching and one of the guys installing my cable phone was in front of it. I was fooled for a split second that the installer was actually part of the TV program. It’s that amazing in HD.

Anyway with the XBox 360 came two freebie games (sort of), Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones. I spent some time with KFP, which is quite cute and pretty fun at that and quite amazing graphics really. But I doubt I would have bought it on its lonesome. Instead I added Halo 3, Bioshock and Fable 2 to the order. I haven’t touched Fable 2 yet, as I suspect I’ll be obsessed when I do, but the other two are INCREDIBLE and I apparently had enough time to finish both over the week.

I probably can’t add much to dozens of reviews and all the resounding hype on these games, except to agree they both live up to it. Bioshock’s the most original of the two. Your character crashes in a plane swims to a lighthouse and descends into the city of Rapture. Rapture was apparently invented and built by a madman genius in the 40s or thereabouts underwater, based upon Ayn Rand’s philosophies which made him a good villain from my perspective. You become part of a twisty turny plot which starts when you take your first genetic injection (rumbling the controller) and are given powers to go along with a number of firearms and weapons.  The game is a total blast, each new area constructed on the art deco of the 40s and looking like a hybrid of science fiction and old school Sinatra and jazz. It’s hard to go into all the detail but I was drawn in by all the whole experience, hell I can’t even move my middle finger as I type this. The best thing is I can easily see myself playing it again.

Halo 3 is hugely popular and visually stunning. It was fun enough to make me want to pick up the first two installments which I missed before I started gaming in earnest. It’s a SF military save the universe sort of thing where your Master Chief is a master tactition of every firearm and vehicle you can think of, starting on a planet you’re evacuating from and moving from plot setting to setting, every bit of it just blowing you away on HD. I had the most fun sitting on a vehicle turret and blowing away everything in site without fear of lossing ammo like you do with your guns. Everything from jeeps to tanks to a late game helicopter battle. Just phenomenal and almost tempting enough to want to go live with it, although I think I’d have more fun getting more controllers and playing with friends.

I knew I liked RPGs. Now I know I like FPSs too.

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