All About Oliwam
Wii Console Code: 0591 0923 3754 4742
Mario Kart DS: 154727054268
Super Smash Bros Brawl: 4983 5095 2425
Mario Kart Wii: 5413 0626 3652
Well, I have been doing some gaming over the past while. I got Megaman 9, which is a phenomenal game. It got me swearing and smiling at the same time. I don't know very many games that can do that. I really had a blast, and that's all I can say. Though how did I get Megaman 9? Well, a friend used the Gift thing on the Wii's Shopping Channel, and he sent me the game. Oh, and he also sent me Sonic 2, Space Harrier, Kid Chameleon, and Altered Beast. I never owned a Genesis, so now I'm able to catch up on a bunch of stuff that I missed. Thank you VC, and thank you friend!
Yesterday, the university in my city had an open house, and even though I'm only in Grade 11, I decided to attend so I can start deciding ahead of time what I'm going to do once I graduate highschool. I'm torn between Music (composition specifically) and Astrophysics. Two subjects that require you to use the same part of the brain, yet are entirely different. Good thing I still got over a year before I have to start filling out my applications... Though I won't bore you with that. After the open house, I decided to go rent a game (I haven't done that in a long time). I ended up renting Phantom Hourglass, since I'm a Zelda nut and I need to be able to say that I've played every Zelda game (excluding Tetra Trackers and Link's Crossbow Training). Anyways, PH has actually surprised me in many aspects. First of all, I'm amazed at how the game utilizes the DS' capabilities. Everything is done with the stylus, which I'm also amazed by how well it works. You use the buttons for shortcuts, and you even have to do stuff like blowing into the mic, and even closing your DS! Another thing that amazes me is the graphics. If the DS were able to handle higher polygon counts, then this game would easily be able to look like a GC game with some minor adjustments. I honestly didn't think that a DS could handle this level of graphics. Unfortunately, Koji Kondo got a bit lazy with his compositions in this one. The soundtrack is incredibly average, and maybe even below. Kondo is capable of far greater things. Anyways, back to the gameplay. The combat is rather easy, yet satisfying. Though the puzzles are some of the best in the entire series. I could go into detail about that, but that would take forever. Oh, and Nintendo GREATLY improved on one area from The Wind Waker: the sailing. It's actually... ENJOYING!!! No more worrying about stuff like wind. Now you just draw your course, and off you go. Though don't fall asleep, for enemies will randomly appear. What's also surprising is how you get treasure. Instead of unleashing your hookshot in the perfect spot, you now just land your ship in a general area and you actually guide the claw down to the bottom of the ocean to grab the chests and pull them back out. It's a neat little minigame. The only realy flaw I can think of right now (other than the music) is the Temple of the Ocean King. Going to the same temple over and over again, doing the exact same things over and over again, all while evading the Phantom guards and eyes. Plus you have a time limit! This is definitely one of the most annoying dungeons in Zelda history. Though overall, I'm satisfied with the game to this point. It isn't mind-blowing epic as some of the other Zeldas, and it seems a littke "lacking" in a few areas. However, you can't deny that this is one of the most innovative games in the series. I was nearly flabbergasted by some of the thigns I experienced in this game. Though I can't really give a final judgement... especially since I'm not that far into the game. I just entered the Temple of Courage.
I know I haven't been active here lately, though i still do check some of your blgos every now and then. Though you won't be seeing me at all for the next 3 weeks, for I'm going on a vacation to Poland (I'll be visiting London and the Czech Republic as well). Well, that's my really quick life update.
Oh, and recently, a friend actually gave me a few VC games through that Gift feature. Really cool guy. I got Super Mario Bros 3 (do I need to say ANYTHING about that game) and Shining Force. Well, I do prefer Fire Emblem over Shining Force, but it's a good game, nonetheless. I've also been playing through Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced on the GBA (well, I actually was playing it on my DS). Good stuff. Other than that, I haven't been doing a whole lot of gaming. Just maybe picking up games every now and then. It's just that I have been a little busy lately. Oh well.
So farwell to you all. I hope the rest of your summers is good. My summer wasn't exactly splendid. This trip to Poland might change that, though my last trip there was horrendous. Well, that's life.
19Jun 08I'm going to talk about the underappreciated factor that people often don't understand the importance of. It's the music in gaming. Music has a massive impact on gaming, and I'm here to exploit it. I'll also take a look at sound effects and voice acting. Pretty much anything that has to do with sound. Buckle up for another massive post by me. If you don't have the time to read through it all, then that's okay. Though if you do manage to read all the way through, then I thank you in advance. I honestly appreciate it.
Before I begin, I'm going to re-introduce myself. Why? Well, let me put it this way. It seems as if everybody thinks they're experts in music. However, I'm hoping to become a real expert. In fact, I'm strongly considering majoring in composition once I'm done highschool. Music keeps me alive and sane. It gives me a reason to live. My grades are amazing in school, and I have many options. Though as much as I love math, chemistry, and physics (no sarcasm), I feel a deep void inside myself whenever I'm not thinking about music. Plus, there is one other thing that I'll admit to you guys. I'm an extremely mentally unstable person. While I may seem like a calm and sensible person most of the time, I'm a walking time bomb, and I have exploded on many occasions. I have bouts of absolute rage where I hate everything around me, including myself. I go crazy and act like I'm about to burn the house down (which has entered into my brain many times). Those fits often are followed by mass depression, where I drive myself to the edges of suicide. I often feel like there is no point in living for me... That I'm a waste... Until I pick up my guitar and start playing. Music helps me survive. It helps me stabilize myself. It gives me a purpose in living. I can't express through text how much I love composing music. If I got an opportunity to become a composer (or maybe even a videogame composer... hey, a kid can dream), I would take it in a heartbeat. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that music is my life. It's absolutely huge for me. Whenever I'm alone at home, I always have music playing at full volume (anything from Vivaldi to Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd to Korpiklaani). I love music. I also love videogame music. So without further ado, lets get right on to the topic.
Let's start off with the subject of the importance of music in gaming. One thing that I think music does best is that it portrays emotions, and then amplifies them. Nothing can pump you up more than a good tune. When you're facing that gargantuan beat from the dark abyss over, don't you want something in the background that emphasizes the battle? Or maybe just before the battle, a good tune to get your blood pumping won't hurt, right? Good music can really push you further. It can make you go beyond your limits, and makes you really want to beat the crap out of that damn **** who's trying to take over the world. There is just something about good music that can't be explained. It really grabs a hold of you and your emotions. It makes you forget who you are, and makes you feel like you're in a different world. It can also bring tears to your eyes. What about the Song of Healing in Zelda: Majora's Mask? All it is is a few simple notes that I can easily play on numerous instruments, but during certain scenes, the impact of the song is undeniable. Just thinking about it, reminiscing those certain moments brings tears to my eyes. There can be so much power in music...
One thing that developers have to take into consideration while making a game is that they have to find a way to keep the players wanting to play the game. What is one thing that they can do? Hire a good composer. Like Koji Kondo for example. In Super Mario Galaxy, I really hated those Purple Coin Comets. It's even worse when there's a time limit. I groan whenever a Purple Comet is in orbit... Until I start hearing that one tune that's played during the Purple Coin missions with a time limit. Something about just pumps you up. It certainly pumps me up, and within in seconds, it makes me go from groaning to saying, "Bring it on!" I always turn up the volume during these parts. Or what up those hard as hell Megaman games? Even though you might constantly have your ass handed to you, the music in the NES Megaman games always encourage you to keep on trying until you beat those damn robots. In contrast, what about the games with crappy soundtracks? Like Wally Bear and the No Gang. The music is awful in that game and just makes you want to stop. Or what about Xenophobe? That game doesn't even have music! I wrote a review for that game, and the header says: "Terrible controls and a lack of music may make your experience with this game last only five minutes." During my first time playing that game, I shut it off after five minutes because I was so bored and uninspired by it.
Do you notice a trend? The games with good music were good games, while the games with bad music were bad games. Make a mental checklist of all your favourite games. What's one common component in all of them? They all come with great music (probably, this isn't always the case, but generally it is). As well, whenever you review one of your favourite classics, you'll probably mention that the soundtrack about how awesome it is... Though have you ever elaborated on it? Have you ever considered the impact it had on your gaming experience? I'll admit, I often don't go into depth about the music whenever I review games. Though you should be aware of what good tunes have done for your childhood. Hey, can you hum me the overworld, underworld, underwater, and castle themes from the original Super Mario Bros? Most of you can probably accomplish this without any problem.
Though that brings me to my next issue: What happened to catchy videogame music, and how important is that? Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda are great examples. Just about every single gamer could recall those games' main themes at any time, any place. Their themes are just classics that will forever remain stuck in our heads. Though back then, composers were limited to MIDI programming. Games back then simply couldn't handle orchestras. Though nowadays, as gaming inches closer to realism, more and more composers are beginning to arrange orchestras. That means more complexity and more beautiful music. Today's gaming music is by far superior to yesterday's music, especially in terms of technicality. However, there is one issue that arises from this. Go play some games from today's generation. Then play some good old NES games. Chances are that you'll be able to far more easily recall the music from the NES games than from today's generation. Compare Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Galaxy. The music from SMB pops into my head much more rapidly than the music from SMG. In fact, I'm finding it rather difficult recalling SMG's music.
This creates a debate about music itself. While technical music may have more of that "Wow!" factor, simple music just sticks in your head better. I can easily recall Black Sabbath riffs far faster than any of the riffs from technical death metal bands today. Plus simple music can be just as powerful, if not, even more powerful then technical music. The Song of Healing is extremely simplistic. It's the first song that I learned by ear, and it's just really easy to play. Though it's one of the most powerful songs out there, and the emotion that it packs is stronger than the rest of the Zelda games (in fact, a lot of songs from the Majora's Mask soundtrack is extremely emotional). I'll even take my own FL Studio as an example (keep in mind that FL Studio is a MIDI program). One song on that album is called I Am Error. It has a real NES-type feel to it. It's extremely simplistic. Contrast that to my more orchestra-sounding songs. While some of the moments in my orchestra-sounding were just absolutely awesome, I can recall I Am Error quicker than any of the other songs. Even though I had a stronger sense of achievement with the rest of the songs, I Am Error is something that just sticks in my head.
While MIDI music is more memorable, everybody is begging the composers to make orchestrated music. I'm guilty of this as well. I was hoping for orchestrated music in Twilight Princess, and I was disappointed. I also heard one mp3 that was actually an orchestrated version of the main theme from that song. It absolutely kicked ass. Want me to hum it to you? Hmm... How did it go again? See, this is what I'm talking about. Orchestrated music in games can be overall more awesome, and just sounds so much better than MIDI music. Though MIDI music can easily be memorized. You must ask yourself: Do you want memorable music, or do you want natural good music? As well, another thing just popped into my mind. When I'm listening to videogame soundtracks, I much prefer listening to orchestrated soundtracks. While this is not always the case (like it's not always the case that orchestrated music isn't memorable), I generally prefer listening to people playing real instruments than just some synthesized music. This is a tough debate, but ultimately, the result is already decided. We're leaving the age of synthesized music in gaming, and now we're going into orchestrated music (ironically, that's exactly opposite from the majority of music today). Hell, we'll probably be listening to orchestrated music in handheld gaming pretty soon. If I ever become a videogame composer myself, I'll probably be requested to arrange orchestras. It's simply the way it is. So what's the final verdict? Orchestrated music is great. I just wish we could get a few tracks every now and then that would go back to the basics. While playing my guitar, I realized that while I should be always trying to make my playing more complex, I should often go back to simplicity. Sometimes keeping it simple isn't a bad thing. Though as long as music can keep on making you want to play the game, then it'll be alright.
Now lets look at another aspect: Sound effects. Their impact might not be that big, but if developers want to make a truly great game, then they better take a bit of time to make sure the sound effects are done right. I remember playing Ocarina of Time, and whenever I'm walking in a dungeon, I would just absolutely love hearing the sound of Link unsheathing his blade. It just sounded so cool, and it made me feel like I'm really inside a dungeon, ready to kick some serious ass. See how such a minuscule thing improved the experience of a game? To contrast, don't you just hate playing games with crappy sound effects? They get annoying so quickly that you immidiatly hope that there's an option to turn down the sound effects. It's all about the experience while playing games, and even little things such as sound effects can affect it. This goes back to one of my earlier blog posts where I basically state that even the little things can improve the overall quality of a game. The difference between a good game and a great game is that great games go the extra mile to make sure that even all the little aspects are done right.
Not only are we getting orchestrated music in today's games, but we're also getting voice acting. If done right, voice acting can really make a game seem so much better. Good voice acting can make you feel like you're watching a movie. We all love good movies don't we? Except that we're playing a game, and games mean interaction. So if the voice acting can be done right, then we may be getting the best of both worlds, making the entire experience just multiply in awesomeness. We're also hearing people wonder if there should be voice acting in Zelda games. On one side of the argument, it might make the whole series better. In Twilight Princess, the choreography was absolutely terrific. It was so good that it felt like something was really missing. However, on the other side of the argument, everybody is has a great fear. What if the voice acting is done bad? Like in the CD-i Zeldas. That could really ruin a great franchise. While voice acting can really help a game, it can also really hurt a game. Especially if you're playing a story-orientated game. Bad voice acting will make you ignore the storyline, and that might destroy much of the experience of the game. While it's inevitable that more and more games will be getting voice actors, how great are the risks associated? All that we can really do is hope that some good voice actors start getting into the business. If we can get some good voice actors, then the overall quality of games will improve. It might even help the Legend of Zelda series if done right. I guess as long as we assassinate those crappy voice actors that sound like constipated five year-olds, then everything will be good.
Well, it's time to conclude this post. Sound (this includes music, effects, and voice acting) can really boost the quality of a game tremendously. Though at the same time, it can kill it. Developers really need to pay attention to this department, and make sure they hire good composers and voice actors (if needed). I believe that videogaming can be an art. I'm a strong advocate of this. Though what is art? To me, art is expression of ideas, thoughts, images, and emotions. Music might only be able to only be able to express emotions in gaming, but that's enough. Great music will absolutely make a game so much better. It can make you want to play the game. It is one of the differences between a good game and a great game. Music is such an unbelievably magical thing. It's a true miracle. You can't see it, but it can completely turn your life around. Composers need to make sure they accomplish this. Also, it's a good thing that they're using orchestras more and more. I love hearing people play real instruments. It just sounds so much better. Though it would be nice if once in a while, they can write something simple. Simplicity can sometimes be a wonderful thing. While growing up, many of us got that Super Mario Bros theme stuck in our head. While stuff like this might sometimes be a curse, it's not always a bad thing. It's a piece that we can always look back to. So if we got to go through these experiences, why shouldn't the new generations go through this experience as well? Music can be such a wonderful thing, and I just can't wait to play some games in the future where a few composers come up with some more brilliant pieces.
Anyways, thank you all for reading through this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Maybe you'll look at music in a whole new perspective? Or maybe not. If you liked this blog, please let me know by posting in the comments section. I respect positive feedback, and you have no idea how much it helps me get through my day. Though if you have some criticisms, then post them as well. One of the reasons why I write these blogs is to improve upon my writing. Also, do you have your own perspectives? Yeah, post them as well. I try to keep myself open-minded. So please, show me your side of the story. There are always two sides on a coin, and I'd love to see both sides. Again, thank you so much for reading this. I sincerely mean it. It actually started writing this blog a few days ago. It's really tough writing about music. There is just something about it that can't be described through words... Though I made sure I took my time with this blog so I did say the right words.
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