Blog

New Year, New Host

0

Hello! The site has undergone some pretty big changes over the last few months but has finally settled comfortably on the new hosting. There are a couple of things I’ll aim to fix up over the next few days and once that’s all sorted we can enjoy the new hosting together

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call review

0

I was pleasantly surprised at how Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call got its hooks into me, but the more I think about the sum of the game’s parts it make total sense why. Square’s soundtrack catalogue is second to none in the video game space and the Final Fantasy series boasts some of the most iconic themes the medium has ever produced. It’s consistently brought us themes that have quite literally defined generations despite the many changes the series has seen in its 27 year history. Combine that with some light RPG elements by a company that arguably knows RPGs better than anyone in the business and it’s no wonder the formula is so successful. Curtain Call has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a Final Fantasy game, from solid mechanics to terrible naming conventions and though a little easy compared to other titles in the rhythm game genre, the formula is delivered almost flawlessly making it a 3DS game I’ll gladly return to again and again for some time to come.

theat-dlc-4

First and foremost, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a rhythm game and a mechanically sound one at that. The two main input methods are ‘touch style’, which draws inputs from the 3DS’s touch screen and the ‘button style’, a button / Circle Pad hybrid. Both are incredibly easy to pick up and the thing I found most interesting about them is how the community is split down the middle as to what they prefer. I gravitated towards the button style due to my natural sitting / lying position when I play my handhelds but I’ve spoken to a number of people that swear by the touch style. It was a bit ambitious of Square to try and get both control schemes right (granted it all boils down to a series of taps and swipes), but mechanically the game embodies the ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ philosophy which is exactly what you want with this style of game. What’s even better is you’re not locked into one style in a song, changing styles is as simple as pressing buttons or tapping with your stylus whenever you see fit.

theat-dlc-2

As a package, this game is ridiculous value. 220 songs including all the songs and DLC from the first title means that you’re never at a loss of new content to try. Songs are broken up into FMS or Field Music Style, tracks taken from various town and overworld areas and have your party exploring the various overworlds from the series, BMS or Battle Music Style, typically enemy and boss encounter themes that emulate the setting of an in-game battle and EMS or Event Music Style which are typically reserved for the flagship compositions of each game and feature cinematic backgrounds from the series. There are minor gameplay differences between the modes, but ultimately it’s just a nice way to break up what you’re Chibi explorers are doing while you’re off tapping away. The way the game presents it all to you is quite clever too; You’re given an overwhelming number of tracks to start with and as you play more you’ll acquire Rhythmia, the game’s global currency which is constantly giving you new tracks and characters to play around with. You’re always progressing through the game just by playing songs, it never feels like a grind and the constant carrot on the stick makes it hard to put down.

theat-dlc-3

There are 3 modes of play in Curtain Call, Music Stages, Quest Medleys and Verses Mode. Music Stages are your standard free play option, allowing you to pick whatever song you’ve unlocked under whatever conditions you see fit and is most likely where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time. Versus Mode is your competitive multiplayer option for both local and online and while generally pretty enjoyable, being overly mismatched with someone on the RPG front can sometimes take away from the core gameplay experience as it sometimes devolves into a stat race rather than a test of skill. Quest Medleys have players progress through a set series of songs to defeat bosses and acquire more loot to upgrade characters. The concept is a lot of fun, but the inability to pick difficulties early on mean you’re brainlessly grinding through easy scenarios before you’re able to play the more challenging ones and I can see players getting tired of it before even reaching that point. It’s a shame because as an idea, Quest Medleys are the perfect sweet spot between the rhythm gameplay and the RPG elements, it’s just bogged down by weak pacing.

The RPG elements are a lot of fun to mess around with in between tracks, but ultimately it’s just there to scratch that progression itch associated with the series RPG roots. There are a tonne of characters to choose from, expanding from all of the main series and beyond. Your Chibi warriors are constantly battling enemies and exploring the worlds of the various games while you’re busy jamming away, which will ultimately grant them loot and experience to upgrade. In single player this progression means being able to kill more enemies / run faster through the field stages to hopefully unlock more items, but the real drive to progress comes in the multiplayer. Having a stronger party than your opponent means your characters can take more hits, which essentially means there’s a larger margin for error should there be a disparity between the two players. While the progression definitely feels good to go through, it’s also my one big criticism with the multiplayer. It’s a faithful homage to the series, but it cheapens the experience a little when you beat an underleveled opponent who clearly outplayed you or vice versa. It’s definitely a fun little distraction and there’s an option to ignore it in the multiplayer completely, so it doesn’t get in the way too much if all you want to do is focus on getting the best possible score.

theat-dlc-4 (1)

The 3 game modes on offer are incredibly robust, but there’s little in the way of extra features. In what is probably the only scenario I’ll ever consider using my 3DS as a dedicated music player, players can also unlock the ability to listen to tracks in sleep mode, a function only Square could get away with given the amazing pedigree of their music. Similarly, the video footage in the Event tracks can also be viewed in isolation though the 3DS screen isn’t exactly the best for that. There’s also additional DLC characters and songs available and while a little pricey, it’s not the biggest deal with such a fantastic core package, and I could see myself dropping a few dollars for a few more of my favourite Final Fantasy tunes.

If Final Fantasy games are your thing but you’re generally not a rhythm gamer, there might just be enough fan service here to hook you in. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call isn’t the toughest rhythm game on offer, but if you have even a passing interest in the music of the Final Fantasy series it’s hard not to get lost in the game for hours. Solid mechanics, an amazing library of songs to choose from and robust but ultimately forgettable RPG mechanics make this game an incredible package that could serve as both a springboard into this dearly beloved franchise or an entertaining romp down memory lane.

Super Mario 64’s Bom-omb Battlefield made in LEGO

0

Look I think we’re all fully aware of how amazing and unlikely a Nintendo / LEGO crossover would be, but just to add fuel to the fire some clever dude made this. Back to daydreaming on that one.

Yoko Shimomura on her compositions + working in the Kingdom Hearts universe

0

Yoko Shimomura is one of the most influential names in the VGM space. With soundtracks like Super Mario RPG, Breath of Fire and Street Fighter II to her name, you don’t have to look very far to see how big a mark she’s made on the industry.

One of the cooler things to come out of E3 this year was an extended interview with Shimomura, giving us a long overdue insight into her life and the processes involved with creating one of her most beloved soundtracks, Kingdom Hearts. Touching on her beginnings, how she got started with the franchise and what she’s doing with it 10 years on, Square Enix Music go surprisingly in depth into the back and forth of working with the game’s directors, Square of course notorious for their excellent caliber of soundtracks.

Of course if none of that is of any interest to you, there are some really fantastic piano arrangements from various Kingdom Hearts titles that alone make this video worth checking out. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for Kingdom Hearts III!

An Ode to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (part 1)

0

I’ve been covering news over at Nintendoeverything for almost a month now and my first feature for the site went live today. It’s a look back at some of the best and most qwerty titles to utilize WFC, in commemoration of its shutdown on May 20th. Check it out here

Let’s Listen #02 – Chrono Trigger

0

Let’s Listen is a feature where we talk about games and their soundtracks instead of playing them!

Track: Wind Scene – Yasunoi Mitsuda

Game: Chrono Trigger (1995)

il_fullxfull.321562934

Consoles: SNES, Wii, DS, iOS, Android

Album by: Yasunoi Mitsuda featuring Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy regular) & Noriko Matsueda

 

Arguably one of the most prolific Soundtracks of all time from one of the most prolific RPGs of all time, Chrono Trigger’s OST is an amazing feat. Its ability to manipulate player’s emotions heightens its strength as a story telling device and given the technical limitations of the Super Famicon this was no small feat. It set the bar for what we’ve come to expect from Square’s fantastic catalogue of game soundtracks and revolutionized how music can influence story-telling through the gaming medium through its fantastic thematic content that resonates with the player well after they’ve heard it.

419220-chrono-trigger-snes-screenshot-fighting-some-weird-creatures

A Soundtrack as iconic as Chrono Trigger’s could not have come without some drama and the score to this iconic title had its fair share of issues before it saw the light of day. In fact, it almost never came to be; Yasunoi Mitsuda, the game’s primary composer almost left Square shortly before working on the project, on record as saying he was unhappy with his pay and the fact that he was not composing any music at the time. Final Fantasy developer Hironobu Sakaguchi and one of Chrono Trigger’s 3 main developers suggested that he would be great fit for the project, recognising how big a blow it would have been had Mitsuda left the company. Mitsuda poured everything into the music of Chrono Trigger and was known to at times sleep in his studio, attributing dreams he had through these nights to tracks such as “To Far Away Times“. Unfortunately much of Mitsuda’s early work would be for nothing, a hard-drive crash mid-development saw the loss of about 40 incomplete tracks. It’s possible that this was the reason Mitsuda developed complications with stomach ulcers around the same time and Final Fantasy mainstay Nobuo Uematsu was brought on to help finish the rest of the soundtrack after the wipe. It’s quite astonishing the final product turned out the way it did, as there was plenty getting in the way of Mitsuda and his vision.

Truce_World_Map_1000AD

The power of Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack comes through a series of leitmotifs; recurring melodic and harmonic content that resurface in a number of different ways across all the game’s tracks. It creates a sense of continuation through the score which paralleled the gameplay progression and helps stimulate a grander feeling to the adventure. An example is seen through the game’s main theme and the overworld theme for 1000AD ‘Memories of Green‘. The melodic content of the main theme is drawn upon and re-imagined for the more somber and mysterious setting of the later composition, a subtle but powerful way of creating progression. The soundtrack was massive, the commercial release spanned across 3 CDs, which at the time was completely unprecedented. The game won the ‘Best Music in a Cartridge-Based Game’ award in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1995 video game award, largely due to the “Boss Battle 1” theme composed by Matsueda and Uematsu.

The game’s music has been remixed and sampled countless times since its release. From arranged albums to orchestral interpretations, the composition ‘Schala’s Theme’ even found its way into a Wiz Khalifa song, ‘Never Been’. It’s truly a milestone in the genre, for its masterful use of the SNES’s technological limitations and the sheer genius of the content and is one of the reasons why the game is so highly regarded today. If you haven’t experienced Chrono Trigger yet, you should get on it ASAP.

Play the original Legend of Zelda de-made to a 16×16 square

0

Ben Purdy thought the original Zelda had far too much going on and decided to simplify it further than it is. So much so that over the course of a 48-hour game jam, he simplified the entire game to a 16×16 board.

Zelda de-make

I was pleasantly surprised at how much of it still felt like the original game, check it out here!

K.K. Cruisin’ (Animal Crossing) Jazz Cover

0

We’re back again! Been a while since we’ve recorded a cover due to a few fiddly issues with gear. This clip features a whole heap of new new mics thanks to our boys Anthony on guitar and Dean who has drummed for a couple of the other tracks which just gave us a whole heap of sound options to explore (and will continue to explore with future uploads). This will hopefully be the recording standard from here on out and means we have some other exciting things which we’ll be able to announce in the near future… stay tuned!

 

A Video Game Theme Cover… From Inside a Fighting Game?

1

An incredibly talented person has covered a boss theme from the popular bullet hell series Touhou from inside the training mode of Skull Girls using the character Big Band. His Standing Medium Punch is not only a fantastic combo tool, but following the button press up with additional buttons can sound any one of 12 pitches within an octave and make some sweet tunes. Using Big Band on both Player 1 and 2 sides allow for some pretty comprehensive 2 part writing and the video even includes the inputs for both players so you can see how it’s all done. It’s Tool Assisted, but that doesn’t make this any less amazing, seriously. Check it out below!

 

Watch a hand-drawn Akuma do battle with its maker

1

Found this really creative stop motion video online recently. It’s Akuma doing battle with his creator on a whiteboard battlefield, inspired by DBZ, Street Fighter and a whole host of other things. This sort of stuff pops up from time to time but this was incredibly well done! Check it out below