Daily Prompt: Polymathic Playlist

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about music. Specifically, the kind of mix tape/playlist you’d make to introduce yourself to someone new. This one took a while to make, mainly because I was raised with a really eclectic music selection. I’ll just let the playlist do the talking. Happy listening! EDIT: For the sake of simplicity, I made a playlist on YouTube.

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Soundtrack Saturdays: Super Smash Bros. 4 – Gaur Plain

Since I went back into Smash 3DS to review it this week, I spent some time with its small but oh-so awesome OST. “Gaur Plain” is a track from Xenoblade Chronicles, an excellent RPG for the Wii. It’s hard to explain the plot – it involves a teenager with a magical sword and his friends fighting an army of mechanical monsters – but the game has one of the most gorgeous and expansive settings in recent memory. Imagine huge grassy fields and hills teeming with all sorts of wildlife. You’re given free reign over this amazing landscape, allowing you to undertake an epic quest at your own pace. Few games encourage that kind of exploration, making Xenoblade Chronicles such an amazing experience. It’s only fitting that an epic theme like “Gaur Plain” accompanies you along the journey.

If you want more Super Smash Bros. 4, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Mega Man X – Electric Spark Remix

When you ask gamers about the best titles on the SNES, you’ll probably hear things like Super Mario World, A Link To The Past, Chrono Trigger, or Super Metroid. Occasionally, someone will mention Mega Man X, the continuation of the classic Capcom franchise. It set a high standard for every action/platformer that came after it. It took everything from the old NES games and improved on them in every way. There were characters with actual personalities, more upgrades, flashier graphics, tighter controls, versatile weapons, several secrets, fast pacing, gorgeous levels, and epic bosses.

It was so good.

Its success (it eventually spawned eight sequels!) was also due to its incredible sound design. When something exploded, you heard it. The game was one of the first to demonstrate what the SNES could really do, especially with regards to the soundtrack. The guitar riffs in Storm Eagle’s stage, the jazzy, complex beat of Armored Armadillo’s mine…and of course, Spark Mandrill’s classic rock theme. That last one was revamped by Sixto Sounds for OC Remix’s For Everlasting Peace: 25 Years Of Mega Man, and it’s arguably the best track on the album. It’s an amazing song paying homage to an even more amazing game.

If you want more Mega Man X, you can find the full OST here. If you want more Sixto Sounds, you can find his page here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Tetris: Type A

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Quick show of hands: Who’s played Tetris? I know at least some of you have; it even has a cognitive phenomenon named after it. It’s been around since the mid-80’s, though people in my generation probably associate it most with the original Gameboy (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary this week!) and NES. I don’t think I need to expound on the virtues of the greatest puzzle video game ever made. The fact that it’s lasted this long is testament enough. When Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, they were sure to pay homage to one of the many games that put their consoles on the map. Case in point: A fully orchestrated version of the classic Type A theme, which itself is an arranged version of Korobeiniki, a 19th century Russian folk song.

As far as Brawl goes, however, Type A is just one entry in its over 250-song soundtrack. It’s such a massive ensemble that it would take almost eight hours to complete! You can find a song listing here, and a partial playlist here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Shadow of the Colossus – In Awe of the Power

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A knight slaying a dragon is one of the most well-known legends in our historical canon. Of course, someone had to make a game about it eventually. Shadow of the Colossus is about a young man named Wander and his attempt to revive his dead girlfriend by slaying 16 gigantic beasts. Armed with nothing but a sword, a bow and arrow, and one of the best horses in video game history, Wander has to figure out a way to kill creatures that are hundreds times bigger and stronger than him. Seriously. His first enemy is about 70 feet tall, and the scale keeps pulling further back with each battle. The final boss is about the size of the Statue of Liberty! You ever see a bug crawling on your arm? This game depicts what it’s like from the bug’s perspective.

Yeah, it’s pretty epic. Since its release on the PS2 in 2006, Shadow of the Colossus has become a modern classic. In a game almost completely devoid of voice acting and other gaming conventions, the soundtrack needed to be able to convey the mood and atmosphere on its own. It pulled it off spectacularly; few soundtracks thrill you in one moment, and make you cry seconds later. In Awe of the Power captures those desperate minutes in which you’re making the perilous climb up a creature’s hairy back, and all you can is cling for your life.

If you want more Shadow of the Colossus, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Records My Parents Played

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about music. Specifically, the music you had while growing up and how it influenced you. This is going to sound bizarre, but I was raised with an eclectic mix of R & B, soul, pop, disco, rock, easy listening, and show tunes. No, seriously. My parents had wildly different tastes in music – probably not a factor in their divorce when I was two – so I got to hear something new depending on who was watching me. Neither were around much, but they gave me full access to their record and cassette collections. My mother’s vinyl library was small, but it had some of the greats. She used to sing along to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Vanessa Williams, and Dionne Warwick. Looking back, it makes a lot of sense; my mother was part of a church choir growing up, so it’s no wonder she loved listening to those powerful voices. I’m pretty sure she considered I Will Survive her personal theme song. She was also an avid Michael Jackson fan, and had at least a couple of Earth, Wind & Fire albums. She also had a great love for more traditional singers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Nat King Cole. She had a cassette of oldies that stayed in her car for well over a decade.

I didn’t spend nearly as much time with my father (every other weekend at most) but I could tell he was more a straightforward rock fan. Not the stuff from the 80s onward, but mostly songs from the 60s and 70s. He got me hooked on Elton John, The Beatles, The Eagles, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and several others. I’ve always been kind of curious about learning the guitar, and I think it’s because I listened to Hotel California and Fire And Rain so many times as a kid. He also made sure I listened to classical music as well; I’m pretty sure I was the only sixth grader in my class who knew O Fortuna and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by name. It probably helped that I asked about the Looney Tunes background music countless times…Dad was also a big theater geek, so he had me listen to the entire Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, specifically the one with Sarah Brightman as Christine. He even took me to see the play when I was in the 8th grade. He also had the taped version of the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert, complete with the legendary 17 Valjean encore!

Wow, I’m actually geeking out over all this.

Needless to say, such variety had a huge influence over my musical tastes. Even to this day, I prefer songs with guitars, pianos, or strings. Santana, Hendrix, and Clapton are mainstays on my playlists. The genre doesn’t matter, though; I can rock out to DiDuLa’s Arabica, Seals and Crofts’s Summer Breeze, and Oasis’s Champagne Supernova depending on my mood. A considerable portion of my library is dedicated to older rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, and many others; I’ve listened to Kashmir and Under Pressure more times than I’d care to admit. I’ve got a soft spot for somber ballads, too; Andy Duguid’s Don’t Belong, Simply Red’s Home, and Fastball’s Out Of My Head are practically essential for my evening commutes. Wichita Lineman is still the loneliest song I’ve ever heard. Mel Torme’s version of Stardust comes pretty close, though. I wonder if my liking those songs is a reflection of musical taste, or just an emotional state.

Oh, and fun fact: I may have all these songs completely memorized in my head, but I can’t sing them. My voice is too soft. How’s that for irony?

Soundtrack Saturdays: Tekken 5 – Moonlit Wilderness

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I love fighting games. Always have, always will. However, I’ve been more of a Street Fighter and King of Fighters kind of gamer. It’s more to do with pacing and character design than anything else. However, that doesn’t mean I dismiss 3D fighters. Take Tekken for example; as of 2014, it’s got one of the biggest and most diverse playable casts in gaming history. The sheer amount of detail and variety put into each game is staggering, and it’s still going strong.

The series reached new heights in 2005 with Tekken 5, which boasted 32 fighters, robust gameplay modes (including the first three games!), and the continuation of what had become a character-driven story. Corporate espionage, assassinations, ninjas, robots, boxers, kangaroos, pandas, demonic possession, high schoolers, sibling rivalries, daddy issues…Tekken 5 went over the top and just kept going. The same goes with its soundtrack, which took full advantage of the PS2’s audio quality and gave fans some of the best tracks in the series. Nearly a decade later, it’s still superb.

If you want more Tekken 5, you can find the full OST on YouTube and iTunes.

Good gaming, good music.