You may not have noticed, but my YouTube account was terminated a few days ago. I could talk about how annoying and frustrating it is to lose something that I’ve had for years, all due to the site’s inconsistent copyright notice system, but I’ll spare you. It’s fine, really. I’ve restarted from scratch and am currently getting my travel videos reuploaded. I didn’t lost anything important…aside from my favorites list.
Having to redo my favorites list has actually been a blessing in disguise; it’s made me revisit videos and songs that I haven’t heard in ages, like the Katamari Damacysoundtracks. If you’vefollowedthe blogfor a while, you knowwhy I love theKatamari series: A bizarre, hilarious premise involving physics and mythology, accompanied by an eclectic blend of rock, jazz, pop, electronica, mambo, gospel, and pretty much every other musical genre you could possibly think of. “Que Sera Sera” was one of those great standouts in the original game; no one expected chill English lounge music in such a wonderfully strange Japanese game.
If you want more Katamari Damacy, you can listen to the OST here.
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is a serious contender for my favorite game of all time. I could spend hours waxing poetic about its incredible design. How fun it was despite the relatively small roster. How unappreciated it was in its time, simply because of its ridiculously steep learning curve. How its intricate and technical combat mechanics set new standards for the fighting genre. How its complex parrying and combo systems unapologetically demanded memorization down to individual animation frames. How the graphics were some of the finest 2D sprites in the 90s. How high-level play is insanely difficult but extremely entertaining, even almost two decades later. How it’s one of the few games that I’m still willing to play anywhere, anytime.
Yeah, I love3rd Strike.
What many folks remember it for most, however, is the soundtrack. The playlist borrowed from and blended several genres, most notably jazz, rap, techno, and instrumentals. It was a risky departure from the simpler, traditional game music themes (which Street Fighter II helped establish), but the decision paid off in spades. Jazzy NYC ’99 is arguably the most famous track, for obvious reasons. Its catchy beat goes perfectly with the bustling, gritty city subway in which its stage is located. Even after all these years, any old school fighting game fan will recognize it instantly. That’s a testament to this game’s quality.
If you want more 3rd Strike, you can find the full OST here.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentionedKingdom Hearts before. It’s one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, and for good reason; it’s a huge, sprawling crossover that spans not only the Final Fantasy series, but also almost every major Disney movie. Yeah, it’s as epic as it sounds. The first game alone featured places from Alice In Wonderland, Hercules, Tarzan, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Peter Pan, and references to many others.
Despite its popular original Japanese release in 1987, the Megami Tensei series has only become mainstream in the West within the last decade. And man, were we missing out. The games are all about following your beliefs; do you prefer order, chaos, or something in between? The future of humanity itself hangs in the balance. Your ability to recruit, summon, and control demons and other mythological beings figure largely in your strategy…as well as whatever overarching cosmic plan the gods have in store. Most of the games are notorious for their difficulty in comparison to others in the same genre. The steep learning curve, unforgiving complexity, and sheer length aren’t for everyone. But if you enjoy well-written stories with ambiguous moralities, challenging gameplay, and tons of mythological references, be sure to give it a look. You might want to start where the majority of gamers did: Persona 3 and Persona 4. These spin-offs are not as brutal as the main series, but have wonderful writing, excellent characters, and are themed around Jungian and Nietzschean concepts. Or if you want to wait until later this year, Persona 5 will be coming stateside.
In the meantime, you can listen to more of the DDS2 soundtrack here.
When talking about racing video games, most people immediately mention the Mario Kart series. It was fun, memorable, and a huge part of 90s American childhood. While it certainly deserves the nostalgia, it was only one of many amazing franchises out there. When it debuted on the Playstation in 1997, Gran Turismo stood out for its accuracy to real-life racing and selection of cars. However, the series didn’t really hit its stride until Gran Turismo 3 on the PS2. It was 2001 and very early in the console’s life cycle, but it was one of the first games to demonstrate what the new hardware was capable of. There weren’t as many cars due to the focus on graphical detail, but those cars were realistic and (for their time) utterly gorgeous. Having entries from Formula One, Lamborghini, and Porsche was a car enthusiast’s dream. Combined with the superb jazz and rock soundtrack, Gran Turismo 3 quickly became a modern classic, and one of the highest-selling games of all time.
If you want more Gran Turismo 3, you can find most of the OST here.
When Katamari Damacy became a sleeper hit in 2004, Namco decided to take the popularity and run with it. A year after the original game, We Love Katamari was released on the PS2. It’s one of the rare examples of a sequel improving on every aspect of its predecessor. The already bizarre narrative was made even more meta, stages were scaled up, there were hundreds of more interactive objects, challenges were more difficult to complete, and there was far more variety in terms of settings and visuals. You want to build a snowman? Try making one with a head the size of a house. On the game’s final stage, your katamari gradually grew from the size of a small animal to rolling up entire countries in the span of a few minutes. Seriously, check it out.
The soundtrack was greatly expanded as well. While the first game utilized mostly rock and jazz, We Love Katamari delved more into instrumentals, beatboxing, and techno tracks. “Heaven’s Rain” is one of the more relaxing songs in the game. The soothing vocals, accordion, and strings always made me want to just kick back and finish the stage at a slow pace…then the beats kicked in.
If you want more We Love Katamari, you can find the full OST here.
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.