Friday, June 21, 2013

Week in Review - 6/21/2013

Back in April, I was picked up by GameStop as a part-time employee. I've wanted to work there for a while, but I never really gave it much effort until last fall when I tried (and succeeded) to get hired for the holidays. It honestly seems like the perfect job for me - I'm not much of a salesman and I don't like talking to people very much, but if there's one thing I can talk about endlessly, and talk up, and convince others to try it's video games. That's why I started this blog on the topic that I did, because I knew I could write about video games all day, every day if I had the time to sit down and do it.

Anyway, with the announcements of Playstation 4 and XBox One, my job basically exploded with activity. The buzz and the conversations happening daily down there is awesome, and I picked up a bunch of extra hours which I'm sure wasn't unrelated, also. It's been a complete blast to go in every time and do something I actually feel passionate about - I know it's a low-level retail job, but seriously, I'm having so much fun. I hope the novelty doesn't wear off anytime soon.


This is my actual house!
I hoped to put this up as a Bunker Hill Bros. entry this week, but perhaps next week. Deez and I did get a little bit of in-game time together but it was to briefly exchange Friend Codes, set up our Best Friend status, and exchange our native fruit. My town has peaches; his has pears; my wife has cherries. That really worked out in our favor. We're still hunting oranges and apples if anyone out there wants to trade! This week, I built a bench just to get the feel for public projects. This weekend I will build a new bridge! 

Playstation 3
This week, my trusty pawn Lyn and I decided to venture into Bitterblack Isle. Together with my friend's pawn, Val, we journeyed into the unknown. We defeated a giant, chained up, Gorecyclops, a few Cockatrice and some strange beholder-type monster. None of them were too challenging, but I did find a room with two Gorecyclops that was best left undisturbed. I'll save that challenge for another day. I feel my interest in this game starting to wane, though, as The Last of Us and Animal Crossing completely take over my free time. I really hope I can power through the Bitterblack Isle content. 

This game is oddly beautiful. 
I'm not sure what to say about this game. It got so many good reviews that it was difficult for me to ignore. I haven't beaten the main story, nor have I gotten into the multi-player games. I really have no excuse since it's been an entire week. I do struggle to find time (when my children are away) to play. Your story and characters thus far are incredible, and your infected, mushroom-zombies are terrifying late at night in the dark. I reserve a full judgment on the game until I've actually completed the entire story-mode.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Week in Review - 6/14/2013

I haven't done a week in review since March. They don't take very long, especially when I'm only playing one game or so a week because of my busy university schedule. The real reservation I have, however, is that I didn't want this blog to simply become a "Week in Review" blog. Without some feature articles, just hearing about what I'm playing seemed boring. I'm trying to use the freedom of summer to get this blog back on schedule, though. My next semester will be even busier than the last, so hopefully I can queue up a few thoughts to post more regularly over the school year. I really appreciate the attention the blog got during Music May and I want to keep you wonderful people of the internet entertained with my thoughts, ideas and reviews of gaming more consistently. Without further ado, here are the games that I've been playing this week!


Not my character sadly. Soon!
My wife bought me my own 3DS for Father's Day with a copy of Animal Crossing that was recently released and I'm really excited about it. I played every Animal Crossing game so far, but I really haven't enjoyed one as much as the very first one for GameCube (N64 in Japan). My brother (@Deezer509) and my wife both have a copy as well and we're looking forward to playing together a lot. I'm also trying to just explore the content and unlockables and collectibles on my own. to enhance the surprise factor of the game. 

Before I got Animal Crossing and whenever my PS3 was in use by another member of the family (Netflix) I would pop on Waking Mars which is an interesting little game I have on Steam. You play an explorer/scientist delving into the depths of Mars caverns where unique life does exist. It's both a platform and puzzle game as you meet challenges to balance the ecosystem to allow you access to deeper areas. There is also a hint of mystery as you uncover more clues as to the origin of life on Mars. My daughter is my co-pilot on this one. She often sits beside me to watch me explore Mars. 

Playstation 3
Not my Arisen sadly. Soon!
I got the original version of Dragon's Dogma close to its original release, but because of Dark Souls I never really gave it a fair shake. A couple weeks ago, my best friend picked up Dark Arisen so I upgraded my old copy to the newer expansion and set off on a whirlwind adventure. I only use my own Pawn and his Pawn, and we set each other up for success and keep our levels similar. Although it's not as good as playing together, the level of cooperation between us still keeps it fun and interesting. 


PS:  I'm really excited to be picking up a copy of The Last of Us tonight!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Music May - Closing Ceremony!

I did not plan this, but this is my 100th post on TOP Gaming!

Music May has been the most ambitious project both my brother and I have worked on for TOP Gaming. We started talking about this at the beginning of the year. We started working on it in February by compiling as much music as we could. Then we would periodically rate the music listed on a scale of 1 to 5. Eventually many of the scores were too close because my brother and I have similar taste in games and game music. I brought in my wife to start giving contrast - and as she hasn't played a majority of these games, I felt her opinions were more neutral and unbiased. Finally we managed to select 31 songs to represent during Music May, but over fifteen songs got perfect scores from our judges. This kicked off two tournaments to categorize the TOP 15 songs, a single-elimination and a round-robin. That's how we came to bring you the following list of songs.

Click on any of the following banners to see the actual, individual pages with music and commentary!



Doing TOP Tracks last month was a blast. I had a lot of fun finding songs, ranking them, and writing blurbs. Examining songs that you know by heart with an analytic eye makes you truly appreciate the effort and soul that the composers put into each piece. I'm grateful that TOP asked me to contribute text as well as images to this project. That being said, it was also a pain.

- Deez


I think the two tournaments were the most fun part of this project because all fifteen songs are amazing and it truly was a surprise on where songs were going to fall when going head to head like that. Initially, I started with the single-elimination, but the results felt awkward.

Deez suggested  we do a round robin to get more accurate results about which songs were better than others. I agreed, even though we were almost half-way into May. The results turned out similar, but it did help organize songs in a more accurate light. "Battle with Magus" won the single-elimination, but tied the win with "Hikari (Instrumental)" in the round robin.



Determining the final ranks of the songs and the order in which they would appear on the blog was an arduous process. Having to pick and choose between songs that are a part of who I am felt like I was betraying my childhood.

How can I choose between "Storm Eagle Stage" and "Corneria" or between "Battle with Magus" and "Frog's Theme!?" At some points, pitting my favorites against each other was more than my little heart could handle. In the end, however, it was all worth it.

I'm glad we could compile this full list of 31 tracks on one page. I'm sure there are some songs that we've missed, but to be honest, I don't think that any new additions would be able to crack the TOP 31 we've compiled here.

- Deez


 I thought the eternal rivalry between Frog and Magus continuing into our TOP Track Tournaments was quite awesome. I remember when the two songs went head to head and thinking just how difficult it is to choose between the two. I felt like I was making a bigger statement than I really was - making a statement about my character, or theirs, rather than simply judging the music on its own merit.

I'm not surprised that Magus won the day (character or music) but I enjoyed the two characters bringing their fight to a new venue for me.



This experience proved to me that I could do a full project just ranking the tracks from Chrono Trigger and be just as happy to do it. I could probably stretch it out just as long as Music May, as well.

- Deez


I love both of these guys, but I really expected more songs from Uematsu Nobuo to make the final cut, but instead Mitsuda Yasunori is on this list quite a bit more. I can't stress enough that I love what both composers bring to the table, but it might be safe to say (based on these results) that I value Mitsuda's style just a bit more.

As of right now Mitsuda may be my favorite composer!



It was difficult to find the time to create all these images. It was difficult to find the time to write all these blurbs. Perhaps the most difficult challenge of all, however, was trying to describe this music without over-excessive use of the phrases "raging music boner" and "feel like I'm going Super Saiyan" within each of the blurbs. It's been a rough month because of that challenge.

- Deez


I noticed there are quite a few things that are unique to video game music over the course of this project. I may do a larger, follow-up article about it in the future, but for now I'll give a brief gist.

A game player has the unique ability to grow extremely attached to a character in a game because they are by extension that character. Of course it depends on the game and what the developers hope to bring to the player, but the potential for a really deep, meaningful connection exists in a much stronger capacity than book or film.

When this is complimented by an incredibly powerful soundtrack that fits the themes and environment set by the game and its characters, it has a very strong potential to really influence the player and really connect them to the experience in a unique way.

Another thing unique to gaming, due to incredibly long history of certain franchises is the continuation of musical motifs and themes. Video game music typically has to play on an indefinite loop while you work your way through the game at your own pace, so the music should cater to that and as a result the music is often catchy, or at the very least, un-intrusive. So being reminded of older songs you heard so much, or meant a lot to you, is common in gaming. It's a very unique medium.



I was surprised throughout the ranking process. Tracks like "Liberi Fatali" and "Clash on the Big Bridge" stood out to me beacause I never played the games that featured them. Despite this, they stood out as really amazing songs that were so good I didn't need the nostalgia to bolster my appreciation of them.

- Deez


I know that like most opinions this list will probably offend most of the internet, but I'm always open to constructive discussions about games and game music. Please feel free to leave any of your ideas or comments or opinions in the comments. You can also find us on Twitter or Tumblr if you prefer.

When I look at this list half a dozen songs pop into my head that I know many might argue should be here, but overall I am quite pleased with how this turned out. Whenever I think of a new song that I'd forgotten about, I think which of these 31 would I bump to put it on and really can't justify it.

Music May was a really large project, but I'm extremely happy with the results and had a lot of fun talking about games and music with my wife and brother over the last eight weeks or more.



Yasunori Mitsuda, David Wise, Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo, and all the others who have appeared on this list are all like gods to me. Music is a special thing. It connects people, and certain songs can drive straight to the core of your soul.

In my youth, video games were th new kid on the block in terms of media formats. I can't state how happy I am tha tmusic played a large part in their evolution. These tracks are a way for me to relive the moments that shaped my childhood.

- Deez


Thank you for reading!


These are some of the songs that we love that didn't make the final cut. These honorable mentions appear in no particular order, but are all songs we each hold dear that aren't already on the list. I hope everyone enjoyed our presentation of TOP Tracks during Music May as much as we enjoyed presenting them!

Deez Honorable Mention: "02" from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

0² (Zero Two by 石川淳 on GroovesharkWho knew the Kirby franchise had such good music? Ever since Kirby's Dreamland 2, I've been a fan of the series.

TOP Honorable Mention: "Brinstar Overgrown with Vegetation" from Super Metroid

Brinstar Overgrown with Vegetation Area by Super Metroid on GroovesharkThis is an all-time favorite, from an all-time favorite game. I think my favorite thing is how this song loops into itself which this version captures perfectly.

Deez Honorable Mention: "To the Distant Sky" from Sky Gunner

TOP Honorable Mention: "Memories of You" from Persona 3

Memories of You by Video Game Music on GroovesharkThis song was actually ranked #32 but unfortunately May only has 31 days. I'll probably write up a full article on this song soon, but be warned it will be a tear-jerker.

Deez Honorable Mention: "Sewer Surfin'" from TMNT: Turtles in Time

Turtles in Time - Sewer Surfin' by TMNT IV on GroovesharkWas there a kid growing up who didn't love this game? This is the best song in the whole game, which is directly proportional to how frustrating the stage is in the whole game.

TOP Honorable Mention: "Into the Wilderness" from Wild Arms

Into the Wilderness by Michika Naruke on GroovesharkI forgot to put this up for judgment originally. I think it might have made the TOP 31 if I hadn't. At any rate, it's one of the greatest songs. My kids have a toy that plays it for some reason.

Deez Honorable Mention: "Credits" from Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64-Credits by Nintendo on GroovesharkMy first foray into the realm of 3D gaming was Mario 64. I can't tell you how relieved and accomplished I felt upon beating this game. The song is so uplifting! I get goosebumps.

TOP Honorable Mention: "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII

One-Winged Angel by 植松伸夫 on GroovesharkIt was odd to me this didn't make it into our finals because both Deez and I treasure this song and many of its derivatives. It received solid 4s across the board and really needed a 5.

Deez Honorable Mention: "This Shore" from Way of the Samurai

TOP Honorable Mention: "Baba Yetu" from Civilization IV

Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin on GroovesharkThis song is amazing on all levels. I was really disappointed with the opening of Civilization V because this song set such a high bar that could probably never be met again. Thanks, Chris Tin.

That's it! If you made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS!
Have a great summer everyone!

- TOP & Deez
@TOPGamingBlog & @Deezer509