Friday, May 31, 2013

TOP Track #1 - "Battle with Magus"





This is it! We made it! Coming in at #1 across two separate tournaments and hours upon hours of listening and judging music - "Battle with Magus" is the supreme champion of Music May 2013! This result did surprise me, but I'm by no means disappointed. It is a fantastic song, and a fantastic moment in video games as I detailed in my countdown last year - "The First Battle with Magus"

That article goes into great detail into what an amazing game Chrono Trigger is and what a great character Magus is within the game. As I've said, we really tried to step back away from nostalgia and assess each song on its own merits, but that's no easy feat. Particularly challenging when you're talking about something as amazing as the battle with Magus. If you've read that article I linked, you know it's one of the most impressive moments in gaming that I've ever personally experienced, so to wipe it from my mind when listening to this song is close to impossible.

The beginning of the song is dark and brooding, but quickly launches you into a frenzied fight for your life. The pacing is phenomenal. You're really pulled into the majesty of the situation. You know just from listening to this song that there's a lot on the line. Magus is not a push over. He means business, and you just got in his way. I think the way the music syncs up with the fight is one of the driving reasons that it made such a lasting impression on me, and goes to show what Mitsuda is truly capable of as a composer.

-TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



Ah - the initial fight against Magus. Where do I begin? It might be my favorite battle in the history of gaming. Chrono Trigger is a fan favorite due to the way it weaves a brilliant engaging story throughout different time periods. It's never more prevalent than the quest to restore the Masamune, which culminates fantastically in the battle with Magus. As TOP mentioned before, this seemed at the time like it might have been the game's finale. Thankfully, Mitsuda Yasunori crafted this masterpiece to fit the occasion. 

This track begins slowly and eerily to remind you that you are in the presence of an all-powerful wizard who might be responsible for the end of the world. A chill runs down my spine every time I hear the black wind howl. Suddenly (timed perfectly in-game as Magus accepts the player's challenge), the beat picks up and we are treated to a battle score that I can only describe as epic. In the background, a Mystic laughs (or perhaps, moans?) as you try to keep up with Magus's changing guards and endless attacks. This was one of those exhilarating fights that got your adrenaline pumping hard, and to me, it proved that Mitsuda could stand toe-to-toe with Uematsu Nobuo when it comes to battle tracks.

Lastly, I'd be remiss not to mention the final confrontation atop the Black Omen. If Magus is in your party, you are treated to a goosebump-inducing dialogue between him and his deranged mother. Instead of "Boss Battle 2" that normally plays during this altercation, you get to hear Magus's theme once again ... causing another adrenaline-fueled engagement. It truly makes the moment seem much more personal to the player. I love it!

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks

Thursday, May 30, 2013

TOP Track #2 - "Hikari" & "Hikari (Instrumental)"






I need to be clear that "Hikari (Instrumental)" is really the song that made it into the #2 spot. Originally, we were judging these as two completely different songs, but they both did extremely well. When we got down to the final 31 Tracks, both made the cut. I decided it would be awkward and wasteful to write up two different versions of "Hikari" on two different days. Judges unanimously decided that "(Instrumental)" was the better version of the song and so I cut "Hikari" from the running and decided they'd both be posted together where ever "Hikari (Instrumental)" landed in the running. Surprise! It landed at #2! Quite frankly, it tied with #1 but in a last minute tie-breaker it slipped into second place. 

One of my earliest articles was about how the music of Kingdom Hearts affects me. (Read it!) It's great music and its important to me, so obviously I'm slightly biased on rating up "Hikari" but I do think it's an amazing song. What I like about the instrumental version in particular is how much it blends this Japanese pop song into a real "Disney" wrapper. It sounds like some grand Disney fantasy story and yet still conveys all the power and passion Utada put into "Hikari" itself. I'd tell you all the things that pass through me when I listen to either of these songs, but it would take a lot more space and time. I implore you to read that ancient article if you want to know what the music and the series means to me.

Read: A Music Chain of Memories

- TOP 
@TOPGamingBlog



The Kingdom Hearts series was (briefly) my favorite franchise during the Playstation 2 era. The first game was so enchanting. Although I was skeptical of the involvement of Disney, the game was pulled off flawlessly and I was instantly in love. This was my first action RPG and it took a while for me to get used to the learning curve, but for my money, it was one of the best games I played during my teenage years. The ending was so tragic, I couldn't help but tear up as our hero (who had just saved the day) was ripped away from his two best friends. But during the credits, the instrumental version of "Hikari" played, and I knew that Sora's journey wouldn't end here.

"Hikari" is one of those great songs that, like many on this list, perfectly portrays the characters that it represents. Sora, for no apparent reason, is never afraid and approaches each situation thrown at him with unbridled enthusiasm. Throughout the song, I imagine him teaming up with various allies against strange and unknwon monsters. He uses his negative emotions for a positive gain, and he'll do it with the help of his friends. My favorite part of the track comes from around the 2:40 mark, and it gives me goosebumps every time. This is one of those songs that just makes you feel good, despite its sadder, quieter moments. I don't know what life has in store for me, but this will always be a good pick-me-up. It's also the leading candidate for the song I want played at my funeral. 

-Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

TOP Track #3 - "Storm Eagle's Stage"





Here we go! Last three days of Music May!

The Bronze Medal TOP Track goes to "Storm Eagle's Stage!"

This song is an instant hit. Storm Eagle's Stage was the first I attempted when I fired up Mega Man X - which I was super excited to play, by the way. I remember the stage loading up and this music - o! this music. Seriously, what a great way to start a game. It's too bad the rest of the X series couldn't follow the momentum set by this game, by this song! I actually wouldn't have predicted back in the early days that "Storm Eagle" would make it into the TOP Three but once it was finalized, I wasn't particularly surprised. I felt a real sense of "I should have known."

Because of what this game means to me and my brother, and because of what this song means to this game, the PowerGlove version of this song (listed below) is my current ringtone for Deez. He doesn't call often, but when he does I don't answer the first time cause I don't want to interrupt the song. True story.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



Sometimes, you have to listen to a song multiple times before you like it. An album will grow on you over time, and maybe even one of your all-time favorites was only "meh" when it first hit your ears. For me, this was not one of those songs. I fell in love with Storm Eagle's theme the instant I heard it. I was (enviously) watching TOP play what would eventually become my second favorite game of all time, and X's tear through the airport was one of the coolest things I'd seen in a video game at the time. I still listen to this song. When I replay through MMX, I always let out a loud "F--- YEAH!" at the beginning of Storm Eagle's stage. When it comes up on my GrooveShark playlist at work, I have to do everything in my power not to drop what I'm doing and start busting heads.

Mega Man X was a rarity in terms of music for the X series. There are a couple other tracks I enjoy, like Boomer Kuwanger's stage and Spark Mandrill's stage. Other than that, it's pretty drab for the rest of the series. There's one song in Mega Man X 3 that's ok ("Blast Hornet's Stage") but it's few and far between. I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there that may disagree with me, but I really don't recall anything memorable in the later X titles. Shout out to readers to let me know if there are any memorable tracks that I'm unaware of! "Storm Eagle's Stage" stands out in the first game, and subsequently the entire series. It's a timeless classic. 

- Deez
@Deezer509

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TOP Track #4 - "Time of the Dreamwatch"





This song is unbelievable. I really thought this song was going to make it all the way to #1. I suppose, originally I thought "To Far Away Times" would make it up into the TOP 5 because it means a lot to me, but when I started trying to look at songs as objectively as possible, "Time of the Dreamwatch" stood out immediately as going above and beyond everything Mitsuda did in "To Far Away Times." There is, of course, an undeniable nostalgia factor, but even our (somewhat) neutral third party (never played Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross so no nostalgia) voted this up every single time. It's a fantastic song.

It's a bit of a shame that both "Time of the Dreamwatch" and "Time's Scar" are utilized before you even get a chance to play the game. Both are used in opening scenes and are not tied to any moment in the game itself, and they are both the most outstanding pieces of music on an already amazing soundtrack. I wish Mitsuda could have worked this into the game itself, or pushed a bit more to include more nods to Chrono Trigger music within this completely new, folk-y theme. If there's anything Chrono Cross needed across the board it was stronger ties to its predecessor, Chrono Trigger. When they happen, they are the best parts of the game, and they are far and few between - in fact, you could probably take them all out, call this game Serge Cross and call it a day. I'd love to see a remake/reboot of Chrono Cross that really tries to tie it all together quite a bit more - and utilizes this type of music blending, because it is by far some of Mitsuda's finest work.

-TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



"Time of the Dreamwatch" would have garnered a 4 out of 5 rating from me if it were completely original. It received a perfect score, however, due to the Chrono Trigger throwback in the refrain. The first time I heard this song, I was cooking. Both my jaw and a pot full of ramen fell to the floor. Now, it's in my regular rotation of tracks I pop on at work when I'm feeling particularly homocidal. Something about it just brings me back down to Earth, and the Trigger refrain is like a lullaby for my soul. 

During the course of ranking these songs, we ran into some issues. We had to provide tie-breaking votes when tracks (of which there were many) got perfect scores from our panel of judges. It's difficult to come up with the metrics for declaring a true winner, due to the inability to cut nostalgia out of our calculations. Judging "Time of the Dreamwatch" was a conundrum. On the one hand, I feel it's a great song. On the other hand, my subconscious can't ignore the refrain, or the way it makes me feel as soon as I hear it. Mitsuda, you beautiful devil, you have me eating out of your hand yet again...

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks


Piano Arrangement - http://youtu.be/0xVtMEhPbdE

Monday, May 27, 2013

TOP Track #5 - "Chaosium Sword"





There is something special about the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy for the NES. The only game I owned was Ninja Gaiden II. I either rented or borrowed the other two, but they were all great games. One thing this series was doing that other series were not is paying attention to a continuous story. Between stages (Acts) of the game, you were often treated to comic-book like still shots of quirky dialogue as a narrative was being told about Ryu Hayabusa and his legacy as a Dragon Ninja. All the great NES platform games I love really didn't focus much on story at all within the game, and each game in a series (Mario, Mega Man) really didn't sync up much at all with the previous game. It just told a brand new story. Not so with the Ninja Gaiden games. 

Ninja Gaiden II picks up right where Ninja Gaiden ends. As Ryu Hayabusa, the player defeats the final villain, Jaquio, an evil warlord in the Realm of Darkness, Ashtar, is made aware of Ryu's actions and sets his plan into motion. The opening scenes of the game detail this moment with "Chaosium Sword" playing in the background. The song definitely captures a sense of "the plot thickens" in its build up. Though somewhere in the world, Ryu must be celebrating his victory, dark forces are working behind the scenes to awaken and unleash their power on Earth. This song really captures that build up of a shadow army biding its time and preparing to strike. 

It's an amazing song, and shows that even back on the NES, some of these composers were really taking it seriously. The Ninja Gaiden series, much like the Mega Man series, is really full of wonderful 8-bit tracks waiting to jam out in contemporary rock or metal. 

-TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



"Come watch this. You'll like it." That's what TOP said to me many, many years ago, right before popping in a copy of Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos into our NES. I was expecting gameplay but instead watched this outstanding introductory scene. My mind was blown! I think know this was what bore my love of video game cutscenes. The narravite, the graphics, the music! It was all so well-done, and so cinematic. Back before 3D games took over the industry, cutscenes were a treat to be savored. If someone in the room was talking, you'd snap at them to shut up. If your mom called you donw for dinner, you'd starve before missing a cutscene. Important things were happening! These cinematic interludes seem to be on the decline. I can think of a few exceptions (Xenoblade Chronicles, Uncharted 2) but for the most part, game developers waste their opportunities with modern cutscenes. 

Despite having jaw-dropping graphics and professional voice actors, they can't seem to capture the heart, emotion and imagination that old game cinematics used to have. Compare Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI to current titles and you see a stark difference. Both their cutscenes and endings (as TOP mentioned) go above and beyond, like a reward for making it as far as you did. This goes along with the shift from plot-driven gaming to a bigger focus on gameplay; instead of savoring a cinematic moment, I'm constantly looking for the skip button. 

Like other songs on this list, "Chaosium Sword" has great pacing. It starts off slow and ominous. There are cracks of thunder (a clear sign that something evil is taking place!) followed by a great theme. I think this is clearly the best track of the Ninja Gaiden games (and the NES trilogy had some great songs), and I'm sad it wasn't revisited in the new generation of Ninja Gaiden games. "Chaosium Sword" will always be one of my favorites, and I can't wait to do a cover version when TOP and I finally get our band together.

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks




Sunday, May 26, 2013

TOP Track #6 - "The Last Battle"





There's one thing that Deez and I agreed on early in this project, the Dynasty Warriors series has some incredible music. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely familiar with all the music across all the games, so I popped up a playlist on YouTube one afternoon and just listened to song after song from all the Dynasty Warriors games as well as all the other spin-off series (Samurai, Gundam, etc). A few were so amazing they made it on to our list of songs to be judged, even though we'd never played some of the games - though when you've played one Dynasty Warriors game, realistically speaking you've played them all. Though they have updates and changes, they all fundamentally play similarly. Button mash your way through thousands upon thousands of peons and officers to claim complete and total victory for your army - though your troops may as well have slept in that morning, because you're a one-man killing god of war. 

"The Last Battle" swiftly moved up the ranks of our tournaments. Although there are many great tracks in the Dynasty Warriors series, I think this one in particular exemplifies everything you'd ever need to know. The music often tries to blend traditional (in this case Chinese) music with contemporary music (in most cases, rock or metal) and the results are fantastic. This song in particular is an invigorating finale. There is an underlying marching beat to get your heart pumping for battle, an overlay of rock power ballad to make everything you do feel larger than life, and mixed in is the theme of Dynasty Warriors 7 to remind you of what your fight has been for all along the way. It's a fantastic song and I'm proud that to have a great piece of Dynasty Warriors music make it this far up our list of TOP Tracks.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



This song just gets me going! It rocks, plain and simple. I'm a user of Last.fm, a service that "scrobbles" all the music you listen to and compiles it into neat data. Data doesn't lie. I have been obsessed with this song the past couple months, so much that I'm afraid I'm going to over-listen and get sick of it. If electric guitars existed in the 5th century BCE, I believe this would have played during the Battle of Thermopylae. I wish they had used this track for Conquest Mode's "Battle for Supremacy," wherein you go up against 30 generals in a ruthless onslaught. Despite our high-leveled characters, TOP and I faced double trouble in that level and "The Last Battle" would have no doubt invigorated us beyond any doubt of victory.

Dynasty Warriors 7 was my first introduction to the series, and the music did not disappoint me. I strongly believe that Uematsu Nobuo and Mitsuda Yasunori were composing themes in the NES/SNES days with some 80's metal in mind. Yamada Haruki's "The Last Battle" is a perfect action track that builds anticipation and serves up exciting, climactic guitar riffs. Perhaps no other word is as overused as this on the internet, but I have no choice but to use it in this instance: epic. That's the only word to describe this song. When the intensity ramps up again at the 2:11 mark, I feel like I'm about to go Super Saiyan.

- Deez
@Deezer509




Derivative Tracks

None found. None necessary. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

TOP Track #7 - "Frog's Theme"





I'm not at all surprised to see "Frog" made it all the way into the TOP Ten. I've loved this song and this character since the very first time I heard it. It really does a fantastic job of accentuating Frog's character. When you meet him, he's a bit discouraged by his cursed form, but he's still loyal and courageous for the sake of his Queen. This song really brings out that honor and duty, even though he lives alone in disgrace. What makes Frog such an important and endearing character is that he undergoes such tremendous growth. He also has such a complicated relationship with another character in the game, Magus, who is responsible for his transformation. These two characters more than any other start out a certain way, perceived by the player a certain way, and develop over time into the characters their theme songs reflect. 

Even though the first few times you interact with Frog, he's distressed, depressed, discouraged and lonely, this theme song and his willingness to help clue you in that underneath his amphibious exterior, he has a heart of gold and a tremendous sense of honor. Eventually, you wear down his depression and prove to him that even though he failed and has been cursed for his failure, he still has something to fight for. He transforms into one of the most versatile fighters on the team and begins to accept who he has become. A definitive moment comes late in the game when he faces a truly troubling choice between allying with his most hated enemy, Magus, for a common good - or breaking his curse and returning to human. The choice is left up to the player, but I think this moment really shows the true nature of his character and his ideals. I prefer the Frog that is able to forgive and move forward to the vain, vindictive Frog only concerned with revenge and reclaiming his old form...

...but I have to admit, if the game allowed you to play as Glenn from that moment forward instead of Frog (swapping out his character sprite) instead of making you wait until the ending scenes, I'd definitely do that a handful of times because Glenn looks like a badass. I bet his Slurp Kiss Dual Tech (among others) would look incredibly odd as a human, though!

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



Whenever I play through Chrono Trigger, I usually give the characters their true names. Every once in a while, however, there is an exception. I'll change Marle to Nadia, Magus to Janus, and if I'm feeling like a smart-ass, Robo to R-66Y. That being said, Frog is never Frog. He is always Glenn. He's such a tragic figure, brimming with honor, that I feel bad naming him Frog. It's so damn insulting! I realize that by the end of the story, he becomes accustomed to his new form and doesn't so much mind it, but this doesn't take away from the fact that Magus demeaned him. This song, despite it's name, does not belong to a frog. It belongs to Glenn. It is composed perfectly to match his character: noble and brave. The high notes of the track seem to play on Glenn's status as a skilled knight, as well as the loneliness he must endure in 600 AD.

Glenn and Magus are easily my favorite characters in Chrono Trigger, and I imagine most people feel similarly. One of the reasons their eternal rivalry is so compelling to us players is how similar they are even though they are diametrically opposed. Each character had the person who was closest to them taken away in a violent nature. Both are tormented internally for being weak during a moment in which their world was changed - in Glenn's case, too cowardly; in Magus's case, too young. Glenn represents the lighter side of this tragedy, eventually choosing to take on Cyrus's dream. Magus represents the darker side by destroying everything that stands in his way of searching for his sister. Their theme songs both perfectly reflect this relationship.

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks


Friday, May 24, 2013

TOP Track #8 - "Fate of the Unknown"





It's no surprise on this blog that we're all fans of the Kingdom Hearts series. I've written a few articles about the games and the music already, primarily about what the first game in the series means to me and what an emotional experience it is - I have Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX on pre-order already! What's odd about this song is that it comes from a version of Kingdom Hearts II that was only released in Japan. The only access we had to the scene using this music was on YouTube and it wasn't something we got to experience firsthand. Even so, it's a really amazing song because it captures some of what makes the Kingdom Hearts series shine.

"Fate of the Unkown" alludes to the direction the Kingdom Hearts series would take. It introduces us to unnamed (Unknown) characters, Terra, Aqua and Ventus which is really where Sora, Riku and Kairi's story began unbeknownst to them. I can't say I really like this direction, but I'll reserve judgment on the whole thing until Kingdom Hearts III is released (if ever) to conclude the entire saga. This song really blends a lot of musical themes Shimomura has built within the games into a really heart pumping action orchestra. I really like her use of orchestral music because it adds to the grand Disney majesty of the story being told.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



I was beyond satisfied the first time I finished Kingdom Hearts II. Despite some oddities at the end of the story (Riku's blindfold, Ansem the Wise and all his data, everyone having a Keyblade), I was happy to have reunited everyone for a happy ending. My mind was in conflict, however. I was certain that Sora's story had come to a close and all the loose-knots were tied up, yet I couldn't shake the feeling that Square Enix wouldn't miss the chance to milk that cash cow. Sure enough, we see Sora and his friends on Destiny Islands reading a letter from King Mickey. (Riku looks especially pleased; he's always trying to get away from home.) Even further, we see three mysterious warriors and hundreds of keyblades in the secret ending. The expanded trailer for Birth By Sleep in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ gives us an exciting glimpse of the future of the Kingdom Hearts series. Keyblades for everyone!

I like "Fate of the Unknown" because it's an orchestral track fit for an intense battle, like the one the song is tied to. Often times, it seems like the video game industry prefers a rock and roll style for more intense battles. Don't get me wrong, I love a good power riff, but this song captured the excitement and melancholy tony of the scene. The climax at the end got fans more excited than anything. Terra (at the time unnamed) rips off his helmet just before his eyes turn to an evil-looking orange. It's sort of an "oh snap" moment, but I don't think it would have held much weight without "Fate of the Unknown" accompanying it. Even though I did enjoy Birth By Sleep, this secret trailer marked the beginning of the end for my faith in the series. I'm glad it ended on a high note for me, though. 

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks

Thursday, May 23, 2013

TOP Track #9 - "Overworld"






This is more or less the iconic Zelda theme and honestly one of Kondo's finest pieces of music. I'm being perfectly honest when I say I didn't play the original NES Legend of Zelda until much, much later. So really the "Overworld" theme didn't strike me until A Link to the Past. That was such an important game to me and Deez that we decided to represent both songs here, with a focus on A Link to the Past. I honestly played that game way too much like a lot of SNES games.

A Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda game and it is the game that really sets the standard for me. It's a pretty high standard and only a few other games in the series have met it. I feel like A Link to the Past was one of the first games that really got me interested in the lore and history of Hyrule. It really sucked me into the legend of the Triforce. Exploring Hyrule felt like such a treat, looking in every nook and cranny for that heart piece or that elusive fourth empty bottle. I do miss the days when I had all the time in the world to really explore games that rewarded you for exploration. I know games nowadays do way too much hand-holding, but honestly so many games come out (and I have the money to buy them) that I don't have the time to sit down and search out every single hidden item on my own. That's why I often miss (but realize I could never go back) to the SNES days.

This "Overworld" music is so iconic that when a Zelda game comes out that doesn't use it, or play off of it, it gets a black mark in my book. You have no right calling yourself a "Legend of Zelda" if you aren't using this song somehow. I might make an excuse for you if the game doesn't take place in Hyrule, since I associate this music to exploring Hyrule, but that will only spare you a little bit of ire. I love this song that much.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



I can't remember if A Link to the Past was handed down to me from TOP or if I got it on my own, but it was one of my most cherished SNES cartridges. I played it night and day, trying to get through the Light and Dark Worlds. As I mentioned earlier ... I wasn't very good at this game. As was often the case back then, the only parts I was proficient at were the ones I watched my older brother complete. This meant that after the first castle in the Dark World, I was in trouble. My lack of skill, coupled with the great Light World theme, meant I wasn't spending too much time in the twisted, alternate version of Hyrule if I could help it.

I loved this song so much I would whistle it constantly. I'm not sure if you ever tried to whistle, hum, or sing this tune, but it's not as easy as it might seem. The range from high to low is too wide for my ability  which can be embarrassing during a "performance" around other people when my voice cracks. This tune is so damn catchy, that I'd have it stuck in my head for days at a time. There was one point where I was sick of the song because it was looping endlessly in my mind. How awful a child I was, getting sick of the "Light World" theme when just a few years up the road there would be songs so much worse getting stuck in my head. I won't go into details, but let's just say the 90s marked an odd shift in music I liked.

Thankfully, it's now a pleasure to hear this song again. One of the reasons I pre-ordered Skyward Sword was so I could get my hands on the 25th Anniversary music album. It's a great collection, but the first time you listen to it can be aggravating  The orchestra is constantly teasing you with hints of this song only to snatch it away right before a crescendo. It does eventually come, and when it does - it's great.

-Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

TOP Track #10 - "Stickerbush Symphony"





We are now in the TOP Ten! 

This is a unique song in our countdown for a number of reasons. Firstly, I'm not a big fan of Donkey Kong Country 2 and so I probably wouldn't have scoured its soundtrack looking for this song, but I do remember it. It really stuck out. When Deez pitched it, I realized I'd been looking for it in the wrong place, namely the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack. My fond memories of this song were mixed up with my fond memories of the original DKC. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed DKC2 for all the same reasons, but I really missed that big ape. Donkey Kong and Diddy are the original duo and I really can't accept any imitations or substitutions. I played DKC2 and enjoyed it alongside my brother (who loves it tremendously) but for me it didn't hold that same magical appeal. 

This song is also interesting because it's not really an epic track. It's not some final boss battle, or sweet catchy tune. It doesn't fill me with a zest for all things awesome, or make me feel like I'm on top of the world. It's just a really calming, relaxing song tucked in a game I'm not particularly fond of on stages of the game I barely remember. It is one of our most obscure pieces of music, and to think it made it all the way into the TOP Ten is quite remarkable. Deez has talked quite a lot about songs in this list that really get him pumped up, but this is definitely one that brings me back down. It mellows me out. I feel like I'm drifting on a slow river in a gentle breeze. It's a wonderful piece of music and stands out in our countdown for its contrast to the other, more upbeat and invigorating pieces of music.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



I loved Donkey Kong Country 2 almost as much as its predecessor, and I played it twice as much. It was another instant classic, despite the replacement of Donkey Kong with Dixie Kong. The addition of the Hero Coins and the Lost World meant I would return to this game again and again. I'm not sure if it was just me, but I found Diddy's Kong Quest to be noticeably harder than the original. One level comes to mind: Bramble Blast. Tis is the first stage to feature David Wise's "Stickerbush Symphony." 

The soothing notes of this song lulled me into a real false sense of security. It's the type of melody that a ranging child would fall asleep to. I'm not sure why Wise chose such a soothing melody for a level teeming with giant spikes and aggressive hornets, but I love it. I didn't even mind dying in these stages! I can't remember, but I think there are only two levels that play "Stickerbush Symphony" and each one is a real treat. This is naother one of those songs that I listen to at work when I need to calm myself down, and it's easily my favorite piece from David Wise.

All this time, I've thought it was "Stickerbrush" not "Stickerbush" and I'm still a bit unclear on the details.

- Deez
@Deezer509



Derivative Tracks

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TOP Track #11 - "Gang-Plank Galleon"





Donkey Kong Country is more my brother's thing than mine, but with that said, I am a great fan of the original game. I loved the characters, the setting, and especially the music. It is one of the great platforming games of its age. I don't think I have any memory of Donkey Kong Country or its sequels that don't include my brother either playing along-side me, tag-teaming maps for great efficiency, or watching by my side. That's actually quite rare, when I think about it. So many games I played on my own and handed down to him with the TOP seal of approval, rather than a game we explored together as a team. 

This song is really the icing on the cake of a great game. It took me a quite a few attempts to beat King K. Rool, so I got to listen to this song quite a few times until I got down all his little patterns. It's really unconventional for a boss fight, but it really blends the spirit of the game, and the themes of the soundtrack into a really catchy tune. I think what obviously stands out is the nautical, pirate opening which swiftly transitions into the jungle beats that have been constant throughout the Donkey Kong Country experience. It all comes together really well. It's honestly the best piece of music on a soundtrack that is entirely comprised of extremely good music. Donkey Kong Country remains my favorite in the franchise, and has yet to be outshone in quality.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



I remember Christmas '94 quite vividly. I was 7 years old and it was the best Christmas ever. My mom had spoiled me rotten with everything I requested on my Christmas list. Now, I can only remember what #1 and #2 were on that list: a White Ranger action figure, and Donkey Kong Country for SNES. TOP and I popped that game in and must have played through three or four worlds before stopping. The game that revived Donkey Kong's image as a Nintendo icon (and turned him from villain to hero) remains one of my all-time favorites. Till the day I die, I have an open offer for anyone who wants to throw money down on the "Two Player Challenge" mode. 

"Gang-Plank Galleon" is the perfect mix of pirate whimsy and interspecies warfare. A battle between a gorilla and a crocodile deserves nothing less, am I right? In my book, David Wise is second only to Mitsuda Yasunori, beating out even the great Uematsu Nobuo. In the pantheon of video game composers, I dub him Poseidon. He can make soothing, trance inducing tracks that put you at ease. He also creates intense, heavy metal melodies that put you at the edge of your seat. This song blends both sounds together for an unforgettable finale to the game.

- Deez
@Deezer509




Derivative Tracks

King K Rool - Donkey Kong Country by Nintendo on Grooveshark

Galleon Rumble - http://youtu.be/QerQylSRNQk

Gang-Plank Galleon (Metal) - http://youtu.be/kMnxgMR4MSw

iLuvKats89 Remix - http://youtu.be/d4REt7iz_vA

Monday, May 20, 2013

TOP Track #12 - "The Moon"





I actually never owned DuckTales which explains why my brother probably never got a chance to play it (read below). I believe I rented it from a mom & pop video rental store named American Video. After a few bad purchases, my mom and step-dad came up with a rule that I stuck by for a long time when I was a child: rent first and buy if its worth the money. Now, DuckTales was definitely worth the money, but I really played the heck out of that game in the two or three days that I had my hands on it. I loved the TV show of the same name. I've loved Scrooge McDuck (an idol of my father's) for as long as I can remember. I wouldn't know this until I was much older, but to have a game built upon these great foundations by the team who brought me MegaMan would produce something that wouldn't really be outdone until Disney teamed up with my long-time idols at Squaresoft (Square Enix) to make Kingdom Hearts eleven years later.

I may have forgotten about this game over time (because I never owned it, so never revisited it) except "The Moon" keeps coming up and filling me with a sense of nostalgia. I remember when I discovered Pandora (internet radio) and created my first video game inspired station. The Advantage's version of "The Moon" came on and I was once again in awe of its greatness. I listed that track below so all can enjoy. There's something about this song that makes it just as impressive all these years later, and I'm not really surprised coming from the company that produced so many astounding "MegaMan" soundtracks.

- TOP
@TOPGamingBlog



I never played DuckTales as a child. I'm sure TOP owned it at one point, along with other early Capcom classics like MegaMan and RescueRangers. Looking back, I'm glad I never played it. It is insanely hard. Even now, when my friend and I play a ROM version of it on our Wii, we need to use save states in order to get the "secret" ending. It's pretty dismal by today's standards. I was incredibly excited when they announced the HD remix, which I'll promptly buy on PSN as soon as it's available.

Even though you are allowed to play through stages in any order, I always saved the Moon for last. It just seemed appropriate: Scrooge had conquered all the treasure on earth, why not go snag some alien booty on the moon? I can't tell you exactly why I love this song so much ... I just do. One of my favorite songs to listen to is The Advantage cover. It has a strange way of melting my worries away, akin to when Peter gets hypnotized in Office Space.

- Deez
@Deezer509




Derivative Tracks

Ducktails - Moon by The Advantage on Grooveshark