Monthly Archives: November 2015

Dream video game soundtrack composers – Tablo

TabloFever'sEnd[타블로] If you’ve never heard of Korean artist and author Tablo, then I suggest you acquaint yourself quick-smart.  For mine he’s one of the most versatile composers around, with an incredible range that spans from out and out bass-heavy hip hop, to beautiful duets backed by melodic piano scores.  And that’s just his solo work.  His work as one-third of the hip-hop group Epik High has become increasingly diverse, with the 2012 release “99”, which plays almost like an ode to every music genre they’ve ever been inspired by in the 90’s and beyond.  The lyric driven hip-hop is still there to be sure, but it’s dominated by everything from Surf Rock ballads of “The Bad Guy”  to the heavy bass drops of “Kill This Love”.  If you played the album to someone blind, I’d be surprised if they’d pick it as the same artist, let along the same album.  It’s a mighty good album, by a mighty good group, that just happens to feature Tablo.

But for mine, the most interesting compositions from Tablo arise when he’s left to his own devices, as he was in 2011 for his first solo project.  Taking the form of two EPs, Fever’s End Parts I and II, these works are amazing demonstrations of a musician who can tell a story through his compositions.  From the first track featuring the unforgettable voice of Korean mainstay, Lee So-ra, Tablo makes his intentions clear – Fever’s End is an album that is written from the heart.  And it shows.  His solo journey starts off with the hopeless despair of “Home”, to the hopeful promise of “Try”, and to the regretful and somber “Expired”.  It is 40 minute journey through what can only be described as the human condition.  It is a work of art that works just as well as a collection of 10 songs as it does as an exploration of the emotional peaks and troughs of existence.  And then there’s “Tomorrow” featuring BigBang’s Taeyang, wedged right in the middle at the start of the second EP, which shows just how effective Tablo is as a composer of popular music.

It’s this diversity, and the perfectly paced and structured flow of the two EPs when listened in sequence, that makes Tablo a great storyteller.  Even the music itself in absence of the lyrics are so rich in emotion, that it’s something of a window into if not the soul, definitely his mind at the time.  His compositions create a thick atmosphere that surrounds you as you listen to them.  Video games, which often need no lyrical cues to accompany what appears on the screen, are the perfect medium for someone with the ability to create and convey feelings and emotions through music however understated its context or presence.

The Korean music scene is a diverse and wonderful place that surprises as much as it satisfies. If you’ve followed the career of K-pop and hip-hop stalwarts like G-Dragon or Mad Clown you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Sitting right up there though is Tablo.  For mine, Tablo is a modern musical genius, displaying versatility and range so few artists can.  His innate ability to create catchy pop songs, as well as those that linger in the mind and that force you to contemplate their meaning, is in my opinion almost unmatched across the world.  He creates a presence about his music when he needs to, but balances it out with music that works just as well as an ambient accompaniment to life as it does as something to sit down and contemplate, which makes him a significant creative force in the music world.  It also happens to be what would make him the perfect composer for an active and dynamic medium like video games.

 

 

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F1 2015 is quite the looker, ain’t she?

It was a bit sad when F1 2014 didn’t make its way to the then next-generation consoles.  Firstly because the more racing games the better, but mostly because the first Formula 1 game on any console has always been cause for  celebration often  based on graphics alone.  There are quite literally hundreds of ways you can prove your system has graphical chops, but for me, seeing  virtual representations of the top tier open-wheeled racers just cannot be topped.  From Formula One on the Playstation, right through to Formula One: Championship edition on the Playstation 3, F1 games are usually the first games to really demonstrate what the hardware can do.  So having to wait so long for Codemasters’ F1 2015 was a tad painful.

But bloody hell it was worth it.  Although perhaps not as striking as its steep competition – Microsoft’s Turn10’s own Forza Motorsport 6 also released this year – F1 2015 definitely manages to set the screen alight in motion and carry the time honoured tradition of beautiful Formula One video games forward.

And you know what, it’s not too shabby in still shots either.  That Lotus E32 Hybrid sure is a thing of beauty, isn’t it?

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #1 (2014) Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl

Well there you go! 32 days and 32 games later we’re up to 2014 and the last post in the series.  Thanks for joining me, I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have.  Happy November, everyone, it’s been a blast!


Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl (2014) –
I like the Etrian Odyssey series more and more the longer it goes on, but to be honest I’ve never really much cared for the art style.  I have nothing against anime per se, but the design is that ultra anime look, the sort of dime-a-dozen look that I associate with stuff coming from Japan that I don’t care about. Disgaea too is a series that, if it weren’t so damn well brilliant, I’d have a hard time sticking with for all the gravity-defying hair and what not.  It’s the sort of art that I appreciate artistically, and don’t actively deride, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  No dramas, I’m the kind of bloke who knows what I like, and doesn’t hate what I don’t.  So good times all around.  And so being the refined gentleman I am, I refused to judge the books by their cover, and let the games draw a map to my heart.  So to speak.

Now I don’t know what it is about the Etrian Odyssey: The Millenium Girl box art that does do it for me, whether it’s more refined or it just has an intangible quality about it that tickles my fancy, but by my reckoning it’s a bloody masterpiece.  I wish I could be more specific, but all I can come up with is that it is more, well,  elegant.

Elegant.  That’s it.  No comparing it to some classical art movement.  No mention of juxtaposition.  No pontification over colour palettes.  It is a mere undefined subjectivity and personal taste that make me appreciate the box art to this game over any of its predecessors.  It isn’t a science, it is an art.  And that’s a nice way to end the countdown because, like any good art, beauty and opinion are in the eye of the beholder.

Etrian_Odyssey_Untold_The_Millennium_Girl

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009) – Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (2010) – Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (2011) – Darksiders II (2012) – Dragon’s Crown (2013)

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #2 (2013) Dragon’s Crown

Another year, another countdown, another birthday.  And I’m boxing it all up, tying a nice little bow around it, and turning the ripe old age of 32 with a celebration of 32 BRILLIANT examples of FANTASTIC video game box art.  Join me, won’t you?


Dragon’s Crown (2013) –
Dragon’s Crown looks like a painting.  It’s the sort of turn of phrase I hate, bred into me from years of commentary claiming “this” and “that” game during the Playstation 2 era, looks like a bloody painting.  But in the case of Dragon’s Crown, it also happens to be the most accurate description.  Giant appendages of both the mammary and muscle persuasion aside, Dragon’s Crown is beautiful enough to hang on a wall, and perhaps more jaw-dropping is that it looks just as good in motion.

But perhaps the more fascinating part about Dragon’s Crown’s box art, and the game by association, is that it is a very Japanese take on a distinctly Western style.  Dungeons and Dragons style Sword and sorcery isn’t the sort of thing one would generally associate with Japanese animation, the type of art that typically depicts hyper-masculine male figures alongside dwarves and (usually) beautiful elvish female characters rooted in mysticism or witchcraft.  It’s no secret that modern Japanese-produced anime was profoundly influenced by Western animation – particularly the work of Walt Disney – in the early days.  But to see a Japanese artist tackle a traditionally Western style, and with such impressive results, is unique indeed.  There’s been plenty of cross-pollination from Japan to the United States, with anime having a profound influence on Western animation, however it’s been rare to see the reverse flow in recent times. Racjin’s Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land is the only exception that comes to mind.  If George Kamitani’s art in Dragon’s Crown is the direct result of a Japanese take on Western fantasy art, well I’d definitely put my money where my mouth is and throw down a pretty penny or two to see it continue.

 

DrgCrwRpPromo4a

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009) – Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (2010) – Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (2011) – Darksiders II (2012)

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #3 (2012) Darksiders II

Another year, another countdown, another birthday.  And I’m boxing it all up, tying a nice little bow around it, and turning the ripe old age of 32 with a celebration of 32 BRILLIANT examples of FANTASTIC video game box art.  Join me, won’t you?


Darksiders II (2012) – 
On 1 April 2013 I called Darksiders II ” …the best video game of the generation.” Perhaps I was a being more than little hasty when i wrote that but there’s just something about the look of Darksiders II that gets me excited – giddy even – whenever I see the game either in motion or in still image.  I’m surprised too, because hulking great big characters reminiscent of the Todd McFarlanes and yours “too numerous to name video game artists hailing from the United States” normally aren’t my shtick, instead I prefer a more highfalutin art style that favours elegance and beauty over ugliness and grit.  But Darksiders II manages to get me over that hurdle by filling its characters with such personality and individuality that the fact that they look like they’ve all been pumping iron and on the ‘roids while waiting for the apocalypse didn’t trigger my gag reflex.  The world too is a bleak world full of chaos and decay, almost all of which looks like it could collapse into a hellfire filled chasm at any point.  Even when it is beautiful it feels as if that beauty is a front for something more sinister.

And sitting right at front and centre amongst all of this great design are the stars of the show, the aptly named Death and his horse Despair, who also feature prominently and ominously on the box.  A short glimpse and it seems almost like a Rorschach test, a symmetrical inkblot for you to interpret, and give an insight your mind

But look closer and it’s a more ominous sign, as Death and Despair stare you right in the eyes, inviting you to join them on a journey to the Well of Souls.

I suggest you accept.

DarksidersII

 

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009) – Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (2010) – Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (2011)

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #4 (2011) Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (Collector’s Edition)

Another year, another countdown, another birthday.  And I’m boxing it all up, tying a nice little bow around it, and turning the ripe old age of 32 with a celebration of 32 BRILLIANT examples of FANTASTIC video game box art.  Join me, won’t you?


Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (Collector’s Edition) (2011) –  
I tend to think that Collector’s Editions are a little bit shithouse, if I’m honest, usually cobbling together useless trinkets and art-books and whacking a great big whopping price tag on it to make it feel a little bit special.  Build it and they will come, as they say.   But there’s something about the whopping great big collector’s edition of Relic’s excellent third person slasher-shooter, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, that had me handing over the big bucks to the cashier on a whim way back in 2011.

In-line with most military iconography throughout real human history, the Warhammer 40K universe is a collection of some of the best design around, with the chapters in the Space Marines providing more than enough of a vehicle for some great fantasy military insignia.  And I reckon that Ultramarines logo may just be one of the best, not just in the Warhammer universe, but across popular culture full stop.

For Courage and Honour!

Warhammer40kCollectors-Edition

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009) – Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (2010)

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #5 (2010) Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

Another year, another countdown, another birthday.  And I’m boxing it all up, tying a nice little bow around it, and turning the ripe old age of 32 with a celebration of 32 BRILLIANT examples of FANTASTIC video game box art.  Join me, won’t you?


Final Fantasy: the 4 Heroes of Light (2010) –
Oh to be angst-y again.  I was at that perfect age where the Final Fantasy series almost grew up with me.  When I was listening to hardcore punk and hating the world, there was Squall to mirror my feelings in the television.  When I was a pining for lost love, there was Tidus to pine with me.  But then when I grew up, and my edges softened, Final Fantasy didn’t take that step with me.  It matured with Final Fantasy XII, and became (far too) academic in Final Fantasy XIII, but by that point I was settled down and looking for enjoyable escapism not War and Peace.

Then something magical and wonderful happened, and Final Fantasy took a turn for the adorable.  With Takashi Tokita at the helm, that admittedly lovely fairy-tale style from what many consider the heyday of the genre returned, and finally Final Fantasy was back on the same life trajectory I was.  All it took was one look at the beautifully sketched and water-coloured box art, in all its fantastical glory, and I was back on the series train.  Call me a wimp, but for me, adorable is the new angst.

250px-Final_Fantasy4Heroes

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009)

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