Sonic the Hedgehog has always been my favorite video game character of all time. Both because of his games and also for personal reasons, most notably motivating me to draw. As of late though Sonic games have gotten a really bad rap. I not saying that those games don’t deserve it but it sad seeing you favorite fall from popularity.
One of the things that always confused me is why hasn’t Sega gone back to the original formula instead of consistently trying to reinvent Sonic. So I have stayed away from most of the newer Sonic games. And if I ever get the urge to play a new version of the classic Sonic games the only choices were to play Sonic Generations, Sonic Colors, or play Freedom Planet. All great choices but you do kinda miss the blue blur in a new adventure after a while.
This year marks Sonic 25th anniversary and for weeks now Sega has been teasing a new Sonic game, making me curious. Though I was not expecting what we got however: Sonic Mania. When I saw the trailer for Sonic Mania I almost cried tears of joy. Finally Sega is going back to Sonic’s roots and bringing back (or at least it seems) what made Sonic great. From what I’ve seen I like the classic Sonic gameplay feel even with a the few tweaks and even some new elements they have added like the new bounce dash. Plus only 3 playable characters Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Not that I really have a problem with the other Sonic characters (except for Big the Cat but we won’t go into that here) but it gives it that classic feel.
There is a lot to be said in music and how it can be used in defining something, whether it be in TV, Movies, or even video games nowadays. Even with the best scripting, directing and performances by the cast, the one thing that can make or break the project is the music itself, and whether it can convey exactly what the project is about. This is a challenge that all composers have had to face, and Vince DiCola was no exception. An accomplished percussionist and pianist, DiCola had begun as a session player for artists like Juice Newton and Cheryl Lynn. However, it was in playing with various bands in Los Angeles with Frank Stallone that the composer would find himself helping Frank on writing some songs for the movie “Staying Alive”, which the latter’s brother Sylvester was directing. As a result, DiCola would be nominated for a Grammy, which would then lead to Stallone hiring him as the composer for the fourth film in the Rocky franchise, since Bill Conti was busy composing music for the first two “Karate Kid” films at the time.
Right away with the score you felt that this was something quite different from what had been done before with the Rocky films, for while there was still some orchestration in certain parts, the majority of the music had more of a vibe that matched the more glossy, tightly-edited feel of the rock videos that were dominating MTV, and it showed.
To start off, you have the Rocky theme, “Gonna Fly Now” arranged in a still familiar, yet new way, and the three most notable themes to fans, “Training Montage”, “Up The Mountain”, and “War”, the former two being the most noteworthy of workout songs to fans the world over.
In addition, there is also “Drago’s Suite” and “Drago’s Entrance”, which both give a sense of Ivan Drago being an even more menacing foe than what Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang were.
A couple of other notable tracks are “Anniversary” and “Rocky and Son”, which balance out the more fan-fare, bombastic tracks and sinister tracks with more intimate themes that harken back to Bill Conti’s composition with Rocky and Adrian’s love story, as well as Rocky’s relationship with his son Robert.
And finally, you have “Knockout” and “Victory” to tie up the score, with the latter being yet another Conti composition retooled into an incredible arrangement to match Rocky’s win over Drago, as well as his speech at the end.
In all, this is a score that truly takes the Rocky franchise into a new direction musically, yet it doesn’t stray away from the basic elements that make the Rocky franchise special, and that was precisely by design when DiCola came on board.
On the one hand, it was nice to step into Bill Conti’s shoes after he scored three Rocky movies, because I had a template that I didn’t want to stray too far from, and because I’d worked with Sylvester previously, I also knew that he was going to give me some latitude to go in my own direction.
Not only that, but the success of the film opened the door for DiCola to work his composing magic yet again when he was hired to compose the music for “Transformers: The Movie” one year later, And this would be yet another music score that would become well-beloved among fans.
But perhaps what makes the Rocky 4 score so memorable is that it is very distinct not only from what had been done in previous Rocky films, but from other films in a sense that it showed that there was more than one way to compose music for movies, and it didn’t always have to be in an orchestral, symphonic way. And in a time where orchestrations seem to sound almost alike in some respects, it is good to see that there are composers who are willing to try new things as opposed to what is expected, even to this day, and one can hope that there are other aspiring composers who pick up on this and utilize other means of composing.
We’re back with another Toon Review! This episode Ubernerd is joined by Dubious Khan as we talk about the mystery genre and the anime “Case Closed” (aka Detective Conan).
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When I was younger you didn’t have the instant information about video games that we have today. You learned about them two ways: either you heard about the game from friends or you just happened to walk into a store, see a box for the game and if it impressed you enough you bought it. Now with the internet it seems that we know everything about a game before we even play it. I am not saying that this is a bad thing but there is something to be said about the feeling you get from discovering a great game. This feeling I thought was long dead until just recently, as I am starting to discover the joys of indie games. As I get deeper and deeper into them I find myself finding a great game I get that same feeling of discovery that I got back when I was a kid. But getting information about their games to people like me is harder for indie game developers because they are smaller companies and usually either don’t have the money because they are using most of it toward making the game or they aren’t backed by big names like Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft. Although sometimes these companies do try to help because these are new titles that no one has ever heard of, it can be quite difficult. These developers typically have to rely on social media and other unconventional ways to get the word out about their game. Getting this information from these sources in my opinion is no different than when I was getting it from kids on the playground. You may have had a vague concept of what the game is but it really wasn’t until you put the game in your system and played it that you truly knew what the game was all about.
“Song of the Deep” is a wonderful example of having that feeling of discovery. Over the last year or so every time I would step into a GameStop I would hear about this game through their TV channel that plays over the counter. I generally go in looking for something specific and don’t pay much mind to their TV channel so I didn’t get a whole lot of information on the game. The only information that I would seem to get was that it plays similar to games like Metroid and Castlevania or as some gamers like to call it “Metroidvania.” In addition to that information I also knew that the creators were Insomniac Games, also known for Ratchet and Clank, who partnered with GameStop to distribute Song of the Deep. This is why GameStop has been trying to promote the game as much as possible. This knowledge, plus the fact that the game was only $15, was enough entice me to preorder it. Yet similar to when I was a kid, I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into until I put that disc into my PS4 and started to play the game.
Before I get into what my first impressions of Song of the Deep are let’s set up the story a little. The main character of the game is a girl named Merryn whose father is a sailor and as part of his job he would sail out each morning and then come back every evening. Before Merryn would go to bed her father would sing songs and tell stories of his adventures out at sea. These songs and stories would include all the creatures he would encounter, histories of the deep that he would discover, sailor ticks that he picked up, and so on. Even though she figured like any good sailor her father was stretching the truth she enjoyed listening to them. One day Merryn’s father goes out to sea but never comes back and after waiting a long time the girl decides to go after him. She creates a submarine with parts that her father left from older trips and sets out to go find him. What she discovers is that her father’s songs and stories weren’t exaggerations of the truth- they were the truth. It’s your job to try to find out what happened to Merryn’s father and see if you can save him.
Starting off with my first impressions, yes, this game plays like a Metroidvania game should, but it’s so much more. The style of artwork kind of reminds me of both an old fairy tale book and the style of art used in the Rayman Legends video game. The artwork is stunning, beautiful, and just mesmerizing to look at. At times I would find myself actually getting attacked by enemies from behind because I’d sit and stare at the beautiful scenery all around me. The music is just as mesmerizing as the scenery. I find myself calmed by the music even at the most frustrating times in the game. The gameplay is simple enough and reminds of a mix between Ratchet and Clank, Ecco the Dolphin, and an old Jaws game for the NES. Where “Song of the Deep” really shines for me is the story. Video games as a whole don’t necessarily live or die on story like books or movies do. For instance some video games can have an amazing story but terrible gameplay (i.e. “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”), while others have very little to no story but amazing gameplay (i.e. most fighting games). This game exceeds at storytelling and also weaves the tale in a very unique way by having a narrator talk as you are playing. You’d think that this would get old after a while but after playing the game for several hours now it makes me want to find out what is going to happen next.
No video game is one hundred percent perfect. There is always something that can be improved. For “Song of the Deep” there are some problems with dropping frame rates and some minor glitching throughout the game. Yet in my opinion this is no problem and is not diminishing my experience at all.
So in conclusion if you are looking for a game this summer to play, you’ve got a PS4 or Xbox One, you like old school games, and have spare $15 you will not be disappointed.
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