RE: My Top 20 Favourite Video Game Tracks

Since Noa @CritiqueQuest tagged us all in her Top 20 Favourite Video Game Tracks I thought I might as well make a full-fledged reply mainly because (1) I have way too many favourites to be crammed into a one sentence response and (2) I adore her channel. (and I promise you will too so please hurry up and subscribe/follow!)

Here is my top 10 + honorable mentions.

A Love Suicide [Rule of Rose] The only track we both have in common. I remember having it on repeat for weeks, and it looks like I’m in it again.

Can’t Say Goodbye to Yesterday [Metal Gear Solid 2] As much as I love Snake Eater I think it’s the weakest in the soundtrack department. Too much Bond oriented for my taste, I like to pretend the theme song never happened. Son’s of Liberty’s ending theme however is a different story.

God and Man [God Eater Burst] This game has been painfully underrated, the OST in general doesn’t necessarily stand out but this song is probably one of my highest rated vocal tracks. Also, it did take me a while to realize it’s Donna Burke singing.

Memories of the City [Persona 3] Choosing a favourite track from the Persona games is nearly impossible but this one fits so well with the ending events in the third game I thought I would pick it over Signs of Love which had been my most-loved for a long time.

Null Moon [Silent Hill 2] A list without a Silent Hill 2 OST would be wrong, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t really matter which track it is though since they are all equally beautiful, very sombre and dreamlike. Null Moon in particular stands out a bit more than the rest.

Pillow Stains [Deadly Premonition] The OST in this game might be hit and miss but whenever this song plays (does it actually play in the game?) it adds volumes to the atmosphere.

Temple of Drifting Sands [NieR] Even if you have not played this title you surely must have heard of the soundtrack. It’s as good as everyone says it is. There are no duds here, each and every piece is beautifully composed whether it is Ashes of Dreams, Grandma or Shadowlord.

Time’s Scar [Chrono Cross] Classic. A classic title I have yet to play (probably not going to happen), this composition however is a thing of beauty.

Salt Flats (The) [Final Fantasy VIII] Both that and Seeking Power from XII do an amazing job at fitting into the background of snowy landscapes. It’s hard to decide which one is better but I’m picking Salt Flats because let’s face it VIII is a better game.

You Were Here [ICO] Another stunning piece that deserves a mention.

* Here are the extras since clearly I could go on forever …

Distant Memories Folklore, Prologue- to the Ancient Land [Shadow of Colossus], A Deus [Grandia 2], Please love me … once more [Silent Hill 3], Empty Loneliness [Valkyria Chronicles], Agni Ratha, Imperial Capital [Xenoblade Chronicles], Coastal Thailand [Tomb Raider: Underworld]

What are your most-loved tracks?

Silent Hill

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Silent Hill has always been one of a very few series I hold dear to my heart. I stumbled upon it accidentally while picking up Silent Hill 2 copy back in my early Playstation 2 days when gaming magazines and demo discs were my only source of information. Even though I had known very little about it I vaguely remembered a video teaser that pigued my interest. I quickly became obsessed with the story, setting, characters, themes, soundtrack and level design. Hence I hurried to purchase all the remaining titles at that time right away (the original Silent Hill, and then 3 and 4: The Room) and I ended up playing them for hours until there was nothing left to explore or unlock. Even though they were all great it was Silent Hill 2 that in my opinion has been one of the most complex, clever and thought provoking titles out there. When I think of my second favourite The Room might be the one. Eerie is the right word to describe the atmosphere best. It might differ a lot to the think and heavy undertones in Silent Hill 2 and it does take a contrasting approach to gameplay mechanics and storytelling but it somehow manages to preserve the Silent Hill vibe. Nevertheless I always feel like it does not get enough recognition for what it is.

When it comes to Origins I remember having mixed feelings towards it. I think it took me two playthroughs to eventually admit I adored the game. While I still think the protagonist, his personal journey and the overall plot itself take a major backseat, many other aspects like level design, puzzles and gameplay are done incredibly well. Areas like sanitarium, motel and plenty of others are fun to explore and the combat is challenging and rewarding. Breakable weapons did not bother me since there is always a good deal to collect and use so if you are an obsessive hoarder you will enjoy it.

The issue I have had with Homecoming is that I find it forgettable. There is not a lot to the game that would make me want to replay and/or discuss and certainly the infamous Scarless boss battle everyone always seem to mention (as I do too because it definitely is a highlight) is not enough. I found it overly straighforward, lacking mystery and ambiguity. It did gameplay better than the first two or three games yes but I did not see it as a huge advantage. I would rather have the quality of the plot and characters rivaled instead since this is where I aways my attention on. The level design is the most bland and lazy out of the whole series in my eyes so I found it very disappointing in comparison to the distinctive design of the early games and after a suprisingly detailed Origins. For instance, how painfully flat and vacant Grand Hotel is when compared to the Lakeview Hotel interiors?

Shattered Memories is an odd title and I still cannot decide how I feel about it. For a long time I had refused to take it seriously. I could not see the point of following a what-if path of events that never took place. However, I kind of like it now. I grew to appreciate the bizarre or surreal atmosphere and interactions with the characters. If it was not for the dreadful chase sequences that do not add anything to the game other than frustration and a very weak way of implementing psychology I would have praised it more.

Finally, I have been seeing mainly tons of positive feedback in regards to Downpour. I would say it is actually getting slightly too much credit for what it is and in my opinion is the weakest in the series. I was not a fan of the gameplay. I did not mind the weapons but the inventory was frustrating. Healing yourself while being chased or in battle is a pain, map could have been more accessible and I lost count on how many times I accidentally launched my weapons in the air. That however is not the main root of the problem. What’s more important is the plot and characters being less than engaging. It almost feels like there is a decent beginning and an ending while nothing fascinating is going on in between. In consequence it did feel like a chore and for that reason I never bothered to replay it.

Overall I really have not been impressed nor fully satisfied with the quality of the recent Silent Hill titles. As you may know a new entry has been announced and I both wish and hope for it to craft levels with more care and style and not neglect the plot in favour of the gameplay. Judging by the playable demo (PT) from last year it might be likely to come true at least in the atmosphere department.

How do you feel about the series? What titles are your favourite and why?

2014 in retrospect //@BradBraddington

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2014 has come to an end. So what better way to introduce the New Year than recounting my video games experiences from the past 12 months. I feel it would be most fitting to begin with my most anticipated game from 2014, Dark Souls 2.
I was a late starter with the Souls franchise, my first delve into the franchise began with Demons Souls in 2013. I found myself sucked into the vivid world of Boletaria, the engrossing lore, the phenomenal soundtrack and of course Maiden Astraea who gave me one of my most beloved moments in gaming. The highly anticipated release of Dark Souls 2 came in March. I would spend the following week entirely absorbed by Dark Souls 2 and ultimately I found myself returning to the real world battle hardened and with a feeling of glowing gratification. I recall being astonished at the beautiful sun soaked cliffs and forgotten shacks of Majula. I was satisfied with the tweaks to the character stats to avoid previously impractical stats such as resistance and in general Dark Souls 2 provided more of the unforgiving but ultimately rewarding gameplay that I had come to expect from the talent at From Software. On the other hand I felt that the level design of Dark Souls 2 lacked the originality and genius of previous iterations. This trend continued with the boss fights as well. It is no secret that many of the boss fights were re-hashed and in some cases almost directly ripped from Dark Souls, it left the overall product feeling rushed and soulless at times. Dark Souls 2 was by no means a blunder but I could not shake the feeling that it could have been more.
Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within. Those five words filled me with a manic eagerness that lingered with me right up to launch day. Which was only logical as Resident Evil 4 is my most beloved game of all time and the similarities between the two were undeniable. Much was promised, the return of survival horror by the godfather of the genre himself was just one such promise. Following the chaotic and explosive finale I slumped back from the edge of my seat with mixed sentiments. I found the gunplay to be a joy to handle, the atmosphere was genuinely nerve-racking and the game world and its repulsive inhabitants were designed wonderfully. The Evil Within was certainly not without its flaws. The stealth sections felt half-baked and I found the black borders to be very tiresome and redundant. My biggest gripe however was how paper-thin and dull the characters of The Evil Within were. This issue only accentuated the rather lackadaisical storytelling. The term ‘Diamond in the Rough’ fits The Evil Within perfectly, a terrific title hindered by some glaring snags.
The first season of the Walking Dead championed as my Game of the Year 2012. Telltale Games delivered an unforgettable tale of survival and sacrifice and in turn it was only natural that I had extremely high expectations for the second season. I was thrilled by Telltale’s decision to use Clementine as a leading role. I found her to be an adorable yet mature and intelligent character who I found myself emotionally invested in much like her makeshift guardian Lee Everett from the first season of The Walking Dead. Even under the lofty expectations that I, critics and fans worldwide had set, the team at Telltale Games flourished and delivered a superb tale with fantastic characters. From the gripping rhetoric between the characters to the harrowing scenarios that would each leave young Clementine more desensitized than before, The Walking Dead: Season 2 delivered an unforgettable journey marred only by the occasional graphic and audio bugs and as such I award it my Game of the Year 2014.
I would like to finish with a quick observation of some other great titles I had the chance to play last year. P.T was the brilliantly out-of-nowhere teaser for Silent Hills. The Silent Hill franchise has been on a dishearteningly mediocre streak since Silent Hill: Origins but I was absolutely astonished by what Kojima Productions delivered. P.T offers a truly terrifying experience with phenomenal visuals and simply ingenious game mechanics. If you have not yet played it, please do so as soon as possible. Continuing on the Kojima hype train, I also had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Although disappointingly short, Ground Zeroes treated me to some superb visuals and stealth gameplay not to mention more of the engrossing storytelling and characters I have come to expect from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I have only just begun playing Aliens: Isolation. Early impressions consist of panicked screams and muffled sobbing, review to follow soon. Last but certainly not least. Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 2nd was a sweet Christmas gift from my lovely lady friend. It has since taken over both our lives and I don’t know how much longer our thumbs or our controllers will survive.
So what was your game of the year 2014?
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed, and please come back again soon.

@BradBraddington

On Henry #SilentHill

It’s ok … it’s just a dream.

If there’s anything other than undeafeatable ghosts Silent Hill 4: The Room is receiving the most negative feedback on it is the main protagonist Henry Townshend. A soft-spoken introverted tenant who clearly does not stand out. Very little there is to know about him at the very first glance, even his neighbours admit they barely notice him and have got not much to say about him either. Although it is still possible to find fractions of information about his past, current life and interests with a bit of an effort and exploration throughout the game he still remains your average boy next door.

Yes, Henry is not necessarily the most exciting and colourful character. And that is okay. But what he really has been criticised for is the fact that he is not very vocal about his emotions, feelings, thoughts etc. when facing the most gruesome scenes therefore he is not believable/relatable. Well, I beg to differ. Henry has been given a hard time because he has a tendency to freeze up and act irrationally and for the most part is pretty reserved and not very expressive. Consequently, he is frequently compared to his entire opposite, the sassy outspoken Heather and recently Murphy whose reactions to traumatic surroundings for some unexplainable reason have been set as ideal patterns. It isn’t really fair since in my eyes there is no such thing as a default, primary or a better reaction to disturbing circumstances. People respond to certain elements in many different ways and the way Henry does in fact is not that uncommon which paradoxically does make him believable.