Friday, March 18, 2011

SuperPhillip's Favorite Anime Themes - Round Three

It's Friday here at SuperPhillip Central, and what better way to celebrate than with my favorite anime themes? That's a rhetorical question, so you don't have to answer that. On the lineup tonight, we have music from Macross Frontier, Inuyasha, and Sailor Moon, to name a few. Let's get to the wonderful music!

Volume 11: Infinity (Macross Frontier)

From Macross Frontier, comes an anime theme song in the line of Infiinity, a very catchy theme composed by Yoko Kanno. The artist listed is Sheryl Norm starring May'n. I assume either Sheryl Norm or May'n is the character in the anime, and the other is the actual singer of the song in reality. Regardless, Infinity is an intensely powerful theme, don't you agree? Get used to seeing Yoko Kanno on this list as I have stated in the very first volume, she is the queen of music composition in my humble and biased opinion.



Volume 12: Change the World (Inuyasha)

Now some of you might be anal about this, and you know what? That's okay. Perhaps it's proper to call it "InuYasha' with the capital Y. Regardless, I did not like this anime. When it premiered on [adult swim], I gave it the ten episode chance. It did not hook me. The relationship between the ever-annoying Kagome and Inuyasha did nothing for me. Nor did the band of misfits that joined the pair. Nonetheless, this first opening theme for the anime, Change the World, was performed by the J-rock band, V8. Not to be confused with the gross vegetable juice of the same name. I'm going off in a tangent here, and I apologize. The song is a happy rock song with some cool guitar riffs.



Volume 13: Dance of Curse (Vision of Escaflowne)


Dance of Curse is a song featuring a haunting choir, superb vocals, and some stirring strings to go with it all. It truly is a powerful theme most definitely heard during an intense mecha battle between Escaflowne (the hero mecha) and an unfortunate opponent. Yoko Kanno once again shows her range from the jazz, funk, and soul of Cowboy Bebop to the impressive orchestral arrangements of this soundtrack. I know what you putzes are thinking-- how can you see well with your head so far up Mrs. Kanno's ass? That may be a valid question, but there's no doubting the musical prowess found in her work.



Volume 14: Reckless Fire (S-cry-ed)

S-cry-ed starred Kazuma, a character who was an outcast in society, not fit for the rich types. With his powerful arm, he could take it to the best of them. Reckless Fire is the ending theme of the S-cry-ed anime series which was on [adult swim] for a short stay. Then they opted to relegate anime to Saturday nights only while increasing their lineup of unfunny, cheaply-made shows... oh, an Seth McFarlane abominations. Nonetheless, the anime is highly recommended from yours truly if you're a fan of a fast-paced, high-octane anime.



Volume 15: Atashi Datte Futsuu no Onnaoko (Sailor Moon)

Sailor Moon is a guilty pleasure of mine. I originally saw the DIC production on Cartoon Network when it was on Toonami (before Cartoon Network stupidly killed it along with a good chunk of their ratings). Nonetheless, the adventures of a blossoming young girl, a klutz, a bad student, but a superhero all the while. Sure, it took some getting used to-- getting into her new-found powers and all, but once she did, Sailor Moon shined. Then there was the love affair with the charming and handsome, Prince Darien a.k.a. Tuxedo Mask. A fun show to watch through all the arcs save for the final that was not shown in America since it had lesbians. Go figure.



That does it for round three of SuperPhillip's Favorite Anime Themes. What a wild and crazy week this has been-- full of musical treasures and delights! Until the VGMs come roaring your way on Monday, have a great weekend, folks!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top Five Composers

Music continues to be the focus of this week. We've been through my favorite VGMs, and we've pitted game soundtrack against game soundtrack in the SPC Showdown. Now I'd like to take the time to do a top five list of my favorite composers of all time. These can be composers of any genre whether it be rock, classical, jazz, and more, and these can be in games, movies, anime, or for concert performance. I'm sure you'll have some words to say to my choices, so as always let me know what you think in the comments section. I say that ahead of time this go around.

5) Yasunori Mitsuda



Famed Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Xenogears composer, Yasunori Mitsuda is an underrated composer in my opinion. He doesn't get enough credit-- and he already gets a lot of credit! His music moves me in ways that I didn't think was possible by sound, but he has done it time and time again with his magical melodies and great atmospheric tunes. These examples help support my claim as you'll probably agree.


4) Motoi Sakuraba



Motoi Sakuraba has an impressive roster of soundtracks under his metaphorical belt. From Star Ocean to Valkyrie Profile to Camelot's sports titles to Tales of Symphonia and Vesperia, his reach goes above and beyond most composers. Two of my favorite soundtracks come from him-- Star Ocean: The Second Story and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. It's his musical style that I really admire. Take a gander at the following examples to experience the magic of Motoi yourself.


3) John Williams


Known as the master when it comes to motion picture music composition, John Williams' resume is a lengthy and highly-respectable one. There's the Star Wars saga, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Home Alone, and countless other memorable masterpieces. His pension for creating iconic themes for movies is topped by no other, and hopefully the following examples prove why.


2) Nobuo Uematsu


The king of video game music composition, Nobuo Uematsu is most famously known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. He has since left Square-Enix to form him company where he most recently works with Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi on various Mistwalker-related projects like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and the Last Story. Hear some of his works with the following examples.


1) Yoko Kanno


The queen of music composition, I watch certain anime only because she composed the music for it. Otherwise I would have never given Wolf's Rain or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex any sort of chance. My first run-in with Mrs. Kanno came during Cowboy Bebop when it originally premiered on Adult Swim, back when it was on Sunday nights. I'm taking the O.G. Adult Swim with "everybody out of the pool" as the tagline. Through her ability to compose music from various genres whether it be rock, rap, jazz, hip-hop, pop, heavy metal, or whatever else you can think up, Yoko Kanno reigns supreme. Here's but a sampling of her work.

Tank!
Gravity
Zero Signal

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That's it. There's another list put out to pasture. Who are your favorite composers? Perhaps you truly like less modern composers and like a little Bach or Mozart? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SPC Showdown - 3/16/2011

We've had three SPC Showdowns in the past, and it's grown to be a popular feature here on SuperPhillip Central. This time around we're taking a musical approach to the Showdowns with some very tumultuous tossups. We're pitting soundtrack against soundtrack in this our fourth SPC Showdown segment, so sit back, enjoy the ride, and let's get it on.


Kumi Tanioka's magnum opus takes on Hidenori Iwasaki's musical powerhouse in our first SPC Showdown. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles featured music played with old time instruments from celtic flutes to majestic lutes. Here's a sampling of just some of the magical tunes heard in the very first Crystal Chronicle-monikered title of the Final Fantasy series:

Magic is Everything
Shudder, Monster
When the Northern Sky is Clear

Meanwhile, the Crystal Bearers is the most recent entry in the Crystal Chronicles series, and it was released at the tale end of 2009, after X-mas. It used more traditional instruments but retained the caliber and quality the Final Fantasy series is known for. Even a few original Crystal Chronicles tracks were remixed for this game's ballroom sequence.

Lett Highlands
Selkie Guild
Neighborhood Tinkerer

Winner: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles


Next up is a pair of soundtracks composed by the same composers, Mahito Yakota and Koji Kondo. Mahito Yakota composed the majority of tracks while Koji Kondo penned just a few on each soundtrack. Which soundtrack reigns supreme? While Super Mario Galaxy 2 has more music, does that make it the better soundtrack? Let's compare samples.

Super Mario Galaxy 1:
Egg Planet
Wind Garden
Floater Land

Super Mario Galaxy 2:
Throwback Galaxy
Melty Monster Galaxy
Bowser Jr.'s Fiery Flotilla

Winner: Super Mario Galaxy 2


Two soundtracks for the latest mainline Final Fantasy games is what we have here in this showdown. One is composed by Hitoshi Sakamoto who co-wrote one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time in Final Fantasy Tactics. It makes sense that this composer writes another soundtrack for a game based in the world of Ivalice.

The other is by Masashi Hamazu, a relative unknown in the video game music composition world. The game itself was touted as being too linear and simple. The compositions heard in the following samples are anything but. Can Mr. Hamazu's Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack pull off the upset?

Blinded by Light
Pulse de Chocobo
Desperate Struggle

Winner: Final Fantasy XIII


Next up we have two soundtracks from the same series by the same composer in Motoi Sakuraba's Star Ocean: The Second Story and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time soundtracks. Which has the most memorable music?

Star Ocean: The Second Story:
Shower of Blossoms
Theme of RENA
We Form in Crystals

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time:
Cutting Edge of Notion
Expiration
Mission to the Deep Space

Winner: Star Ocean: The Second Story


The final battle on this installment of the SPC Showdown pits two golf game soundtracks against one another. Both were composed by the same composer in Motoi Sakuraba. Which will come out on top and under par?

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour:
Lakitu Valley
Cheep Cheep Falls
Peach's Castle Grounds

We Love Golf!:
Camelot Links G.C.
Tournament 2
Skull Island Short Course

Winner: Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

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That concludes this beatdown of video games. This SPC Showdown is complete. What would be your outcomes in these various matches? Let me know in the comments section. They're always appreciated.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

de Blob 2 (PS3, 360, Wii) Review

de Blob was a popular game when it hit the Wii system in 2008. Developed by Blue Tongue, it was a fun romp. Now the sequel is out, and I have been anticipating it highly. I believe this is also the first game published under the Syfy Kids moniker. Regardless, I played this game on the Wii, and the screens posted throughout the review are from the PS3 version (and the Z-jump one is from the Wii version). Enjoy.

de Color Revolution is ON!


When it released back in 2008 in North America, de Blob was and still is a Wii-exclusive affair, garnering solid reviews and great sales. The game was based on an indie project and expanded into a full feature-length video game. Fast-forward to 2011 and de Blob's color revolution has expanded to the HD consoles, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, as well as being on the Wii. This time the experience is more streamlined, but does it make for an illuminating experience?

Prisma City is under attack by a malevolent group of color-hating tyrants known as INKT. They dislike music and they particularly don't like color. Led by the villain of the first de Blob, Comrade Black, INKT is back, stronger, and more menacing than ever. Stripping away color and sound in various areas of Prisma City, it is the job and duty of one life-loving blob to colorize the city, kick INKT's collective butt out, and save the day just like he did back in 2008. There are eleven levels in de Blob 2, and each one starts out with a CG cutscene that even the coldest of hearts cannot help but smile or chuckle at. As the level loads, you have the luxury of watching a comic book-paneled mission briefing unravel before your very eyes. There's intelligible dialogue in the form of gibberish a la Banjo-Kazooie for all characters as they speak to you. While the story and characters may seem too whimsical for the chainsaw gun-revving Gears of War and Call of Duty crowd, most everyone will find something to like.

It's de Blob's world-- we all just live in it.

de Blob had players coloring buildings, city blocks, trees, and billboards in Blob's quest to vanquish the evil INKT corporation and freeing the townspeople from their building prisons. This time around things are more mission-oriented. There's still painting city blocks to free Graydians, the helpless INKT puppets, sapped of their color, but now there's missions to follow. Even bringing back color to various venues has changed. In the previous game, all you needed to do was be a certain color and have enough paint points. Now you need to have de Blob be a certain color, have enough paint points, and venture through a 2D side-scrolling maze of switches, water geysers, elevators, and enemies on your quest to restore color to the building.

New to the series, 2D platforming areas.

Paint points are both the health and well-being of de Blob. On one hand you need and use up paint points for painting buildings and destroying enemies and crates, each enemy needing a set amount of paint points in order for them to keel over and perish. On the other hand, by using up your paint points, you make yourself vulnerable to enemy attacks. Damage is taken by de Blob if he falls in black ink, if he is burnt by a fire vent, or if he's attacked by an enemy. If you have a low enough number of paint points and they hit zero, it's a life lost. Whatever current challenge you're on will restart from the beginning. This part of the game is infuriating as there are no mid-mission checkpoints. Some missions will last you up to twenty minutes to complete. Fail at the end by losing all your paint points, and you have to redo all of those twenty minutes. Never has a game aimed at kids been more infuriating.

There's a variety of missions to partake in that relate to the story. Some involve restoring color to a particular locale, coloring a set of buildings different colors in a strict colorized fashion, while others have de Blob destroying a group of enemies, or hitting colored buttons (de Blob needs to be the color of the button in order for him to activate it). This is all the while you're on the clock. If the game clock reaches zero, you get a game over. Delay the clock by rescuing a group of Graydians, finish story missions, or collect timer icons strewn across the level.

de Blob can change color in the blink of an eye either by smashing a Paintbot or touching a pool of paint. If he enters the water, he becomes clear, and enemies won't give him a second glance. As soon as he paints himself a color, look out because danger is on its way. If de Blob gets covered in ink, his paint points will slowly trickle down. Enter water to wash off the evil ink. Our hero can also mix colors. In this game he can turn red, blue, and yellow easily. To become green, purple, and brown, he'll have to mix colors by smashing the correct Paintbot. For instance, to become green, de Blob will have to smash two Paintbots-- a blue and a yellow one.

Become purple by smashing a blue and red Paintbot.

In addition to mixing colors, the titular character of this game has the ability to utilize power-ups in special cases. There's a myriad of them, and they're all new and exclusive to de Blob 2. The Transform engine, when engaged, transforms a good-sized chunk of the level into a colorful display, the Supercharge power-up allows de Blob's charge ability to be used without using up any paint points, and the Rainbow power-up covers de Blob in a rainbow sheen giving him unlimited paint and is automatically the right color to paint buildings, defeat enemies, or stomp switches of a particular color. Regen gives de Blob paint points that increase at a constant pace while the Wrecking Ball rolls over enemies, can roll up magnetized walls, and sink underwater. There's plenty of other power-ups to pick up, but that's just a small taste of what you can find in de Blob 2.

After all the story missions are completed in a given level, the time counter disappears, allowing you to freely explore the level and take on side-missions. These are simple challenges that include painting all of the buildings in a given district, taking down leftover INKT members, and repainting INKT billboards. At this time you can also collect any missing pickups not yet collected including gallery photos, color atoms that add to your overall score, and inspiration bulbs which are the currency of de Blob 2 in which you can spend to increase your maximum paint points, lives, and lower the amount of paint points it takes to use your charge move.

Upon exiting a level, you're ranked on your performance from C to rank S. By collecting color atoms, you're ranked upon the amount collected. This screen also shows your progress in reviving all of the trees in a certain level, freeing all of the trapped Graydians, and destroying all crates. Trophy and achievement-hunters will want to score an S-rank in each of the game's eleven total levels as well as paint every possible inch of each level.

Levels devoid of color turn into masterpieces thanks to de Blob.

If you're feeling lonely and wanting something similar to a multiplayer mode, there's always the playable Pinky character, de Blob's robotic sidekick to play as. In true Super Mario Galaxy action, one player can control de Blob while the other points at the screen, using up paint points to strike down foes, collect colors, and destroy crates for de Blob. Pinky can even de-ink an inked Blob. Then there's Blob Party mode where two players compete to garner the most color atoms by completing missions in a timely fashion. While nice to have, Blob Party is an interesting excursion for the first time and first time only. It's not that fun, sadly.

Controlling de Blob is easier as ever as you now jump with a button instead of striking the controller upwards. de Blob can perform all sorts of moves from wall jumps to Z-jumps where de Blob leaps from Z-platform to Z-platform to jump along long distances in a matter of seconds. Wall-jumping requires a bit of finesse as de Blob can only stick to a wall for a limited amount of time. He can also only move horizontally along a wall. In the Wii version, the camera is controlled with the d-pad, and this control scheme feels most comfortable to me. Then again, I am most partial to the Wii remote and nunchuk control scheme as I can lay my hands on my knees and stretch my arms out.

Make your daddy wanna "Jump, Jump"!

The differences between Wii, PS3, and 360 versions are somewhat significant. I would surmise that the PlayStation 3 version is the best version. It's also ten dollars more expensive than the Wii version, but we pay for quality, I guess. It supports the PlayStation Move peripheral, HD, as well as 3D: a techie's trifecta. The 360 version also supports HD, obviously, but it's also fifty bucks while the Wii version is only forty. All-in-all, I'd rank them as PS3 > Wii > 360. Visually, no matter what console you purchase this game on, you'll get a vibrant-looking game. Yes, there's some draw distance issues on Wii, but I'm giving the weaker system a reprieve here. It's also the cheapest of the three versions.

de Blob 2 changes things up enough and is affordable enough that it anyone-- adult or child-- can enjoy this game. The game does raise the stakes in the last couple levels almost to the point of being a difficulty spike, and there are no mid-mission checkpoints (though there are mid-level checkpoints after each completed challenge), but if you can let those faults go, then you're in for one side-splitting adventure starring an amorphous blob. How many times can you say you've played a game like that before?

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Batman: Arkham City (PS3, 360) New Trailer

A new game trailer for the upcoming Batman: Arkham City has been revealed via IGN. It shows off Catwoman, Two Face, and yes, the Joker is back in all his deformed glory. Watch as Batman seamlessly takes out ruthless villains, zipline and swing through the city, and perform other feats of awesome. Batman: Arkham City releases this October for the PS3 and 360.



Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition North American Commercial

This has made the rounds on the interwebs, and now it has hadouken'd itself here on SuperPhillip Central. It's the North American advertisement for Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. A mouthful of a title, but it appears to be the best out of the launch lineup bunch. Remember that the first print run will have a 3D cover, so get to buying as that is sure to be a collector's item!



Monday, March 14, 2011

First Nintendo 3DS North American Advertisement

The North American launch of the Nintendo 3DS is fast approaching with it just being a couple of weeks away. Perhaps you've had the chance to try it out at your local Best Buy? This commercial features Steel Diver, the augmented-reality games, and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. It all adds up to one appealing ad that doesn't rely on an increasingly annoying personality who is no longer funny (i.e. Kevin Butler from Sony's commercials).



SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Winter's Grasp Edition

Even though the official start to spring is in but a week or two, snow is on the ground here in Central City. That won't stop me from posting my favorite VGMs, however, rest assured! This week's lineup includes some new-school and old-school classics from Sonic Colors, Breath of Fire, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Let's do it to it!

v676. Sonic Colors - Asteroid Coaster Act 3


We've heard Act 1 of this theme back in VGM 634. Now we listen to a more intense version of said theme in Asteroid Coaster Act 3. In Sonic Colors, each zone had six acts. Some were long levels that longtime Sonic fans were accustomed to, while others were short, puzzle-like levels. You could literally beat one of these aforementioned acts in less than a minute if your wheels were really burning. Sonic Colors marked a turning point in the 3D Sonic games. It was unarguably good. The same can't be said about past efforts. Will Sonic Team keep this streak of great games up? Knowing Sonic Team, no.



v677. Star Fox 64 - Zoness

Zoness was an industrial planet covered with an ocean of green water. You had to complete the annoying Aquas in order to take on the green rapids and mechanical machinery of Zoness. The soundtrack of Star Fox 64 seems like an orchestral score. It isn't actually orchestral, obviously, but it's a very cinematic soundtrack-- like a movie. Star Fox Assault would take that cinematic experience a step further by introducing actual orchestral music with remakes of preexisting themes including Katina, Meteo, and Sector Y. Get ready for a second-helping of Star Fox 64 when it hits the 3DS some time this summer.



v678. The World Ends With You - Give Me All Your Love

What a selfish bitch. The World Ends With You was a unique DS JRPG where you battled on both screens at once. The story featured some truly annoying characters that you just wanted to strangle from the emo, Neku, to the constant douche, Joshua. None of that stopped me from completing the game. By using pins that unleashed attacks by certain stylus gestures, you could attack foes both big and small. Battles were not random. You got to choose which batch of baddies you wanted to battle. All-in-all, a great RPG in a stale genre. To get back to the song, Give Me All Your Love is a j-pop styled theme.



v679. Breath of Fire - Sara

Sara is the sad theme played whenever something somber happens during the game such as the aftermath of the beginning town being set ablaze by the Dark Dragons, the titular theme character dying in battle with her brother, or Alan and the once-evil Cerl turning into children thanks to the power of the TimeKey. If any of those are considered spoliers, tough. It's a twenty-something year-old game. You should have played it by now. Regardless, this theme as a child brought tears to my face. Perhaps it was the combination of the forlorn tune and the game events.



v680. Donkey Kong Country Returns - Treetop Rock Returns

Treetop Rock was a theme heard in the treetop levels featuring barrel cannons and Kremlings alike. The returns theme is a remixed version of the theme by Dave Wise. What did you think about Donkey Kong Country Returns? Did you think waggle to roll was a hindrance, or did it not bother you? For me, I only disliked the rocket barrel levels, and even then, those were a blast! Pardon the pun. Even the new Tiki tribe was a refreshing take on the franchise. Here's hoping a second Returns game is in the works. I'm down for it, and hopefully the masterful Retro Studios is, too.



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As quickly has winter has gone by, the VGMs, too, have disappeared. They return, however, next week with five new themes for your listening and viewing pleasure. If you're interested in more musical goodness, check out my Youtube channel, SuperPhillip32! Until then, adieu!

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