Categories
Music

Guitar Collections: Final Fantasy IV

I’ll put the embed player right here at the top for you now, so you can turn this on while you read my thoughts on this album.

You can leave this tab open and enjoy it, because the whole album is streamable without purchase if you like.

Final Fantasy IV is a special thing for me. It came along at just the right time in my life and with such a special mix of Things Done Well that it became very formative. It set the tone for pretty much ever console RPG that followed, and there are some things it’s done that haven’t yet been eclipsed.

It’s still very playable, with some of the best-designed systems in an RPG.

But what pushes it into iconic is the multi-layered set of leitmotifs used by Nobuo Uematsu to give it its musical punch. The main overworld theme, used in various settings at various times, and woven into every battle theme in subtle ways. The Theme of Love. There are themes for specific characters and themes for specific locations. For the first time I can remember, some themes have variations that play after the main theme finished its first loop.

It has a style that is all its own.

All of this is captured wonderfully in this album. I have some of the CDs that accompanied the guitar sheet music books published in Japan, but those recordings are simple reductions. Reyes’s work is full of adaptations and thematic flourishes on themes you recognize, and it’s done in a classical style that allows you to start the album and let it flow in the background.

Every theme selected for this album is well-represented and arranged and played with deftness. I can’t think of a single thing I’d eliminate, and the original track to close the album fits quite well and is a welcome addition. I am perfectly OK with the decision to skip adapting both the Prelude and Prologue themes, which have been done to death at this point when there are other, more worthy selections that have landed here, like “Golbeza, Clad in the Dark” and “Within the Giant.”

Give it a listen; buy it on Bandcamp. It’s another great album from Scarlet Moon Records, and I hope it sells well enough to encourage more albums like it, because my only regret is that there isn’t more to listen to.

Categories
Games

7 Reasons Super Metroid was an SNES Masterpiece

Jeremy Parish, writing for USgamer, on why Super Metroid is one of the greatest games of all time:

The single most important thing Super Metroid did, however, was to respect the player. That may seem an obvious feature — so essential a consideration as to not be a proper feature, in fact — but respect for the player is something in short supply in video games. Super Metroid’s trust in you permeates the game, manifesting in every possible facet of the adventure.

Super Metroid has no hand-holding; it guides players to play the proper way, but it never strongarms them. It gives adventurers the freedom to learn, but also the freedom to fail, to get lost. It reveals its working in subtle ways; for instance, players might never realize that the Super Missile can knock enemies loose from walls on their own, but you’re forced to use them for the first time to open a door near where a couple of monsters are hidden along the ceiling. That explosion, required to progress further, dislodges them. If you don’t grasp this secondary function of your new weapon, it’s not the game’s fault; it’s because you didn’t pay attention when it was giving you its discreet lesson.

It’s a great read, and if you have never played Super Metroid, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy or purchase it on the eShop for Wii or Wii U. If you want to read more about the game, Jeremy is also currently going through it on his blog, 2 Dimensions, here.

Categories
Critical Discussion Games

The Anatomy of Super Metroid

Jeremy Parish is continuing his rather interesting Anatomy of a Game series with a look at Super Metroid:

Sometimes it seems a little hard to believe that Nintendo created Super Metroid. It’s such an un-Nintendo-like game — so somber and moody, so straight-faced, so rich with narrative innovation that feels nothing at all like what we’ve come to expect from Nintendo. And yet, it’s quintessentially classic Nintendo in many ways: It leads you along with unspoken hints, gives you many tools without over-complicating things, rewards you both for being focused and for being curious, and like A Link to the Past represents such a perfect expression of a game concept that no one has managed to truly best it without building on its foundation.

There probably hasn’t been a better time to add his RSS feed to your reader. Super Metroid is perhaps the finest 2D game ever made and if you have never stopped to think about how it’s put together, you’ll likely enjoy reading along.

If you stop and think about it, on one system, in the space of a handful of years, Nintendo was arguably at its peak, with Super Mario WorldThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid all appearing on the SNES. All three games are masterworks, and if you have never experienced them, I would urge you to get your emulator on and see what the fuss is all about.