They say that in order to be a prolific video-games journalist, you must first be prolific. Well I'll become prolific when I am good and dead and so that just leaves me with quasi-sophisticated rants on gaming haberdashery. I don't really (but want to) have a cute tagline for my boyish escapades that encompass my entire sense of being and my philosophy of play. But then it came to me: my favorite cartoon characters are Milk & Cheese, seminal creations of one Evan Dorkin, and mandatory reading for anyone attesting to a love of comic books. Yes, I said "comic books." Sin City and Watchmen may be graphic novels, but M & C are comics, dammit.
This madcap energy of booze fueled destruction is the core mechanic of fun, fun that I hope to wrench from whatever video-game captures my fancy at the moment.
My first reviewed game shall be Shadow of the Colossus. I know, I know, enough praise has been written for this game but I really wanted to talk about the soundtrack. Now, the soundtrack is excellent and it's got all the rises and falls you'd want from an epic clanging together of brass and string in a sound proof room. But what makes the music videogame music and not just a passive recording of an orchestra is the timing and the implementation of the music.
I will never forget playing Shadow of the Colossus and realizing for the first time that the music I was hearing, was tied to the on-screen action. Before, I had just assumed the score was pre-installed for the colossi segments; it was only by the 4th colossus (Mr. Bird) that I realized, "hey this tuneage is timed pretty well to the fight." Here's the scenario (for those not having played it at all):
A big bird flying around a ruin half submerged in a seemingly bottomless lake cues a haunting tranquil melody; to break the calm and antagonize the feathered bastard you shoot an arrow far far FAR off into the distance; the bird notices you for the first time and begins its swoop; okay, now it's swooping, you've got time; uh...the bird is still swooping and it's only getting bigger, bigger, bigger and oh my god it's here as you jump and desperately cling to its wing rather than be dashed into smithereens.
It's at this moment the music shifts from the tranquil theme to the danger theme. Will Wander fall off and down hundreds of stories or can he hold on just a little bit longer as his grip weakens. Just about when it's too late, the bird's enormous wing levels out and you can walk the span. It's here that the music changes AGAIN into a battle motif evoking (in my opinion) the cinema music of Shostakovich. You're running along the body finding the parts to stab, holding on every now and then as the beast soars upside down trying to shake you off. When the bird finally dies, the music cuts off and a mournful melody is played. Now, the fantastic part about that sequence is that, besides the final tune, all of the music is contextual. Depending on the player's actions, the music can be reset, restarted, or looped continually. The flow of one theme into anothe is so smooth yet controlled by the player. That's a great argument for games as art, right there. I'm done gushing, I know people really like bad game slamming so there's always...
Remember kids, gin makes a man mean...and Ebay bid on uh...crappy Nes titles.