AO’s OST Presents: Captivating Cult Classics

Alliteration is dope.

JSRF: Jet Set Radio Future

A re-imagining of Jet Grind Radio, Jet Set Radio Future depicts a version of Tokyo in which a mega enterprise corporation known as the Rokkaku Group oppresses the city's inhabitants by taking away the freedom of speech and expression. The setting of developer Smilebit's cult classic enhances every aspect of the game by making each component a tool of resistance! From the incredible cel-shaded art style to the gameplay itself that has you painting graffiti and knocking over police, everything you see and do in Tokyo-to is full of expression. Of course, this also applies to everything you hear. Take "Birthday Cake" by Cibo Matto:

(Fun fact: Cibo Matto founding member Miho Hatori provided the voice of Noodle for the virtual band Gorillaz)

Widely acclaimed for its unique music style, the soundtrack of Jet Set Radio Future features a number of unusual artists not often heard in the mainstream, including BS 2000 and The Latch Brothers, the respective side projects of Beastie Boys members Adrock and Mike D. Moreover, by combining the musical genres of Rock, Funk, Hip Hop, EDM, Jazz, and J-Pop, the soundtrack manages to be an eclectic, energetic, and multicultural display of defiance and revolution. Of the full 30 tracks heard in-game, a handful are remixes of composer Hideki Naganuma's original songs found on Jet Grind Radio. By re-imagining songs like "Let Mom Sleep" and "Humming the Bassline," much like the game itself, the quality of this soundtrack is further enhanced by breathing new life into old fan favorites.

The majority of songs on the soundtrack have minimalistic lyrics, but this proves not to be a detriment. Tracks like "I Love Love You (Love Love Super Dimension Mix)" and "The Concept of Love" are easily some of the best songs from Jet Set Radio Future and, along with tracks like "Aisle 10 (Hello Allison)" and "Funky Dealer," among the most recognizable. This game comes highly recommended, especially since a number of songs don't appear on the official soundtrack CD. One such example and a personal favorite is "Rockin' The Mic (The Latch Brothers Remix)" by The Prunes:


Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Persona is the largest and most popular spin-off from the Shin Megami Tensei series and, while both have spawned multiple cult classics, Persona 4 is one of the top ranked games of the entire franchise. Taking place in the fictional Japanese countryside of Inaba, and inspired by the work of mystery novelists, developer Atlus' fifth installment of this series revolves around a group of students trying to investigate a series of murders related to the rumored "Midnight Channel." The soundtrack worked on simultaneously with the development of the game's story and spoken dialogue, features an impressive range of emotion and descriptive lyrics. The theme song "Pursuing My True Self" is meant to reflect the characters' internal conflicts:

Guitarist Shoji Meguro primarily composed, arranged, and produced the original score of Persona 4, with lyrics written by Reiko Tanaka and vocals by Shihoko Hirata. According to him, songs like "Reach Out to the Truth" were intentionally used during battle sequences to emphasize the characters' inner strengths and ability to overcome their struggles. A "Reincarnation" album featuring full-length cuts of the game's vocal tracks and extended mixes of instrumentals made it to the top of Billboard's Japan Top Albums chart! While familiar songs like "Heartbeat, Heartbreak" and "Your Affection" get absolutely breathtaking remixes, "Aria of the Soul," a recurring tune throughout the series, has remained virtually unchanged. This is because Meguro believes "the shape of the song had been well-defined."

The music of this series is so popular that an annual "Persona Music Live" concert has been held each year since the release of Persona 4 in 2008. There's just something about a live performance that is just as good if not better than the recorded track that makes you appreciate the art and music that much more. To me, it sounds just like this aptly named track. "Heaven:"

AO’s OST Presents: The Iconic Sound of 90s Video Games

Let's get right to it.

Donkey Kong Country

Known as Super Donkey Kong in Japan, Donkey Kong Country was published by Nintendo in 1994 for the SNES and re-released on 6 other consoles over a span of 22 years. Owing more than a modicum of its success to composer David Wise, developer Rare's redesign of creator Shigeru Miyamoto's original character is the third best-selling SNES game of all time.

The sounds of natural environments like jungles, oceans, caves, and other areas that appear in the game, mixed with the rhythmic support of percussions, combine to form the atmospheric music that this game is famous for. "Cave Dweller Concert," a somber tune, really takes advantage of this technique by using something as simple as the sound of water droplets hitting the floor and the echoes they make to create an auditory experience that enhances your immersion. Moreover, the melodic track "Aquatic Ambiance" sounds like something you'd hear during a radio station's Quiet Storm format, and is my favorite track on the OST next to the Donkey Kong Country theme itself! However, should you want one song that encompasses all the creative genius of this soundtrack, look no further than "DK Island Swing":

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog has been a household name since the early 90s. This bestselling Sega franchise has spawned a plethora of video games, with its latest release being as recent as last year. Many well-known musicians, from Bowling for Soup to Megadeth and even the King of Pop himself, have contributed to the series' musical composition. However, my favorite soundtrack in the franchise comes courtesy of a J-Pop record producer named Masato Nakamura!

The music of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was designed from the atmosphere and images of the game's stages and treated like a film score. Nakamura believes that his freedom over the creation of the soundtrack is what allowed him to create "such melodic tunes and unusual rhythm patterns." One such example and a perfect one if you ask me is the music of the "Mystic Cave Zone." Moreover, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 included multiplayer gameplay that came with alternate music for some of the playable zones. The second version of "Mystic Cave Zone" is both alike and completely different from the first. Still, both tracks are absolutely brilliant! While I think the more dynamic songs at the end of the game are best, starting with the calming confidence of the "Sky Chase Zone" and continuing until the end of the game, one of the most recognizable songs of the entire franchise comes from the "Chemical Plant Zone" early on:

PaRappa the Rapper

Who could forget the mid-90s rhythm game, published by Sony, that defined an entire genre? If we're gonna talk music in video games, one game has certainly earned its place in the discussion. Taking off the rose-tinted glasses, PaRappa the Rapper still manages to be a video game icon despite being a bad game, all thanks to the music.

The full soundtrack is 44 tracks long. However, most people know it for the songs featured throughout each of the game's six stages. Each song being a mixture of two or more genres: Hip Hop, Pop, R&B, and Jazz. Undoubtedly, the most famous of these being "Chop Chop Master Onion's RAP." Yet, despite being called a rap, a Pop musician turned Game Developer, Masaya Matsuura says that only the music of the final stage, titled "Live Rap w/ MC. King Kong Mushi," is close to being considered Rap. The catchiness of this soundtrack can not be overstated, and that's certainly not a bad thing when you find yourself failing repeatedly on a stage and having to play it over again. I'm, surprisingly, still not sick of "Prince Fleaswallow's Rap." There are even a couple full-length songs not included in the main six stages. If fans of PaRappa the Rapper aren't familiar with the song "Funny Love," please listen to it and discover a new reason to love a classic:

Big Sean caters to gamers with Jump Out The Window video

For a few months now Big Sean and his creative crew delivered vibrant eye-catching visuals for singles from his I Decided Album that dropped back in February. They've found a way to feed our imaginative spirit and create it's own dimensions with every video thus far. The Sean-don started May off with releasing two videos back to back. One for The Light and the other, Jump Out The Window, which aired last night shortly after the 2017 MTV Music Awards where he also performed the song. After something so heartfelt and unfortunately relatable (I cried watching The Light, no lie), Jump out the Window reminds most of us of classic NSE gaming. Sort of "lightened the mood" if you will, with one of the most iconic games of them all, Super Mario! One of our beloved love stories between Mario & Peach (*Luigi & Peach for the game conspiracy theorist) is being channeled in this video and I'm here for it! Enjoy!

Dark Souls: Praise The Sun

“A soul of water,
A soul of stone.
A soul by name,
A soul unknown.

The hours unmake
Our flesh, our bone.
The soul is all;
And all alone.”

When I first read this poem in Clive Barker’s Abarat, the first game in the Dark Souls trilogy was almost a decade away from being made. Yet, it seems so appropriate for summing up the theme of the series.

The Furtive Pygmy discovers the Dark Soul

In the Age of Ancients, when the world was unformed and shrouded by gray fog, Fire came and brought disparity. Then, from the Dark, They rose and found the Souls of Lords within the Flame. Nito, First of the Undead claimed the Soul of Death. The Witch of Izalith, eventual Mother of Demons, claimed the Soul of Life. Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight, claimed the Soul of Light and challenged the everlasting dragons who ruled the land. Thus, when the dragons were no more, began the Age of Fire.

As the embers fade, as all Fire must, Man bears the Curse of the Undead. Descendants of the Furtive Pygmy, the First Human who claimed the Dark Soul, are fated to resurrect upon death. Branded with the Darksign, symbol of the curse, amongst them are those tasked with the Linking of the First Flame and extending the Age of Fire; the Age of the Gods. For the living will rot and turn Hollow if their life loses its purpose; a fate worse than death. However, should the Chosen Undead abandon the First Flame or take it for himself, an Age of Dark will be ushered in and this will all play out again. The cycle of Light and Dark will forever repeat itself. For, as the world ends, time is convoluted and all lands converge upon themselves. All that can remain is the power of Souls. Continue Reading

Overwatch: A year in the service

Season 4 is underway and the one-year anniversary for one of the most celebrated games of 2016 is quickly approaching. Overwatch has entered the fray of gaming and has made A LOT of noise offering a product that’s fun enough for casuals, and deep enough for the hardcore gaming community.

Overwatch, created by the OG developer Blizzard, is a competitive shooter that pits two teams of six against each other in objective-based game modes. It has a huge variety of characters to choose from ranging from high attack, tank, and support. The stages are lush and vibrant with deep detail and are set in futuristic versions of real cities around the world. These two combinations toppled with the short but very fun game modes deliver an experience that’s very enjoyable from a casual to a competitive level, which is rare in shooters these days.

One of the biggest driving points in Overwatch is its vast selection of characters with different skills, moves, and personalities to choose from. Whether it’s the time-jumping Tracer, that uses two close range submachine guns, or the Mammoth sized armor-clad Reinhardt, that uses a rocket-propelled hammer to smash his foes, each character has a full set of moves that make each engagement in battle that more fun. Each character fills the standard roles we’ve seen, being Attack, Defense, Tank, or Support. It’s important to know how to use at least one of these characters from each group so your team is well-rounded, thus giving you a better chance at winning the match.

The stages are designed with the game types in mind with areas large and spacious enough to host control and capture points, and routes lined with alternative passages for quick ways to escape or chase down an enemy, the stages are built with purpose while also displaying various countries around the world with very futuristic themes. Whether it’s finding a backdoor to flank ya enemy in Egypt or marching a forward winding path weaving through buildings marching an objective in Beijing, the areas around you feel spaced enough for all matters of combat. You could engage a person one second in a narrow hallway and the next would be in a hanger bay and it all feels natural and within the game and city, you’re in. Continue Reading

For Honor : A Song of War

Guns. Friends. Online. This is usually the formula for having a successful multiplayer online experience. Very few games allow us to share the glory of an up close and personal steel to steel battles without it being relegated to an RPG game add-on or side scrolling hack and slash adventure. For Honor fills this void offering a true PVP experience featuring the SAMURAI, VIKINGS, AND KNIGHTS!!!

For Honor is set in a period where all 3 factions are in a warring state. For storyline purposes, this conflict is antagonized by the mysterious woman in black armor, Apollyon. Her motive is to keep the gears of war moving, so this game centers around this conflict amongst the warring clans. The matches online are  4V4 so naturally, I enlisted the aid of my 3 fellow brothers in arms about their personal experience after about a week or so of us in thick of war. These are their stories…(And Gamertags)

Q (QtheUsurper)

The thing that makes For Honor the most enjoyable, for me, is being able to wage good ol medieval war with my friends. There are obviously tons of multiplayer war games but the time frame and class options are near a perfect fit for the group of people I play with. A variety of character typing allows us to create warriors that are clear reflections of how we are and on the battlefield, the real life chemistry comes through. Especially in modes like Dominion where I spend a lot of time darting around the field capturing bases and reviving the fallen. To me, that is a direct translation to how I operate in the real world. I’m out here jugging these moves for the squad and if somebody falls down, I’m on the way to scoop them up without hesitation. The only thing I’ve seen bring us this close, gaming wise, is Pokemon but the war factor gives it more edge.  My comrades and I running amok in a Skyrim-esp world (minus the magic and dragons) is a for sure winner with me. Continue Reading