Answering Big Questions: A Favourite Game for Every Year of My Existence

Another day, another edition of Games with Coffee! This one’s brought to you by the Mage who wields magics of black and white, wears red all over and is a shining paragon of good, long-form video game journalism – The Well-Red Mage!

His Mageliness (I’m fully aware that’s not a word) of the Well-Red persuasion has asked in a recent post: “What is your favourite game for every year you’ve been alive?”

An excellent question, one that I’m more than willing to answer! And because I’m actually overdue for a music post as well, I’ll even throw in a favourite song/remix, just to spice things up!

We begin this rollercoaster almost 31 years ago (based on North American release dates) on the year of my birth, 1987:


December 1987: Mega Man (NES)

Favourite song: Cut Man’s Theme

Original Mega Man was HARD! I only got around to playing it in my twenties, but wow, I found it difficult. I particularly hated the Yellow Devil.

So. Much. Hate…

What I liked the most was the music, particularly Cut Man’s Theme! Check out this fun Western-like remix in which Cut Man gets ROASTED! It’s quite enjoyable:


December 1, 1988: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Favourite song: Dungeon Theme

OK, this is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite NES game! It was tough, but man I was obsessed with this title for years, until I beat it in my late teens. I still continue to play it to this day on either the Zelda compilation for the GameCube or through my Retropie. Even though it’s considered the black sheep of the series, it holds a special place in my heart.

The dungeon theme from this game is the most ubiquitous, having been featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee and onwards. I got here, like, a totally tubular surfer version of the theme, dudes. It’s pretty rad.


June 1989: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Favourite song: Stage 2 – The Hudson River

I loved the Ninja Turtles! The first of three TMNT games for the NES, it was both unique and difficult, but still so much fun! Donatello was so overpowered…

Fun fact: the Konami code totally works for this game!

The Hudson River level was arguably where the game’s difficulty level skyrockets. The music, however, is really chill and nice to listen to. Check out chiptune remix of this awesome (but super hard) level!


February 12, 1990: Super Mario Bros 3

Favourite song: World 7 – Pipe Land

Honestly, this post can sum up how much I love this game. It was the first video game I have ever owned as a kid!

Here’s an awesome mix of the World 7 map theme to listen to! It’s a peppy and fun EDM track!


June 23, 1991: Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)

Favourite song: Marble Zone

Ah, my good friend Sonic. He was one of my many heroes that I looked up to as a kid. This was the game that stated it all. Since then, Sonic’s had further successes in gaming, cartoons and comics and has become a household name across the world, thanks to his blistering fast speed, his strong sense of justice and his snarky, devil-may-care attitude.

Out of all the music from the Sonic series, my absolute favorite is the Marble Zone. I have no idea why I love it so, but alas I do. Here’s a mix that I’ve recently gotten into; it’s a jazzy, funky rendition of the theme!


November 21, 1992: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)

Favourite song: Chemical Plant

And back again with some more Sonic! This one introduced Tails, Sonic’s two-tailed sidekick, the seventh Chaos Emerald and the Super Sonic mechanic. This was the first Sonic game I’ve ever played and, by far, my favourite of the retro Sonic games.

Chemical Plant was one of the more creative stages of the series with a killer theme to boot! The remastered version from Sonic Mania by Tee Lopes is my go-to favourite out of all versions of the level’s theme.


March 1993: Star Fox (SNES)

Favourite song: Fortuna

Star Fox, the pseudo-3D, on-rails starcraft shooter starring the team of the same name blasted its way into our screens in 1993. I really adore this game – I spent many a night trying to clear the first (and easiest) course as a kid, to no avail.

However, I did attempt the second course and really enjoyed the theme music for Fortuna. The One-Ups covered this theme in their signature sound; it’s smooth and funky, which I hope you enjoy as much as I did!


January 1994: Mega Man X

Favourite song: Opening Stage – Highway

1994 was a hard one – So many good games came out that year! Ultimately, Mega Man X, released in January of 1994, won in the end, simply because the character is so close to my heart, which I talk about here.

The opening stage music sets the tone of the game and the series itself. It’s gritty and tense, underscoring how grave the situation is, but is full of energy, with a great, pumping tempo and an excellent beat. It’s a stark difference to more peppy and happy tunes in the original Mega Man series. Featured here is an electronica/DnB mix with a jazzy saxophone added in, just to give it some flavour. It’s awesome!


August 11, 1995: Chrono Trigger

Favourite song (besides Corridors of Time): Chrono Trigger

One of the all-time greats, Chrono Trigger, the memorable, time-travelling RPG was released in this year. I don’t need to explain how amazing this game is; it’s well-documented. It’s even given a special distinction as one of the games featured on the AmbiGaming blog for the “Year of the RPG.” You can check out my contribution to this event here.

Now, I’m not going to share yet another Corridors of Time remix (because, while it’s an AMAZING track and my personal favourite, honestly it’s been remixed by everyone and their dog); instead, I’ll go to my next favourite: Crono’s theme from Chrono Trigger! This mix is a britpop-inspired, gorgeous version of the main theme; check it out!


September 9, 1996: Crash Bandicoot

Favourite Song – Title Theme/N.Sanity Beach

Oh man, Crash Bandicoot! I got so many good memories of my bros and I going through this game together. I used to stay up all night playing it and even tried to squeeze in a level before going to school in the mornings! I even wrote/illustrated a sequel of sorts to the game for my fourth grade creative writing class… needless to say, my teacher didn’t appreciate a story about a video game character, so I ended up with a pretty bad grade…

The title/first level theme for the game is the memorable one for me; just hearing it lights up my face like fireworks on Canada Day. I especially liked the remastered version of the theme – the folks in charge of the remaster modernized it while retaining its zaniness, which I appreciated.


January 31, 1997: Final Fantasy VII

Favourite song: Opening ~ Bombing Mission

(A third of the way through! Woo!)

I knew this list wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning at least one Final Fantasy game, let alone the best of the bunch (My personal opinion!). I’ve already waxed poetic about how this game and it’s protagonist inspired me, so check it out here.

Honestly, it was hard narrowing down a favourite song, but ultimately, Opening ~ Bombing Mission won out. It’s such an epic and intense track that sets the tone for the whole game, especially when it’s orchestrated, as demonstrated on the Distant Worlds soundtrack.


November 23, 1998: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Favourite Song: Hyrule Field

Quite possibly the greatest game ever created. Well I say that about a lot of games, but this one is certainly a contender for that title. This title, I feel, also expanded greatly on Link’s character as an altruist (based on player input, of course). You can read my thoughts on that here.

As for my favourite theme, it has to be Hyrule Field. It instills a feeling of adventure and intrigue that’s just waiting to happen! I have before you the 30th Anniversary Concert edition of the theme; it sounds majestic and makes me picture Link travelling the vast, rolling plains of Hyrule with his faithful steed Epona. Give it a listen!


September 9, 1999: Sonic Adventure

Favourite song: Welcome to Station Square

09/09/99 – Those numbers live in infamy as the North American release of Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast. I remember playing this at a Blockbuster (remember those?) around the first time it came out and I was blown away at how awesome Sonic and the gang looked in 3D.

A tune that really stuck in my head for the longest time was the theme to Station Square. It sounds so inviting and makes Station Square a real chill place to kick back and hang out.


October 24, 2000: Mega Man Legends 2

Favourite Song: Mother Zone – Library

While the first Legends game focused on the events of Kattelox Island, including the mysterious Master System and Mother Units, the second expanded on Mega Man Volnutt’s story, including his origins as a Purifier Unit. It cumulates into a final clash at the very end between himself and Sera, the Mother Unit that wants to fulfill her programming and activate the Master System.

My favorite song from this game is the library in the Mother Zone on Elysium, right before the final confrontation with Sera. It’s haunting, and it has a real “about to enter the final battle” feel to it.


December 3, 2001: Super Smash Bros. Melee

Favourite Song: Great Bay

Man, 2001 was a stacked year for gaming! Final Fantasy X, Jak and Daxter, Rogue Squadron II, Metal Gear Solid 2, and the list goes on! Ultimately, my pick for this year has to go down to Super Smash Bros. Melee. I have so many good memories of this game: particularly one where, back when I was in high school, a bunch of us set up a TV in an unused classroom during lunch, hooked up a GameCube, got four controllers and set up some EPIC tournaments! Those were good times…

Presently, Melee is still one of my go-to games to play during game night with friends. Of all the stage music that exists, my absolute favourite is the Great Bay stage music. It’s a fantastic, orchestrated version of the Legend of Zelda Overworld theme! I can honestly put it on repeat and listen to it over and over again, it’s so good!


September 17, 2002: Kingdom Hearts

Favourite song: Hikari (Simple and Clean)

2002 was also the year I upgraded to a PS2! My first game on it was Kingdom Hearts and much like when I first played Final Fantasy VII, I also didn’t have a memory card to save my game with at first! Regardless, I love the series, with its emphasis on friendship, teamwork and never giving up on someone, even when they’re at their lowest point (ie. corrupted by darkness).

Hikari is my personal favourite from the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack. I consider this the secondary main theme alongside Dearly Beloved, the game’s title/official theme. It’s uplifting, bright and makes me feel hopeful, which sounds a bit corny, but still. I found a track that mixes the two aforementioned themes in a groovy, jazzy motif, with the focus on Hikari. Check it out!


March 24, 2003: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Favourite song: Dragon Roost Island

Ah, Wind Waker. With its eye-popping cel-shaded visuals, robust story and gameplay and expansive, ocean-based world, this game quickly became a favourite of mine. I especially loved the sailing aspect; it’s just Link, the open sea dotted with tiny islands and his magic talking dragon boat.

Image result for wind waker boat meme

Oh, and underwater castles in magic bubbles. Can’t forget those.

The best theme from this game has to be Dragon Roost Island. It’s catchy and fun to listen to. In fact, it’s so good, they remixed it for the Rito Village in the latest installment, Breath of the Wild. Check out this version done by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Greatest Video Game Music concert!


November 24, 2004: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

Favourite song: Temple Grounds

I remember picking up Metroid Prime 2 the day it was released. I was still in high-school then, bought it on my way home, plopped down on the couch that very night and was blown away at how different it was from the original Metroid Prime. Every aspect of the game was improved, and I really liked the new ammo-based beam system; it made playing through the game much more dire, since you have to manage your ammunition carefully. Last year, I read an incredibly detailed review on this game by one Red Metal from Extra Life, in which I learned that Retro had all of three months before the holiday season in 2004 to complete the game, when they were only 30% done! It’s surprisingly amazing, given that the final product hardly looked like it was rushed at all!

I really like the Temple Grounds theme. The grounds are the main hub throughout Samus’ adventure and it has a chill, calm, almost hopeful atmosphere to it, like you’re helping our favourite bounty hunter make progress in saving the Luminoth from the Ing. Check it out.


October 12, 2005: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Favourite Song: Turnabout Courtroom – Trial

The first entry in the Ace Attorney series, I actually played this game and its sequels through my university years. Its visual novel style, which focuses on investigating crimes and presenting evidence in court, was something I enjoyed a lot.

My favourite tune is the Trial theme, right before the trial starts up. I feel psyched up whenever I listen to it – it’s like I’m ready to face the world, present evidence and yell Objection! I found this amazing hip-hop track that uses the theme as its base, the lyrics are great and the flow is smooth like butter. Give it a listen.


August 15, 2006: Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus

Favourite Song: Counteroffensive

Part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus stars everyone’s favourite former Turk-turned-immortal experiment, Vincent Valentine. It clears up a few plot holes from the original game, but opens up a whack of new ones, particularly revolving around the mysterious Genesis…

Image result for dirge of cerberus genesis

Most definitely mysterious…

Dirge’s gameplay also differs from the traditional Final Fantasy structure, in that it’s an over-the-shoulder, third person shooter with RPG elements. It was a bit odd, but I found it to be quite fun and different! The additional post-game missions were a plus too!

Counteroffensive is a great track; it’s the kind of track you want to put on when you know you got things to do. It’s a damn good jazz/orchestra* fusion with a crunchy electric guitar in the background in the first bit, before going all out with the orchestral elements while adding a few extra touches with the guitar. Bottom line, it’s pretty good.

*Who here bets they know my favourite genres of music by now? I mean, c’mon, I’m a coffee guy! Coffee & Jazz are a match made in heaven! And who really can hate orchestrated music?


August 14, 2007: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

Favourite song: When the Moon’s Reaching Out Stars

(Two thirds of the way through!)

Persona 3 is a heck of a fun game: it’s part dungeon crawler, part dating sim and all classic RPG goodness with a great story and interesting battle mechanics (I mean, the characters shoot themselves to summon their Personas, how crazy is that?!). I lost hours of my life trying to max out my social links; The most stressful thing about this game isn’t the tough fights or boss battles, but worrying about running into and upsetting one of your friends because you’re hanging out with another friend. I mean, it’s ridiculous, but a great time nonetheless.

When The Moon’s Reaching Out Stars is probably up there on the list of oddly named song titles, but it’s real catchy, even if the lyrics sound slightly depressing. It’s bubbly, J-Pop-like beats really capture that after-school feel, when all you want to do is skip homework and head to the mall, the arcade or the local cafe for your caffeine fix.


March 24, 2008: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Favourite song: Under the Apple Tree

Zack! While most found him annoying, I found him to be quite endearing, mostly because he’s as hyperactive as I am at times. It was nice to see firsthand how he fits into the whole narrative for Final Fantasy VII, including how he met Aerith and Cloud, how he inherited the Buster Sword, from his honor-obsessed mentor, Angeal, and his interactions with pre-crazy Sephiroth. Also included was Genesis, introduced in Dirge of Cerberus (See 2006). Whereas the DoC version was mysterious, Crisis Core Genesis was a prat with a penchant for reading and endlessly quoting “Loveless”. One good thing about him though is that he makes a mean dumbapple pie.

Speaking of apples “Under the Apple Tree” is my favourite from the soundtrack. It’s a simple, yet soulful acoustic theme, of which I consider this to be Zack’s theme.


October 27, 2009: Tekken 6

Favourite song: Edge of Spring

One of the two fighting game on this list, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game, practicing and trying to beat my cousin, who rocked as Jin and Asuka. I mained Raven and Hwoarang, my two favourite characters in the series and my favourite stage was the Mystical Forest, mainly because of the stage theme, Edge of Spring. It’s such a peaceful, uptempo track. It also works as a great workout track!


March 9, 2010: Final Fantasy XIII

Favourite song: Blinded by Light

The thirteenth installment of Final Fantasy garnered a mixed reception – you either loved it or hated it. I personally enjoyed the frantic battle system, the characters and its story, which the majority of it surrounds the protagonist, Lightning, and her sister, Serah and spans two additional games in the series. Lightning herself is a badass; her no-nonsense attitude, strong will and determination to achieve her goals being an inspiration to many, including my good friend, fellow Canuck and Lighting’s #1 fan, LightningEllen (who you should definitely check out; she’s awesome!)

As for my favourite track, it has to be Blinded by Light. It’s one of the best battle themes in the series, in my honest opinion. I’ve taken a shine recently to the Dissidia 012 version of the theme, since it also mixes in a bit of Defiers of Fate and makes it sound quite epic.

Oh, speaking of Dissidia…


March 22, 2011: Dissidia 012

Favourite song: Reform

The second fighting game on this list, I got Dissidia 012 the day it came out. I remember that I wanted to get both this and the original, thinking that 012 was a completely different game. Imagine my surprise when I was told that the original Dissidia (013) was unlocked by playing through the 012 scenario. To top it off, an additional scenario could be unlocked after playing out the 013 scenario. Seriously, this game was chock-full of content!

The song, “Reform” always makes me smile – it’s the theme that plays in the menu when you start up the game. It sounds powerful and majestic and really makes one envision that they’re about to enter an arena to participate in a great battle. At least, that’s how I interpret it!


September 18, 2012: Borderlands 2

Favourite song: Short Change Hero

I really like the Borderlands series. It combines RPG and FPS mechanics and ties it into a humorous and over-the-top story with fun characters. Its sequel improves on the original’s formula, with a new cast of characters, a crazier story, new status effects and guns (LOTS of guns!), among other things!

The song that plays on the opening, Short Change Hero, has been featured in several other games (Arkham City) and movie trailers (uh… that one with The Rock in it?). Nevertheless, it’s a great song to start your adventure on Pandora; it really sets the scene, know what I mean?


July 9, 2013: Metal Gear Solid: Legacy Collection

Favourite Song: “Metal Gear Solid”: Main Theme

I got this compilation series, spanning the 25 year history of Solid Snake from my wife (We got married in November of 2012) for my birthday! I didn’t even ask for it; her co-worker recommended her to buy it for me, so that was awesome! Metal Gear is one of my favourite series, so it was a great birthday present to get!

The main theme from Metal Gear Solid is my choice track for the whole compilation. I mean, there’s not much to say about it – it’s the main theme and it’s awesome! Y’know what would make it more awesome? A jazz remix (surprise, surprise…). Check this mellow piano version of the theme.


February 11, 2014: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Favourite song: Luxerion

Another year, another Final Fantasy! I got this as a Valentine’s day gift from my wife, also on recommendation from that same co-worker. It was nice to see Lightning and Serah’s story end on a happy note – they suffered for too long.

Luxerion is up there on my list of my top RPG town themes of all time. It gives off a relaxed, European town vibe and makes you forget that the world is ending in seven thirteen days.


May 12, 2015: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS4)

Favourite song: Battle Theme

I feel this is the superior of the available remasters of Final Fantasy X and X-2, simply because you can switch between the original and remastered soundtracks, while enjoying the updated graphics and extra content available.

I personally enjoyed the updated battle theme music. It sounds so much more intense than the original version, thanks to the addition of that crunchy electric guitar (which was a controversial move if you check the YouTube comments…).


November 29, 2016: Final Fantasy XV

Favourite song: Galdin Quay

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game for quite some time and, honestly, it was well worth the wait in this writer’s opinion. I loved the setting, the main characters, the battles and the music. And while some of the secondary characters ended up being too underdeveloped and the endgame sequence could have been reworked to make it less rushed, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a great game and a well done effort by Square-Enix.

There’s lots of good music by veteran composer Yoko Shimomura, but my favourite is Galdin Quay. Something about it reminds me of going on vacation. It could be the soft acoustic guitar when you’re out on the beach area or the swanky piano that starts up when you enter the restaurant, I’m not sure, but damn is it good!


March 3, 2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Favourite song: Temple of Time

Who here would have thought the Nintendo Switch would be such a big hit? Not me, that’s for sure. The majority of the credit for succeeding so well goes to the 2017 Game of the Year, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It has forever changed how I look at Zelda games. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Because the soundtrack was so minimalist, it’s hard to pick out a favourite theme. In the end, I picked the Temple of Time theme. The haunting, slow piano really showcases how ruined and decrepit the once glorious temple had become in the 100 years since Link’s slumber. Naturally, I’ve found a remix to it; a slick trap version. The vocal samples may throw you off, especially if you hated the English voice acting, but overall, it really plays with the minimalist style while adding some sick beats! Check it out.


Finally! The list is done! Shoutouts to Wikipedia for helping me with NA release dates, OC Remix for the dope tunes and YouTube, because why not make a playlist to coincide with the post? Also, a big shoutout to the Well-Red Mage for asking the big question in the first place!

As for 2018, I’m not sure what my favourite game will be? I guess I’ll have to find out as the year progresses!

I hope you enjoyed this romp through gaming history! Drop a line if you agree or disagree with my choices, or if you’re enjoying the tracks I’ve selected. And stay tuned for the next few editions, where I continue to celebrate the Year of the RPG by downing an Espresso Shot over one of the grandaddies of the JRPG genre: Dragon Quest (or Warrior here in North America)! And speaking of our erstwhile Goddess of Wisdom’s RPG event, it seems that a good friend of Koffi’s might have a letter for her as well! What could it be about? Keep it locked here to find out!

Oh, and one last thing; I’m about to get involved in something BIG (writer-wise – I’m already in deep with my little baby boy, who’s now a month old! He’s so adorable!). I can’t reveal anything yet, but come around mid-March, some sorcery will be afoot. Stay tuned…

With that, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, hoping you’re enjoying the tunes I’ve selected (over a cup of your favourite brew, of course) and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review: Golden Axe

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” It’s Espresso Shot Review time! Today, I’m looking at Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis – a game I’ve never even played before, surprisingly enough. I was introduced to it from a guest review on The Well-Red Mage’s blog and I decided to look into it myself. How did it fare in my eyes? Read on and find out!


Introduction

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_004.jpg

Golden Axe is a side-scrolling, beat-em-up/ hack-and-slash action game. First introduced in 1989 in arcades, it was ported to the Sega Genesis (or Megadrive) and Master System of that same year. It’s been a part of several compilation titles, such as the SEGA Smash Pack and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and is presently part of the SEGA Forever collection of free, mobile titles available on iOS and Android.

Story

Taking place in the Conan the Barbarian-inspired land of Yuria, Golden Axe tells the story of three warriors who are tasked to save the King of the realm, his daughter and the titular Golden Axe from the Death Adder – A powerful warlord who threatens to kill the royal family and break the axe unless the people in the kingdom acknowledge him as their ruler. Each warrior however has their own motivations for defeating the Death Adder beyond saving the king and his daughter; Ax-Battler, the barbarian who wields a sword and Earth magic, seeks vengeance for his mother’s death. Gilius Thunderhead, an axe-wielding dwarf from the mines who uses Thunder magic wants the Adder’s head after his twin brother was killed by his henchmen. Finally, Tyris Flare, an Amazon warrior who specializes in longswords and Fire magic, will stop at nothing to pay back the Death Adder for the death of her parents.

It’s a pretty simple story that’s common for this era of gaming, but its nice to see that the characters also have their own reasons for fighting; it makes them look less one-dimensional and allows the player to empathize to their situation.

One complaint I have is that the in-game story doesn’t exactly match what’s listed in the instruction manual. In game, each character mentions that their friend, Alex, died in battle and that they will avenge him while saving the land. I would much rather have the game narrative to stick to the “avenging the death of loved ones,” plot instead of avenging some random dude named Alex.

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Who is this “Alex” you speak of, Battler? Aren’t you supposed to be avenging your mother?

Gameplay

Controls are simple in Golden Axe. The directional buttons move the character, the A button activates magic, the B button makes the character attack and the C button is the jump button. In addition, there are several moves that can be useful as you traverse the game. You can hit an enemy multiple times by mashing the B button, but it leaves you open from behind. If you’re in close while rapidly tapping B, you’ll pick up and throw the enemy, good for giving you some space when you’re surrounded. Double tapping left or right makes the character break into a run; hitting B while running initiates a dash attack, useful for getting the drop on an enemy. You can also use aerial attacks by jumping and hitting B while in midair. Doing a jump attack while running yields a more powerful attack that can one-shot or severely damage enemies, but it’s a bit tricky to pull off. Finally, you can use a powerful reversal attack by hitting B and C together, but it’s  hard to connect and leaves you open if you don’t.

In terms of gameplay, Ax-Battler is the most balanced in terms of strength, movement and magic, Gilius has great strength and speed but lacks in magic and Tyris’ strength lies in her magic, but lacks in physical strength and reach compared to the other two.

Each character’s magic meter has a different maximum level. Gilius maxes out at three, Ax-Battler maxes at four and Tyris maxes at six. Each level corresponds to the strength of the magic used, so, while it’s easy to max out Gilius’ magic, his strongest spell is much weaker compared to Tyris’ strongest spell. an awesome fire-breathing dragon used when her magic meter is at level six. To use magic, you’ll need to collect blue pots, which are only dropped by bag-carrying Thieves. You’ll have to smack them a few times to get the pots. You’ll sometimes run into these guys as you progress through each level, but at the end of each level you’ll enter a bonus round where you battle with at least one Blue Thief and sometimes a Green Thief who drops meat, which restores one bar of your character’s health.

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Hey! Give those back!

There are seven types of enemies, including boss characters, to be wary of, from henchmen who use maces and clubs to axe-wielding Amazonian women, skeletons who use swords and shields, giants wielding hammers and powerful, armoured knights. You can easily tell the difference in how strong they are based on their colour pallet.

They might not seem like much at first glance, but it’s advised to avoid being surrounded, because even the weakest of enemies can overpower you when they’re coming in from both sides, which happened to me quite often and resulted in me losing a lot of life. I would have liked the reversal attack to be easier to connect so I could get out of those jams without being overwhelmed. I also found that the enemies were a bit bland at times and I would have liked to see some more variety. I compare this to the TMNT 2: the Arcade Game port for the NES, where there were a TON of different flavours of enemies to fight against. I do like how the giants wielding hammers laugh at you when you’re knocked down.

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Quit laughing at me, you bastard…

Boss fights either pit you against a gauntlet of enemies, or you fight against the Death Adder himself at the very end. What’s interesting is that for the home console version of the game, they added two extra levels and a new final boss – the Death Bringer, mentor to the Death Adder.

Another feature that made the game interesting is the use of creatures as steeds. Enemies usually ride these, but they can be easily knocked off with a well-placed kick. There are two types of rideable creatures – a Chicken Legs who attacks by swiping its tail or a Dragon who can either spit fireballs or breathe a jet of fire that incinerates your foes. The creatures are really fun to use, but if you are dismounted more than three times, it runs away. A minor annoyance, but it’s fair; the creatures would have made it all to easy to beat the game.

Speaking of which, the difficulty is not too bad compared to other beat-em-ups, which is a good thing because it allows for anyone to pick up and play it without becoming too frustrated. It’s also pretty short, at about eight levels, meaning it won’t take more than a few hours to fully complete it.

Visuals

While the graphics are dated, for a game that’s almost 30 years old, they aren’t that bad looking. The playable character sprites have a fair amount of detail in them and their animations are pretty fluid.

I do like the environments, they really elicit a medieval-fantasy like feel.  I also like how there’s a day to night transition right before a boss fight, it makes the game feel more alive and the stakes more dire.

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Sunset Showdown!

In stage 4, your battles take place on the back of a giant eagle, which I though was pretty cool! Though, I had to wonder, “How does a pathway exist on an eagle?” Also, “Why are there skeletons burrowed in this poor eagle’s back?”  It somewhat didn’t make sense, but hey, who am I to complain?

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That must take some serious pruning to maintain…

I didn’t like how some of the enemies looked; again, they looked a bit bland, but from the animation standpoint, at least they didn’t move as blocky as they looked.

Sound

I found the music and sound effects to be a bit on the tinny side, but still enjoyable nonetheless. Stage 1’s music really set the tone for the game – it gave off an “I’m storming your stronghold and taking you down, if it’s the last thing I do!” kind of feel, which was pretty rad.

The death screams were somewhat hilarious, but they started to grate on me a little bit, especially after hearing my character die again and again (Beat-em ups aren’t my specialty). It didn’t stop me from enjoying the game though!

Replayability

With three characters to play as and each differing in magic, reach and speed, there are some opportunities to replay the game. The story doesn’t change for each character however – it’s still the same.

On top of the arcade mode, which you can play with two people, there is a Beginner mode, consisting of the first three stages with easier enemies, perfect for those who are either new to the series or need a refresher on how to play. Also, there is The Duel mode, where each round pits you against different types of enemies and the goal is to survive for twelve rounds. Each duel is also timed – if you don’t win in the allotted time, you lose one bar of energy.

It’s quite challenging, considering the fact that you can’t use magic at all in this mode; you’ll have to focus on weapon skills if you are to succeed. If you’re playing with two players in The Duel mode, you fight against each other instead.

Conclusion

Golden Axe’s cast of characters, use of powerful magic and rideable creatures help make the game stand out over many others in the genre. But the low variety in opponents and their blandness, coupled with the fact that it’s easy to become surrounded and a lack of a proper reversal technique hurt it in the long run. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun game to pick up and play, especially for two people!

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

A Quick List of Great, Halloween-inspired Video Game Tunes!

Good morning boils and ghouls and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Happy Halloween!

Whether you’re going to a costume party, handing out candy or trick-or-treating yourself, it always helps to have some tunes prepared to get you into the right mood. With that, I thought I’d share a quick list of Halloween inspired video game tunes to set your day off right! Let’s get into it!


Silent Hill – Main Theme

I’ll be honest – I’ve never played Silent Hill. (Don’t judge me!). Horror games aren’t really my thing, but I love playing the main theme for the game come Halloween time. It hits all the right notes; it’s creepy and eerie and makes me think “Oh man, I’m gonna wet myself if I enter this town, aren’t I?” … Not that I do, I’m a lot more braver than that, but still…

Final Fantasy VII – The Nightmare’s Beginning (Vincent’s Theme)

Ah, Vincent, you morbid, tortured immortal. What I like about this theme for Halloween is that it makes me think of ghost stories. After all, Vincent’s backstory is something out of an urban legend itself – He falls in love with a woman named Lucrecia, a scientist who was part of a team studying a recently discovered ancient life form. However, when he professes his love for her, he is ultimately spurned when she says she has feelings for her colleague, Hojo, a twisted mad scientist with delusions of grandeur. Hojo injects the woman’s fetus with the life form’s cells, mutating her child into the terror known later as Sephiroth, greatly angering Vincent. When he tries to stop the madness, Hojo shoots and modifies him, granting him immortality and the ability to transform into hideous monsters. Now, to this day, he haunts the Shinra Manor in Nibelheim, agonized at the fact that he could not save the one he loves and yearning for a chance at revenge.

You gotta admit, it does make for a great campfire story? As an added bonus to make things excessively creepy, check out this highly experimental, guitar-driven remix of the theme:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Dracula’s Castle

Literally anything from Castlevania will work to get into the Halloween spirit! I chose this one because it’s one of my favourite themes from one of my favourite games in the series. If you’re looking for something more retro inspired, how about the original “Vampire Killer” theme from the original Castlevania?

If that doesn’t get you into the mood to prepare for little undead monsters asking for treats, I dunno what will?

Kingdom Hearts – This is Halloween

You can’t have Halloween without the Halloween Town theme from the Kingdom Hearts series (originally from The Nightmare Before Christmas)! This is my go-to to get into the Halloween spirit; it’s the perfect, spooky track to put on as the kiddies go door-to-door for candy!


So that’s it, what do you think? Got anymore scary scores, twisted tunes or fearful features to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you that whatever you’re doing this Halloween, stay safe, carry a stake or two and some garlic, don’t OD too much on candy and, as always, Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

My Top 20 Favourite Remixes from OverClocked Remix!

Hello and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May your days be as bountiful as the coffee brewing in your carafe.

Today, (after a LONG while…) were seugeing back to the world of video game music: I’m going to share with you my top 20 remixes from my go-to VGM site, OCRemix! This is actually the second part of a three part series about the site and it’s music and it’s remixers, but enough with the tangents, let’s get ready to listen to some dope tunes!


20. Swingin’ with Death from Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance by Nase.

Starting from the top, is a remix of the introductory area (Successor of Fate) from the GameBoy Advanced game, Castelvania: Harmony of Dissonance. This mix starts with an epic, sweeping, orchestral opening before doing a full 180 into some sweet sexy funk! The horn at the beginning is probably the weakest point of the mix, but it’s so groovy it can be well overlooked. My favourite part of this song is at 1.36: the lo-fi sounds send my spine tingling.

19. Sparkle from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia by Joshua Morse.

Josh here is one of my favourite remixers; in fact one of his other mixes is on this list as well! This is another sexy, jazzy track from the Castlevania series, this time from the last and probably the greatest of the portable Castlevania’s on the Nintendo DS: Order of Ecclesia. The source tune (Emerald Mists) was already good to begin with (first heard in Ruvas Forest), but Josh slows it down and adds his signature sound to make this a very chill track. The accordion that pops in at 0.53 gives off that Eastern European feeling, which really fits in well with the game’s narrative.

18. Captain of the Skies from Final Fantasy VII by ZackParrish

Final Fantasy VII holds an incredibly special place in my heart, which will be the subject in a future post. The setting, the story, the music and especially it’s beloved cast of characters have moved and inspired me in ways I could never have imagined. This mix, an orchestral version of Cid’s Theme, really moved me when I first listened to it. It really speaks to Cid’s character as a pilot whose dream was to go into outer space. 1:41 is my favourite part of the mix; it builds up to the last bit of the song which then gives off a reflective sort of mood, mirroring Cid’s anguish of seeing his dreams shattered. It’s a very well done track.

17. Voices Broken from F-Zero by JJT

And now for something completely different: Mute City a la Indie Rock. This is a raw, gritty take on the source that goes hard with a crunchy e-guitar followed by a smoother lead with a slick drum accompaniment. It’s quite edgy and quite awesome.

16. A Fistful of Nickels from Final Fantasy VI by Jeff Ball, Jillian Aversa, XPRTNovice and zircon.

Shadow’s Theme done in the style of an epic Western. He was one of my favourite’s from Final Fantasy VI’s massive character roster, so I was thrilled at the treatment this song gives him. The whistling makes me jealous – I wish I could whistle like that! (And I’m actually pretty good at it myself, so that’s saying something). Everything, from Jillian’s vocals, to the choice of instruments to the arrangement itself, works really well, which is why it’s a favourite of mine.

15. Wet Dreams from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night by ktriton

You’re probably thinking by now, “What’s with all these jazzy Castlevania tunes?” Well, I personally think that Castlevania and jazz somehow go really good together. This one’s just as funky as the other two mentioned above, but it’s a bit more haunting than the other two Castlevania mixes I featured in this list. Nevertheless, the acoustic guitar and the electric piano give off a lot of warmth and it’s what I love the most about this mix: it gives off a “Chilin’ out in the Great Hall of my castle,” kind of feel.

14. Prancing Dad from Final Fantasy VI by Prince uf Darkness

Two words here: My God. Besides the crazy explicit lyrics (that blend into the background so well that you kinda have to strain to hear), this is an absolutely epic rendition of the final battle against Kefka in Final Fantasy VI. Oh, and did I mention it clocks in at almost 12 minutes?! It even mixes in the legendary One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII in a transition so seamless that you really have to pay attention to hear where Dancing Mad stops and where One Winged Angel begins! This mix is absolutely nuts and would definitely fit with Kefka’s insane personality.

13. Fading Entity from Final Fantasy VII by bLiNd and Leifo

This is damn good trance music, nuff said. bLiNd is a legend for his trance stuff (Seriously, his stuff is SO good, check it out!) and Leifo’s guitar solo midway through the song is just wicked. Sticking that solo in there, I think, prevents the mix from being to repetitive, which was a good move on their part. Also, shifting the timing from 3/4 to 4/4 turns this haunting song, played in the area where gaming’s most tragic moment occurs, into a rave-worthy track.

12. Fiesta Amongst The Trees from Ristar by the Southwest Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble

This is a fantastic jazz track that gives off a great tropical vibe! Really fits in well with Ristar’s fun environment. This jazz band was really playful and chill with the arrangement, while not deviating too much from the original source. Recommended for those who love the beach, hot weather and cold drinks!

11. Funky Mario Circuit (Radio Edit) from Super Mario Kart by The OneUps

(ANOTHER funky track? You’re probably thinking “What’s with this guy?” by now, aren’t you?)

Here from the band, The OneUps, is a great remix of Mario Circuit from Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Everything in this mix works; from the guitar, the bass to the beat, this will get one in a racing mood! Just… Watch out for the cops when you’re on the road when this is on.

10. Blue Skies from Final Fantasy XIII by bLiNd and Ashleigh Coryell

Now this, this is an excellent Drum n’ Bass/Dubstep track using the “Will to Fight” source from Final Fantasy XIII. Fun fact: bLiNd did this track for his beloved wife as a birthday present and the lyrics speak of a promise for the future. The dubstep drop at 2:13 doesn’t feel overbearing, rather it shakes things up to prevent the arrangement from being too boring and Ashleigh’s vocals are on point. I listen to this, and I instantly think of Lightning’s struggle to change her and her sister’s fates. It’s well worth a listen!

9. Dieselbrainage from Super Metroid by Mazedude

OH SNAP. This is a dark and dirty DnB mix of the final battle music against Mother Brain from Super Metroid. What’s interesting about the source tune is that it’s performed in 7/4 time, a unique register in the music world. Mazedude pulls out all the stops on this remix. The main beat is dark and evil-sounding and the sick drum loop along with that chunky mechanical bass really helps to differentiate it from the source tune. The break at 1:57 is a hilarious nod to Samus’ main theme before jumping right back into the insanity with a hysterical, mocking laugh, as if Mother Brain itself is telling you, “You’re doomed!” An absolutely awesome track.

8. Chaotic 5 from Knuckles’ Chaotix by OverClocked Assembled

A slick rap arrangement featuring the cast of Knuckles and his Chaotix? Sign me the hell up! The source sampled from the game is one of my favourites from the obscure 32X game, but what gets me excited is the incredibly clever lyrics and the flow in which they’re delivered in. Another fun fact: this track was inspired by another rap arrangement of Knuckles’ theme from Sonic Adventure 2, done 12 years ago (which, while dated, is also amazing!) Very clean, very chill and way past cool, it’s a solid favourite!

7. Graveyard Theory from Sonic Adventure 2 by Zone Runners

This is a great tune to play for Halloween! By my favourite trio of remixers, (SirJ, halc and DiGi Valentine), this is an upgraded version of the original “A Ghost Pumpkin Soup,” from Sonic Adventure 2. The first part contains the verses from the original song before the ZR spits out some all new vernacular in the next two thirds that really fits well with the Halloween vibe. If you’re looking for some good nerd rap music for your next Halloween party, this is a great candidate.

6. Running to the Beat from Sonic CD by Arceace

When it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog, the music is always top-notch. When it’s remixed into 90’s style techno electronica, it’s even better! Mixing the US version of the special stage music from Sonic CD, this track is literally my workout jam. With a great rhythm and a smooth beat, this is best played for when you need to go hard on your run or push for that one extra rep. Well recommended for the gym-rat!

5. Baal Bhaagna from Shantae: Risky’s Revenge by Jake Kauffman

One word: Badass. This is a sick, Bollywood-inspired mix of “She’s Got Moves,” from the awesome Shantae series! Channeling some serious A.R. Rahman (famous Bollywood artist, songwriter and composer), it reminds me of either a chase or a fight scene in one of those really over-the-top Bollywood action movies (most likely starring Salman Khan and shot with LOTS of slo-mo). It’s South Asian inspired elements pair well with the kickin’ beat. My favourite part is at 1:23; it gives me chills! This is up there in my top 10, maybe five favourite remixes; I really urge you to listen to it!

4. Marble Dash from Sonic the Hedgehog by Joshua Morse

This is one of JM’s first submissions to OCR; a remix of my all-time favorite Zone from the Sonic series, Marble Zone. It’s a feel-good, jazzy and groovy rendition of the source tune. It’s playful, bouncy and the bassline is so good! I’ve had this song on my playlists since I was back in high school and all throughout my university years and it’s really helped to keep me positive during that period, so it holds a special place in my heart because of that.

3. Big Band Battlefield from Super Mario 64 by The University of Toronto 10 O’Clock Big Band.

The first level of the iconic game, Super Mario 64, done in swinging, big band style! I love this rendition of Bom-Omb Battlefield, it makes me feel like I’m in a swing club back in the 1920’s. I also dig four things about this mix: one, that, due to it being a live recording, it feels really authentic. You even hear a guy ordering a pint of Amsterdam midway through the song! Second, it’s by the students at U of T, right in the heart of downtown Toronto, where I was born. And third and fourth? The sick baritone saxophone solo starting at 1:46 and the subsequent, over the top drum solo at 3:36. Both are ridiculous!

2. stratification from Chrono Trigger by melody

I actually mentioned this mix before in my first post about OCRemix, but I feel the need to repeat myself: this mix is a Goddamned LEGEND! The electric guitar is so sublime and it fits the source tune from the game so well. The soft choir that enters around 1:23 adds to the already amazing atmosphere of the track and compliments the absolute shreddage of the aforementioned guitar. It’s so good!

1. Triforce Majeure from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by Disco Dan

Out of all the mixes on this list, this is without a doubt my absolute favorite, hence why it’s in the number one spot! By combining a robust orchestra with slick electronica (these are two of my favourite things!), busting through Hyrule Castle and rescuing Princess Zelda never sounded so good! This was labeled an instant classic in 2004, and it’s hard to see why not: the build up leading to the main beat is tense and atmospheric, before dropping the beat just after the first minute and introducing that hardcore brass section twenty seconds afterwards. Things get intense at the 2:40 mark, where the orchestra shines the strongest. The beat itself is just so good and so catchy, you can’t help but tap your toes to it. The arpeggios starting right at the 2:15 mark are TIGHT! And the section starting at 3:25 building up to the epic climax gives me chills. Overall, if you’re curious to see a perfect example of remixing done right, this is the one you should listen to.


And there you have it! I’ve aggregated the videos above onto a playlist in my brand new Youtube channel! If you like what you’ve listened to, or if you want me to recommend more awesome tracks, let me know!

Stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough for Path of Exile; I’ve finally reached Act 2! And I’ve got a LOT of content to catch up with, so keep your eyes peeled this whole week – there’s a flood coming!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Video Game Music: Why It’s My Personal Soundtrack To Life

Good morning everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Grab your favourite mug and a pair of headphones, because I’m going to talk to you about a subject that’s dear to my heart: Video Game Music!

Video game music (which I’ll abbreviate to VGM) has evolved far beyond its origins back in the 70’s and 80’s, when gaming was extremely niche. What started with electronically synthesized sounds, bleeps, bloops, trills and clicks eventually gave way to epic, cinematic orchestrations, groovy EDM tracks, soft, emotive pieces and god and beast-slaying rock and heavy metal. These are but a few of the sprawling musical genres used in VGM.

I can’t remember when exactly I got into game music… I suspect it was from a very young age because I can remember back to my days in elementary school when I’d be humming tunes from games like Mega Man X, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Star Fox, Dragon Quest, Zelda II, Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII, among others. My music options improved when I gained four things at the start of high school: A Sony Discman, a refurbished PC with a CD-R burner installed, the Internet and file sharing programs like Napster, KaZaa and LimeWire.

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Truer words were never spoken (Image by Ponyhead)

So the cycle went like this: People would rip audio directly from the game itself (a difficult, but doable task in those times) and upload it. I, along with millions of other closet VGM lovers, would download those songs, burn them to a CD and sit back and enjoy the tunes (In my case, I listened while studying since I was in high school at that time.). Over time, CD’s gave way to MP3 players, like the iPod, and to places like Youtube, Spotify and Internet Radio, where an enormous archive of video game music can be found at your fingertips for your listening pleasure.

Some articles and blogs have speculated that listening to video game music is a great aid to help concentrate and be productive. I tend to agree; I credit game music a lot for helping me focus on my studies. I wasn’t exactly a model A+ student, but with the music just being in the background, I found that doing school work (or any kind of work nowadays) was almost like playing a game. I’d go around solving math and physics equations or writing essays in the same way I would’ve fought bosses in Final Fantasy or solved complicated puzzles in Legend of Zelda. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a GREAT online VGM playlist to listen to while you’re working, click here.)

Something else to consider: game music and exercise are a match made in heaven. Whether it’s battle or boss fight music from games like Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, or tunes from great action, adventure or fighting games, like God of War, Metroid, Mega Man and Tekken, I find that they give me the extra push I need to lift more weights, do more reps or hold that pose longer. Game music is also perfect if you’re into kickboxing, karate or any other form of martial arts that require training. Some examples of training music I like to listen to include this, this, oh and this too. And whether you’re on a treadmill or outdoors, NOTHING beats running to the music from Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic_The_Hedgehog_SSB4_(11)

Just… try not to run like this. You will be made fun of. I speak from experience. (Image from Smashpedia)

Like to get around by car, bike, train or on foot and need some travelling music? Once again, VGM to the rescue! I personally like to listen to the World Map/Overworld music from Final Fantasy or one of the many versions of the Hyrule Field theme from Legend of Zelda, although, the choice is yours if you care to look. Sometimes, if I’m in a rush to get somewhere or I’m just feeling the need for speed, I fall back to a reliable game music staple: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now, let’s say you’re working on a major project for work or school and you need something to psyche yourself up because that deadline’s coming up and you haven’t even started yet, may I present Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit CExhibit D and Exhibit E. Trust me, these’ll get you pumped!

And finally, some examples of music to chill to: Hi-Tone Fandango and Mr. Frustration Man from Grim Fandango, Sea Breeze from Metal Gear Solid 3, Galdin Quay from Final Fantasy XV and Lazy Afternoons (Twilight Town) from Kingdom Hearts II are among some of my favourites.

So, that’s today’s post. Do you listen to video game music? Don’t be embarrassed; share your thoughts below on the comments! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I discuss an interesting topic: how to live with a non-gamer. This’ll be a good post, so look out for it!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to keep gaming and keep brewing. Enjoy your Sunday!