Uncharted Waters was my favourite back in the day, and still is among the best games I’ve ever played. The other Mega Drive game I really liked was Dune II. It’s not as timeless in itself, but it was the game that practically started the RTS genre, laying its foundations – resource gathering, various buildings each serving its purpose, tactical command of groups of units… Based on an amazing series of novels, Dune throws us in the sandy world of Arrakis, full of danger, sand worms and… spice melange. And the one who controls the spice, controls the universe. The three houses you could pick from were the noble Atreides, the shady Ordos and the evil Harkonnen. It figures that the most badass of the three victory themes (although all three were awesome), was the Harkonnen one. And it’s the one I’m sharing today.
Composers: Frank Klepacki, Paul S. Mudra, Dwight K. Okahara
Game: Dune: The Battle for Arrakis
Song: Harkonnen Rules
While I really liked the Streets of Rage series, I never actually played any of them on my own Mega Drive. I only bought games that would last me longer. And my most favourite of them all was a historical gem by Koei called Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. It was a seafaring RPG set in the 16th century, and you could pick among 6 characters, each with his/her own story to follow – practically, the game stayed fresh for at least 6 playthroughs! New Horizons was something amazing for its time with its elaborate world map representing our world extremely well, and the deep, but easy enough to understand mechanics covering plenty of aspects like sea battles, one-on-one duels, port economy, trading, country alliances, wars, piracy… The list goes on.
New Horizons was a game I invested a good several hundreds of hours into, and that speaks enough of its quality. It’s a simulation and RPG into one – you don’t NEED to follow your character’s story, you can just roam the seas and sink enemy ships or explore the entire world at your leisure. I know how much fun I had making a badass pirate out of the Italian adventurer Pietro Conti who has the lowest Courage stat among the 6 you can choose from. And speaking of Pietro, it’s his theme that I chose to share with you this week. Enjoy!
Composer: Yoko Kanno
Game: Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
Song: Theme of Pietro
P. S. Yes, the composer is THE Yoko Kanno, who would later become quite famous for her work on anime series like Macross, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, etc.
As I said last time, Streets of Rage 3 is the best game in the (canon) series, and the same goes for its soundtrack. Back in the day, before I could save up enough for my own Mega Drive, I’d go to these video game clubs where you could pay to play for a certain amount of time. One day, me and my brother were playing Bare Knuckle III (the Japanese version of this game), and were on the last boss just before our prepaid time was up, when some kid just went and shut down our console… I was so angry, I grabbed him and tossed him onto the ground, as we had to wait a while until our next chance to beat this game.
But, of course, we eventually did. And the awesome twist with the multiple endings, the Japanese version-only “bonuses,” and the depth of the story solidified number 3 as my favourite in the series. For this week, I’ve chosen its boss theme to share with you.
Composer: Motohiro Kawashima
Game: Streets of Rage 3
The first Street of Rage was followed by another one before too long, with the third game being the culmination of the series – an opinion a lot of people disagree with… Probably because they didn’t play the DEFINITIVE Streets of Rage 3 version, the Japanese one. Anyway, for this week, we’re still on the second game, and I’ve picked a song from it called “Alien Power”. Its soundtrack was also quite rad, but I would say the third game got it beat in this department, too! But, for my pick from SoR 3, you’ll have to wait until next week.
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Game: Streets of Rage 2
Song: Alien Power
Third-party support for the Mega Drive/Genesis was amazing, but SEGA’s own first-party titles were also a big factor in the console’s success and its ability to beat its amazing competitor for a long time worldwide. Beat-’em-ups were all the rage (get it?) in the 90s, and SEGA made sure to ride this wave, creating a series that would become legendary and retain its dedicated following for over a couple of decades now. The first Streets of Rage game wasn’t exactly the most polished brawler, although it did have its strong points, such as the unique super attack. But it featured some really rad music, and for this week, I’ve picked the Boss Theme from that game.
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Game: Streets of Rage
Song: Boss Theme
Another awesome game by EA from the 16-bit era was Skitchin’, which seemed to use Road Rash’s engine. Except you weren’t a biker this time, you were instead on roller blades. An important step towards winning (and where the game’s name was derived from) was grabbing onto the back of a car going your way and holding onto it for as long as you could, allowing you to preserve energy and generally stay out of harm’s way. Skitchin’ had an awesome 16-bit metal soundtrack, and the song I’ve chosen for this week is called “Cheese Grater”.
Composer: Jeff van Dyck
Song: Cheese Grater
The Mega Drive was a really amazing console, and Castlevania wasn’t the only third-party game that rocked. The much smaller then Electronic Arts released a series of three awesome games on the system, called Road Rash. The theme was simple – motorcycle racing, you had to win those races, make cash and buy better bikes with it – so that you can win that harder races that come later. You could steal weapons from the other bikers and use them to make their lives hell. Races were, of course, illegal, and you could get smashed by a car, or get arrested by the patrolling police officers. The three were among the most fun 16-bit games… And every next iteration was better.
The music was quite rad, too. This week, I’ll share with you one of the best themes from the third game, which played during the race taking place in Brazil. Enjoy!
Composers: Michael Bartlow, Ron Hubbard
Game: Road Rash 3
Song: Brazil Stage
Konami’s Castlevania was quite glorious in the 16-bit era, with a really strong entry also appearing on SNES’ competitor, the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis. It was called The New Generation (Bloodlines in North America), and, interestingly, featured two characters you could choose from, just one of them, John Morris, being a Belmont copy (and descendant). The other, Eric Lecarde, sports the Alucard Spear instead of a Vampire Killer, and has a rather different play style. The New Generation was one of the best games in the rich and wonderful Mega Drive library, and its soundtrack was also stellar, among the best in the series. The song I’ve chosen for this week plays during the second stage of the game, and is called “Sinking Old Sanctuary”.
Composer: Michiru Yamane
Game: Castlevania: The New Generation/Bloodlines
Song: Sinking Old Sanctuary
Another SNES classic – not an RPG, but part of an illustrous series, is Super Castlevania IV. In essence, it’s a remake of the first Castlevania game, in which you play as Simon Belmont. Aside from being a really awesome game, it has another invaluable asset in the soundtrack. And, having mentioned Simon Belmont, it’s his incredible theme that I have chosen for this week. It plays during the very first stage of the game, so everyone that’s played it’s bound to know it.
Composers: Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Game: Super Castlevania IV
Song: Simon Belmont’s Theme
Until recently, there was one big hole in my personal Final Fantasy history – the one game from the entries before the series went online that I hadn’t beaten. Final Fantasy VIII was the successor to VII that I knew didn’t live up to the magic of VII at all. I knew about how Squall was a lame protagonist in comparison to Cloud, about the stupid-as-hell “plot twist,” I’d heard of the “Rinoa = Ultimecia” theory. I’d even started the game several years ago, and played the first 2 hours or so, but then gave up, deciding to invest my time into something I’d like more. Now, with the ability to play it on the PSP, I finally went back to this game and filled that gap.
Game: Final Fantasy VIII
Platforms: PlayStation, PC; PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (PSOne Classics)
Original release: 1999
I should say that Final Fantasy VIII entirely lived up to the expectations – nowhere near VII’s league, but nothing incredibly horrendous like its biggest haters would claim. The story and characters are pretty uninspired as a whole (except from a couple of exceptions I’ll mention later), but it makes some interesting gameplay experiments, which ultimately make it easily abusable, but I wouldn’t write them off as bad. It also offers some interesting locations, as most FF games do, and a relatively epic final stretch. After a promising beginning, there are some incredibly ridiculous moments in the story later on, which harm the game’s overall quality big time.
The screenshots in the review have been taken by me.
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