Put this on in the background and get some work done.
I’ve made a couple trips to Joystick Gamebar in the last couple of weeks, and I continue to be enormously pleased with the establishment. They’ve made a couple upgrades and additions to their catalog since they’ve opened: Space Invaders is a welcome addition, and their specialty seasonal cocktail is superb. As with any arcade, however, there are going to be games that continue to call out to you and games that you’re content to ignore after you’ve given them a try on your first couple of visits. I will never be able to resist a Galaga machine, and I’m quickly becoming a Ms. Pac-Man devotee. If they were to get a Donkey Kong machine, I’d really be hooked.
As far as their selection of beat-’em-ups goes, they’ve got the perennially popular X-Men Arcade, which I took the liberty of blowing through with some of my buddies the last time I was there. It’s a pretty good time! They’ve also got some B-sides, like “Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja,” which, though the intro screen asking if you’re a “bad enough dude” to rescue “President Ronnie” will never fail to elicit a chuckle, is not a very compelling game.
I think I’m done with X-Men, too. As much as I love beat-’em-ups as a genre, the Marvel classic never really grabbed me like some others.
If, by some miracle, my local barcade happened to get hold of an intact and functioning Turtles in Time machine, I would be in very serious trouble.
I own TMNT IV on SNES. I’ve played through it approximately one hojillion times. It doesn’t matter. The game is so well designed that I would pour quarters into it weekend after weekend before I got tired. My friends might have to talk me down from playing through the entire campaign each time we went to the bar. Between the perfectly-tuned feel of the combat (challenging enough that you’re likely to spend some money, fair enough that you’ll admit it’s your own fault and not the game’s when you die), the bright and engaging visuals, and the relentlessly upbeat music, I would keep coming back for more.
The track I’ve highlighted, from the final stage, encapsulates the giddy chip-rock which populates this game. From the orchestra hits and synths to the shredding guitars and the punchy vocal samples, what you’re listening to is nothing short of musical Prozac. Maybe chased with a shot of 5-Hour Energy. I want to meet composer Mutsuhiko Izumi and slap him on the back.
Indie game composer superstar Danny Baranowsky once described the boss themes from Final Fantasy as “kind of like Dream Theater as interpreted by a robot from the seventies,” and in that vein, a lot of the Konami soundtracks from the early nineties are kind of like if KISS had dropped a bunch of acid and tried to write a sci-fi epic concept album for kids.
As a bonus, here’s the SNES version, which is just as rocking in its own way.
Take note, Joystick.
One of the most indispensable tropes of the fantasy adventure story is the peaceful, pastoral hometown. Whether it’s Tolkien’s shire or Arni Village from Chrono Cross, the country village that’s far from immediate danger is a classic setup to contrast the purity and safety of a world with the darkness that is inevitably about to encroach.
In Squaresoft’s Legend of Mana, the town of Domina acts as your protagonist’s home base for the entirety of the adventure, and while Domina is far from the only city that you can visit, it’s unquestionably the most comfortable and inviting. Yoko Shimomura’s superb score welcomes you to a community that is happy to have you as their neighbor (even if it is inhabited by such bizarre characters as a person-sized bird, a creepy beetle-guy, and… this thing).
I often find myself humming or whistling this tune in my classroom at times when my students are happily at work on research or art. It makes me feel that I am at home, and while adventure may be just around the corner, it will be waiting for me when I wish to set upon the path to danger and excitement.