Games for broke people, caffeinated edition

Coffee is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.  Indeed, it’s one of the few things that makes life worth enduring.  If a doctor told me that I’d have to give up coffee or else die an early death, I would immediately find a probate attorney and draft my will, because there is no force in the universe that will keep me from my daily cups.

Sadly, coffee is not free, especially not if you’re buying that overpriced brew from Starbucks.  The following coffee-themed games, however, are free.  I downloaded these from itch.io, and they all involve coffee as a central theme, though perhaps not always in ways you’d expect.

Need More Coffee

 

You know how you’ll go out in the morning with no money in your pocket and an empty glass coffee cup in your hand, picking quarters up off the street so you can get enough to fill that cup with coffee at your local café?  And then you’ll run to the next café down the street while evading rabid dogs and weaving through dangerous, unprotected construction sites?

No?  You don’t do that?  Well neither do I, but we’re not the protagonist of Need More Coffee.  This Game Boy-ish title features a nameless man who must run from café to café while drinking coffee to keep his energy up, allowing him to run faster, jump higher, and clear all the obstacles in his way.  Drinking coffee fills up your “battery”, which is constantly draining.  And that’s a bad thing, because when your battery is empty all you can do is shuffle around and hop a little bit.  Unfortunately, this guy is pretty fragile, and even walking on a crack in the sidewalk will cause him to fall down completely incapacitated, which isn’t much fun. The idea behind using coffee as a sort of power-up/fuel in a platformer is interesting, but this game just makes me feel like I’m controlling a Game Boy version of my own out-of-shape self, which I really don’t enjoy at all.  The creator did a pretty good job capturing the look and feel of a Game Boy game, though, so good on him for that.

Cappuchino Spoontforce Deluxe VI: Girl of the Boiling Fury

That’s quite a title. Not only did these guys misspell cappuccino, but they made a title longer to say than it takes to actually play the game. And that’s almost not an exaggeration. According to the info on the developer’s itch.io page, Cappuchino Spoontforce stars Sajiko, a girl taking a bath in a cappuccino. Your object is to get points by adding milk and sugar to the drink with your constantly moving pitcher and tongs while maintaining its temperature by adding coffee. If the cappuccino gets cold, Sajiko gets angry, stands up, and shakes her fists at you as the game ends (don’t worry, she’s wearing a towel – not sure why she’d be taking a bath while wearing a towel, but who the hell takes a bath in coffee anyway?) Complicating matters is the fact that Sajiko keeps moving around, and it is possible to douse her in milk or coffee (ouch) or hit her in the head with a sugar cube, which seriously pisses her off and makes her more likely to quit her coffee bath. The game is pretty damn mean-spirited, though, because it gives you 500 points every time you successfully brain her with a sugar cube. Shit. The protagonists in these games aren’t getting any breaks, are they?

Okay, I have to be honest – I like this game, as bizarre as it is. It’s pretty difficult to keep the game going, trying to drop the ingredients in and around Sajiko to keep the coffee hot while trying not to hit her and piss her off. It’s a novelty, at least, and a pretty fun one for five or ten minutes. Definitely weird, though. But you probably already knew I was weird myself, so does it really come as a surprise that I’d enjoy something like this?

Coffee Physics

 

Coffee Physics is a game about throwing cups of coffee at people.  Or rather at sentient men’s bathroom sign figures who are constantly chasing you for some reason.  Tossing your coffee at these things will knock them over, but the chase continues until your stock is exhausted (that’s a lot of full coffee cups for one person to be carrying, though – maybe they’re all stored in a holster or a bandolier that we’re not seeing.)  You can also run around town knocking over objects, because this is one of those games where everything, no matter how solid you’d think it is, has the density of styrofoam.

I don’t like these kinds of games, but maybe you do.  In any case, it’s free, so if you really feel like throwing coffee at vaguely person-shaped objects, playing this game is probably the easiest and most legal way to do it.

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Why write?

It’s been about eight or nine months, so it’s time for another one of these complaint-ridden introspective posts, isn’t it?  This time, I’m asking myself – and you, if you’re a writer as well – the question in the title.  Seemingly a simple question, but it’s one that all writers have to ask themselves.  Why write?  What am I really doing here?  I don’t make any money off of this blog.  I don’t have any plans to use this site as a springboard to write for outside outlets, either; my day job keeps me busy enough, and the people I know who make their living writing have a rough time of it.  No, I’m happy to keep writing a hobby instead of a job, though I’m still not averse to taking a freelance job here and there when I have the time.  I’m also happy to stay primarily a W-2 employee, because doing taxes is hell on freelancers in the US.

I’ve been posting on a regular basis (at least by my standards) since the end of last year, when I ended my months-long on-and-off hiatus.  Since picking up the pen again and committing to it, my life’s gotten more tolerable, and I think there are two reasons for that.  The first that occurred to me was that I just like writing about subjects that interest me, and video/PC games and music have been my favorite forms of entertainment since I was a kid, so it seemed natural to write about them.

The other reason I continue writing here is that it’s the best way I’ve found to cope with my depression.  I don’t feel like I have any control over my life, and I hate most every aspect of it.  I used to drink to try to cope with those feelings – I drank way too much, in fact.  Since I thought I didn’t care about living, it seemed only natural to drink until I went numb for a while.  Sometimes literally numb, but more often figuratively. I probably don’t have to mention that since alcohol is a depressant, it can deepen depressive episodes and promote certain thoughts that might crop up during them.

Sure, whatever you say

I’ve basically quit doing that, and I’m trying to stay on course. It’s hard not to fall back into old habits when that high wave of depression hits, and it always does hit without exception. But that’s where writing comes in. My writing projects, as piddly as they are, give me at least one goal in life to pursue that I actually care about. And since there’s no ultimate goal to writing, no end destination, these projects will hopefully continue until my life ends, whenever that happens.  It helps that the subjects I’ve chosen to write about also provide an escape from the shitness of everyday life.

I hope this post doesn’t make it seem like I’m trying to get any sympathy.  That’s not useful to anyone, and in any case, I’ve always just tried to be sincere on this blog.  Seems pointless not to be, since I can’t get away with true sincerity out in the real world.  I also know well enough that since I’m not currently starving to death or living under a dictator, I have it better than a whole lot of people.  Having that knowledge doesn’t help with depression, though, as much as it seems like it should (and don’t use this line on someone who’s dealing with it as a way to try to give them perspective – it doesn’t work.)

For some reason, I always get this way around the holidays.  Ramadan starts on Monday, and even though it’s not a big deal where I live, it’s a big deal in my family.  A whole month of fasting and repentance.  I know a lot of people think it’s just an ancient custom not worth bothering with anymore, but I do think there’s value to the fast.  Self-denial of that kind puts me in a weird mindset – not weird in a bad way, either; it’s the kind of mindset that’s best for writing.  Thankfully, the fast doesn’t include games, so I’ll still be playing them this month as well.  That and having a feast at the end, because I’ll sure as hell feel like it by then.

I’ll still have a beer sometimes, I’m not going all cold turkey or anything.  Also hope Irina doesn’t think I’m trying to bite her style here, putting related anime stills in my post

Well shit, that was another rambling bunch of nonsense.  My next post will make more sense and actually be about something.  In the meantime, if you feel like it, I’d like to hear about your own motivations.  What drives you to write?

Games for broke people: Momodora II

Yes, it’s yet another free game review.  Sorry about that – I’m trying to be more financially responsible right now, which means that I’m living more or less like I’m broke.  Not forever, though.  I still plan to get a Switch at some point.  In the meantime, I have my backlog, and I also have a bunch of freeware from Steam and itch.io that I’ve culled to weed out the boring and non-functional, leaving only the good, the interesting, and the weird.  At least I hope I’ve done that.  I guess you can be the judge, because I’ll probably be making a few more of these posts this May as I tighten my belt and work longer hours.

Today, we’re taking a look at one of the best free games I’ve found so far.  I typically write short reviews for freeware lumped into groups of two or three to a post, but Momodora II is enough of a full-fledged game that it deserves a post all to itself.

Spoilers: it’s not fucking safe

The Momodora series is one that I’ve known about for quite a while.  In fact, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, the fourth and latest game in the series, is one of those games sitting in my backlog right now.  The first two games are free to play, while the third is pretty damn cheap at just two dollars, and while they’re not as pretty or polished (or probably nearly as long) as the latest installment, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had with them if Momodora II is any indication.  I started with the second title because rdein, the creator of the series, claims on the itch.io page for the game that Momodora I is really unpolished and that we should start with the sequels instead, so sure, why not.  I bet that’s just your typical artistic modesty, though.

Not being very nice to the one-eyed freaks, are we

So what’s Momodora II about?  It has a simple plot: the protagonist Momo, a young shrine maiden, travels to a dangerous temple/cave/dungeon complex near her village to defeat Isadora, an evil demon queen who’s been causing trouble as evil demon queens are wont to do.  For some reason, Momo’s older sister just lets her wander in without helping out, which is pretty weird.  But maybe she’s right to be confident, because Momo is more than capable of defending herself – she carries a magic leaf that she uses as a kind of blade and can pick up some nice power-ups throughout the game, including a ranged attack and a double-jump ability.  As Momo fights through the complex on her way to Isadora, she’ll run into a string of other young women who are also there to take out said evil demon queen, including one who mistakes Momo for an enemy and serves as your first and second act boss battles before she comes to her senses.

Momodora II isn’t all that difficult, thanks in part to the many health regeneration/long range shot drops and the several bells around the game field that act as save points and full heal stations, but it does contain some challenge, mostly in the final section of the game and the final sort-of-bullet-hell-style boss fight with Isadora.  The map is broken into five or six different sections that vary in theme and enemy type and strength, and enemies do respawn once as you move from one section to the next, so you can’t just clear out the entire map, though that also means you have unlimited health and ranged shot drops to use if you’re stuck on a boss.

Even the maids are your enemies, and they’re just cleaning up the place

Even though Momodora II isn’t a very big game, I really enjoyed the exploration aspect of it; the level design is set up so that new sections of the map become accessible once you’ve gained certain powerups.  You’ll also have to hunt around the map for certain items before you can feasibly take on the final boss, including a set of “love letters” that fill Momo with tender feelings when she reads them, giving her an extra heart in her life counter.  At least I guess that’s how it works.  I don’t think those love letters were even addressed to her.  They’re just sitting around in chests in a dungeon; who could they be addressed to even?  Best not to think about it.

I hide my love letters behind rows of deadly spikes

The only real criticism I can make of Momodora II is that its controls can be a little too sensitive sometimes, especially when you’re trying to make jumps in a few areas that require great precision.  It’s not a major problem, just something that comes up occasionally.  If I’d paid more than a few dollars for this game, I’d also be kind of upset that it’s only about 60 to 90 minutes long (though you can get through it more quickly with a guide, but where’s the fun in that) but since Momodora II costs zero dollars, I can’t say anything about that.  This game asks for nothing but a bit of your time, and it delivers some solid entertainment, cool background music, a nice little plot and a few secrets to discover.  What more do you need, really.  Unless you’re allergic to action platformers, you should check this one out.

Games for broke people, procedurally generated edition

I’m still dedicated to writing about games that you don’t have to pay one cent for (or one of whatever sub-denomination of currency you use.)  But the problem is that a lot of free games out there are buggy, boring, and/or unfinished, some of which I suspect are student projects that would otherwise be bound for the trash.  Or they’re MMOs, which I have no interest in playing no matter how well-made.  So I started digging around, this time on itch.io, to find something at least worth the time it would take to download, and I came across a strange sub-genre of procedurally generated games.

Well, the term “game” might not quite fit in this case.  These are more like simulations or art pieces that you can walk through.  Still, that won’t stop me from writing about them.  I’ve already written about a game that consisted entirely of a five-minute boat ride and nothing else, and Becalm is about as much of a game as the following programs are.

Pattern

If you like the general idea of the world of Minecraft but you hate all the gameplay parts of it, Pattern is for you.  This program generates an endless land/seascape featuring forests, beaches, and what are either lakes or different sections of an ocean surrounding a bunch of islands.  It’s hard to tell.  As you run around aimlessly, night turns to day and back to night while the trees, ground and sky change color from green to red and back and a minute-long ambient loop repeats in the background.  There are a few interesting sights that break the monotony, but this describes 95 percent of the experience.

I might have sounded pretty underwhelmed in that last paragraph, but I basically like Pattern.  I find it relaxing.  There’s nothing going on in this world, at least from what I could tell, but that’s okay.  According to Talking Heads, Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens, so maybe Pattern is what Heaven will be like for those lucky enough to get in?

Wave Function Collapse

If Pattern isn’t a game, Wave Function Collapse really isn’t a game.  It consists of an infinite M. C. Escher-esque city full of staircases, balustrades, and classical-looking columns and arches that you can run over, across, and through, and that’s it. There’s no music, there’s not even sound, and there’s also apparently no way to quit the program other than alt+f4.  This one is kind of interesting just because it really does look like a city designed entirely by a computer – completely cold and inhuman, even lacking color.  Reminds me of the Copied City from NieR:Automata.

I had no idea what the title of this program meant, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, “wave function collapse is said to occur when a wave function—initially in a superposition of several eigenstates—appears to reduce to a single eigenstate due to interaction with the external world.”  So there you go.

SiCoTa N

According to creator Jonathan A. Daley, SiCoTa N is “[a] procedurally generated interactive environment whose movement is driven by the trigonometric functions of Sine, Cosine, and Tangent.”

Now look, I barely know a thing about how to do math beyond everyday business-related stuff.  I do remember studying sine, cosine and tangent from the trigonometry class I took in high school, but I don’t really remember what they are or know how they relate to the insane shit going on in this program, what with the cubes bouncing and the undulating polygons and block towers.  It is possible to jump off the edge of the platform to escape the madness (see right) but that won’t stop the bizarre noise music in the background from playing.  I think the background music is also procedurally generated, in fact.  I get the feeling that I just don’t understand SiCoTa N, but maybe you will if you’re a math major.

Okay, I promise I’ll review real games next time.  Probably.  I do recommend Pattern as a stress-reliever, though.  Works for me.

A review of OneShot (PC)

Yeah, I’m late again, aren’t I? OneShot was making the rounds back in 2016/2017, and here I am about two years after the party ended as usual.  But I’ve finally played it. This RPG Maker game was originally a free title released in 2014, but it got a massive overhaul along with a completely new chapter near the end of 2016. This is the version that’s been put up for sale on Steam, and it’s the version I played.

So, uh. How to approach this one. This game isn’t that easy to review for reasons that will hopefully become apparent. OneShot is the story of Niko, a child with cat-like features (big yellow cat eyes and fangs and whiskers – not a cat, though, as we’ll learn later on) who wakes up in a creepy dark house alone. Well, he’s not quite alone – you, the player, are with him.* After finding a mysterious self-lighting light bulb, Niko finds his way out of the house into a strange fantasy world totally different from his own. There, Niko finds a robot dressed like a holy man, who calls him “Savior” and tells him the light bulb he found is this world’s new sun and that his mission is to bring it to the top of a massive tower to restore light to the world, replacing the old sun that broke one day without warning. This world contains independent light and power sources, but they’re finite, and once they’re exhausted, the world will be shrouded in darkness.

I mean no pressure or anything, you know

The robot also instructs Niko to contact you. Yes, you, the player. So Niko closes his eyes and tries talking to you… and you respond to him. Through predetermined dialogue options and dialogue trees, but you do respond to him. Holy robot man tells the amazed Niko that that’s god talking to him and that god (i.e. you) will be guiding him throughout his quest.

I played Contact a long time ago, a DS JRPG that broke the fourth wall. I also played Undertale, the game that OneShot always seems to be compared with, and that game broke the fourth wall as well. OneShot doesn’t just break the fourth wall – it demolishes the damn thing, 1989 Berlin Wall style. You, the player sitting behind the screen, are one of the main characters in OneShot, and everyone in the world knows you exist… including the game itself.  I can’t elaborate on what that means without spoiling parts of the game, so I’ll leave it at that.

As you guide Niko through this strange world, you’ll have to help him solve puzzles, typically by finding, trading, using, and combining items in your inventory. There’s no combat, no boss battles, nothing like that. That’s not to say Niko’s not in any danger – the world he’s meant to save is collapsing bit by bit for reasons that remain unknown to its residents.

Industrial equipment also poses a danger to Niko (not really, though.)

Along the way, Niko meets some of the residents of the world who decide to help him out, partly because they recognize him as the savior (some of them even address him as Messiah) who will return their sun to the tower and save the world.  Well, maybe save the world.  There seems to be disagreement among the world’s citizens as to whether restoring the sun will stop the strange instances of corruption and decay that have been occurring, eating up the land and swallowing it into a void.  Even so, they’re putting all their hopes on you and Niko to do your best to save them.

Well shit, thanks for telling us that now.

While Niko finds friends throughout his journey, the most important character relationship in OneShot is the one between Niko and the player.  Niko will sometimes talk to you when you direct him to make certain decisions, and there are a few points in the game where he opens up about the world he comes from and asks about you and your world.  It’s easy to imagine the writer screwing this up by making Niko irritating, but he’s not.  Niko is a pretty smart kid, but he’s not annoyingly precocious; he takes the challenges presented to him in stride, but he still misses his mom and the rest of his family and friends in his village and wants to go home.  This desire becomes evident if you decide to let Niko take a nap in one of the few usable beds scattered around the game world.  When you put Niko to bed, the game saves and closes, and upon opening it again you’ll get to witness Niko having a dream about being back home before he wakes up and continues his journey.

Niko dreams of pancakes.

Niko’s characterization is one of the greatest strengths of OneShot.  Your first run of the game will probably take about three to five hours to complete, so you don’t really spend that much time with Niko, but the writer used that time very effectively.  By the end of that first run, I wanted to protect Niko at all costs, because he’s a good kid and he deserves to go back home, damn it.  People often compare OneShot to Undertale, but if there’s one big difference between them, it’s that while Undertale made me care about the world of the game, OneShot made me care about its protagonist.

I’m sure this game won’t present me with a dilemma that plays on the fact that I want to protect this kid

I like the game’s art style.  You can tell it’s an RPG Maker game, but the character designs are great, the character portraits are nice and expressive, and I love some of the weird little details included in the game’s settings.  The world itself isn’t very big for a game of this kind, but it’s got quite a bit to explore, with a lot of flavor dialogue and descriptive text and a few secrets to reward the obsessive completionist who has to talk to everyone and find every available item.  It’s certainly possible to speed through OneShot if you’re good at working out logic puzzles, but a lot of the game’s charm comes from wandering around and talking to everyone you and Niko can find.  The game’s background music adds to the experience – none of the tracks jumped out to me as amazing, but they’re all perfectly fitting if that makes sense.

If there’s one criticism I can make of OneShot, it’s that the other characters in the story aren’t all that fleshed out.  Not that they couldn’t be – most of them seem interesting, but it feels like you and Niko just kind of fly by them on your way to the ending.  You do get to revisit these characters in the game’s new final chapter, though.

Not a cat, not a Persona 5 reference

Time to give this game a score, I guess.  How about a 6 out of 7?  Yeah, that fits.  OneShot might just be an RPG Maker game, but like Yume Nikki, it manages to do something special with a relatively limited program.  The highest praise I can give OneShot is that it surprised me and kept me guessing all the way to the end of the final chapter.  It’s well worth buying.  As for the older free version, it’s still available to play, but it doesn’t contain the final chapter of the game, and it requires the player to play through without quitting the game except at the beds.  This is apparently why the game was titled OneShot – it only gave you one shot to beat it.  Kind of a harsh restriction, though.  Check it out if you feel like it, but this Steam version seems to be the definitive one.

Okay, I’m tired.  Two posts in the span of 48 hours is a lot for me.  Maybe I’ll go to bed and dream of pancakes. 𒀭

 

* I know Niko’s gender is never addressed in the game, but I always thought of Niko as a boy for some reason, and so I refer to him. Niko just as easily might be thought of as a girl.  It doesn’t really matter.

Music review: Moe Moe EP by Moe Shop

There’s even an out-of-print cassette version for people who are nostalgic for their Walkmans

When I was a kid, CDs were amazing.  They were the big new thing.  Now a CD release is a novelty, and I feel old.  And depressed.

What’s the solution to my depression?  Music won’t cure it, but it sure as hell helps.  I’ve written about the mysterious indie musician/composer Moe Shop once before (that’s moe as in the anime/manga-derived concept of cuteness, not like Moe from The Simpsons) but I haven’t written a proper review of Moe Moe, an EP released last year that’s so damn good I went out of my way to order a physical copy.  The cover really suits the music – this is full of bright electro-funk like someone attached a giant plug to your head and funneled cute female vocals and funk basslines and beats into it.

To be honest with you, dear reader, I wasn’t sure whether to post this review here or on my other site.  This album doesn’t have anything to do with games.  It’s not even a game soundtrack, or an anime series soundtrack, or anything like that – it’s just standalone music.  But I figure this music is weeb/anime-ish enough that it qualifies for inclusion here.  The first time I referred to Moe Shop, I said it was like Parliament-Funkadelic if it were composed of cute anime girls. Like a cute P-Funk that isn’t stoned, or at least isn’t quite as stoned as the actual P-Funk. That’s probably a stupid analogy, but I can’t think of a better one.  I know this stuff is called “future funk”, but I still don’t really know what that means exactly.  Something to do with vaporwave, I guess.

Enough of my bullshit – let’s get to the songs.  There are six on this album, and they’re all good.  However, there are three songs that I especially like.  Virtual is a bit slow-paced and very relaxing, with really nice, smooth vocals and instrumentation (each song has a different singer/lyric-writer collaborating, but all the music is written by Moe Shop.)  Lovesick is quite different.  It’s got a sort of tense feeling, with weirdly deadpan vocals that fit that feeling perfectly.  Deadpan in a good way, though, not in an overly affected way, if you know what I mean. Finally, there’s Notice, which features the line “senpai notice me” in the chorus, which pretty much makes the song worth listening to by itself.  But it’s also got a great driving beat, very cute singing, and pretty depressing lyrics if you bother to read them (or the English translation posted in the song’s Youtube video description.)  The other three songs are good as well, especially the opener Magic, but they just don’t press my buttons in quite the same way.

I’ll give Moe Moe a 6 out of 7 – very solid album all around, and even the tracks I don’t like as much are still pretty nice. Make that a really strong 6, though.  I can’t say this album is absolutely perfect, but it’s close enough, and playing this little EP in the car helped me get through a couple of really bad weeks last year when I felt like driving my car into the river on the way to work.

The artist him/herself has posted these songs on Youtube and Soundcloud, so I wouldn’t feel too bad about listening to them there for free if I were you, but it’s also available on Bandcamp if you feel like buying a digital copy. The physical copy I’ve got also includes each of the tracks without vocals (I guess you can use them to sing over yourself, or to sing to with your drunken friends at karaoke night?)  Anyway, the instrumentals seem to be exclusive to the physical release, and that was a limited run, so good luck finding a copy if you want it. The physical copy also comes with a lyric sheet, most of which I can’t read. Nothing new if you’re a collector of imported goods from countries whose languages you’re not fluent in.  Like me.

CD inserts and lyric sheets are a novelty now too, aren’t they?

By the way, sorry for the lack of game-related posts – I’ve been working overtime the last few weeks. I do have a couple of reviews coming up, though.  Still working through that backlog.

Okay, I’ll shut up now.  Until next time.

Seven super-extended video game tracks to work/study/meditate to

Relax with some popular and also some semi-obscure music that’s mostly from JRPGs I like

I’ve been pulling hard at the oars these last weeks, working through Saturday and Sunday.  A lawyer’s work is never done.  Thank God, I now have a job that lets me sit down and work in peace without being harassed by moody partners, anxious clients, and support staff who are just trying to deal with said partners and clients.  In other words, I get to put on some actual god damn music while I work, a fact that makes it worth not having medical benefits anymore.

And what better music is there to put on than some of my favorite video game tracks?  Whether you’re an expendable white-collar grunt like me or a college student studying for finals so you can also become a white-collar grunt, the following music might help you get into the right kind of mindset to take on hours of tedious work.  Just an aside before I get started – yes, six of the seven tracks here are from JRPGs, but that’s naturally how it turned out.  Did you expect anything else from me?  Finally, I’ve posted links to super-extended edits of these songs on Youtube for your convenience in case you think any of my recommendations are worth taking.

7) Digital Devil SagaMuladhara

Is it any surprise that I’m starting this list with a Shoji Meguro piece?  Probably not if you’ve read any of my other posts.  Digital Devil Saga sits under the Megami Tensei umbrella of games and has an excellent score written by Meguro, who has done soundtrack duty on most of the Megaten games.  A lot of the music in DDS and DDS2 is straightforward hard rock stuff, but the games also feature some mellow mood-setting tracks like “Muladhara”.  This one reminds me of an overcast rainy day, which might be because that’s the weather in the area of town your main characters are camping out in where this music plays.  But it also has that kind of “rainy” feel, where you just sit inside and don’t feel like going anywhere.  That’s my favorite kind of weather if I don’t have to go out, and even if I do, I prefer overcast days to sunny ones, so maybe that’s why I like this song so much.

6) Final Fantasy VIIIBreezy

I know FF8 is a little controversial as far as Final Fantasy games go, what with its janky magic system and its nonsensical plot (though the latter is a standard for FF games.)  And I’m really not a fan of sappy stuff like “Eyes On Me”.  But aside from that wet fish of a love song, FF8 sure as hell has a great soundtrack.  “Force Your Way” is my favorite FF battle song, and I love a lot of the other themes in the game.  As far as relaxing, meditative pieces go, though, “Breezy” is probably the best.  Nobuo Uematsu knows how to set a mood, whether that mood is lighthearted or tense or apocalyptic, and “Breezy” is one of his best mood-setting pieces.  Very simple – just a guitar playing a nice melody.  It’s good to relax to.  Same goes for Balamb Garden from the same soundtrack.

Also good music to ellipsis to

5) Phantasy Star OnlineMother Earth of Dishonesty

This song might have more of a relaxing effect on you if you haven’t played Phantasy Star Online.  If you have, it will conjure up images of a creepy forest full of monsters and alien chickens that play dead when you beat them up.  If you haven’t, it might just sound slightly ominous.  That might be just the kind of music you need if you’re running up against finals right now (and you are if you’re reading this at the time I’m posting it, around mid-April.  Take heed if you’re a procrastination-loving college student like I used to be: open those books now, before it’s too late.  Don’t let your anxiety get the better of you, but don’t put your studies off, either.  That microeconomics textbook isn’t going to read itself.)

Sorry for the tangent.  This is a good song, and PSO has a good soundtrack.  If you end up failing some of your finals because you put off studying too long, I recommend giving it a play on an emulator – it might put things into perspective.  At least you’re not a freelance hunter getting your face clawed off by an alien monster.  Though I can’t blame you if you think that would be a better fate than suffering through finals.  I felt that way too when I was a student.

4) Skies of ArcadiaUninhabited Island

Imagine yourself on the deck of an old-fashioned sailing ship at night, and now imagine that it’s flying in the air, and that you’re the valiant captain of a crew of good-guy pirates.  And then imagine that you wreck on an island, also drifting in the sky, and you’re stranded there alone for a while.  That’s the feeling I get from this track from Skies of Arcadia.  I guess that description won’t make any sense if you haven’t played the game, but even if you haven’t, “Uninhabited Island” is something nice to play in the background while you strain over your textbook or your screen.  Theme of Reflection is another good choice from the Skies of Arcadia OST to help you reflect.  Hell, “reflection” is right there in the title, and the title is apt.

3) NieR Song of the Ancients/Devola

I can’t write a list of songs to relax to without including something from NieR.  The soundtrack has a lot of mood-setting songs, but “Song of the Ancients” is one of the best.  I really like the “Devola” version, which is the one I’ve linked to above, but there are a few other takes on this theme that are all good, including one in the semi-sequel NieR:Automata.  This particular version is pretty simple, featuring the beautiful singing of Emi Evans and what I think might be a mandolin, but I could be wrong about the instrument.

2) NieR:AutomataPeaceful Sleep

Speaking of NieR:Automata, yeah, here’s a nice track from that game.  “Peaceful Sleep” is the song that plays when you first discover the android resistance base in the ruined city near the beginning of the game.  It’s a haven safe from the killer machines wandering the rest of the city, and this track really sets that tranquil mood well (I keep using the terms “sets the mood” and “mood-setting” in this post, but I can’t think of a better way to express the idea.)  I don’t know if it’s lazy to include a song from each NieR title in this list, but Keiichi Okabe is a great composer too, so what the hell.

One nice bit of trivia about the android resistance base is that it contains a little makeshift alcove sort of thing with benches to lounge on and an old-fashioned jukebox that contains every song in the game, though you have to actually play through the game to unlock the entire soundtrack.  It’s a nice place to visit on a new game plus.

Even in the middle of a desperate battle, there’s still time to listen to sit around and listen to music

1) Hyper Light DrifterCascades

Now here’s a game with a fantastic soundtrack from start to finish.  Hyper Light Drifter is an indie top-down action game that was released a few years ago.  Much to my shame, I haven’t beaten it (it’s still more or less in that backlog I keep going on about) but I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack a few times over.  Very electronic and ambient, and I’d bet my life that Brian Eno was a big influence on the composer.  Some of the less ominous pieces make for good background music as well, like “Cascades” linked above.  I really like the ominous pieces as well, but I don’t know if I’d put on “The Midnight Wood” or “Cult of the Zealous” to relax to – you can tell from the titles alone that they’re not made for meditation, unless you feel like meditating yourself into the middle of a bloodthirsty mob of enemies.  Well, maybe you do feel like doing that.  Who am I to judge?

I’m no one to judge.  Especially when I title a post “Seven super-extended video game tracks to work/study/meditate to” and I proceed to put nine songs in the post.  I’m not very good at these list-style articles.  Cracked isn’t exactly knocking down my door to put me on their team.  Then again, Cracked effectively (and deservingly) went under several years ago.  So much for those list articles of theirs.

What’s your favorite music to put on when you need to sit down to your work or studies, or when you want to shake off the stress of the day?  Feel free to comment.  I’m always looking for new music to hear.