(My) top five most nostalgic video game tracks

For those of you who were wondering, I’m still alive (I know one of my recent posts might have put that into question.) Since I quit my last job, I’ve been working as a contractor, which a lot of people don’t realize is something a lawyer can do. I’ve been told this work will be a black mark on my resume, but I don’t care. I’m not that suicidally depressed anymore, and I’m making just as much money as I was making before. What the hell is wrong with that?

Since I’ve been driving around a lot, that time mostly spent sitting in big city rush hour traffic, I’ve also had time to listen to a lot of new music. And since I attended a con last month and bought a stack of imported albums, this arrangement has worked out nicely for me. I’ll be writing some posts about the albums I picked up and why you might or might not want to check them out yourself, but first I’d like to share a list of video game BGM tracks that hold a lot of nostalgic power for me. These aren’t my favorite game tracks ever, but rather those that take me back to a simpler time when I was still pretty miserable, but in a different way than I am now.

1) Phantasy Star Online – Image of Hero

Anyone who played the Dreamcast MMORPG Phantasy Star Online has this song permanently stored in his head like I do. It’s one of my favorite character creation menu themes ever (or at least one of the few I remember, which says a lot in itself.) The soundtrack to PSO is an all-around great one, especially for the level of pure atmosphere it adds to the game’s environments.

BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: The first character I made while hearing this song for the first time was a FOnewearl (basically PSO-speak for a female elf mage) because I thought she was cute. Turns out she was perhaps one of the hardest characters to figure out how to use, so I switched over to the boring default HUmar. The FOnewearl is still cute, though. Especially in PSO2, which I can’t fucking play because it’s all in Japanese and you have to run it through a Japanese proxy and I can’t figure that shit out.

hella cute

2) OutRun – Magical Sound Shower

I’ve written about the OutRun BGM before, but this particular piece packs the biggest nostalgic punch for me, maybe because it’s the default track that plays when you start a race. The other two racing tracks on the BGM are just as good, though. There’s something about the Genesis sound chip that gives the best music made with it this classic 90s feel. There’s also plenty of really godawful shitty Genesis songs that are trying to be funk and failing miserably for some reason.

BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: A vocal version of “Magical Sound Shower” was included in the PS4 rhythm game Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone sung by Miku herself. SEGA owns both properties, so they presumably didn’t have to pay for the rights. Here’s to saving money on licensing fees.

3) Final Fantasy VII – Still More Fighting

Final Fantasy VII is not my favorite game ever. It’s not even in my top ten or top twenty. It’s a good game, but it’s not the best FF title, and it’s definitely overrated. But I still listen to FF7’s soundtrack. Uematsu is a damn genius, and watching my older cousin play this game on Christmas 1997 was the first I heard his work. I have a special love for this track, basically the game’s midboss theme. Sounds extremely early 70s proggy, somewhat like Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I’d say that Final Fantasy music even played a part in getting me into 70s prog and fusion in high school. Yeah, I was a pretty popular kid.

BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: Cloud’s Buster Sword is stupid and impractical but it’s still cool.

4) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Chemical Plant Zone

I’ve written about this song in particular before, but I’m doing it again. The classic Genesis Sonic games (1, 2, 3&K – Sonic Spinball is a mediocre mess with a bad-to-middling soundtrack) will always hold a special place in my heart.* These are some of the first video games I ever really played in a meaningful way, exploring levels and finding ways to exploit the mechanics. Each game also has fantastic background music. The BGM for Sonic 1 and 2 was written by Masato Nakamura, songwriter for Dreams Come True, a Japanese pop/rock band, and he clearly put a lot of work into projects that might have been otherwise dismissed as music for some dumb kid’s games. “Chemical Plant Zone” is maybe the piece of his that’s most ingrained in my mind.

BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: Michael Jackson did not write this song, in case you didn’t read the above paragraph. Mike is rumored to have written some of the Sonic 3 soundtrack, though.

EXTRA BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: The background to Chemical Plant Zone is used in the intro of Red Letter Media’s parodic “Nerd Crew” Youtube videos. It also makes for a good wallpaper, courtesy of this guy on Reddit:

Is this vaporwave? I can’t tell anymore

5) Grandia II – A Deus

This last entry is a little different from the rest in that it’s a vocal piece. The limited technology of the late 80s/early 90s consoles wouldn’t have allowed for this kind of track in a game, but the Dreamcast did. This piece is very closely tied to the plot and characters of Grandia II, a god damn classic that I reviewed here – it’s a hymn sung by Elena, one of the game’s central cast. In fact, it’s player character Ryudo’s first introduction to Elena, which turns out to be a real “jaded sarcastic bounty hunter meets bright-eyed innocent girl” kind of situation. The lyrics of “A Deus” are in Portuguese, which from what I understand is mangled pretty badly by the Japanese singer. But she still has a beautiful voice, and it’s still a beautiful song.

Later on in the game, this happens. I don’t remember the context.

BONUS SONG/GAME FACT: I miss my Dreamcast.

* Specifically the left ventricle.

Five Flaming Hotties (2D edition)

I don’t normally do these kinds of things, but after being tagged by fellow writer and friend of the site The Otaku Judge to take part in this “Five Flaming Hotties” blog post chain I felt motivated to do so. The rules of the game are as follows (quoted verbatim from its creators):

1. You must add the name of the blog who tagged you AND those of the 2 Reel Quirky Cats, Thoughts All Sorts and Realweegiemidget Reviews with links to these sites as given here.. and use the natty picture promoting this post (found later in this post).

2 Reel Quirky Cats

Realweegiemidget Reviews

and Thoughts All Sorts

2. List 5 of your all time greatest hotties from TV or Film. ie crushes / objects of your affection.

3. Say how you were introduced to them, and why you like them (keep it clean)

4. Link to 7 other bloggers.

5. Add lovely pictures of those you selected.

6. Oh…and post the rules..

However, I have to add a couple of tweaks to the game. First, I won’t be tagging anyone, because as any reader of this site knows, it is a dead end as far as blogs go. The only guy I would have thought to tag has tagged me already, and the few other blogs I follow wouldn’t take an interest in this game.

And second, just like TOJ did, I’ll be picking characters from games and anime. Fantasy is better than reality, and anyway, I always honestly thought celebrity crushes were far weirder than fictional character crushes. Make fun of the whole waifu thing all you want, but none of the suicidally depressed forever-alones pining after their non-existent girlfriends will ever be arrested for stalking a flesh and blood human being because of it. Unless one of them goes after a voice actor or a female mangaka or someone like that. Stalking is serious business, people. Don’t do it.

Okay, I’m getting off track. Here’s my list:

5) Aika

Chances are decent you don’t know who the hell this is, because she’s a character from a Dreamcast JRPG released in 2000 that never saw a sequel. Today a copy of either the Dreamcast original or the Gamecube remaster of Skies of Arcadia is almost worth its weight in gold, they’re so hard to find.

If you do come across it, Skies of Arcadia is a great game about three friends who scour the skies in airships as pirates, but as the good kind of pirates who only attack and plunder bad guys. Aika is main character Vyse’s childhood friend, a fierce, tomboyish sky sailor. The game hints at a possible future love triangle where Vyse has to choose between Aika and the demure magical moon princess healer girl Fina, but the choice is obvious to me, even if the game suggests Fina has the upper hand. Well screw you game. Why are you so damn rare and expensive now anyway?

4) Tifa Lockhart

Are all the characters on this list going to be from old JPRGs? No, not all of them. But Tifa has to be included here. The third in the love triangle (this time a way more real and immediate one) with hero Cloud and fated-to-die Aeris was my pick. Hell, Tifa owns a bar. Did Aeris own a bar? No. She sold flowers on a street corner. Tifa is better. Case closed. That’s not even mentioning Tifa’s other assets, which are considerable.*

Now I’m imagining a path in Final Fantasy VII where Cloud gives back control of AVALANCHE to Barrett, marries Tifa, and hangs out in 7th Heaven all day every day. If the upcoming PS4 remake of FF7 doesn’t include this as an alternate ending I’ll be disappointed. (Of course it won’t – just another reason why I’m probably right that it will be lousy.)

3) Holo

Holo (or Horo, depending on how you read her name – “Holo” is official but either one seems legit enough) is a sort of minor harvest goddess who can take the form of a cute girl with wolf ears and tail or of a huge, menacing she-wolf who can tear people apart. As you might imagine, Holo is pretty popular and is probably one of the big reasons the medieval economics/romance adventure series Spice and Wolf has found success. A self-proclaimed genius with a vain streak, Holo can be annoying sometimes, but her charms definitely outweigh her irritating qualities, and she gets serious when the situation demands it. And she’s cute as hell. I don’t mind admitting that I’m kind of shallow.

2) Rin Tohsaka

TOJ included Rin on his list, and I have no reason to disagree with him. It’s probably my masochist streak, but Rin is my favorite out of all the Type-Moon characters. The only child and heiress of a great family of mages, Rin is required to take part in a battle for the Holy Grail against other mages, including the regular-guy-with-hidden-magical-powers player character Shirou. Rin is one of the first characters people think of when they think of the “tsundere” character type, which more or less means she pretends to hate you but secretly likes you. Or something. It’s a popular trope, and Rin is popular too. And why not? She’s a good character with an interesting backstory (see the excellent anime series Fate/Zero for some of that, and see the film Unlimited Blade Works for the rest of Rin’s story, or read the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel if you have 50 hours to spare.)

1) Aigis

Strictly speaking, Aigis from Persona 3 isn’t a woman, or even a human. She’s an android. But she would probably be my first choice for a partner. Before you definitely decide that I’m insane, consider the following:

– Aigis doesn’t have to eat or drink, meaning lower household expenses.

– Aigis passes for a human girl when she’s wearing clothes, so you can trick the judge into issuing your marriage license.

– Aigis is a super-weapon created by a secret military commission, and she comes equipped with fingers that retract into guns and and sets of various gun attachments for her arms. No need to plan for home defense when your wife is an entire army in herself.

– Best girl in Persona 3.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Hell, if you don’t want to marry a mega-weapon android girl after reading the above, I have to wonder what’s wrong with you. Sure, you’d never be able to have a kid with her, but you could adopt. There are plenty of abandoned children and orphans out there who need good families, even ones where Mom is a robot. 𒀭

* If you thought this was a reference to boobs, that really says more about you than it does about me.

Edit (8/23/18): I still support human-android marriage rights.  Fuck his opinion on indicting Donald Trump while he’s still sitting in the Oval Office as legal chief executive – we already know where he stands on that.  If I were a U.S. senator I’d ask Brett Kavanaugh his opinion on legalizing marrying an Aigis.  Such a question may well come up during his tenure as a Supreme Court justice if he’s approved.