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Sumthing Fans,

Next week, we’ll be giving away 20 digital codes (10 for PS4 / 10 for Xbox One) to download Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition. All you need to do to qualify is sign up for our newsletter! You can find the newsletter signup toolbar at the bottom of our home page. Go ahead and sign up now… we’ll wait.


A newsletter will be sent out at 12PM Eastern on Tuesday, November 10th with instructions to claim the prizes. The first subscribers to follow these instructions will be gifted the download code for the console of their choice. Don’t worry; it’ll be a breeze. Sign up now, as you don’t want to miss out on this awesome re-master of an excellent game. The soundtrack’s not half bad either…

DS II Front Cover B

Buy the soundtrack and get hyped!

IMPORTANT: The PS4 codes are only good for North & South America. The Xbox One codes are worldwide. Thanks and good luck!

These days, to any fan of Japanese games, it might seem that whether or not games get localized is completely up to a completely random shaking of a toy 8-Ball by localization companies. It can be tortuous at times, considering how much information flows between the continents thanks to the internet, to see the bounty of games that our friends back East seem to get that will never see an English release for. Indeed, sometimes the only options seem to be to either learn Japanese, or to have the patience and poise of the Buddha himself.

There are as many reasons for a lack of localization as there are unlocalized games out there; most of the times the games are too “Japanese” and any market in the west would be too niche and limited in scope to make the investment worthwhile. There are a number of notable examples of games that haven’t been localized, some condemned to never see western shores, and some with nothing but a gigantic question mark for their localization status. Some of the most exceptional games are listed therein, and as mentioned before, an 8 ball has been consulted about the chances of each game getting localized.

  1. Mother 3

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Developed by: HAL Laboratory.          Original Release Date: April 20, 2006.

Platform: Game Boy Advance.            Genre: Role Playing Game.

Mother 3’s lack of localization is one of the most baffling in the industry. Nintendo generally has a good record of publishing their first party franchises worldwide, but Mother 3 has yet to see an official English release. The absence of Mother 3 is more puzzling due to the fact that the franchise, known as EarthBound in the West, enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in terms of popularity with two of their main characters featuring in the Smash Brothers games. Lucas and Ness are fan favorites in Nintendo’s multi-IP brawler.

Mother 3 follows the same formula as EarthBound, an incredibly charming and quirky game with lovable characters and a fairly imaginative plot. The game has few faults, and none of these are major or even significant. Critics of the game mostly focus on the lack of gameplay improvements from the previous game, but that really doesn’t detract from the fact that Mother 3 is a fantastic RPG that is a must-play for any Nintendo fan.

Listen: Mother 3 OST – F-F-Fire!

Thanks in no small part due to Lucas’s appearance in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, fans have been clamoring for at least a Virtual Console release of this cult GBA classic. Nintendo has been quiet so far, but with the recent release of EarthBound Origins, the previously unlocalized first game in the series, the future isn’t nearly as grim as you think.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Outlook good.

  1. Ciel nosurge

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Developed by: GUST.                         Original Release Date: April 26, 2012.

Platform: PlayStation Vita.                  Genre: Simulation.

I briefly talked about Ciel nosurge in a previous article, and the main reason this oddball of a game is listed is mostly because of the topic of said article, Ciel’s sequel, Ar nosurge. Both Ciel and Ar nosurge belong to the Surge Concerto series, and the way things stand right now in the west, the story of the Surge Concerto is woefully incomplete. For a series that focuses greatly on emotional storytelling and character development, the fact that half of the pie is missing doesn’t do these games any good. References to Ciel are lost in Ar, and it’s impossible to get the “ultimate” ending in the localized version of Ar, due to it requiring a data transfer from Ciel in order to be unlocked.

Being perfectly honest though, Ciel is not a game that could easily be localized. The scope of the script is massive, there’s  thousands of lines with voiced dialogue and tens of thousands without. Not to mention, that the gameplay for Ciel isn’t exactly something that would’ve appealed to broad western audiences. Simply put, the game is like a highly complex and very immersive Tamagotchi. The heroine of the game, Ionasal Kkll Preciel, has lost her memories and it’s up to the player to coax them back by performing various tasks such as talking with Ionasal, “diving” into her subconscious, and creating fairies known as Sharl by scanning barcodes with the PS Vita’s camera. The game is extremely “smart”, and the longer it’s played the more Ionasal’s daily routine matches up with the player’s. This makes it easier to accomplish the goals of the game. Afterwards, save data can be transferred to the PS Vita or PS3 version of Ar nosurge to unlock additional content and the “ultimate” ending.

Listen: Ciel nosurge OST – Neptlude (Class::NEPTLUDE=>extends.TX_CLUSTERS/.)

Unfortunately, Ciel’s lack of western draw ultimately condemned it. As Tecmo Koei has pretty much said that the game will remain a Japanese only release for the foreseeable future. Alas, the wonderful story of the Surge Concerto will remain halfway done in the western world. And the world is perhaps a bit darker because of it.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Very doubtful.

  1. Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter and Third Chapter

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Developed by: Falcom.                       Original Release Date: June 28, 2007.

Platform: Windows PC, PSP, PSV.     Genre: Role Playing Game.

It’s downright unfortunate what has been happening to the Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky series in the west. The first part of Trails in the Sky was released stateside back in March 2011 by XSEED Games, a whole 5 years after its original release in Japan. In 2011, the PSP was already in its death throes as a platform in North America, and it came to no surprise to anyone that Trails in the Sky had a fairly poor performance in terms of sales. Nevertheless, the game was something special despite its age. Trails in the Sky had lovable characters, a very interesting setting, layers of complexity in its innocuous looking battle system, and a promise of things to come. Trails in the Sky was nothing but a fantastic prelude to the next two episodes in the series which garnered even more praise and near universal acclaim in Japan. XSEED Games promised that the localization for the second game would be forthcoming relatively shortly after the first one… but it’s been almost six years, and we’ve yet to see a release for it.

Listen: Trails in the Sky SC OST – Silver Will

Now, this isn’t to say that XSEED Games is to blame for this debacle. XSEED has been in the forefront of Japanese game localization ever since they started as a company and they deserve the utmost respect. Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter has a massive script and there’s a monstrous amount of dialogue, menus, battle scenes, etcetera to translate. Considering how the first game wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, XSEED wasn’t able to put as many resources into translating the sequel as they would’ve liked to. And so we wait.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Signs point to yes.

  1. Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

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Developed by: Grasshopper Mfr.        Original Release Date: July 31, 2008.

Platform: Nintendo Wii.                       Genre: Survival Horror.

The Fatal Frame series is close to many a horror fan’s heart. The pulse pounding suspense, the relative weakness of the protagonists, the encroaching terror of the supernatural all create an experience that’s uncomfortably hard to describe. Fatal Frame enjoyed moderate success in the west, with critics praising its unique mechanics and intensely creepy atmosphere. There were three games released for the PlayStation 2, but as survival horror declined as a genre, so did the sales for Fatal Frame in the west. Once Tecmo decided to jump platforms from Sony’s Playstation brand to Nintendo’s Wii system for Fatal Frame 4, the game was not released in North America.

Nintendo of America and Tecmo seem to have had communication issues over the game, as Tecmo had stated that NoA were the publishers for Fatal Frame 4 outside of Japan, but Reggie Fils-Aime stated in an interview with “MTV Multiplayer” that “[Nintendo of America is] not the publisher of that title in the Americas. So I can’t comment on it…”

Listen: Fatal Frame 4 OST – Tsukimori Song ~ Piano

Horror fans were deprived of the pleasure of playing Fatal Frame 4, be it by corporate shenanigans or another ulterior motive. The game will most likely never see an official localization effort, but not everything is lost, as the sequel to Fatal Frame 4 has been confirmed for a worldwide release this October. Fans of the franchise will finally be able to fight evil spirits with the Camera Obscura one more time on the Wii U.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: My reply is no.

  1. God Eater 2

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Developed by: Shift, Namco-Bandai.  Original Release Date: November 14, 2013.

Platform: PlayStation 4, PSV.             Genre: Action Role Playing Game.

Namco-Bandai’s God Eater is an absolute phenomenon in Japan; there’s statues of the giant enemy monsters scattered throughout Akihabara, an anime series by legendary animation studio ufotable, more merchandise than you can shake a stick at, and of course, the games themselves and their many expansions and spinoffs. All of this makes it perplexing that Namco-Bandai’s only effort to bring God Eater to the west was with the localization of the very first game. Admittedly, the game did not do the greatest in terms of sales due to it being released for the PSP way past the prime of the device. Regardless of poor sales, God Eater gathered a tremendous cult following in the west.

The series is fantastic in nearly every aspect; it integrated the meticulous and pattern-based combat of Monster Hunter while making it extremely fast paced, along with having an interesting and original story with memorable characters. Composer Go Shiina of Tales of Legendia, Tekken 6, and Ace Combat fame was in charge of the scores throughout the series, and it shows on the excellent soundtrack that is present in every single game; featuring big names such as Donna Burke, and May J.

Listen: God Eater 2 OST – God and Man

So far, Namco-Bandai has been completely silent about God Eater 2 and the remake of the first game coming to the English speaking world. There hasn’t even been a peep coming from them in the matter, and considering their previous track record with some games, that’s not particularly encouraging. But not localizing a franchise as popular as God Eater seems to be a blunder of terrifying proportions that one can only hope Namco-Bandai doesn’t make.

8-Ball Localization Forecast: Reply hazy try again.


Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

It has been roughly a month since the momentous end of Comiket 88. The event happened during the weekend starting on August 14th, 2015, and it gave us a glimpse into the grassroots dōjinshi movement in Japan. Most importantly perhaps, Comiket 88 marked the release of the fifteenth installment of the Touhou series: Touhou Kanjuden (Ultramarine Orb Tale): Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. I have talked about the Touhou series before, and it’s my sincerest hope that the reader will forgive me for repeating myself so soon; but having only recently finished the main scenario of Lunatic Kingdom in its entirety, there’s this feeling that the game demands to be looked at in a very careful and meticulous way.

As mentioned before, the Touhou series are a franchise comprised for the most part of shoot ‘em up games. Touhou is famed for being the work of a single man named Jun’ya Ōta, also known as ZUN. Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is no exception; every single line of code, pixel, musical note, etcetera were created by ZUN himself, which makes Lunatic Kingdom maybe a bit more impressive overall. As a friendly reminder, this review contains spoilers, as it encompasses the almost the entire game. Sparse as the story in the Touhou mainline games may be, the reader has been warned. Special thanks go to Pazzy, for providing the gameplay screen captures.


The cover art for Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom.

At the start of Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom: our two perennial women of the hour, Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame, are joined by up-and-coming nouveau-protagonist Sanae Kochiya from Mountain of Faith, the tenth Touhou game; and by Reisen Udongein Inaba, stage 5 boss from Touhou 8: Imperishable Night, who makes her debut as a playable character in Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. This unlikely quartet of heroines discover that a strange extraterrestrial probe has crashed into a nearby mountain in the land of Gensokyo. Suspecting a possible invasion from powerful beings that dwell in the moon, known as “Lunarians”, the girls go investigate this incident. And in this ominous tone, the game starts.

As usual, the player has to pick one of the four protagonists mentioned above. Each one of the girls has different bullet patterns and bomb properties that might make the game easier or harder depending on preference. Sanae is generally considered the “easier” way to beat the game, while the rest are roughly equal in terms of difficulty, with Marisa slightly edging everyone out in terms of challenge. After that, you are given another selection between “Pointdevice Mode” and “Legacy Mode”. Legacy mode functions similarly to the previous Touhou games, where you have a limited amount of lives and there is no way to save your progress other than finishing the stage you’re playing. Pointdevice mode removes lives entirely from the equation, instead opting for adding chapter checkpoints throughout the stages. When hit by an enemy in Pointdevice mode, the player is returned to the latest checkpoint, and the game resumes as normal. This was a much debated addition, as Pointdevice mode supports the suspension of play sessions, and allows you to continue right where you left off the last time you closed the game in frustration due to being stuck in a particularly tricky part.


The cast of playable characters. From left to right: Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Sanae Kochiya, and Reisen Udongein Inaba.

Finally, after much ado, you’re placed at the start of stage 1. There’s a beautiful background of greenlands and a forest, along with a charming, extremely energetic tune called That Unforgettable Greenery of Connection which completes the setting marvelously. Typical for a stage 1 theme, That Unforgettable Greenery of Connection, is incredibly upbeat, and ignites these feelings of adventure and wanderlust inside the player. ZUN’s trademark trumpets roar stridently and powerfully in the refrain of the song, following the playful beat of the drums and snares. The stage is as short as the song itself, but regardless of length, you’ll soon find yourself bobbing your head to the quirky melody.

It’s over too soon though, and the boss of the first stage appears. Her name is Seiran and she’s a Lunarian; a creature from the moon, specifically a moon rabbit. Our heroines question Seiran’s motives for coming to Earth, and the only thing she reveals is that she’s with the Lunarian Military Infiltrators. Seiran works alone and she’s tough as nails, wielding her fearsome mochi mallet as a form of intimidation. As the conversation between Seiran and our heroine winds down, her theme begins playing and battle begins. The Rabbit has Landed is the name of Seiran’s song, a reference to the phrase uttered by Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”. Clever references aside, the piece is fantastic, it exudes a cool confidence and has a certain frisky tone that is generally present in stage 1 boss themes. The fight in itself is fairly straightforward, but by no means easy. There are no remarkable patterns to see here, nor does Seiran have a gimmick like some Touhou bosses seem to have at times. It’s pure concentration and pattern memorization cranked up to eleven in the higher difficulty levels. Seiran doesn’t give you a whole lot of room with “easy” bullet patterns, also called “Spell Cards”, a staple of the series at large.


“This is Seiran. I’ve made contact with a belligerent earthling.”

For veterans of the series, the first thing you may have noticed is that if you selected Pointdevice mode, the game is significantly harder than its predecessors. You may not have to worry about lives, but the game is not a downhill cruise down leisure lane. ZUN himself has stated that he implemented Pointdevice mode as a way of making the game as challenging as it could be, and he delivers fully and convincingly. This is where some people might find fault with Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, as the game sometimes feels as if it is now to be an exercise in frustrating trial-and-error gameplay, much like Super Meat Boy and the Souls series among others.

Once Seiran is defeated, she reveals the fact that she’s part of an invasion force sent to Earth from the moon, and points our heroines towards one of her superiors. And so stage 2 begins, the scenery changes to a blood red moon reflected over a dark body of water, and before long the name of the theme for stage 2 makes perfect sense. The Lake Reflects the Pure Moonlight is a much more serious piece when compared to the previous theme, the intro gives off this feeling of pure determination and unflappable resolve. The instruments may remind you of a fanfare, the brass is incredibly pronounced and there’s an almost royal tinge to the notes in this stage 2 theme. The tempo increases as the stage progresses, highlighting the large amount of bullets being sent your way. And just as the notes of the song are about to hit a crescendo, you get a hint of what you’re about to face as the boss appears throughout the stage to remind you of her presence until it’s time to face her.

Ringo is the name of the boss of stage 2, and she awaits at the end of the stage when the heroines finally manage to defeat her minions. After a short conversation, Ringo reveals she is in charge of “Information Management”, which is a way of saying she’s a spy for the Lunarian Military. The moon is no longer only visible on the surface of the lake, and is clearly and prominently displayed above the horizon. Ringo’s theme, Pumpkin of September, begins playing, and Ringo begins her attack. There’s a bit of an interesting contrast between The Lake Reflects the Pure Moonlight and Pumpkin of September, while both are much more refined and less exuberant than their stage 1 counterparts, Pumpkin of September feels much more delicate during the intro, the piano notes to begin the song give it an unearthly inkling. The fight against Ringo gives the feeling to be orchestrated against her theme song, as the tempo seems to increase whenever she launches a barrage of bullets your way, and goes back to the piano riff whenever there’s a lull in Ringo’s attack. Pumpkin of September is a excellently characterized song, because through it we can see that Ringo is more of a thinker as opposed to a fighter. If one listens closely, you can feel the doubt plastered all over the song and during the battle. It’s very likely that Ringo ponders whether invading Earth is the right thing to do. This hesitation is what ends up being Ringo’s downfall, our heroines defeat her, and she tells them that the shortest way to the root of the problem is through the Dream World. Our heroines are going to the moon to try to end this invasion once and for all, but first, they’re gonna need to have a nightmare.


The red circles are bullets from the enemy, homing into the player to attempt to score a hit.

Stage 3 is a major thematic disconnect from the rest of the game so far. Since our heroines are walking the path to the moon through the World of Dreams itself, dream-like scenery is to be expected, but it’s jarring all the same. The background of the stage is a strange square grid of contrasting colors: red on black, and pink on blue for the most part. The curiously named theme, The Mysterious Shrine Maiden Flying Through Space, is a delight to listen to. The bright piano melodies, along with the synthesized drums come together extremely well in a most ZUN fashion, and create a beautiful harmony with the rest of the instruments used in the song. As the stage progresses, you’re assaulted by beautiful patterns of bullets that form stars and flowers. The background evolves to show the shadows of cranes taking flight, much like our heroines flying through dreams to get to their destination. Throughout the stage, the “manager” of the World of Dreams, and boss of stage 3, appears every so often to shoot bullets at you. However, she doesn’t fully reveal herself until the moon shows up in the background, gigantic, looming and ominous.

About as foreboding as the moon on the background is the stage’s boss, Doremy Sweet. As soon as Doremy introduces herself as the overlord of the Dream World, the music changes from the relatively placid stage song to her incredibly agitating theme, Eternal Spring Dream. From listening to Doremy’s theme, you can feel as if it’s almost a warning of what is to come. A sense of apprehension and dread hangs heavy in the air as she launches her opening salvos at you. Doremy has a set of beautiful bullet patterns, complemented perfectly by Eternal Spring Dream, making this particular boss fight the high point of the game thus far. The absurdly frantic pace that Doremy sets with her attacks is unrivaled in terms of stage 3 bosses in the entire franchise. The stage 3 boss one of the most difficult fights in the game overall to go in blind, as some of her patterns need either a ridiculous amount of brainpower to read properly, or knowledge from previous failures.


Doremy Sweet really doesn’t like trespassers coming into the World of Dreams.

Eventually, Doremy relents, and lets our heroines through to the passage that leads to the moon, but not without a warning that the difficulties to come might be the most trying yet. On that note, our heroines arrive at the Lunarian capital, only to find it completely abandoned, seeming even frozen both in time and temperature. The song for this stage is called The Frozen Capital of Eternity, explaining perhaps in part the appearance of the Lunarian city. At first, the theme paints a picture of a perfect calm atmosphere, a peace that lasts forever if you will. But lunacy begins to take hold little by little, it creeps into the notes of the theme and the pace picks up as more and more enemies appear on screen and begin to attack our heroines. Stage 4 may be considered a lull in the game, or perhaps the calm before the storm, as it has a much more laid-back aura than the stage that came before it and will come after it. The euphonious brass that makes its appearance early in the song is noticeably more muted and subtle than the usual ZUN fare, until the trumpets explode into a blaring refrain that highlights the aforementioned lunacy and the boss appears.

Sagume Kishin is the name of the boss of stage 4, and at first this mysterious character does not say much, only admitting that she’s in charge of the invasion forces sent to Earth. Our heroines decide that the only way to make the boss talk is to defeat her, and as such begin to fight her in earnest. Anyone who has played the previous entry in the series, Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character, will perhaps raise an eyebrow to the familiar sounding tune that begins to play. The Wheel of Fortune Turning Over, this game’s stage 4 boss theme sounds intriguingly similar in both composition and tempo to Reverse Ideology, the stage 5 boss theme of Seija Kijin from Double Dealing Character. However, while Seija resorted to a plethora of cheap tricks and infuriating gimmicks, such as reversing your controls so that left is right and right is left; Sagume seems to be a fair bit more restrained in that aspect. Not to say that Sagume is an easy boss, on the contrary, she’s very difficult to defeat and resorts to her own brand of underhandedness. During one of the phases of the fight, Sagume sends a barrage of homing enemies towards the player, and destroying them creates an unmoving obstacle bullet that will not disappear until the phase is over, potentially caging the player into an incredibly small space if caution is not exercised. The Wheel of Fortune Turning Over fits Sagume’s trickster paradigm perfectly as the song has this certain level of flimflam configuration to it; this, along with the fact that Sagume has some strange gimmicks that she uses against the heroines, gives you the feeling that the boss of stage 4 isn’t really taking the fight seriously, but is instead testing the player for her own purposes.


The start of Stage 4. The Lunar capital sits frozen on the background.

As the fight with Sagume winds down, she reveals the reason why the invasion of the Earth was orchestrated by the Lunarians, and why she speaks so little. For the latter, Sagume is a divine being with the power of changing the world with her words, she has little control over this strange power and anything she says for the most part ends up getting reversed. For the former, the moon is under attack from a force that renders the Lunarians unable to counterattack, so as a backup plan, Sagume had decided to “purify” Earth so that the Lunarians would be able to migrate there if their enemies were successful in capturing and destroying their capital. However, Sagume realizes that our heroines are strong enough that they could help save the Lunarian capital from the invaders and as such makes a deal to call off the invasion of Earth so long as the Earthling girls help her attacking the enemy’s home base in the Sea of Tranquility. In an ironic twist of fate, Sagume reverses the fate of the lunar capital by enrolling the aid of the people sent from Earth to stop her.


With renewed determination, Reimu and the others head towards the Sea of Tranquility. And so stage 5 begins. Right at the start of the stage, a character clad in an all-too-familiar stars and stripes pattern speaks and whips the enemy troops, mainly composed of fairies, into a lunatic frenzy. The game’s climax is rapidly approaching and the stage music Faraway Voyage of 380,000 Kilometers reflects this in an amazingly appropriate way. There’s a sense of chaotic hysteria behind the song in the stage. And as you progress through the waves of enemies in front of the desolate moonscape background, you get the sensation that you’re in the middle of a tumultuous battlefield. The infamous lasers of Touhou 12: Undefined Fantastic Object, are back with a vengeance, these red, white, and blue beams of power are a challenge to dodge without cornering yourself into an inescapable situation. Regardless if you’re playing on Pointdevice or Legacy mode, Stage 5 is where most every player will die repeatedly in increasingly inflaming and baffling ways. Among all this madness, the boss’s stage finally appears. What happens next, nobody could have ever predicted, and the fanbase was out-of-sorts for a good while after.


An adorable machine of murder.


Her name is Clownpiece, a fairy from hell; she’s clad in a star-spangled outfit, much like the flag of the United States of America. The fight with Clownpiece takes place on the area around the Sea of Tranquility, so it comes to reason that Old Glory was found somewhere in her jaunts across the lunar surface, a souvenir left over from one of the many Apollo missions to the moon. This eccentric character is the captain of the fairies causing so much chaos and destruction in the moon’s surface, and it’s our heroine’s job to stop her once and for all. At first Clownpiece seems to be scatterbrained and ditzy, but once her theme, Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner begins playing it becomes clear that she’s an incredibly dangerous opponent. The song’s intro is overwhelmingly sinister, and quickly takes on a melody that on the exterior appears playful and merry, but if you listen closely you can feel the balefulness creeping beneath the surface. Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner stomps, stings and rings along a forbidding gothic road that few songs in the Touhou series dare to tread. The song is an absolute masterpiece in terms how it fits Clownpiece’s character, because as challenging as the game has been so far, everything pales in comparison to the spectacle you’re about to behold. Yes, the boss fight with Clownpiece is hard; unfairly so, frustratingly so, and terrifyingly so. Her bullet patterns require pin-point accuracy and near-photographic memory to avoid getting hit. She uses a great deal of treacherous patterns to blindside the player, often creating situations near impossible to escape without using a bomb or getting hit. Her leitmotif persists through the boss battle, as she uses star-shaped projectiles to flood the battlefield while lasers representing the stripes cut the space available to maneuver to a fraction of the screen. At some point in the fight she even throws a trio of gigantic moon-shaped projectiles that spit out more bullets as they traverse the screen. All in all, Clonwpiece is one of the biggest challenges to ever exist in the franchise, and it requires all of the player’s skill and patience to succeed, and defeat her.

Now, the reason why much of the fanbase was astounded by Clownpiece was because it seemed that ZUN was finally acknowledging his western fans by giving them a nod with her design. ZUN had always being somewhat of an iconoclast, retelling and reshaping histories and legends from East Asian lore to suit the purposes of his games; now that the Apollo Missions and the Stars and Stripes were heavily referenced in Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, many western fans were thrilled. To add to this, Clownpiece’s appearance came shortly on the heels of the announcement that Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character would be available through a western publisher as a downloadable game. For the first time ever, a Touhou game would be obtainable in an official and sanctioned-by-ZUN manner in the west. Before, fans would have to resort to importing physical copies of the game from Japan, buying memberships to Japanese doujin distribution websites; or in the worst case scenario, Piracy. It’s obvious then, considering all these factors, why Clownpiece is such a beloved character regardless of the interminable frustration and absurd challenge her stage and boss battle present.


Stripes of destruction. Dodging this is a lot more difficult than it seems to be from a still image.

To get back on track, after Clownpiece is defeated, our heroines interrogate her and find out there’s a mastermind behind the fairies’ invasion of the Moon. After being pointed in the right direction, the girls continue on and the final stage of the main game begins. The background changes to a placid sea, with a few waves rippling through its surface, as our heroines have arrived in the Sea of Tranquility proper. But the song playing is, for lack of a better word, disparaging. The Sea Where One’s Home Planet Reflects, is an extremely calm, relaxing melody. After the crucible the player was subject to on the previous stage, this change of pace is a bit startling to say the least. Even the enemies seem to be a bit more lax, being disappointingly straightforward in their attempts to destroy the player. Honestly speaking, the stage is a bit of a letdown overall. As maddening as stage 5 was, it was exhilarating at the same time, and if the energy level had been kept up for stage 6, it would’ve conjured the perfect storm to finish the game in the highest note possible.

Thankfully, the calm doesn’t last for long, stage 6 ends as the final boss of the game appears lamenting the fact that our heroines have been able to overcome every obstacle placed in front of them. Unexpectedly, the ringleader of the invasion admits defeat almost immediately after the girls begin talking to her, saying how she did not account for an Earthling potentially saving the Lunar capital. Regardless of that, the woman reveals her name is Junko, and that even though her will to fight the Lunarians has more or less disappeared, she will show our heroines what she’s made of. From her pre-fight speech, we can glimpse that Junko has a terrible grudge against the goddess of the Lunarians, a mysterious character only known as Chang’e. If Junko is to be believed, Chang’e’s husband is responsible for the death of Junko’s child. As such, Junko used her powers as a divine spirit to purify her very own essence until nothing of her remained but pure spite and an overwhelming desire for revenge. Pure Furies ~ Whereabouts of the Heart is Junko’s theme, and it depicts her vindictive nature in an astonishingly accurate way. Junko is out to kill you, there is absolutely no question about it. While most Touhou characters fight each other in a good-natured way, generally rooted in a set of rules to avoid dealing permanent harm to their counterparts; Junko gives no quarter at all, made evident by the names of her spells such as “Lilies of Murderous Intent”, and “Pristine Danmaku for Killing a Person”. Pure Furies fills you with awe as you attempt to avoid Junko’s simple yet precise attacks. ZUN wanted to give the player the unmistakable feeling that you were fighting a final boss, and accomplished it perfectly. Junko may not be as tough, or underhanded as Clownpiece was, but the atmosphere of the fight definitively gives the “final boss” feeling, in addition to making you feel as if the heroines are fighting for their lives. The battle is long and drawn out, Junko seems to refuse to surrender to lowly earthlings. But in the end, something’s gotta give, and the girls defeat Junko and she disappears, bringing the main scenario of Touhou 15: Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom to a close.


There is nowhere to hide when Junko wants your blood.

As the game ends, however, it seems that the invasion of Earth by the Lunarians has not stopped; Sagume Kishin is unable to do anything as someone is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and is forcing the Lunarians to continue their encroachment upon Earth’s lands. It is then, that the Extra scenario is unlocked, a story best left for another time.

Overall, Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is a great game. It has its flaws admittedly, as ZUN tried to experiment with Pointdevice mode and some parts of the game were beyond difficult, even for veterans of the series used to some of the more challenging facets of the franchise. The trial-and-error mechanics of “Torturedevice mode” as some fans called it, were at times too much and not rewarding enough. The atmosphere of the game is amazing though. ZUN’s talent as a composer shines throughout the game and some pieces like Pierrot of the Star Spangled Banner and Eternal Spring Dream are among the best in the series. Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom is definitively one of the hardest if not THE hardest game in the series, and finally finishing it, despite its shortcomings, is one of the most rewarding experiences this year in video games. It’s definitively recommended for anyone looking for a challenge, or any fan of shoot’em ups. If the genre of the game is not something that appeals to you, consider giving the soundtrack a listen or two; maybe, just maybe, ZUN’s music will win you over as it has done so with thousands, maybe even millions of people around the globe.


Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!


Assassin’s Creed® soundtracks to be issued on physical formats from September 25; Publisher-label deal also includes Far Cry®, Prince of Persia®, Rayman®, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell® Original Game Soundtracks.


Sumthing Else Music Works, the premier record label dedicated to releasing video game soundtracks, today announced that it has entered into a multiple-title licensing agreement with Ubisoft, to release physical editions of the original soundtracks from blockbuster video game franchises Assassin’s Creed®, Far Cry®, Prince of Persia®, Rayman® and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell®.

“We’re excited to be working with Ubisoft in bringing their physical product and lineup of artists and titles to the worldwide marketplace,” said Andy Uterano, President of Sumthing Else Music Works.

Under terms of the agreement Sumthing Else will issue Ubisoft’s music catalog on CD and select titles on vinyl, commencing with the original soundtracks from its historical action-adventure series Assassin’s Creed® on September 25.  Featuring the music of BAFTA award-winning, Billboard and MTV Video Music Awards nominated composer Jesper Kyd and Grammy award-winning, Emmy and BAFTA nominated composer Lorne Balfe, the first physical soundtracks to be released include:

BAFTA winning composer Jesper Kyd’s immersive soundtrack evokes the medieval Middle-Eastern setting. Set in 1191 AD, when the Third Crusade was tearing the Holy Land apart, Assassin’s Creed enables players to become truly immersed into the mindset of Altaïr, the game’s main character, and the rich environments of the game through Jesper Kyd’s thematic original score. The combination of cinematic compositions with Middle-Eastern acoustic instruments and vocal performances, featuring full choir and soloists, delivers a deeply meditative and spiritual aesthetic.

Assassin’s Creed II features a new hero, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young Italian noble, and a new era, the Renaissance. To reflect the change in character, story and setting for Assassin’s Creed II, Jesper Kyd took the music in an adventurous and dramatic new direction, crafting a melodic, acoustic and progressive musical palette. The music propels the action, captures the allure and mystery of the story and immerses players in the breathtakingly detailed settings. Kyd’s multi-award winning Renaissance-inspired score features the series’ iconic theme, “Ezio’s Family”.

The third iteration in the critically acclaimed series, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was inspired by historical events during the occupation of Rome by The Borgias in 1503. “Researching the history of the Borgia Family it became clear early on that Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood would require a very dark score in order to match the Borgias’ aspirations to become the rulers of Italy. The music follows the compelling story of Ezio as a Master Assassin going up against The Borgias.” – Jesper Kyd

In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Master Assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of the legendary mentor Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. Introducing the “Assassin’s Creed Theme”, cut-scenes and multiplayer music by Grammy winning composer/producer Lorne Balfe, recorded with a full live orchestra, and featuring a rich, evocative hybrid in-game music score by Jesper Kyd drawing on Greek, Renaissance and Middle-Eastern instrumentation, combining his emotional melodic writing and acoustic/electronic styles associated with the series.

Assassin’s Creed III invited players to experience the untold story of the American Revolution through the eyes of a new Assassin, Connor.  Designed from the ground up, Assassin’s Creed III takes one of gaming’s most beloved franchises to new heights with Lorne Balfe returning to helm the original score.  “I wanted to create an epic feeling that would complement the grandeur of the visuals. This was the beginning of America as we know it today – filled with cultures from across the world. With such diversity available, I was able to bring Celtic and other musical influences into the game to further accentuate the complexities of the game itself.” – Lorne Balfe

The remaining Assassin’s Creed original soundtracks will be released on CD in October and select titles on vinyl in 2016:

  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Original Game Soundtrack – Music by Brian Tyler
  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Game Soundtrack Sea Shanty Edition – Various Artists
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity Original Soundtrack Volumes 1 & 2 (2-CD) – Music by Chris Tilton and Sarah Schachner

The licensing deal announced today also includes physical releases for the Far Cry®, Prince of Persia®, Rayman® and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell® soundtracks – release dates to be announced.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: Mike Oldfield: Nuclear

In its most base form, composers Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett, Harry Gregson-Williams, and Daniel James’s score for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the sound of ice, but not of it breaking, nor of it being formed…but the SOUND of it. It’s not something you can photograph or truly gauge with your ear. For some, it’s terrestrial, completely alien, a fogged intonation, a strange drowning sibilate. To others it’s an arrival knell: a sound only known and familiar to those who’ve been immersed in the throes of crippling mental and emotional isolation. Imagine its hollow encapsulation turned to physical echo, its corridor growing larger and longer. This is the frigid tolling that is to be found within much of the Phantom Pain, and it is this cold that is essential to its framework. Grieving and loss often rant indecipherably, their telegraphs exceedingly verbose as the mind becomes consumed and appropriated by schism and brokenness. Lead composer Ludvig Forssell and his collaborators must carefully interpret what little can actually be translated from the scribble, and make sense of what remains available from this dying white noise: this must be a meticulous clarification, a vision, a definitive account of the ordeal, no matter how boreal the chimera. Here is the sound of desolation: how I wish you were here with me now.

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 Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: Withered Peace

But… before we talk about the later acts of The Phantom Pain, we have to make note of its preface. The mere fact that Metal Gear Solid V’s dual acts share closely related passages within the same novel would be of both failure and disservice to Forssell, as his sublime and inordinately pregnant dusk (Ground Zeroes score) requires and deserves separate and magnified praise. The compositions for Ground Zeroes offer up a striking penumbra. This is a finite, panoramic view of the moment where stasis finally fails and all its many delicate supporting mechanisms enter into a state of steady decline: things are simply, irreparably breaking down. Whatever glints, whatever thin parcels the aurora that may have remained are slowly being gagged from above. Withered Peace is the clearest mark of this shift, you can hear it as it stammers loudly, as if it were searching itself for some remedy, some tangible gadget to alter the present course: there’s regret, trembling, and an audible degree of indecision. Conversely, Bloodstained Anthem wholly embraces the boldness of the stygian landscape before it. Forssell’s work needs no anchor, as both these pieces demonstrate his innate and incredible abilities to advocate for both sides of the countered nature of The Phantom Pain. Composer Harry Gregson-Williams’ contributions are encompassed in their entirety within the Ground Zeroes prologue, but despite their brevity, serve as some measure of pavement to bridge the myopic night driving that’s about to take place in the Phantom Pain. She’s Rigged and The Fall Of Mother Base are key components within the full transition, and they do serve as reminders of why exactly Gregson-Williams has been kept on full retainer for some 14 years by Kojima productions. Ground Zeroes stands as a luminous signpost within the Phantom Pain’s many stunning and intricate lines and fractures. But…what of that ice?

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: V Has Come To

Yes, back to that ice. Understand me, when I say that The Phantom Pain’s score is the fullest measure of destitution. If you were hoping for something gentler, some still-water alcove of obligingly arranged reminiscence, perhaps, I’d advise you to look elsewhere. I’d also add that in dealing with the subject matter of The Phantom Pain, doing the above described would be to erase all meaning from the text. While the vinyl for Ground Zeroes walked the scant hairline between the underworld, Phantom Pain’s LP proper dissolves all supporting allegiances with few exceptions. The opening, V Has Come Too, makes gorgeously vivid and painterly Forssell’s muse (Big Boss). Rather than draft him as someone or something fully one dimensional, villain or savior, Forssell instead makes a stunning cast from his fragments of deficiency, his failures, and his malcontent interspersed with what indeterminate good actually remains of the man this far down the wire, and shows us just how teetered our hero actually is. Listen closely and you’ll be able to hear the entire composition attempt to steady itself, a single note at a time, with some notes just under their range, some movements pushing too far to the right, and regular unscripted outbursts are common: conditions change. Without question, V Has Come Too is one of the greatest pieces of music I’ve yet heard in a videogame or film in over a decade, and one of the best pieces the medium of musical entertainment has produced as a whole: yes it’s that good. A Burning Escape runs deeply accented and caliginous strides around even the murkiest lore within the Metal Gear mythos. The wisely uncut full 9 minute duration of Escape is the very anchor of the 1st half of this record and composers Burnett and Forssell’s low agonized crawl give shape to all that the Phantom Pain represents, but these are moments recalled in short flashes without access to the full memory, and no doubt, Forssell and Burnett realize it NEEDS to be this way.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: Kept You Waiting Huh

Much of what the Phantom Pain is built around, is madness. Contrary to popular belief, madness isn’t a personal exercise, it’s not one of isolation…it’s shared, collective, and enabled. In the case of Big Boss, his lieutenants, his friends, and all his allies are complicit in his downfall: however much his men may object, they still goad their mentor to continue, and despite objections remain silent. Kept You Waiting Huh? expertly redecorates the Boss, reinstates him to a man in full, his former appearance, but not his former self. Waiting’s celebratory pomp perfectly masks Boss’s intent as Forssell’s multi-part walk on cues for the Boss via Waiting and Afghanistan’s A Big Place offer up both opulent pastoral stretches with enough room for imagined soliloquies, and physical enough that despite the years behind him, Big Boss is a man of undiminished build, undaunted and nonchalant as he reengages his enemy. Forssell intrinsically understands the importance of this moment, and he delivers it with gravitas and aplomb. And still, this is only just the beginning.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: On The Trail

Action is of course, a large and core proportion of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and the things Forssell does with each piece of the script’s call for bullets will no doubt turn heads in sharp approval. Forssell’s treatment of celebrated director Hideo Kojima’s stage is one of the most radical and sharply visceral set-lists to grace a numbered MGS entry. Where Metal Gear Solid 4’s instrumentation was intent largely to pontificate and place every moment under glass and Metal Gear Solid 2’s was a touch too grandiose, Metal Gear Solid V, strips away that penchant of the series to lean on larger and grander orchestration: Encounters here aren’t sanitized, and any ideas you have about the sound of the action being overly, disproportionately produced, or densely populated with a symphony too enormous would be wrong. Forssell is intent to sell his pieces in exact dimensions with much of the fat being left to drain instead of further marinating a dish already fully seasoned. Forssell’s MGS is an experiment, a live improv with instruments strewn about the floor, all plugged and live with microphones. His methodology carries with it this capricious nature that seems to revitalize and re-invent this series very defined, very heavy accent. Take Encounter On The Plains, Metallic Archaea, On The Trail, Drop Off, Parasites, and Unforgiving Sands: each of them are imposing but palatial mutations that collapse and re-atomize with each passing second. Where you begin, you don’t end up. This is purposeful, I can only guess, because Forssell (rightfully) seems intent on dismantling the clarity of these once picked apart and perfectly cued junctions (action cues) . Surely nothing about a real firefight can be choreographed, and clarity itself has no place there: Forssell gets it.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: OKB Zero

Forssell’s scaled down approach to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain also allows for more emotion from the personalities that he’s scoring for, with an emphasis placed on room for them to breathe, and time enough to manifest the traits of their character (this includes the environments). Let me be clear: Forssell’s compositions come closest to actually recapturing the feeling of the original Metal Gear Solid album by composer Tappy Iwase. Forssell’s design likewise maintains and even surpasses Iwase’s level of melancholy. OKB Zero ’s broken and fading string-light pageantry is one of the greatest moments of audio in any MGS title full-stop. The exact same could also be said of Shining Light’s, Even In Death and Beautiful Mirage as they bring this series to the point of full circle, similarly awash in the sound of white( there’s that ice again) that once greeted series mainstay Solid Snake as he infiltrated Shadow Moses Island some 17 years ago. In regards to the main vocal theme Sins Of The Father, Forssell deserves further standing ovations as it is probably not common knowledge that the lyrics were of his invention with music by series stalwart Akihiro Honda. It goes without saying that overdue credit goes to spectacular vocalist, Donna Burke, without whom it would be lost.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: Beautiful Mirage

The Phantom Pain is VERY much Ludvig Forssell’s show, but his collaborating composer Justin Burnett’s contributions are to be applauded for their excellence and their flawless adherence to Forssell’s ultra gritty vision. This is a seamless work that requires you to be able to live inside of it, where even the slightest incongruence would have had the power to remove you from its world: this duo is very tightly knit. Burnett’s Angering Mantis in particular follows the precedent that both he and Forssell set early on with Burning Escape, and exemplified further by Forssell on OKB Zero. Mantis is given ample time, because Burnett knows that for something to be truly frightening, grizzly even, it will take more than a first glance, as both glances and initial introductions can be deceiving, but given a little longer…that’s when the evil sinks in.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid V: Original Soundtrack: Shining Lights, Even In Death

Fullest marks and the very highest of compliments go to those artists who can successfully weave the imagery of their LP cover into the tracks on their album. Composers Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett, Harry Gregson-Williams and Daniel James have indeed unraveled and decoded all of The Phantom Pain’s many variant 12 inch pressings: their combined inscriptions create a score to best and eclipse all of the series’ past masters. The mere existence of this record adds value and stock to the series of Metal Gear, and imbues its future with the numerous possibilities beyond the ice: a true passing of the torch.


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.

Last week, while the eyes of the world were busy ogling Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, NIS America quietly released the latest installment of the Danganronpa series, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. Now, many might not be familiar with just exactly what this curiously titled series of games actually are; but if you don’t, you’re seriously missing out. There are three games in the series, and they are known in the west as follows: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and the aforementioned Another Episode.

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The box art for Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.

The first two games follow a peculiar formula: A group of high-school students are trapped in a particular place (a school in the first game, an island in the second.), and they are forced to kill each other until the last person stands, much like in Battle Royale the cult classic book by Koushun Takami. However, a set of rules are in place to prevent wanton carnage. Every time that someone in the school or island is murdered a trial is held, if the culprit is caught, he or she is summarily executed. But should the culprit get away with it, and someone innocent is found guilty, everyone else dies and the culprit gets to go free. Another Episode is a spinoff that has very different gameplay, but today, we will be focusing on the first two games for the most part.

Listen: Danganronpa OST – Discussion -HOPE VS DESPAIR-

There’s a few different facets of gameplay to the main two Danganronpa entries. For the most part, the games “play” much like a hybrid of a visual novel and a point-and-click adventure game, you look around the game world and meet the characters, “socialize” with them, and gather useful items. Then the inevitable happens, a murder happens and sends shockwaves through our colorful cast of characters, and as the protagonist, it’s up to you to solve the mystery and find the culprit. After gathering evidence, the game turns into a set of mini-games set in the mock-courtroom of either the school or the island. The minigames range from finding contradictions in statements made by witnesses by shooting said statements with a “truth bullet”, to hilarious and literal “leaps” of logic in a snowboard-like game, all of which are set to an astounding soundtrack.

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The cast of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Masafumi Takada is the genius behind the OST for every Danganronpa game. Although you might not know him by name, Takada was the composer for classics such as Killer 7, God Hand and No More Heroes. In the Danganronpa series, Takada really shows his wide array of talents as a composer. Considering the gameplay itself is sparse, there was a need to create a powerful soundtrack that kept the players suckered in the whirlwind of despair that Danganronpa creates, and it was accomplished beautifully. The tunes in the soundtrack consist of a chilling fusion of sounds: suspenseful electronic melodies that set the murder-mystery atmosphere, techno-like beats of immense energy and power to accompany the mock trial frenzy, jazzy rock themes that are meant to relax before a big moment takes you unawares, and sorrowful piano melodies that embody the feelings of loss and despair that are so prevalent throughout the game as the characters learn to deal and cope with their situation.

Listen: Danganronpa OST – Discussion -HEAT UP-

The cast of the games is always unique and interesting, with perhaps the exception of the (mostly) plain-joe protagonists. There’s the gung-ho macho motorcycle gangster, along with the freakishly buff ogre-like strongwoman in the first game, just to name some. Because of their eccentricities, the characters in the Danganronpa games are very unique and a fair bit of them will resonate with the player one way or the other. This gives the games a very strong emotional impact, as a great deal of the characters in the game end up murdered, or dead one way or the other. Which brings me to probably the most recognizable face of the franchise, Monokuma the bear. This strange looking, monochrome mascot is the main antagonist of the series, one of the major plot points is to try and find out just who controls it, and what exactly this person is planning to do with the students trapped in the school or island.

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Anyone could be a murderer. The cast of Danganronpa 2 looks suspiciously at each other.

Monokuma is a brilliant antagonist, a toyish figurehead of despair that talks and act in such a chipper and almost child-like way. The contrast of his “puhuhuhu” laughter with the evil, sadistic way in which he treats the students is about as jarring a juxtaposition as the black and white tones of his skin. Monokuma steals the show pretty much every time he’s on the screen, and the punishments that he doles out to the murderers when they are caught by their fellow students are nothing short of tremendous masterpieces of creative cruelty.

Listen: Danganronpa 2 OST – Ikoroshia

Danganronpa, much like Monokuma himself, is not shy about what it sets out to do. The theme and atmosphere in the games are brutal, almost unforgivingly so. At times, the series is torturous to play; despair, being the central adversary of the franchise, coats pretty much every single game. Every murder, every trial, every stage of the game makes the characters and the players feel a certain amount of despair that’s just about enough to bring them to the brink of oblivion. Even so, Danganronpa makes something abundantly clear, Hope is stronger than Despair. What makes the game feel so satisfying in the end is that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. This is good for a couple reasons: not only does this give our beloved characters something to believe in, but is an ideology that perhaps the world at large could really get behind. Even in a world as black and cold as Danganronpa’s, hope survives, and that is enough to shine a light on the darkness of the human condition.

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The evil sadistic mastermind himself, Monokuma.

In a set of games as story heavy as Danganronpa, it really is difficult to make an assessment of the story without revealing details that may potentially ruin the experience for a potential player. But overall, they are excellent games that immerse you in a way few games can. The visual novel-esque gameplay of the first two games may be a turn-off for some, but if you can get past the austereness of it all, you will be rewarded by one of the best and most creative stories in modern gaming. It’s definitively recommended, although it would be best to start from the beginning with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, as both Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls will not make a lick of sense.


Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!

A few weeks ago, Arc System Works announced that the newest installment of the BlazBlue series, Central Fiction, was in development. People unfamiliar with the franchise might look at the art-style and character design and dismiss the franchise as yet another Japanese flight of fancy. At a glance BlazBlue does seem like a cacophony of anime cliches from the mid 2000s, but that really doesn’t tell you the whole story. BlazBlue is an incredibly in-depth fighter, with a great number of nuanced mechanics and a high execution barrier. Sickeningly fast paced, exhilarating to both watch and play, it’s really little wonder that BlazBlue is one of the kings of arcades in Japan.


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Newcomers Naoto and Hibiki (Mid left and right) join old schoolers Ragna and Noel (Far left and right) in Central Fiction.

Admittedly, the franchise does not have the same high-class pedigree some other fighting games do: Street Fighter, for example, has been around since 1987; Namco’s tekken since 1994; and even BlazBlue’s older heavier cousin, Guilty Gear, has rocked arcade cabinets since 1998. In contrast, BlazBlue’s first release, Calamity Trigger, came out a scant 7 years ago in 2008. The game was originally intended to be a spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, since the franchise had been in limbo for a while and Arcsys wanted to inject new life into the fighting game genre. It was a long shot, since Guilty Gear was one of the golden children of the Japanese fighting game community. But somehow, all the right pieces were in place; Calamity Trigger had the vision of director Toshimichi Mori injected into it, as well as the incredible talent as a composer of Daisuke Ishiwatari, mastermind behind the Guilty Gear series. Ishiwatari was a particularly critical piece, because you really only need to listen to the soundtrack of the Guilty Gear series to know that this man knows rock the same way a geologist does.


Listen: Noel Vermillion’s Theme – Bullet Dance


The soundtrack in Calamity Trigger was no less remarkable than Guilty Gear’s. Ishiwatari had poured his soul into the music in the game, and the result was a penetrating, mind blowing variety of sensational songs that gave you the sense that the world was crashing around your ears. In the devil-may-care style that perhaps only Japanese composers can successfully deliver, Ishiwatari went from the hard-rock tones of Rebellion, to the post-industrial bass of MOTOR HEAD, effortlessly and flawlessly giving depth to every dramatis personae in the game. Fans were drawn to BlazBlue due to the characters, which in contrast to good old Ryu or Ken, seemed to grow throughout the story of the game and with every iteration afterwards. While perhaps a bit cliched at first, every character in BlazBlue was unique both in gameplay and drama. For example: You had the gruff protagonist, Ragna the Bloodedge that, while his name may sound like the try-hard attempt of a teenage kid to sound badass, is just really a guy with a heart of gold, tremendously bad luck and penchant for catastrophe.


Listen: Nu-13’s Theme – Awakening the Chaos


And so it seemed that BlazBlue had managed to recapture some of the magic that Guilty Gear had originally possessed, thanks in no small measure to Ishiwatari’s brilliance. But Calamity Trigger wasn’t exactly a competitive masterpiece. The game was poorly balanced, felt sluggish at times, and the UI was an eyesore for the most part. Some fans also felt that the story, while good for a fighting game, was over-the-top convoluted and difficult to follow at times. However, the game was a resounding commercial success, and the seed had been planted for the continued survival of the series. Eventually, the game made it to the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 in 2009, increasing the popularity of the franchise even further, and making it accessible to fans worldwide.

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The cast of Calamity Trigger.


Arc System Works saw that they had a gold mine in their hands, and worked tirelessly to keep BlazBlue fresh and exciting. ArcSys adopted a near yearly release schedule for every version of the game, always improving over the previous release one way or the other. Some fans found this objectionable, but regardless of that, by August 2012, the franchise had sold over 1.6 million copies of both Calamity Trigger, and the three versions of Continuum Shift (Original, 2, and Extend). Then, in November 2012, after extensive testing and fine tuning, BlazBlue finally hit its full stride with the release of Chronophantasma. Boasting the largest roster of the series to date, as well as revamped mechanics and a much faster game pace than its predecessors, Chronophantasma was a runaway hit in Japan, quickly becoming the most played game in arcades nationwide during the first few months of its lifespan. The game’s popularity increased even more when it was released for consoles a year later, in October 2013, going as far as being featured in EVO, the premier fighting game tournament in the United States. (The finals were one of the most exciting events of the year, and showcased an amazing set of skills from both combatants. Highly recommended.)


Listen: BlazBlue Chronophantasma OST – Theme of the Six Heroes


It is now, then, that the fanbase waits with bated breath for the release of Central Fiction. It’s a game that certainly can’t be missed if one is a fan of fighting games. It promises to be faster, bigger, better, and grander. And considering how far we’ve come since Calamity Trigger, it’s a sure bet that Arc System Works will deliver. In the meanwhile, one can always find a willing sparring partner online with the current iteration of the series Chronophantasma Extend. The wheel of fate is turning!

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Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!


Celebrating the album releases of Broken Age, and the recent re-release of the score for Grim Fandango at are a very BIG deal.

So much so, that back in May, I went in search of their composer: industry legend Peter McConnell. On a very bright and HOT day in June, Peter and I discussed the hidden blessings of crowd-funding, the echoes of space, the villain theme, Lucas Arts, and the beginnings of his work on Grim Fandango.

Be sure to order your copies of both Broken Age and Grim Fandango here on

Geno :

It’s the summer of 2000, and I have just moved to Austin, Texas. I’m completely miserable. Having no real sense of friends, school and money… my free time was spent feeling utterly despondent. I was just working a record store job and playing in a rock band. My computer just BARELY ran Tim Schafer’s 1998 classic Grim Fandango, BUT it ran, which was good enough for me. I was there, you know, huddled in a corner of my room with headphones. It was late at night, and I was trying not to wake my roommate. The headphones were key because they amplified the component I felt was the most important, aside from the story’s brilliant writing: your singular and altogether mind-blowing score. Your music was one of the ONLY truly bright spots of that year. I have always wanted to thank you for that, but never thought I’d have the chance, and here we are. I just wanted to say, before we get started, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and multiply that a few million times.

Peter McConnell

Wow, thanks for that. It’s nice to know I was able to create something that had that effect. Expressing yourself is only half of the value of music, if that – the other half is touching someone else personally.

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Legendary Composer Peter McConnell


Broken Age was a dream made possible in part by the dollars of the newly-minted initiatives of crowd-funding. While it’s a blessing to the gathering of momentum, and the green lighting of a project I imagine it’s an artist’s nightmare in terms of expectations turned into demands, and a rather strict timetable for the delivery of the finished product. What was the consensus, the overall mood while you worked on Broken Age? When you were first approached about composition of the score, what did your initial blueprints look like? Did they end up matching the boldness of the ink as seen in the final record? What changed? Did the investors on the project grow too loud in that they disrupted your creative process? Can you tell me a little bit about the first piece you composed for Broken Age? Did it make it onto the final track list? How long did everything take from the demo phase to completion and insertion of your pieces into the game?

Peter McConnell:

When I first heard that Double Fine had hit a record in crowd-funding I emailed Tim, who was at the DICE show in Las Vegas, to congratulate him, He mailed back “so, are you going to do the music?” I believe my answer was “hell, yes!” I was very excited to be involved in a totally new way of doing a project. Believe it or not, I particularly liked the “reality TV” aspect of it. I had never had the opportunity to connect directly to the audience of a game while it was in production, and I enjoyed making the videos where we talked about how the music got made. And honestly I was kind of insulated from the downside of that process – some of the intense discussions on the forums – for me it was all good.

As for the blueprints versus the final score, the blueprints were the humblest hint of what we were finally able to do. The big challenge in the beginning was to figure out how to score the kind of emotional drama that we could see unfolding with the very limited (that’s right, very limited!) budget we had to work with. Doing live instruments at all seemed barely affordable, so I tried to figure out ways to portray everything with a small group of players, even with the first Mog Chothra scene. But when Shay stepped out into space for the first time free of his tether, I thought, “Man, I just HAVE to have French horns here – but how?” What happened at that point was pure serendipity. I had been commissioned by Andrew Pogson, who was assistant artistic director at Melbourne Symphony, to do a suite of Grim Fandango music. This was a major effort in itself, as it involved getting permission from LucasArts and Disney, and in the course of our many discussions it came up that Andrew was a backer of Broken Age. When he found out I was the composer for Broken Age he asked me what would be the chances of getting MSO to record music for Broken Age. I said, “You read my mind!” and what followed was truly a miracle – we were able to get the MSO leadership, the players union and members of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to come together with Double Fine and figure out a way to record music for the game. The blueprints could never have accounted for that amount of good fortune.

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Welcome to the Broken Age


There’s something inherently special about the adventure game genre. Nothing is forced, you’re not brandishing a gun or weapon in the classic sense most of the time, and there are indefinite moments of pause. Most importantly, (I have always thought) is that the music isn’t always ratcheting up tension and forcibly bombarding the player’s emotions. Do you feel that a more natural human connection is able to be established through music within the confines of an adventure title? Does it give you more room to interpret a scene? What, if any makes the adventure genre a different sort of musical vehicle?

Peter McConnell:

In a word, yes. What the adventure game offers, through the natural pauses in action created by solving the puzzles, is a way to reflect on the emotional content of the story. Another way to think of it is that the story in an adventure game is more evenly split between gameplay and cut scenes (as opposed to being mostly in the cut scenes), so more of the music is directly connected to telling a story. On a very practical level this means you get to write more slow and melodic music, which I love to do. On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun to write a good action piece for a platformer or shooter as well!

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The Sound Of Peter McConnell’s Space


Broken Age explores some of the mystery of being an ordinary person marooned in space. Galactic exploration is still very much undone, still something largely mythical. Time to get up Little Spaceman, and Hello Space, epically, beautifully marks the vastness of this ordeal. How do you envision the sound of the unexplored planet, the black hole, and the dying star? What takes more precedence when you’re scoring for space: the vastness of the echo, the singular desolation, or the darkness? I hear a little bit of all three in Hello Space. Which is your favorite element?

Peter McConnell:

Great questions. As I mentioned earlier, the space music was where it really became clear that we needed an orchestra – because of the sense of vastness and the big feelings I wanted to portray. That started with the French horn theme at the beginning of “Hello Space” and grew from there. Another element in that piece besides the orchestra was my electric violin playing, to give an otherworldly effect. The loneliness part was tied to the smaller ensemble pieces like “Time to Get Up, Little Spaceman” which we recorded with a string and wind quintet. The darkness suffuses both types of pieces and that’s harder to explain. I’m very visually oriented, and I keep either a movie or a still of what I’m scoring up on a screen at all times, so I can be in direct visual contact with what I’m scoring at as I compose. I just wrote something that felt like darkness.

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Vella’s Morning Stroll


Broken Age’s Vella wakes and Was That East Or West are absolutely gorgeous! Speaking directly about Was That East Or West You never hear truly remarkable ballads inside a video game. It’s all things genuine, plaintive and haunting. Was there any temptation to add vocals or chorus to complete it? Why are we not seeing the Peter McConnell band proper? Similarly, it’s a testament to the core of Broken Age’s make-up of normal, mildly broken hearted protagonists, and how they deal with their individual set of overwhelming circumstances. What do you feel were the score’s most important tenets? Is there something you absolutely felt the record needed to convey?

Peter McConnell:

With “Was That East or West” I was channeling producer/guitarist/singer Daniel Lanois as well as harkening back to some of my own folk-rock band roots, so I think it’s safe to say there are imaginary vocals in that piece, suggested by the slide guitar part. As for the score concept, it was to evoke as vividly as possible the unique character of many different worlds. There is a pretty broad range of musical style in the game. Just as I couldn’t imagine the space parts without orchestra, acoustic guitar music for the forest just seemed right. During production one of the backers wrote in that it was cool that they were using different composers for different parts of the game. I took that as a complement.

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Meet Mog Chothra


The idea of the boss or level guardian in video games has changed radically in video games over the last 10 years. Gone are the traditional fanged beats, or floating death scythe wielders; it’s become an encounter based in ether, almost invisible. Do you feel your approach to the scoring for a game’s main villain/s has changed? With that in mind, how do you keep up that sort of bottomless creativity and momentum going when approaching this task with every new score year after year? “It’s another bad guy…whoopee!”

Peter McConnell:

I’m always trying to do what I do better than the last time. So even with my experience, I don’t feel that I’ve touched on all I want to do with any particular type of musical moment, not even the Big Scary Boss cue. And the process is always the same, but still full of surprises – bring up the picture or video of game play, and then listen carefully for the first thing I hear. Once in a while I find I have to re-visit an initial impulse, but I chalk that off to not listening carefully enough in that first moment.

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Life aboard the Bossa Nostra


On that note, Broken Age’s Mog Chothra and Final Battle are two of my absolute FAVORITE boss themes in recent memory. Can you tell me about how you map out that villain DNA? What did you do specifically for Mog Chothra and Battle at Shellmound?

Peter McConnell:

Thanks for saying so! Both of those pieces weave together themes from the major characters, especially Mog, Vella and in particular Vella’s grandfather, who is an important symbol of the strength that comes to Vella through her lineage. One of the most poignant themes to me in the Broken Age story, now that I’m a dad, is the relationship between parents and children – how both can succeed or fail, teach each other or make terrible mistakes. My own kids intuited this in the game. They got right away how Shay was testing his limits in the spaceship, for example, and knew instinctively that Marek in his wolf form was important and in a sense a bringer of knowledge, but perhaps not without some kind of darker motive. And to me almost everything that Vella and Shay do has some relationship to their families, even when rebelling, as rebelling exists in relation to what is being rebelled against.

In Vella’s case, it seems at first to be all about rebelling, since her own parents appear to be clueless, but her grandfather is a rock throughout. You think in the beginning that he is just a crazy old coot, maybe a bit senile. But he’s the one who invokes the Beastkiller name; he’s the one who won’t give up the knife; he’s the one who cheers when Vella escapes from Mog Chothra. So his theme is important. You first hear it on what could be called the silliest of instruments – a mediaeval instrument called a crumhorn played during the knife puzzle. It’s kind of a cross between a bassoon or English horn and a kazoo in sound (again serendipitously one of the clarinetists in our quintet also played crumhorn). You’re supposed to hear it as archaic at best and comic at worst. But then it comes back as a noble French horn theme in the scene when Vella learns to ride the bird who rescues her from Mog Chothra. In the moment when she takes command, you hear the theme breaking through as if she is drawing from something deep within – and that something comes from her heritage.

By the time she fights Mog Chothra for real at Shellmound, she is fully in touch with her warrior ancestry. So you hear the grandfather theme in full force at the climax of the Shellmound Battle piece. In the finale, the theme comes back again in super-compressed form as her grandfather seems to psychically transmit each blow that she delivers to put down Marek. There are a number of other themes woven into these pieces, but for me the theme that connects Vella to her grandfather is the most important.

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Welcome to Shellmound


I’ve been trying to gather shards of Broken Age’s record together to fashion my own central title theme. There was no single piece. There was no such designation on the album, but if I had to cobble one together, it would be pieces of Welcome to Merriloft, mixed with Cloud Colony Arrival and Rising Sun. Do you agree with my math? Are there specific points in the score that you would tie together so as to create the score’s ultimate piece? Were there ideas that you wanted to include, but for whatever reason, simply had to check at the door? Can you talk to me a little bit about your initial ideas for Welcome to Merriloft and Rising Sun ? Is that a didgeridoo on The Lumberjack’s Cabin? I love that piece.

Peter McConnell:

The title theme of Broken Age is the piece called “Broken Age” as it appears in the complete version of the soundtrack – “Broken Age” plus “Vella Wakes” in the initial version. I admit it’s not obvious to the ear how the score springs from this music, which comes from the opening split screen followed by Vella waking on the hillside. Musically, this opening music works as an intro to “March in the Clouds,” which you might call Vella’s travelling theme. This same theme is the essence of “Welcome to Merriloftt,” which is essentially an airy version of the march and defines the whole cloud colony, even though it comes before the march. Shay’s wake up music works as an alternate consequent, or follow-up, phrase to the first half of “Broken Age.” So a lot comes from the very opening piece, and it isn’t obvious because the musical order of things in my mind is a little different from the chronological order in which the story is told.

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Life in Vella’s Shoes


The score for Broken Age feels so incredibly fresh, so physically organic, and so playful. Case in point: March In The Clouds, and Face The Cupcakes. Is there anything you use as a barometer to test your own work to see if it will achieve the results you see inside your head? Do you feel more comfortable in a recording session with many players (a full symphony, a band), or do you prefer the intimacy of you alone in a sound booth? Where does Broken Age fit into this spectrum? How large is that symphony? Do you feel like you achieved all that was possible with Broken Age? What are your favorite pieces? Would you change anything? I wouldn’t.

Peter McConnell:

Thanks – I especially like the word “organic,” because it suggests what I wanted to evoke in the score. The only barometer I use is this: as I’m working on a piece, how do I feel when I press “play?” I listen very closely to my own reaction, and if it’s not what I had hoped, I figure out what is responsible for the problem and fix it. I love all recording sessions, whether they are a small group or an ensemble. Because time and money are at stake they can be stressful, but they are far and the way the best part of my job. When real instrumental artists play the music – that’s the moment the music comes to life. It’s a privilege to be there when it happens, and a joy to guide it. Of course I enjoy playing the parts I play as well, but there is a kind of vicarious thrill I get when hearing someone else play the music that is hard to explain. There were different configurations of players used for the symphonic part: most of the music was a 38-piece and the finale and some of the bigger pieces in Act II were a 42-piece group. I can’t say exactly what my favorite pieces are, although I think you’ve named just about all of them, and I’m certainly happy with the whole thing as it came out.

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Broken Age receives the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Treatment.


Grim Fandango Remastered just hit the digital retail storefront, and Sumthing Else Music Works celebrated the occasion with a re-release of your original score. I worship Grim Fandango’s soundtrack (just wanted to make sure you knew that!) All these years later, how does it feel to hear those songs again? Are you like most musicians who would rather not listen to their older material in favor of moving ahead? Do you find yourself nit-picking at things that bother you about it?

Peter McConnell:

I didn’t nit-pick after the fact – I fixed all those things that bothered me! I put in a ton of work into that re-release and was super lucky to have resources like the MSO and the teams at Sony and Pyramind Studios in San Francisco to fix the problematic sounds, add new parts, do killer re-mixes and make the orchestral music actually orchestral. I have to say that I truly enjoy listening to the soundtrack now, which honestly I didn’t before, since we had 1990’s-era sounds in the original and no live orchestra at all. The good parts stayed good, though; we kept all those wonderful original instrumental jazz performances, as well as adding a couple of new ones.

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Grim Fandango Finally Gets Remastered


There’s so much to love on Fandango’s vinyl that I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, and it changes with the day. If push came to shove, I’d say Mr. Frustration Man , or Gambling Glottis, Hi- Tone Fandango…never mind, like I said too hard to choose, and it’s a temperamental list changing with the second. My GOD! You single-handedly redefined the birth of cool over the span of 50 tracks! What are your memories of that time period? Can you share a funny story with us about the creation of Grim Fandango’s score?

Peter McConnell:

I often say that Grim was a perfect storm. Tim Schafer was tapping into major currents of the time from the rebirth of swing to a sudden new awareness of the Day of the Dead in Anglo culture. Musically this was reflected in the San Francisco music scene. There is a particular part of town called the Mission District, full of clubs, where on one night you could go into one place and hear a great swing band, into another and hear acid jazz, into another and hear Tom Waits’ reed player, then drop into a Tacqueria and hear a mariachi band. Almost the entire Grim score was already right there in the Mission, and indeed virtually every musician on the original soundtrack played or lived in that part of town. The mariachi band in particular was an adventure to work with, since only the band leader spoke English. Music is the universal language, though, and I asked him if the guys thought what I had given them to play was reasonably authentic. He said they thought it sounded like “Halloween music,” which I took as a compliment since, after all, it is about the Day of the Dead.

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Grim Fandango: The Sight and Sound


Where did the inspiration for Grim Fandango come from? Your compositions play like a man possessed, like it had been something you had wanted to do your entire life. Was it a sound you had grown up with? I see you as a punk-rock kid, and less the child reared on Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.

Peter McConnell:

I have always been interested in many different kinds of music. I was classically trained on violin and loved playing folk music on guitar and banjo in high school. I’ve also played a lot of rock and roll and fronted an alt rock band while I was working at LucasArts. But jazz has always been something special for me. I first developed a great love of it in college, more as a listener than as a player. I heard Dizzy Gillepsie and Sun Ra live and it changed my life. And that’s what I tapped into for Grim. In that sense it was something I had always been dying to write, no pun intended. In fact I came up with Maximino’s theme before Grim was even conceived of – think it was during Full Throttle or even Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – this tune just popped into my head and I thought, “Man, that would be a cool gangster tune, I hope I get to use it someday.”

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Grim Fandango: It’s in the visuals


How do you compose generally? Are you more visual with drawings and sketches, or do you read the scenario and just find it as you play? Can you give us an example of a more challenging piece? How did you overcome it?

Peter McConnell:

I’m extremely visually oriented. I have a big screen that is just for visuals – concept art, gameplay video or cut scenes, and I keep something up on it all the time when composing, because it helps me stay true to the feeling of what I am scoring. When I was working on Grim I had paper art all over the office – mostly black & white pictures of the characters and backgrounds, which was appropriate for a Noir story, don’t you think? I also kept a picture of Duke Ellington as a young man right over my computer screen to inspire me. We even had a visual way of putting the whole score together. There was a tool in the music system we developed, the iMUSE system, that let you create buttons on a Mac screen, associate them with audio files, and put them in a little map with lines between them indicating connections in the game. Each button stood for a room or a situation, and the audio files started out as recordings we made of Tim talking about the various parts of the game. It was cool because you could visualize how all of the parts of the game and the score related to each other. As the production progressed, Tim’s recordings would be replaced with recordings of me humming a theme into a hand-held cassette player, and then with mockups of each piece using sampled instruments, and then finally with finished recordings.

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                                                     The History Of Lucas Arts


You worked at Lucas Arts during its Adventure game heyday, and worked on everything from The Dig, to Full-Throttle and Indiana Jones and The Fate Of Atlantis. WOW! What was your very first job at the company? In those days, were you already accustomed to writing rather large scores, or was it very much a trial by fire?

Peter McConnell:

I got the job at LucasArts in large part because my friend and colleague Michael Land was starting up the audio department there and needed someone who could both program and write music, and I fit the bill. But my music experience at the time consisted mostly of my college work and from playing in a number of bands. So I was not all accustomed to writing large scores, and in that sense it was trial by fire. My first job at the company was to help Michael develop the iMUSE system, which was LucasArts’ system for playing music that would adapt in real time to gameplay. When we were done with the first iteration of the system, we got to road test it by writing music for Monkey Island II. By that time there were three composers: Michael, Clint Bajakian, and me. Right on the heels of Monkey Island II came Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I have to say those were a couple of wonderful titles to have as first scoring gigs, even with the limited sound capabilities of the time.

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                        Preview: Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis Soundtrack


How do you feel about composing music in video games today as opposed to 25, 30 years ago? You’ve scored every type of medium; which do you find the most rewarding and the most challenging? Is there anything you still have a desire to do, a dream for yourself? Where do you plan to be 10 to 15 years down the road?

Peter McConnell:

I do like the fact that we have much greater resources to work with now, whether we are working on a AAA console title or a hand-held game. You have to remember the state of the art back then – the first Pro Tools system came out well after Monkey II and Indy IV, cost something like $6K and we didn’t have one, because we couldn’t justify the expense. Now we have state-of-the-art studios, get to record at places like Skywalker Sound, and work with orchestras from all over the world. I just got back from playing music of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Broken Age with the Colorado Symphony at the Video Games Live concert in Red Rocks. If you had told me I’d be doing that 25 years ago I’d never have believed it. That said, things haven’t changed that much when it comes to scoring a game. And I love all the types of projects I get to do, from Broken Age to Hearthstone to Plants vs. Zombies. Each has its challenges and particular rewards; in fact I think it’s the variety of projects that is most enjoyable for me. No two of them are alike. If I have any desires it would be to keep the same variety of cool and interesting projects going – that and write a score for musical theater, but that’s another story completely.


Thanks so much Mr. McConnell; it’s been a true honor to be able to sit with you here today, and it’s not something I will ever forget. Do you have any parting words for our readers at Sumthing .com?

Peter McConnell:

It’s been my great pleasure. And thank you to all the readers at for listening!


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.

Grief brings us together, it’s part of the human condition and what makes us the creatures we are. Sadness is no stranger to video games either, the many flavors of sorrow have painted a picture of dejection on screens almost since games first became a storytelling medium. The entirety of the Shin Megami Tensei series and its spinoffs, a few of the Final Fantasy games, Metal Gear Solid, and the Silent Hill series are all perfect examples of the different shades of misery that developers have employed to give their games that extra punch, that permanence in the mind of people who play them by associating the games with a heartache leaves an impression on all but the most stoic people.

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“I won’t scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea, I will always be with you.”

One might remember the Ar tonelico games, the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 RPG series that, while no stranger to despondency, wasn’t particularly acclaimed or even well known in the west as the games previously mentioned. The Ar tonelico series was, however, fairly unique in the way dealt with concepts that few games had dared to explore to such a deep extent back then. Morality, the power of bonds, the schisms between different cultures and societies, psychological voyages to deep within the minds of our protagonists that change the way the see their world, an absolutely biblical amount of side materials that explained the universe of EXA_PICO, and a veritably gripping story were all elements that felt right at home in Ar tonelico. It was then, once NIS America localized the games, that Ar tonelico gained a fiercely loyal and extremely dedicated niche following in the west.

The developing team at GUST had been silent about the Ar tonelico series since the game on PS3 had, for lack of a better term, completely flopped. But they broke the drought and the skies opened in 2012 in Japan with the release of Ciel nosurge. Ciel nosurge was an odd game, and perhaps its oddness is a story for another day, but to make a long story short: The game was not a continuation of the Ar tonelico series, as it took place before the events of any of Ar tonelico games. However, Ciel nosurge does take place in the same universe as Ar tonelico, it deals with a fair amount of the same elements and greatly expands on the mythos and history of the series. Considering how it was a “life-sim” (think perhaps a Tamagotchi with RPG elements), the west never saw Ciel nosurge. But not all hope was lost for fans of the EXA_PICO universe. Soon after the release of Ciel nosurge was finalized GUST announced that they were working on a sequel to the game that would be a bit more traditional in terms of a Role Playing Game.

Listen: Ciel Nosurge’s OST – Ra Ciel Fusor

And then there was Ar nosurge. The game was released stateside fairly quietly in September 2014 for the PS3, it wasn’t advertised very much, if at all. Ar nosurge was not your standard JRPG from the seventh generation, compared to games such as Xenoblade, Ni No Kuni, the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy and the dozens more that saw English releases during the lifespan of the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Atlus’s masterful Persona 3 and 4 games from the PS2, seeing how both are immersive, text heavy RPGs that focus on character development.

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Ar nosurge’s male protagonists, Delta and Earthes.

Ar nosurge begins with an incredible opening, a tinge of malevolent tribalism in its notes. You can feel almost as if you’re being captured or drawn into this world that, according to EXA_PICO lore, lies beyond the Seventh Dimension.

Listen: Ar nosurge’s Opening – To The Songless Hill: Harmonics Pre=Ciel

The setting of the game is not as straightforward as one might think. We learn from the first pair of protagonists, rowdy Delta Lantanoil and his partner tomboyish Casty Rianoit, that the game takes place in the Soreil, a massive colony ship in the middle of an interstellar voyage searching for a new planet that its residents may call home. However, all is not well in town, as strange creatures known as the Sharl have attacked residents in the Soreil for unknown reasons. It is then, that the player’s adventure in the world of Ar nosurge begins, as Delta and Casty search for a lost friend in the vastness of the seemingly hostile and unforgiving Soreil.

The combat is fairly simple, nothing really to write home about and standard JRPG fare for the 7th generation of consoles. You have a limited amount of attacks, that once exhausted will prompt the enemy to take their “turn” and attack in return. If you have successfully destroyed all enemies marked by an exclamation mark, you will gain an extra turn and an extra set of attacks, thus making it possible to destroy the enemy without taking any damage. Once the player is well acquainted with the gameplay, the game becomes a relaxed, downhill coast.

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Ar nosurge in action, note the buttons corresponding to each attack on the lower right side of the screen.

However, one of the most remarkable and intense things about Ar nosurge is the absolutely beautiful soundtrack. The excellent song during the opening draws a picture that the rest of the game flawlessly colors in with a stunning plethora of emotional shades: a sensual passion, a deep and intimate heartache, the hooks of despair that sink into the flesh and rip through skin and tendon alike, a cold melancholy that gives you gooseflesh and runs shivers down your spine, and a pure fury that glows white hot and pristine like the beat of thunder.

Listen: Judgement in the Soreil – yal fii-ne noh-iar.

Ar nosurge’s soundtrack truly runs the gamut. The track linked above, “yal fii-ne noh-iar” is one of the pivotal moments early in the game, just after the second set of protagonists, robotic knight Earthes and the innocent maiden Ionasal, are introduced. The momentous crescendo in the song ties into the end of the first “phase” of the game. It is after this introductory part that the story begins to hit you with tragedy after tragedy. The game overall is extremely text heavy, and the player is expected to do a lot of reading to fully understand just what is going on, but the plot and the characters are engrossing enough that it doesn’t seem to be an issue. With time, one begins to think of the characters in the game as old friends, and care about their ultimate fates in or out of the Soreil.

Not everything is gloom though. Another great thing about Ar nosurge is how it still manages to have excellent moments of comic relief every so often; usually in the “Synthesis” screen, where the player creates useful pieces of equipment and items to help throughout the journey to save the Soreil.

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Don’t ask what Silent Green is made out of.

Without spoiling much more of the story, let it be said that Ar nosurge is not a perfect game, far from it. It clearly suffers from budget problems, as some enemies and NPCs are recycled throughout the whole game. It also has some pacing problems, as the game instills upon you a sense of urgency to finish the main task while at the same time punishing you for not taking it leisurely and crafting the best equipment before continuing. That is not to say that these faults make the game unplayable, or even bad. Ar nosurge is a complete experience, the amazing soundtrack, the touching story, and the surprises along the way make this game a must get for anyone who enjoys Japanese RPGs.

Listen: Ar nosurge’s third battle theme – Tsukuyomi.

Verdict: Recommended for JRPG fans, someone looking for more action or not wanting to invest 50 hours of their life towards a game might want to look elsewhere.


bernie stars


Playing video games since he has a conscious memory, Bernard has fond memories of the Super Nintendo and the 16 bit MIDI symphonies emanating from it. Since then, he has acquired fairly atypical tastes in games and game music. Nowadays, you can find him dodging bullets and bobbing his head to the music in the Touhou Project, or fighting against gigantic monsters in Monster Hunter, God Eater, or Toukiden. Deep down, he believes portable consoles are king, long live the PS Vita and 3DS!


PAX Prime 2015 Poster


Saturday, August 29th, 5:30pm-6.30pm
PAX Sphinx Theatre, Sheraton Seattle Hotel (3rd Floor)

What does it take to write music for games? Hear from five of the industry’s hottest composers as they share their experiences and discuss the craft of scoring music for video games.

The 2015 PAX Prime composer panel “Maestros of Video Games” will feature:

Gareth Coker
Ori and the Blind Forest, Minecraft: Greek Mythology, ARK: Survival Evolved

Sarah Schachner
Assassin’s Creed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag*, Far Cry 3*
*additional music

Jason Graves
Until Dawn, The Order: 1886, EVOLVE, Tomb Raider, Dead Space trilogy

Cris Velasco
Bloodborne, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, God of War trilogy, Mass Effect 3

Grant Kirkhope
Yooka-Laylee, Banjo Kazooie, Viva Piñata, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark

Moderated by Emily Reese, award-winning radio host and producer.

Following the panel join the composers for a meet & greet / autograph session at the Westin (2nd Floor) from 7pm-9pm.

For information on PAX Prime visit:

Composer - Song Name
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