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Listen, I never thought it would get this bad: Video game collecting I mean. I’ve talked to you about this scourge before: buckets of money I don’t actually have in my account soullessly sopped up procuring limited editions and musty old NES carts. You know all about my trembling trigger fingers on a closing Ebay auction, and you can imagine with great detail those MANY weeks I’ve gone hungry just to satisfy some slaving collection taskmaster. Thing is that’s NOTHING. When you start collecting, you start small, you stay domestic, and you make rookie mistakes. BUT. As your hubris grows with confidence, you begin to look East, and that’s when the logistical and financial nightmares truly begin. Yes, you’ve decided to import from Japan. My condolences to you and your soon-to-be bewildered direct deposit checking account. Here’s a quick guide to some of my most favorite and most trusted online Japanese videogame retailers who just so happen to ship to the United States.

I wasn’t going to let you do it all alone! We’re pals you know.

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 4. Play-Asia.com-

Play-Asia?

Sure, you may be rolling your eyes, you expected this old war horse, didn’t you?

It can be argued at some length that the flagship Japanese exporter has seen better days, but I’m guessing like many of us, you started here, and to this day, you’re still a frequent customer, albeit with some hesitation. It’s become increasingly, and in some cases, outrageously overpriced. I seem to recall a Premium Edition Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for the cost of a first class ticket to Medford Oregon. You COULD be a part of Medford’s legendary Red Robin Spring Fling Brunch complete with indoor waterslide, but INSTEAD, you’ve chosen the come hither of a disembodied set of metal fingers. I should know, I bought this very same prosthesis and denied myself the very same trip. Anyway, the recent increase in overall pricing and a new highly taciturn policy regarding cancellation of orders are indeed hiccups, but it doesn’t undermine their history of excellence when it comes to regular boxed Japanese releases. The sheer whale enormity of the catalog on offer makes Play-Asia a fantastic option: for those just starting out, or those so old to the game, the customer service agents know them by name or ridiculous pseudonym. They groan as the screen flashes with yet another angry follow-up email they will need to answer. Yes, that’s me…but only sometimes.

PROS

  • Trusted brand.
  • Secure payments through Paypal.
  • Prodigious library of games and video game soundtracks and some film.

CONS

  • Returns and cancellations are best left to a multilingual legal counselor.
  • Prices and shipping frequently draw out breathless gasps.

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3. Ami Ami Character and Hobby Shop- You’d be wrong to think Ami Ami ONLY does figures. Though it may appear that way from a passing glance, Ami Ami actually plays all manner of cards. Videogames (regular/limited/collector’s editions), Manga, DVD, Blu-Ray, books, actual card games, model kits and of course…high end figures. On top of all this, you wouldn’t believe it, but most everything is actually quite affordable. Another thing to note, their used stock is well…not really used. A couple of months ago, I purchased a “used” Mercedes figure ( a character from Vanillaware’s peerless Odin Sphere game) I expected signs of wear, maybe paint chipping or fading, anything that might reveal the item’s true nature. NOTHING. The box was still sealed; the figure was still perfect, and it was still classified as used. It’s much too labyrinthine a term in Japanese, I suppose, where they are still trying to nail down and decide upon its exact meaning. As it stands now, used lies along the lines of being gently pressed upon during manufacture. One thing to be aware of when ordering from Ami Ami, your first order must be paid in full upon check-out and through Paypal. For in-stock items, this is of course expected, but for pre-orders the same rules apply. Think of it as a small tax to become part of a very exclusive club. After you’ve made that initial purchase, however, all your pre-order items can be paid at a later time, closer to their shipment date. Ami Ami will send you an invoice once your goods have arrived, or in most cases two weeks prior to their release, and you will have 7 days to pay. This is a fantastic option, but it’s one that can get you into trouble if you fail to make the purchase on time. Ami Ami will suspend your account and you will no longer be able to order from them. On this, there is NO debate. Be upstanding about your orders though, and you’ve nothing to worry about.

PROS

  • Used figures have no comprehension of what the term actually means.
  • Prices are usually a notch or two lower than most other import sites.
  • Offers diverse spectrum of goods from figures and trading cards to video games.

CONS

  • First order has to be paid in full upfront. Really though, that is not a con.

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 2. Nippon-Yassan.com-It’s a DELICATE thing when you’re first branching out from under the safety of trusted websites. BUT. Something happens, and you’ll suddenly have no choice. Let’s say your premium edition of some game based off the console wars has suddenly and unceremoniously sold-out on all the websites you usually frequent. GONE. How will you pre-order now? Ebay? No, that’s a last option, and one that usually admits you’ve been defeated. You still have fight in you, I know it. So you begin a search in earnest. Just who can be trusted though? Then, up comes Nippon-Yassan.com. Things look good: Site looks legitimate, stock updates look current, and prices…they’re really LOW. This is too good to be true? NOPE. I stumbled across this last year in an attempt to secure that gorgeous E-Capcom Strider set, which…I did, and I did it through Nippon-Yassan. The adage at least for now and probably not for long, is that if everybody else is out, there’s always Nippon. Why people don’t come here first is beyond me. You’re paying the lowest end possible for just about everything on the site, even shipping is a few dollars cheaper than most everywhere else. Making orders is a painless process, and for pre-orders you’re given the option to pay up front or just before release. Much like Ami Ami though, Nippon will also cancel accounts for unpaid orders so again, order within your means. Customer service is courteous and quick to respond to inquiries with the turnaround in some cases being mere minutes. Nippon-Yassan is quickly yet quietly becoming the platinum standard for all import video game shops.

PROS

  • Most absolutely EVERYTHING.

CONS

  • A somewhat limited catalog.

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1. Solaris Japan.com-Following up Nippon-Yassan is tough. Solaris Japan however takes the top spot on this list for a number of reasons, not least of which they have actual boots on the ground. Need something a bit harder to find? Need something older? Check them out first. Last year, I ordered hundreds of dollars worth of hard to find Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid stuff. All of it new, all of it discounted heavily when compared against a vast number of Ebay sellers and online import shops. In one instance, I saved almost 200 dollars. Solaris Japan looks frequently to adjust their prices. If one day, you stop in and the price is a little high, come back next week, as chances are the price has dropped, in some cases, significantly. This is the fervor of a young retailer actively battling those who’ve already dug in their heels. This also means that the contact you have with Solaris is one on one. Anytime I had a question, I dealt with the same person, and quickly got to know his name. On the single occasion that I had a problem with my order, that same person not only shipped out a replacement that very evening, but covered my expenses in returning the product in question. You won’t find that sort of service anywhere in dealing with these online video game storefronts. Solaris Japan brings back the idea that the customer is not just a moment at the point of sale, but a relationship to further and nurture continuously. The products were always exactly as described, the packing was always impeccable, and the price was always surprisingly competitive. Solaris Japan should be at the top of your shortlist when it comes to navigating the confusion and disorientation that accompanies buying video games from Japan.

PROS

  • All that money wants!

CONS

  • Money runs out eventually leaving you haphazard, stumbling and in a state of constant nameless desire.
  • Your wallet has been warned. See you next week.

——————–

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.

It’s 1993, and young, universally celebrated composer Yuzo Koshiro has grown tired. His living space is no longer his own, and months ago he began taking resumes and holding interviews in the hopes of hiring a full time staff to see to the managing of his seemingly endless cache of awards. These talks…have yet to bear fruit. What began as a small trophy room in the back of his house sometime in1986 was now inching up his leg like bottom feeding moss and lichen. So praised was Koshiro that his every waking moment guaranteed another sumptuous congratulatory bouquet. His physical awards were more numerous than the throng of ardent and fanatical fans who had slowly taken up residence on his front lawn. Everyone wanted a piece; everyone had an agenda…everyone wanted Yuzo Koshiro. Employers, handlers, friends, fans, things had gotten way out of hand, and a fraying Koshiro, nearly incapacitated, retreated from the impenetrable wall of expectation and endless homage to craft a record that defied all assumptions, labels and objections placed upon it. From seed to birth to masterpiece, this is a celebration of Yuzo Koshiro’s Streets Of Rage 3.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Streets Of Rage 3: Beat Ambiance

When you think of Koshiro, it’s likely you’ll immediately recall Streets Of Rage 2 and its musical centerpiece Go Straight. And why wouldn’t you? It is a stunning piece of black and white negative capturing Koshiro at one of his most pronounced and analyzed peaks. A gorgeous print will remain a gorgeous print, and it’s one of the reasons why you store its image in memory…it’s something beautiful. With Streets Of Rage 1 and 2, Koshiro became something of a vigilante exposing the more complacent side of audio within the video game industry. His typeset, however, was so radical and so unexpected that the massive waves Koshiro himself created, dictated a change in sides from Cerberus to outlaw.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: Moon

Streets Of Rage 3 finds our youthful composer at a particularly thorny crossing. He was THE golden boy, a no-brainer first draft pick chosen to helm a host of triple-A releases the likes of Actraiser, Ys, and Sega’s Revenge Of Shinobi, all before he hit the age of 22. Koshiro’s work went from high watermark to higher watermark, as with each release his ear tightened and his layers became ever more intricate. BUT. No doubt, he was being watched, directed and told in some manner to skew and tame his more outlandish touches. While Streets Of Rage 1 and 2 present him in a furious bare-knuckled state of creative carte blanche, Streets Of Rage 3 is the all dispensatory enema of contracts and direction from his masters.

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Listen : Yuzo Koshiro: Streets Of Rage: Dub Slash

Streets Of Rage 3 on the surface is the sound of Koshiro finally baring his teeth at all those who ever once told him no, and to those more concerned with crafting him as a marketable brand instead of the genius musician he clearly is. It’s stark, abusive, and overrun . That’s just it though, you see, all of that is merely its surface. SOR 3 is Koshiro at his most powerful, at his most in-synch, and at his most chaotically unapologetic avant-garde. You HAVE to listen and listen carefully. It’s not that the tunes in SOR 3 don’t come as easily as his freshman and sophomore efforts. Not at all. It’s that there are tunes inside of tunes and melodies tripping over hooks. It’s that there’s so MANY points of articulation that if you turn your head too suddenly you’re likely to have missed one of his more central choruses.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Streets Of Rage 3: Spinning Machine

Let’s take an example. In each of the tracks for SOR 3, you’re never made to stand on the ground floor. Just when you think you’ve interpreted Koshiro’s jargon, he changes his dialect. The opening number, Spinning Machine, while not adding up to much in terms of time on the clock at a mere 25 seconds, consists of three very different levels. The first 11 seconds play out like blunt force head trauma, but with the later 12 comes a lightness of touch more akin to fusion jazz… much more Bob James. Each of the two very distinct stanzas have their very own legs, but then it becomes 3. Their collision point is where the song actually begins… never mind that each of these 3 verses is STILL very much its own complete piece of music.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: Happy Paradise

On that note, let’s listen a bit further down the LP tracklist at Happy Paradise. While Spinning Machine briefly illustrates this point, Happy Paradise showcases this method with far greater detail. As the song begins, and then begins to wear on you, you’re deceived into thinking that you’ve heard all there is to this particular offering. As you toll the minute mark, however, you uncover Koshiro’s gold. My God! Listen to it. Moreover, listen to HOW it is done: all inside the pocket, that sweet spot. Like some saccharine sweet glaze. He plays it like nothing! Listen to his fingers because when you hear them barely bristle the tops of the keys, that’s your signal to cross over into one of several hundred dimensions Koshiro has created specifically for this album. Believe me, when you hear it, OH MAN.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: Inga Rasen

Those looking for that immediacy, that unmistakable Koshiro signature, and that direct sequel to the sounds of SOR 2, will not be disappointed as Dub Slash, Beat Ambiance and Random Cross are in fact the heirs apparent to the likes of Go Straight, Alien Power, and Never Return Alive. BUT. Where SOR2’s signature singles were mere anarchy and intermittent brush fires, SOR 3 is a state under martial law and curfew .The audio for SOR 3 IS brutal and Koshiro plays both manic and unpredictable. Koshiro seems to self-medicate though, and as he toys with the levels of lithium in his blood, the more erratic his creations become. Bulldozer, Cycle 2 and the particularly busyInga Rasen,whose beat chafes and ultimately dismantles the underlying melody, and buries the listener in sheet upon layer upon slab of bombastic babbling and indefatigable discordance. They are also markedly brilliant and widely ahead of the established dance music curve set for 1992. Crystal Waters and The Shamen this is not.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: Shinobi Reverse

What is also just as fascinating is how brazen Koshiro is about dismantling, satirizing and caricaturizing his own work. Shonobi Reverse and pieces of Percussionare a tantrum born of necessity, a middle finger resolutely engaged in the kersplat of all that has come before it. Mocking, jaded and spent, Koshiro’s backwards squall of lampooning fried noise picks apart his legacy, destroys any notion of him returning to previous form, and sets a dangerous, cloaked precedent of ambiguity for the road ahead. It’s a risky proposition, but from time to time, all great composers need to censure and rebuke all that makes their fortunes stand, and here, Koshiro’s condemnation of his own artistic affluence stands self-assured and void of defect.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: The Poets 1

Closer to the end of side two of the SOR 3 LP, you’ll find two songs The Poets 1 and The Poets 2.

Go ahead. Listen to the first 10 seconds of each. Not only are these completely alien to all of the other works on this record; they are perhaps the only ones working with a structure of verse, chorus, verse. What’s interesting here isn’t so much that fact, nor the fact that it is so strikingly different from all Koshiro’s previous takes, it is the sound, the style of it, and how he has split this obviously single epic composition into two. The Poets 1 and ThePoets 2eschews our composer’s penchant to straddle all genres of dance and instead finds him focused on delivering some kind of sermon on the mount, a definitive rock performance. Not just rock though, this is the early 90’s: the burgeoning of alternative music. This is where aging new wave and college rock meet the 90’s Manchester Sound, Chapel Hill, and Shoegaze. Albeit brief, both remain strikingly fresh today: snarling, dynamic and cutthroat. Koshiro’s radio singles play like all the best from that era: individual, peculiar and entirely euphonious. Yeah, listen again.

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Street Of Rage 3: Good Ending

Streets Of Rage 3 is a stunning about-face, a reckoning whose applications of bedlam and chaos served to give birth to Yuzo Koshiro as a singular, visionary artistic force.

While the scores of Streets Of Rage 1 and 2 are without question masterpieces like that of The Beatles Revolver or Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, Streets Of Rage 3 is a masterpiece for the Orwellian times in which we currently live and much more akin to David Bowie’s Low or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.

Koshiro’s insistent and frigid rejection of both his own past master tapes and the shunning of direction from admirers and superiors, facilitated an audacious work going far beyond the present for which it was written. Streets Of Rage 3 is Yuzo Koshiro’s ultimate test of faith, a double bind bet made under extremely tenuous conditions, but it ushered him from mere mortal to untouchable sonic deity. Sometimes, you just have to run with it.

Side Note: Readers, please note that the opening story in this piece is a work of fiction.

——————–

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.

It’s my birthday this week. No big deal. I don’t feel strongly about it one way or the other; that all ended about the time I hit 30. The only concern I really have now is what to do for it. Food and drinks? Nah, I don’t really like either of them. Skydiving or Zip-lines?  I can’t stand heights. Traveling to Europe or Japan? With what money? You see it’s kind of a chore to not only identify the desired activity, but to then shoehorn it into one weekend spread over a couple hours on those nights. Suddenly it came to me. While visiting my friend Val last week, I noticed his newly renovated front room. Gone were the chairs, gone the end-tables and glass-candy jars .What did I see in their place? Well, it looked very much like Val was ready to open a discoteche: It was one huge empty cube of open space. What’s more, it’s a slightly elevated room, so you have to step up and in. Throw a fog machine in there, a disco ball…rave till dawn.

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That’s when it hit me: I think its time for a dance party. If you think my friends roll with remixes of One Direction, Katy Perry, and Daddy Yankee, however, you’d be sorely mistaken.

When we talk the Charleston and the Hop, our backdrop is always set against ALL video game soundtracks. Here’s my DJ picks for our upcoming night on the floor!

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Listen: Satoshi Ise: Capcom Vs. Snk Soundtrack: This Is True Love Makin’

 Satoshi Ise and the Capcom Vs. Snk Series- This dual set of long-players that comprise this LONG-festering rivalry between Capcom and SNK remains untouched in terms of pure energy and high-gloss production. Time has done nothing to tarnish its relentless vitality nor slow its unyielding BPM’s. Composer Satoshi Ise’s tracks veer erratic: one moment, it’s Serge Gainsbourg, the next, all vapid fashion runway shows, the next diamonds and the Riviera… and the next a hands of stone, blood in, blood out fight club. Jarring, showy, and rightfully unapologetic,  Ise’s cuts of precious stone are pieces well worth their bonkers inflated asking price.

Choice Cuts:  Staff Roll: Master Mind, Naked Blow: Stage Of Sagat,

Real Eyes: Training Stage, Simulation: New York Stage, Wipe Out: Osaka Stage 1

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Listen: Yuzo Koshiro: Streets Of Rage/ Bare Knuckle Soundtrack: Go Straight

Yuzo Koshiro’s Complete Works Streets Of Rage/Bare Knuckle-   There is no other way to speak of Yuzo Koshiro other than in terms of a God. Koshiro was doing this sort of vicious and densely impregnable house music long before DJ’s in the actual club business could even fathom his most elementary two-track demos . Koshiro stands alone when it comes to vocalizing the epileptic pulsating lights of an all-elbows dance floor. What’s more, his anthems serve double the purpose, as they provide the backbone of Sega’s walking tall crime trilogy Streets Of Rage. Koshiro provides not only a definitive glimpse of a thrill at the turntables, but also encapsulates a moment in history post Reagan/ Bush administrations, post failed DARE initiatives, and post all extravagances of a decade from which not everyone had quite yet fully awoken.

Choice cuts: Never Return Alive, Alien Power, Fighting In The Street, Back To the Industry, Spin On The Bridge

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Listen: Konami Sound Team: Snatcher Soundtrack: Pleasure Of Tension

Konami Sound Team: Snatcher’s Pleasure Of Tension -  I will remain tight lipped about the Snatcher soundtrack as a whole, as I will be doing a full review sometime this year, but for any dance party I attend, we’re going to play Pleasure Of Tension. Half crowd pleasing fan service( ala Bauhaus Bela Lugosi’s Dead), and half an ample moment for all floor patrons to test their most bizarrely underdeveloped choreography. As with any gathering of this kind, someone’s going to do the robot…this is their window.

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Listen: Atlus Sound Team: Shin Megami Tensei IV Soundtrack: SDDS IV

Atlus Sound Team: Shin Megami Tensei IV’s SDDS IV - Last year’s numbered Shin Megami Tensei release carried with it a soundtrack so deprived and deficient of sunlight, that you’d not be faulted for thinking it was culled directly from the 1982 archives of an imploding Pornography era Cure. Atlus’s sound team brings fear to a crowd of flailing hands and feet: those who came for the line dances and the drink specials. There’s something wonderfully fatal about SMT: IV’s score: its compulsion to draw gasps is intricately tied to the spastic rhythms on its specified radio dial.

No longer anemic and now incorrigibly voracious , this is the Atlus sound played with full boss drum.

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Listen: Daisuke Ishiwatari: Blazblue: Chronophantasma: Sword Of Doom II

Daisuke Ishiwatari and BlazBlue: Chronophantasma’s Sword Of Doom II-At some point during this night, my friend Jorge will fall completely off the fence. Sure, he says that he’s fine, but you know…you just know that he’s not. For a while, he’ll rant still halfway, decently coherent and when he can no longer conceal his outrage, he’ll flat-out change the record that is playing. I’m not above requests, and BlazBlue composer’s Daisuke Ishiwatari and Galneryus play their guitars so completely elevated above their heads, it is amazing their fingers are still attached to the hands moving them.

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Listen: Le Castle Vania: John Wick Soundtrack: Red Circle

Le Castle Vania and John Wick’s Red Circle- While technically having nothing to do with videogames whatsoever, with a artist name like “Le Castle Vania”, one has to beg for pause. The track highlighted Red Circle even seems to pay homage to the old NES style of minute long music loops. You want the thing to play longer, but due to its limited capacity of memory…a minute is all you get. Just so you know, this also gives me the right to call my next band : The Le Phantom Pain’s. Yep.

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Listen: Konami Sound Team: Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest: Bloody Tears

Konami Sound Team: Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest’s Bloody Tears-  Speaking of Castlevania, I think this one is pretty much self-explanatory. I am talking about that last piece of the night, where people have stopped dancing and when all the food and drinks are gone. Long after the cake’s been served, ( I really hate to rhyme folks), but Jorge will be passed out on the lawn. That last moment of party revitalization: Bloody Tears.

I think it’s time to call it.

——————–

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.

Red Bull Music Academy. I had no idea who or what they were about until they recently aired a string of shows highlighting a slew of luminous game composers last fall. Did you catch this thing? You didn’t? My God. You have NO idea what you missed. It was a series called Digging In The Carts and it was comprised of 6 very meticulous, very high-end episodes. Particularly amazing is how much they managed to shoehorn into the allotted 16 minute time slot they were given. A show like this is just absolutely huge to those who celebrate the sounds of silicon, and Red Bull Music Academy is to be commended for doing the good Lord’s work. So rather than spoil it, which would be no fun at all, I will leave you to it. BUT wait!

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Listen: Masashi Kageyama : Mr. Gimmick Soundtrack: Good Morning

Okay, okay! Just let me talk about this one guy featured in it. It will be REAL quick. No spoilers either or my name isn’t Anthony. So Masashi Kageyama. Heard of him? I hadn’t either until the series highlight reel. Maybe, like me, you hadn’t heard the soundtrack to an old Famicom/NES  game called Mr. Gimmick. Certainly, I have extolled the values of 8-bit orchestration over and over on this very blog, but THIS guy…THIS guy, man, he’s CAPITAL, surpassing even the most celebrated saucier of the NES’s 2-channel NSF hardware. Watching his particular story and hearing his music, even for the small instant it is played, really, really stuck with me. There was something about him too: gentle, a very warm sort of  aww shucks demeanor. You want to go up to this man immediately after the show and treat him to really expensive everything, then praise him for hours, because when you hear the stuff he has done, that’s all you’ll be able to do. It is that incredible.

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Listen: Masashi Kageyama: Mr Gimmick Soundtrack: Just Friends

 

I was fortunate enough to find Kageyama’s entire score for Mr. Gimmick  buried amongst the refuse of ads and obnoxious unboxings on youtube, and for the first time since 1988, I proceeded to capture Kageyama’s streaming audio on an old cassette tape recorder. I had no other options, no viable course of action. It’s not like I could walk into a Best Buy or Amoeba Music for that matter and pick up all of Kageyama’s discography. I was a 9 year old boy again, making the most of a bad situation, recording straight from the television. You all did it! Yes you did. So, anyway, I take the recording with me to school the next day, and start listening to it on the bus, of all places. It’s snowing (yes it snows in Texas), and that dichotomy of miserable sleeting ice outside against  Kageyama’s heartbroken yet obstinate trail of sunshine made that moment of sitting idly in that  bus something both resilient and sobering.

Then Sophia (Take 2) happened…

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Listen: Masashi Kageyama Mr. Gimmick Soundtrack Sophia (Take 2)

 

Sophia( Take 2) is a rare experience. More importantly it’s the rarest of its kind among the particular 8-bit musical world it inhabits.  If it were left unsupervised, say the song (or entire Mr. Gimmick score) were to escape into the land of regular radio, it would stand  stronger than anything recently contemporary or exceedingly current in rotation. These compositions are beyond the superlative, and to analyze and assign them with values would be undermining their entire purpose for drawing air. Still though, one has to try, and Kageyama’s plaintive, dejected exposition on Sophia( Take 2) passionately details that spark of youthful infatuation as it brims over emboldened, then repressed, and then utterly defeated. Kageyama’s song-bird melancholy is gorgeous in spite of its injuries, and Sophia (Take 2) is a mournful masterpiece that manifests very real, very intense emotions. For me, It was SO acute and SO poignant that I lost it, right there on that bus. Now those of you that have read my articles know that I cry at the drop of a hat, so this might seem like nothing out of the ordinary, but I don’t know…these tears seemed ever the more gourmet. I didn’t care if anyone saw me either: let them see! This way, if they ask why, it gives me the impetus to introduce them to Kageyama. I thought it was a pretty fair trade off.  Dignity? What’s that? Who cares? Let the tears roll down.

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Listen: Masashi Kageyama: Mr. Gimmick Soundtrack: Happy Birthday

 

Very few artists, constrained by the bit, have ever demonstrated such a capacity to truly emote, and touch their audience with their stories with such limited tools available to them. Kageyama seems like the type whose all embraces conversations and laughter, and when he plays, that warmth and affection comes through unfiltered and unimpeded. Kageyama’s earnest and gorgeously sanguine audio display exemplifies a sophistication and intimacy rarely seen in this genre, and it also stands as some of its very best.

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Listen: Masashi Kageyama: Mr. Gimmick Soundtrack: Slow Illusion

While I will leave the rest of the blanks for Red Bull’s short films to fill in, I wanted to make sure you walked away with a larger cup of Kageyama’s wine to sample. He’s certainly one of the most important, yet seemingly overlooked, artists of that era.

Not anymore.

To get an even better idea about his works, please visit vgmdb.com

A very special thanks to Red Bull Music Academy for all their fantastic efforts in bringing the Diggin In the Carts series to completion. It couldn’t have been easy, nor without its very own set of near insurmountable hurdles.

Here is hoping for a second season.

Now please…by all means, enjoy the shows!

——————–

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.

So it’s Friday night, and my friend Frank and I are busy listing off musical acts and bands we have yet to see live. All my top choices were video game composers, and Frank shared the sentiment equally. It has been this way for quite some time, and I am totally okay with NEVER seeing the bands of my youth or the present ever again so long as I get to see these true masters in full form beyond the volume knob of my stereo and record player. Want to know who I have to see before I die? Here’s my personal top 3.

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                                 Listen: Masafumi Takada:  Killer 7 Soundtrack

 

3. Masafumi Takada- I could explain away all the billions of reasons WHY Takada’s SO brilliant, but sometimes you just need to hear it for yourself. I will say that once you’ve heard his low grumblings to the devil himself (as seen in Killer 7), it’s likely you’ll take up the magical arts just to hear exactly what he was saying. There must be more? Something I missed? I must know.

Killer 7, one night only and played in its entirety. How much money do you want? I can only give you EVERYTHING!

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             Listen and Watch: Shoji Meguro: Persona Live Show 2009

 

2. Shoji Meguro- I once wrote that posters of Shoji Meguro should be on every young person’s wall. That Meguro should be as revered, idolized and ranked with the likes of Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, and Elvis Presley. Meguro’s musical accent is unlike any other in videogames: it zigzags the bizarre obstacle course it has set for itself with deft and singular style. His live show is half saturated Persona fan-service, and half 1990 Grammy Award show homage complete with nondescript rappers and In Living Color denim dressed Fly Girl dancers. There’s NOTHING like it out there anywhere in the world.

Meguro is a consummate, wildly creative and immaculately rehearsed musician, and his  sound is something, that once you hear it, you’ll never mistake it with anyone else, and you’ll recognize it after only 1 bar.

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Listen and Watch: Akira Yamaoka: LIVE

 

1. Akira Yamaoka – There is an unfortunate true story I have about Akira Yamaoka, and that is, I missed him completely when he played just 3 HOURS from my hometown. It seems unfathomable, but I missed one of my musical idols by simply not having my ear close enough to the ground. In one plain and average weekend, Yamaoka, spur of the moment, decided to play at some dingy out of the way club, and he didn’t even bother to phone me.  Surprise can be wonderful, so they say: in this case, NO. Yamaoka, through his veneer of startlingly loud discordant No Wave, is really an artist with a broken heart.

To write emotive, effective, and truly despondent music,  you have to be willing to go all in, sparing no expense. Yamaoka details a sordid trail of debilitating and frightening loss.  More than alone, and more than disenchanted, Yamaoka paints forlorn and desperate like no other musician before or since. To him, to be filled with longing also carries with it something terrifying, and in equal doses he brings that despair and horror to bear with no compromise. True to his unflinchingly harsh methods, Yamaoka is a visionary and not one to miss…again.

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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.

Every year, I make video games submit a new station I.D., because I have to make sure they are still pointing the way forward. The way I see it, this hobby takes so much time away from so many other sources of life that it is necessary to legitimize my support of it on a yearly basis. That may sound harsh, but all it really means is that I need a reminder of WHY I play. This year, it came on Christmas day. Now aside from my usual huge video game vault opening (a gesture that suffices most every time), I spent some time that day actually PLAYING, which is rarer an opportunity than you might actually think it is. What did I play? My Terminator 2 cabinet.

It is Christmas after all…duh.

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Listen: Double Dragon NES Soundtrack

I will say again, the arcade experience of Terminator 2: Judgment Day cannot be replicated by any means of emulation or ports, you have to be standing there with that plastic gun in your hand, the sound so loud it could feasibly crack the glass, and the discharge of actual smoke from your weapon as you fire and miss or destroy multiple targets. The smell of that gun as it heats up, I cannot even describe it, and the noise, the sensory overload, almost nothing on earth can reproduce it. Then while still waiting for family to show, I turned on my NES: Kung Fu, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon then Contra. The NES is my system of choice when I am looking to be reminded about how much I enjoy this past time, and undoubtedly it never fails to fill the blanks on my extended stay visa questionnaire. The NES is a perfect machine with perfect games: that uncomfortable brick controller, its limited motion, the sticking buttons, and the sound it makes when you hit pause. The straining palette of color it draws with, that gorgeous midi synthesizer, and Kung Fu: It’s always going to lead back to Kung Fu. That’s a story for another time though. In short the NES still delivers! Anyhow you get it, these reminders staved off my never-to-happen abandonment of the hobby, but you have to at least pretend to challenge the notion. Right?

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Listen: Marvel Vs. Capcom Soundtrack – Morrigan’s Theme

Ultimately, my new year needs to be armed with all things progression and all things that like I said point forward,and every year I am VERY quickly shown evidence that indeed these games deserve some form of status or exalted place in my personal hierarchy. Why? Video games single-handedly produced the bond that brought about ALL of my best friends in life. This was not just some casual or fleeting camaraderie either, they have all been life-long. I speak to each one of them on a regular basis. How much more forward momentum can you possibly achieve? So, um, maybe forget this whole thing? Wait, wait… there is a point to this diatribe. Eh… question your idols, false or otherwise, frequently. It makes you appreciate and remember why you ever signed on to their worship in the first place. I am glad we had this talk.

As you were, I have games to play.

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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.

Today I am counting down my favorite records of 2014, and if there is one absolute in my daily routine, it is listening to videogame scores…repeatedly. There is absolutely NOTHING I would rather be listening to.  If you knew me personally, you would also know that there is nothing I enjoy talking about more.  Congratulations to these tremendous artists.

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                    Listen: Persona Q: Shadow Of the Labyrinth: Maze Of Life

 4. Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth/ Shoji Meguro- Composer Shoji Meguro’s sheepishly long de-railed bullet train of scores in the name of Atlus’s hallowed Shin Megami Tensei :P ersona series carry with them perhaps the very definition of tangential madness. As such, coherence widely varies from listener to listener as Meguro’s rules of play are dictated with little to no regard for order, direction or movement along any legible or explicitly defined curve. Meguro, however, never misses a stop, and his routes of travel though entirely unconventional and round-about seem to have garnered him a rather ardent and staunchly dedicated mass of devotees. It’s so much bigger than that though; in fact, Meguro is an idol, a household name in his native Japan. His work is the stuff of stratosphere legend now, selling out even the largest of music venues. He has become a viable solid gold brand with unmeasured clout. The only thing on the market still yet to bear his name, though largely foreseeable to change, is breakfast cereal, and I imagine it’s only simply because they are still in the test-market stage. For those new to Meguro’s torrential storm of neon washed mish-mashed shapes, Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth is the quintessential guidance counselor for the Meguro novice walking you through the creation of his batter ingredient by ingredient. But while Persona Q offers up its conductor at his most revealing, his answers raise more questions than answers, and that’s a VERY good thing. Because while others would have sat back and gone creatively bankrupt, happy to collect the residual checks their name afforded them, Meguro creates fiendishly onward. He is seemingly lost in the chase of his platypus muse, devising the ever more convoluted ruse and spectacular quagmire in a never ending cycle of catch and release…to be in love.

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                           Listen: A Taste Of The Alien Isolation Soundtrack

 3. Alien: Isolation/ The Flight - Fear is least effective when erroneously channeled through the stomach instead of along the nerve. Too often, scores of this nature target a  part of the body that manifests its objections all too softly. Queasiness, unease and discomfort all begin in that pitted vessel of churning gastric acid, but it is something readily alleviated, something instinctually subjugated by simply turning away, tuning out.

It can only harm you in the dark, but not in the daytime, and certainly not in a situation you can control. European duo The Flight, however, are the mould and caste of an absolute and primitive horror, attaching and binding themselves to the proteins and nerve endings essential to traveling throughout the body unfettered. Terror is only truly effective at the level of neurasthenia, at breakdown, where closing your eyes medicates one side of the searing sensation but greatly swells the other. It is not something you can ignore or medicate. To get rid of The Flight is to expel its rapidly multiplying burrow from your system, and to do that is to rid yourself of you. The Flight’s accelerated rate of disability in the user is key to their genesis, much like the creature they are remolding some 35 years after its initial contact. The Flight, however, isn’t interested in some gloaming retread of original Alien composer Jerry Goldsmith’s work. While certainly some manner of pastiche may have been discussed, The Flight were quick to scuttle those ideas, and instead intend to sow seeds of horror specific to the times in which they live: where true evil and reality lie familiar bedfellows with one another…the lines have been completely blurred. The menace of The Flight’s Alien is no longer as easily definable, no longer as distant, and most of all, no longer as predictable. As of now, it can come from anywhere. The Flight makes possible the vision of developers Creative Assembly by authenticating their voice with authority, delivering what was once thought to be impossible: an exhaustively rewritten Alien doctrine. Never delicate, never expected, The Flight’s score for Alien: Isolation unleashes the brutality of H.R. Giger’s original designs. They enable them to hunt using fear as a mind killer, fear that travels along the nerve and not in the stomach, and a fear that will find you, regardless of sunshine, sunlamp, fluorescent bulb or otherwise.

 

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                         Listen: Fantasia Music Evolved: Meeting The Master

2. Disney Fantastia: Music Evolved/ Inon Zur - One of the most unsettling trends I have seen in all my years working music retail is the slow erosion of classical music from store shelves. I started out working primarily with classical music at age twenty, an age associated more with rocking out than it is an explosion of mid-day Baroque. I was at first a bit resistant to my post, but mostly afraid, because to be honest, classical as a genre is one of the most dauntingly complex in all of music. I feared being uncovered, found out by my customers as they sauntered in with their aged list of esoteric movements in whatever e-major or flat they had VERY specifically outlined. Each point on their list took time to research and dislodge from beneath the soil it had seemingly been buried under. Out of print catalog numbers, Sony Red, Naxos, Deutsche Grammophon, my customer’s single written clue a miniscule part of a VERY long trail. When I found their piece, we would often listen to it together, and they would do a play by play of their favorite moments in the composition. I learned classical music very much hands on, and find it criminal that an entire generation might miss out on it entirely, because I have seen my stock and sales decline astronomically in the past 8 years, but there is hope.

Composer Inon Zur whose scoring credits span the length of multiple unabridged volumes of encyclopedia Britannica has joined forces with developer Harmonix, and they have somehow impossibly found THE glitch, THE exploit, THE clandestine inside track granting them access to those youth who once shunned them for no real reason, tossing their literature to the ground just as it was handed off to them. Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved is that key. What now though? They finally have a room at attention. You let the master play and let his master marketer interpret. Inon Zur and Harmonix have that rare partnership here, and it is one that is at its absolute best. Where Harmonix once created new devotion for relics of the rock genre, it now does the same for stars of the violin, chamber orchestra, throngs of woodwind and piano. Zur’s newly minted original score plays high level and equal peer amidst some of the most celebrated and recognizable classical themes ever created. Zur brings with him not only his gifts of composition but of conducting and producing as well. His arrangements feel buoyant, vital, at times even coruscant. He has also brought along some very powerful friends: Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields, The London Chamber and Symphony Orchestra to name a few.

The Director’s Cut adds even more color to the overall package as remixes of everything from Tchaikovsky to Dvorak will no doubt make a case to those still on the fence. Each one showcases a different angle from which to view these masterpieces, making them easier on the palate of the uninitiated. It takes only one truly great piece of anything be it music, games, food, movies or books to alter the course of a life, and Inon Zur’s Fantasia: Music Evolved brings with it the possibilities of expansion over extinction, and the hope that new apprentices will one day outnumber the old guard.

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                                         Listen: Strider: Kazakh Theme

 1. Strider- Michael John Mollo - It’s not an easy thing to generate an open discussion amongst flat refusals, and for the better half of almost two decades, the only certain things when speaking with Capcom on the subject of Strider was the brief flashing of cards they held so closely guarded against their chest, and the walls instantly erected around the stubborn inquiry. Capcom’s reasoning, though seemingly strained of logic, is not without merit. Developers are given at most the smallest blinking of a mascot, perhaps a smaller grain of franchise, and rarest of all, the natural born legend. Strider is legend, and the few pieces of software that bear his name exist only because each parcel of space they inhabit has passed a litmus test of platinum standards raised by significant degrees of difficulty as each gets the green light. This makes the road more difficult for others to traverse, and near impossible for new contents to meet in whole. Exposure with even the slightest of lapses or compromises can and often does spell the end. Undoing a legacy of past and most importantly, future. Capcom’s reticence then is understandable. This weight, ALL of this weight lay squarely upon Strider’s brilliant new composer Michael John Mollo. Strider becomes HIS story, in his charge, and ultimately the ONLY reason you have a new canonical entry emblazoned with the Strider logo.

Because without his compositions, Strider is only half of what the storybooks make him out to be. Mollo is the fit that had long gone missing, the absent detente that would finally bridge the title from standard readiness to assured perfection.

Without knowing it, Mollo is of the same ilk and heritage as the long buried Capcom house band Alpha Lyla; he’s not foreign but rather the most native and organically spun element of the entire proceedings. He is one of them and always has been their spiritual successor. Mollo’s work on Strider is no sloppy collage of various diametric applications made to fit inside a grid. Mollo is poignantly, naturally textural, and sensitive to the meter of his scenes, and while he may scrutinize, he never once manufactures. To do this though, Mollo needed to fully understand the subject he was scoring, not textbook memorization, but to actually press the flesh, to know Strider, befriend him, and become him. What would have been a dry stage-left walk-on exercise in another composer’s hands instead becomes fully aware and alive with Mollo, who is by all accounts immersed in his method portrayal of Strider Hiryu. Now indistinguishable from the source, Mollo is also completely free to arrange as he sees fit. His compositions touch on the classic Strider sound flawlessly, but his focus remains resolutely on the sound of the future, and that is what separates, defines and elevates Mollo’s LP: his singular prodigious fingerprint. It takes steady hands to live in the shadows of original Strider composer Junko Tamiya, but Mollo won’t be second to anyone, and seeing as he’s rightfully a part of the Alpha Lyla brood, this is a passing of the torch, and an acknowledgement that Michael John Mollo has been, always was, and always will be the only REAL candidate to further one of gaming’s greatest and most hallowed icons.

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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.

A little over a month ago I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here

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Watch: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots E3 2007 trailer

# 1 Kojima Productions/Platinum Games/Konami – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

 

On the surface, Metal Gear Solid as a series looks the part of any other videogame. There are trophies awarded for beating bosses, well-defined stages of progression, and there is always an option to save your progress. One thing, however, stands out rather strikingly and that is, Metal Gear lives in total fear of the gun it carries. It is one of the most important genes found within its DNA, one that separates it from all of its video game counterparts. In far too many games made today, your main objective is to shoot, and to shoot everything. So in effect, all you’re tasked with doing is to fire a gun. You’re made to carry this wide assortment of firearms and proceed to make rubble of everything and everyone around you, no questions asked. This lowly cap-in-hand exercise of wielding pistols to fire indiscriminately into a crowd, exacting both carnage and retribution over and over again, lacks all focus, foundation and any sense of humanity.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid 4 Soundtrack – Mobs Alive

Inside the world of Metal Gear, however, guns are as dangerous and permanent in their destruction as they are in the reality of the world around you. Metal Gear realizes that violence has repercussions; people will be affected, and the choice to stare down the muzzle of a barrel of a gun is the stuff of last resort. It should be treated as an extreme means to an end, and should be avoided at all cost. It defines a full metal jacket as the absolute worst course of action. In short, Metal Gear, over so many other video games, has a soul, and it has always been a troubled one.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid 4 Soundtrack – Old Snake

Metal Gear stubbornly takes none of the blind firing squad orders of its video game brethren, choosing instead to focus on the magnification of its character’s very personal struggles: the condition of the psyche behind that trigger, the irreversible consequences of firing it, and most importantly, the unending cycle of melancholy applicable to the gruesome acts of war. Nothing illustrates this point more perfectly than Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, and while director Hideo Kojima may have done everything to protect his child from the evil, the broken, and the corrupt, sadness inevitably found him when he was young.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid 4 Soundtrack – Cold Memories

Metal Gear Solid 4 plays without the protection of its surprisingly absent and expected callous: Solid Snake may be well into his advancing years, but you will be made to feel all of his pain. MGS4 follows a man who is functioning, but only with the help of multiple manufactured aids to supplement his many failing original organs. The real battle is now an internal one that silently negotiates for time over confrontation. He seeks out penance and forgiveness, and as his strength fails, it becomes more and more painful to watch. Metal Gear Solid 4 is one of the few games to embrace the physical and emotional descent of age, what an individual legacy is actually worth, and that no matter how tall the image of yourself stands in public, what it is like to reconcile the actuality of that stature when alone in the dark. The territory Kojima explores here is bold. While it may not be as all encompassing as he might have liked it to be, nothing in the last generation can challenge its weight, nor the morose scrutiny of its post-modern-when-it-rains Death Of A Salesman drama, nor its matter-of-fact approach to the absolute isolation of death. But wait, there’s more!

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Watch: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance E3 2012 trailer

Playing almost full and perfect counter to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. While not totally barren of the ponderous tomes of its aforementioned forbearer, Rising forgoes all subtlety striking in response to even the slightest of cause. There is reason for it though, and primary to that is the youth in its protagonist Raiden. He’s flippant and powerful, but not so naïve that he doesn’t already have some rather substantial regrets. Rising, however, parries the insurmountable numbness, that terminal acceptance of punishment found in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots and argues the evidence in support of its incarceration. It pleads to find redemption through works and effectively skews and alters the perception of its jury. Everyone can change.

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Listen: Metal Gear Rising Soundtrack – Rules of Nature

While I have crowned these two titles for their use of twilight of the tears, black-box theater, I have left all synopsis of the actual playtime (controlling these characters) absent, because as it stands, there is no real separation between the two. Both Rising and Metal Gear Solid 4 stand among a few, very select games able to blend their narrative and action together seamlessly. Playing them is something without equal, even now. The presence of Metal Gear Solid 4’s widely criticized longer cut scenes never felt to me like control had been somehow wrested away. I owned each part as a whole and stood inside the limping Solid Snake and the more athletically inclined Raiden without interruption at all times. There will be those who vigorously disagree, but what can I tell you? This is still the best experience I have had with regards to games across the entire 7th generation, for that matter, period.

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Listen: Metal Gear Solid 4 Soundtrack – Love Theme

While it may be desperately light on the Hee-Haw, and insurmountably heavy on any number of philosophical doctrines, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance did not disappoint. Regardless of what Metal Gear’s long-time cagey resident Colonel Campbell once said about it all just being a game as usual, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance prove it’s anything but.

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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.

A little over a month ago I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here:

#8 Bioware and the Mass Effect Series

Mass Effect at number 8, you say? Okay, let’s make something very clear about my “Best of Last Console Generation” list. In my mind the winner of the number 10 spot celebrates all the victories of the number 1 spot. No one is truly superior because by nature ALL of them rest at equilibrium. To me it’s fine that Mass Effect is at number 8 because it is like saying it is also at number 1. With that being said, at this late stage in the press coverage for Mass Effect as a whole, you’ve probably reached a rather heightened state of saturation. There’s nothing that I could add to that heaping parfait of praise or criticism.  So when I talk about Mass Effect here, I promise to make it brief. If you haven’t played the games, don’t worry. You’ll learn nothing about the contents of these titles, and that’s the point: I don’t want to spoil it for you. 

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Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack: The Wards

The proof of a truly incredible game is not about what it does right, not at all. That honor is bestowed on a game once you start making sacrifices for it. It’s once you’re willing to lie, plan your schedule around it, and maneuver out of every conceivable social contract expected of you in the hopes of prolonging the hours spent tilling and terraforming its virtual space. A word to those who have yet to undertake Commander Shepard’s endeavors: you’re going to make a whole lot of people angry. I also recommend that you carry with you a small note pad, because you’re going to have to  keep all of your fabrications in line and consistent. Just a tip.

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Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack – Illos Ride

My story with Mass Effect is one of sheer abandonment, tossing everyone aside no matter the ties we had. Rather than engage in any of the yearly post-Christmas holiday traditions with family and friends in 2007, I instead chose the N7. I went so far as to cancel my long-running annual Christmas party, seized the cache of funds set aside for itd production and funneled it into a Mass Effect lazy day bank account, so if I missed work, it would be fine: I paid myself to play Mass Effect.

If my alliances with my employer were tenuous, then imagine my siblings and parents – hanging out with them didn’t happen AT ALL. My sisters would beg and plead with me to go to a movie or to dinner, or anything: Nope. My friends, well let’s just say I let the phone ring, then played dumb more times than there were believable scenarios to create. Somebody had to have known.

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Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack – Afterlife

What’s more, a few years later, as I was about to begin Mass Effect 3, my friend Frank was over to specifically diagnose the many problems I was having completing a perfect play through of Mass Effect 2. His findings were troubling. I would have to start over from scratch if I wanted to do it right. While playing through Mass Effect 2 again would have likely addressed and sufficed Frank’s concerns, it didn’t sit well with me, leaving something, anything undone. Plus you know, I may have left out that a good portion of my crew were also dead. So without even blinking, I erased my hard-won saves from Mass Effect 1 and 2 (those same saves built upon the shunning and repelling of blood relatives and long-time companions) and started over from the ground up. The cycle had begun anew. All this before I had even seen the title screen for Mass Effect 3.

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Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack: Noveria

If this list were based solely on the most cavalier and unending expulsion of man hours, Mass Effect would stand alone; it would be no contest. If it was based on a single criterion, like say the number of those spurned in my attempts to complete it, Mass Effect’s catapulting friend catcher would have no equal. I have no regrets, and when you sign on to Commander Shepard’s Normandy and Mass Effect’s colossal galaxy of play pretend, it may very well be the most illuminating experience you’ve ever had while playing with toys. It is also likely that this is the first time your G.I. Joe and He-Man figurines have ever undergone indoctrination.

This is serious business you know.

Don’t forget to pick up the spectacular Mass Effect Score right here.

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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.

A little over a month ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here:

#2. Square-Enix, Eidos Montreal and Deus Ex: Human Revolution:

Have you ever been inside a bookstore and casually wondered WHAT exactly all the people around you might be reading? Kind of interesting, right? But it would be a fairly tedious and dangerous exercise to nudge each and every one on the shoulder to ask them about their favorite authors. Reading is a private exercise, not really meant to be done in public (but it is). Don’t worry, you’re in luck, because I know exactly what a significant portion of the mass literary audience prefers. Though my ad-libbed study is FAR from scientific, it’s part of what I do, and I see it everyday. I see it in the numbers. It has very little to do with the Fiction genre, History, Biographies, Nature, or Travel. It has everything to do with slogans and mantras.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Pangu, City Above The City

Have you heard of Joel Osteen? I wish I were Joel Osteen. Every time I see another one of his books in hardcover, I want to kick myself, then have somebody, anybody in close proximity, kick me again! Why couldn’t I have come up with that? I mean… I have good ideas. Osteen, however, beat everyone to all of them, and has continuously, effortlessly slapped the hardcover straight into paperback with easily dialed clichés like“ You Can, You Will”, “I Declare”, “Break Out” and “It’s Your Time” into print – LOTS and lots of print. I have to give him credit though, because at least his books are complete, which is more than I can say for the author Don Miguel Ruiz, who published “The Four Agreements”, then had a suspect hand in letting loose the “The Fifth Agreement” as if to say, “Oh wait, I forgot one!” You would be wary of any scraggly man on the street yelling at you some ridiculous notion like “Ask and it is given” …wouldn’t you? I don’t see the difference here.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Megan Intro

Actually, I have absolutely nothing against any of these authors at all. They provide a service for millions of people in that they illustrate ways to improve the self, barge past hurdles, renew hope etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So what are people reading? Self-help, self-medication, self-renewal, and I don’t blame them. It’s getting BAD out there.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Penthouse

All this to get to my initial point: put those books down. Remember, I say this because I am concerned for you all. I LOVE my literature, but this sizable demographic, those afflicted with some form of depression, self-doubt, or a litany of disturbances… may I make a suggestion? Want something for the pain right now? Something immediate?  Play video games. More specifically, play Square Enix’s 2011 masterpiece Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Now, I will take that a step further and say, if you haven’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, then you can’t possibly be serious about getting help, and all these books you’ve purchased in the hopes of overcoming cycles of intermittent despair are actually serving as weights to hold you back. You’ve actually just created another rather large blockade on your path to sound and true wellness. So in this instance, I am advocating against the slower, more methodical burn of chapter upon chapter and workbook page upon role-playing activity, all of which were designed to take you out, layer by layer and bit by bit from your self-spun, self-initiated cocoon. This is not a time to mince words, nor a time to enable the behavior in question to continue. Deus Ex: HR will hold your hand in some manner, but realizes that things need to happen quickly, and that time is running out.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Wayne Hass

Deus Ex; HR brings with it a precise economy and wisdom to its sessions with you, as it cuts all costs through no applicable medications. It’s seen through all of the unscrupulous do-make-say-think greed, through every fatted panel of charlatan and witch doctor, and through all of whom are eager to pounce voraciously on your clouded, unstable vulnerability with hollow two-word creeds. While they might briefly address your problem, more than likely, theirs is a Band-Aid with an already weakened adhesive. These results need to be lasting. Are you familiar with Adam Jensen‘s dedicated 24-hour crisis hotline? Let me connect you.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Picus Funicular Combat

I will not rehash again what I’ve already told you about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I’ve written tirelessly in this very space about and around the circumstances that encompassed some of my ongoing experiences with it, but if you want the short version, I will give it to you: It saved my life. While I can’t quite laugh about it now, I can speak genuinely to the merits of its attack/therapy/counseling mixture. A fragment of who I am today was shaped by this very title.

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Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Exploration (Hard Fight)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the greatest landmarks in the seventh generation of video games, but it should be looked upon as more than just a piece of software; it should be viewed as something much more precious, something spiritual. It becomes part of you. With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is no before, after, or during, and you will never speak of it in the past tense. In this sense it is the truest form of therapy: one in which the dialogue is constantly changing and evolving years after the initial ordeal has taken place. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is completely self-aware. It is keen to your person, your weaknesses, and your triggers. It is here to help. Once you’ve spent a few weeks with it, gone back and forth and hashed out all the ugly because that‘s what you need, you will be transformed. I declare.

A very personal and heartfelt thanks and congratulations goes out to Square Enix, Eidos Montreal, and composer Michael McCann .

Don’t forget to pick up the official Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack here.

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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.

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