sumthing else

Insider Blog

Author Archive

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

# 9. Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed series -

Say what you will about the first Assassin’s Creed, its ad nauseam parade of derivative objectives, repetitive mission structure, and its dead-eyed, bloodless protagonist Altair – any of these may be chief among your complaints. I hear you. BUT. That’s not the reason so many left unsatisfied. No, no… it all came down to what was initially outlined, what was not so much promised, but alluded to, er promised. There were some rather large dice being tossed about Ubisoft’s conference room shuffleboard set, and even larger bets.


Watch: The first Assassin’s Creed Trailer

The trouble inherent with big promises is that they remain an elusive and seldom delivered ingredient within packaged games, and Assassin’s Creed’s trail of strewn letters to its many lovers all promised an affair like no other: exclusive, gorgeous, many the gifts and most importantly, hot and heavy. Assassin’s Creed’s first date, however, if you will, is more akin to a blind double date with dinner at a Wienerschnitzel, and a dingy, two- transfer bus ride to your love in waiting. It’s all on your dime though, because the man on your arm just skipped out on the bill. Promises, promises.


Watch: The Madness Of King George

What I realized though was that UbiSoft ran out of time, plain and simple, because the glimmers of what might and would be coming were nothing short of cosmic. So what if at its inception, corners were painstakingly cut? Despite that, from time to time, you could still glimpse that original manifesto, the pen and paper drawings, the pitch, the frequency: VISION. Working to establish a top-tier brand, something with its very own distinguishing mark and signature are bound to encounter some form of jetlag or layovers, and the first Assassin’s Creed has a pouch full of meal vouchers and has been downgraded to coach more times than even it can accurately account for. That being said, there is absolute euphoria in its purgatory, and it is to be had in large and regular doses spread evenly throughout that debut title. Those blinding glimmers, the flesh of those ideal, proud tenets that were promised to me, MADE me stick around. It didn’t take Ubisoft long to correct the mistakes of its first child as the second seed heralded the deliverance of the goods: Suddenly, Assassin’s Creed had become one of my most beloved, and unbeknownst to me, easily sustained fixations.


Listen: Assassin’s Creed 2 Soundtrack – Venice Rooftops

The thing is, when I initially committed to take part in the Assassin’s Creed consumerism, I had no idea that the games would become an annualized event, where every November I would be placed into a darker shade of coat belonging to yet another similarly dressed assassin. While I have some disdain for this practice (every sequel should have a few years between entries.), I found Assassin’s Creed’s successive slew of sequels via tired slogans like Brotherhood, Revelations, and now Unity, surprisingly served over the counter and without prescription. Because… things happen when you’re given too much of a good thing, and suddenly I found myself comatose in the intervening months leading up to the next chapter. I had become a willing, violent addict growing increasingly dependent on this drip feed of expensive collectors’ editions, and preposterous bizarro-world exposition. Where else would you find the deranged what-if madness of King George Washington colliding with the imperturbable pfft of a dead Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus? You have yet to play Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Cartel Imhotep, but you will. You won’t be alone either, I will be right there with you, struggling to find more room for which to place my new limited edition 1/6th scale Pharaoh Assassin statue. This really is just the beginning I hope, as I can’t wait till they start in with the acronyms.


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.

bayonetta 1

Watch: Bayonetta’s 2008 announcement trailer

#5 Platinum Games and Bayonetta - 

In the lead up to this week’s writing, I was busy scouring my shelves trying desperately to pick some lesser alternate candidate to crown in 5th place, my reasoning due to my reticence to place yet another Platinum games title onto this list. I fought it, but ultimately nothing stood above it without me hoisting said understudy onto my shoulders and coaching it with a nickel’s worth of borrowed, cheap athletic wear slogans. The number 5 slot on this list is goes to Bayonetta, and not some hastily assembled upstart puppet regime, which exists solely by the aid of my collarbone.

bayonetta 2

Listen: Bayonetta soundtrack – The Gates of Hell

What it comes down to, for me, these days, concerning video games at least, is the level of absurdity, and Bayonetta wastes no time in dialing up the unfathomable, all the while willfully inebriated on the most magnificent of homebrew hooch. Why do stand-up in some dingy club, when you can tour those punch lines outside of its regulated confines, megaphone-main-street-parade style? This is one touring company not to miss, and Kamiya’s cast is a line of color so bizarre, slanted and captivating it’s no matter that his fuchsia rejects his mustard yellow; it’s all about that final shade… the mixture together, and I would wager a guess that Bayonetta is one of the only set of players to talk as loudly as its dressed, the only troupe with real personality for a thousand miles in every direction on any map. Without the characters, you’ve already doomed yourself to drown, but Kamiya’s all-hours house party attracts a very particular, and strikingly peculiar crowd to a room, and all of them are well beyond the dog paddle.

bayonetta 3

Listen: Bayonetta soundtrack – Mysterious Destiny

Kamiya’s actors, however, make up but one single facet on his already-heavy key ring. Platinum redefined the pace and expectation of the action genre, adding an emphasis to established MPH on the highway. Everyone knows that when you’re out on a long road trip, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to the recommended postings: you’ll speed, and Platinum treats Bayonetta as it would a tire to the asphalt. Bayonetta discards the pace that the beat-em-up genre set for action games some 25 years earlier: NO MORE WALKING! Now you will get where you’re going in half the time. You won’t feel even a bump, and you’ll be in the best shape of your life.

bayonetta 4

Watch: Bayonetta’s Wicked Weaves

Again, I could go on and on and ON about all the things this game does right, but I won’t because Platinum nails it where it matters most, and that is in the hand. Exactly 10 years ago, Tecmo’s Team Ninja completely overhauled the genre with Ninja Gaiden, a game I have played and beaten numerous times and on all its available difficulties. It’s still something I play every year without fail, and it feels tremendous even now when you wrap your fingers around it. BUT… Kamiya has exceeded even that title, usurping the throne while its complacent king sat idly by, staring at his trophies of old. When it comes down to it, the most important position is the one of power, the one that rules. This is Bayonetta’s coronation. Here’s to the centennial, the legacy to come… Long live the queen!


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. This week, we have number ten and another tie.

#10 Electronic Arts Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space

I was skeptical when in 2008, video game publisher Electronic Arts announced a duo of high-end titles that were promised to be made and delivered both clean and sober. At the time it seemed too far fetched an idea, and I erroneously dismissed the news entirely. I have nothing against Electronic Arts, but a troubling portion of their previous finished products seemed to end up litter on a very unfinished highway. I won’t delve into all that though, because I am not here to dwell on anybody’s past transgressions. The past is the past, and when someone or something makes a public appeal to make things right, or boldly strives to change ways and habits… you have to at the very least give them a chance to succeed.


Listen: Mirror’s Edge Soundtrack – Still Alive

Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge both had to fight for my attention, challenge other games more prominently placed for my dollars, and destroy the preconceived notions and prejudices I had placed upon them with no formal sense of reason. While downloading the demo for Mirror’s Edge (downloading, not playing) I sat mildly mesmerized by a PS3 system theme that features the title’s protagonist Faith. That color wash of hot red, the skeleton etching of buildings in the whitest primary dashes, it’s a moment that lasted long enough for me to figure out the allocation of funds to pre-order it, and short enough for me to act immediately on the impulse. The scales rose instantaneously from unregistered pulse to live, blistering fever. I NEVER played that demo, and I didn’t have to. It was all a feeling: there was just something about it.


Watch: Dead Space’s Announcement Trailer

Dead Space had an even easier time in its rounds of discussion. The game was quick to remind me that there was a complete dearth of REAL survival horror games, and it quickly ran down the litany of failures the current damaged crops had to offer. Dead Space provided an accomplished, fairly decadent spread of airlocks, zero suits, and dismemberments, but what made it stand out was the emphasis it placed on its total isolation. It understood fear is most prevalent without a partner, without another face, and without assurances made solid with another body in close proximity. Mostly, you hear the Dead Space cadet Issac Clarke breathe and gasp for hours on end, and that sound is one of the most UNNERVING things I have ever had to endure. I never considered physical fatigue to be in and of itself an element of terror, but ask yourself, how long can you run? Issac Clarke can run about 30 feet, and then what happens? He’s tired. And then what happens? Well he’s not running anymore, and he considers the cramp in his abdomen to be a much more pressing concern than the legions of cobble-headed Belial giving chase at his back. Dead Space brilliantly simulates the prepping of an assault with trembling hands as they fumble for triggers and safety locks. No one is ever REALLY prepared, and Issac Clarke is the terrifying embodiment of a chicken loose in space with its head cut off. I haven’t been more petrified playing anything in the six years since its release.

Both Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space are beautiful games where design and imagination dictated and trumped all concerns for market viability, and the greatest compliment that I can give to any piece of software is to say I will commit to return to it annually, knowing instinctively that when I do, it will have lost none of its luster.


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.

Three weeks ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed last week please click here. This week, we have our 6th place title.

heavy rain 1

Watch: Heavy Rain Launch Trailer

#6. Quantic Dream and Heavy Rain - While I would like to agree with the moniker developer Quantic Dream chose for their 2010 release Heavy Rain, I feel more inclined to believe that this official title was the product of something completely lost in translation. Heavy Rain DOES communicate beautifully the idea of a very cold dousing, one that’s particularly weighted and somewhat threatening. What it fails to address, however, is the severity of its own flood, and how it’s one of the most dangerous and unpredictable forces in all of elemental nature. To be simply “Heavy Rain” suggests an umbrella would suffice to defend against it. No no, I would have chosen “Driving Rain“. It may not have been as flashy for marketing ads and trailers, but it leaves you with some kind of lingering question, and maybe a stronger image as to what sort of malady awaits you behind its doors.

heavy rain 2

Listen: Painful Memories – Heavy Rain Soundtrack

There is an official definition of driving rain, and for the most part wind plays an even larger role than before. It’s much more violent, much more angled, and the area of dispersion is much, much larger. That doesn’t do it justice though, either. To demonstrate what driving rain really is, let us use a real world example. It’s October of 2002, and my band and I have just left Austin, Texas for Detroit, Michigan. It’s a 24-hour drive that we will make in exactly 24 hours with no stops, no rest, and absolutely no comfort. An hour into the drive, which we had begun at midnight, it suddenly begins to rain. As we travel further through the night, rain mutates to storm, and the water begins to genuinely threaten the integrity of our already battered hull. The volume of liquid pounding on our windshield makes the contents of the road ahead resolutely indecipherable. At this moment and for the next 90 miles, we’re steering absolutely blind. It’s one of the truest sensations of fear I have ever felt in my life, where even the most innocent and shrug-able maneuver could spell disaster for everyone inside our van, and it could happen at any second. There is no real control; there is no real protection, and there is no real way to know if we will live through the next hundred miles, or be dead in two. In essence, a good driving rain is the equivalent of the brutal exclamation point present in every moment of our lives: We will NEVER ever be in control. This is what Heavy Rain is all about.

heavy rain 3

Listen: Driller Thriller – Heavy Rain Soundtrack

Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain takes the consequences of everyday living, momentary unions of chance, and the mounting ever-expanding stockpile of sobering evidence leading to our own conviction. We’re all damaged, we’ve all made mistakes, and the limp we walk with is the proof of our own transgressions against others. Heavy Rain, rather than dress its survival horror with broken blood capsules and Aleister Crowley scribbles, chooses to drain its victim’s sanity by way of depleting personal dignity. You’ll have bottomed out whole before you’ve reached even the halfway point of director David Cage’s story, and much like the driving rain I spoke of earlier, for every moment of the straight line you attempt to walk, you’ll be bent with wind. Money doesn’t change everything, but circumstance does, and in Heavy Rain, those changes are instantaneous and constant with eyes open or shut.


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.

Two weeks ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed last week please click here. This week, lets talk 7th place.

batman 1

Listen: Batman Arkham Asylum Soundtrack – Stealthy Bat

# 7. Rocksteady Studios and Batman Arkham Asylum - By 2009, I had given up completely on Batman in video games. So it was very strange to me when I found myself literally scrambling to grab the very last copy in town of the collector’s edition for Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was days before Christmas and the weather was all sleet and ice, but that hadn’t stopped me from going to some fifteen different stores even though I was freezing and utterly miserable. It took me about 5 hours with traffic and interminable lines, but I did manage to find that last one calmly perched above the register at one of the most out of the way GameStops in the city. It pays to drive around.

batman 2

Watch:  Batman Arkham Asylum’s second trailer

How I found myself in this predicament is simple: I didn’t believe in the hype. I bought a regular copy of the game upon its release somewhat begrudgingly. I shoved it to the back of my nearly stuffed Christmas vault and thought about returning it for weeks. I poked fun at it, scoffed at the idea that there would ever be another Batman game to rival the perfection that was the Sunsoft 1989 Nintendo original. I created a world completely insulated from the truth and reality that was plain for everyone else to see: Batman: Arkham Asylum was in fact the greatest Batman game in the history of the medium. Somehow, enough of this overwhelmingly positive critical reception infiltrated my semi-permeable membrane of a solution that was both exceedingly negative and bordering on outright mockery. Rocksteady had my number, and as I sloshed around in this late December freeze… they also had the last laugh.

The moral of this story? NEVER believe your own B.S.

batman 3

Listen: Batman Arkham Asylum Soundtrack – The Overworld

There’s not much that I can add to what has already been rapturously repeated by the gaming press about Arkham Asylum and its successively brilliant sequels, but what I really want to drive home is the fact that this IS the ONLY way for you to actually become Batman in any way, shape or form. Rocksteady’s Dark Knight places as much emphasis on stealth and restraint as it does on the knuckle-on-knuckle, seven-on-one confrontations. Batman is, after all, a detective first and Arkham Asylum forces you to drag out both pen and paper old-world style to solve its most difficult of obstacles. I could go on… unexpected branching paths, blah, blah, blah, formidable enemies; objectives are fresh and non-repeating, you’ve heard all of that before. Ugh. BUT.

batman 4

Listen: Batman Arkham Asylum Soundtrack – The Abyss Of Fear

What I really want to talk about is Batman’s walk, or better yet his crouch, or even better than that his grappling hook, or what about his takedown? Being. That is what is most important here, and the most fundamental too, because it is the KEY ingredient sorely missing from these twenty long years of middling-to-awful Batman games. Rocksteady are the only ones to realize that this IS the Dark Knight, and that every other hero on the planet is just some wound-up jerk who’s visited and raided thrift store aisles and happened upon some variant form of colorful Underoos. These rejects, they’ve not thought it through: inevitably, by wearing that costume, they’re going to get hit. One night of cracks to the head might not be enough to put them off, but after a week of blows, surely they’ve started to reconsider and even begin to feel silly about the whole thing. There’s only one true hero, and Rocksteady’s camera is one that captures the view from beneath Bruce Wayne’s legendary cowl, and not from the outside looking in. You feel that power because you have it… all of 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.

Last week, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed last week please click here. This week, we have a two-way tie for 4th place.

# 4 Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture (TIE)

No More Heroes / No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle



Listen: NMH OST – The Virgin Child Makes Her Wish Without Feeling Anything

Rolls of toilet paper are what I remember most about the 2008 launch of Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture’s No More Heroes. In the games industry, big software releases are usually celebrated events, or at the bare minimum, people are taking pictures in expensive clothes. At the very least, someone’s posing, and music‘s playing. Here, minutes after the release of No More Heroes, Suda 51 has rolled out of bed, gone down to the nearest and most arbitrary of newsstands, and decided instead to grinningly push reams of two-ply into the hands of disinterested passersby. Oh…but someone DID take a Polaroid.


Listen: NMH2 OST – Shoegazer Watched The Stars

This is Grasshopper Manufacture, take it or leave it. No solicitors welcome, and there is no room for speechless praise. You get toiletries… not Ezra Pound! Gone is that grand statement of arrival, that torturous harangue of expected social engagement, and that sliding, filtered scale of rewards for a job well done. Suda 51 and his adroit development house actually practice the tenets of Punk Rock, so rather than choose a payday of the most sordid type of lucre, and offer a worship tax to some Madonna of publisher marketing dollars… they make the game THEY want to play. And do you think for a minute that the Sex Pistols would have stood around celebrating Never Mind The Bollocks with journalists? NO! And like the house that built it, Suda 51’s No More Heroes is a deeply outspoken iconoclast whose only real desire is to pelt your house with eggs, and is thoroughly content to grate loudly on your very last nerve. This is prank calls, downed mailboxes, flatulent noises of the body and every off-color, crassly constructed joke known to man. No More Heroes isn’t a champion of the liminal, nor imperceptible game experience, and Grasshopper’s NMH protagonist Travis Touchdown knows but one type of volume: one that is raised notches higher for every five minutes of film. You’ll never forget him, you won’t ever want to, and only this studio could have smuggled this brilliant otaku, this idiot savant, under radar and onto market shelves.


Listen: NMH OST – Shinobu

Suda 51’s brutish meta masterpiece champions and then seemingly challenges the very lowest of lowbrow humor as its full mooned 16-hour duration thrashes and writhes with such indefatigable, youthful presence that you’d not be faulted to think it a live garage performance in some rug-burn basement. Suda 51’s No More Heroes draws a rather fervent cult from those both lanky and awkward, marginalized and disaffected, shut-in sociopaths and the very cruelest of class clowns. Its humor is unrepentant hilarious grime, its political correctness lagging and non-existent, and its distillation of late 70’s early 80’s pop culture unrivaled. No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle are two of the VERY BEST games to hit shelves in the last ten years. Period. This is neither the classy starched bowtie of the musical Maurice Chevalier, the fuss of head dress as seen on Yul Bryner’s Rameses nor the celebrated masks of Tyrone Guthrie’s take on Oedipus Rex. No, not this. Abandoned drive-in showing Band Of The Hand, They Call Me Bruce and Better Off Dead on a loop? Closer.

The question really is, where would you rather be? I thought so.

Stay tuned…


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.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be talking about my favorite games from the last generation of consoles (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii). If you remember, last year I made a similar list, but that particular set of favorites concerned itself with the best music tracks of the 7th gaming generation and not the actual games. Well, time is really up for these machines I’m afraid, and my catalog of its ultimate experiences is complete. It will also be done out of order. Ready? Here we go!

 vanquish 1

Watch: Vanquish Announcement Trailer 2010

# 3 Vanquish (Shinji Mikami and Platinum Games 2010)

In all honesty, though it may not seem like it, I tend to get tired of using superlatives. If you were to even casually glance over any one of my articles, however, you’d see that I tend to polish and gloss most all of the things I talk about. It comes instinctually, due to my love of the subject matter, and believe me, I REALLY do love it. I can’t however, simply place a game soundtrack title or a game title that I like at the top of one of my written pieces and follow it with a thousand puerile smiling emoticons. That is not writing; that’s me decorating my bedroom walls (Oh if you could see them!). These superlatives unfortunately are necessary to this process. Thing is, not everything deserves to be described as something with such a beautiful sheen that it’s translucent. Except VANQUISH!

 vanquish 2

 Listen: Vanquish Soundtrack – Grandhill’s Highest Part

Few software titles from this previous generation have left me genuinely speechless, and I don’t just mean figuratively. The demo Platinum and Sega were showcasing on the E3 2010 show floor was one of the most searing, visceral and transformative moments in all of my action gaming life. Less than 10 seconds after completing the available single level, I was suddenly approached by some Sega representatives with a camera rolling. They began to ask questions: “ What did you think?” “How do you like the boost?” “What do you think of the character design?” “How do you feel.” I kept nodding in their direction, but nothing was coming out of my mouth, nothing at all. Why? I was sweating, panting like I needed to catch my breath. Their amusement turned to slight irritation as I just stood there gasping heavily. Suddenly I blurted out a single slurred stutter: “It’s fast!” Thinking that they could now move forward with their questions, their slog of inquiries continued. To each I answered “It’s fast!” Insistent, they pressed me with different angles and at each level of interrogation, I could only make the same or variant reply. Then, understandably frustrated, they thanked me for my time and walked away.

The picture below was taken moments after that botched interview.

 vanquish 3

 Listen: Vanquish Soundtrack – Tutorial

Shinji Mikami and Platinum’s Vanquish may disguise itself as some twitching Killroy come Mr. Roboto acrobatics, run and gun, but it is far less synthetics and frigid infusion and much, much more akin to James Brown: Moving it, doing it.

Like Brown, Vanquish is a gutturally vocal master of stepping on and punctuating a note; like Brown, it’s much deeper than sloppily coordinated elbows and knees and hip gyration; and like Brown, Vanquish ties its greatest rewards to YOUR delivery, the succinctness of YOUR timing and the power of YOUR phrasings. It’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it. Vanquish adds such grand interstellar pop spectacle to its love supreme soul that it leaves reverent adulation to follow every minutia of movement in its full-figured repertoire. Mikami in his heart is all Rhythm and Blues, not rigid metal, pessimistic post-punk, nor bleeding, tearful slow-core. He don‘t know karate but he knows crazy! And as it stands, Shinji Mikami’s Vanquish is the transcendental Yahweh Godfather of action games, and if it doesn’t somehow manage to reach the very top of gaming’s all-time greatest of the genre, then quite simply put, there’s no real reason to keep playing them.


 vanquish 4

 Listen: Vanquish Soundtrack – Argus Battle

Stay tuned next week as our countdown continues!


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.

 Darkstalkers 1

Listen: Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors – Opening Title

It’s the very, very late 1990’s and as the third installment of Capcom’s Darkstalkers completes its production cycle, so too does the developer’s own dedicated house band Alph Lyla (aka Alpha Lyla). As Darkstalker’s motherboards and connecting PCBs are shipped to arcades across Japan and North America, for reasons unknown Alph Lyla internally disintegrates, implodes and disbands. Was it a partnership that ended in some bitter he-said/she-said infighting? Contractual disputes? Dueling artistic visions? Who made that final round of calls? Who dropped the axe? The truth of those final days most certainly is a truth to which we’ll never be privy. What is certain is that after almost a decade spent crisscrossing the globe playing the largest and most celebrated arcade halls, this was the end, and Alph Lyla had fully accepted what was now to come: its true death.

 Darkstalkers 2

 Listen: Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors – Demetri’s Stage

You’ve heard Alph Lyla, and seen them play more times than is even fathomable. While you may never have bought their t-shirts or purchased their records, chances are you’ve been their biggest and most unwitting fan. Stepping into an arcade, even once since 1988, guarantees you’re familiar with their brand of score.

From Strider to Captain Commando and Street Fighter 2, Alph Lyla’s rotating membership of immensely gifted players spun a black circle that defined and re-defined what could be done within the constraints of video game audio, and likewise should be regarded as THE pioneers of the genre. Today however, I am most concerned with their life at the end and that last cycle that produced six of the most bizarre, spectacular and seductive albums of their career. This is the story of their penultimate contribution to gaming audio: Capcom’s 6-disc soundtrack anthology Darkstalkers Vampire Soundbox.

Darkstalkers 3

Listen: Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors – Jon Talbain Stag

For a moment on disc one, you’d never know that what you’re listening to is a Darkstalkers score. Over the multiple albums that comprise this set, it is this very first record that finds Alph Lyla actively struggling to create the universe of its accursed succubus Morrigan and vampire Demetri. These initial accompaniments are not at all bad, nor necessarily confused takes on the undead, but they are ones in which the group becomes saddled with the ideas and directions of the score’s objectives: no perimeter is to be present, and none of the established grids well protected. Darkstalkers’ inaugural set of character and stage themes rides its monster noir pulp to each and every cardinal point on a compass. Alph Lyla is not averse to experimentation and willfully trades musical genres as its own quick and dirty petty cash. The band barters and haggles with every merchant along the way, leaning strongly for a moment towards Amandla-esqe fusion jazz, and then quickly altering their course, steering from barrelhouse to bottleneck air guitar, and genteel monster muzak. With so many disparate demon tribes being sent to contribute verse to Darkstalkers, Alph Lyla had to carefully mediate the negotiating table, offering each and every one of its participants a first draft mock-up of their signature sounds. Vampire Sound Box’s first record offers a gorgeous yet puzzling set of pre-renderings that, while accomplished, are models and arrangements not yet fully formed.

Quality takes time though, and the groundwork laid here for Alph Lyla’s Darkstalkers starter home contains all the necessary elements on which they will build their crowning, ever-evolving masterpiece. But…so much work still remains to be done.

 Darkstalkers 4

 Listen: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge – Morrigan’s Stage (Scotland)

At this point, Alph Lyla’s scattered collection of Polaroids, snapshots and location files had begun to overtake their studio. Those days of whittling are central to the music of discs 2 and 3 of the set. This is where each photograph would be rated and vigorously tested for its inflection of horror and Samhain musicality. You can almost see them all stretched out on their office floor debating at length about which of the hundreds of theme sketches will take lead. Are these heroes or villains? What was missed in the first go-around? “Anyone here ever been to Egypt?“ What most people don’t realize is just how quickly Alph Lyla had to evolve. Regular pop or rock groups are usually given the benefit of advances on salary, holidays between releases, and the artistic carte blanche of “It’s done when it’s done.” The traveling distance between 1994’s Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors and its sequel, Vampire: Darkstalkers Revenge is less than one year, with Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior debuting early in 1997. Alph Lyla’s now cancerous and terminal sound evolution would have to be a very, very quick one. BUT. The immense pressure placed on the group begins to produce seed and on the second disc, the series’ iconography begins to take shape. Yes, that IS Morrigan’s theme in its purest and barest form. Yes, the Bishamon, Hsien-Ko, and Sasquatch themes have clearly turned their own corner. Yes, that’s Demetri’s theme dictating the full terms of sound tone for all future sequels. From this point on, Alph Lyla’s stew of magical arts and skeleton hodgepodge ceases full stop. There’s not only focus here, but a fervor, an excitement .You can see the band collectively starting to grin, walking together, being in on their secret, and functioning as a truly exclusive unit. If you doubt me, just take one listen to Lord Raptor’s concrete slab of metal-heavy soloing and tell me that’s not chemistry.

Darkstalkers 6

 Listen: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge – Felicia’s Stage (U.S.A.)

Alph Lyla isn’t satisfied with simple grade school chemistry though, finding its array of mole, Torr and Kelvin as something both cursory and unambitious. As such, discs 4, 5 and 6 of the Vampire Sound Box stand as a revelatory treaty of the blackest holes, the most unexplained of anti-matter, the darkest of space. The contents of these recordings are beyond all expectation, boldly vanquishing even the very best of Alph Lyla’s musical catalog. Here, the group’s earliest Darkstalkers workings now sound absolutely timid. What’s most interesting about this slate of material is how clearly they now understand the world for which they are scoring. It goes beyond that though, to ownership, to signing over the castle deed. Alph Lyla becomes the only set of individuals who can make music for this series from now on. Genius bandies about between all, myself included, but it’s the only assessment of intelligence to accurately describe Alph Lyla’s metamorphosis from Australopithecus to modern Homo sapien.

 Darkstalkers 7

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Vanity Paradise

On this concluding trio of discs, all musical concerns are thoroughly addressed, corrected, and admonished. In their dealings with Darkstalkers, Alpha Lyla’s most pronounced blockade to full musical realization was tempo. In the two previous games, the group seemed to struggle to match the intensity of the onscreen demon-world brawl, oftentimes falling out of synch completely with not only the pace of the match, but with the flavor of their characters’ identity. Darkstalkers 3, perhaps taking cues from lessons learned by Alph Lyla’s own members on other projects like Street Fighter Alpha 3, makes considerable impact in this final Darkstalkers installment.

 Darkstalkers 8

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Tower Of Arrogance

Secondly, weight and muscle are important things in life, and time and time again, Alph Lyla seemed determined to starve itself, refusing even to eat the smallest of portions. Pale and emaciated, the band’s set lists grew harder and harder to slog through as even modest heat burned up what few calories they consumed. They needed more gristle behind these compositions if they were ever to last, and so Alph Lyla somewhat begrudgingly made that crucial change: they beefed up.

 Darkstalkers 9

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Feast Of The Damned

Where once you could have easily grabbed these arrangements by their frail and dainty wrists, Darkstalkers 3’s sudden weight gain, its amply muscled girth makes this an all-out impossibility. Alph Lyla’s very last collaborations were a collection of menace, speed, and dangerous corrupting shadows falling directly in line with the house of the devil. While the band’s increased speed of tempo, dialed-up bass, and downplayed treble all seem like simple fixes, they actually work as a bottomless flow of currency to fund the group’s apocalyptic second coming. The band’s mixture of obsidian chaos, underworld, blood pacts, and soul-sale imagery go beyond mere sweat and cowardly desperation –  Alph Lyla finally makes Darkstalkers’ creatures an integral and permanent part of the night. And what comes with night? FEAR!

 Darkstalkers 10

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Deserted Chateau

Lastly, there’s one facet that has yet to be explored here musically, and that’s the game’s heavy emphasis on nobility, beauty and sexuality. There needed to be an elevation of these characters from just your simple monster movie archetypes. Some of these playable fighters are charged with the keeping of bloodlines, oral histories, and realms free of opposing factions, and above all else, preserving their own physical beauty. Likewise, Darkstalkers’ final score should reflect that judiciously. Alph Lyla correctly made no assumptions that the additions spoken of in the last paragraph would be enough to convey this as muscle does not smoldering nor dignified make, and so the group proceeded to add all shades of lipstick, blush, and slow-rising mist to their soundtrack’s already well supported curves. Characters’ walks become more elegant, their costumes more decorated, and their accomplishments more embellished. The band’s end result is an anesthesia so hypnotically bewildering and powerful, its true feat is that anyone can even play the game without simply staring fixatedly upon it. Darkstalkers’ score is a highly potent, near-toxic spell of crossed desire lines, carnal yearning and forsaken allegiances. Even the logo screen (the unparalleled and now famous opening “Dirty Beret” teaser) has the ability to captivate, narcotize and enslave.

 Darkstalkers 11

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Dirty Beret

Not a single moment inside Vampire Sound Box’s compilation fails, and that’s saying quite a lot. This being their closing set of recorded tracks together as Alph Lyla, they’ve placed emphasis on every snippet of film intro, plot device and win/loss hook. Not a moment is silent, and nothing is left to be repeated. This is poring over their legacy, their last written word in stone. It captures their towering scale at its highest point and provides the clearest, most thorough memoir of one of video games’ greatest and most revered groups at the moment of their passing.

 Darkstalkers 12

 Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Red Thirst

From Darkstalkers onward, sound duties for a varied and great number of Capcom titles fell to single, past members of Alph Lyla. With a decade of recordings in its portfolio, their carefully constructed body of work would find its way onto a numerous number of compilations and retrospectives. There was a small tremor after their demise in the form of a BioHazard Drama album done in 1999, but it didn’t amount to a reforming of the group. It’s of no matter though, I suppose, because with Darkstalkers: Vampire Sound Box, Alph Lyla ends its career with the truest sound of night. And night, as it’s understood, seems to be stronger than death.

 Darkstalkers 13

Listen: Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior – Fetus Of God

To purchase the entire digital Vampire: Soundbox click here. This ends our Summer of Capcom, if you missed any of the previous articles, please click here…….here… and here.

And remember, Darkstalkers are not dead!


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.


Listen: Prologue

Video games save lives and a few months ago we looked at the first two entries on a list of games that have personally saved mine. Today we will look at the third and final title in this series, and how exactly it helped me through crisis. Today it’s Fumito Ueda and Team ICO’s Shadow Of The Colossus. First though, I need to tell you a story that goes back over a decade ago.


Watch: Intro Movie

In 1997, if you had told me that I would be the first to leave my old band, I would have fallen over laughing at you. How could you know about the oaths I had sworn in my head? This group was about a lifetime of allegiance. It was a duty born to ensure the survival of something I had helped to create. The band needed four good men, and I never pegged myself as THE deserter. I also never suspected I would walk away from that duty early: Who could have known that I was the Ides of March? I was. So the end came.


Listen: Prohibited Arts

It’s August 23rd, 2005; I am on stage for the last time as a member of the group.  I picked the day of our eight-year anniversary to leave. When you separate from people, nothing makes any sense. I did feel a very clear sense of acrimony. A distinct betrayal. My musical ideas within the band had started going unheard, and the conversations stopped including me. I began as this group’s front man, and I still sang, but only just barely. The quartet we had felt like a trio, with me relegated to what was essentially tambourine duty. I couldn’t help but feel abandoned by these people around whom I had built my life.

My role in those final months can be likened to that of a sickly dog. Quite literally, I limped into a corner and died a slow mute death.

In this our final show, before our last song had even ended, I turned off my equipment and jumped off the stage. I watched the end of the performance instead of participating in it. I was done. The night ended with few tears, I felt almost nothing, and said even less.


Listen: Resurrection

The problems with the band of course had two sides. It wasn’t their fault, and I was in no way blameless. I had been miserable company for most of the time I had lived in Austin with them, and I was not around when I needed to be around. I was homesick… mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I worked three jobs and never left my house.

I was not living for myself; I was living for them. I knew these men would always be my family, so I got out.

There was one caveat for which I had not prepared. With the group, I had felt like my own heroes. I was Marty Mcfly saving Doc Brown from the Libyans. Batman telling Commissioner Gordon, “You don’t have to thank me”. I was invincible, worthwhile, and important. Now at best, I was just some guy with a funny walk who had once been a part of something bigger. I was a nothing, a has-been at age 26.


Listen: The Opened Way

I left Austin, but coming back home did very little to ease my mind. I had just experienced the biggest breakup of my entire life. I had whittled away a good portion of my twenties, damaged my hearing, and compromised my own sanity for something I was no longer a part of. I was completely heartbroken, and heartbroken people are usually vampiric insomniacs who actively diminish the value of a daily shower.  I lived in my bedroom, playing Street Fighter 2 and only went out when I wanted to see Batman Begins… which I saw some twenty times in theaters. I was not on earth; I was floating in a haze! Then the walking began.

Walking became everything to me. I circled neighborhoods and paced in front of convenience stores. All this mobilized meandering held such value – as long as I was walking, I was in control. This is also, might I add, when interventions needed to happen. In short, I needed therapy.


Listen: End of the Battle

I had been in therapy before when I was about ten years old. This one morning, between breakfast and Nintendo, I wanted to die. Then, overnight, I became afraid of everything and everyone.  Therapy, if you haven’t experienced it, can be a completely alienating experience in the wrong hands, or it can be permanently, positively transformative when administered by a skilled practitioner. Your therapist is someone who wants to take that sick bullet for you, bending and curving the wind to scatter the remnants deflecting the shrapnel. It comes at a cost, though – they WANT answers, and they WANT action. The truth, however, is that the answers they seek can be vicious, uncomfortable, and downright mentally excruciating to produce.

My therapist, in case you’re wondering, saved my life and I will always love him for it.


Listen: Idol Collapse

Back to the present… this walking I’m doing desperately needs attention. While I never thought that I would find myself back in the position of needing therapy again, here I am. Unbeknownst to me, Shadow Of The Colossus would be both my intervention, and my therapy.

How on earth did Shadow Of The Colossus make me feel safe, how did it save my life (are you still there)? The simple and most obvious answer would be the space and silence it afforded me, much like the other games on this list. There is one major difference between those experiences and Shadow; this time you’re not alone. Shadow is a game of lengthy clinical examination: long stretches of probing one-on-one analysis via your horse Agro. On the many trips, the rides to each of the 16 Colossus battles, I was given jarringly pointed and sobering assignments. I cried a LOT, through a good 90% of the game even. I don’t mean tear up, I mean sobbed. It was nothing short of physical. The other ten percent of Team ICO’s sessions revolved around actually battling its Colossus.


Listen: Lakeside

This video game, this inanimate plastic object, knew I had just lost the love of my life. It saw me pounding her chest, actively searching for a way to revive her slowly festering corpse. Even after the fiasco, the end of my involvement in my band… I still wanted to be part of it. I still wanted it back. The fear of letting go requires facing the actual fear, and Shadow Of The Colossus held my arms and legs restrained, my gaze forcibly narrowed and jammed down the fish eye of my assailant in the form of those Colossi. In order to reach that point, however, you guessed it… there must first be some time spent riding around in the dark.

So mounting Agro meant I had to first seek out these creatures, working through my problems as I rode to their lairs. Then I had to go close-quarters with the actual beast in their second, more leviathan-like form: The colossus.


Listen: Silence

For game software to competently masquerade as a therapist, it has to be many things. Foremost, it has to be breathing. Shadow inhales, exhales, coughs and has its own history of questionable and reprehensible choices. It is one of the few games that I consider to be a living being. Shadow is also no fan of hoarding, and it sees no value whatsoever in the collecting of aged and piling newspapers. This title is one of focused ambition, and successfully steers you away from your desire to acquire useless baubles as is customary in most video games. No plunder, no dawdle, no distraction. Here you are tasked with very specific things and its single goal is a straightforward one: best the entities paralyzing you.

If Shadow Of The Colossus is actually human, then by definition so are the few characters that inhabit its world. If you have not played the game: there are a few spoilers ahead, begin reading again at “Lastly“. It all begins and ends with Agro, your horse. He’s your therapist and thankfully, a competent one. All your trials are cataloged, examined, and medicated by Agro’s prescription pad; he is always there. This poor horse takes you from sand dunes to the hinterlands, never wavering, never tiring. I grew so attached to the horse that I tried to minimize my attempts to make him run faster. When my character would dismount, I would always gently pat his mane (which the game allows you to do), never wanting him to feel that I was someone who could not be trusted. If he felt it, I felt it: his bruises, his exhaustion… all of it.

When Agro dies in a final act of loyalty to you, it was too much. I stopped playing for days. The bond was such that when death came for Agro, it was the first time I ever actually mourned a video game avatar, and his death signifies Shadow’s last and painfully capitalized push to make you finally go it alone.


Listen: The Sunlit Earth

Lastly, the game’s soundtrack as scored by composer Kow Otani builds upon game director Fumito Ueda’s garishly dotted landscapes with contrasting cycles of panoramic silence and broken verses intoning fear, mourning and helpless paralysis. Otani’s instrument is one of the game’s most essential mechanisms. His work here is a profoundly emotive and densely passionate set of pieces, without which Shadow might have failed to translate the onslaught and weight of its slow and piecemeal collapse. While Ueda’s scenes have been carefully orchestrated and expertly blocked, they still require Otani’s guidance to make them traversable, unscrambled and enduring. Without his material, it is quite likely that my therapy would have failed. Tackling problems with only the vision and limited black and white perspective of Ueda would have been a single pronged approach that would have failed to understand the full prognosis and broad spectrum of my troubles, which Otani was more than capable of translating.


Listen: The Final Battle

When I finally reached the end of the game, I just felt better… enough even, to start moving around before sundown. The lift Shadow provided was a genuine one, wholly altering the course of my descent, creating a viable, steady path forward. It’s likely your experience will differ from mine, meaning substantially more or less to each player. Regardless, Shadow Of The Colossus will still be something I am certain you will feel the need to talk about some 40 years from now.


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.

Composer - Song Name
00:00 0:30