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Saturday, August 30th, I’m moderating a discussion called “Maestros of Video Games” in Seattle at PAX Prime. As usual, I’m pretty frickin’ excited about this. Here’s a bit of background on each panelist, along with a couple of my favorite samples of their music.


Sascha Dikiciyan


Sascha’s Mass Effect 3 music hits me with such nostalgia that all I need to do is see the title of one of those tracks and I’m hit with a wave.

Here’s the character creation music. Sascha is great at creating the illusion of spacious landscapes in his tracks. He worked on both Borderlands games; here’s one of my favorites from Borderlands 2.

Lest we forget Dead Rising 3, a soundtrack with more than five hours of music on it. Sascha isn’t responsible for all five of those hours, as you’ll learn below. He contributed a lot of music, though, such as “Infected”, which you can check out on Sascha’s website.

Darren Korb


Darren is the audio guy and composer for Supergiant Games. His soundtrack for Bastion pretty much blew everyone away. He came back with more amazing music for Transistor in 2014. Both games are all but unplayable without the soundtracks. Here’s a favorite track from each:

Slinger’s Song” – Bastion

Sandbox” – Transistor

Jesper Kyd


Oh man I love this dude so much it hurts. I mean no disrespect to the other incredible talents on the panel. One of game music’s greatest tragedies was the separation of Assassin’s Creed and Jesper, although I tell myself this opened up opportunities for us to hear his music elsewhere.

One of my favorite “elsewheres” is Darksiders II, which quite possibly will forever remain a favorite soundtrack of mine. Here’s that.

He’s done much since then, as he did much before AC with his Hitman music. Borderlands, Borderlands 2, State of Decay, and the TV series Metal Hurlant Chronicles. Here’s some awesome Borderlands 2 music.

Oleksa Lozochuk


Oleksa joined the Dead Rising series for Dead Rising 2. Oleksa is a pretty great songwriter, for one. Check out “Halfway Dead”. It’s amazing.

I adore this track from Dead Rising 3 in so many ways, too. Yay Prince!

Not all his music has words, such as this.

Martin O’Donnell


What honestly to say about Martin, the king of Halo, that hasn’t been said? My favorite soundtrack from the Halo series is from ODST. My favorite other Halo track is “Luck” from Halo 3.

I kinda can’t wait to hear more Destiny music, and I’m bummed that won’t happen until after the panel (Destiny releases September 9). Here’s a taste, though!

Boris Salchow


Huge huge huge Boris fan. I loved his music for Resistance 3; he’s written amazing music for Ratchet & Clank, and I cannot wait to hear what’s up with Sunset Overdrive.

However, if you want to hear a hidden gem, I highly, highly recommend you listen to his score for a film called Germany from Above (Deutschland von Oben). It’s fantastic, and you can hear it on his website.

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.


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.

It’s time for another round of Emily’s pet peeves in gaming. Isn’t it? I think it is. I’ve been brewing up this list for a while.

Being Taunted

I’m not talking about being taunted by humans in multiplayer scenarios. I’m not talking about being chided by my friends while they watch me gloriously fail a poorly planned frontal assault in whatever game. I’m talking about being taunted by the game itself when I make a mistake or do poorly.

Here’s a simple example: I play a solitaire game called Fairway Solitaire by Big Fish Games. If I have more than five cards left over at the end of a round, this insipid little gopher pops into the middle of the screen and laughs at me. Occasionally, he’ll stick his tongue out. Sometimes, I have to set the phone down and walk away for fear I’ll chuck it into the wall.

Look, I know that fourteen-over-par is horrible. I don’t need you to laugh at me.

Is this because I got bullied as a child?

I remember Bastion’s narrator giving me crap for falling off the sidewalk a million times when I first started the game. That was annoying. Great game though. Awesome music. Made up for it.

Elaborate death screens sometimes feel like mockery. Some giant bleeding skull with gothic font saying “YOU DIED” or some such obvious language. Whatever. I hate being taunted.


Mark Hamill: among the greatest of gaming’s offenders

Horde Mode

Wait, wait, wait. I actually love horde modes. I don’t always enjoy how horde modes are constructed.

Every once in a while, I’ll get home from a day – maybe it’s not even a bad day, relatively; it might be a great day. So every once in a while, I really enjoy just beasting on some bots, to feel like the queen of all games for a short amount of time, to feel… invincible.

Horde modes can let you feel this way for a short amount of time, until inevitably, you’re overwhelmed. In my opinion, this happens way too quickly.

I don’t always want a challenge. I don’t always want it to be hard. Sometimes, I just want to win all the things. I want the waves of enemies to stop when I want them to stop, not when they overwhelm me either by their rising armor and weapon levels or by their sheer numbers.

I want a game that gives me waves of the most moronic, incapable bots that gather in large groups ripe for predator missiles or acid bombs or energy beams or whatever my weapon of choice happens to be. I want those bots to keep coming, and I want my armor and weapon upgrades to keep coming, so I can continue to wreak endless havoc on the worthless, useless AI, until which time I decide I’ve had enough. Perhaps I’m driving a car over zombies, or shelling the opposition, or firing a mounted death beam.


[Editor's Note] I’m just gonna leave this heeeere…


I hate being timed, largely in puzzle games. My whole life revolves around time, at a radio station. That is fine. It is my job. Parameters have benefits in this line of work. When I’m not at my job, please don’t time me. If your game has a stupid timer, please give me an untimed mode.

I understand timers on powers and such, and the occasional “get through here as fast as possible” board. I still mourn the loss of Zen mode in Bejeweled 3 since that mobile game got ruined by ads. Speaking of puzzle games:

Puzzle Games

I’m so bad at them. So, so bad. Often, when I play puzzle games, I’m left feeling like the kid in the corner wearing the dunce cap. I have to put in a game with shooting or driving just to feel in command again.

On the bright side, I feel like a genius when I solve one without a walkthrough. I’ve played many, many puzzle games. Too many to list. Games like Thomas Was Alone or Braid or Fez or The Unfinished Swan or whatever omgggggggg I get so frustrated. Even Uncharted puts me over the edge sometimes.



Did I mention I like to win?

I make myself play them though. I can feel my brain work. Kind of like in quick time events.

Interestingly enough, I heart Portal to death. I love the Portal games so very much, and enjoy playing them. Most of the time.


I spoke about this recently, so no need to go into too much detail. All I’ll say is, anyone should be able to learn how to pick a frickin’ lock. If a character has hands with opposable thumbs, that character should be able to learn that stupid skill.

Stationary Maps

In Dragon Age, the mini-map on the HUD doesn’t rotate. I think it forces my brain to use a different area that never gets used, like maybe the math or reason area. I struggle mightily with stationary mini-maps. I get up and down and left and right all mixed up, I get dizzy going in circles, and I get that brain whiplash you get when something comes into focus quickly.

How about you? What are your gaming pet peeves?

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Summer is usually the time I am most able to play video games. Sadly that time is coming to an end. Among the slew of titles that I’ve had a chance to play through fully, these moments stand out. Don’t worry: No spoilers.

summer 1

Listen: In Your Belief

Asura’s Wrath

One of Asura’s Wrath’s grandest traits by far is its commitment to its own gargantuan scope. By the time you’ve reached the end of the game, that first once unanimously colossal opening scene will feel almost inconsequential, weak… corporeal even. This title goes beyond any description, any manner of word trying to portray the idea of epic, huge, or over the top. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Asura’s Wrath does all it can as quickly as it can to build up its own mystical monolith. Capcom and developer Cyber-Connect 2 are concerned only in extending those physical inches and feet upward, and if the summit can be reached, they’ll simply add more men to their crew and more wood to the peak. It is obvious that they discarded those ideal, more modest plans the moment shovels turned dirt on groundbreaking day.

Asura’s Wrath is a beware lesson that exposes the limitations of simply settling for magnifying glass magnification. The point is not to appear taller through glass, but to actually BE that tall.

summer 2

Listen: The Infraworld

Beyond: Two Souls

One of the most enjoyable things about Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls? The quiet. David Cage and Quantic Dream are more interested in telling their narrative than being bothered with a cumbersome layout of buttons used to make their onscreen avatar jump:  there can be very long stretches of silence dotted with minor activity, and it’s okay. This is all very deliberate, as it opens you up and focuses you on the battered psychology of Cage’s characters. While its emotion can become a tad heavy and even oppressive at times, I found it to be genuinely moving. The ending which I wouldn’t dare spoil here resonated with me on a very personal level. Did I cry? That’s a silly question. Yes, of course!

summer 3

Listen: Heaven’s Divide

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker

I realize I am coming to this party VERY late, but in my head, the timing had to be JUST right. I had to play it with as little amount of time between the next major Metal Gear release as humanly possible. Since I am slated to begin Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes on Christmas day this year, I figured time was actually running out. I could go on and on about Peace Walker, but I won’t. You see… these fools I have hired as guards, have let a certain someone go free yet AGAIN! And here I thought coerced mercenary and trust went hand in hand. Slippery this game.


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.

I turned 30 on February 7th, 2009. What should have been an esoteric examination of my few personal achievements, collected friends and backwards to forwards play by plays of scenes from my life up to that point, suddenly became NOTHING more than tossing quarters into a jar. Instead of probing the past or looking towards some distant future horizon, I was firmly planted inside a tiny Austin, Texas arcade playing Street Fighter 4 for the very first time. There is nothing else, nowhere else in the world I would have rather been that night, or for that matter, any night since the release of Street Fighter 4.


In the near-decade that comprised publisher Capcom’s self-imposed, fighting-game silence, one thing remains clear: it was one born of necessity. The drawing of any new plans for the Street Fighter brand would be heavily wagered against from all sides of its own community. Had Street Fighter 4 been some disconsolate, abysmal or unsalvageable failure, the series itself would have died a victim of its own historical footnotes. Street Fighter 4 would have been the botched progeny, the last and only numbered entry in the franchise to be cannibalized from hair follicles to unkempt toe nails by its ever-voracious and ever-looming parent shadow Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter 4 HAD to work. More importantly, the series had to survive.

It’s obvious at this point that indeed Street Fighter 4 was incredibly successful and so before I stray any further… this article here is concerned with the SOUNDS, the music of Street Fighter 4 and its four successive incarnations: Vanilla 4, Super 4, Arcade Edition 4, and Ultra 4. For every tweak of this engine, a cyclopean entourage of new musical compositions debuted alongside the game’s new challengers and locales. You might not realize it, but counting every flourish of music within Street Fighter 4’s world, numbers well beyond 125 pieces. Indeed with so much ground to cover, so many places to visit, and so many world warrior themes to catalog, I thought It would be helpful for you if I detailed some of the more important people, residences, decrepit domiciles, crowds, and legends that you’re sure to find along your map of its scattered hostels and petrol covered highways. Consider me the Rick Steves of composer Hideyuki Fukasawa’s refulgent Street Fighter 4’s soundtrack. I do hope however, that you brought money, because this tour isn’t one I tend to give to those on a budget.

The Best Of Street Fighter 4’s Most Famous Musical Locales:

Overpass Stage - While certainly nothing to look at from afar, and not really much to take in up close (pictures optional), the urban overpass that our tour begins with is actually one of Fukasawa’s more strangely autographed pieces. It’s one in which the ill-advised, nasally robotic drip of an auto-tune meets the second-rate glamour of out of work Cobra-Kai extras attempting a power ballad. While it may seem bizarre, even ridiculous at first pass… muster the courage to sing along, and you’ll soon be right there with them. Fukasawa’s “Overpass”is nickel and dime, street corner, Hill Street hustling, and his perversion of soured doo-wop curdles and chunks in all of the right places. This is just the beginning, however; it’s time for a luxury cruise.


Listen: Overpass Stage

Cruise Ship SternContains all that money wants: Shrimp, expensive aged liquors, and first row tickets to tonight’s fight, all but guaranteeing your need for both a moist towlette and dry face towel as you’re most assuredly going to be hit with some manner of bodily fluid. I promised you the sights, and for this particular event… feeling them is key.


Listen: Cruise Ship Stern

Small AirfieldIt’s the things you’d never know about unless somebody actually bothered to tip you off to them, and I for one think “Small Airfield”deserves a much wider audience. This is one of Fukasawa’s most skilled musical embolizations, illustrating the deftness of his ear, and the instinctual, selective way it blocks the passage of unnecessary internationally flavored musical archetypes. Fukasawa beautifully discerns need from overstated pandering, creating one of the most stripped down arrangements of this enormous musical endeavor. Light and overwhelmingly joyous, “Small Airfield”succeeds where the likes of “Dhalsim’s Theme”just oversteps that desired mark.


Listen: Small Airfield

Inland Jungle/ Pitch Black Jungle – Getting dirty is perhaps the most rewarding part of this vacation, and Street Fighter 4 is not only interested in showing you the vendors and draw of its big city, but also the thrills of its nearby foraging grounds. We start our descent into an area of small game and poisonous berry trees, as the introduction of “Inland Jungle”preps us with the necessary tools to enter the “Pitch Black Jungle,”which by its very nature is the more destructive of these two grumbling and powerful seisms. We can’t stay here too long, but make sure to take a good look.


Listen: Inland Jungle / Listen: Pitch Black Jungle

Solar Eclipse -Emerging from our jungle surroundings we arrive back on the arid and flat fields of Chad. This is Fukasawa’s way of coming up for air. Intent on seeing the wild in the wild, Fukasawa gives contented expression to grazing giraffes, zebras and hippos. Sure you may have come for a one-on-one battle, but squabbling meerkats offer just as much entertainment as the headlining brawl. Gorgeous.


Listen: Solar Eclipse Stage

Training Stage/ Blast Furnace - Street Fighter 4 is about more than just catering to its established, aging, and vitriolic fan base. Street Fighter 4 is just as much about those who will be lacing up their gloves for the first time ever. “Training Stage”moves with an algid and steeled synchronicity where the casual, flaying heel strike meets the calculated crunching of those truly laboring beneath its pitiless regime. It’s Fukasawa’s Russian “Blast Furnace” that really aims to sweat down those stubborn lazy pounds. “Blast Furnace”expands on the tools and techniques derived from the beat of “Training Stage,” and manifests an even crueler form of sensei: live pressure. Sure you learned the moves, pulled them off even, but how about now? While these two locations aren’t even indicated on your tour map, I felt that missing them would be like missing the point of our trip entirely.


Listen: Training Stage / Listen: Blast Furnace

Run-Down Back Alley – You thought you’d seen the filthiest of Fukasawa’s slums already, but you’d be wrong. Here in this dimly lit street overrun with the stench of long-past fermented beer, and trash that would give inspire hesitation even from within a full-body hazmat suit… we find our opponents ALREADY battling each other. Truly, that’s the point of Fukasawa’s “Run-Down Back Alley”.It captures perfectly the nature of a fight’s hostile impulse, that spur-of-the-moment physical engagement, and it plays at its best when delivering the bout’s winded crescendo; the point where the war of footsies begins to wear noticeably on both sides. Fukasawa further entangles the odds – what looked to be a sure thing, now nothing more than inaccurate guesswork. Two may enter…


Listen: Run-Down Back Alley

The Best Of Street Fighter 2’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:

Theme of Ryu- Become the Storm/ Theme of Ken- Burning Blood -Two of the most important of Fukasawa’s musical Street Fighter 4 creations, and the reason anyone of us signed for this tour in the first place, remains his most faithful to the aging analog presets of Street Fighter 2. Ryu’s fighting stance has not changed and his famously stoic melancholy never seems to interfere with his quarter-circle preoccupation. Ken’s theme plays all the more debutante, as expected. His tousled blonde locks, brand-name fighting apparel, and learned social graces, provide a sort of yang-ish sophistication to Ryu’s perpetually gruff, unwashed pretensions. Just as they were in 1991: excellent.


Listen: Ryu’s Theme / Listen: Ken’s Theme

Theme Of Bison- Silent Gravestone -Fukasawa’s wire taut arrangement of M. Bison’s signature bell adds further layers of ruination to his toll. Seemingly without effort, Fukasawa makes Bison’s jaw line, his eyes and his physical grip an expert study of factionalism and cruelty that has no need for masks.


Listen: Theme of Bison

Theme Of Zangief- Dread! Vaccum Man! – Zangief’s original presentation in both orchestral and illustration was one that wore few smiles. Zangief was a man starved of color. Neither carny nor Bozo clown, he shouldered this loutish tone for almost two decades. His costume, however, is everything, and Fukasawa has been rummaging: estate sales, clearance racks and all things left at the curb. All of this in an effort to betray the many preconceived and long-standing notions about our morose, red wrestler on the verge… From behind Fukasawa’s curtain emerges a man aureate, chatty, effusive and doting. This is a character in love with the vibrancy of his scene change, and he’s alive with laughter and conversation, disproving myth and rumor both. Is this love, or am I dreaming?


Listen: Theme of Zangief

Theme Of Guile- Lonely Wolf -Fukasawa’s theme for Guile is no simple remixed concoction. It doesn’t rely wholly on its anemically thin and trebled source material. This is stereo sound that’s been boosted to the red. These are dangerous levels, and… Fukasawa’s cut is washboard lean, arrogant, imposing and celebratory. Fukasawa’s Guile is a man whose purpose now echoes again the promise and vigilance of a celebrated hero, who for once, however briefly, stole the spotlight from even the series’ marquee stars.


Listen: Theme of Guile

The Best Of Street Fighter 3’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:

Theme Of Hugo-The Circuit -It’s always been hard to get a fix on exactly how tall Street Fighter 3’s Hugo actually is. That’s because his musical handlers, while immensely capable of capturing his mug shot, labored and failed to photograph his physique, his still life. They could only hint at it. Fukasawa, however, seems infinitely skilled in drawing back the camera’s focus. The outline is the thing and Fukasawa toils and scrutinizes, closing his aperture further and further, washing Hugo’s image in noxious, echoing swells. This is the acid test, and it’s the only accurate record to judge both the size and force of the behemoth now charging at you.


Listen: Theme of Hugo

Theme Of Dudley- Dudley remains one of the most eloquent, stylish and beloved of Street Fighter 3’s cast. To top the likes of Street Fighter 3’s original composer Hideki Okugawa, Fukasawa would need to somehow make Dudley’s collection of weaves even lighter than was previously thought possible. It would have to be God moving across the face of water or nothing at all. Dudley’s vast agglomeration of moves would have to be effortless… single motions, where neither cautious sliding nor ungainly gliding would suffice. Fukasawa’s Dudley is more of a full-on ballet than some lowly fists-for-cash prizefighter. True beauty needs not excessive gloss nor creams and powders to conceal  imperfections. True beauty is natural, and Dudley is just that.


Listen: Theme of Dudley

Theme Of Elena- Beats In My Head- When you’re describing Street Fighter 4’s Elena, the bulk of that description should concern itself with her many points of articulation. Where Dudley embodies the grace and fluidity of movement, Elena’s focus is her overwhelming range of motion, twisting and turning pinwheel style, unencumbered by her own joints. Fukasawa fully pronounces the B in “Beats” found so prominently in the lyrics here, capitalizing on every twitch of her leg, clapping in unison, and moving you directly alongside her. A risky theme to re-imagine, but Fukasawa nails it flat.


Listen: Elena’s Theme

The Best Of Street Fighter Alpha’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:

Theme Of Cody- Smack talk should be considered an art form. Throwing out a slew of   harsh insults simply isn’t enough. There has to be some manner of comedy included, because threats alone only serve to focus your opponent, where the mixture of comedy draws the focus from the center: it distracts. Cody’s theme does away with his pre-recorded Alpha 3 musical setup almost entirely, and redresses him not only as a formidable adversary, but a biting and masterful stand-up comedian.


Listen: Theme of Cody

Theme Of Sakura – While Fukasawa’s take on Chun-Li’s classic Street Fighter 2 theme is great, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit too mature. There’s a line between sounding aged and wise and actually looking like the village elder. It’s alright though, because when it comes to Sakura, she’s not aged a day since her mid-90’s Alpha debut. Irritatingly spry and distractingly bubbly, Sakura still IS that self-assured and overly confident schoolgirl who haplessly seeks the affection of World Warriors’ almost twice her age.


Listen: Sakura’s Theme

The Best Of Street Fighter 4’s New World Warrior’s As Heard In SF4:

Theme Of Poison -Free of the restraints that held Fukasawa down for the bulk of this project (fan-service, expected homage, and explicit contractual ink), he does some of his most brilliant jam sketches with the christening of Street Fighter 4’s new world warriors. With no existing patent to follow, one of his most startling reveals has to be Poison. Her five-star theme is a stroll down the most gaudy, lascivious, and crass boulevards in all of Street Fighter’s existing fiction. Fukasawa’s brilliant saxophone chops provide THE tell-all conduit to Poison, an unencumbered channel of profane stumbling raunch. As David Bowie posits: “Golden Years…Golden Rule”.


Listen: Poison’s Theme

Theme Of Abel – Abel was a safer character by design. He’s someone whom the community would feel more comfortable playing, while they worked themselves into the new systems and overall feeling of Street Fighter 4. To complement his persona, Fukasawa may have also played it safe, but by doing so, he gave Abel one of the most commanding, hungry and palatial ring entrances in the history of the Street Fighter series.  Abel’s signature brand of pacing about an arena filled with screaming spectators is a relentless, diaphoretic endeavor, where referee, two knock-down rule, and the tap out cease to exist. This one is all about muscling through it.


Listen: Theme of Abel

Theme Of Hakan- This may be an understatement, but Hakan’s not an easy read. What do you make of him? How do you make of him? Human? Terrestrial? Body artist? That first look is harrowingly deceiving. Despite guidance from Fukasawa’s marching band of baglamas, uds and didgeridoos, Hakan remains difficult to pin down. The theme of Hakan is a busy patchwork: a workman’s brew spanning endless regions and showcasing a true dedication to unearthing the greatest and most fragrant of spices.


Listen: Hakan’s Theme

Theme Of Decapre – There’s something inherently voodoo about the idea of winding up a record and then proceeding to play it backwards. The fear of encrypted messages, hidden intent, and the workings of the indecipherable… it’s all there, you just have to listen. It’s an idea beautifully realized and utilized in the design of Ultra Street Fighter 4‘s Decapre. She’s so close to the look and feel of her obvious counterpart Cammy, but there’s something in those curves. It’s a wickedness not immediately evident, but certainly suggested at: her subtle tics, physical cues, and general temperament all raise questions. Where Fukasawa could have hammed her up, piling gloom upon destruction upon absurd villainous monologue, he opts to play her with a shadowy, cool suavity. Fukaswa’s piercing reverse design creates one of the darkest of Street Fighter 4’s bible passages.


Listen: Theme of Decapre


While the music of Street Fighter 4 encompasses something much larger than an article’s worth of nods to a number of its truly outstanding compositions, I would like to think of this piece as something of a starting point for you. There were SO many exemplary and amazing recordings made by Hideyuki Fukasawa for Street Fighter 4 that describing each and every one of them would have taken months to write. Like any good destination of travel, however, you’re never going to see it all in that first pass. Hence the many return trips you have yet to plan.


Purchase the Street Fighter 4 Soundtrack now!

For most of you reading this article, I imagine this happens on an almost hourly basis.

I myself have racked up some 500 plus hours of Street Fighter 4 flight time since 2009. Until the next numbered Street Fighter… here’s to composer Hideyuki Fukasawa for all his genius musical work, and to Capcom for all iterations of every Street Fighter game known to man.


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.

Yes, more Dragon Age. <spoilers for Dragon Age (all of it, really) follow>

I had a startling revelation over the weekend as I wrapped up the Witch Hunt DLC. It occurred to me that the only reason I romanced Leliana is because I couldn’t romance Morrigan. She’s a hetero-only romance (I have no issue with that). So I straight up used Leliana as a result.

As I approached Morrigan at the end of Witch Hunt, I was thrilled to see her. And in Morrigan’s way, she was happy to see me as well. I felt myself drawn to Morrigan as a result of her character; she’s sharp-tongued, agenda-ridden and difficult. None of those things sound pleasing, in terms of having a relationship with someone with those characteristics. Nothing about that screams, “Let’s spend all our time together,” does it?

morrigan 1

Doesn’t play well with others

Morrigan has a plan. You learn of the plan right before fighting the archdemon in Origins. As I’m wont to do, I was thrown into a tailspin trying to make a decision about her plan. After way too much deliberation and forum-scouting, I chose to do as she asked, talking Alistair into impregnating her so she could conceive the OGB (old god baby, duh).

However, Morrigan forgot to include “friendship” in her plan. She grew attached to me; to us. Morrigan didn’t want to leave, but she knew her “plan” didn’t care about that.

Morrigan is always clear with you: she doesn’t feel comfortable around people, she doesn’t understand friendship, she’ll leave your party at the end of the fight with the archdemon. When Witch Hunt starts, the presumption is that she’s gone, and you’re on a path to track her down.

She wasn’t that excited that I found her. She’d explicitly told me not to look for her. Witch Hunt opens with her saying, “’Do not follow me,’ I said. Harder words I have never spoken.” But find her I did (as the game asked me to). She eventually says, “How was I to know the battle with the archdemon would come so soon? And when it did, I came to you. I needed you, yes, but I also did not want to see you die.

More truth from Morrigan – yes, she used me, but she’d hoped to spend more time with me (or us), and she certainly didn’t want me to die when I killed the archdemon. Morrigan does not choose her words lightly.

“I also did not want to see you die,” she says. It’s one of the kindest things she says throughout Origins.

Then there’s Leliana. Unlike Morrigan, Leliana does not always tell the truth. She greatly embellishes her stories, and lies to you about her visions, even after she’s confronted with this by the Guardian of the Urn of Sacred Ashes. Following her companion quest, she becomes slightly more reasonable, but has only a shred of conviction compared to Morrigan.

Morrigan will follow through with her plan at great personal expense. This isn’t to say Leliana isn’t jumping from the frying pan into the fire when she joins the Warden’s party, but Leliana chooses her own route out of a selfish necessity to get away from the path she’d previously chosen in the Chantry. Morrigan is sprinting through life while Leliana meanders.

I feel for BioWare. I really do. I felt like they got a raw deal out of the ending of Mass Effect 3. On one hand, I understand why fans were upset with the ending. Fans wanted their choices to matter at the conclusion of ME3, and when it became clear that very few of those choices did matter, folks got upset. I wasn’t upset. I was confused initially, but not upset. If that’s how the writers wanted ME3 to end, so be it. It really irked me that BioWare wrote a new ending. I never played it. I don’t imagine I ever will.

BioWare created such broad universes in Dragon Age and Mass Effect. It is impossible to wrap up every single thread of story. I do hope they’ll wrap this one up, and with Morrigan appearing in Dragon Age Inquition, it seems likely we’ll hear more from her and OGB.

morrigan 2

She’s baaaack!

In fact, I’m fairly certain I should get a Morrigan tattoo. Maybe I will, if this post gets one hundred unique comments from a hundred different individuals. A heart, with “Morrigan” in it? Whaddya think?

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Forgive me, my friends, for writing more about Dragon Age. Let it be known there might be spoilers below for Origins.

Origins is pretty much over once you slay the archdemon. I slayed that beast the other day, despite the fact I had several unfinished quests.

I mentioned to a friend that it was the worst playthrough I’ve ever done in an RPG, including my first playthrough of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, during which I never knew I could heal myself with magic.

My Origins playthrough was worse than that. However, the game still let me “complete” it.

dragon age B

I only finished two companion quests. There are eight. I left two quests in the Korcari Wilds undone right in the beginning of the game. I left several Denerim missions undone, and completely botched the illegal missions you acquire from the bartender in the Gnawed Noble Tavern.

Also, I forgot to “fully” romance my love interest. Therefore, I missed out on the squirm-in-your-seat awkwardness that comes along with viewing a “full” romance scene in a video game (we’re not there yet, everyone).

I say this with love in my heart: Origins isn’t exactly the easiest game to play. It runs horribly on the PS3 – I’m pretty sure the frame rate is about 2FPS. Every single battle lags, sometimes for several seconds. The load times are obnoxious, saving is a pain, fast-traveling isn’t always convenient (or very fast).

It’s an “old” game, right (2009)? I won’t be doing another playthrough to correct my errors. There are sections of Origins that are downright painful to experience, no matter how much I adore the game or its story.

I remember the first time I played Fallout 3 (a moment of silence to remember how awesome that game is). I completely ended the game on accident. I had noooooo idea what I was doing, but I got sucked into that final mission and ended the game. So. Much. Undone. I had no idea the game would, I don’t know, end there.

How can something incomplete be complete?

dragon age A

I’m not looking for 100% completion, as in Platinum Trophy / Gold Achievement. But I’d sure love to finish the quests. Games like Fallout 3 and Origins have such fantastic lore, such compelling storytelling with sometimes riveting choices to make as a player.

What do you think about this? Do I blame BioWare for the clumsy codex/journal system? Should Bethesda have put a warning on the final Fallout quest, or is that discovery part of the “game” at large? Should I be more proactive about searching Wikis for lists of quests to finish before moving onto “X”?

You might ask, “Emily. Why did you go kill the archdemon if you weren’t done?”

I might reply, “I just didn’t. Why couldn’t I go finish my companion quests after I killed it? The blight ended, but what harm would there be in that? How can a game be done if it’s NOT DONE?”


Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I pose a question to you: How long is too long, when you’re considering what class to choose in a game? More questions: Do you always choose the same class? Do you instantly know you want to be, let’s say, a warrior? Or rogue?

I’m laboring over this decision for, wait for it, a game that isn’t even out yet.

That’s right. It won’t be out until October.

I’m wasting my brain power on Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Here’s why.

dragon_age_inquisition 1

If you’re unfamiliar with Dragon Age lore, one of the most compelling plotlines involves the never-ending battle between mages and non-mages. More specifically, between the Mages and Templars (who serve as the military protectors of the Chantry). In essence, Mages are allowed to practice magic as supervised by the Templars. Mages who abuse magic, or practice outside the “Circle” run by the Templars are “apostates”, and if an apostate is caught alive, that Mage will be turned into a Tranquil.

The dialog is fascinating if you choose to play as a Mage. You’re the “hero” of the game, whether you’re the Grey Warden in Dragon Age Origins, or Hawke in Dragon Age II. NPCs respond in a multitude of ways upon discovering you’re a Mage and the hero protecting Ferelden. Some NPCs support Mage’s rights, other NPCs are fearful of magic and consider it a sin that should be abolished. Even playing as a Mage yourself, you can still support the Templars. You get the idea – there’s more to the story but that’s the rub.

I enjoy playing games as an underdog. I was a trumpet player, I’m an avid gamer, and I’m a woman. I get what it’s like to be an underdog. I enjoy overcoming stereotypes in real life, and it’s equally enjoyable to triumph over them while gaming.

So, you wonder, why such a hard decision? Be a stupid Mage and be done with it.

For this difficulty in coming to a “class conclusion”, I blame not only my own poor decision making skillz, but I blame developers.

In Dragon Age, you get to bring along members of your party on most quests. In theory, you can choose three of your nine (in DAO) companions. However, Dragon Age makes use of a skill that many fantasy RPGs employ: lockpicking. In Dragon Age, the only class that can pick locks is a rogue. If you walk up to a locked chest or door, you need a lockpicker.

If I play as a Mage, I’m tied to bringing along a rogue in my party every single time. In DAO, this means I have to bring Leiliana on every single mission. In reality, this means I only get to choose two party members for each outing, since two of the four party members will be my own character, and Leiliana. For DA2, it was always the rogue, Isabela (she’s much cuter than Varric).

It takes away the enjoyment of being able to choose the party and mix up the characters to hear fun banter common to followers in BioWare games. If you mix companion A & B, they might argue. If you mix companion A & C, they might help you come to conclusions or joke in the background. They ask each other questions, judge each other, poke fun at each other – it’s enjoyable to hear. However, if I must take the rogue everywhere, I lose out on hearing that banter at the least. And sometimes, you really want all your heavy hitters, not someone with a bow and arrow or a couple daggers.

The solution to this problem is to play as a rogue myself. Now, I can bring whomever I want, and I can pick my own stupid locks.

dragon age 2

Sorry L, we left without you.

And then I lose out on the ability to play as a Mage, and lose that connection to the story at large – the ages long debate about Mages and their ability to practice magic, their abuse of it, the Templars abuse of their own powers, the tragedy of the Tranquil – I lose my direct connection to that monstrous plot line.


Possible alternate solution, and I’m looking at you, Developers: If I’m a Mage, can’t I have, like, Mage-picking powers? Can’t I have a spell that lets me open locks? If I come up to a locked door, I’m a frickin’ Mage. I should be able to Mage it open.


Gandalf gets it..

What are your thoughts?

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.


Listen: Mega Man 1 – Wily Fortress 1

In all the press that you’re likely to read for the next, as yet unannounced Mega Man, nowhere will you see the term “reboot“. While that term is a necessary evil used for ailing franchises choosing to anchor themselves on name alone, their infractions and stumbles growing with every second that passes, it is unlikely that Mega Man will ever have to seek out the counsel of that self-correcting moniker. The reason for that carries no large mystery with it: Mega Man is a bolts-simple formula that works perfectly in every iteration that bears his name. Left to right shooting, excruciatingly precise platforming, soft strategy, and bosses named after elements, sea creatures and mundane household items of two syllables – Mega Man will never have to assimilate or conform to popular gaming trends. So you’ll never see him grow a beard, dual-wield guns, turn angst-ridden, or add superfluous quick-time events to his repertoire. His mixture is faultless and time-tested. In fact, Mega Man, when you think about it, is one of the very last of his kind. Limited in pixels, limited in memory, and limited in commands, he’s two buttons and the slightest swap of color palette, but there’s nothing like him anywhere else in gaming. Which brings me to his musical score.


Listen: Mega Man 1 – Select Screen

Composers Manami Matsumae and Takashi Tateishi of Mega Man and Mega Man 2 weren’t looking to make exploratory double albums when they cut the master reels for Capcom’s Mega Man pilot episode in 1987. Indeed Mega Man’s first LP feels more like a series of stunted blips. It doesn’t matter though, because for each of the seven levels that make up that inaugural 8-bit obstacle course, you’re treated to what essentially becomes THE biblical text, THE vanguard of all chiptunes of the fast-forwarding future.


Listen: Mega Man 1 – Ice Man Stage

It’s the shrieking sound you’re first drawn to in Ice Man’s stage. It’s a prime example of how this composer duo makes something stick permanently inside your memory. Its execution matches each note to every trial and nuance of Mega Man’s onscreen movements. Mega Man’s sliding is made frantic, uncontrollable by the opening’s whirling repetition, but it is the descent into that gelid water and the actual chill of his bones, that shrieking is what counts here. You can see that heart monitor: the high and low, the frenetic jostling cursive of the lifeline; it’s unlikely that you will ever forget that melody, and even with the sound turned off, humming it… you won’t miss a beat.


Listen: Mega Man 1 – Elec Man Stage

The theme for Elec-Man, when taken separately from the villain it embodies, away from his costume, and away from his maniacal trappings, makes you begin to wonder about the poster-less pop group that made this sound so effortlessly. That’s what this is: a gorgeous and pure radio-friendly, billboard-charting single with no b-side. Elec Man is also leagues above any of his challengers. This isn’t some by-the-numbers verse-chorus-verse. It rolls off the NES tongue so sweetly saccharine, it is almost bubblegum. You can say what you will about video game scores being inferior to actual radio and popular music, go ahead and keep spinning all of that ridiculous rhetoric, but none of what’s coming through today’s speakers even comes close to the flair and ingenuity of this Ashford and Simpson duo of 8-bit.


Listen: Mega Man 2 – Bubble Man

Why should I describe what the Mega Man 2 sound is like when I can leave it up to Echo and The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch? He summed it up perfectly in a song title off of the band‘s 1984 record Ocean Rain: Thorn Of Crowns. That’s it! So many heavy crowns, so many victories, so many accolades, and where so many come to pay homage. Mega Man 2’s score hits with the weight of a kingdom’s chair. Where the same king has been made king trillions of times over. His rulings are absolute. Even the immutable laws of buoyancy (as seen in Bubble Man‘s theme) are repealed wholesale. Mega Man 2’s compositions are full-on deity.


Listen: Mega Man 2 – Flash Man Stage

The prowess and absolute awareness in Mega Man 2’s score completely confounds. It is not only nimbler and more dexterous than its original counterpart, it is also free of complications when  ridding its own structure of the faulty, weathered, and needless bricks that weigh it down. If you’re looking for doldrums, you’ll not find them here. Mega Man 2 bulldozes through a set-list of towering one-liners, meaty guitar solos and epigrammatic hooks without so much as a moment spent re-tuning instruments: this is a focus that never wavers. These composers are readying themselves to be jettisoned heavenward, and are not interested in shrugging off their responsibilities indolently shoe-gazing.


Listen: Mega Man 2 – Metal Man Stage

Mega Man 2’s orchestra is THE sophomore effort that not only avoids that dreaded sophomoric slump, it is one that changes fortunes from gold to platinum, breaks rules with no regard for recourse, and places those at its helm in the pages of history. Not a one of these compositions draws breath without the others present. It is that show of strength, that spectacular united front that makes each of these pieces so bulletproof and indelible… much like the blue bomber that they are tasked with moving along.

Megaman 25th Anniv Vol 1

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.

The first game I ever played on a phone was like Centipede only not. If you’ve seen Orange is the New Black, it’s the game Piper plays on the cell phone in the bathroom.

I put hours of my life into that tiny game. No color, no soundtrack, just a square worm and a dot.

I’m glad those days are gone. My main mobile jam these days is any number of match-three games, a dash of solitaire and one endless runner. If I didn’t know better, I’d obsessively match gems all night long. I can’t play right before bed though, or my mind won’t shut off for sleep. For some scientific reason, it’s too stimulating for my brain. Who knew?

mobile gaming

Were I to list my top 50 gaming tragedies, you’d find Bejeweled on that list. EA/PopCap ruined that game by, seemingly out of nowhere, inserting advertising and forcing me to pay for portions of the game I’d enjoyed for months on end. I had almost all of the trophies, too. I was committed. The first ad I saw, I deleted the game from my phone for good. I really miss “Diamond Mine”. I was killer at that game.

In Bejeweled’s stead, I threw myself full force into solitaire, hidden object games and other match-threes. I’ve found some decent hidden object titles, but none that are amazing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever played an amazing hidden object game. Suggestions?

If you’re into match-three, I highly recommend Fishdom. It’s kind of adorable, and fun to upgrade aquariums and make your fish love you. There are, however, only three aquariums, which I maxed out in like a weekend. Boss.


I like Fishdom because the board changes each game, adding elements that require you to unlock a square to pass. I’m not a huge fan of timers, but the Fishdom timer is manageable. Once you max out your aquariums, you can still play forever, accumulating more money to no end. Additionally, you can keep futzing with your aquariums if you like.

The Treasures of Montezuma 3 is also a fun match-three. You can upgrade gems in this one, although the upgrade system is a bit odd. The timer is too short for my style, since I tend to play mobile games to relax, not race. But I haven’t felt overwhelmed or defeated by the timer, the goals or the gameplay. I think ToM3 is a well-paced game.

If I want to play something right before I go to sleep, it’s gotta be solitaire. Perhaps playing solitaire accesses a different area of my brain. I can set the phone down and immediately fall asleep if I choose.

There are plenty of options for solitaire, and as much as I dislike going the free-to-play route, Fairway Solitaire is kind of awesome. Yes, I have paid for perks in that game, like more money and clubs.

Sigh. Free-to-play: the gaming development we all wanted to fail that is doing the opposite of failing. You can sort of get around it in Fairway Solitaire, depending on how patient you are feeling. I suppose that’s true of many free-to-plays.


Things I cannot play on a mobile device:

1: Any kind of shooter. I have a controller and a few consoles if I want to shoot something.

2. Racing games. See number one, sub “race” for “shoot”

3. Puzzle games. In this instance, it’s too expensive to get angry and throw and break a phone. It’s less expensive to get angry and throw and break a controller. So, see number one, sub “solve a puzzle” for “shoot something”

4. Any game in the universe that requires audio and/or headphones. I’m not putting on my headphones in line at the DMV just to play your game.

When you’re chilling at the doctor’s office, what’s your go-to game?

——————– Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cats Atticus, June Bug and Lee, and loves gaming, with or without friends.


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