Kingdom of Paradise – PSP
Kingdom of Paradise was an RPG on the PSP with heavy influences in Chinese history. It took place in the fictitious world of Ouka, which is basically a version of feudal China with mystical elements. The main character, Shinbu, is exiled from his clan and must fight to take back their sacred sword when the entire clan is killed.
The game had an interesting premise, but some poor pacing keeps the story from going places for quite a while. Combat was action-focused revolving around a system known as Bugei Scrolls. An infuriatingly useless block system could make combat frustrating at times, and it could get a little repetitive too.
Kingdom of Paradise does have a strong aesthetic and style about it though, in everything from its visual design to soundtrack. For the most part the music was memorable for songs using traditional Chinese instruments like this area theme, that helped bring out the aesthetic. There’s a couple oddball songs thrown in too like the ” Uzo and Muzo Theme, ” which is strangely catchy.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – NES
Castlevania II isn’t generally regarded as one of the best entries in the series, as it’s filled with backtracking, easy bosses, and a poor translation that led to some confusion in-game. Part of the problem apparently lied in the fact that Koji Igarashi and the development team meant all of the NPCs to be liars in the game, but subtle cues provided by them for player hints were lost in translation. Regardless, Simon’s Quest was definitely a blueprint for future Castlevania games.
If there’s one aspect of the game that didn’t suffer, however, it’s the soundtrack. The music of Simon’s Quest was equal parts rousing and creepy when it needed to be, perfectly fitting the intensity of the gothic action game. The soundtrack was definitely the stand out feature of Castlevania II, and even featured the fan favorite track “Bloody Tears.”
Dragon’s Lair – Arcade and More
Dragons Lair is an incredibly simple game to play, requiring only basic button inputs from players. The game displays animated cutscenes that require the player to press a button to take an action in or choose a direction, essentially the early version of quick time events. Despite the simple format, Dragons Lair had brilliant animation, a fun comedic story, and of course a pretty great soundtrack. Later iterations of the title like the NES and SNES versions, transformed the game into a 2D platformer. The gameplay in these, however, was pretty slow and imprecise.
The soundtrack remained a distinguishing feature no matter what version you played, though. As you progress through Dragons Lair each track ramps up the intensity as you fight toward your ultimate goal. The synth sounding music was a surprising fit.
Mega Man X7 – PS2
The Mega Man X series is very well regarded for having some pretty phenomenal 2D platformers, but X7 decided to try and switch things up a bit. The title was the first one to be a third-person shooter, and would also be the last. While the idea was novel, the execution just didn’t hit the mark. Sections transitioning from 2D to 3D were awkward, and the camera was a constant battle. Playable characters were unfortunately unbalanced, as Zero felt significantly less useful with his melee skills.
Despite all this, the one aspect that did stand out was the soundtrack, not surprising for a Mega Man game. While X7 may not have quite as good of a soundtrack as previous entries, there’s still some exciting tracks that feel right at home in a Mega Man game. Tracks like Cyber Geometry are intense pumping you up during a stage, while others help give characters more personality like the Theme of Sigma.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) – PS3, X360
Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is infamous for being a bit of a buggy mess, and it felt completely rushed out. The game was absolutely filled with visual and audio glitches, serious gameplay bugs, camera issues, rough voice acting, and more. It was an unfortunate leap to the new generation for Sonic.
One aspect that always stands out in Sonic games is the soundtrack, and Sonic 06 is certainly no different. There’s over 90 songs to the soundtrack, with Sonic’s usual mix of rock and instrumental music. The game is truly filled with some memorable tracks like “Crisis City,” which end up being a big highlight of the game.
Anarchy Reigns – PS3, X360
Anarchy Reigns has Platinum Game’s trademark over-the-top action, and a ton of style to go along with it. The game took place in a post-apocalyptic world filled with robots, bounty hunters, and other deplorable types. It was split into two different campaigns, one of which actually focused on the protagonist of Platinum’s past title Madworld. While the gameplay of Anarchy Reigns isn’t necessarily bad, it gets very repetitive very quickly. There’s not a ton of variation to combos, and the multiplayer mode especially can get overly hectic with a lot of players running around.
Anarchy Reigns is undoubtedly stylish though, something only reinforced by its eclectic soundtrack. The music is an odd mix of Hip Hop, R&B, Rap, and Rock. This immediately sets the tone of the game when you boot it up and hear “Ruthless” on the menu screen. Contrast this with the definite pop sounding “I Know U Want Me,” and you’ve got one odd soundtrack for one odd game.
Advent Rising – Xbox, PC
Advent Rising was an incredibly ambitious game that bit off a little more than it could chew. The title was originally planned to be the first in a trilogy, with a different PSP game also running alongside the trilogy. Sadly, sales for the game didn’t meet expectations and when Majesco moved its focus to mobile, Advent Rising didn’t make the cut. However, Advent Rising isn’t bad game, but one with a few problems.
Advent Rising had an intriguing sci-fi story about humanity’s first meetings with alien races, and the discovery of untapped mystical powers that humans possess. It was a third person shooter, with an emphasis on dual-wielding, dodging, and using powers. The targeting system was a little imprecise, and the game unfortunately had a number of bugs that dragged down the experience. It was still an engaging title though, in both gameplay and story, which was backed up by a powerful score written by Tommy Tallarico and Emmanuel Fratianni.
The orchestral soundtrack gave Advent Rising the feeling of a sci-fi epic, and really helped drive critical moments forward. Certain tracks are even somewhat reminiscent of Halo and other sci-fi games, with the gorgeous theme song “Muse,” or “Power Within.” It’s unfortunate that Advent Rising never got another shot, and another chance for more great music.
Dynasty Warriors 6 – PS3, X360
Dynasty Warriors 6 drastically changed things up for the series by introducing the “Renbu” system, which made players build combo chains in combat to use longer combos. Unfortunately, this also resulted in a drastic reduction of unique attacks for characters, as the attacks weren’t based on their own unique weapons. The title suffered for this, and ended up much more monotonous.
On the other hand though, Dynasty Warriors 6 had one incredible soundtrack. Things were pumped up even more with tracks that used copious amounts of electric guitar and traditional instruments. The fusion of music worked better than ever, adding spirit to each of Dynasty Warriors 6’s stages when the gameplay was lacking. Just look no further than “Welcome to China,” or “Beat It” for examples.
Silver Surfer – NES
Silver Surfer was known for two things, being damn near impossible to beat and having an incredible soundtrack. The game was relentlessly difficult throwing enormous amounts of enemies at you. To make matters worse, you died from literally one hit. Still, Silver Surfer did have one impressive soundtrack, especially on the NES.
The music took advantage of everything the NES could possibly do, and the 8-bit soundtrack sounds surprisingly fitting for a space faring character like the Silver Surfer.
Final Fantasy XIV (Original) – PC
Final Fantasy XIV was definitely a mess when it launches for the first time, filled with bugs and incredibly grind heavy gameplay. Things just didn’t move fast enough to keep players engaged, and the myriad problems the title had really drug the experience down. The game was a big issue for Square Enix, so much so that the company put a new development team behind it to develop A Realm Reborn.
Another matter entirely, however, was the game’s stellar soundtrack. Among other composers the famed Nobuo Uematsu returned to craft quite a few songs for the game. His music helped add life and personality to each of the locations around the world of Eorzea, like “Born of the Boughs” and “Horizons Calling.” It was definitely the high point of a fairly lackluster MMO.