Archive for December, 2013

Here we are people. The big one. The 2013 Game of the Year. I won’t hold you up but *spoiler alert* GTA V is not on this list. Why? I didn’t think it was that great. It probably would have featured in a Top 20 list, but these games are better…

10. Saints Row IV

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The game that out GTA’d GTA. Saints Row has everything except the graphical polish. An absolutely banging soundtrack. Some of the funniest and most outlandish dialogue seen in a game in recent years. A brilliantly stupid and self-referential scrip. And most importantly it was a sandbox game that knew how to be a sandbox game. No invisible walls, no barriers. You want to speed like lightening across the map whilst cars explode and get telepathically thrown out the way? You can. You want to leap hundreds of feet into the air before gliding across an entire city only to hit the side of a building and then run up it vertically to the very top? You can. You then want to jump from the top of the building and levitate in the air before plunging down to the earth fist first and unleashing a nuclear blast that annihilates everything in its path? YOU CAN! You want to do all of this to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing because you’re trapped inside an alien matrix and can therefore pick up radio signals in your head?? Guess what? YOU CAN!

9. Rayman Legends

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If Rayman has done anything this generation it’s reinvigorate a tired genre that most of us had left for dead. The 2d platformer. Indeed Rayman Origins had come just the year before and made what many consider to be the perfect example of the game type. So how do you improve on that? How do you make perfection more perfect? Well I don’t have the answers to these questions but someone at Ubisoft obviously does. Rayman Legends is not just an amazingly tough and challenging old school platformer. It is stuffed to bursting with extra content. It’s an amazing multiplayer game. There are online leaderboards complimented with a set of ever changing online daily challenges. Every single level has its own ‘invaded level’ a remix of elements from that world to form a super tough timed level that can only be completed by the most skilled and truly devoted players. There is a whole optional world of original Origins levels but given that Legends sheen. There are brilliantly funny rhythm action levels that have you jumping and punching to the beat of such classics as Eye of the Tiger. And a whole host of extras waiting to be unlocked. Seriously, if you want bang for your buck, the bang doesn’t get much louder than this!

8. Bioshock Infinite

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After a prolonged development period it really was starting to look like Infinite was going the way of the dodo. After constant delays and stories of people getting laid off things were starting to look bleak. However the day finally came when Infinite was released and it was magic. Evoking the same emotions of mystery, surprise, beauty and decay the original Bioshock had done years ago. Infinite was a game made for HD. It was stunning. And the effortless way in which Booker zipped around stages shooting both weapons and plasmids was mesmerising. The music and the art design also complimented each other wonderfully which just made this world, this Olympus, feel more tangible than anything that had ever come before. And that ending! Strap yourself in when those final scenes play out, your world is about to get turned upside down!

7. Tomb Raider

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Lara Lara Lara. You were so very very close! Close to what you might ask? Well, and I don’t say this lightly, but toppling Nathan Drake from his throne. As one of the most visually stunning and perfectly balanced games on this list Tomb Raider had all the right ingredients for a perfect action game. It was just missing two special little something somethings. And they were, interesting characters and a plot I could give a damn about. I don’t want to dwell on it but Tomb Raiders cast and story was a bunch of rubbish. Which is a real shame as everything else on the table, the action, the set pieces, the combat and the stealth were nigh on perfect. Hopefully there will be a bigger focus on tightening these bolts in the inevitable sequel! It’s good to have you back Lara J

6. Ni No Kuni

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This has been the JRPG I’ve been waiting years to play! Literally! Apart from Persona’s 3 and 4 which were released on the PS2, I can’t think of a single game in the genre that I’ve been as obsessed with since. FF XIII was terrible and XIII-2 was ok. Xenoblade was fantastic but a little drawn out. I wanted a classic feeling JRPG and I wanted it now! And boy oh boy did Ni No Kuni deliver in spades! One of the brightest and most beautiful games in recent years NNK was, and is, a wonder to look at. And when you look at the talent behind it it’s no wonder. Bought to you by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli this really is a match made in heaven. All the while evoking elements of Level 5’s previous game, Dragon Quest VIII, whilst retaining a unique identity entirely of its own, Ni No Kuni is a work of art. Pure and simple lovely charm with the edge of a tough RPG for the hardcore. Hundreds of hours of stuff to do, hundreds of side quests and hidden bosses to fight, this really is a game you live in. Putting the disc in is like opening the door to Narnia.

5. Legend of Zelda a Link Between Worlds

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I was very very sceptical the first time I saw a trailer for this Zelda game. Especially after seeing how well a 3DS Zelda game could run after the Ocarina of Time remake. Did we really have to return to old school top down Zelda? Well I’m so glad we did. If there is one thing that I need to remind myself of from time to time it’s that Nintendo don’t screw up their first party titles. A Link Between Worlds was at once nostalgic and new. The mechanic by which Link can turn himself into a painting and merge onto walls entirely turns the genre upside down and makes for some of the best puzzles in the series. The best and most precise Zelda game I have played in a very very long time! Well done Link! You deserve your place on this list!

4. Fire Emblem Awakening

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Not only one of the games of the year but, in my opinion, the defining game in this long running series. As I have mentioned before, this generation has seen a complete revival of the turn based strategy genre. And I do believe that Awakening is the pick of the litter. And probably the best game on the 3DS. Fantastic hardcore strategy that requires the player to really plan out their moves as permadeath is a very real threat. Beautifully animated and voice acted anime cut scenes that wrap around a fantastically told and well-paced story. A brilliantly addictive job system, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the early Final Fantasy games. And finally a game that really delivers on the 3DS’s street pass promise. That amount of interactivity and extras that you gain just by walking around town with your 3DS on standby pretty much makes this game infinite.

3. The Last Of Us

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Harrowing. Christ on a bike this game was distressing. Never mind the bleak, barren and desolate future bought to us by Naughty Dog. The characters themselves were dragged right through the shitter. So the Last of Us then. A third person action/survival horror game bought to you by the studio that is behind the exceptional Uncharted games. This game was a trial to play through. Not because of any sort of flaws in the design but because you yourself suffered with these characters. The emotional toll that this game took was staggering. I’m not going to go into any great amounts of details as I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you that haven’t played it, but the fact that my friend Kurt took half a day off of work just to come over to my house to talk about it as soon as I’d told him I’d completed it speaks volumes about the games story, atmosphere and character. Throw in a perfectly competent, tense and interestingly explored multiplayer and you’ve got yourself a winner. If you own a PS3 you owe it to yourself to play this game. It defines a generation.

2. Guacamelee

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Let’s get one thing straight. It broke my heart to put Guacamelee at number two. This had been my Game of The Year since first completing it when it was released in early 2013. Everything about this game is old school metroidvania style gameplay tweaked to perfection. I did do a full review of this game and you can read my thoughts on it here, https://bridgeburnergaming.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/guacamelee-review/

Suffice to say if you want a bright, beautiful challenge with interesting puzzles, fantastic combat, look no further than Guacamelee. Especially as of right now it’s free to download on the PSN if you are a PS+ subscriber.

So that WAS my game of the year. And if you’ve read the review then you must be thinking that it must have been something truly special and unique to topple Guacamelee off of its throne. And you’d be right….

1. Tearaway

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So here it is! Game of the year! Numero uno! The best of the best! And do you know what? I never saw it coming! There were certain games that came out in 2013 that you knew, just knew, were going to be on this list. Even before playing them you had a vague idea that Tomb Raider and Bioshock were going to be getting talked about come the end of the year. But not Tearaway. With little to no hype surrounding its launch and reading mute previews, I wasn’t even planning on buying this game. It was only due to the fact that Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet crfeators) were making this game that I had heard of it at all. Even the trailers and gameplay videos looked a bit dull. And then the reviews started trickling out. And what reviews. Many outlets even stating that this was the best game on the Vita! Better than Persona 4?! REALLY?! I knew I had to check it out.

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And I was so glad I did. This game is incredible. And it does two things very very well indeed. Firstly it breaks the third wall like no other game I’ve played. The game itself is a linear platformer which controls and feels very much like Psychonauts in places. However using all of the Vitas unique functions it puts you in the game. Literally. From introducing you as some sort of god character by using the front camera to continually have you in the sun looking down on proceedings. To having your actual fingers burst through the papery game screen to interact with the environment. The game also innovates. Constantly. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a Nintendo game due to the amount of unique, new and interesting concepts it delivers. And none ever outstay their welcome.

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Finally the icing on the cake. As you may have garnered from the pictures, the whole of Tearaway is made of construct paper. And guess what? You can make everything in the game. everything. As you take photos of whited out characters and objects, you then unlock the actual craft paper print outs which are uploaded to a cloud account which you can then access and print off at your leisure. Name me another game that lets you do that!

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So there you have it. Suffice to say that this has without a doubt been one of the best, if not THE best, years for gaming. I could have easily done a top 20 for the best games released this year and still have had a tough time choosing which ones to include. And next year is looking even more crazy! What with last gen still going strong and the current/next gen consoles starting to pick up the pace who knows what’s going to happen?!? I can’t wait and I’ll see you there!

Happy new year from BridgeBurnerGaming xxx  

Trophy Whore

And so here we are. At the end of a very very long journey. That last bit was a little grim wasn’t it? All doom and gloom? Well don’t worry. Like I said, the golden age is just about to start…

And so I was living in Bristol. I had been there for about a year and I had been making new friends and enjoying my new life a lot. However there was one thing that was missing, and that was Simon. However, as mentioned before, I could be quite hot headed and I was too stubborn to do anything about it. Soon after this though I received a message from Simon on Facebook. And I’m going to be honest it really humbled me. I won’t go into the details here but it explained everything, and he told me about what had happened concerning the move and why he felt he couldn’t confide in us. It all now made sense and I now felt like a bit of a dick. He finished the message by saying how much he wanted to recover our friendship of old and come and visit in Bristol. I was straight on the phone to him. We hammered out some details and arranged for him to come and stay in a month or so. What does all this have to do with Playstation? I hear you ask. Well as we were now ‘friends’ again society states that one has to then fix all the damage done on a social technology level. And so Facebook friend requests were exchanged again. As were PSN names. And what I saw when Simon accepted my Playstation Network request shocked me to my very core.

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As I stated in the last piece I was primarily a 360 gamer at this point in time. Most of my friends in Bristol had 360’s and I had become a little bit of an Achievement Hunter. For those that don’t know, an achievement is a little score you get for doing a particular thing in an Xbox game. For example you might get rewarded with 100 points for completing the game on hard difficulty. Or it can be something silly like getting an Achievement in The Simpsons Game by pressing the start button. I wasn’t completely addicted to getting these, but I was revisiting a lot of my old games as it was nice to be rewarded and get bragging rights for playing things differently and experiencing the game in a different way.

Now Playstation didn’t have Achievements. They had recently introduced a similar system called Trophies. Every PS3 game at this point shipped with a specific number of bronze, silver and gold trophies that, exactly like XBOX, would be awarded to the player every time you fulfilled the requirement. The only difference was that with Playstation Trophies the player actually got a further reward by completing the trophy list. The much coveted Platinum Trophy. This differed greatly from the 360 as you didn’t get anything after getting all standard 1000 GamerPoints that were in a retail game. The numbers just got added to your ongoing total. However with PS3 all the trophies you earned got you experience which levelled up your player profile. And a Platinum trophy not only net you a hell of a lot of exp but also looked pretty darn cool. This also started the argument about what was better, the number of platinum’s a player had or the trophy level they were at. I personally think that it’s the number of platinum’s and, even if it’s a shitty game, you still have to dedicate so much time and skill to getting that trophy.

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But at this point I didn’t know that much about trophies or their function. All I knew was two things. One, they were the Sony equivalent of GamerPoints. And two, Simon had loads more than me. Seriously, because I had barely used the machine I had maybe a couple of trophies. Simon had hundreds. This would not stand. And so quite literally there and then my first trophy whore war began, as did the chain reaction of my love for the PS3. I had recently bought the Ghostbusters video game and I remember putting it in to the system straight away, checking the trophy list, and then replaying the game with what I had to do to get some of these trophies in the back of my mind. And it didn’t stop there either. I worked at Sainsbury’s at the time and in our car park was a Blockbusters. I loved this place. So many cheap second hand games so little time. I began going in there every lunch break seeing what I could find to get a platinum trophy in. phone in hand I had recently discovered a fantastic website, www.ps3tropies.org, which had guides on it for all ps3 games with trophies, gave you an estimated time to platinum the game, a detailed walkthrough and difficulty rating. This was my bible. Now many of my friends often berate me for my trophy addiction. There is no beating around the bush, an addiction is what it was at this point. And on the one hand I entirely agree with them. Yes trophies mean nothing. But on the other hand in my quest to outdo Simon I played some fantastic games and had some amazing experiences that I would never ever have come across had I not been on this journey. Games like Wolverine were a genuine joy to play. However due to reading middling reviews of it I would never have ordinarily touched it. Hell I used to actually sneak out of work for an hour at a time to run back home and play it just to get some trophies. I also came across other games that blew me away which I would never in a million years have played. If you would have told me years ago that one of my favourite games this generation would have been a movie licenced game based on a kids film I would have laughed heartily in your face. However Where the Wild Things Are was an amazing experience that, believe it or not, could easily be compared to the Team Ico games. And the only reason I initially went to it was trophies.

Beyond!

So suffice to say I quickly rose in the trophy ranks and started playing my Playstation more and more. It was also around this time that another defining factor in my PS3 experience came to light. I had been listening to IGN’s gaming podcasts for years. All the way back to their pc based AFK podcast. I didn’t listen to them religiously, only when I checked, on the off chance, that there were any new episodes of the Xbox podcast Three Red Lights or the broader videogame podcast Game Scoop. I enjoyed them enough. It was something fun to listen to on my walks to and from work or the forty minute commute I had to do back in Kent. The hosts on there always seemed to have a laugh and a good time and it was an easy way to keep up to date with the industry and what games were coming out. It was when browsing the IGN website one day that I discovered there was a Playstation podcast that IGN did called Podcast Beyond. And so I downloaded it, thinking that I might as well listen to it now I’m playing the PS3 more. Everything changed. I think that it was Podcast Beyond that made Playstation for me a lifestyle and no longer a hobby. Hosted at the time by Chris Roper, Beyond blew all the other podcasts out of the water.

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And I think I can narrow it down to one reason. Passion. These guys LOVED their Playstations. Be it PS3, PS2 or PSP these guys were so enthused by these devises and how they worked, where they came from, who made them, what they could do, that it was hard not to listen to an episode and become totally infected with their excitement. And it was funny to boot. Mainly due to the maniacal Greg Miller, I would often find myself laughing out loud as I listened with my headphones in on the way to Sainsbury’s. And hell if Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida is a regular listener they must be doing something right. Right?!

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So it is fair to say that my love and addiction was in avalanche stage at this point. It was just getting bigger and bigger and Sony seemed to be getting things right. And then Uncharted 2 came along and my faith and loyalty to the Playstation brand was 100% sealed. Spoiler alert but Uncharted 2 is my game of the generation. And I wasn’t even initially that excited about it. It came out on the same day as Brutal Legend which I was much more interested in playing. However, not one to mess about, I had bought a copy of each and spent the next few days playing through Legend. It was ok. Not a patch on Tim Schafer’s previous works and definitely didn’t hold a candle to Psychonauts. But it was alright.

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I then clearly remember waking up one Sunday morning and making myself a steaming hot cup of coffee. As I took the first few tentative sips downstairs in the kitchen I suddenly remembered I still had some Uncharted to play. Splashing some cold water on my face I went upstairs and popped the disc in. let’s see what all the fuss is about then. And see I did. In fact this is one of the few games that I have sat and played from beginning to end in one sitting. I was completely and utterly blown away. Everything this game was doing I had either never seen it done to this standard or it was completely fresh. I won’t go into too much detail as this isn’t a review but I will say this, the last time and game floored me in this way was when I first played through Half Life 2 Episode . It’s THAT amazing!

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It was from this point that the Playstation 3 truly became the console it always deserved to be. There always seemed to be some Playstation exclusive on the horizon that would be pushing the machines limits further and further. And these weren’t just great looking games but again most of these games are ones that have come to define this generation. God of War, Ratchet & Clank a Crack in Time, LittleBigPlanet 2, Demon Souls, Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Whitch, Sly Cooper 3, Infamous 2, Playstation Allstars and so so many others. Indeed it seemed for a very long time that the only way in which the 360 was trumping the PS3 was in the amount and quality of games it was offering exclusively from its online marketplace. Games like Shadow Complex were the only thing that kept me flicking the old machine on every now and then. However I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as Sony had their retail games strategy down to a T and started focusing on their digital developers those tables got flipped pretty quickly indeed sir! And again I feel I should point out that these download only games are not just good or even great, a lot of them are truly special and unique. Some of these have gone on to win Game of the Year awards over their multi-million dollar retail cousins. So if you do have a Playstation and want to know the best of the best on the Playstation store then be assured that there are a metric tonne of mind-blowing titles. Such as Guacamelee, Flower, Journey, Sound Shapes, Wipeout HD Fury, Shatter, Joe Danger and many many more.

Vita up my balls

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As this saga draws to an inevitable close it feels only right to talk very quickly about the PS Vita. A more recent addition to the Playstation family, this is one of the Sony devices that has got it right from day one and is still trucking at a good pace. I was so excited when I saw the Vita get announced. I loved my PSP but it never felt like a true extension of my home console experience. The Vita did. It felt like a handheld where the developers had listened to every criticism and made every effort to adjust and innovate where they could. You could say it’s the Assassins Creed 2 of consoles J this was everything and more I want in a handheld. Dual analogue sticks? Check. A unified account which links directly to your PS3? Check. Console standard graphics? Check. I won’t run through the whole list of what this baby could do but suffice to say it felt like I was leaving the store with a mini PS3 in my pocket when I bought it at launch. Hell you could even get trophies on it which added to your main score! Talk about hype! Not to mention that there is an entire catalogue of games on there that are cross buy and cross save. Meaning that, for example, you buy hotline Miami once on your PS Vita, you can then download it again at no extra cost on your PS3 and seamlessly transfer your saves across via a cloud storage system. This really is the perfect handheld. Not only do you have console standard games such as Uncharted or Killzone on there but there is also an ever growing library of phenomenal Indie games taking root on the system too. Furthermore you can also download all the PS1 classics and PSP games onto it too. It had always been a dream of mine to have a version of Final Fantasy VII in my pocket. And now that dream is reality! And probably its crowning achievement is whoever it was at Sony HQ making the decision to include it in Playstation Plus.

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What? Wait hang on! I haven’t spoken about Playstation Plus yet?!? Christ on a bike I’d forget my own head! Ok! Playstation Plus is Sony’s ace in the hole. It’s consistently the best deal in videogames. Basically you pay a flat rate of £11.99 every three months and every two weeks the Playstation Store gets updated with a load of free games that you can download at no extra cost. You get to keep these games for as long as you’re a member. And its not only games but you are then entitled to get discount off of a lot of things in the store and loads of exclusive themes and avatars are at your disposal too. Still on the fence? I was too. It wasn’t until I actually got a free trial and started downloading that it hit me full on in the face just what an amazing bargain this is. Still don’t believe me? I’m sitting in front of my TV at the moment and I can tell you exactly what you get right now. Grid 2, Guacamelee!, Remember Me, Giana Sisters, Dragon’s Dogma, Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet Karting and XCOM. That is a stellar list no matter how you look at it.

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You download just one of those games and that service has paid for itself. But is doesn’t stop there! Oh no. like I said the Vita is now included in this service. So if you own a Vita guess what? MORE FREE GAMES! Sonic All-star Racing Transformed, GTA Liberty City Stories, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush and Guacamelee again (cross buy remember). And in two weeks’ time that will be updated and there will be a slew of new games to get. So you see the Vita just makes sense. It is the handheld that not only the people need but the handheld that the PS3 needed. Pay attention Nintendo! This is how you do it! Oh and I almost forgot. The Playstation 4 is now included in that subscription too.

Playstation 4

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So how do I end all of this? How do I bring it to a close? Questions that have been gnawing at the edge of my mind ever since I started this journey. And only now has it dawned on me. I don’t. Playstation isn’t just something that is going to end for me. I will always be playing Sony Consoles until my dying day. The Playstation 4 is here now and all that means to me is that it’s time to start forging new memories. And indeed some are already getting made. I bought my PS4 on launch day. My friend Kurt came over to my house and we both experienced what was, for me anyway, the best console launch I’ve ever had. Hanging out with a best friend with beer and pizza. Shooting the shit and entering the next generation the way it should be. With a buddy and a bud. Two days later it was broken. Was I upset? Yeah a little, but I knew I could get a replacement and I know that this is only the beginning. There will be problems down the road. Of course there will. But as the PS3 has proven, with any relationship you need to try. You need to persevere and take the good with the bad. All the best relationships are the ones that require a little hard work. There will be ups and downs but if you can look back on your time together, into the golden glow of the past and say ‘wow, look at what we’ve done. Look at what we’ve achieved’ then it will have been worth it.

Beyond

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What makes a game truly great?  Realistic graphics?  Challenge and replayability?  A good story?  Memorable characters?  For me, truly great games combine a little from all of these aspects, but In truth, even a Game of the Year can drop one of those and still be excellent.  But what unites all titles that are as memorable as they are enjoyable, is a great soundtrack.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve played good games with bad music and vice versa but if you look back at the legendary games from the past few years, each one has had a unique, atmospheric and thematic soundtrack to back it up.  Gaming is truly a media that indulges the senses and what you’re hearing could almost be described as being just as important as what you see on the screen.

So with that thought, I decided to list my favourite videogame theme tunes of all time.  At first, I wanted to go with just five so I could really break them down.  Then, realizing that was impossible, just 10 to keep the list concise.  But even then, I couldn’t stop adding more.  So here it is; my top 20 videogame tracks!  They’re not in any particular order, as I found picking a favourite to be all but impossible, and I’ve decided to keep it to one track per franchise, as to be fair (otherwise I might as well just make a top 20 Final Fantasy tracks list!)

Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission

Most people will agree that ME2 was the best in a superb sci-fi trilogy, with some great characters and scenarios, and a backstory that successfully builds on the original game’s story.  So, to go along with this, I picked Suicide Mission.  This track truly encompasses the nature of your party’s task:  to strike at any enemy no-one’s ever beaten, in a place no-one’s ever returned from with only a motley crew of misfit renegades united by the willpower of one woman (or man, I guess).

And you know what?  With this epic marching procession of strings and spacey synth behind you, you might just pull it off.

Fez: Home

Fez is an incredible game, with a perfect retro feel built around an original mechanic.  The game itself is very bright and colourful, with the world being a decidedly un-menacing one with no enemies, unlimited lives and few dangers outside of gravity.  That said, the more the story progresses, the more you get an idea of just what the world comprises of, which is a little more shady.  Home is the theme that plays in your home village, and at first it’s just a sweet and bright ditty that goes well with the safe and populous environs.  But without spoiling it, by the end of the game it becomes more of a nostalgic, bittersweet song.  That this track goes perfectly with both feelings marks it out as something special.

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-Final Fantasy VII: Main Theme

It’s not easy to pick one song from the Final Fantasy series to stand above all others.  Uematsu’s work is so iconic and works so well with the games that one could easily sit down and write this list just for FF games.  So what to pick out of the series?  The main theme of Final Fantasy VII isn’t actually my favourite theme in the series, nor even the game, but it does such a great job of encompassing the feel of the game.  Used as the world map music, as well as during some important story cutscenes, the various tones of the music have a good mix of unsettling, calming, courageous and threatening tones that it easily makes it onto this list as the most thematic.

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Rules of Nature

MGR:R’s music is just about the best collection of action themes you’ll find since Devil May Cry, and for a game where you spend most of your time running up walls and literally cutting things into slivers, that’s important.  Of all of the tracks, Rules of Nature, the theme which plays as you fight the upgraded version of Metal Gear Ray, really stands out.  During the beginning of the fight, the purely instrumental version plays, which is itself a mix of fast-paced rock and electronic that gets the heart pumping.  Then, as Ray tries to crush you with a building-sized sword… ‘RULES OF NATURE!’ and the lyrics kick in.  If you don’t start rocking out right then and there, you are probably medically dead.

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-Sonic & Knuckles: Lava Reef Zone (Act 2)

Ever had a theme song that is so good, you play through the entire game just to get to where it’s played?  During my childhood, a time long before things like Youtube, file-sharing, and enough spending money to buy soundtracks, this is exactly what I used to do.  In my memory, this theme sticks out as one I’d fight hard to get to again and again.

So, you’re running around the inside of an active volcano, fighting all kinds of robots, drilling machines, devious traps and the environment itself.  And finally, you get to the mid-boss, a device made of tendrils that spew laser bolts and a gigantic hand that rears from the lava to try and crush you.  You beat it, then mysteriously, the volcano around you seems to dim.  The lava beds dry into volcanic rock and the only light comes from the machinery scattered around… and the looming face of the Death Egg above.  It’s a perfect mix of layered threat and mystery that mirrors the strange beauty of the level itself.

Dragon’s Dogma: Imminent Triumph

Another game with an excellent soundtrack all-round (Capcom does this alot, huh?), it was difficult to pick just one.  But there could only ever be a single, truly outstanding piece of music from this game, though it owes a lot to the circumstances it’s played in.

Much of the game sees you facing down opponents many times your size, and each time you do, the backing music is suitably ponderous, overwhelming and laced with threat.  Especially when you fight a true dragon for the first time:  Your teammates’ magic and weapons barely mark it, and it can down any one of them with a single swipe or bite.  It even grabs your loyal pawns and bends them to its will, so you have to fight your own at the same time as the monster!  And then it starts breathing flame…  But you fight on, and eventually through sheer grit send it plummeting to the ground.  It’s not dead, but its weakness is exposed.  Filled with renewed vigor, you and your team descend upon it, and Imminent Triumph plays in the background.

Just… perfect.

-Onimusha 2: Encounter with the Lady

There’s been a lot of high-strung, epic action themes on this list, so my next entry is for something infinitely softer and yet just as awe-inspiring.  The perfect combination of synth string, oriental melody and atmospheric drone is soothing, yet tense.  The cherry blossomed beauty of the scene forms in the mind’s eye as you hear this track, even as the underlying sadness in it takes root.  A little melancholy perhaps, but really beautiful nonetheless.

-Age of Mythology: If You Can Use a Doorknob

The Age of Mythology soundtrack is famous for oddly-named themes that seem to have nothing to do with the circumstance around which they are played.  This is no different, but it’s a mighty theme regardless.  Played upon your victory, when reviewing the game’s statistics, one cannot help but imagine themselves being paraded through your victorious city, garlanded and cheered by the adoring masses.  Final Fantasy victory theme, move aside; this is what triumph sounds like!

-Persona 4: The Almighty

Anyone who’s read my top 10 games list knows how much I love Persona 4, and a lot of that is down to the soundtrack.  Even though some of the ‘school days’ type themes can get tiresome, pretty much anything that plays while you’re in the TV world is pure gold.  Especially when the characters confront their shadows, the creepy and tense Border of Insanity slipping into I’ll Face Myself when battle is joined.  Yet above these, The Almighty gets my vote.  Without spoiling the story, it plays during a very important battle, against a seemingly-unassailable enemy.  And the track has that great plodding pace to bring across the idea of immense scale and desperation, which builds up into a faster-paced, almost flighty midsection.  You are above the clouds, fighting for all mankind with your friends by your side… and this piece conveys it perfectly.

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-Zone of the Enders 2: Leo! Leo!

In comparison to the more famous Metal Gear series, Kojima’s excellent mech-battler was overlooked for the most part.  However, it is an excellent pair of games that makes interesting use of cell-shading to create a stylistic, anime-esque atmosphere, with fast-paced action to match.  The soundtrack was equally excellent with a movie-like combination of sweeping orchestral and futuristic synthesized beats.  For this track, you’re hurled into a battle with returning first game protagonist, Leo Steinbuck, in a very familiar-looking mech.  It’s a great fight that pits your admittedly superior machine against someone who knows its strengths and weaknesses and pushes his own craft to the limit as an expert pilot.  The fast tempo of the song and urgent background wail/chant combo press the aggressive and relentless nature of Leo’s attack.

So there it is; part 1 of my favourite videogame themes list.  It only gets better from here, so stick around for part 2!