Goon Review: Contra Soundtrack

(Submitted by His Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Much obliged, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxox)

Contra has the honor of being the first video game that left it’s opening screen impressed in my head. Everyone remembers the title card coming in from the right to the left as those few notes jingled and finally exploded when you pressed start (after frantically trying to enter the thirty lives code, of course). Immediately, you’re dropped into a jungle warzone, one that might remind you of Predator with the beat of the music synced perfectly with the action as you worked your way through HR Giger inspired levels and enemies.

Mondo’s recent release of Contra is one for the collection, without a doubt. There’s no considering it, if you’ve played the game or know anything about Nintendo, you need to grab this iconic soundtrack. Side A is the classic NES soundtrack you’ve come to know and love, starting with the aforementioned Title Card track and then creating a creepy mood with the Introduction before setting the action pace with the Area 1: Jungle track (I know, catchy track titles). This is the one we all know and love the most, I think, because of how many times you dropped into that beginning level when starting the game. Not only that, it also rocks more than most other NES tracks out there. My favorite track was always Area 6: Energy Zone which combines both the run and gun action and the creeping terror. Plus, that name is just perfectly ‘80s, it should have been a club somewhere.

 

I have to admit… I totally forgot this was an arcade game, but for a very good reason; not many people played it once the Nintendo version was out there. To be honest, the reason I don’t recall the arcade version is because I found the NES version to be superior in every way, especially with the music. This is one exceptionally rare cases where the Nintendo soundtrack is better than the arcade version. Yes, Contra’s NES music is better than its arcade counterpart. I know it’s hard to believe, but when you listen to Side B of the vinyl, which is the same tracks in the same order with the exception of Track 2: Introduction missing and Track 12: Ranking as a new addition, you will hear the difference. Now, one of these will work better for you and I’m sure for most of you it will be the Nintendo version. The arcade version is actually something more of a cleaner, perhaps a bit more clear Genesis version, what with a very metallic sound and tin clanks. You could argue that better represents the game, but for me, nothing will compare to the NES version.

With Mondo, the artwork is just as important as the actual soundtrack itself. Afterall, it’s all about presentation and Mondo usually always nails it. Usually. Eric Powell’s artwork on the cover is cool and kinda has a comic book style to it, showcasing the two heroes, Lance and Bill, albeit muted colors and to be honest, that’s the start of my disappointment with it. Contra is bright and colorful, full of Alien-esque creature designs and very little of that is present on the cover. Sure, the background behind the two muscle clad, gun toting protagonists shows a little bit of that, but there’s more negative space to be filled that should have been used with HR Giger imagery. It seems like halfway through creating an awesome cover, the artist ran out of time or just called it quits. Again, I’m not complaining about the quality, because I think it’s quite phenomenal, but underwhelming when you consider the source material.

The inside of the jacket is something that would jump at you out of your nightmares. Fold it open and the mother or queen, whatever it was called, dominates both sides and looking to be ready to jump out at you. I really like being able to see the sketchy pencil marks underneath the finished product, giving it a grittier look, but again, it’s just muted colors. Maybe I’m misremembering Contra, but the back cover shows maybe I’m not. That is more in line of what I’m talking about.

San Diego Comic Con goers had the option of getting an exclusive tri-color vinyl with red, orange and yellow, but personally I prefer the pressing that is available which is the classic blue and red. It represents the Player One and Player Two colors that dominated Nintendo games. It’s bright, vibrant and basic. It works so well.

I could go on forever about the Contra soundtrack, but then I would just be going in circles. For most of us that grew up with the arcade and Nintendo, this is one of the most definitive soundtracks to your childhood. I think it goes beyond playing into nostalgia… it’s just a kick-ass soundtrack that every collection needs.

Goon Game Review: What Remains of Edith Finch

(Submited by Andrew Peters…Thanks, ho-mie. I’m totally checking this sucka out! 🙂 xoxo)

How a video game is defined or is played has certainly changed since its existence. In the beginning, you had a dial-type controller and a paddle and ball would appear on screen. You used these color overlays that would go over your TV set and it would be up to you, the gamer, to change the type of game it was. Then we moved on into side scrolling, RPG, racing, sports, whatever it may be and that changed from 8-bit to 16-bit and so on until it eventually became 3D. Worlds opened up and became more interactive and story became so structured and integral to the plot, it nearly takes over (not that it’s a bad thing). Some games are so cinematic, you’re virtually watching a movie and that’s kind of how I would describe Developer Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch. It’s like watching a movie that you in essence control to some extent.

The game may not be considered what is defined as a game in the traditional sense by some gamers, but more of an interactive story. I want to say there isn’t much to do in the game or there isn’t much to explore, but that’s painting it too broad, but what I mean those in a more global sense. It’s not an open world exploration and it’s not about really interacting with things in the environment (although there are items that allows you to do so). This is the game’s strongest point; it’s extremely interesting and the stories are well told that you don’t mind and you want to continue. The aesthetic of the game and the house you explore is something that would be an amalgamation between the works of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson. While I personally am not a fan of either of most of their works, I do appreciate their aesthetics and it really works for this game.

It’s a simple premise, but the imagination behind it is not. Players assume the role of a seventeen year old girl named Edith Finch who is chronicling the lives and untimely – and horrible – deaths of her relatives after inheriting the family house and revisiting it after a decade. I know to some of our readers, pretending you’re a seventeen year old girl isn’t out of the norm for you, but this isn’t that, you creeps. The opening of the game reminded me of Resident Evil VII, making your way up a path to an old, dilapidated house and although moments of the game may have horror elements, this isn’t a horror game. This becomes more clear once you enter the home and make your way about, noticing that each family member’s room has a particular theme that will play into how the story is told. For the most part, you don’t have much option in what order you play the stories, since the game is very linear.

However, being linear doesn’t stop the game from keeping you anticipated. Sure, you know the outcome to each story and you can’t exactly go off the beaten path and explore, but it’s how the story takes shape that will make you eager to participate in it. Being that the game revolves around the demise of these family members, some gamers would be excited about the violence and gore, but What Remains of Edith Finch isn’t about that. It’s not about the deaths of these family members per say, but about their journey and how it came to an end. It’s about telling their tragic end in a magical and beautiful way while giving the gamer a unique spectrum of variety in storytelling, even if you don’t have much in the way of control.

The game does allow you to move the character about freely, for the most part, but you are limited to where you can go and what you can do. Aside from being able to zoom in, allowing you to look at objects around the house in finer detail, there’s nothing else you can do unless you are prompted to hold down a button to open a door or one of the bumper buttons to move an object, but the game tries to get creative with its limitations. For example, during young Walter’s story, while being really short, you are confined to a swing. Normally, you would just push down and up on the thumbstick, but here you push the left bumper to kick out his left leg and right bumper to kick out his right leg. Embarrassingly enough, it took me several minutes to figure that out, because it’s something as a gamer I’m not used to. It’s little things like that that will keep you involved in each story.

As I’ve mentioned before, the stories themselves offer a variety of refreshing ways to tell them. The first story you play as young girl who went to bed without dinner. She notices a bird outside her window and upon opening the window, you transform into a cat, then into an owl and then an octopus monster, gobbling up bigger prey each time. It’s a fantastic way to introduce you into the magical element of the game and by magical, I don’t mean there is mystic powers or something like that. I mean that rather than tell you something horrible happened to these people, leaving you feeling empty and hopeless, it gives them a witty and exciting way to be involved with on this journey. Sure, there are some shorter, more simple stories, like the aforementioned Walter, but another story has an 8-bit Legend of Zelda style to it and another one is telling its story through the viewfinder of a camera. My personal favorite is that of Barbara Finch, an ex-child star who was known for her scream. It’s told through an old EC Comic, even going from panel to panel being narrated by a Crypt Keeper type of character. It even uses the Halloween theme for added effect.
The whole experience of What Remains of Edith Finch won’t take you more than two hours and there isn’t much in the way of replay, unless you want to experience a particular story, the game does allow you to skip right to a family member’s tale. It may be a short game, but it’s an experience that’s going to stick with you for a while. I can’t foresee forgetting playing through the stylish segment of Barbara Finch in the near future, but it’s not just about the style. It was also about how well we got to know these characters in a short amount of time. Hell, games that have a much larger playing time can’t even develop characters this good. You’ll get to know these characters in a brief amount of time that it’ll break your heart knowing their fate. You know their gonna die, but you don’t want them to and the entire game foreshadows the ending, but I didn’t want to admit that to myself. You care about these characters, you care about what’s going on. What Remains of Edith Finch, while short, is absolutely beautiful and unique.