Final Fantasy VIII and silent film aesthetic

I’ve been playing the original Final Fantasy VII for the first time and it reminded me of this post about Final Fantasy VIII’s sound design that I wrote but never published back in 2018. (Why, I don’t know. I suppose because it lacked a profound conclusion I felt it “not worthy”? Silly of me in hindsight.)

All of the Playstation era (and earlier) Final Fantasies have a silent/pre-talkie era film quality to them. There are surprisingly few sound effects outside of battle, and no voice acting whatsoever throughout. One of the most unusual features of the series’ sound design is the total absence of sound during on-screen dialogue. It was and still is a common device in videogames without voice acting to have a sound effect during dialogue… why? I don’t know, to be honest. Sometimes noises indicate who is talking, with an indistinct voice gurgle to represent each character. In games of yesteryear where the sound effect don’t change between different speakers, the purpose was less clear.

In any case, the effect of doing away with any text scroll/dialogue sound effects is a lot like watching a silent film, where title cards showed text and dialogue against music. It means these games relied a lot on Uematsu’s score, and thank goodness then these soundtracks are so strong and so varied. Continue reading

A new venture!

I have some exciting news. Since neglecting this beloved site I have been secretly working on a new project together with Maya. While there is still work left to do around branding and things, I couldn’t wait any longer to announce it on VVG.

Here is a prototype video essay put together by us on the subject of flight in videogames. In a move designed to shock and deceive, we named it ‘Flight’. The video essays we have planned are, in many ways, takes on our favourite subjects and themes from the blog and the podcast. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been kicking around these thoughts online here for just over six years – wow. The biggest difference here of course is the new (to us) medium of the video essay, and so far it’s been a challenging but rewarding one to work in.

In case anyone is curious about the games featured, the video includes footage of the following games (in order of first apperance):

  • Demon’s Crest (SNES)
  • Panzer Dragoon Zwei (Saturn)
  • Soukyugurentai (Saturn)
  • Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)
  • Skies of Arcadia Legends (Gamecube)
  • Sky Odyssey (PS2)
  • NiGHTS Into Dreams (Saturn)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis/Megadrive)

I’m really curious to know what you guys think of our approach with this video, so if you have any feedback we’d greatly appreciate you letting us know with a comment below. Thanks!

Run ‘n’ gun history, part 1: Gunstar Heroes (Megadrive) vs Contra III (SNES)

Cuphead has inspired me to reflect on my personal history with this wonderful genre. We’ll be covering heavyhitters like Contra, Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug, as well as some more obscure entries. Introducing the classic sidescrolling run ‘n’ gun:

I grew up in the 32-bit era with only limited exposure to the 16- and 8-bit systems. As a result my first encounters with traditional run ‘n’ gun games were via the Wii’s Virtual Console. Here, I played two of the most iconic run ‘n’ guns ever made – Contra III and Gunstar Heroes. Let’s kick off this trip down memory lane with a by now classic debate, a mainstay of 16-bit console warring. Contra III vs Gunstar Heroes: which is better? Continue reading

N64 Nostalgia: Rayman 2: The Great Escape

Rayman’s a bit of an underappreciated figure these days. Notwithstanding his acclaimed comebacks in Rayman Origins and Legends, he seems to have dropped off the map again now, with a dearth of new content starring the limbless hero.

I would like to take a bit of time to praise the Rayman series, particularly the entry I spent the most time with in my youth. (I should like to return again to the Rayman series to look at my favourite as an adult, but that will have to wait.) My first Rayman game was the first sequel, Rayman 2: The Great Escape for N64. Continue reading

Cuphead (Switch): We’re all mugs now

This is one I’ve been waiting for, for many years it turns out. Not specifically for Cuphead per se, but for a follow up to my beloved Gunstar Heroes. Continue reading

RIVE: Ultimate Edition (Switch) is a blast

The developer of this game, Two Tribes, are best known for their gently paced Toki Tori games about a chicken who can neither jump nor fly. RIVE is a world away by comparison. This is undoubtedly one of the more accomplished indie titles I’ve played. It feels tight and well put together in a way that few games do, including independently made ones. The campaign has been highly enjoyable in co-op mode, and I’ve found that competing for high scores solo is both heart poundingly tense and highly addictive. Continue reading

From Dark Souls (PS3) to Remastered (Switch)

Dark Souls is a gaming icon. The words “You Died” (and the collective audible response of “No Shit”) are carved into the collective consciousness that is gaming culture.

Its reputation proceeds it, and I was primed to enjoy Dark Souls. On the surface this series has “me” written all over it, with its reputation for sadism. Ultimately on my first playthrough I came away pretty disappointed. “I liked [Dark Souls] but didn’t love it” was my ultra-brief summary in my Hollow Knight recap. I returned to Dark Souls in the form of the Remastered edition for Switch on a whim. An intended quick blast on my brother’s Switch turned into a full-blown playthrough from start to end. Now with my expectations set to reasonable levels, I can say I enjoyed it more second go around. It’s a very good game, with some strong reservations.

The second time through I came to appreciate the world of Dark Souls more. It’s dark and despairing, sure, but a lot of time and thought has clearly gone into it. Continue reading