Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Awesome Classic Games Part 1

Taking a break from the soundtracks, I'd like to focus on some games, particularly video games from the 80s-90s that consumed most of my childhood's time.
Part 1 is all about point and click adventures!

Monkey Island

I just love these games. The first two were games we had on our old computer, so naturally I played them a lot. When the special editions were released for iPhone, I couldn't resist getting them and now Le Chuck's revenge is currently taking up the majority of my spare time.
The revamped graphics and voices are an excellent way to revisit the series and I still find myself chuckling at the multitudes of one-liners ("You fight like a dairy farmer! How appropriate, you fight like a cow.") If you've never played these games, do yourself a favour and get them ASAP!

Day of the Tentacle

A similar point and click game like Monkey island, Day of the Tentacle introduces many comical characters, included the greatest villain of all time: Purple Tentacle.
The story will lead you on many humorous adventures that never fail to entertain. Another must play!

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Another point and click that I spent countless hours on. This game has a slightly more serious story than the previous two, yet contains just as much entertainment.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Soundtracks Part 2

Continuing the previous posts, more of my favourite soundtracks to follow!

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Not the best of movies, but a truly superb soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams, who also did titles such as Kingdom of Heaven, Team America, Shrek, Chicken Run and video games such as CoD4: MW.
My favourite piece from the soundtrack is below:

Dragon Age: Origins
Between Leliana's Song and the title theme (Dragon Age: Origins)

Pan's Labyrinth

An especially haunting melody can be heard in many of the tracks on this soundtrack, and if you've seen the film they have a much more saddening grip on you.

Howl's Moving Castle / Spirited Away
If you've seen any of Studio Ghibli's films, it is hard to forget Joe Hisaishi's wonderful accompanying soundtracks.

Harry Potter
Possibly one of the most iconic themes to be composed by John Williams, along with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter is another unforgettable tune that will last through the ages.

The Incredibles
Composed by Michael Giacchine, creator of soundtracks for Lost, Alias, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Missin: Impossible III, Star Trek, Ratatouille and Up, The Incredibles soundtrack is a truly wonderful jazz influenced set.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Another unforgettable set, Koji Kondo marvellously created a collection of scores that are forever etched into the brains of generations who spent many hours exploring the world of Hyrule in this game. The songs of the Ocarina were so simple they were brilliant and who could resist the Song of Storms?

Part 3 coming soon!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Quick Illusion and Soundtracks Pt 1.

Just stumbled across something I thought was entertaining

In any case,  I wanted to share my obsession with soundtracks. In particular, games and movies.
I have a different taste in music; I love nice epic orchestral pieces akin to those in Lord of the Rings, Oblivion, etc.

Though these pieces of music are fascinating all on their own, in combination with the game or movie they are with, they can really make things feel alive.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

If you can believe it, I only played Oblivion for the first time a few weeks ago. Despite the aging graphics, the game was stunning. What was more stunning was the soundtrack. After escaping from the sewers and emerging into the world, I was greeted by rolling fields, an expansive lake, distant mountains and trees flowing with the wind. To top it all off, the above piece would follow me as I rode through the valleys, watching the sun rise and escorting the emperor's son over mountains and rivers.
And from there, the soundtrack continued to improve.

The Lord of the Rings
I really find it hard to believe anyone who thinks the soundtrack from these three movies is bad. The music is perfectly synchronised with the action on screen, with calmer movements during peaceful parts such as the Shire, and intensifies upon large scale battles.
 For pure happiness, you can't look past Concerning Hobbits.

And once you reach the end of the trilogy, you watch The Elves, Bilbo, Gandalf, Frodo and co. depart into the west, with The Grey Havens hauntingly amplifying the emotional power in the scene through the use of melodies heard previously in the soundtracks, giving a powerful sense of conclusion.

Soundtracks Part 2 Coming Soon...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kate Bush

By now, I've realised this blog won't be going where I had originally planned in terms of content. Instead, it's just going to be full of my ramblings on various topics.

Today's ramble is about Kate Bush.

Kate Bush is a singer songwriter who made her debut in 1978 and since then has released so many top selling albums and singles that she could compete with any of the most popular artists of today. But what makes her different from these artists is the content of her songs.

Admitedly, when I first heard  Wuthering Heights (youtube) at the age of ten or so, it certainly didn't have any particular appeal to me. In fact, it wasn't until I was 16 that the song happened to sneak onto my iPod from my dad's iTunes library. It started playing in a shuffled playlist during a car trip to Sydney and, like it did when I was ten, it left me mystified by the haunting tunes and story within the lyrics.
I had never read the novel of the same name, so it wasn't until I decided to look it up that I discovered that Kate's song was actually about something.
A night of internet wandering led me to discover other songs of Kate's, such as Cloudbusting (youtube) (youtube). Again, I had no idea what the song was about, but the tunes and words I heard every now and then caught my attention.
 Some time later, I discovered that the song was actually a story of Wilhelm Reich's invention, the Cloudbuster (wikipedia) , and his subsequent arrest.

Slowly, my fascination in Kate's work continued to build each time I discovered another of her songs. And with each new song I fell in love with, I found a whole new story being told through an abundance of metaphors and abstract descriptions; such as Babooshka (youtube), A story of a woman testing her husband's faiithfulness;  or Army Dreamers (youtube) which tells of a young man who goes off to war, only to die before he is twenty; The Wedding List (youtube) (inspired by Francois Truffau's film "The Bride Wore Black" ) tells of a woman whose husband was killed on their wedding day, and so she goes on a mission to get revenge (Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill is said to have copied this plot from Truffau's film).

However, not all her songs are like this. Every now and then there comes a song that provide a window into Kate's life and soul. Her song The Man With the Child in His Eyes (youtube) is a recorded version of a love note to her first boyfriend, and her more recent piece Bertie (youtube) is a terribly corny, yet beautiful song for her son, Albert. There is also another recent piece, A Coral Room (youtube), which was written by Kate as she came to terms with the passing of her mother. On a side note, it was the first song I heard after my childhood pet died at the age of 13, making me a happy sad whenever I hear it.

After her album, The Red Shoes, Kate didn't release anything until Aerial in 2005. No matter how many times I hear it, this album is stunning. The first half (A Sea of Honey) contains individual songs such as Bertie and A Coral Room mentioned above. The second half (A Sky of Honey) however, was designed to be listened to in one sitting, like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The tracks strewn together are often called An Endless Sky of Honey and go through various periods of the day, from dawn to midday rain to sunset to night and then back to sunrise. The pieces are so wonderfully stitched together that you can easily visualise the day progressing. This is all aided with the chirping of birds at the beginning and end of certain pieces, though they vanish during segments of the night.

Basically A Sky of Honey flows as follows:
Prelude - A short piece spoken by Bertie Bush, it signals the start of the day and the awakening of the birds.
Prologue - Transends through the morning, the chorus sings of "What a lovely Afternoon" and then flows into..
An Architect's Dream - This describes a "painter painting" as the sun begins to go down, the colours in the sky changing constantly. Towards the end of the song, it begins to rain, bringing us to the next piece
The Painter's Link - "It's raining / What has become of my painting" remarks the painter. The rain comes down and mixes his paints - the colours of which swirl to form the colour of a sunset.

Sunset - This piece is rather poetic, speaking of the colour of the sky and how "every sleepy light / Must say goodbye / To the day before it dies"

Aerial Tal - No lyrics are in this, only the cirping of the birds and Kate chirping along with them as they go to sleep for the next two stages.

Somewhere in Between - This is a wonderfully metaphorical and poetic piece. It sings of the moment between night and day through many comparisons, always saying somewhere in between something such as "The waxing and the waning wave", "What the song and the silence say", "The ticking and the tocking clock", "Breathing out and breathing in" and so on. It ends with three lines "Goodnight Sun / Goodnight Sun / Goodnight Mum", which I always interpreted Sun as Son, as I believe it is Bertie saying "Goodnight mum", though I like any good song, it should be left up to what it means to you, the listener.

Nocturn - As we move into this movement, the listener is riddled as to whether the singer is dreaming or really naked at the beach in the middle of the night. As I listen to this song, I can't help but be amazed at how Kate transformed the more upbeat songs of earlier in the day to the calm (yet still fast) flow of this song of the night. Towards the end, the sun begins to rise and it flows almost immediately into Aerial.

Aerial - The final piece and the title of the album, this part deals with the sunrise and the waking people. It is one of those songs that seem to increase in tempo every few seconds, creating a sense that as the sun rises higher and higher, the place gets increasingly busier with all the people waking up and joining in on the day.

The song ends suddenly - drums, vocals, guitars, everything stopping except for the birds who you notice have been  chirping alongside the rest of the instruments, but drowned out by the busy world.
As I sit there for 30 seconds listening to the chirps slowly fade, I can't help but realise how we rarely take time to appreciate the world around us. The birds, the trees, everything is always there but it is so easy to get lost amongst the excitement and buzz of the day.

It is for these reasons that I say Kate Bush changed my life. She made me appreciate the deeper meaning of everything, made me see beauty where I didn't before. Her songs allowed me to be happy when I really thought I couldn't.
If anything, I recommend you give her a chance. Go for a walk, listen to An Endless Sky of Honey as you go, listen to the words and messages and just watch the world around you. If she doesn't appeal to you, fair enough, but if you, like me, love finding rich stories behind songs, then you should give Kate a shot. Her music is timeless.

Final Fantasy XIII

I realise I've already posted tonight, but I feel like posting again. Note there'll be spoilers for the thirteenth instalment if you continue to read.

I also realise this isn't exactly INTJ related, but you know... Maybe I assess games like an INTJ would or something!

I recently finished FFXIII - a game many people were determined to hate due to the linearity, lack of towns and anything else they could think of.
The major deterrent for me was the fact that Eidolons would stupidly transform into vehicles (i.e. Sasz and Snow). The ones that changed into more fitting forms (such as Odin as a horse) I actually quite liked.
In the end I discovered I barely used Eidolons anyway, so this was a moot point for me.

The other thing I disliked was the lack of towns. All through the game you are teased at Square Enix's superb environments and cities, even the generic citizens are quite detailed. But they are hardly used.
Every time the game led me to a town, I was hoping non-stop that I would get to wander through the place, enter some shops, buy some weapons and just talk. But alas, I was always told that either the PSICOM were in control of the town, or it had been eaten already by monsters of Gran Pulse.

Well Fuck.

In any case, as much of a letdown as it was, I manage to live on.
My final major disappointment was the way information was given. There is an immense amount of detail into the story if you're willing to read all the Primers and datalogs - which I wasn't. Because of this, I was continuously wondering who the fuck is that. The fact that there's about thirty deviations on the word La'cie in this game (Fal'cie, cieth, facie, la'cie....) I was confused as to who that guy was actually working for.
Furthermore, towards the end of the game I had no idea who the final boss was going to be, until they said "k guys, this is going to be our final battle" and low and behold, its that shitty excuse for a character priest guy who doesn't die. wtf.

Putting the bad things behind, I'm lead to the good things.

Personally I loved the battle system. I thought I would dislike only controlling one character, but the flow of battle makes it feel more intense than previous instalments. Although, having a retarded healer at times did get quite annoying.

The characters themselves are quite well done, though I don't quite agree with throwing in a token black guy for comedy and giving Vanille a terrible actor who wouldn't stop squeaking and failing to convince me in her voiceovers was a downfall. The other characters (Lightning, Snow, Fang and Hope) all had nice voices and stories, a strength of the series.

The game looks absolutely fantastic. Characters have excellent hair and costumes, environments are simply stunning, and stumbling upon a cinematic/FMV left me in awe.

The music, though not as memorable as the work of Nobuo Uematsu, had excellent flow throughout the game with themes heard all over the place, but always changing slightly. I was a  little disappointed at the lack of the victory fanfare so iconic to the series, and Leona Lewis tossed in over the ending left me with a certain vile taste in my mouth. In my opinion, the Japanese song should have been left in (as in FFX) or at the very least, a translated version of it instead of some pop star singing about putting on make up and going out.

The ending, I must say, didn't fail to please. Like the other games I sat through the credits just thinking about how nice it was.
Fang and Vanille's fate left me with a bittersweet feeling, even the slightest tear in my eye. And finally seeing Lightning smile was a beautiful touch.

All in all, I am proud to place this game on the shelf with the others, glad I bought it and glad at the outcome. Though it was as powerful at hitting my emotions like 8 and 10 were, it still made an excellent effort.

Introductions - Thoughts on being an INTJ


Why am I doing this? Not entirely sure. 

I think I just need a place to keep entries on how I feel about life, the universe and everything.

According to those tests, I am an INTJ and so my thoughts here will probably be more understandable to other INTJ's. Since I have nowhere else to start, topic for today is my thoughts on INTJ...ness.

I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INTJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy

This is definitely true for me. Any house gathering I throw I love keeping to less than 15 close friends, and any night spent clubbing I feel like I'm making an effort, even when wasted, to socialise with randoms.

N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INTJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.

I always dream about how my future life is going to be. I feel like I know how I'm supposed to get there, yet I rarely take the steps towards it. 

T – Thinking preferred to feeling: INTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.

I'm not sure how I feel on this one, it seems like something I do without noticing to be honest.

J – Judgment preferred to perception: INTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability, which to perceptive types may seem limiting.

I plan so much, from possible outcomes in conversations to exactly how I'm going to get somewhere, what time I'll arrive, excuses for leaving if I want to and so on. When in a situation that feels like nobody is in control, I can't help but feel uncomfortable, and spend my time planning some more - for example, "What would I do if [Ridiculous Outcome] happened? Who would slow the group down in a zombie invasion? Who do I trust most to guard my back?"

Despite what this post may suggest, I don't tend to categorize people as their personality types - more so whether they're bogans, arrogant arseholes, friendly, intelligent etc. Someone being a different type to me won't make me dislike them instantly, though approaching them is likely to be different.

Out of thoughts tonight.