This week is the London Games Festival so I started off by going to Video Games Live at the Royal Festival Hall this evening. It was pretty good – the Philharmonia Orchestra playing the soundtrack to some all time favourite games with accompanying videos.
It started well – a mix of retro titles, some I knew and some, such as Chrono Cross, i’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of. However, I’ve now wiki’d the game and it turns out it’s the sequel to Chrono Trigger – i’ve heard of that one atleast. There was also a video of Gauntlet, another game I’ve only heard of, never played, but it looks cool.
Then they went straight to a video introduction from Hideo Kojima (woohoo!) and the Metal Gear Solid theme accompanied by videos of MGS, Sons of Liberty, Snake Eater and the forthcoming Guns of The Patriots. It was quite funny – at one point a guy in a balaclava and gun was snooping about the stage while a box snuck along behind him (Snake likes to hide in boxes in the games!). The guard even had the caution sign above his head that was lit up by the stage lights. It turned out the man in the box was Martin Leung, a solo pianist and, it turns out, quite famous!
Then they played the Final Fantasy 8 theme and, being the only FF game I own, I recognised it immediately. After that things started to move ahead of me. They played the Mario themes. I know Mario of course, who doesn’t, but having grown up with Sonic, I knew the themes in those games more intimately than any of the Mario soundtracks.
They also played more Final Fantasy songs, which was to be expected, and the crowd went wild. Yep I was the odd one out! They couldn’t show any Final Fantasy videos as Square Enix wouldn’t allow it. They played WoW stuff and, the one it seemed everyone had been waiting for, Halo 3.
I think most of the audience was made up of Final Fantasy/Halo 3 fans and mostly Xbox 360 owners! Seeing as the event was sponsored by Microsoft it seemed tilted towards the Xbox. Not owning an Xbox 360 myself, soundtracks from the likes of BioShock were lost on me – I knew of the game though.
Still, I think there was something for everyone. I was pleased to see/hear stuff from all the Sonic games – quite a few! – Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft 2, while the little girl in the row in front of me seemed delighted when the Kingdom Hearts music was played. Again, as Kingdom Hearts is made by Square there was no gameplay video, but instead they showed a whole collection of Disney videos from The Little Mermaid to The Lion King to Beauty and the Beast.
At the interval I went upstairs to the room where they had lots of Xbox 360s set up – there was a bit of a stampede! I got my hands on one running Halo 3. It looked superb but unfortunately, having last played Halo on the original Xbox (not counting the Demo I messed around with on my Mac) a few years ago, I didn’t really pick up the controls too quick. The pad is a bit different too. The level I was on seemed to be a forest area and whomever had played before me must’ve killed all the enemies as there were bodies littered about. I couldn’t find a way out of the basin so gave up the game to one of my spectators who immediately exited the level and set up a multiplayer match with his friend.
Other games to play were Guitar Hero, Pro Evolution Soccer, and Viva Pinata among others. They were all crowded so I just watched. Viva Pinata looks terrific – a little boy was playing a mini-game where you have to push the left stick to rotate an apple and one of the buttons to take a bite as part of an apple eating contest with the other Pinata!lol
During the concert they also brought on stage all the cosplay contestants (people who had dressed up as video game characters). I didn’t recognise half of them. Of the three shortlisted, I recognised one as being a Metroid Prime character due to the bulky should pads, another was WolfLink which i guessed was Link from the Legend of Zelda games (apparently in The Twilight Princess Link can transform into a wolf). The one that won was Tentacle – who it turns out is the main character from 1993 game Day of The Tentacle.
So many games, how can I possibly know them all?? I’ve yet to own any Nintendo console so have not experienced much of the Legend of Zelda titles, although my sister’s husband briefly owned an N64 and I played The Ocarina of Time and, even further back, I played what I now beleive was A Link To The Past on my friend’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). I also remember playing a Jurrasic Park game on the same console and getting stampeded by a Triceratops!lol
I suppose it depends what you grew up with. The older generation always talks about playing the arcades, whereas, while we had an arcade at a bowling alley, I mostly played console games. I grew up with a Sega Master System, a MegaDrive II, and an Amstrad computer (CPC664?), before moving into the realms of Playstation. I think there were some fantastic games on those systems but it seems the majority is with Nintendo and nowadays XBox.
I think it would be impossible to have played all the so-called classics and even harder to know the music and composers (alot of the audience tonight seemed to know the Final Fantasy composer very well!) but i’m always learning. I can tell you, for example, that the voice actor for Solid Snake (and Big Boss in the prequel, Snake Eater) is David Hayter. I know because I completed Metal Gear Solid, saw the credits, and saw the scene where snake tells Otacon/Meryl his real name is David.
I also firmly recall the tunes from Gain Ground (Master System):
I beleive I also had Hunchback II on the same floppy disc:
Finally, they had a couple of competitions at the concert. In the first they picked a member of the audience to wear a t-shirt with a picture of the Space Invaders player ship on it and he then had to run about the stage to move his ship and shoot using a handheld joystick while the space invaders descended the big screen on the wall, lol. It was quite fun to watch. He didn’t do very well so didn’t win the desktop MAME cabinet (desktop cabinet with an emulator for playing retro arcade games) so instead got the runner up prize: an XBox 360 with Halo 3 (!!)
The other contest involved two audience members playing Frogger with a joystick, one after the other (you know, the game where you have to get the frog to the safety of the other side past all the traffic and jumping logs across the river). The winner also got an XBox 360. Curse my innate shyness!
All in all it was a good night. I’m sure not everyone there knew all the music and that left something for everyone. It was strange to see such a professinal, normally serious, venue be consumed by hordes of excited games, and it just shows how far games have come. Games are an art form and game music alone is evidence of that.