Category: Video games and pop culture

When TV, Movies and other media cover video games.

Fall Out Boy meets Asphalt 8: This ain’t a crossover, it’s a god damn car race.

So I was playing Asphalt 8: Airborne, a fairly fun if grindy racing game, and suddenly this popped up on my screen.

Is the title *supposed* to look that weird?

Asphalt 8 meets Fall Out Boy, meant to advertise their newest album? Now that’s a crossover I wasn’t expecting to see.

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Like this car? It’s cool, huh?

Admittedly, I don’t listen to a lot of Fall Out Boy. I know a few of their songs, but I always kept confusing them with My Chemical Romance and similar “emo rock” bands that permeated the landscape in the mid-2000s. From the songs I have heard from them, they seem to be an passably entertaining rock band, and I’m surprised they’re still going in 2018.

You’re probably wondering why this crossover exists. They’re a pop-rock band that hasn’t really mentioned being big racing game fans, so it seems like an ill fit, right? Well, Vivendi, the French mega-conglomerate, owns Island Records, which is Fall Out Boy’s label; as well as Gameloft, the developer behind Asphalt 8. So while it’s not completely random like, oh say, KISS Psycho Circus, it certainly doesn’t feel like a natural crossover.

 

The event goes like this: You join a new racing league, the Fall Out Boy World Tour. In it, you must build enough hype to impress the staff and members of the band to win the championship and earn a brand new car, the BMW M2 “Special Edition,” which differs from the standard BMW M2 in game by having rear spoilers and a cool paint job. You’re given a whole week in real time to do this.

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This nerd deserves a swirly.

However, the fight will be tough as you’ll be facing stiff competition, including one from the “ultimate Fall Out Boy fan,” Adam Knowles. He’ll taunt you throughout, saying he has the best tuned-up vehicle and that you’ll never beat him. As you complete challenges and gain fans, you’ll eventually have to defeat multiple AI in head-to-head races to win the championship and the BMW M2.

Some of the challenges get pretty tough as time goes on.

So how does this work? You gain fans by completing challenges in each race. Most of them are fairly simple challenges – beat the race in the target time, get first place, knockdown more cars than your opponent – others more difficult, such as requiring you to do 6 flat spins off a ramp or drift for 4,000 yards. Successfully pull off the challenge and you’ll earn fan points and build up hype. Hype increases the amount of fan points starting at 1 times the value, to 1.5 times the value, all the way up to 3x the normal value. Every normal race is 200 points, whereas the championship racers increase drastically in value as the story progresses.

Guess this race was… DEAD! ON! ARRIVAL!

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland Soundtrack: Where rock meets punk.

I write about a lot of random junk here. Such as writing about about having a strange collection of video game related albums in the past. Sometimes just simple soundtracks of games, other times stuff like the soundtrack of the the first Tomb Raider film, or even a set of songs featuring the cast of the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game show. Struggling with what to write about to wrap up the year, I thought I’d grab one of those unexpected soundtracks and give a review to wrap up 2017.

So let’s look at the soundtrack album to the the once-yearly skateboarding franchise: Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. Or as the CD spine calls it, “TONY HAWK’S AMERICAN WASTLAND.”

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This looks so low-quality compared to the cover it’s based on, The Clash’s London Calling.

This is the second released soundtrack album for a Tony Hawk game. The first being a “music from and inspired by” album for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, which had a bunch of songs from people who didn’t appear in the game like Outkast, Papa Roach, and Drowning Pool; while omitting good stuff like Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”

The soundtrack for American Wasteland only covers a small portion of the 64 (!) tracks that are in the entire game, and the 14 songs featured here are all covers of punk songs of the ’70s and ’80s like Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, The Stooges, and even Black Flag. Considering Tony Hawk games tend to hit the gamut of multiple genres, it’s a bummer they focused on this and not the rock or hip-hop sides of the game’s soundtrack.

While I ended up finding the album at a thrift store for a pittance, you don’t have to do the same. The whole album is available on digital streaming services, including Spotify, so you can listen along with me here:

Some of these songs are by bands I’m familiar with thanks to their appearances in Rock Band or Guitar Hero — My Chemical Romance, Dropkick Murphys, Fall Out Boy, Rise Against — but the rest of the bands featured are pop-rock, post-punk or emo-rock bands that came and went. A fair share of these bands were modestly popular for the era, but unfortunately my music knowledge post-1998 is kinda like swiss cheese: it’s full of gaping holes everywhere.

Punk is also a genre I don’t know all that well besides the more mainstream representations of the genre, so in this case I ended up having to go back and listen to the originals to see if the cover is better than the original, and most importantly if it’s worth listening to Taking Back Sunday cover The Descendents.

The album starter is Senses Fail’s cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” which was originally a deluxe edition bonus track on their debut album Let It Enfold You. Senses Fail appeared on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock‘s soundtrack, with a song I barely remember because Guitar Hero III wasn’t that good of a game. As for the song, Senses Fail give the song a much harsher pop-punk kind of sound, complete with slightly changing the lyrics since the original songs reference the lead singer. It’s alright, but kinda lacks the raw, do-it-yourself feeling of the Suicidal Tendencies’ original. At least they didn’t cover “Cyco Vision.”

Activision and its weird SNES localizations.

(Updated 4/15/2024 with updated links and clarification.)

Activision. I probably don’t need to say any more, but I’m going to. They’re a company that fully endorses the practice of “make something until it stops making money, then burn it alive and dump the ashes.” Franchises like Tony Hawk’s Pro SkaterGuitar Hero, and James Bond came out practically yearly until the quality suffered. Many iconic studios like Neversoft, Bizarre Creations, and Radical Entertainment were among the casualties when their games didn’t sell well enough. Others, like Raven Software, were enslaved to make Call of Duty after two back-to-back commercial failures  in Wolfenstein and Singularity. Even then, who knows when the COD bubble will finally burst?

But before Activision was the monstrous juggernaut they are now, they were still a company that was recovering from the ’80s. A bunch of bad business deals forced the company to be bought by a holding firm in the early ’90s, ran by Robert “Bobby” Kotick, who still runs the company to this day.

While Activision was trying to rebuild during the ’90s, they decided to do something unusual in terms of localization of two Super Famicom games to the west. Localizing games originally from Japan is fairly common, which usually meant changing stuff like minimizing Hitler and Nazi references in Bionic Commando on the NES, to straight up overhauls of existing games, such as Masked Ninja Hanamaru being transformed into Yo! Noid, a game involving Domino’s short-lived mascot for the NES.

In Activision’s case, their localization approach was somewhere in the middle: they decided to scrap the original Super Famicom soundtrack, get a contract deal with some fairly popular electronic bands, and have their songs be part of the new American soundtrack, complete with advertising this fact on the box and in the game itself.

So, all I can say now, is “Are you ready for this?”

(Before I go any further: Shout out to online buddy LanceBoyle for giving me the inspiration to write about these. Not the guy from MegaRace, though I’ll give him a shout out too, because why not?)

The first game they attempted this with was BioMetal, a fairly innocuous shoot-em-up with powerups that was a decent little R-Type clone. Alas I am very bad at these kind of games, so I couldn’t get past the first stage. Though from what I’ve seen, it seems to be just one of many shoot-em-ups on a system that was already filled with them. It’s why stuff like Phalanx had that weird hillbilly on the cover, to make it stand out.

Activision’s attempt to make it stand out didn’t involve a cover change, but rather something a bit more unusual: Composer Yoshio Nagashima’s soundtrack was replaced by songs from the band 2 Unlimited. 2 Unlimited was the band that made that fairly popular electronic song “Get Ready for This,” a song that plays practically at every sporting event you could imagine. It plays during the title screen and appears on Stage 2.

BioMetal also features other cuts from their debut album Get Ready!, such as “Twilight Zone” (Stage 1) and “Delight” (Stage 3). Though not all of the songs come from that album, Stage 4 uses “Tribal Dance” off their followup album No Limits!, whereas one other track, that one that plays on the Continue screen, Stage 5 and the Credits, is one I couldn’t immediately pinpoint. The closest equivalent might be “Maximum Overdrive” from No Limits!, but it could also be an original composition meant to emulate the 2 Unlimited sound by composers/arrangers Ali Lexa and John Rodriguez of Ubik Musik Productions. If you have any idea, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Call of Duty and Halo Megabloks: A brick-building collection restarts.

Update: Since I wrote this original post, Mega Brands was bought by Mattel, which caused some restructuring of the brands. What was once Megabloks is now known as Mega Construx, with the Megabloks brand being used for the more child-like knockoff of Lego’s “Duplo” brand. For the sake of this article, I’m sticking with the original name for reference, as it was in late 2016.

Sometimes when you’re like me and you’re bored in a department store, you tend to wander around to other sections to find some amusement or cheap deals. In my case, I browsed the clearance section of a toy aisle. Suddenly I found these little beauties:

These were originally $8 each. Somehow they got even cheaper than this. Don’t know how, but hey, discounts are great.

They’re Mega Bloks tie-ins for Halo and Call of Duty. Since I hadn’t messed with Lego (or its derivatives) for years, it felt like the perfect time to rekindle my interest in brick-building toys. It also gives me something to do when not sleeping all day.

I used to have a lot of Lego as a kid. One of my birthdays I ended up getting about several Lego playsets, with the only non-Lego thing being a VHS copy of D3: The Mighty Ducks. Though my interest in Lego waned as I got older, we still have the bricks around somewhere, in a giant tub somewhere in the house. One of my dreams is to rebuild the old playsets, but that requires time and money I don’t really have.

So these are made by Canadian company Mega Brands. If Lego is Coca-Cola, Megabloks would probably be Dr. Pepper. They’re both fairly known, but one is more iconic than the other. Megabloks tends to get the video game licenses more than Lego does, likely more content with making playsets off much bigger properties and telling TT Games to churn out a new Lego tie-in game every year. Any major video game franchise you can think of in the past few years has a Megabloks play set associated with them: In addition to Halo and Call of Duty, I’ve seen ones for Assassin’s CreedSkylanders, and several others. Mega Bloks basically has the video game brick market covered, something I don’t see Lego really tackle these days.

This box was beaten to hell. I should’ve asked if I could get a deeper discount on damaged goods. So much for the resale value…

So let’s dive in. The Halo Megabloks features a covenant guard riding a Ghost, one of the iconic vehicles of the franchise. It’s no Master Chief in a Warthog, but it’ll do. The Covenant guard also has pieces that make them resemble Jul ‘Mdama, a character introduced in the current 343 Industries Halo games. Alas, my only experiences with Halo was some of the earlier Bungie titles and no later, so I don’t know if this character has any importance to the series’ plot.

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Imagine the hassle I had keeping this motherhumper upright to take a picture.

Suicide Squad: Special Ops: A licensed game that’s not some mobile thing?!

I’ve been writing a lot about various tie-in games over the past few years. Hollywood Hellfire, Expendabros, Duty Calls, that sort of stuff. A fair share of these are usually just stuff made in flash on a shoestring budget and will likely be forgotten unless people are smart to preserve these artifacts.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, these games actually have installers and can be played from a PC, which surprises me these days. To me, that’s something from the old Shockwave days, and not something most people do in the present day. But this recent one, based on a big comic book movie, was one I wasn’t expecting to go that route.

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So. much. green.

I have to give props to the blog “I’m Reloading” for bringing this game to my attention. It’s one of my favorite blogs because reload animations are solely unappreciated in video games, and somebody’s gotta highlight them. They showed a recent animation to some Suicide Squad game, and they mentioned “It’s on PC.” Cue me scrambling right to the website to give it a download.

So it’s a first-person shooter. In it, you choose between three members of the titular Suicide Squad: Deadshot, who is your by-the-numbers FPS protagonist with an assault rifle and mini launchers on their hands; Harley Quinn, a melee focused character with a baseball bat and a six-shooter backup at range; and El Diablo, who just sets everything on fire.