What I Played Today: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan!


Technically, I played it yesterday.

So, remember how everyone hated the ending to that highly anticipated, trilogy-culminating, pre-order bonanza of a FPS RPG called Mass Effect 3? I do. Later, when Bioware got around to releasing an expanded and updated ending, it seems like only about half of the original ME3 crowd came back to see it. Part of it might have just been exhaustion over the whole ME3 ending saga – it was mostly fatigue that kept me from running to my XBox to plunge into the depths of the new ending. I suspect others are sticking to their guns; they heard that the “new” ending isn’t really new at all, just an expansion on existing events and themes. So they’re not interested. The Indoctrination crowd didn’t find much to love in the new ending, so diehards of that theory or whatever… probably didn’t need to rush back to see things unfold.

Others I suspect are in a third camp. They want an excuse to play the game again, but they don’t really feel like doing Chronos Station and Earth. At least, not as a standalone. It’s not like those missions were some glowing paragon of what ME3 could be. All of the heavy stuff happens earlier, and Earth doesn’t have the fun factor that the final assault on the Collector Base did. It’s kind of a long slog, when you get right down to it. In fact, the whole game is pretty heavy, and I’m not sure it bears back-to-back play-throughs with as much grace as the previous installments did. I, at least, noted Mass Effect lover and apologist, have completed Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 probably a dozen times each. I have completed Mass Effect 3 once. Just once. I continued to play the multiplayer occasionally, keep that readiness nice and blue, and waited patiently for a time when I would feel the urge to play the game once again.

It turns out that the urge returned when BioWare finally dropped their first single player content DLC: Leviathan.

Leviathan starts with the story of a man named Dr. Bryson, a scientist on the Citadel who is investigating celestial phenomenae. Specifically, he is rooting around through old monster legends and other such seeming nonsense for any kind of clues that might have survived from a previous cycle about the Reapers. In the course of this research he discovered something that is – potentially – even more interesting… an artifact that is linked to a space monster they’ve dubbed ‘Leviathan’. A creature so powerful that it was capable of downing a Reaper in single combat. Something that seems impossible. But, Bryson does have this weird glowy artifact, and he seems pretty sure… and, since we’re completely desperate for even the tiniest possible edges at this point in our seemingly unwinnable battle against extermination… I eventually acceded that it was probably worth tracking down Bryson’s assistant, who went to an asteroid mining facility in order to follow up on a possible second artifact. Needless to say, hilarity ensues, and Shepard embarks on several missions, broken up by return visits to the lab for analysis, before the climactic scene on an eerie ocean planet about which the less I say, the better.

In terms of DLC, Leviathan is no Lair of the Shadow Broker. While it does appreciably expand on some story elements of Mass Effect 3 (specifically, you gain some fun information about the Reapers. This DLC answered one of my most irritatingly nagging questions about the background of the Reapers. Fun!) and it provides a handful of fun missions – the ocean planet, it’s worth stating, is a gorgeous backdrop for the mission that takes place there – it lacks the character driven tension of Lair. I would put it more on par with the “Arrival” DLC for ME2. You don’t have much reason to get invested in the new characters you meet, and so they feel disposable in a way the core cast never would have. That having been said, I don’t know how many of you returned to ME2 to complete Arrival, but I felt it was a well-spent $10, and I feel the same way about Leviathan. It has a good atmosphere, a couple of cool weapons and new modifications for your gun toting pleasure, and a very impactful revelation at the end.

Incidentally, if you have any interest in ME3 single player DLC at all, there’s extra incentive to acquire Leviathan. Fan interest has seemed much less driven for ME3 DLC than in previous titles… presumably because the ending to the game is as final as it is. Shepard’s story can’t continue, it can only expand.

VGM Entry 36: Mother, Batman, Goemon


VGM Entry 36: Mother, Batman, Goemon
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

A lot of solid Nintendo soundtracks were released in 1989, and I can’t touch on all of them, but here are a few other noteworthies I can’t justify passing over.

Ganbare Goemon 2 (Konami, 1989) added a lot to the sound of the original 1986 Goemon titles (Legend of the Mystical Ninja series in the west), maintaining the same style but adding a percussion track and much more complimentary and varied tone selections. I’ve not managed to find a satisfactory answer as to who composed it though. Tomoya Tomita, Koji Murata, and Michiru Yamane have all been credited here an there without any explanation as to their different rolls, and I’m pretty sure at least the latter two were definitely involved in some capacity, but I can’t be sure.

Konami has a long history of botching the names of their video games, and the Goemon series is no exception. For instance, I have seen sites unattentively list authorship credits as: “Goemon: Satoko Miyawaki. Goemon 2: Michiru Yamane”. But not only was there no game in the Goemon series actually titled Goemon or Ganbare Goemon, there were two games titled Ganbare Goemon 2. Different sub-titles sort this out, but I don’t trust the creators of massive composer compilation lists to have attentively adhered to this.

In so far as the original Mr. Goemon was released on arcade and the third Ganbare Goemon title was an MSX port of the first NES game (I’m not sure why it’s listed separately), calling the 1989 instalment Ganbare Goemon 2 was a fair move. The confusion in this instance did not arise until Konami decided to release Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shogun Magginesu in 1993. (If you add them all up, the second “Goemon 2” was the tenth Goemon video game.)

At any rate, you’re hearing Ganbare Goemon 2, no subtitle, and it was released in 1989. Enjoy.

Nobuyuki Hara and Naoki Kodaka composed Batman (Sunsoft, 1989) in the wake of Mega Man 2, when the bar for NES action game soundtracks was through the roof. I certainly don’t think it’s as good as Takashi Tateishi’s historic work, but it demands an honorable mention. Its most famous track, first in this compilation, feels straight out of a Castlevania game, whereas the second song here kicks off with more of a Mega Man vibe. All the while it is consistently driven by a forceful bass which really best defines the soundtrack. It is in large part the consequence of Hara and Kodaka landing on highly complimentary bass and drum tones which seem to mutually emphasize each other. The bass track is also much more complex in a lot of these songs than was typical for Nintendo music, and the dark, punchy vibe is perfectly suited for a Batman-themed action game.

Similarly, the frequent employment of Castlevania-style melodies is less a ripoff than a completely appropriate sound for the game. I mean, it could be a total coincidence that they sound alike at all. What is our hero here supposed to be again? Oh yeah, a bat.

Or it could be the case that Hara and Kodaka were avid fans of contemporary video game musicians and incorporated the best of every world with conscious intent. A lot of amazing works have derived from calculated stylistic fusions, and I would not rule out either possibility.

And then there is Mother (Nintendo, 1989). If you ever played Earthbound on the SNES, its music is etched into your memory whether you like it or not. Earthbound was the sequel, and Mother has still yet to be released outside of Japan today. I was a cool little middle school computer nerd who managed to get his hands on a fan-translated ROM, but having succeeded in acquiring it, I promptly lost all interest in actually playing it. It’s a shame, because now I am completely perplexed as to how these two games overlapped. The gameplay is literally identical to the SNES sequel, and I’m not wholly convinced that the plot is not as well. Likewise, quite a number of the songs of Earthbound first appear in Mother, including a lot of the battle themes. Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka remained partners for both titles, and there is hardly any break where one lets off and the other begins. The original was certainly one of the most unique compositions on the Nintendo, but the same can be said for its sequel on the SNES despite the music really not changing much.

This compilation is really one of garudoh’s weaker efforts, and I can’t easily provide you with many alternatives, so I may leave most of the Mother discussion for Earthbound when I get to it.

But on a final note, here is one of the revisited battle themes in its original form, just to give you an idea of how effective Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka’s drum and bass emphasis was even on a system as limited as the NES.