VGM Entry 63: Secret of Mana


VGM Entry 63: Secret of Mana
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

The Super Nintendo may have been video game music’s finest hour with or without them, but three soundtracks in particular carried this system to an unprecedented level of greatness which has really never been matched since. Each was composed by a different artist, and each was released by Square. The first of these was Secret of Mana.

Here is the track list for garudoh’s compilation:

(0:00) Angle’s Fear
(0:53) selection menu track not featured on the ost
(1:23) Into the Thick of It
(2:17) Colour of the Summer Sky
(2:55) Ceremony
(3:53) Star of Darkness
(4:46) Strange Event
(5:46) Spirit of the Night
(6:22) Eternal Recurrence
(7:29) The Sorcerer
(8:15) Leave Time for Love
(8:44) Dancing Beasts
(9:24) Calm Before the Storm

Hiroki Kikuta was brand new to the world of video game music when he scored Secret of Mana, released in 1993. (Called Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan, the game was technically the sequel to what we commonly know as Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy.) He had worked on the sound effects for Romancing SaGa in 1992, and beyond that he only had two animes to his credit (The Adventure of Robin Hood and The Legend of Snow White, both released in 1990.) Like the more famous Square composer whose 1995 composition would overshadow Kikuta, his work would emerge from pure inspiration, with almost no past experience upon which to build. He single-handedly made an otherwise fairly average game one of the most beloved titles on the system. I suppose average is an odd way to describe Secret of Mana–it was a very unique game within the adventure genre–but its success hinged entirely on the soundtrack. With limited plot potential and almost zero character development (the playable characters are named Boy, Girl, and Sprite for goodness sake), Secret of Mana‘s success was due entirely to Kikuta’s ability to bring the visual environment to life in fantastic ways.

garudoh chose some odd tracks for this compilation, and judging by the fact that some of the songs fade before they’re anywhere near looping (Leave Time for Love for instance) I have to assume he wasn’t personally very familiar with the music. I’ll offer you some additional tracks that didn’t make it into his mix.

Secret of Mana was a game about elements. This was not integrated in any sort of forced way, as with say, the crystals of earth, water, air, etc in the Final Fantasy series, but rather it was a natural consequence of the games strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I doubt anyone remembers why, plot-wise, you ever end up in a desert, but the experience of being there is a lasting memory.


Secret of the Arid Sands

Kikuta didn’t rely on any stereotypical reference points here. He didn’t give his music a Middle-Eastern vibe or any such nonsense. Instead he chose tones that actually reflected a visual experience of a desert. The accompaniment to the melody here flickers up and down from the bass of the music like boiling bubbles and mirages dancing off the desert sands. It’s largely in these world encounter zones, where the plot was least relevant, that Kikuta’s music is at its finest, because he was at liberty to paint a timeless musical image without any concern for the events taking place there.

This same idea of audio imagery really stands out to me in “Into the Thick of It” (1:23 in the garudoh video), where at the start the plucked sort of harpsichord-guitar line accented by the drum beat and displayed on the backdrop of a simple, confident bass and quiet but encompassing synth creates the image of a forest rushing by. (Much of the drumming is hard to find in the low bitrate youtube sample, with exaggerated alterations in volume obscuring the fact that the staccato metronome-sounding drum hits on every beat.) The bass and synth fill in the earth and sky; the drum sets things in motion; the plucked notes count off the passing tree trunks; the fuzzy guitarpsichord resonance depicts the myriad interwoven branches, tying each note into the next. However pretentious that may sound, and regardless of whether or not it reflects Kikuta’s intentions, I’ve always heard something roughly along these lines in this song. I want to clearly distinguish it from music which captures the sense of being in a forest. This doesn’t tap into emotional reactions to environments so much as it generates an actual physical image of the environment, supported by the game’s graphics proper, upon which the players can impose their own emotional values. It’s fantasy in the purest sense. As “Into the Thick of It” progresses the song flushes out into more obvious visions: woodwinds capturing the blowing breeze and rustling grass, bubbly staccato synth tones depicting passing streams. And this is precisely the graphic environment in which the song is employed.


What the Forests Taught Me

“Into the Thick of It”, where the player is rushing on ahead on a well established path, is nicely contrasted by “What the Forests Taught Me”, in which the game sets you in a much more secluded forest. Here the motion is removed, and you get a standing image of a forest clearing full of life. The calm is a bit more displaced from the gameplay, considering you’re hacking and slashing your way through, but this is entirely in keeping with Kikuta’s tendency in such plotless zones to score music descriptive of the visual environment and allow the players to attach their own value to the events taking place there.


A Wish

The sort of apex to this side of his soundtrack is “A Wish”, which plays in the winter forest combat zones. An environment blanketed in a single, neutral, stagnant substance, full of life but only subtly altered by its motion–Kikuta composed a track perfectly descriptive of what the player, upon taking a break from mechanical combat and visualizing themselves in this fantasy world, would experience. A lot of truly great musicians have attempted to capture this sort of situation–Sigur Rós and George Winston come to mind–but as the nature of video games dictates looping tracks, “A Wish” offers this vision in a uniquely and authentically eternal sort of way.

The mental images in a work of fantasy are not always natural, and for Secret of Mana‘s darker side Kikuta needed to get pretty creative. “Ceremony” (2:55) and “The Sorcerer” (7:29) represent the game’s darkest moments, and the former, though not my favorite track, might be his finest accomplishment in the mix. In a score through which the player is accustomed to deriving physical imagery, Ceremony’s twisted patterns and displaced tones take on added weight. There is nothing natural to latch onto here–no coherent vision, just some disturbing, chaotic mass. It’s got to be one of the creepiest video game songs out there, second on the SNES only to the Final Battle music of EarthBound by Hirokazu Tanaka. “The Sorcerer” is just as if not more disturbing, made only slightly less intimidating in practice by the distraction of having to actually fight a boss while it’s playing.


Steel and Snare

One thing you may have noticed listening through garudoh’s mix is Kikuta’s tendency towards hard-hitting, dominant percussion. It’s one of his strongest consistencies, tying a wide variety of musical styles together under a common feature, and on one of my other favorite tracks, “Steel and Snare”, he really lets it all out. This is one of those songs I’ve wanted to cover in a rock band since the first time I ever heard it, and I remember having the whole thing worked out on bass at one point in my life (along with Meridian Dance; this never really crossed my mind before, but when I first bought a bass it was always Hiroki Kikuta and Ryuji Sasai that I turned to.) The music again drives the setting of the game, with the continuous tone in the background simulating the air around the floating castle, and the drum and bass track giving all of the enemies a decidedly mechanical feel. I don’t actually know that they -were- mechanical. I don’t remember what they looked like precisely. But whatever they were meant to be, the music dictated my memory of the scene.

I’ll leave you with one last song:


Premonition

I’ve managed to maintain this as my ringtone for well over a decade, and it’s become such a continuous occurrence in my daily life that I don’t think I can even intelligibly discuss it in the context of the game anymore, but I was in love with it when I first heard it and I still am now. I suppose I should have featured Meridian Dance here instead, as it seems a bit silly to ignore Secret of Mana‘s most epic track through all this, but I’d rather draw attention to the less commonly featured great ones anyway. Enjoy.

First Impression: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Episode 2 “Starved For Help”


Telltale Games released the first episode in their adventure game The Walking Dead months ago. Due to some of their past titles not panning out despite hype from the studio this time around it seems like Telltale may have finally found their groove with this game set in the zombie apocalypse world created by critically-acclaimed comic book author Robert Kirkman. With the first episode, A New Day, the company was able to capture the chaos and danger of the early days that was only hinted at in the comic book and in the AMC tv series.

That first episode introduced gamers to the two main characters that would be the focus of this horror-adventure title. Lee Everett and Clementine were characters rare in licensed video games in that they’re original to the title and also one of the better written and realized fictional characters in gaming. The first episode did a great job in setting up these two characters and the world that some thought the problems that has plagued Telltale Games with their episodic titles would pop up once more: great beginnings that would fizzle out with each new episode.

I’m happy to say that episode 2, Starved For Help, doesn’t fall in Telltale Games’ past pattern. In fact, this latest episode in the game actually builds on the strength of the first episode and improves upon what made it fun and very good while minimizing some of the flaws with that initial episode. We find Lee, Clementine and the survivors of the first episode (how a player made their decisions on who lives or dies in the first episode will determine the roster for episode 2) still at the motel complex from the first episode. They’ve been largely kept safe at their makeshift haven but the prospect of dwindling supplies has forced Lee and the group to venture out into the surrounding forest to forage for food. It’s during one such foraging mission that the group comes across another group that would kick-off the story for Starved For Help.

Telltale Games doesn’t try to recap too much of the first episode in this follow-up, but does let the dialogue between Lee and others remind gamers about their decisions in the first episode and how it has affected the situation Lee and his group has itself in. The addition of some new members to the group doesn’t feel forced but actually feel quite welcome as it helps keep the growing rift between two factions in the group from becoming too static. In fact, this episode actually makes some of the decisions made by characters we initially found to be on our side to be counter-productive and dangerous while those who came off as too rigid and confrontational end up being more sympathetic.

It’s during these dialogue sequences where players once again have a timed-limit to make their dialogue choices and decisions that The Waling Deadcontinue to impress. Once again players must make their dialogue-choices from four choices that doesn’t really come off as evil, good, indifferent, etc. It’s up to the player to determine just exactly which dialogue answer best fit the sort of game they’re playing. I’ve played through both episodes trying out myriad of choices available to me and with each and every different choices the game plays out much differently, but still continues to straddle the grey area. There’s no good or bad decision and it’s what makes this game’s dialogue-mechanic so much better than most games that use something similar.

The action part of the episode has some tweaks to QTE (quick time event) combat mechanic that makes targeting a tad better than what was available in the first episode, but this part of the game still remains the weakest link in what has so far been a stellar game. After just two episode I wouldn’t be surprised if most fans of the title just wish for the QTE’s to go away and let actions in future episode be determined by dialogue choices. It would definitely help keep the gamer’s from being pulled out of the narrative immersion they find themselves in.

Starved For Help is a great example of how a studio can learn from it’s past mistakes and improve on the template they’ve decided on from the beginning. Even the story that unfolds in episode 2 is a huge improvement from the first episode that was very good to begin with. We see Telltale Games handle the themes of survival vs living, moral grey areas in an apocalyptic world and survival at the cost of others with deft hands that best exemplifies what has been great about the comic book series. There’s been times when the narrative in the game actually comes off as more subtle and less exposition-heay than Kirkman’s own writing which for some is an improvement in itself.

With two episode now released it’s going to be interesting if Telltale Games can continue their new found groove of keeping things consistently good to great which their past games didn’t seem to have. Now three episodes remain and from the ending of episode 2 the group has found a new reprieve from their dire problem of low supplies, but at a cost that may come back to haunt Lee, Clementine and others.

Episode 1: A New Day

VGM Entry 12: Zelda and Dragon Quest


VGM Entry 12: Zelda and Dragon Quest
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Two fantasy-style games in 1986 achieved massive retail success and thereby brought the genre to the attention of the masses. These, it should be fairly obvious, were The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo) and Dragon Quest (Enix). Both games are likewise frequently cited among the most important soundtracks for the Famicom/NES. I think this can be a bit misleading.

The Legend of Zelda had a truly epic main theme, with which Koji Kondo almost certainly surpassed his work in Super Mario Bros. Whether it was the best video game song written up to that point is really a matter of personal preference; it is not as though it had no competition. Regardless, this was the first installment of Nintendo’s second major franchise gaming series, and the sort of anthem Koji Kondo was able to craft for Link had enormous marketing benefits. It’s not as though lead characters in Nintendo’s games became popular out of the shear force of the company’s good name. No one really remembers say, Professor Hector (Gyromite and Stack-Up) or Mr. Stevenson (Gumshoe). If Link was going to become a franchise character, he was going to need a theme song, and in that regard Koji Kondo pulled through once again.

What else did The Legend of Zelda have going for it musically? Well… very little. I mean, the Underground Level theme (3:18) is pretty cool–all 18 seconds of it. It reminds me of some of Uematsu and Mitsuda’s later works. But there just isn’t much else to this game. The title screen and overworld theme are variations on the same (awesome) melody. Death Mountain (3:48) sounds like it was thrown together in five minutes, and the ending theme (1:42), while catchy, is simply in the wrong game. It is Mario music.

Koji Kondo is one of the most important figures in the history of video game music, no doubt about it, but the bar had not been raised quite so high on the NES in 1986 as it had been in the home computing world. Thus The Legend of Zelda sounds great within the context of its system, but a little primitive in the larger scope of things.

The interesting thing about Dragon Quest to my western ears is that the game series was never all that hot here. I seem to recall reading at the time of Dragon Quest VIII‘s Japanese release–and we’re talking 2004 so I may be very much mistaken–that the game franchise had sold more copies than Final Fantasy. At any rate, it is important to recognize that this series was huge in Japan. The original Dragon Quest formalized nearly every stereotype of traditional RPGs. This video should make that fairly clear, and it’s pretty significant to note that this was not a product of Eastern adventure/RPG traditions. Yuji Horii took his inspiration from the Ultima and Wizardy series on the Apple II, and it’s at this point that the two genres really diverge. Japan would become the centerpoint of both Eastern and Western traditions, and just a Legend of Zelda served as the quintessential starting point for the modern adventure game, Dragon Quest permanently defined the RPG.

Like The Legend of Zelda‘s overworld theme, Dragon Quest‘s title theme became a series staple, but “Overture March” took quite a while to grow on me. A good many other ears might hear delicious nostalgia, but its quality does not immediately jump out at me. It’s really how Koichi Sugiyama continually developed and improved upon it in future games that makes the original fun to revisit. The rest of the soundtrack was, like Ultima III and Ultima IV, perfectly well suited for the RPG experience, and wider distribution meant that Sugiyama would be much more influential in standardizing this approach. I would be shocked if “Unknown World” (1:40) did not heavily influence Nobuo Uematsu. It could be a chiptune take on a Final Fantasy VII track, and it’s quite pleasant. Still, and unlike Kenneth W. Arnold’s works, the original soundtrack does have its flaws. The combat music (2:22) is terrible, grating on the ears on the first listen let alone after the constant encounters one expects in an RPG.

But in setting the standards for the series he would faithfully continue to compose for the next twenty five years (the man is now 81 years old and still making music), Koichi Sugiyama also set the standard for what RPGs should sound like. The standard was already in practice, as I hope I have shown, but the enormous influence that the Dragon Quest series would have on video games in Japan probably prevented a lot of deviation from this norm in the future. And much to Koichi Sugiyama’s credit, the music definitely improved over time. Dragon Quest II, released by Enix in January 1987, less than a year after the series debut, would retain the original’s best tracks while replacing the obvious duds with significant improvements.

By Dragon Quest III (Enix, 1988), Koichi Sugiyama had firmly established himself as one of the best RPG composers of the 1980s. His emphasis on continuity and improvement of past works rather than wholly original soundtracks allowed each game to feel both refreshing and entirely familiar. In the cases of the best tracks, the changes are barely even noticeable. “Overture March” in Dragon Quest III begins almost identically to the original for instance. The melody is a little more staccato, and that’s it. If it’s not broke, why fix it?

I don’t know that I would call either The Legend of Zelda or Dragon Quest great soundtracks. The Legend of Zelda contained an especially great song, but I feel like allowing one song to carry a game was beginning to be a cop-out by 1986. Dragon Quest formed a more complex whole, and it’s definitely closer to excellence, but I feel like it still lets the shortcoming of the NES get the better of it at times in sound selection for what were certainly wonderful melodies. It’s also got the Combat theme to deal with, and such a reoccurring flaw is hard to ignore. Koichi Sugiyama would continually improve, and Koji Kondo too would be stepping up his game before the Famicom expired, particularly with Super Mario Bros. 2 in 1988.

VGM Entry 10: The RPG


VGM Entry 10: The RPG
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

The music of Super Mario Bros. was also somewhat unique in that it merged flawlessly with a game which had nothing to do with sports or space aliens. The electronic nature of early video game music generated futuristic sounds, and a whole ton of early games being space shooters, the music naturally lent itself to synthesis. Konami’s 1983 space shooter Gyruss is a perfect example of a harmonized audiovisual experience of this sort. But good synthesis also meant stylistic relativity. Not every game on the market involved shooting down space invaders, outrunning enemies through a maze, or bashing in faces with a pixilated club. Many innovative new ideas were in the works which would require a very different sort of soundtrack.

The style of most lasting consequence for video game music was the adventure/role playing game, and it has an extensive history. Link did not spring forth from the head of Shigeru Miyamoto clad in shining armor, and someone somewhere out there still goes around telling people that he was larping as Legolas years before this fancy shmancy new “Dungeons & Dragons” game came along. I think it correct to say that The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest, both released in 1986, were respectively the first adventure game and the first RPG to have massive market success, but both distinct styles emerged from long-standing traditions, and their music was a sort of natural consequence of the nature of the games, not a single individual’s revolutionary new idea.

All joking aside, if you want to go all the way back, you really do have to look at D&D. The first computer RPGs were under construction less than a year after the pen and paper game’s initial publication (TSR, 1974), and they were directly inspired by it and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. These were private affairs, designed by programmers in their spare time, and there were quite a few of them. Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood’s dnd, Rusty Rutherford’s pedit5, and Don Daglow’s Dungeon seem to be the most frequently cited surviving 1974-1976 creations, and there are plenty of rumors of slightly earlier lost works.

A lot of the features of “traditional” video RPGs are direct descendents of tabletop games. They evolved fairly linearly, reaching a proto-modern format by the time of Richard Garriott’s Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (California Pacific) and Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead’s Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (Sir-tech Software), both released for the Apple II in 1981.

RPG-esque evolutions in Japan were far more diverse, but perhaps a bit less exciting. With no D&D tradition rendering particular game features canonical from the very beginning, developers were more experimental, merging all sorts of features from western RPGs, simulations, strategy games, and standard action types. The earliest examples are quite difficult to find samples of, perhaps in part because of the language barrier, but the tradition does appear to have begun a bit later than in the west. Koji Sumii’s Bokosuka Wars, released by ASCII for the Sharp X1 home computer in 1983, is an interesting example of a strategy game set in a Zelda-esque overworld of forests, mountains, and castle walls.

Yoshio Kiya’s Dragon Slayer, released for the PC-8801 by Nihon Falcom in 1984, is a more obvious inspiration for The Legend of Zelda, with its strong emphasis on puzzle solving, though the graphics are deplorable for its time and the sound a travesty. (Scott Joplin? Really?) But whatever their flaws, these games were the prototypes. They set the stage for great things to come. And at least in the west, RPG music would appear on the stage in fairly perfected form in the first instance.

First Impression: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Episode 1 “A New Day”


When I first heard that Robert Kirkman’s horror comic book series, The Walking Dead, was being turned into a video game I was a bit leery. I’m a huge fan of the comics and, despite some unevenness in it’s storytelling, also a fan of the tv adaptation on AMC. I’ve even bought and read the novel based on the comic book that details the early backstory of one of the series’ iconic characters. So, when it was announced that Telltale Games was going to make a game out of the series I was intrigued, but also worried.

Was the property being milked for everything it was worth to the point that it was reaching oversaturation?

As the months ticked by I read up on updates and news on Telltale Games and its plan for the series. It was going to be based on the comic book and not the tv show. While it won’t follow the characters from the comic book the game will still use some of those characters in cameos that the game’s new lead characters will intersect with. I was all for this but I was still hesitant to fully buy into the game until I actually played the first episode in what was going to be an episodic game totaling 5 distinct episodes.

Episode 1, titled “A New Day”, has been released and over the course of a couple hours in one night I’ve played through the episode and my first impression of Telltale Games’ The Walking Deadis a very positive one.

The game actually begins with the lead character of Lee Everett in the back of a police car being driven to a prison outside of Atlanta. We find out early on that Lee has been convicted of murder, but through conversations with the police officer in the car we get hints that he may not be the bad man his conviction labels him as. The game uses these early minutes of the game to give players a simple instructional on how the controls work and the manner in which players can choose how Lee should answer the person he’s speaking to.

Before one could get comfortable with the game’s control mechanics the story crashes headlong into the horror aspect of the game.

The game doesn’t skimp on the horror and tension the player will experience and this episode does a fine way of making the simplistic controls become part of making encounters with the living dead be very tense and terrifying. Most video games tend to make their controls very precise and accurate, but here the controls are just imprecise enough and timed to make zombie encounters not so simple. Even the action tend to serve the narrative instead of breaking away from it. This is not a game that caters to the action junkies, but more to those who value story, characters and emotion first and foremost.

“A New Day” also introduces the second lead that would become part of Lee’s main story: 8-year-old Clementine.

If there’s been a big criticism of the show based on the comic books it’s that the kids on the show have either been clueless, useless, or dangerous. Clementine from my first impressions based on this first episode seem to be the opposite of tv show Sophia and Carl. She’s resourceful, tougher than she looks but still retains enough of her innocence even after seeing the early days of the zombie apocalypse hit her close to home. The interactions between Lee and Clementine is turning out to be this game’s core and how players treat Clementine looks to affect how future episodes turn out.

That’s where the game truly stands out for me even with just this first episode being the only one released, so far. The story and how Lee interacts with his young charge and other survivors he meets up determines how the episode plays out. Play like a compassionate Lee and people will trust Lee and help him out. Play like a silent, enigmatic tough guy and some characters will accept him while others will be suspicious. A great aspect of this game’s narrative is that throughout this first episode (I’m guessing in the other future episodes as well) the player is put in a situation where he has to make Lee decide which two people he has to save from the zombies. The fact that every character doesn’t come off as one-dimensional that making these life or death decisions truly becomes tough.

Telltale Games has done a great job with this episode to lay down the oft-used theme of human drama and conflict in the face of the apocalypse. While it’s nothing new in zombie literature when it comes to the theme of human survivors being as much a dangers to other humans as the zombies with this episode we’re not hit over the head with it. We get some tense interactions between Lee and particular survivors, but nothing that boils over into outright violence. There’s enough distrust introduced with this first episode that we get a sense of danger from within not just from the outside.

I played the game on my Xbox 360 and the graphics is not super-high quality. What the developers do end up doing is giving the game a nice comic book art-like aesthetic which further puts it in line with the comic book series and not the tv show. For a price of $4.99 (400 MS Points) The Walking Dead: Episode 1is worth the price even if a player can easily breeze through it in just a couple hours. It’s how choices (both dialogue and action) made in the game changes the storyline that gives this first episode long-term re-playability. I’ve already done two playthroughs and with each one I’ve made different choices which clearly changed how certain characters acted towards me and how certain scenes unfolded.

So far, Telltale Games has done a great job with The Walking Deadand if this first episode was any indication then players will definitely be waiting for the future episodes with anticipation.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (Trailer)


Since this weekend has turned into Green Lantern weekend due to the promotional blitz by Warner Brothers to hype up it’s upcoming live-action film of the same title I would be remiss not to include as part of his hype the upcoming animated film from Warner Premiere and DC Animation: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.

This latest in DC animated films (all of which have been good to great. Not a stinker in them) is an anthology film which takes six stories of the greatest Green Lanterns and links them to the current danger threatening the Guardians (creator of the Green Lantern Corps), the GL Corps and the universe itself.

Before this weekend’s WonderCon footage for the live-action was shown I was more excited for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights than I was for the Ryan Reynolds live-action. It had a great voice cast with Nathan Fillion (fans’ first choice for live-action Hal Jordan) as Hal Jordan with Elisabeth Moss, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Hu, Henry Rollins and Steve Blum rounding out the ensemble cast.

I think with the batting average of the DC Animation being quite high I have high hopes that Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will follow in the footsteps of it’s predecessor and have critical and general success.

Green Lantern: WonderCon Exclusive Footage


I posted just recently that Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment had been dropping the ball when it came to promoting their upcoming superhero action-adventure film slated for this summer blockbuster season. Green Lantern had its first teaser released around November of 2010 and the reception to that trailer was lukewarm at best and dismissal of the film at it’s most vocal.

It’s been almost 4 months since that disastrous attempt at promoting what would be Warner Brothers’ biggest film of the 2011. It looks like Warner Brothers and those in charge of promoting their films may have just learned a valuable lesson in releasing promotion materials when footage needed to spice it up for the target audience is not ready.

WonderCon 2011 at San Francisco has become Green Lantern central as the studios in charge of the film have released not just a kickass official theatrical poster for the film, but a 9-minute sizzle reel for those lucky enough to get a seat in the film’s panel at the Esplanade Ballroom at Moscone Center South. For those who weren’t able to see that 9-min footage the people at Warner Brothers have been gracious enough to release an abridged 4min and 3 second version into the interwebs for everyone to witness.

Even just looking at this abridged version of the WonderCon-exclusive footage has helped in dispelling much of my apprehension towards the success and workability of this film as a live-action blockbuster. The footage goes a long way in setting the tone of the film. Green Lantern has always been part of the cosmic tapestry of the overall DC Universe and the filmmakers seem to have found a way to show that epic cosmic side of the character and do it without making it look cheesy (though some of the CGI effects on the non-human members of the Green Lantern Corps could still use much tuning up).

Except for the part where Jordan is trying to figure out the Green Lantern oath in his living room the footage seems very serious in tone with little comedic beats like the teaser. I would hope that the film does have some comedic beats to it since this is Ryan Reynolds and early Hal Jordan wasn’t always the serious, gloomy gus he turned out later on in his Green Lantern run.

Green Lantern is slated for a June 17, 2011 release.