The perfect way to begin a video game

There are many ways to begin something, but these games are iconic for a reason

There are many ways to begin something.

Whether you open your story with a large monologue with story exposition, a slow reveal of your protagonist or antagonist, or dropping into level one immediately, there are many things a story can do from there to make it great or not so great.

For some of the greatest games ever though, the perfect way to begin the game starts at the main menu.

Now I know most games begin at the main menu, but the added element of the game’s main theme and the air of mystery provided by the menu art and score combines to create the perfect gaming experience from jump street.


I’m going to wind the clocks back to 2002 to begin this one:

To nobody’s surprise, this blog will mention Kingdom Hearts. It’s been 21 years since the original game came out and believe me, I wouldn’t still be obsessing over this series if it weren’t for the main menu, theme song, and the game’s opening.

Following a few white screens displaying the Disney and Square Enix (originally SquareSoft) logos and some branding disclaimers, we hear the soft crashing of waves paired with an image of Sora, our main protagonist, looking out into the horizon, with our game title and our starting options menu below.

The fact that I can still boot this game up 21 years later and still have the same emotional connection to it is what makes it amazing. The title screens for the rest of the series continued this trend, but the original one perfectly captures what the series is about.

Sora dreams of worlds outside the Destiny Islands. He wields a stick, not knowing he’d soon be wielding the legendary Keyblade and defending all the worlds from darkness. All while the calming waves crash and put your mind to an ease knowing you’re about to begin a journey of some kind.

Backgrounding the beautiful title screen is the series’ main theme: Dearly Beloved written by the legendary Yoko Shimomura. The original iteration of this song perfectly captures the comfort of home with an air of mystery that begs the question: “If I leave home, will I ever be able to return?

Then, as we hit “New Game” and choose our settings, we’re brought to our CG opening movie, soundtracked with Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru, not before Sora reads the classic line “I’ve been having these weird thoughts lately…Like, is any of this for real…or not?”

The game then begins at the Station of Awakening, a stained-glass pillar with an image of Snow White from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The strange and mysterious opening to a strange and mysterious concept combining Disney and elements of Final Fantasy couldn’t have started any better.

The vibe of the entire first Kingdom Hearts game is basically a comforting mystery with the thought that you may not get to return home once it’s all said and done. You can’t go back to a world before Kingdom Hearts either.

Sora and his friends want to leave their home, but once his world falls to darkness and he learns he must protect the rest of the worlds, there’s sort of a somber realization that he may never return to the Destiny Islands again. Of course, since it’s a series, there are answers to the previous sentence’s concerns. But the opening for the original game perfectly captures the journey we’re about to go on and how it’ll make us feel.

Enjoy the rest of the iterations of Dearly Beloved below before I continue with the next game:


The next game that has a perfect title screen, with a perfect soundtrack backing, and the perfect encapsulation of the game you’re about to play is the other game that I’ve talked about most on the blog for the last couple of months.

The Last of Us is clearly at the forefront of everyone’s minds considering the first two episodes of the HBO show have been spectacular in capturing the original game’s essence to a T, while also adding in fantastic world-building elements in the background.

But we’re winding the clocks back to 2013 here. Forget what you know about Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey’s Joel and Ellie. Forget that you know all about cordyceps and clickers. Go back to a time you’re booting up this new Naughty Dog game on your PS3 for the first time.

The game boots up with the Sony and Naughty Dog logos on black screens while crickets and outdoorsy ambient sounds play in the background. Then the title card flashes The Last of Us before cutting to black again.

Then as an image slowly fades in on screen, a soft and somber melody by Gustavo Santaolalla rises into the acoustic guitar riff that has become synonymous with arguably the greatest story ever told in gaming.

The image we see is a window with nice-looking white curtains waving from a breeze blowing through an open window. However, the window isn’t naturally ajar. The glass has broken and plant overgrowth is starting to pour in from the outside.

While a calming sunlight is peeking through the window, we notice the dingy walls and the knife stuck in the wooden window frame. This is our key that this game is going to tell us a story about the deviation of normal life, and boy, does it do that and then some.

Santaolalla’s score is the perfect blend of sounds to make you feel both comforted and painfully alone all at the same time. In the world of The Last of Us, that is how every survivor of the cordyceps epidemic feels. But at the heart of it, we have Joel and Ellie. A former father not wanting to open himself back up to the pain of being human and a young girl that can provide the spark of life not only in Joel, but to the whole world.

The title screen perfectly captures the game we’re about to experience. It’s the deviation of comfort. The deviation of normalcy. The solitude. The sadness. But also, the spark of hope. The sunlight. The knife that shows we’re going to fight our way through this horrible world. It’s all just perfect.

When you hit “New Game,” the game introduces us to Joel and his daughter Sarah on Joel’s birthday. What follows is a classic opening that introduces you to the chaos of a global pandemic spreading too quickly and then it rips your heart out.

The second game and the TV series follow suit. I’m extremely glad they brought back Santaolalla to score the HBO series as well because nobody could do it better. This game will live on forever for its storytelling, its score, its emotions, and its opening.

To close out this section, enjoy some of Santaolalla’s best:


We’re winding the clocks back to 1998 with this next one!

It’s crazy to believe how far we’ve come from the era of the Nintendo 64. You can look back at gameplay or even blow the dust out of those game cartridges yourself today, but you can never seem to recapture the experience of playing it for the first time again.

But this one game transcends time with its opening title sequence. Time being the key word since the next perfect opening to a game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

I’ve mentioned Breath of the Wild, on this blog before. While I (and many others) think Breath of the Wild is the greatest game in the Zelda series, the title sequence for BOTW simply doesn’t have what OOT has.

Following the classic boot-up logo for the Nintendo 64, we hear the galloping of horse hooves as the black screen fades into a mountain ridge side with the moon descending from the sky.

Then, we hear the soft melodic title theme composed by the legendary Koji Kondo and we see our hero, Link, gallop across the screen on Epona as the sun rises. Then, our game’s title appears as Link and Epona stop for a pose and then continue on.

As this was the first 3D title in the Zelda series, this title screen meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. After a 5-year gap in storytelling, the Zelda series was introduced to a much larger audience with its technical marvels and beautiful music.

Since the game was in 3D, on the console of the era, and had wide open environments to interact with, this opening was absolutely perfect. It emerges from the darkness and announces itself in a quietly beautiful way. Then, with the music playing, we get a hint that the Ocarina of Time and music itself will play a major factor in this story.

With the Kingdom of Hyrule ready for us to explore it, this title sequence makes its way into the opening of the game. After you press start, the camera makes its way into Kokiri Forest where we find Link, the Great Deku Tree, and Navi the fairy. From there, an epic journey through a vast kingdom, time, and an unforgettable soundtrack begins.

So listen to Navi and “LISTEN” to Kondo’s best as we look forward to the next entry in the Zelda series this year:


The final game I’ll discuss is from 1997 with a remake from 2020 to bring a new audience to world of fantasy.

Without the success of SquareSoft/Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII, it’s hard to imagine Kingdom Hearts, The Last of Us, or even Ocarina of Time even happening. Certainly not Kingdom Hearts since the director of that series, Tetsuya Nomura, was the character designer and story director for Final Fantasy VII.

However, the story of Final Fantasy VII changed the landscape for how video games are presented to gamers. They’re not just mindless polygons fulfilling the needs of short attention spans. Video games are an incomparable medium to experience stories on.

Final Fantasy VII is a flag carrier for video games in general and who knows if it would’ve worked if the title screen wasn’t as iconic as it was?

The opening song to the game is titled Prelude and gaming’s most legendary composer–Nobuo Uematsu– transports us to the world of Gaia.

Following the typical PlayStation 1 boot-up screen and the SquareSoft logo, Prelude begins as we see an Opening Credits screen for the game’s creators.

Before the game begins, we have a title sequence opening like a movie would. We see all these names behind what we’re about to play…but why? If you don’t want to read all the credits of the people, you press X and are then taken to a nearly all-black screen with the iconic Buster Sword in the middle, wedged into stone as if it has been used for the final time.

What’s so great about this opening is that it tells us all about the cinematic gaming experience we’re about to have. Nothing like Final Fantasy VII had happened to that point, so to see a game begin with a long line of credits showing the amount of people behind this masterpiece was just different, but in a great way.

Uematsu’s score provides us a magical comfort but with a mystery to what we’re going to experience. Then, before we play the game, we see the Buster Sword as if it’s our last bastion of calm before we delve into the world of the evil Shinra Corporation, SOLDIERs, the mysterious Mako substance, and gaming’s greatest villain: Sephiroth.

After you hit “New Game,” the iconic opening continues with the Bombing Mission score beginning softly as we’re introduced to Aerith, the vast city of Midgar, and our hero–Cloud–as he leaps off a train and poses on the Sector 8 train platform. The rest was history.

This game itself was legendary enough to get the modern touch to it. 2020’s Final Fantasy VII: Remake was an amazing retelling of the classic story with modern updates and graphics. But, how can you remake an opening that had so much meaning behind it?

Well, you can’t.

Final Fantasy VII: Remake‘s title screen is identical. Remastered Prelude, remastered Buster Sword, but the emotion and imagery are the same.

Once you hit “New Game” on Remake, the iconic opening is redone beautifully, with some added scenes to show that this updated Midgar, and outer world of Gaia, is sprawling with life.

Enjoy some of Uematsu’s best before I wrap this thing up:


There are many more games that have similar openings or ones that also convey the perfect audio visual embodiment of what you’re about to play. But these four are some of my favorite games of all-time because their title screens and opening scenes still send chills down my spine.

Every playthrough of each game, I pause at the title screen for a second to take in the beauty of each. The journeys taken in each of these games all began with beautiful title screens, beautiful music, and iconic openings.

As I said above, there are many ways to begin things. But in my eyes, there’s only one perfect way to begin a video game and these four games did that.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know why!

~DS

Phineas Nigellus Black in Hogwarts Legacy bridges the gap between page and screen

For fans of the Harry Potter books, this will be the first time Phineas is fleshed out in visual media.

Another day, another blog about Hogwarts Legacy!

What can I say? I’m pretty damn excited! Especially since it was announced that Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, & more) will be portraying Phineas Nigellus Black in Hogwarts Legacy!

The above video is a little featurette on how Pegg came to be Phineas and how he behaves as a character within the game. As Pegg says himself, it’s only right that the long line of British acting royalty that has starred in the Harry Potter films continues with him and his video game performance. I also enjoy that despite Pegg doing the voice for Phineas, the in-game model strikes a resemblance to Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black, which makes familial sense.

Simon Pegg’s Phineas Nigellus Black in “Hogwarts Legacy” (left) and Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black in the “Harry Potter” films (right)

For fans of the Harry Potter books however, this will be the first time Phineas is fleshed out in visual media and that has me extremely excited.

Within Potter lore, Black was a Slytherin and became Headmaster of Hogwarts from the late 1800s until his death in 1925. He is the Great-Great-Grandfather of not only Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s godfather, but also Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange.

Phineas Nigellus Black (misspelled “Phineus”) on the Black Family Tree within 12 Grimmauld Place in the film version of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”(2007)

Sirius is quoted in the Order of the Phoenix book describing Phineas as the “least popular Headmaster Hogwarts ever had.” The Hogwarts Legacy video and the quotes from the book prove that as the last Slytherin Headmaster before Snape within the Potter books, Black isn’t fond of school children nor their aspirations as young witches and wizards. I imagine this will be cause for some funny interactions within the game.

I wanted to talk a bit more about why the inclusion of Phineas within Hogwarts Legacy is a big deal though. For me, it’s because he was almost completely omitted from the Harry Potter films despite having a very significant role in the novels.

Phineas Nigellus Black is first introduced to us in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix novel. A painting of the former Hogwarts Headmaster graces the walls of the home of the Black family, muttering snarky comments toward Harry, his friends, and the Order while they live at 12 Grimmauld Place.

Later on in the novel, Harry learns that there’s a portrait of Phineas amongst the many portraits of old Headmasters of Hogwarts in Dumbledore’s office. Phineas is able to travel between his portrait at Grimmauld Place and Dumbledore’s office to commune messages and report findings between the Order and Dumbledore.

Phineas is the one who checks to see if Arthur Weasley had made it home from the Ministry the night he was attacked by Nagini. Phineas is able to not only confirm the legitimacy of the snake attack but also communicate to the Order that Arthur was in critical condition.

If it weren’t for Phineas, Harry’s frightening vision may not have been communicated quickly enough to save Mr. Weasley in time.

Dumbledore speaks with the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black in the film version of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007)

Phineas also warns the Order to head to the Ministry of Magic at the end of the book to help rescue Harry and his friends from the Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. He has a cantankerous interaction with Harry before this happens:

Phineas Nigellus: I have a message for you from Albus Dumbledore.
Harry Potter: What is it?
Phineas: Stay where you are.
Harry: I haven’t moved! So what’s the message?
Phineas: I have just given it to you, dolt. Stay where you are.
Harry: Why? Why does he want me to stay? What else did he say?
Phineas: Nothing whatsoever.
 Harry: So that’s it, is it? ‘Stay where you are?’ That’s all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors too. Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won’t bother telling you anything, though, because your tiny little brain won’t be able to cope with it!
    Phineas: You know, this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet lead you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognise danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realise what the Dark Lord may be planning –
  Harry: He is planning something to do with me, then?
  Phineas: Did I say that? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do than listening to adolescent agonising… good-day to you.

Harry Potter and Phineas Nigellus Black argue in the novel version of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In the film version of OOTP, Phineas’ lone scene is the “Mr. Weasley” scene, however, it’s his only appearance in any of the film versions of Harry Potter. We don’t even see him speak to Dumbledore in the scene.

Even in one of the most iconic scenes from both the novel and the movie, Phineas’ line from the novel is given to Kingsley Shacklebolt (played by George Harris) in the film. While I fully support the Kingsley line change, it was actually Phineas who says it in the book.

Phineas also displays sadness for the death of Sirius at the end of Order of the Phoenix. While he constantly complained about his great-great-grandson, a portrait was actually disturbed and saddened by the loss of its subject’s descendent.

“‘Am I to understand […] that my great-great-grandson – the last of the Blacks – is dead?’…He would walk, perhaps, from portrait to portrait, calling for Sirius throughout the house.”

Phineas Nigellus Black learning the news of the passing of Sirius Black in the “Order of the Phoenix” book.

Phineas returns most prominently in the final Potter novel: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

In the seventh book, Phineas’ portrait accompanies Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s quest to find and destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes in order to defeat the Dark Lord.

Hermione shoves the portrait into her small beaded bag, which is charmed with an undetectable extension spell.

Mary GrandPré illustration of Hermione with Phineas’ portrait from the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” novel.

As a mode of precaution, Hermione stows the portrait away so that the current Hogwarts Headmaster, Severus Snape, couldn’t be reported to on their whereabouts. Little did Hermione know that Snape was actually a very good man and assisted Harry, Ron, and Hermione while under the guise of a Death Eater.

Snape conjures his Doe Patronus to guide Harry toward Godric Gryffindor’s sword in the Forest of Dean about halfway through the book. While the events of the movie play out identically with the Silver Doe, what isn’t a part of the film version is that it is Phineas’ portrait that tells Snape exactly where Harry and Hermione are on Christmas Eve.

Snape, further proving he’s a good man, even corrects Phineas on his use of the word “Mudblood” when talking about Hermoine.

Phineas Nigellus: “Headmaster! They are camping in the Forest of Dean! The Mudblood —”
Severus Snape: “Do not use that word!”

Phineas Nigellus Black revealing the whereabouts of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Muggle-born Hermione Granger to Professor Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Without the Sword, Harry couldn’t have started destroying the Horcruxes that kept Voldemort alive. Without Phineas, Snape wouldn’t have been able to deliver the Sword. Thus, without Phineas, Voldemort wouldn’t have met his demise.

While there are many plot aspects in the Potter books that are much better than the films (the WORST change being: Harry snapping the Elder Wand in the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 film rather than fixing his own broken wand with the Elder Wand in the final book), one of the key omissions was Phineas Nigellus Black.

Ludo Bagman in the “Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup” video game. The only visual adaptation of Bagman beyond the books.

I can forgive the massive omissions of Ludo Bagman and Winky the House Elf from the Goblet of Fire film. (Funnily enough, Bagman only appeared in the Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup video game from 2003, but this blog isn’t about him.) Sure, I can get over the lack of Lupin in the Deathly Hallows film adaptations as well. But one of the key characters that assists in the demise of Voldemort was completely left out of the film versions of the Potter series.

Getting to see Phineas Nigellus Black fleshed out as a living character in Hogwarts Legacy is a welcome bonus to what seems to be an amazing game. We finally get to experience a visual and interactive version of one of the more noble members of the Ancient House of Black.

We finally have a Potter character that can live beyond the page, long after the written series has finished.

~DS

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2023

2023 is filled to the brim with amazing video game releases, here are my most anticipated!

It feels like 2018 all over again.

The year that housed great video game releases like God of War, Red Dead Redemption II, Spyro: The Reignited Trilogy, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Marvel’s Spider-Man and more, was an absolutely unforgettable one!

I spent much of my time playing through all of these titles and unfortunately, some of them overlapped with the releases of the others. It seems in 2023, the best games of the year will be quite spaced out, but based on the sheer scale of each, I may not be completely finished with one by the time another comes out!

Either way, I will be playing A LOT of games in 2023. Here’s my Top 5 list of my most anticipated games for next year:

Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy XVI (6/22/23)

This game is set to bring back what makes the Final Fantasy series, well, a fantasy series.

Taking the live battle action that has revolutionized the series from Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII: Remake, FF16 looks like an incredible game, filled with legendary battles and an intense storyline about bloodlines, revenge, and claims to a throne.

Judging by the most recent trailer, this game is going to absolutely control my life this summer.

5.) Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (Winter 2023)

The only reason Final Fantasy XVI isn’t #5 is because there’s still a high chance that Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth releases in the Winter of 2023.

Following the epic release of Final Fantasy VII: Remake in 2020, this game follows Cloud and the gang along into the next step of their journey, beautifully remade from the 1997 classic for the PS1: Final Fantasy VII.

FF7Remake told solely the Midgar chapter of the 1997 original and FF7Rebirth will pick right back up with Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Aerith, and Red XIII after their escape from Midgar. However, as I discussed in this video from 2020, the ending of FF7Remake wasn’t exactly a 1-to-1 reboot of the original game; it was something completely different.

So, FF7Rebirth is set to be a nostalgic filled remake with even more twists and turns from the original that nobody can anticipate! Here’s to hoping it does release in 2023 and doesn’t get pushed into 2024!

4.) STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor (3/17/23)

The journey of Cal Kestis from 2019’s instant classic STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order resumes in 2023!

I just replayed Fallen Order to get back into the swing of things for Survivor and I must say, this new game can go down as one of the greatest, if not, the greatest Star Wars game ever.

There were some combat bugs and gameplay mechanics that I was reminded of in my replay of Fallen Order such as abilities not working or not being able to fast travel back to the ship that frustrated me. However, it looks like everything that was great about the original game is being improved upon and then some for the sequel!

With more story about Cal Kestis and the surviving Jedi following Order 66, I’m sure we’re bound to get interaction between Cal and some more characters from the Original Trilogy, or even Star Wars: Rebels in this game! Let’s just hope we can fast travel to the ship this time…

3.) The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (5/12/23)

Being a sequel to one of the greatest games ever made is a daunting task. However, if there’s one game that can live up to the hype of its predecessor, I’m sure it will be The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Following the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2017, hype for a sequel grew. As time went on, Breath of the Wild was recognized as the true flagship game for the Nintendo Switch.

Tears of the Kingdom is set to combine the timelines of the Zelda franchise and bring several of the series’ best storylines to the forefront with the series’ strongest entry as its base for gameplay.

Breath of the Wild is one of the few games I’ve ever played that I completed 100% of. All the Korok seeds, all the shrines, all the special armor, the Master Sword challenge, etc. I did ALL of it. I took my Switch with me everywhere and whether I grinded out several hours of discoveries or accomplished a quick shrine before my college classes, BOTW carved its way to being one of my favorite games of all-time.

I’m quite prepared to do all of this again, both throughout Hyrule and in the sky come May.

2.) Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (Fall 2023)

Ever since Insomniac’s announcement of Spider-Man 2 in 2021, gamers everywhere have patiently waited for more info on when the game will release.

In a recent PlayStation Blog, Sony and Insomniac guarantee the game’s release by Q3 of 2023, therefore, it makes my list for most anticipated games of next year!

Following Spider-Man (2018) and Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020), this game will tag team the two Spider-Men together to face their greatest threat yet: Venom. Given all of the unlockable suits from the previous two games, including all of the movie iterations of Spider-Man’s suits, I’m beyond excited to see their black, Symbiote versions that are infected by Venom.

While I’m really bummed there haven’t been any trailers or gameplay reveals since the game’s announcement, I know full well that this game is going to be amazing….or even spectacular, or dare I say: the ultimate Spider-Man experience.

Just like Breath of the Wild above, I fully 100% completed both 2018’s Spider-Man and 2020’s Miles Morales with very little frustration. These games are both just so much fun to play and they’re the epitome of super hero games overall.

I just can’t wait to see how Insomniac improves upon games that already seemed absolutely perfect.

1.) Hogwarts Legacy (2/10/23)

Considering the fact that I already wrote a lengthy blog about this game, it should come as no surprise that my most anticipated game for 2023 is Portkey Games’ Hogwarts Legacy.

I have an intense fandom for video games, movies, comic books, super heroes, etc., and it all wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter. It has always been my favorite media franchise and it helped me grow into the person I am today.

Playing through the licensed games from Electronic Arts that coincided with the releases of the Potter films throughout my childhood, always made me want a game where I could create my own wizard and experience my own stories at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts Legacy is that game. I will get to create myself and explore not only Hogwarts, but the Wizarding World around the castle as well; encountering all the magical creatures, enemies, spells, and potions that made us all fall in love with the world of Harry Potter initially.

Beginning as a fifth year transfer student into Hogwarts, your created protagonist is thrown into the center of a mystery that could endanger not only the students of Hogwarts, but for all the witches and wizards in the Wizarding World. Equipped with a full arsenal of spells, potions, and magical creatures, it’s up to you to uncover this mystery and cement your legacy at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

February 10th can’t come soon enough. If this game came out any later in the year, I think I would’ve spontaneously combusted.

~DS

Kingdom Hearts Theory: Could THIS character be the Master of Masters?

God of War: Ragnarok helped me connect a mystery that has yet to be solved in the Kingdom Hearts series

So…I wanted to get this theory out before the Game Awards because I’m hoping to have more videos about Kingdom Hearts IV after the show on 12/8. There are no signs of that happening, but one must always be prepared.

As bad luck would have it, I couldn’t be where I wanted to be to record and edit a video in time to do that, so I’m going to write this out!

This blog will contain HEAVY SPOILERS for both God of War: Ragnarok and Kingdom Hearts Dark Road. So if you want to remain fresh on those, please leave now!

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Alright, so this theory has all to do with the identity of the Master of Masters (MoM) in Kingdom Hearts. We’ve known about MoM for a while, but we still haven’t figured out who he is exactly.

It’s still not entirely clear whether he’s a protagonist or an antagonist, but he will be a heavy hitter in the Lost Masters Arc, which is the next phase of Kingdom Hearts following Xehanort’s demise in the Dark Seeker Saga at the end of Kingdom Hearts III.

After playing God of War: Ragnarok though, my mind started racing with a theory about the MoM’s identity. Why is this not as weird of a connection as it seems?

Well, because the next phase of Kingdom Hearts revolves heavily around characters named after legends in Norse Mythology and God of War: Ragnarok takes place within those Norse legends and includes characters of the same names.

As this is a theory, I could be completely and totally off. This theory could also already be out and about and being discussed, but after playing GoW, I was putting all these connections together in my own head. So if you’ve been onto this theory for awhile without having played GoW or without some background knowledge in Norse Myth, I applaud you and I’d like you to call me out in the comments for being late to the party.

So, there are a few red flags that went up in my head and I will be addressing who I think the MoM is in Kingdom Hearts. There’s going to be plenty of lore jumping back and forth between Kingdom Hearts, God of War, and Norse Mythology, so please buckle up and enjoy the show!

To begin with the seed that grew this theory: let’s start with the Kingdom Hearts side of things.

The Gazing Eye and the Case of Odin

In Kingdom Hearts Unchained X/Union Cross, we learned that the MoM has read and seen the future, but bestows his “gazing eye” to his disciples so he can ensure that the future that is written in the Book of Prophecies comes true.

We discovered that the little blue eyes in ALL of these keyblades throughout the series are the Gazing Eye of the MoM, including Xehanort’s keyblade.

Xehanort’s keyblade was passed down to him in a long line of keyblade masters that includes the MoM himself, his dark disciple Luxu, and Xehanort’s own Master, named Odin.

Master Odin from Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road

Xehanort and his classmates (Eraqus, Bragi, Vor, Urd, Hermod, Vidar, Sigrun, Vala, Helgi, Vali, Heimdall, Hoder, and Baldr) are all taught by Odin in Scala ad Caelum, the epitome of society for keyblade wielders. Scala ad Caelum used to be Daybreak Town, where the MoM taught his pupils. Once that world was destroyed, it was rebuilt by the survivors to create Scala ad Caelum.

In both Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind and Kingdom Hearts Union X, we discover that Scala ad Caelum was created after Daybreak Town was destroyed.

Each of the classmates, except for Xehanort and Eraqus, are named directly after Norse gods of Myth…but I’ll be back to that in a second.

So, Odin both in Norse Mythology and in God of War: Ragnarok is considered the “All-Father” and the god of gods, in a sense. He taught or created all of the gods in the Norse myth and houses them all in the realm of gods, called Asgard.

Odin in God of War: Ragnarok

Odin loses his eye trying to peer too far ahead into the future and discover the purpose of his own life. This is also represented within God of War: Ragnarok. Because he loses his eye, he employs an army of ravens throughout the Nine Realms to ensure that the future he’s foreseen comes to fruition. We see these throughout God of War: Ragnarok as green ravens that Kratos can destroy for rewards within the game.

While Odin pleads the titular God of War Kratos and his son, Atreus, for peace, we also learn that he’s not afraid to let Ragnarok (aka the destruction of the Nine Realms) happen if it means he’s allowed to see his purpose without losing his other eye.

Atreus and Kratos come across all of Odin’s Ravens that they’ve vanquished.

Odin also uses his two main ravens, Huginn and Muginn, to travel the realms and communicate on his behalf. Huginn and Muginn are adorned with Odin’s blue eyes, so he can see directly what and who they interact with.

Atreus talks to Huginn and Odin’s eye.

If we head back up to Kingdom Hearts Odin’s design, he is purposely drawn with only one eye being visible. Tetsuya Nomura, the character designer and director of the Kingdom Hearts series, designs his characters very deliberately.

Going back to something as simple as the “Recusant’s Sigil” otherwise known as a symbol for the “X” throughout the series, Nomura used simple means of the “X” on characters’ clothes or within their names to mark them as attached to Xehanort.

Roxas, the Nobody of Sora, being granted his identity within Organization XIII with the Recusant’s Sigil.

Nomura is also very into Norse Mythology and he makes that quite apparent in his breakout role as the character designer for the all-time classic Square Enix game Final Fantasy VII (1997). In which, many characters, towns, summons, and more are named after Norse legends.

So, it makes sense that the Kingdom Hearts Odin draws more than just the namesake from the actual Odin of myth, and thus, the Odin from God of War: Ragnarok.

The parallels between the eyes of the ravens and the Gazing eye of the keyblade makes too much sense, as well as being the “high teacher” in the “highest realms” of Asgard and Scala ad Caelum.

While I was looking into the eyes of Huginn and I realized that God of War: Ragnarok Odin sends his eyes everywhere and likes to peer into the future, everything just clicked!

Kingdom Hearts Odin was in possession of the main Gazing Eye keyblade, is missing an eye, and taught all of the keyblade wielders in Scala ad Caelum that used to be Daybreak Town……..I MEAN COME ON!

It would make complete sense that the MoM put Odin in his line of succession prior to the destruction of Daybreak Town! His dark disciple, Luxu, has proven multiple times in Kingdom Hearts lore that he’s placed his heart into the vessels of others to continue to pass down the Gazing eye keyblade.

But wait, wouldn’t that make Odin a vessel of Luxu then and not the MoM?”

While this is an excellent question, we find out in the end of Dark Road that Luxu has been hiding within the body of Bragi, one of Odin’s students. Bragi is a Norse prince, and considered to be Odin’s prime pupil.

Bragi reveals himself to actually be Luxu in Kingdom Hearts Dark Road

The Case of Baldr

The other pupil that ties this whole damn thing together is Baldr. There are Baldrs that exist in both Kingdom Hearts and God of War that also gives this Odin/MoM theory legs.

Baldr in Kingdom Hearts Dark Road

I touched upon the full ending of Baldr and Dark Road in this breakdown video, so please watch that for further detail. But basically, Baldr was touched by darkness and began killing off all of Odin’s other pupils. Once discovered, it came down to a clash between Odin, Xehanort, and Eraqus to vanquish Baldr. Although, Odin didn’t strike the final blow, he held Baldr in place and Xehanort finished him off.

Xehanort kills Baldr in Kingdom Hearts Dark Road

Once Baldr is killed, Odin bestows the Gazing eye keyblade upon Xehanort, who eventually becomes the main antagonist for Sora in the Dark Seeker Saga of Kingdom Hearts. Seems like an oddly great reward for striking down another pupil, eh?

Well, no. Xehanort, a former inhabitant of the Destiny Islands, was viewed as the “Child of Destiny” AKA the child that would balance the light and darkness in the world, according to the Book of Prophecies that the MoM wrote.

What MoM didn’t know was that Sora, the real protagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series, also came from the Destiny Islands and would eventually defeat Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts III. Sora foils all that “destiny” has foretold in the MoM’s prophecy and thus, the MoM must find a way to defy Sora’s destiny in Kingdom Hearts IV and beyond, which hasn’t been written yet.

Here’s how prophecy and Baldr tie together to God of War:

In the first God of War (2018), Baldur is sent by Odin to confront Kratos, the Greek God of War, for trespassing in Norse Midgard. Kratos has settled down, but unbeknownst to him, a frightening prophecy tells that the offspring of Kratos would lead to the demise of Asgard. Kratos and Atreus have no idea the adventures they’re about to be on, but it begins with Baldur.

Baldur, the main antagonist in God of War (2018)

I won’t rehash the whole plot of 2018’s God of War, but it ends almost identically to how the Kingdom Hearts Baldr meets his end. Kratos kills Baldur and fulfills his prophecy by being able to raise Atreus to confront Odin and kill him during Ragnarok.

Following the demise of Baldur, Odin tries to make Atreus his pupil. He tries to defy his own destiny, the destiny of Ragnarok, by winning Atreus over to his side. It ultimately fails and both Kratos and Atreus become heroes of the Nine Realms by defeating Odin.

In Norse Mythology, the death of Baldr brings upon the events of Ragnarok. In God of War, that absolutely happens, but the true Ragnarok is defied by Kratos and Atreus. The remainder of the Realms live on in peace. In Kingdom Hearts, the world’s destruction is consistently defied by Sora, while Xehanort and all of the gazing eye pupils are defeated throughout the Dark Seeker saga.

While God of War‘s Odin is defeated, the fate of Kingdom Hearts Odin has yet to be revealed. While he may have died of old age off screen in between Dark Road and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, I truly believe that he returned to his true form as the Master of Masters and is plotting to destroy Sora in order to finally balance light and darkness, as he originally thought Xehanort would accomplish.

An Oath to Return…?

The current theme of the Kingdom Hearts series following Kingdom Hearts III

So, to wrap it all up, we have yet to see who the Master of Masters is. All we know is that he’s going to play a pivotal role in the next Kingdom Hearts saga, which is everything after Kingdom Hearts III.

Following a long and winding road through mobile games like Kingdom Hearts Unchained X/Union X and Kingdom Hearts Dark Road, we’ve learned very little about the Master of Masters, but we know that both he and Odin are mysterious beings with very little screen time in the grand scheme of things.

After playing God of War: Ragnarok and making some connections with Norse Mythology, it just makes complete and total sense to me that the Master of Masters and Odin are one in the same.

Ragnarok has yet to truly happen in Kingdom Hearts, but maybe the “Oath to Return” means more than just the return of Sora to the realm of light. Maybe it also means the return of the Master of Masters as Odin and the destruction that once brought Daybreak Town to its knees to become Scala ad Caelum.

We’ll just have to wait for more in Kingdom Hearts IV and beyond to find out!

Thank you so much for sticking around this long if you have! I plan on using this as a script for a YouTube video so I can pair all these words to some gameplay from God of War: Ragnarok and Kingdom Hearts.

Here’s hoping I’m right back here tomorrow after the Game Awards with some more Kingdom Hearts news and updates!

~DS

Hogwarts Legacy is going to continue the epic history of Harry Potter video game music

The soundtrack preview for the highly anticipated Harry Potter prequel game hit me right in the nostalgia.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I can assure you, it’s because I was playing the literal Helheim out of God of War: Ragnarok.

It’s such an amazing game that for the second straight blog, I’m referencing it before I actually get into what I’m writing about. But before I proceed, I will say this: I plan on either writing a blog or making a YouTube video about God of War: Ragnarok and a theory I have about Norse Mythology as it pertains to another beloved video game franchise of mine.

So, why was today the day I was drawn out of the blog dry spell I was in? This is why:

The highly anticipated Hogwarts Legacy video game from Portkey Games and Warner Bros. Avalanche today released this music video titled “Overture to the Unwritten.”

This game releases on Feb. 10, 2023, and to my dismay, it can not come any sooner.

I’m a GIGANTIC Harry Potter fan. I would not like all of the nerdy things I do, video games included, if it weren’t for the Harry Potter series.

The book series literally helped me learn how to read. I grew up with the books, films, and video games all releasing as I was aging my way through school, wishing I was at Hogwarts.

The very first game I got with my very first console, the PlayStation 2, all the way back in 2001, was the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone PS1 video game. My older brother and I played the hell out of this game. The magical duo of the Ps2 and the game itself transported us within the castle walls.

You can even ask my parents about the Broomstick training level in this game; they still have nightmares about it. They stayed up “past midnight, easy” trying to fly through all the rings on my 4-year-old behalf.

What followed were countless magical journeys ranging from the GameBoy Color to the PlayStation 3 and spanned the course of 12 years. While the gameplay always slightly varied from game to game in the series, the one thing that remained a constant was the AMAZING score that backdropped these adapted adventures.

You want to talk about immersion? You want to make gamers feel like they’re actually in a magical castle? BOOM. You hire Jeremy Soule or James Hannigan. (Check out this website to hear all the music in one place.)

While the Potter films are epically scored by John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat, this blog is specifically about the video games and the video game music.

To begin with Jeremy Soule, I’d say he is probably more well-known for his work on other epic video game soundtracks including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. But I know him for the first four Harry Potter video games as well as the PS2’s Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup.

The greatest bit of music from any of the early Harry Potter games is one I listen to at least once a week while I’m writing something. This track called “Happy Hogwarts” is just the perfect soundtrack for wandering around with Harry, Ron, and Hermione within the castle. Listen below:

The only way to describe this track is magical.

Not to mention, this amazingly soothing track for Diagon Alley from the Chamber of Secrets video game:

Soule also captured my imagination while running through the Hogwarts grounds in the Prisoner of Azkaban game with this track playing:

After Soule, Hannigan picked up from the Order of the Phoenix game through the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 video games.

With a wide range of composition credits, including the Harry Potter audiobook soundtracks, the series’ conclusion was in safe hands with Hannigan.

Whether it’s the “Exploring Hogwarts” track from the Order of the Phoenix game:

Or the “Friendship Theme” from the Half-Blood Prince game:

And even the EPIC “Wandering Part 3 – Mystery” from the Deathly Hallows Part 2 game:

Hannigan took what Soule started and did an absolutely amazing job at putting you within the walls of Hogwarts as you completed tasks with characters you loved from the books and films.

Huge props to both Soule and Hannigan for making the music they did, because if you swapped their tracks into the films, the transition would be seamless.

But where does it all lead? Well, into Hogwarts Legacy, of course!

Judging by the “Overture to the Unwritten” music video today, I’m prepared to say that Hogwarts Legacy seems distinctly prepared to take what Soule and Hannigan built and add to the epic history of Harry Potter video game music.

This masterful piece performed by the Seven Springs Orchestra and Choir and composed by Chuck E. Myers “Sea”, J. Scott Rakozy, and Peter Murray, seems to capture what its predecessors once did.

The key difference I’m most excited about when I dive into Hogwarts Legacy in February is this: this game’s score will finally be the score that backdrops my journey at Hogwarts.

This game will begin with character customization and focuses on a new journey in the Harry Potter world that was once “unwritten.” You’d bet your ass that I’m going to make a character that looks like me and I can’t wait to discover what Hogwarts has in store for me!

Since all the previous video games in the Wizarding World followed the adventures of Harry directly from the books and films, I’m beyond excited to have my own journey in Hogwarts with its own unique musical score.

The official Hogwarts Legacy channel has also released a few peaceful ASMR videos that show off the environment of the game, including this one:

I can already picture a score like the “Overture to the Unwritten” being paired perfectly with the incredible diegetic sounds that the game developers put into these breathtaking environments.

However, if Portkey Games and WB Avalanche are reading this and want to make me shed even more tears on release day, I wouldn’t be upset if “Happy Hogwarts” chimed in as I make my way down the Grand Staircase and head toward my first ever Defence Against the Dark Arts class.

As you anticipate Hogwarts Legacy, please go listen to the Harry Potter video game soundtracks when you study, write, read, or work. You will not regret it!

~DS

EDIT from 12/6/22

Oh My Goodness, we’re back again today!

The Hogwarts Legacy Twitter account posted this video this morning all about the music to the game:

In this video, one of the composers (Chuck E. Myers “Sea”) confirms they’ve been working on the project for over 4 YEARS! He compliments John Williams for making “Hedwig’s Theme” and that it was an incredible base to begin from.

Another one of the composers (J. Scott Rakozy) also confirmed that they were going for the nostalgic element but with something new! They didn’t specifically mention the scores of the original Potter games, but they absolutely meant those, alongside the scores of the films.

What’s further apparent is that there’s so much attention to detail and care put into the soundtrack of the game. And if half as much care goes into the overall game, us Potter fans are in for one hell of an experience come February!

~ DS…again

Where the hell is Jak IV?

The whispers and rumors have completely gone away…people don’t even bring up Jak any more because it’s so unlikely.

God of War: Ragnarok releases tonight at midnight, thus making today a HUGE day for gamers everywhere.

This was a weird way to start a blog that’s going to be about the Jak and Daxter series, but it ties in, I promise.

Since I just played 2018’s God of War for the very first time last year, I didn’t feel like playing it again this year in preparation for Ragnarok. The story’s fresh on my mind and my body is ready for whatever happens next!

Former Nintendo executive and video game legend, Reggie Fils-Aime

So, with time to kill before this HUGE release, I was looking for something to play to keep my mind occupied during these trying times. I didn’t want to truly start anything new, so I sought comfort in the past.

Available on PlayStation Plus is the entirety of the Jak and Daxter series including: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001), Jak II (2003), Jak III (2004), and Jak X: Combat Racing (2005).

Jak X is TRASH so I will not be focusing on that at all in this blog.

Alongside Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper, Jak is one of the heroes from my childhood that will always bring about nostalgia. Sly Cooper recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and with no new titles on the horizon, all fans can do is hope for his return.

With the Kingdom Hearts series alive and well in its 20th Anniversary and the Ratchet and Clank series still getting additions in 2021, one can’t help but get excited about who else is getting a revival soon.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (2021)

Jak and Daxter‘s 20th Anniversary came and went with the same fanfare that Sly got: absolutely nothing.

While it’s fun that I can play the whole original Jak Trilogy on PS5, I can’t help but be sad about the fact that we’ve never gotten a legit Jak IV from Naughty Dog.

The entire gaming community is in concurrence that this weird offshoot game developed by High Impact Games in 2009 titled Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is NOT a canon addition to the story of our characters.

Check out SuperButterBuns’ breakdown of this awful game

Without the original development team and studio creating a game to expand upon the original trilogy, we can’t consider anything to be a true sequel to Jak III. While Jak X is a sequel to Jak III, it’s a racing game that doesn’t provide the fun platforming and combat that the original trilogy provided.

That’s what people want out of a Jak IV: New Story, Old Jak and Daxter. Meaning, Square is to punch, Circle is to Spin Kick, X is to Jump, and L1 is to roll…A LOT.

Also, I can’t get through this and not mention 2006’s Daxter. Daxter is a prequel game that tells the story of Daxter trying to find Jak in the two years between Jak and Daxter and Jak II.

I didn’t have a PSP and this game was a PSP exclusive. Only really rich kids had a PSP, but from what I gather, people enjoyed this game a lot more than Jak X and The Lost Frontier.

Daxter (2006) a PlayStation Portable Exclusive

However, since Daxter is a prequel, it doesn’t matter what console it came out on. It didn’t expand upon the stories of our characters following Jak III and Jak X.

With Naughty Dog focusing on more realistic characters and gritty stories over the last decade with the beloved Uncharted and The Last of Us series’, it seems Jak and Daxter have been completely left behind.

Uncharted 4 (left) and The Last of Us: Part I (right)

I absolutely LOVE Uncharted and TLOU, but not more than Jak. I mentioned this point in my TLOU blog, but I’ll say it again: it’s kinda wild that The Last of Us: Part I has been remastered for two different consoles before Jak IV was even rumored to be in development.

Tom Holland, our favorite MCU Spider-Man and live-action Nathan Drake actor, has even said in interviews that he wants Jak and Daxter to return. WHY WON’T NAUGHTY DOG LISTEN TO SPIDER-MAN/NATHAN DRAKE?!?!

There used to be whispers of its development online. So much so that a former Naughty Dog employee even leaked a few concept art pieces of a Jak IV online.

A much more “realistic” looking Jak
Jak IV concept of Jak and Daxter investigating an old Precursor ruin site

These concept images are all people have had to go on for a few years as it pertains to Jak IV. The whispers and rumors have completely gone away. Every single time a PlayStation: State of Play (digital showcase of upcoming games) is announced, people don’t even bring up Jak any more because it’s so unlikely.

You can even tell how much it makes sense Naughty Dog wanted to move forward with the “realistic” vibes with Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Joel and Ellie from TLOU because Jak’s “realistic” look is kinda scary-looking and unnatural. However, I would absolutely get used to it if it was a real thing!

Replaying through the Jak series these last few weeks has just reminded me of the hurt of not having another entry on the horizon. (And also the hurt of the Mission Failed screen from Jak II and Jak III because I’ve seen them A LOT)

My hope hasn’t been completely snuffed out like others’ has. But this playthrough of the original trilogy has also reminded me just how amazing these games are. They’ve aged like wine and I still find them brilliant, just as I did as a kid.

Hell, I’d contribute my borderline OCD to collecting every Power Cell and Precursor Orb in Jak and Daxter.

I’m one to never say never. So, I can’t say and don’t want to say that Jak IV won’t happen. But I hope we can still generate the hype enough to let Naughty Dog know we want it.

And Sly too. I know this blog was about Jak, but shit, I just did to Sly what everyone did to Sly! We want Jak so bad that we’re not loud enough about Sly!

Please bring back Sly and Jak! Even the developers for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart want these characters back!

While I was revisiting the Jak series, I also found this great video from an amazing content creator that I already linked to above.

SuperButterBuns on YouTube has this amazing retrospective on the Jak series and gets a little bit more in-depth on what I went over in this blog on a game-to-game basis. Here’s that video:

Please show Buns some love and keep the love of Jak (and Sly) alive!

As we all nestle in to play God of War tonight, let’s not forget that we could very well have the power to bring Jak back.

Don’t give up hope, ever.

~DS

Why I think Halloween Town is the best Disney World in Kingdom Hearts

The immersion of this world is still impressive 20 years later

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I love going all in on my costumes. Part of the reason why I love the Halloween Town world in the Kingdom Hearts games is because Square Enix and Disney went all in on this world.

I explained it above in this clip from my Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary video, but it’s honestly crazy how cool they made a Nightmare Before Christmas world in Kingdom Hearts.

Not only does Sora, the main character, take on a Halloween Town appearance, but two of the most iconic characters in the history of visual media also take on these scary forms. Donald and Goofy having mummy and Frankenstein’s monster variants are just so cool.

On top of that, scoring the world is an instrumental version of the famed “This is Halloween” from the movie. The soundtrack continues to loop as you play through the world and it simply doesn’t get old.

While this is the general world theme, the battle theme goes even harder. Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the Kingdom Hearts series, is known for the series’ beautiful melodies and world themes. But the Halloween Town battle music “Spooks of Halloween Town” is absolutely top-tier stuff.

When you’re playing video games, sometimes consistently beating up the small-fry enemies on your way to a level’s boss battle can be annoying. Not when this theme keeps interrupting “This is Halloween.” This is an absolute BANGER. Certified fresh.

I’m an advocate for saving Christmas music until Black Friday every year. I know this is my Halloween blog, but part of the theme of the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas is the Christmas part.

In Kingdom Hearts, they didn’t do the Christmas part of the world. But in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, the immersion went even further.

*Play the music*

Christmas Town in Kingdom Hearts II got its own theme, its own battle music, and its own versions of Sora, Donald, and Goofy as well. Square Enix and Disney went that hard AGAIN!

Santa Sora, Reindeer Goofy, and Snowman Donald just provides that extra immersion that makes the magical gaming adventures through Disney films in attempts to defeat the darkness that much better.

The best part about the Christmas Town battle theme from Kingdom Hearts II is that you could score it over your upcoming Christmas shopping and it will provide all the stress. Listen below:

While the main characters of the Kingdom Hearts series taking on forms of the Disney films they visit is now a main staple:

Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts III
Monsters, Inc. world in Kingdom Hearts III
Pirates of the Caribbean world in Kingdom Hearts III

The OG world to begin this trend was Halloween Town in the original game over two decades ago. While Toy Story may be my favorite Disney movie and a five year old me back in 2002 would’ve preferred a Toy Story world over a Nightmare Before Christmas world in the first Kingdom Hearts, there wouldn’t have been a Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts III if it weren’t for the amazing visuals, soundtracks, and character costumes from Halloween Town.

Enjoy the holiday!

~DS

I recreated Michael Jordan’s “Shrug Game” in NBA 2K23

The court, the camera filter, the scorers table, and even the roar of the old stadium look and sound so much like the real thing.

From my previous YouTube upload about recreating Michael Jordan’s “The Shot” against Cleveland during the 1989 NBA Playoffs in NBA 2K23, it’s become quite apparent that the presentation of this video game is at an all-time high.

When I arrived at Jordan Challenge #10, I was absolutely blown away by how awesome it looked. You had the voice of basketball Marv Albert giving an awesome preamble, then you cut to an opening preview video that mimics the NBA on NBC Finals broadcasts from the ’90s, and then you get the full Chicago Bulls starting lineup narrated by Ray Clay with Sirius by The Alan Parsons Project blaring in a darkened virtual Chicago Stadium.

And of course, to see them decked out in the ’90s Bulls warm-ups is a nice touch too!

The court, the camera filter, the scorers table, and even the roar of the old stadium look and sound so much like the real thing.

This moment from Michael Jordan’s career is one of my favorites. Funnily enough, this moment is one of my first uploads to my YouTube channel over a decade ago.

There are now better looking videos with the original broadcast, but if you squint your eyes at the NBA 2K23 footage, it’s really tough to tell the difference.

I love this game and I can’t wait to play through the rest of MJ’s career virtually!

~DS

blink-182’s new song EDGING is a perfect way to start the weekend

I would literally call it Anthem Pt. 3 if EDGING weren’t perfect already.

This song is an absolute anthem from a band that the world needed to return. I would literally call it Anthem Pt. 3 if EDGING weren’t perfect already. I truly still can’t fathom that blink-182 is back together again!

After Mark Hoppus beat cancer, whispers quickly turned into full-fledged rumors, and rumors turned into conspiracy theories.

Tom DeLonge, who hasn’t been in the band since 2011, is finally back and the blink we all know and love is OFFICIALLY BACK! New music, a new album, and a World Tour are all coming!

I got tickets to one of their shows on this World Tour and it was not cheap. But, I don’t care!

I said this to a friend the other day: “I think the only bands I would pay that much for would be The Beatles, Zeppelin, and blink with Tom DeLonge, so considering the other two can’t ever happen, I had to pull the trigger.”

Happy New Music Friday and Happy Friday in general! I’ll be listening to EDGING all weekend, all month, all year, and forever.

~DS

The Last of Us TV Show Trailer has revamped my love for the series

One of the greatest video games of all-time is about to be a TV show and I’m hyped

If you know me or you’ve read this blog or kept up with my YouTube channel, you’d know my favorite video game series of all-time is Kingdom Hearts.

I love that series like no other and I’ll forever remain emotionally invested in its story and characters.

However, I think the overall best story of any video game I’ve ever played comes from Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece: The Last of Us.

Set in a fictionalized United States, The Last of Us tells the story of a man named Joel, surviving on his own after the death of his daughter in a world where a horrific disease has caused its victims to turn into fungal-infested zombies.

After he meets a young girl named Ellie, who is immune to the disease, the pair fight their way across the United States to find a group of doctors who can help turn Ellie’s immunity into a possible cure for the disease.

Full of heart, morally ambiguous characters, factions, and true psychological studies of characters that are pushed to their limits, The Last of Us made an impact on me as a writer, gamer, and human being in general.

After HBO announced it would be turning the game into a show, I was sort of hesitant on whether or not to be excited. Given how cinematic the actual game is, I wasn’t sure the story needed revisiting as a television show.

But that changed this past week when HBO released the trailer for the show.

Scored by the eerily calm strums of Hank Williams’ Alone and Forsaken, Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie seem to perfectly capture the atmospheric brilliance of the video game.

The Last of Us is so revered as a video game because it presents the world it takes place in as a real one. You go from Boston, to Pittsburgh, to Salt Lake City and you truly feel the emptiness of these once great American cities that have now fallen to the Cordyceps brain infection.

The characters speak to each other in a way that actual people talk to each other. It isn’t like other video games where lines of dialogue are sewn together. Characters cut each other off, they respond non-verbally, they talk over each other and react emotionally to what’s being said or what’s happening to them.

The trailer for the show appears to capture ALL of this and it has gotten my hype levels for the show, the games, and even the music all the way back up.

I’ve always sort of kept my opinion about 2020’s The Last of Us: Part II to myself because the game is quite divisive in the public sphere. I think it’s just as beautiful and outstanding as the first game and while I still dislike the choice they made with Joel in that game, I understand why they did it and why it made the story of the second game that much better in the end.

But still, the second game was more of a grim, revenge-filled game that rarely had a spark of charm and humaneness that made the first game a forever classic. I’m so excited to see how Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie grow into the father-daughter roadtrip relationship that made the first game so damn special.

This blog is about how I’m all the way back in on the series and not how I feel about Part II, so that’s that.

So to put it all together, I’ve been listening to nothing but The Last of Us soundtrack while I type and work since this trailer came out.

Arguably the best thing about the series is its music.

Empty. Sad. Hopeless. But also, relaxing and comforting. This music is part of why the series is so impactful on me. This music puts you right into the environment of the game and as a musical backdrop, it’s arguably the best in any medium ever. Films, television, video games, etc.

So, while I wait for the show, TLOU: Part III, or whatever may come next for this series, I know I’ll be listening to the music and remembering the first time I ever played the game.

Hell, I may even sling $70 to purchase The Last of Us: Part I remastered for the PS5. While the game has already been remastered, this was the developer’s chance to give the original game the same life that the sequel had.

And apparently, it succeeded at that.

If you need calm music to listen to, need a great game to play, or want to immerse yourself into a world that, despite falling into a zombie apocalypse, is a lot more human than ours, give The Last of Us a shot.

~DS