Around this time every year, the airwaves start up a war that will last a few months, to determine which song can claim the title of “Summer Jam”. It’s the most requested and played song, seared into brains via ear-worms which define memories of that Summer—at the club, on the beach, in the car. Video games have Summer jams too but not quite like the ones on the radio.
If “Summer Jams” are the songs which embody everything a great Summer should be about, then locales in video games do the same. They’re the hot spots where fun in the sun should be enjoyed. They’re where certain memorable game moments might unfurl. They’re also accompanied by some wonderfully appropriate tracks to characterize their playful spirit.
Here are some traits and experiences of those warm months, and great places in video games where I’ve vacationed, as portrayed by the awesome sounds of everything Summer.
Easy-coasting rhythms welcome players to Costa del Sol—a beach front property where terrorists acting in the name of saving the planet could relax after motorcycle chases, and momentarily push aside the traumatic memories of their childhood town burning to the ground. For the hefty (low?) price tag of 300,000 gil, you too could own a piece of the Shinra Empire...you know, instead of it always being the other way around.
Honestly? Costa del Sol was hideous. I didn’t care about its goose down beds of which there were only two. The villa seemed cramped, and I’ve probably designed better houses in The Sims and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. There was a basement though, and a convenient bar located right downstairs. The shoreline was just down the stairs a few steps away, for surfboarding and suntanning.
Okay, it wasn’t so terrible, particularly with the clear, blue waters lapping the edge of the sand lovingly. The music has a relaxing, charmed sound of paradise. It’s a short loop that brings you quickly into the dream-like succession of notes that floated naturally on the sea breezes.
I couldn’t pick more of a club song if I tried. Well, I mean I could, since Persona 3 and 4 both have actual clubs to visit. There’s also Animal Crossing’s Club LOL. Oh and Danganronpa 2’s club, Titty Tyhpoon, but I’d really rather not talk about that one. Considering Brave Fencer Musashi gave me the club experience of dancing for life or dying, I’m kind of attached to it.
“Dance or Die!” Topo would yell.
And dance I did.
I died, too.
I probably learned the ins and outs of the PlayStation controller thanks to this groovy session, and I’ll never forget my Triangles, Xs, Squares or Circles because of it. It required memorization and death by shock therapy. It was awful.
I played this game in the Autumn it came out, but the heating up of the dance floor with this bubble gum pop nonsense, in the depths of Soda Fountain Castle, is Summer time eternal.
I could do without the Summer traditions of telling campfire stories. Ghostly apparitions, creepy crawlies hiding in the dark ready to gut and scare the beejezus out of me? No thank you. Though that’s part of the Summer experience too, I guess. Right? In Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, as I’ve mentioned before, it absolutely is.
In the middle of the Summer, Class VII visits Legram, the Lakeshore town of their fellow student, the regal and bad-assed Laura. There’s the mysterious castle that sits in the fog across the lake, and one night the ghostly activity goes off the charts. A rescue mission at the castle reveals some plot to Trails of Cold Steel that was touched briefly on at the end of the game, and I’m looking forward to more magic and intrigue when Trails of Cold Steel II releases later this Autumn.
Way to tease all of that in a flash of a moment, Cold Steel. All that eeriness hinged on the fairy-tale notes encapsulating the moonlit halls, along with its ghosts, seemed out of place but hinted at something more to come. How it all ties in along with every other crazy thing the series has going for it, is something I can’t wait to find out about.
I resisted playing Uncharted for a while because what I really wanted was another Jak. How silly of me! What I wanted, I soon came to realize, was Uncharted and Jak! It was a ‘Why not both?’ kind of situation. Then there came a day when I was deathly ill. It was the worst Thanksgiving as I was unable to partake in the glory of the holiday before and after. To ease my pain, I spent a week getting acquainted with Nathan Drake’s first and second adventures. Holy hell, sometimes the flu comes as a small blessing.
It may have been a Fall blockbuster of a game, but the adventure was large enough to be a Summer one. Who doesn’t want a grand Summer adventure? A road trip or treasure hunt excursion all around the world? With lawless fools! And Explosions! And Trains perched precariously off cliffs! And pirates! And zombies! And zombie Nazis! Yes...who uh, doesn’t want zombie nazis…
Uncharted was my Summer blockbuster and adventure in one. I don’t think I’ll ever get Uncharted 2's main theme out of my mind, and I would never want to. It’s a world wide scavenger hunt set to the adventurous, larger-than-life score rivals that of any action-packed movie.
As I head into Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (‘Nate’s Theme 4.0' is brilliant and touching, by the way), I’m excited and sad. I suspect there’s tragedy waiting at the end. And even if there isn’t, it’s billed as Nate’s last great adventure which means, it’s mine too with him, Elena and Sully. Goddamn it.
Hotline Miami and its sequel happens, primarily, throughout various time periods during 1989, with Wrong Number’s The Fans kicking things off on Halloween Night. It’s not so reaching to say that it’s always Summer in Miami with its sweltering heat, and sunshine. It’s also not so reaching to say that pop culture, aided by Florida Man, has turned Miami into forever Halloween. So here we are.
This track plays in the nightmare that’s Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number’s visualization of the US in the aftermath of a war the country lost. It’s also the nightmare belonging to a henchman in the Russian Mob looking to get out. It begins a road trip dream that’s nice enough—blood money in excess pouring out of a red convertible with the top down, and the radio station turned to the fun 80s pop stylings of Mitch Murder. It sounds like neon leg warmers with matching headbands, giant hoop earrings under big teased hair, and leotards, in the form of music.
It’s Summer from another time, but Summer just the same. And in Wrong Number’s case, Summer Halloween (Summerween?) is the big send off party until it all goes to hell.
For five Thanksgivings in a row, I gathered the band together to play some headlining living room shows. Our band, The Oxtails, was on top of the world—too full from turkey and drink—but always ready with awful singing and barely hitting any notes of the other instruments. Then Summers would come and the band would usually be split by then, with two remaining members playing at home gigs for neighbours to hear, whether those neighbours wanted to or not.
Our greatest hits were on heavy rotation and included the likes of Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” and “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My guitarist friend and yours truly on vocals, never quite made it the killer July block party we dreamed of—nor the Sold Out Headlining Festival and Arena Tour we aimed for at Hyde Park or Madison Square Garden and Barclays—but we did manage the heat with Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”. As soon as Rock Band 2 gets imported to the Rock Band 4 on the PS4, we’ll bring that classic back, and reach for the stars.
In the meanwhile, I’ll be over here trying to figure out how to best this one...
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Would love to hear your Video Game Summer Jams, too. Time to get this party started!
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