Armored Core

Armored Core. Now there’s a name that summons memories from my youth.

My brother and I both dug the Armored Core series of games. We played the demo of the first one, got sucked into the second and third ones before I moved away from console gaming. But I still have both Armored Core 2 and Armored Core 2: Another Age for my PS2.

Defining what Armored Core is about is difficult. The game developers took the time to really develop a back story to the series, often told through the accepted mercenary contracts and narration: Humanity threw itself into a nuclear war, the results of which forced us underground for decades. Whether it was a lack of faith or simply loss of political power, governments lost hold on our lives. Corporations stepped up to fill the gap, providing necessities and employment to people and making life post-Armageddon possible.

Of course, the competition between corporations didn’t just go away. And without a higher authority, the various conglomerates took to fighting over resources whenever and where ever business negotiations failed. These struggles usually occurred “invisibly”, rarely acknowledged by the population except when civilian casualties occurred.

These minor skirmishes occur between security and mercenary forces. Mass produced weapons called Muscle Tracers (MTs) are frequently employed. But every once in a while, a mercenary gains the financial resources to purchase a customizable next-generation MT, a bigger and better machine called an Armored Core (AC). These mercenaries, called Ravens, work through the Raven’s Nest, a mercenary contracting agency who holds a near monopoly over the AC pilot trade.

Want.

Want.

This long introduction sets the stage for the game series, of which the unnamed player (you) earns his or her first AC and begins accepting work among the various corporations or rebel factions. What has always thrilled me about the series is that it makes a political statement through the near total removal of politics. Again and again the series returns to this theme, but in each game the developers add a certain twist to it. In the second game, humanity discovers alien technology on Mars that is powerful enough to change the status quo. The third reboots the series, putting humanity back on Earth and underground, where the city of Layered is maintained by a centralized A.I.

Although the whole “corporations take over the world” speculative sci-fi story has been explored many times, few do it better than From Software’s Armored Core series. Probably because they let the player explore the world on the battlefield. The story is minimal, yet rich with possibilities. Yet the game itself never breaches the fourth wall for the player: Everything the player does is something an actual Raven would do, from checking your emails, buying components for your machine, and accepting contracts. Everything you do as a player is built into the world itself, hence the game fully immerses you in its lore.

There are many reasons the series has maintained a faithful cult following that has helped spawn about a dozen titles. The music for one is a kind of unusual techno mix that proves difficult to forget. And the game play is a mix of two things; fast mecha combat and designing your own machine. In that way, the game balances itself between a creative and a destructive aspect. Creatively, one has to design an AC that best fits their play style. Destructively, they have to master using the machine in the field. A fan on the boards once explained that during the short lived online mode, an incredibly competitive community flourished. Considering the thought that goes into designed an AC and then testing it against the ferocity of other opponents, I have no doubt of his words.

This video showcases scenes from the various Armored Core games, but the amazing music is not from the series but rather from an artist named Celldweller. To listen to some of Armored Core‘s outstanding music, check out these Youtube samples of At That Time on the AC3 soundtrack, Thinker from AC4 and one of my favorites, Precious Park from Armored Core: For Answers.

I bring all this up for two reasons. The first is that Armored Core V is coming out next year, and gives me incentive to go and get either a PS3 or XBox 360 for that reason. The second reason is because I love the Armored Core series and day dream about sometime writing either a novel or perhaps even screenplay for it. And I don’t mean in a fan fictional way, but professionally.

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Additional Music for Writing

I do this for Aiur! ... Wait, wait, wrong game.

I do this for Aiur! ... Wait, wait, wrong game.

So a day ago, Narravitium and I were chatting about the works of Aaron Dembski-Bowden. I mentioned that his book titles Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver made me wonder if they were influenced by the Legacy of Kain game series. Oh no, of course the Night Lords legion aren’t vampires, but they damn well feel like them sometimes.

Still, it’s a stretch of the imagination. But the plus side is that I remembered some damn fine music for writing. So I raided my old game collections to find some ideas. Time for a nostalgic trek.

  1. Ozar Midrashim, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver OST.
    I certainly liked the Legacy of Kain series. They were not the best made games technically, but the story was solid and involving and the puzzles were a turn on. I hear rumors, unconfirmed, that a reboot maybe in the works but we shall see. This link is actually both Ozar Midrashim and the ending credit music, but both are quite good. It’s an incredible piece that screams “war against the light” in my mind.
  2. Artificial Sky, Armored Core 3 OST.
    Armored Core is another of my favorite game series and has a faithful cult following. Both my brother and I loved playing it. I like the customizations and the nice multiplayer aspect to it. I await the day that the developers really create an end-all game that is fully networked for co-op and competitions. I may talk about the background of Armored Core in a later blog entry. You may also want to check out Precious Park but it has lyrics.
  3. Contra Rock-Metal Remix, by Vomitron.
    Contra is one of the most beloved of games by testosterone junkies. Imagine a movie with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in their prime, killing alien possessed humans and no limit to the amount of ammunition. And then forget the movie and just turn it into a game, and that is Contra. Sadly, a lot of these old school NES game series have not transitions as well to newer consoles. But someday, someone will do it right. Maybe a game that mixes first and third shooting with side scrolling levels and…
  4. The Legend of Zelda Orchestrated, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    I loved the old school Zelda games. The newer ones took the series in a slightly different direction. That, and they kept pumping them out non-stop. The over-franchising kind of ruined it for me, but I don’t hold it against people who love it anyway.
  5. Staff Credit, Final Fantasy Tactics OST.
    Sigh. I love this song. It reminds me of the challenges I faced, the characters, the story and plot that were deeper than an ocean. It makes me nostalgic for the first game I ever owned on the Playstation and, to this day, one of the greatest games I will ever play. I know, I know, new titles for Final Fantasy Tactics came along, but they just weren’t as incredible from what I played. The direction Square Enix has taken the Final Fantasy series in general has been too goofy for me. But I still have my classics.
  6. Love Song, Dragon Warrior 2 OST remixed.
    Old school as they come, Enix software was the only real competition Squaresoft had in NES RPGs for quite a while. The first game was simple, but they got better, adding parties and abilities and developing better stories and characters. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to listen to this song.
    But thou must!
    But thou must!
    But thou mu- okay, I’ll stop now.

    I really hope this line is used in The Dark Knight Rises.

    I really hope this line is used in 'The Dark Knight Rises'.

  7. Batman Level 1 Remix, by Farmhouse Media.
    Sunsoft made a decent platform game when it brought the Batman series to the NES. But the one thing that has stuck with the gamers throughout the years has been the very impressive soundtrack that came with it. Take a hard look at the sheer number of remixes for that game. That, and the fact that he’s the goddamn Batman.
  8. Megaman X – Storm Eagle Theme Remix, by Chikusho Sound Team.
    There are many harder and faster remixes than the one issued by Chikusho Sound Team. But I pulled myself back and reminded myself that the music I’m finding is primarily for writing. If you want something more intense however, check out the Powerglove Remix version.
  9. Double Dragon theme, by NESkimos.
    If there was anyone I’d want to see do a Double Dragon remake, it actually would be Rockstar Games. And I’d want them to reboot the series, adding some moral grey areas that let the player decide between being the good or bad, taking over gangs and the streets or helping people out. And as a result, which of the two brothers you are at the end of the game. The Warriors on PS2 was both my favorite game and one of my favorite movies. That sir, is a remake and franchised game done right.
  10. Main Theme Orchestrated, Secret of Mana OST.
    So too many of my themes have really focused on pumping up their audience. This one is much slower, much more mystical. The game itself was mystical as well, being a 3-player RPG that my buddy Ben and I played throughout our youth. It was a colorful game, a very basic fantasy story. It’s a shame that future titles just did not deliver like the first one, but I’ll never forget the first title.