Go Straight

Night Driver arcade screen

It's three in the morning and I'm half-way through a three and a half hour drive. The previous day was spent trying to turn my "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" list to a "Humanly Possible" list. I was mostly successful, but there's no rest for the wicked. Not even the extremely wicked.

I have to stay awake, but more coffee isn't going to help a lot. I've been swilling it for the last couple days. I'm trying to keep going but I've been reduced to hanging off the steering wheel by my fingers, grimly keeping my car's nose between the dashed white lines on either side and behind the red lights in front of me like an analog version of Night Driver.

My schedule for this trip won't permit a nap stop, so I pull out the big guns — a mix CD that I save for just these occasions. It's an eclectic jumble of electronica, jazz, hard rock, jazz, fun and rousing movie and game themes. An epic drive needs an epic soundtrack, and the game music brings along the extra punch from playing the game.

The disk slides into the slot and the opening bombast of Dancing Mad thunders into my car's cockpit. The second theme skitters up my spine like a peal of Kefka's maniacal laughter, and I straighten a bit in my seat. The miles start to flow by as fast as my fingers flew through the menus trying to find a sequence of commands that would get one more Meteor pulled off before he Quaked my party back through the bedrock yet again.

The disk goes to the next track, but after a few eerily sonorous chords I skip ahead. It's The Hymn of the Fayth. Anyone who hasn't played Final Fantasy X might find that one peaceful. And at times I do. But at other times I can't escape the context the game's story gives it. Yu Yeavon's torturous eon of betrayal that destroyed his own people as well as his enemies has been ground into every measure by my several hundred hours of gameplay. With everything else going on, tonight it sours the notes. I can't stomach it.

The next segue brings us back to the oldest of old-school, but my finger hovers over the skip button. I'm wary. This is a strong draught, and I've been burnt by it before when I've quaffed too greedily. Clash on the Big Bridge is a huge sequence in Final Fantasy V where you thrash your way through a series of smaller battles across a broad stone bridge to face Gilgamesh himself. The years of blocky little sprites and midi beeps seem to rush back in, and I get overcharged. I made the mistake of playing this one while struggling through heavy traffic on the I-90 floating bridge one golden afternoon last summer, and while I didn't get a ticket, I probably deserved one.

A click and a frankly electronic pulse ripples out of the speaker. The long, slow build evokes the rising tension of one of the most gripping parts of the entire Mass Effect series. The tension echoes through my hands, gripping the steering wheel, slowly flowing down through all the muscles in my body. A quieter interlude gives me a moment to breathe, but then the choir rises, the strings crash in, and by the end it feels like the percussion section is pounding directly on your adrenal cortex instead of their instruments. That's what I had in mind!

Jolted upright, I fly along on the wings of several other favorites while the gray light of an overcast dawn washes away the rosy light-pollution underpainting the clouds. I see the second state trooper in the last five miles with someone else pulled over on the side of the road as they flash by my all-too-familiar adrenalin freeze-frame.

My finger hovers over the eject button again while I think. I want to get there faster, but I realize that getting stopped would definitely not help the situation. I'm as awake as I'm going to get for now, so I pull the disk for a collection of mostly harmless anime themes and classics that don't press my right foot down quite so hard.

Comments

This is one of the reasons I'm actually looking forward to Theatrhythm on the 3DS. Playing it at PAX East had all these emotions bubbling up as the familiar tunes of Final Fantasy 6 pumped into my ears. I am pretty sure I was smiling the whole time, and if I wasn't then that is simply because there is something blockading where my brain triggers face happiness.

While it is diluted, I still get nostalgic when listening to many variations of the Final Fantasy 7 theme (whose name I've forgotten in favor of Arm Cannon's title, "Bigger Boards, Bigger Nails"). I hear it and I just remember that night I spent at my cousins spending time playing Final Fantasy 7, escaping from Midgar, battling that giant robotic thing after the motorcycle chase.

Unfortunately, most game music hasn't had nearly such an effect on me, and my only guess is that it isn't as prominent a thing anymore. Now that there's all this conversation going on the music has to be toned down, whereas it used to be the only real sound other than fist punches and explosions you heard.

Or perhaps the old tech gave it a unique sound and tone that made every tune stand apart from the one previous?

I, too find Dancing Mad to be an amazing FF track to get you going.

You're obviously missing a track as you didn't mention Mega Man 2 Dr. Wily's stage.

On my late night drives, I often put in something funny, like old Abbot and Costello radio programs. I find it easier to stay awake during comedy shows.

This one really hit me. When I read this:

the gray light of an overcast dawn washes away the rosy light-pollution underpainting the clouds.

All I could think was "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night."

BTW: For those who don't know, "Go Straight" is the song from the first level of Streets of Rage 2.

Nothing like some fantastic soundtracks to get the blood pumping and keep the mind focused. I have a Quidditch playlist I like to listen to while studying, on my drive to class, and when I'm getting pumped up for Ultimate Frisbee. Always gets me ready to get down to business.

kazriko wrote:

On my late night drives, I often put in something funny, like old Abbot and Costello radio programs. I find it easier to stay awake during comedy shows.

Same. Anything talk radio actually. I find it easier to stay awake with that as opposed to music. Firesign Theater is a favorite.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

I, too find Dancing Mad to be an amazing FF track to get you going.

You're obviously missing a track as you didn't mention the entirety of the Mega Man X soundtrack.

FTFY

ccesarano wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

I, too find Dancing Mad to be an amazing FF track to get you going.

You're obviously missing a track as you didn't mention the entirety of the Mega Man X soundtrack.

FTFY

meh. Not nearly as memorable for me as the MM2 soundtrack. MMX is good, but never really stuck with me.

wordsmythe wrote:

This one really hit me. When I read this:

the gray light of an overcast dawn washes away the rosy light-pollution underpainting the clouds.

All I could think was "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night."

BTW: For those who don't know, "Go Straight" is the song from the first level of Streets of Rage 2.

I was thinking of Sappho and her poem about "rosy-fingered dawn" walking in with her golden sandals, but I couldn't remember enough to make the reference clear for anyone but the three and a half people who seem to read that sort of thing these days. I had to explain Walt Whitman person from Porlock thing.

Thanks guys. There are about thirty songs on that disk, and I didn't want to bore you by listing them all and about half of them are in Japanese.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

meh. Not nearly as memorable for me as the MM2 soundtrack. MMX is good, but never really stuck with me.

Maybe the orchestral versions might help

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/16402314/Megaman%20X%20Music/MHX%20-%2016%20-%20Armored%20Armadillo%20Stage%20-%20Energy%20Mine%20Ruins.mp3

momgamer wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

This one really hit me. When I read this:

the gray light of an overcast dawn washes away the rosy light-pollution underpainting the clouds.

All I could think was "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night."

I was thinking of Sappho and her poem about "rosy-fingered dawn" walking in with her golden sandals

I get the Sappho, but sometimes life seems more like Simon's than ancient, secret romance on an Aegean island. I think they both liked whips, though.

Criminy, won't someone ban this guy?

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Criminy, won't someone ban this guy?

Assuming there was a spammer. Instead of posting about it, just PM Certis the link to the post and his profile and be done with it.

On a more on topic note, I listened to the MMX track larryc so kindly provided. I still stand by my preference to the Mega Man 2 soundtrack.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

Criminy, won't someone ban this guy?

Assuming there was a spammer. Instead of posting about it, just PM Certis the link to the post and his profile and be done with it.

On a more on topic note, I listened to the MMX track larryc so kindly provided. I still stand by my preference to the Mega Man 2 soundtrack.

I think it's pretty clear I was talking about wordsmythe.

Not music related, but I've always found sunflower seeds help me stay awake. Actually, M&Ms are my favorite, but then there's the crash. Sunflower seeds just give me enough activity to keep going without dozing.