Where else can you see an irate elf drop-kick an annoying fairy, and hear some of the best music from your favorite video games, all in one night?
That’s what happened Thursday night at the Mesa Arts Center, when Video Games Live came back to town. It was my first time seeing the interactive pops concert, aside from a recorded version shown over the summer during a PBS pledge drive. I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint.
Below you’ll find some of the show’s highlights from my perspective, as well as some photos — but first, I’d like to thank the Mesa Arts Center for giving me such amazing access to Video Games Live and providing tickets for Nerdvana fans! Also, thanks go out to Nerdvana followers, and to Lightning Octopus blogger Jonathan Simon for joining me on this epic quest!
- VGL creator Tommy Tallarico is a great showman — as you would expect the cousin of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler to be. He seemed pretty genuine when I interviewed him earlier this week, and it really carried through to his stage persona.
- Laura Intravia, aka “Flute Link,” is a versatile performer with a great set of pipes. She rocked the Zelda flautist stuff, of course, and every geek in the room instantly fell in love with the Internet sensation. But she also put in powerful vocal performances with themes from Assassin’s Creed 2 and God of War, as well as the very James Bond-sounding music from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Her “Flute Mario” segment was fun, but lacked the dynamic visuals of earlier segments, reverting at times to still images of the title screens of the various Super Mario games. Which brings me to …
- The powerful visuals, which are a huge part of VGL, seemed to run out of steam after the intermission. The giant screens on stage during the second act were dominated by concept art, cosplay photos and title screens. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good Final Fantasy 7 cosplay slideshow — who doesn’t? — but there was not one bit of footage from the game in question. This was a recurring drawback in the show’s second half.
- Conductor Wataru Hokoyama is charismatic and fun. It was great to see him conduct his own composition from the game Afrika … even if the title, as he half-joked, didn’t do well in America because it involves shooting animals with cameras as opposed to guns. But I found the score unevenly matched to the game, or at least to the visuals presented. Seemed too epic for a nature photography outing, and more in line with some grand action-adventure tale.
- The Guitar Hero competition, which took place before the show in the MAC lobby and resulted in the best player going on stage to compete, seemed to be the only game demos to be found. I thought there would be more.
- I didn’t see too many people in costume, and I don’t know when the advertised contest was held, or who won. I had to take off shortly after the program, as the meet-and-greet (autograph line) with Tallarico, Hokoyama and Intravia got rolling. If you know who won — or if you’re the winner yourself — please let us know!
Check out the set list below to see what was played — there are more than 80 segments prepared so far for Video Games Live, according to Tallarico, and only about 20 get played at each stop, so he tries to keep it fresh and mix it up each time:
- Classic arcade medley
- Mega Man
- Assassin’s Creed 2
- God of War
- Space Invaders (interactive segment)
- Flute Link
- Shadow of the Colossus
- Halo Trilogy Suite
- Castlevania Rock
- MGS3: Snake Eater
- Starcraft II: Revenge of the Gnomes
- Flute Mario
- Guitar Hero Aerosmith – “Sweet Emotion”
- Street Fighter II
- One-Winged Angel (Final Fantasy 7)
- Chrono Cross/Chrono Trigger
- Encore: Still Alive