Doujin, Game Music, Reviews

A Friendly Rivalry: OCR Vs. Bad Dudes in Heroes Vs. Villains (Review)

March 28, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Friendly Rivalry: OCR Vs. Bad Dudes in Heroes Vs. Villains (Review)on Twitter

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the OverClocked ReMix (OCR) versus Bad Dudes remix project, Heroes Vs. Villains. The concept is pretty awesome: let the OCR guys tackle the hero themes from various games, while the Bad Dudes respond with their remix of the corresponding villain. This creates a friendly competition not only between sounds, but between remixing communities, if you want to call the Bad Dudes their own community.

What you end up with are 20 remixes of some of our favorite tracks that the game industry has had to offer, and even a turncoat, as the leader of the Bad Dudes tackles a hero theme to counter his own Bad Dude!

Hit the jump for our review of the free OCR album.

As mentioned, there are 20 remixes here that are paired by game, offering a hero and villain theme from each gaming universe and covering nearly an hour and a half of music. It’s hard not to talk about every match up given that albums like these really are collections of their own individual tracks instead of contiguous listening experiences, so all I can promise is that I’ll try to keep it brief!

The album opens with one of the sets I was looking forward to the most from Super Metroid. Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson starts us off with a highly cinematic “Samus Aran – The Bounty of the Brain,” which is an arrangement of the “Theme of Samus Aran.” The sound quality is top notch, and the electric guitar, synth choir, and pumping electronic percussion about midway through reminds me of a Linkin Park track. In a good way. Mazedude counters with a glitchy take on the final battle with Mother Brain, titled “Mother Brain – Dieselbrainage.” I like to give Mazedude a hard time for his distinctive sample-based tracking sound (he needs to upgrade!), but I think this remix actually comes off really well. It’s hard hitting, driving, and even frightening!

The Monkey Island set features audio fidelity and a group of performers rocking out in “Guybrush Threepwood – Pirate Shout,” which, as you’d imagine from the track title, features pirate-esque shouting. It’s a heavier rock take on the memorable theme, while Diggi Dis goes for a more playful sound, bringing in a swinging electronic jazz sound with saxophone and even chip elements with impressive solos aplenty in “LeChuck – Voodoo Roots ‘N Grog.” It’s interesting that the hero theme is darker than the villain theme here.

Brandon Strader and Kunal Majmudar go at it with “Kratos – Born of Ashes, Baptized in Blood” and “Zeus – Wrath Industrial,” respectively. My guess is that Strader focuses on heavy guitar arrangements on OCR, as we get lots of live guitar chugging and smashing percussion throughout his contemplative arrangement, although the choir and brass pads detract from the overall quality. Majmudar’s percussion-heavy arrangement, on the other hand, features some amazing production values, working in distorted and filtered synths and percussion along with a moody electronic guitar. There’s even an impressive insertion of strings that sounds convincingly live.

When it comes to Yuzo Koshiro’s legendary Bare Knuckle (Streets of Rage) soundtrack, it’s hard to improve upon perfection. WillRock gives us an “updated” version of “Fighting in the Street” with “Axel – Bare Knuckle Blitz,” working in some higher quality synths and live guitar, but staying true to Koshiro’s “gamey” sound, while zykO turns the minute and a half “Big Boss” into the nearly 6-minute long “Mr. X – Mr. Z.” It also goes heavy on the guitar side, bringing in ominous synth sounds that also adhere closely to the original.

Next up, Mega Man. Mattias Häggström Gerdt takes the honor or arranging what he’s called “Mega Man – Screw Wily, I’m Taking a Vacation,” a playful ‘tropical’ arrangement with some awesome electric piano on the melodies and an underlying network of guitar, bass, and toy percussion covering mainly the Mega Man 2 intro, but also touching on the Mega Man 9 theme. Joshua Morse counters with his usual jazzy style in “Dr. Wily – Screw Mega Man, I’m Taking Over the World,” a short-but-sweet version of Wily’s theme from the original Mega Man (with Mega Man 2 thrown in for good measure) that sounds like something right off of the Alph Lyla Rockman X arrange album (one of my favorite albums of all time).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? And the original game, no less! Trance and techno extraordinaire bLiNd creates a loose arrangement from the original T.M.N.T. theme titled “T.M.N.T. – Go Ninja, Go,” which sports a dreamy trip-hop sound with Asian influences before wailing electric guitars come in, creating a pretty hard-hitting arrangement. Danimal Cannon responds with “Shredder – Enter the Shredder” from Turtles in Time. This brings back a lot of great memories with the whole throwing foot soldiers at the screen to injure Shredder. You probably guessed that Danimal took an explosive rock approach, and you’d be right. While I admittedly get kind of tired of these straight metal arrangements, nostalgia plays a big factor here, and about midway through there’s a drastic change in direction with a wild sound effect breakdown followed by a moody combination of dance beats and electric guitar that I think really works with the whole ninja vibe. What a pleasant surprise!

Well, then it’s on to The Legend of Zelda, and you’re in for something completely unexpected. How about a hip hop rap battle between José the Bronx Rican and zykO? Embracing the friendly nature of this hero versus villain rivalry, each artist contributes one verse to the others’ track in the voice of their respective hero or villain, with José the Bronx Rican contributing “Link – He Ain’t a G” and zykO “Gannon – Bladewalker.” The arrangement of the latter is quite impressive, and I love the “I am Error!,” although it takes awhile to get going (It’s over 7 minutes long), and I could have probably done without the introductory narrative. I realize these aren’t going to be for everyone, but I appreciate the concept, and both tracks are well executed.

On to Street Fighter where were both sides take the jazz route with the assistance of Joshua Morse. Zircon presents “Ryu – Satsui no Koto,” featuring traditional Japanese koto combined with some great synth and piano work. The rich underlying electric piano chords are simply divine. Posu Yan, one of my favorite remixers or all time, goes for Sagat in “Sagat – Coconut Milk.” Wait, didn’t the Bad Dudes create an entire album of arrangements of Sagat’s theme? Yeah, well… here’s another. It’s actually pretty damn awesome, featuring live drums, bass, and guitar by posu yan, flute by Stacy Morse, and other instrumentation by Joshua Morse. The xylophone solo will blow your mind.

Insert Rupee, a duo of Benjamin Briggs and halc, offer up a mature take on Kirby titled “The Life and Death of Kirby.” The heavy electronic percussion and filtered, stuttering synth sounds take the playful melodies and make them much edgier, providing a nice contrast between your concept of Kirby and what you’re hearing. Mazeude’s “Hot Air Penguin,” on the other hand, is a hazy jazz arrangement that meanders (or staggers) between melodies that all seem to slur together. The track feels like hazy memory once it’s over, and there’s even live trombone by Mazedude!

The final match-up is between none other than Mustin with Simon Belmont and Ailsean with Dracula. Mustin’s “The Prodigal Son Returns” can be referring to the fact that he’s changed sides for this project, but in any case, the arrangement is decisive, defiant, and powerful. It’s actually a pretty minimalistic take on the “Theme of Simon Belmont,” although I’d almost rather use the word “clean” to describe the track. The bell tolls lends the track a sense of impending doom, somehow confusing me into thinking this is a Dracula theme although I know it’s not. It perfectly suits the situation of Mustin changing teams.

Ailsean is no slouch, however, responding with a very rugged medley of various themes from Castlevania in “A Walk With Death.” If you check his liner notes, the track actually tells a pretty interesting story (who knew Ailsean was so talented with words!). The arrangement works in “Boss BGM” from the original Castlevania as well as “Clockwork” for good measure, with his admirable guitar solos peaking out above the ominously repetitive guitar notes that act as the foundation of the track. It’s a great, brooding way to close out the album.

And there you have it. This album was not only a great idea, but it’s wonderfully executed. In this age of countless fan-produced arrangement albums, it’s nice to see one take a unique idea and really run with it. While not all the tracks on the album will speak to you, it’s still an impressive effort nonetheless. Now, I bet you’re wondering who I think “won” the battle. I’m not going to play that game, as this was all done in a fun and collaborative setting, with Bad Dudes collaborating with the OCR team on their arrangements and vice versa. I really had a lot of fun with this one, and you can tell that the arrangers did too.  There are several tracks here that I’ll be keeping around for further listening.

Run over to the official Heroes Vs. Villains page for download links, artist profiles, liner notes for each track, artwork, and more.

What do you think of the Heroes Vs. Villains concept, and Mustin’s betrayal? And more so, the arrangements themselves? Let us know!

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