Castlevania has gone through the gauntlet of interpretations and variations throughout its near-30 year tenure, and its music has always been a huge part of that diversity. From the upbeat catchy 8-bit bleeps of the NES titles to the haunting atmosphere of Super Castlevania 4; from the pop-oriented tunes of Rondo of Blood/Dracula X to the orchestral and symphonic tones used in Symphony of the Night and Lament of Innocence. To say the series had a menagerie of different styles of music would be an understatement, but somehow the music always seemed to work for the game it was composed for.
The first Lords of Shadow game took a different approach with its style of music. Mercurysteam and director Dave Cox had put Oscar Araujo (Clive Barker’s Jericho) at the helm of incorporating a different kind of soundtrack for the different kind of Castlevania game they were making. As Jayson summed up in his review of the first game’s soundtrack, the new direction being taken was fresh and some tracks were interesting, but in the end it was too big a departure from previous series titles to make it feel like it was really a Castlevania game and was instead simply its own stand-alone Lords of Shadow soundtrack. Indeed, it was a subject of much debate in the Castlevania fan community whether the music of the game helped or hindered its attempt at being both a Castlevania title and also its own creature. The sub-series’ interquel, Mirror of Fate, didn’t do much to quell the arguments.
With this kind of contention as well as Mercurysteam’s assurance that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 would have many of the shortcomings of the first game tweaked, does this third game in the series manage to capture the old feel of past Castlevanias? Or does it again fall short of its potential?
Every so often a game concept comes along that grabs our attention. A new music game called Circuits has done just that. Developed by the studio Digital Tentacle, Circuits is a puzzle game that asks you to reconstruct a piece of music. In the gameplay video shown below, composer David Garcia walks the viewer through an early level of the game. Different nodes of the circuits represent patterns, rhythms, and instrument melodies that make up the piece of music. Essentially, each node is a piece of the puzzle. The task of the player is to assemble each node in the correct spot on the circuit board to reproduce the full and finished piece. You not only have to worry about the order of the music’s individual elements, you must also make sure you repeat the nodes the correct number of times.
From the looks of it, a lot of the game will rely on the player’s listening abilities, in addition to their puzzle solving skills. The game was recently Greenlit by members of the Steam community and will hopefully make progress to an eventual release on the platform. The game was also released recently on the iPad. It’s definitely an interesting game concept. Hopefully it can find an audience in the puzzle and music game crowd.
With the help of Kickstarter, another chiptune album has been brought into existence. Most people probably know Jimmy Hinson (a.k.a Big Giant Circles) and his music from games like Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2. It might surprise some people that in addition to the game music he writes, he also composes chiptunes. This latest album, The Glory Days, is a new collection of original pieces written by Hinson. The Glory Days was funded through a very successful Kickstarter campaign that far exceeded its original goal. Not only did the Kickstarter hit the goal of $5,000, but every single stretch goal was met as well. The Kickstarter receiving over $60,000 in pledges, allowing Big Giant Circles to hire several remixers and fellow game composers to help construct an extra remix album for release at a later date.
The Glory Days is a sequel to Hinson’s first album of original music, Impostor Nostalgia. This original album was a collection of music written by Hinson and featured several music remixers and composers. The concept behind Impostor Nostalgia was that while the music mimicked the sound and energy of chiptunes from older videogames, the music itself was original work that was never featured in any game, past or present. It was a cool experiment and generated some excellent new tunes. This time around, Hinson is flying solo with this sequel album, The Glory Days. Like the first album, this one aims to celebrate the sound of older game tunes while enhancing it with modern synth and electronic sounds that weren’t available years ago. Does Big Giant Circles pull this off on this second solo album? Read more to find out. (more…)
At this year’s D.I.C.E. Summit, composer Austin Wintory gave a talk titled “Music’s Rising Tides”. In his presentation, Wintory discusses the emergence of technology that has allowed for the democratization of music writing and distribution. He strikes a very optimistic tone about the ability of creators to put their work out onto the internet and have it recognized. Among examples, he cites his own positive experience with releasing the soundtrack to Journey and his interactions with people who shared the album on Youtube.
Part of what he is encouraged by is the lowering of financial barriers for writing music. To help illustrate his point, he composes a piece of music on stage, using only a laptop computer and a midi keyboard. Making music that is commercially viable is something that has become accessible to more people in recent years, and Wintory sees this as a positive development for the art.
It’s an excellent talk from an experienced member of the videogame and music world. What do you think of the presentation? Do you agree that the ease of access to music making is a positive thing, or is it causing the market to be over-saturated with too much noise?
There are plenty of chip music makers out there these days. I have respect for all of them — it’s difficult work, to be sure. But one person I especially admire is Chipzel. She broke onto the scene when she wrote the three-track OST for Super Hexagon. But she has plenty of original works out there too.
The latest among them is Spectra, released in September 2013. This full-length album was created entirely in LSDJ, so it’s pure Game Boy goodness. The nature of this album? I think the headline gives it away, but if you want a detailed report, as well as where you can pick up the album, keep reading!
After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and a very long wait, Stoic Studios has released their debut title The Banner Saga. The dev team was largely made up of ex-Bioware employees, but they knew exactly whom they needed to craft the music for their Norse-set RPG: Austin Wintory.
Yes, the man who blazed a trail, setting new standards for VGM with his incredible soundtrack to Journey (which we gave our top award to in 2012), agreed to write a full soundtrack for this ambitious project. Now the game is out on Steam, and Kickstarter backers such as myself got the game and its soundtrack a few weeks early.
MAGfest has once again come and gone from our lives for another year. For the 12th year in a row, the music and gaming festival has managed to bring a variety of people, bands, and cultures all together in one place and blown the roof off the Gaylord National Harbor. New faces graced the stages, huge surprises were unveiled, and an excited energy permeated the halls of the convention center and hotel alike. Now that it’s over and things like PMD (post-MAG depression) and MAGPlague have settled into the hearts (and lungs) of many ‘fest-goers, it’s time to remember some of that excitement and good feelings that MAGFest always seems to create.
Some more “Know Your MAG” before the big shindig itself starts getting underway. We have to give our resident non-VG band some loving spotlight! Here’s what you need to know about Love Canon and why you should be in attendance for their debut at MAGFest 12.
Based out of Charlotteville Virginia, Love Canon is probably one of the most unique bands to grace the MAG venue in its 12 years. Firstly, they’re not video game related in any way, shape or form. The four-man ensemble of Jesse Harper (guitar/vocals), Adam Larrabee (banjo), Andy Thacker (mandolin) and Darrell Muller (bass/backing vocals) instead perform covers of 1980s pop songs. Songs like “Africa” by Toto and “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby are their bread and butter. Secondly, if you didn’t notice in the band lineup, they perform said classic ’80s in bluegrass style.
That’s right; ’80s bluegrass. Because why the heck not?
You can probably guess now why, despite not being VG-oriented like most of MAGFest’s other performers, Love Canon has the exception. This unconventional-yet-interesting style mashup lends to a rather unique listening experience, and the band has gained a following for their blend of music and overall ability to generate a lot of fun energy. This should prove to be perfect when they perform at this year’s first ever MAGProm. Ever try dancing to ’80s bluegrass, because I’m sure you won’t be alone. They’ve released two full-length albums of their music and have toured around the country playing, so you may want to check out the rest of their discography in order to not let yourself get caught off-guard. Believe me, it’s worth a couple minutes-worth of listening at least.
Will this be the first of a new wave of non-VG music bands to grace the MAGFest stages in years to come? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! Love Canon will debut at MAGFest 12 at MAGProm on Thursday at midnight after the main stage concerts.
More “Know Your MAG” for MAGFest 12, and it’s time to touch upon some of the new Main Stage bands! This time around we have the almost exclusively Sega-oriented metal band, MegaDrivermaking their MAGFest debut.
Believe it or not, Megadriver has been around for a decade. Based out of Brazil, the band was created by Antonio “Nino Megadriver” Francisco Tornisiello and focuses on two things: Sega Genesis (aka: Megadrive) game music, and performing as metal as possible. In fact, Nino Megadriver boasts that the band was the progenitor of the “game metal” mold that many bands have since adopted as their style of choice. Whether this rings true or not, most would agree that having more Sega Genesis/Megadrive music is never a bad thing.
MegaDriver hits the Main Stage on Friday night at 10:30pm.
LRS could be considered what is commonly known as a “super band”, and with good reason, as four of its five members are no strangers to the MAGFest stage. Pulling double-duty in his performance schedule this year is Grant “Stemage” Henry of Metroid Metal (also appearing with the previously mentioned Viking Guitar band), while also featuring George “Norg” Nowik and Sean “Ailsean” Stone from The Smash Brothers, Chris “cubosh” Dlugosz of Armcannon, and some guy named Chuck “finbeard” Simpson. How did this much awesome manage to come together to create such a menagerie of metal? If asked, the most probably answer would most likely boil down to “It seemed like a good idea at the time”, and I doubt anybody would be apt to disagree.
So what can you expect should you decide to take a moment and attend their debut MAGFest performance? Well, a healthy variety of game and pop culture music that rarely graces the MAG stage, for starters. Since the band’s name is based off the colorfully-odd puzzle game Katamari Damacy, it makes sense that their teaser track released prior to MAG to entice concert-goers would be steeped in such.
Lonely Rolling Stars will perform at Stage 2 on Saturday @ 3pm.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure … the World 1-2: Complete Collection album was promoted by Scarlet Moon Productions, founded by Jayson Napolitano. Below, OSV writer Michael Hoffmann gives his own opinion of the album.
With most remix albums you usually have some idea of what to expect. There are going to be several covers of the usual old-school vidogames, with genres of music that will vary from classical/orchestral to rock and dance remixes. While that is certainly true of World 1-2: Complete Collection, the album does much more. This isn’t just a straight forward remix album. Not only are there remixes of familiar game tunes, but this album also features several original pieces written by game composers including Chipzel (Super Hexagon), Austin Wintory (Journey), Manami Matsumae (Mega Man), Keiji Yamagishi (Ninja Gaiden) and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). World 1-2: Complete Collection is an album that seeks to create a pairing of newer artists remixing older pieces, and in some cases providing original content of their own, with veteran composers from the earlier gaming generations. It’s an ambitious concept and the result is quite impressive. The original World 1-2 album contained 20 tracks that were a mix of original music and remixes. The World 1-2: Encore tracks add another 14 remix tracks to form the World 1-2: Complete Collection. There’s a whole lot to cover, so let’s dive in. (more…)
We’re officially under two weeks away from MAGFest 12, and as such it’s that time again for another annual round of “Know Your MAG”, where we introduce you to some of the musical performers of the upcoming MAGFest and start enticing you with the myriad of music available for your auditory enjoyment.
First up, we have one of the several new bands to grace MAGFest’s Stage 2 – Viking Guitar! (or Viking Guitar Live, or Viking Guitar Band; I’m not really sure what the official naming scheme is) This band originally started as the one-man arrangement team of Erik ‘Viking Guitar’ Peabody, who got his start participating in the Dwelling of Duels competitions and releasing his own albums of video game arrangements. Dedicated to spreading his own brand of metal melodies, he went on to creating a modest Kickstarter campaign with the idea of helping others learn how to arrange and record their own music – dubbing the project Viking Guitar University. Achieving full funding, the Viking continued producing his own arrangements, creating tutorials and learning aids through VGU, and participating in various community arrangements projects such as the recent Spectrum of Mana album.
However, there were limits to what one man could do, so Peabody began colluding with other arrangers in the community to expand to the stage. Combining the talents of Grant “Stemage” Henry, Ryan “Mega Beardo” Postlethwait, Adam Henry and Travis Morgan, the Viking Guitar (band?) was now packed with so much metal power it’d be insulting not to give it a spot on MAGFest 12′s stage.
What can you expect from the VG crew? In their own words, “Their premiere performance at MAGFest XII will crush your bones, burn your village, and put a damn beard on your face. KEEP THE WORLD METAL!“
Viking Guitar will debut at MAGFest on Stage 2, Friday at noon.