You might be wondering what happened to Game Soundtracks For Your Soul: Level 12, all I can say is that strange things happen around Halloween. And 13 is a lucky number right? Nothing bad has ever been associated with the number 13 here at OSV that I’m aware of…yet.
In this edition of Game Soundtracks For Your Soul I’ll be looking back at some of the scariest game music I’ve ever experienced. Scary games aren’t my thing, but that didn’t stop me from playing quite a few. So read on if you want to see which game tracks freaked me out at different times in my gaming life, and be sure to share your favorite creepy tunes. I’m not sure what will happen once this post hits 13 comments…
Motoi Sakuraba has been writing video game music for many years, and he is among the most prolific composers in the video game world. His body of work spans games released over a period of more than 20 years, and includes a wide variety of genres, from Japanese RPGs to sports and action games. A lot of his work is his own compositions for various games, but he has also done some work as an arranger and as a producer.
Since his work spans so many games, Motoi Sakuraba is adept at adapting to different styles suited for different genres. But there are many elements of his style that you can see across his different compositions as well. I will be going through some of these elements briefly, and attempt to shed some light on what makes Motoi Sakuraba’s music sound like Motoi Sakuraba.
It’s often hard as one who simply appreciates game music and isn’t in the industry to really know what happens behind the scenes with regards to how game music composers and game musicians are treated. I would wager that a fair share of us are relatively ignorant as to the trials and tribulations that game music writers and composers face when trying to obtain and keep a steady flow of reasonable work, and what sacrifices need to be made.
Recently the hashtag #PerformanceMatters appeared trending on Twitter in regards to the plight that video game voice actors face in the games industry in terms of fair work for fair wages and worker’s rights. The hashtag made the general gaming public aware of some of the poor conditions video game VAs face from some of the biggest names in voice acting and got people talking. It also started to raise questions about how other aspects of video games fare in terms of treatment of their respective “parts”. Internet and Youtube game reviewer John “Total Biscuit” Bain raised the question as to how video game composers might also be treated in the industry.
The majority of the conversation around Metal Gear Solid V’s music has been about the game’s licensed 80’s tracks. Set in 1984, the game’s huge environments are peppered with boomboxes at desert outposts and hostile facilities that belt out some of the most popular tracks of the decade. “Rebel Yell”, “She Blinded Me With Science” and “The Final Countdown” are just a few of the ‘Top 40’ mega hits you can find in the game. But there’s another collection of cassette tapes out in the game world full of original music, the majority of which aren’t featured on either of the game’s soundtrack releases.
These songs feel much more like the Metal Gear music we’ve come to expect. No, there’s no smoldering stealth sax from Norihiko Hibino or 60’s spy funk like Snake Eater but these tracks serve as fitting ambiance for a Metal Gear game. They sound like they could’ve come from the 80’s and yet somehow still fit the overall themes of The Phantom Pain’s main soundtrack. I really want to call out a few of these songs in particular because the original music is easily overshadowed by the licensed stuff.
Combining an edgier synth sound, a shade of New Order’s darker guitar rock and growling lyrical samples, “Behind the Drapery” could’ve come from an obscure German Industrial group you discovered on a newsgroup. Similarly themed is “Nitrogen” with its dark synthwave arrangement. It’s perfectly paced and just subtle enough to load up on Snake’s Walkman to accompany a midnight sneaking mission.
Another good sneaking track is “The Tangerine” which is closest in style to Metal Gear Solid 2’s ambient music. A simple synth melody sets the pace while a soulful horn slowly rises and falls. Add in a hint of guitar wafting by and you could close your eyes and be back on the Big Shell. It’s also nice and long and easy to set your Walkman to loop it in the game.
Especially noteworthy is “How ‘bout them zombies ey?”, which I’d boil down to an EDM hommage to Michiru Yamane’s Castlevania sound. It’s really quite an incredible amalgamation of autotuned vocal samples, synth bass and organs. It’s got multiple breakdowns and just has a wonderful, dark 80’s synth feel. More than any other track, this is the one I get stuck in my head most often.
On the lighter side, “Take the D.W.” could easily be an instrumental version of an anime theme song. Maybe that’s the idea as there are several tongue-in-cheek posters in the game along those lines. Regardless, it’s full of bright keys that pop along while a tinny synth saws out a fun melody. Similarly light is “Ride a White Horse”, a nice soft rock style piece with some touching guitar and synth movements. If this were in Snake Eater I would totally expect it to greatly refill your stamina.
These are just a few of the 25 tracks on Music Tape 1. You can take a listen to the entire selection with this playlist and don’t forget to check out the Original Soundtrack Selection and the new Vocal Tracks album, out now on iTunes. And if you came here looking for those “real songs” from the game and you read this far I’ll throw you a link too.
In this 11th edition of Game Soundtracks for Your Soul, like Spinal Tap I’m turning things up to 11. What I mean by this is I am looking back at some game music that at the time took game music to the next level.
There are some tracks that once you heard them you knew that what you were about to play was going to be the next level of gaming. So turn your speakers or headphones up to 11 (if you can) and come listen to some of the video game music tracks that for me, took the genre to places I never thought possible.
Today’s Arrangement of the Week contains music from two different franchises and features a collaboration between a number of artists. The first game series is Assassin’s Creed, with the use of “Ezio’s Family” and the AC: Revelations “Title Theme.” The second franchise is Metal Gear Solid, being represented by the song “The Best is Yet to Come.”
The arrangement piece titled “Never Go Away,” is headed by remix artist DJ Mystix. Collaborating with him for this project are Chris “Amaterasu” Woo on Violin and Claire Yaxley on vocals. Together they have created an arrangement blending the music of Assassin’s Creed and Metal Gear Solid.
The cover starts off with a statement of “Ezio’s Family” from Assassin’s Creed 2, performed by a set of acoustic instruments, with Yaxley’s vocals coming in to reinforce the main melody. Around the one minute mark, Amaterasu enters on the violin with some original material to help transition to the first Metal Gear Solid segment. At 1’15” the vocals reenter for “The Best is Yet to Come” from Metal Gear Solid.
The arrangement as a whole has a very light pop music feel to it. Plenty of acoustic instruments like piano and strings, with just a handful of elements like the drums and bass helps give the music a modern pop sound. Most of the cover has Yaxley and Amaterasu taking turns as soloists. The “Title Theme” from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations shows up around 3’45” before returning to a final reprise of “The Best is Yet to Come.” On this reprise, at 4’30”, both the solo violin and vocalist share the spotlight, helping create a bigger finale for the arrangement. It’s an excellent collaboration between artists that also incorporates the music of multiple game titles in interesting ways.
Have you listened to any cool or unexpected mashups of game music this week? Let us know about them in the comments below. You can check out “Never Go Away” on OC ReMix.
It was September 13th, 1985 when Super Mario Bros. debuted alongside Nintendo’s Famicom in Japan. From there Mario has gone on to star in seemingly innumerable sequels and spin-offs with cameo appearances all over the place. As fun and memorable as the games are to play, the music is even more special to many of us. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. I thought I’d highlight a few new and noteworthy musical tributes to the game and the series.
First up is a whole new album from Shiryu, Super Mario Bros. The 30th, a collection of twelve tracks providing “vintage electronic reinterpretations” of some of his favorite themes. Each track is a medley of familiar tunes from a single Mario game and each has its own unique synth styling.
Slightly older is Marc Lovallo’s “Super Mario 30th Anniversary Medley” which was posted last September in anticipation for this year’s official 30th anniversary. It’s a mighty piece that fuses mainline Mario, Super Mario Land and Yoshi’s Island themes into a nearly nine minute medley. The consistency he keeps across fifteen different games is really impressive.
Want an even more comprehensive audio/visual history of Mario? Check out Super Mario Ceremony, an immense eighteen minute presentation from Japanese composer, Hapinano. This one is from 2011 and was designed to celebrate ALL of Mario’s history (not just Super Mario Bros.) but it’s so thorough and such a great remix medley that I couldn’t pass up including it. Everything from Donkey Kong to Mario’s sporting and RPG adventures are represented with choreographed gameplay footage and animations that represent the work of some forty Japanese collaborators.
You know it wouldn’t be a post from me if I didn’t somehow work in a little jazz, so here’s a track from the manouche jazz group La Orquesta Inestable. A bonus track on their album Bambalinas, the “gypsy jazz” treatment gives the Super Mario Bros. themes a fun new feel. It reminds me of similar acoustic arrangements from James Hill and the Mario & Zelda Big Band Live album and —
You know what? I could do this all day so let’s just trade favorite tracks, remixes and arrangements in the comments and celebrate the incredible legacy of Mario.
Back in 2012, game designer Fernando Ramallo and composer David Kanaga created a game prototype that focused on altering 3D landscapes and having the music warp and change with the environment. What eventually resulted in this collaboration was an audio-visual experience called Panoramical. Over the past few years the game has been shown off at multiple events, festivals, and even a few museums. Next week the game will finally be receiving a commercial release.
The game will include fifteen unique environments, each with their own range of tones, aesthetics, and music elements. By manipulating various “dimensional controls” players will be able to alter the landscapes around them and the music along with it. Panoramical will be released digitally for Mac and PC on Steam, Humble, and itch.io on September 17th. You can check out more information about Panoramical on the official website.
A lot of the orchestral arrangements that have been covered here on Arrangement of the Week have been full orchestra affairs. This week I thought it would be nice to look at an acoustic cover that features only one type of instrument. In this case an arrangement from Final Fantasy: Tactics performed on a 12-String guitar.
This week’s Arrangement of the Week covers a handful of pieces from Final Fantasy: Tactics titled “Finding Somebody to Love in This Meager World.” The arrangement comes courtesy of artist, and longtime OC ReMix contributor, Level 99, aka Stevo Bortz. The piece primarily uses “Delita’s Theme” as the source material, but also incorporates bits of the “Main Character’s Theme” and the “World Map” track.
What I find truly impressive about this arrangement is how well the three different themes fit together. The themes flow from one to the other effortlessly, making the arrangement a joy to listen to. On top of this, the sound of the multiple guitar tracks works very well together. Rather than making an arrangement for a solo guitar, there are multiple parts to flesh out the harmony and allow for clear presentations of the melody in the lead guitar part. Each guitar can be heard clearly, so it never feels like the piece is overwhelming or chaotic.
What sets this Final Fantasy: Tactics arrangement apart for me though, is the fact that it’s a live recording. No sample instruments or artificial sounding effects are used in this cover. What results is a more expressive and moving arrangement. It’s a wonderful adaptation of the original source material and I found it a great piece to relax to.
Are there any interesting solo arrangements, covers, or remixes that you’ve discovered this week? Feel free to share them with us in the comment section. You can listen to and download “Finding Somebody to Love in This Meager World” on OC ReMix.
Today’s Arrangement of the Week track led me to the discovery of an odd game from the late NES era. Kabuki: Quantum Fighter was a game released by HAL in 1990. The 2D side-scroller stars a character who enters a computer system to fight an evil virus as a kabuki warrior. Your character’s primary attack consists of whipping his hair at the enemies. The game has a bizarre premise, but features an interesting soundtrack by Masaki Hashimoto and Takahiro Wakuta.
Naturally, a game this obscure hasn’t received much attention, especially in the game music remix department. However, a few arrangements do in fact exist. The arrangement for this week comes from Aureolius with a cover of “Round 1” titled “USB Mindlink.”
The original track had a very repetitive set of beats and rhythmic motifs, so it really feels like a perfect fit for this techno arrangement. Aureolius’s approach with the material is pretty straight forward. The repeating bass motive establishes itself before being joined by a heavy kick and clap rhythm combo. The arrangement continues building up until around the 1’30” mark, at which point the piece drops out a majority of the instruments.
There are some nice little melodic moments, such as the flute-like lead that enters at 2’33” and actually remains in the mix as the music returns to the primary music riff. There are some cool atmospheric effects as well, which become especially noticeable in the quieter sections. Overall, a well done arrangement of a relatively unknown piece of game music.
Have you had a chance to listen to any remixes, arrangements, or covers of obscure videogame music? Let us know in the comment section below. You can listen to and download “USB Mindlink” by Aureolius on OC ReMix.
There are some games that are so difficult, they are nearly impossible to finish. But there’s always something that keeps you coming back for more punishment as you try to get further, or finish the game. There are also games that your friends love, and you absolutely hate because you’re either terrible at them or just don’t see the appeal. Sometimes though if the music is great it makes it easier to get back in the game.
In this edition of Game Soundtracks For Your Soul I’m heading back to the 90’s to look at the music of two games. One was a game a played for countless hours on the Super Nintendo and I still consider to be very difficult to complete. The other is a PC game that I played with a friend using the magic powers of my 14.4K modem. This is my look back at the music of SeaQuest DSV on SNES, and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness/Beyond the Dark Portal on the PC.
We’ve covered a lot of classic game tunes on Arrangement of the Week. Today we’re going to switch it up and take a look at a remix of an indie game soundtrack. If you’ve payed attention to the independent games world, you’ll have undoubtably heard of the space strategy game FTL (Faster Than Light). The game’s electronic centric score was composed by Ben Prunty, who has since then worked on a handful of other sci-fi games like Star Crawlers and Gravity Ghost.
This week’s selection is a rock arrangement of “Space Cruise,” the main title theme for FTL. The artist for this arrangement is Little V, aka James Mills. In addition to creating rock arrangements, he also reviews guitar and music gear. Be sure to check that out on his YouTube page if you have the chance.
When I first saw that this was a rock remix, I was honestly expecting to hear a very heavy rock mix. However this arrangement is surprisingly light in terms of its tone. The piece opens up with mellow electronic pads, along with some clean electric guitar chords and arpeggios. Light drum beats and an electric bass also come in, building up the mix but still maintaining the ambient rock tone. At the 0’55” mark the first instance of a distorted guitar comes into play, adding a more metal sound to the arrangement.
Even at its bigger and heavier rock moments, the ambient synth textures still play a role. They blend quite well with the electric guitars and help connect the rock sections with the quieter moments. There’s a nice little break at around 2’17”, where the electronic pads and the guitar play out some more chilled out tones, before returning to the main theme. Overall it’s a great arrangement, creating a unique combination of ambient synth textures with the more aggressive sounds of heavy metal.
Have you heard any cool arrangements, covers, or remixes of FTL’s music? Tell us about them in the comment section below. You can check out Little V’s “Faster Than Rock” on Soundcloud, OC ReMix, and on YouTube.