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 (Animated film Ed Cid) 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?
New work from Sam “Shnabubula” Ascher-Weiss came out today, and it’s quite a listen! The soundtrack for the game based off of the webshow Continue?” features a delightful mixture of chiptunes and comes at the even more delightful Name-Your-Price structure on Bandcamp. The 11-track album is exactly what you would expect a Contra-styled soundtrack to sound like, complete with high-energy pieces such as “Whirlpool Battle” and “Alien War-Machines”.
If you like some Shnabubula in your life and need some awesome chiptunes for your ride into work tomorrow, why not grab Continue? Philly Under Fire‘s OST and enjoy some great oldschool jams?
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.
If you’re a fan of MMORPGs and the music associated with them, this might just tickle your fancy. The Korean game Monarch: Heroes of a New Age features a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack and an accompanying arrangement album that is sure to please fans of sweeping score and memorable melodies.
Korean composer Goomin “Nauts” Nam, who composed for games like the drink mixing sim game Bar Oasis, has put together a fantastic and diverse assortment of music to accompany the fantasy MMORPG. If that’s not enough, the arrangement album, Monarch: Heroes of a New Age Arrangements & Variations, features an equally diverse cast of guest arrangers including Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater composer Norihiko Hibino and pianist AYAKI, as well as arrangements from Dale North and Joshua Morse. (more…)
With the popularity of indie games and their soundtracks growing, there has also been a surge in arrangements and remixes of these works. In fact there have been a few new arrangers who focus on indie soundtracks specifically. One of these emerging artists is Brent Kennedy. His previous albums include arrangements for Danny Baranowsky’s music for Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy. Kennedy’s specialty is solo piano arrangements. His writing style can be best described as impressionist (think Debussy or Ravel) with a small dose of minimalist writing thrown in the mix. The covered tracks can vary from energetic and climactic to calm and relaxing. In this latest album, he once again demonstrates a similar musical range.
Unlike his previous work, this newest arrange album, titled Indie Game Rhapsodies, takes a sampling of different indie game soundtracks. The composers covered include Big Giant Circles, Alec Holowka, Jeff Ball, and Austin Wintory. The soundtracks being drawn from are an eclectic selection. Some are chiptune soundtracks, while others are originally orchestral. Kennedy takes each of these selections and transforms them into relaxing and mesmerizing solo piano pieces. The result is a collection of tracks that showcases some excellent game music, while presenting a more classical take on the material. (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?
This week Penny Arcade announced its concert line-up for the upcoming PAX East 2014 convention. The event, as usual, will take place at the Boston Covention & Exhibit Center from April 11-13. Each of the concerts, the first on Friday and the other on Saturday, will feature performances by three different groups. A number of previous music guests will be returning to perform this year, including Metroid Metal, The Video Game Orchestra, and Anamanaguchi.
The PAX East 2014 concert roster is as follows:
-The Video Game Orchestra
It looks like it will be two nights of great music for PAX East attendees this year. A few of us from Original Sound Version will be checking out the concerts as well. Information on events, guests, and hotels can be found at the PAX East website. For those of you who were not able to grab tickets for the event, the concerts will be streamed live on the PAX Twitch stream. The event is less than two months away. Which bands are you looking forward to hearing?
Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson has released his soundtrack to Threes!, the hit iOS puzzle game. The album contains the original track,”Threes is the Bees Knees,” from the game, an alternate and unused version of the same track, and an extra unused piece that he wrote for the project. It’s a small set of music, but definitely a must have if you’re a fan of the game. To sweeten the deal, the soundtrack is currently available with a pay-what-you-want price tag. Not a bad deal for a 3 track album. If you enjoy the game’s music or enjoy some light and soothing jazz tunes, check out the album on the Big Giant Circles Bandcamp page.
In continuing our coverage of some of the notable soundtracks from 2013, we are taking a look at some of the indie soundtracks that slipped under the radar. There was one that caught my eye fairly early this past year. The game Legend of Dungeon is another indie title that started from a successful Kickstarter. Developed by Robot Loves Kitty, a team comprised of Alix Stolzer and Calvin Goble, the game is a rouge-like dungeon brawler that can be played by up to four players in local co-op. The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Like many rouge-likes, you explore a randomly generated set of dungeon floors which become increasingly difficult as you progress. Your actions are limited to jumping and using a selected item from your inventory. You pick up experience, currency, and items as you delve deeper into the depths of the dungeon. For this project they brought on composer David Dirig to help create an appropriate atmosphere for Legend of Dungeon.
What really grabbed my attention with this game was the way the music was handled. Much like the dungeon setup, the music is different every time you play. It’s more complex than having a random track that plays every time you start up. Each time the game is reset, a new set of instrument tracks are chosen. In other words, a different collection of looping instrument patterns are randomly selected and combined to create a new piece each time you start a game. For example you may have a game session where the music consists of a piano track, a synthesizer track, and a bass track which play in sync with each other. To take it a step further, each instrument responds according to your proximity to items, objects, and enemies in the game. This use of dynamic music (music that responds directly to the player’s actions) helps create a relatively new experience every time you play. (more…)
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.
Like many people, I was excited about the Double Fine kickstarter. The potential for creators like Tim Schafer to help revive the point-and-click adventure game genre was something I could get behind. After a few years of waiting, the Double Fine game titled Broken Age has had its first half released. As a backer I was able to play through an early copy and listen to the game’s soundtrack. For this game, Double Fine brought in game composer Peter McConnell. McConnell has previously worked with Tim Schafer on games like Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, and Brutal Legend. Since this is only Act 1 of Broken Age, this is technically only the first half of the soundtrack. When Act 2 comes out later this year, there will undoubtedly be more music and a second soundtrack.
Now because the main appeal to games like Broken Age are the story and the areas you explore, I feel a minor spoiler warning is due. With most of the soundtracks that I review, I like to take into account how the music relates and works within the game. The music can certainly stand alone and be critiqued for its own merits, but its interaction with the game is still an important aspect. Because of this, I will end up discussing certain sections of the game and that may spoil minor plot points or reveal parts of what you will experience in the game. I promise that this review will not contain any major plot spoilers or solutions to puzzles. However, there are inevitably things that may give hints or details about portions of the game. The very names of the album’s tracks can even give things away. So following the jump after this paragraph, I will be going into potential spoiler territory. Read on if you dare. (more…)
Do you like Vince DiCola?
I’m assuming you answered correctly and said “yes”, because otherwise what are you doing here you silly person?
Well, you’re about to be beholden to a blast from our childhoods, because Mr. DiCola along with his writing partner Kenny Mariedeth have released the original soundtrack for Saturday Morning RPG by Mighty Rabbit Studios! What better way to become fully-engrossed in a video game RPG based off ’80s cartoons than with one of the legends of ’80′s music!
San Diego, California – January 28, 2014Scarlet Moon Records is pleased to announce the release of the Saturday Morning RPG Original Soundtrack, featuring the work of legendary musician Vince DiCola — known for his work on Transformers: The Movie and Rocky IV — and his writing partner, Kenny Meriedeth. Additional talent is featured, including Jake “virt” Kaufman, Grant “stemage” Henry, and Dmitry “C – jeff” Zhemkov, who provide their own unique arrangements from the soundtrack.
Those familiar with Vince DiCola’s work will feel right at home among the heavy synth – infused progressive rock soundscapes that DiCola and Meriedeth have crafted. As Saturday Morning RPG pays tribute to classic ’80s cartoons, the main theme is appropriately upbeat and catchy, while the various battle themes should prove to be favorites among fans.“I’ve been a fan of Vince DiCola since my childhood,” notes Scarlet Moon Records producer Jayson Napolitano. “When I heard he was finally immersing himself in my other passion, videogames, I had to do everything I could to make sure as manypeople as possible would hear what he and Kenny Meriedeth have accomplished.”