Film, Game Music

Far, Far Away: My Favorite Star Wars Remixes

August 26, 2015 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Far, Far Away: My Favorite Star Wars Remixeson Twitter

When LucasArts started ramping up for the release of the strategy game Star Wars: Force Commander in 2000, one of the things they did was release mp3 samples of the music. At the time, I held John Williams’ original scores in the highest regard and wasn’t familiar with the growing fan remix/arrangement scene. So what I heard when I first clicked ‘Play’ on “Imperial Rage (Leviathan Mix)” startled me. I couldn’t imagine that someone would ever take those perfect pieces of music and put a beat to it, back it up with guitars and throw in samples from the movies. Within seconds, however, I realized how great the mix sounded and never again questioned someone having a go at the revered source material. With the impending onslaught of all new Star Wars games and movies this Fall I thought I’d take some time to highlight my favorite unexpected spins on the classic compositions.

“Mos Eisley” from Star Wars for the NES by Marshall Parker

I rented this game as a kid but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I came back around and re-discovered how great the music is. Alongside wonderful 8-bit renditions of “Leia’s Theme” and “TIE Fighter Attack” is the music that plays during the Mos Eisley levels. It’s a fast paced, original tune that might fit any other NES game except that it uses the familiar Cantina Band theme as a bridge. It isn’t subtle or elaborate but it marks one of the earliest examples of a Star Wars rearrangement/remix that I’m aware of.  As a Sega kid I didn’t play any of the SNES or PC Star Wars games so the next stop for me isn’t for another eight years.

Cantina Band” from Star Wars Episode 1: Racer by Andy Secombe
Episode 1: Racer is one of my favorite Star Wars, Nintendo 64 and racing games of all time. The music, though, is only worth noting because it kicks in on the final lap, amping up the excitement as “Duel of the Fates” and other themes blast over the sound effects. The reason it’s on this list is Watto. What must have been a lucky fluke during the recording session with Andy Secombe resulted in Watto humming the famous “Cantina Band” theme during the race results screen. It’s not really a remix but it was definitely a surprising rendition of a Star Wars theme that I still hum (in the style of Watto) to this day.

“Imperial Rage (Leviathan Mix)” from Star Wars: Force Commander for PC by Peter McConnell

This brings us to the game that inspired this post, Force Commander. Largely panned as a real-time strategy game, the soundtrack offers some surprising arrangements of Star Wars themes that very fittingly remind me of the Frank Klepacki, Command & Conquer style. For this Leviathan Mix that means sharp techno percussion, sawing guitars and Darth Vader samples. It’s always reminded me of “Hell March” from Red Alert, at least thematically if not musically.

“Redemption at Abridon” from Star Wars: Force Commander for PC by Peter McConnell

As for “Redemption at Abridon”, the C&C stylings mean a heavy atmosphere that hangs thick in the air as you never know what may come rolling out of the fog of war. It opens with the “Tales of a Jedi” theme and then growls along with synths, tambourines and didgeridoo. A choppy sample of the strings from “Into the Trap“ lay on the ominous vibes. There are several other remixed tracks from Force Commander but these two are my favorites. You can check out the full soundtrack on YouTube for more.

“Hoth” from Star Wars: Demolition by Dave Levison
Remember how great that Force Commander music was? Later the same year Dave Levison, part of the team behind that soundtrack, returned to chop up and remix the film scores again, this time for Luxoflux’s vehicular combat game, Star Wars: Demolition. With a focus on action over strategy the remixes are even wilder and faster paced. “Hoth” starts out with the foreboding solo piano march from “Battle in the Snow” which is quickly joined by electronic drums and timpani samples to form the driving backbeat. Clipped and looped samples of the horns from “Luke’s Rescue” add more urgency building up to a glorious breakdown and soaring interlude. It’s my favorite track from the game and probably only second to “Imperial Rage (Leviathan Mix)” on my short list of top Star Wars remixes.

“Naboo” from Star Wars: Demolition by Dave Levison
“Hoth” may be my favorite track from Demolition but “Naboo” is definitely worth a listen. It kicks in immediately with so many quick, staccato samples and orchestral hits that I honestly can’t identify them all. Short and fast timpani, string and horn samples bound in and out as the sharp electronic drums tie everything together. At the one minute mark the intro from “Panaka and the Queen’s Protectors” bursts in over the breakdown, all chopped up and cut off. It sticks around for the remainder of the song as all the different samples come together for a glorious final lap.

“Credits” from Star Wars: Demolition by Dave Levison

That brings us to yet another rendition of the famous “Cantina Band” song which is extra noteworthy for being mis-manufactured on all twelve copies that I’ve checked over the years. For real, I just bought another copy of the game while working on this feature and it too cuts off the song at the two minute mark. Even with that flaw it’s still a great remix that pumps up the bass and chops up the tune in the familiar Levison style. It’s always been hard for me to go back to the original version of this song after hearing this arrangement.

Full disclosure, I also bought a copy of Super Bombad Racing just to see if the music was fit for inclusion here. It definitely falls into the category of unique Star Wars remixes with plucky, minimal MIDI medleys of some of the classic themes. But none of it is especially memorable for me, not even the vaguely surf rock rendition of the iconic “End Title” theme. It was a good effort but not quite catchy enough.

That’s about all the unique Star Wars video game music I’ve come into contact with over the years. With the way fan reception shifted after Episode 1 I’m not surprised that few officially licensed titles got the unique audio treatments featured here. It’s sad that most recent Star Wars games simply copy or mimic the original scores, excellent though they may be. I’d still love to hear more remixes and rearrangements along these lines so if you know of anything worthy of a listen (fan or official), let us know in the comments.

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