Game Music

OneUps Volume 2 = 2Up? Two Discs of Arranged VGM Reviewed

September 15, 2008 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook OneUps Volume 2 = 2Up? Two Discs of Arranged VGM Reviewedon Twitter

It’s difficult for me to write objectively about this two disc collection, knowing my own peers on OSV (Mustin, Dale North) are members of The OneUps and are probably going to be the first to read this review. Wish me luck on being objective!

The OneUps have been doing fanmade arrangements for classic VGM tunes for years now, and this most recent collection is another strong entry to their discography.

After the jump, you’ll find my full, detailed review of this two disc collection.

Let’s start with the tracklist. Here’s the full breakdown:

(# Track Title / Game Title)
Disc I
01 Title Screen / Mario Paint
02 Punch-Out!! / Punch-Out!!
03 Green Hill Zone / Sonic the Hedgehog
04 Music A (Korobeiniki) / Tetris
05 Into the Thick of It / Secret of Mana
06 Air Man / Mega Man 2
07 Mii Channel / Nintendo Wii
08 Boomer Kuwanger / Mega Man X
09 Brinstar (Overgrown with Vegetation Area) / Super Metroid
10 Funky Goblin / King Arthur’s World
11 Time of the Falling Rain / The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
12 Vega / Street Fighter II
13 Prelude / Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Disc II
01 Title BGM / Metroid
02 Terra / Final Fantasy VI
03 Alien Break Down / ToeJam & Earl
04 Professor Oyama’s Laboratory / Luigi’s Mansion
05 Fortuna / StarFox
06 The Silence of the Daylight / Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
07 Dungeon Medley / The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
08 Underground BGM / Super Mario Bros. 2
09 Chrono Trigger / Chrono Trigger
10 Mystic Cave Zone / Sonic the Hedgehog 2
11 Sagat / Street Fighter II
12 Shadow Man / Mega Man 3
13 African Mines / DuckTales

Looking at the tracklist, it’s clear that The OneUps aren’t straying too far from their normal territory. About 90% of the games covered are for Nintendo consoles, and we find some expected names: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Castlevania, Final Fantasy. The OneUps also picked some cult classic fan favorites, such as DuckTales and King Arthur’s World. And an arrangement of the “Mii Channel” music? Clever, clever!!

But the game sources aren’t the only things of note. Some of the actual songs picked from these games were unexpected. “Into the Thick of It” was a pleasant surprise, as was Sonic 2‘s “Mystic Cave Zone.” But, personally, I’ve had it with fan arrangements of Tetris‘ “Korobeiniki.” They’re a dime a dozen, and the garage band (plus saxophone) setup doesn’t suit the song very well.

What makes the work of The OneUps so special, every time, is the effort put into each and every recording. It’s nothing but real instruments, in a typical band setup: guitar, bass, keyboard, drums. Then, in many tracks, saxophone takes the lead, and there are a couple tracks with violin included as well. These arrangements aren’t complex; generally what you get is a straight rendition of the song, and perhaps a place to do an improvised solo. But, considering these arrangements are so rare from Japan lately (Kukeiha Club, where are you?!), it’s refreshing to hear this sort of work being produced, especially by North American gamers.

The quality of the arrangements do vary, however, from track to track. I think extra time and attention was put into the full-band tracks: more practice, more precision. The Mega Man tracks are a testament to this, especially “Boomer Kuwanger” from Mega Man X. Other tracks have great arrangement, but the final product is a little “loose” in terms of rhythmic precision. I would cite the Brinstar arrangement as one example where we see this. Though, compared to Stemage’s “Metroid Metal” tracks, this jazz interpolation of the classic song is refreshing and new, so I can definitely forgive a little lax mixing and mastering. If you want to hear some really tight, tight tracks in terms of production value, both Castlevania arrangements are fantastic in this regard.

I love virtually everything about this collection. The RPG whore in me would love to see more selections from classic NES and SNES RPGs, even (or *especially*) games not from Squaresoft. But most VGM nuts don’t think in terms of genre like I do, so most of you should probably not worry about genre. Just know that The OneUps are pros at selecting and arranging classic VGM tunes for a jazz/rock band setup. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the scene (OCRemix, etc), or whether you’re just now learning of this field of music, it’s time to pick up this album. I give it high marks, and even higher recommendations. Also, if you own the collection, be sure to keep listening at the end of disc II for a little bonus!

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