Game Music, Reviews

Video Games Live Levels Up With CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Release (Review)

November 17, 2010 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Video Games Live Levels Up With CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Release (Review)on Twitter

Time sure does fly. I can’t believe it’s already been two years since we reviewed Video Games Live: Volume 1. While I enjoyed the debut album, I did miss some of the show standards including music from Nintendo and Square Enix. Well, that’s all behind us now, as the tracklist for Video Games Live: Level 2 (not sure why they decided to switch from volumes to levels) features music from those companies and more with the Blu-Ray/DVD release packing in even more music and extras for your enjoyment.

Wondering how Video Games Lives’ first live concert DVD turned out? Find out in our review after the jump!

First of all, since we’re covering both the CD as well as the Blu-Ray/DVD release here, I think it’s important that we look at the different tracklistings to get an idea for how they differ, as some liberties were certainly taken with both releases:


1. Classic Arcade Medley
2. Halo Montage
3. Civilization IV: Baba Yetu (Duet Version)
4. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Theme
5. Sonic the Hedgehog: Staff Credits
6. Advent Rising Overture
7. Interactive Guitar Hero: Aerosmith – “Sweet Emotion”
8. Warcraft Montage
9. Chrono Cross: Scars of Time
10. Mass Effect Suite
11. Megaman Montage
12. Myst Suite
13. The Legend of Zelda Suite
14. Super Mario Bros. Medley
15. God of War: Revenge and Redemption
16. Martin Leung – Mario Solo Piano Medley
17. Martin Leung – Tetris Solo Piano Medley
18. World of Warcraft: Lament of the Highborne
19. Castlevania Rock Overture


1. The Legend of Zelda Suite
2. Baba Yetu [Duet Version]
3. God of War: Revenge and Redemption
4. Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Medley
5. World of Warcraft: Lament of the Highborne
6. Mario Solo Piano Medley
7. Super Mario Brothers Medley
8. Warcraft Montage
9. Sonic the Hedgehog: Staff Credits
10. Advent Rising Overture
11. Megaman Montage
12. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Theme
13. Final Fantasy Solo Piano Medley
14. Halo Montage
15. Castlevania Rock Overture
16. One Winged Angel [Rock Edition]

Sorry for the long list there, but as you can see, there are some distinct differences, making the two products really quite different. Let me start by discussing the CD release, which features the aforementioned additions from Square Enix and Nintendo among others. You’ll find it interesting to note that a number of these tracks are direct carry-overs from the original Video Games Live: Volume 1 release, although these are different recordings. “Warcraft Montage,” “Halo Montage,” “Castlevania Rock Overture,” “Advent Rising Overture,” and “Revenge and Redemption” remain pretty close to the original CD release. You may also recognize “Baba Yetu” from Civilization IV, although here it comes as a duet version that I think is much more passionate and powerful than the Volume 1 version.

It’s then on to new material. It’s off to a strong start with “The Legend of Zelda,” and Mario Bros. gets two appearances, one with the orchestra and one with Martin Leung, which has always been a fan favorite. It sounds like the Leung tracks here (including his “Final Fantasy Medley”) were recorded in a studio as opposed to in a live setting, which actually helps keep them clear and crisp (there’s generally lots of fan response during these segments). I love the “Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Medley,” which features Tommy and Jack on acoustic guitar, as well as the inclusion of “Lament of the Highborne,” one of my favorite pieces from World of Warcraft.

You can’t go wrong with “Sonic the Hedgehog” (I’ll never get over how great the Starlight Zone music is), and this is the first time I’ve heard their “Megaman Montage.” It features rock percussion, lots of guitar, and actually covers the opening themes from both Megaman 2 and Megaman 3 as well as “Wily 1” from Megaman 2. I’d actually heard negative things about the arrangement that Video Games Live put together, but I rather enjoy it. It has the whole Symphony & Metallica thing going for it, as it focuses more on the rock side with the orchestra acting as a backing, which I think works well for the rock-heavy Megaman universe.

Overall, if you can overlook the duplications between Volume 1 and Level 2, there’s still a lot of fantastic music on this album, and given that it features some of the Square Enix material and the entire “Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Medley” that didn’t make it onto the Blu-Ray/DVD (perhaps Square Enix allowed for audio, but no video recording?), this may be more of a draw for some hardcore fans.

Regarding the Blu-Ray/DVD release, you will notice that Square Enix is almost entirely absent. There is a brief “Chrono Cross” segment with the “Chrono Trigger” portion removed (a shame), but there are tons of additional performances here that are not featured on either the Volume 1 or Level 2 CDs. I enjoyed the inclusion of Myst and Mass Effect as well as the Aerosmith interactive segment. I was still on the edge of my seat watching the Guitar Hero player break the 200,000 point mark just as I always am in the live concerts.

Of note is the fact that not all pieces are presented in their entirety. I already mentioned the “Chrono Trigger” portion of the “Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Medley,” but even the “Classic Arcade Medley” is cut to a very short length. Having seen the show so many times, this was a bit jarring, but I’m sure most won’t notice. Also, rather than featuring the concert from start to end, each segment is broken up with a brief commentary from either Tommy Tallarico or the game’s composers about the music being performed or about the impact of videogames in general. I would have personally preferred a continuous feed of the concert, but I understand that the commentary is sometimes important for context for those not familiar with the music.

The star of the Blu-Ray/DVD release (and I keep lumping them together because the Blu-Ray release in fact contains a DVD version of the disc inside the same case), is the bonus content. There are tons of interviews, behind the scenes looks, and trailers to be seen on the disc. Interviews include Tommy Tallarico, Ralph Baer, Jamie Lee Curtis (a strange one about how World of Warcraft is good for children), Russell Brower, Gerard Marino, Christopher Tin, and Jason Hayes. These were all great interviews, as I learned a ton even after having interviews several of these people multiple times in the past. Jason Hayes actually walks viewers through the “Warcraft Montage,” section by section, which was lots of fun to see.

The behind the scenes material is some of the best content on the disc. In one video, Tommy Tallarico walks viewers through his entire guitar collection, showing close-ups and giving background on each of the half dozen or so guitars he uses in the show. There’s also a hilarious “Behind the Scenes Tour” where Tallarico walks around backstage before the show, noting that lots of boxes and cables are the key to a great show. Or even if it’s not a great show, nobody can say that they didn’t have a lot of boxes and cables. Finally, there’s a lengthy video from Tommy’s trip to Japan where a party was organized for him to meet many of Japan’s most famous composers, including Yuzo Koshiro, Norihiko Hibino, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, Kinuyo Yamashita, Michiru Yamane, Hiroshi Okubo, Yasunori Mitsuda, and countless others. It was a blast to see.

The last of the bonus material includes trailers for some now-released games, but also a neat Tetris 25th Anniversary video, a commentary on the making of Dragon’s Lair by its creators, and the “Yuri the Only One” music video that they sometimes play at the shows.

Overall, while you may be displeased that some of the segments were either absent or truncated in the Blu-Ray/DVD release, and you may not like the commentary between tracks, this disc not only features a great collection of music, but is also packed with so many extras that they alone almost make this worth the purchase. For this reason alone, I’d recommend the Blu-Ray/DVD release over the CD release, but both have their strengths and weaknesses. The Blu-Ray/DVD release is available for $29.93 while the CD is $14.98 via Shout! Factory.

What do you think of the differences between the CD and Blu-Ray/DVD releases? Which one will you be picking up, and are there segments from VGL that you’d still like to see released on CD?

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