Events, Game Music


November 28, 2018 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook APPROACHING LIGHT SPEED: VIDEO GAMES LIVE LEVEL 6 (REVIEW)on Twitter

Video Games Live has just released their latest album, Level 6 after yet another successful Kickstarter campaign. If you missed our reviews of the previous two albums you can read the reviews for both Level 4 and Level 5, which both earned high praise for the calibre of their arrangements and production value.

The latest album boasts 12 tracks and includes an arrangement of the Classic Arcade Medley that’s been featured during live shows since the beginning. Read on for my full track by track review.

The opening track on Level 6 is “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Trailer”. For this review,  I took the time to re-watch the Nintendo Switch 2017 Presentation Trailer and I also read a lot of the comments about the music in the trailer which included:

“This trailer made me cry when I first saw it, and it still does. Music can be so empowering.”TokenGeek;

The trailer and its music is what convinced me to pick up the game.”OJorgeO; and

It’s a shame this music was only used for the trailer and not in the game.”GoldenArrow

I understand why this piece of music was chosen for Level 6, because its powerful and captures the essence of the game in just a few minutes. In comparison to the original track, I prefer this version. Growing up in the 1990s, it was a time where you had to purchase an entire CD in order to own one song. This track alone is worth the price of the entire album, if you played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild this track will resonate with you. The orchestra, chorals, and lovely soft piano work truly captures what made the original track so amazing.

Earlier this year on one of many thrift store trips I found a copy of the original Pokemon Album 2.B.A Master featuring the original recording of the Pokemon theme song. I found the album shortly after seeing Jason Paige perform the new track live in Ottawa this year. I happily got to shake his hand, but sadly because it was a Monday night could not stick around after the show. The difference between the two versions of “Pokémon Gotta Catch Em All!” is night and day. The original background music was produced using synths combined with rock guitar. This new version brings so much more to the song with its orchestral accompaniment. Jason Paige’s voice sounds just as good live, and here on this recording, as it did in the original. If you grew up a Pokemon fan, or even just watched an episode or two of this song is a stunning tribute and sonically a step up.

“Final Fantasy  X To Zanarkand” is a game audio piece very near and dear to Nobuo Uematsu fans around the world. The arrangement put together here is lush and vibrant featuring instrumentation that begins with solo piano, and delivers an engrossing piece featuring strings, solo cello, and choir.

Listening to “Metal Gear Solid” you’ll be fighting the urge to duck under a cardboard box. It’s a perfect arrangement of the original game’s main theme, and it’s been one of my favorite pieces to see Video Games Live perform live because Tommy always manages to fit himself and his guitar into a box on stage.

You can listen to a ten minute track by track sampling of the album in the above trailer.

“Undertale: Once Upon a Megalovania” is a loving tribute to Undertale. The first half of the arrangement is a gorgeous orchestral arrangement, and at the half way it kicks up a notch with electronic elements, a much larger and fun sound. If you’re an Undertale fan it is really a fun track.

Sombre cello opens the “The Last of Us: All Gone (No Escape)” which is very emotional and touching. Strings add to the cello accompaniment and the brief track slowly fades out. The music is very pretty, and as I have not finished the game I can’t tell you what part it’s taken from. (I am still stuck quite early at the part where you’re hanging upside down in a leg snare and you have to shoot a clicker).

On a much lighter note, “Earthbound (Mother) Montage” opens with a cheerful playful melody. I never played Earthbound but I’ve since learned that the end credits song for the game Smiles and Tears actually had lyrics written for it that never made the cut. The lyrics in this version are presented in English and performed by a few vocalists which includes a stunning moment you’d expect to hear in an opera. It was a nice surprise for me, and another stand out track on the album.

“Destiny – The Union” is a wonderful thrilling action piece that features wonderful chorales and brass work. For me, since I haven’t played a lot of Destiny parts of this reminded me of a super hero score.

Warm but sophisticated is how I would describe the music featured in the “Tomb Raider Suite”. I’ve never played the game, and am no familiar with the original game music. The suite opens with a gorgeous strings, and a male choir that gave me a sense of awe. The music then changes to a more traditional European uppity sound, which if I think of the film, I imagine Lara Croft doing acrobatics in Croft manor. The piece’s third act presents a more action oriented string and brass which is a nice ending.

“Nier: A Beautiful Song” in its original version has non-English lyrics with fans online coming up with their own interpretations, or sometimes with hilarious results trying to decipher what they’re hearing. In the version that appears on Level 6 the lyrics are entirely in English. I’m not sure if this version is a new translation or interpretation of the lyrics but it’s exceptional.

Another surprise on the album for me was “Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II Suite” which is glorious. Yet another game I’ve never played, but whose music features both sweeping orchestra and menacing chanting choir .

“Classic Arcade Medley” is a pleasure to listen to with headphones on because you can hear the Pong sounds and orchestra strings moving from left to right. For me it’s another highlight track and fan service to those that have had a chance to see the show live. I’m happy that this arrangement has been given it’s proper due treatment on this album. I never get tired of hearing that Duck Hunt excerpt. Also if you’re used to sticking around for the end credits at the movies, you might want to listen closely to the end of this one.

Every time I reach out to Tommy Tallarico about the latest Video Games Live album, he happily provides a copy for us to review and his reply continues to remain the same: “I think it’s our best one yet!” The one thing I will say that Video Games Live does consistently with all of their releases is provide something for everyone. You may not be familiar with all the music from the games featured on an album, but it’s a great way to broaden your game music horizons. For me Level 6 is another must own arrangement album, and I hope they keep producing albums for years to come. The Video Games Live Level 6 album becomes available to the public on December 7th.

Have you seen any of these tracks performed live at a recent show? Will you be adding Level 6 to your collection?

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