By RecSpec 6 Comments
It is easier than ever to get your hands on game music. Most Steam games will sell the soundtrack along with the game, and many more publishers are warming up to the idea of releasing soundtracks through iTunes, Amazon or even the PlayStation Store for their bigger games. A lot of people also use Bandcamp for their soundtrack releases, mostly indie game soundtracks, but also a lot of neat remixes. There is still the tendency for Japanese game companies to keep their stuff in Japan, leading to the expensive import prices that are well known. Luckily, those are fewer of those cases each year, and soon they will be the exception rather than the rule. Of course, if all else fails, you can just record the music yourself, or find a way to rip it off of the source. This is great for games that have different versions of music for different regions (Rhythm Heaven Fever) or games that don’t have an official soundtrack at all (Looking at you, Miracle Mask).
I’ve been doing various awards blogs throughout the week for things like “Best Rhythm Game”, “Best DLC” and more. But today’s list is one that is near and dear to my heart. My favorite video game songs of this year. I’ve been doing this for three years now, and I love doing it. I’m strange, most of the music I listen to is from games. Thanks to things like Spotify and plug.dj, I've been able to expand my tastes a bit, but deep down I’ll always enjoy the song from a boss battle over the latest hit. Ranking these songs is always strange, you have the song itself which is important, but there’s also the connection the song has with the game. It’s always a combination of both, never one or the other. A game can only have one song on the list, this way I can give recognition to more games. This is based on games that released in the US in 2012. I have videos for each song attached. As amusing it can be to read about what some random person has to say about it, sometimes the music just speaks for itself.
I don’t believe that there is a wrong way to play a game, but I am definitely the wrong person to play Journey. I enjoyed Journey, it was a nice ride, but in no way did I feel those feelings shared by others. I don’t have a story about companionship and the bond I felt with a complete stranger. That aside, you would have to be dead inside to not be somewhat moved by the score of this game. In addition to the gorgeous scenery, Wintory’s score adds to the atmosphere. The epitome of this is “Apotheosis.” Even if you have no idea what this game is, the song is fantastic. A fitting end to your journey, and honestly, it feels like a story by itself.
Sonic 4: Episode 2 is not the phoenix rising from the ashes of the Sonic series, but it’s the first game in awhile where I didn’t feel bad after finishing. A huge improvement over the first episode would be an understatement. Metal Sonic returns and has his own boss theme, and it’s pretty great. It sounds like a song from the Genesis era without sounding EXACTLY like one of the songs from that era. Which was the biggest problem I had with the soundtrack of Sonic IV. Snare drum aside (I hate that snare drum so much), it’s a great boss battle theme.
The soundtrack of Virtue’s Last Reward isn’t anything spectacular. A lot of the music fades into the background, which is fine for what that game is, and probably the intended effect. Adding to the environment without stealing the spotlight. The biggest evidence of that fact is how the most memorable music is from 999. “Blue Bird Lamentation” stands out for many reasons though, the first being the music box style intro. From that it builds into a powerful song. The other big reason it stands out is that this song plays during one of the strongest moments in the game, and arguably the best moment. The moment and the song combine to make one unforgettable scene.
The soundtrack from Dust (not to be confused with From Dust) was one of my favorite soundtracks of the year. Dust by itself is a pretty linear game, there are worlds to visit, and you will visit most of them in a specific order. The soundtrack’s biggest strength is how they create a song for each world. These aren’t your typical minute-long loops, they are long pieces that start at one point and clearly ends at another. A song will start calm and build into a storm that mirrors your actions on the screen. “The Sorrowing Meadows” is the name of the graveyard world, and the song is haunting. The best part is near the end, when it steps up to a completely different level, only to fade back away.
Note: Most video regarding this song are shot down in a hurry, so here's a link to the soundtrack's page. Song 9.
I’m not a big Akira Yamaoka fan, at best I found the non-licensed part of Lollipop Chainsaw’s soundtrack okay. The high point of the soundtrack is clearly the licensed music. Just kidding, it’s the boss music. When I learned that Jimmy Urine (of Mindless Self Indulgence) and Akira Yamaoka were working together to do the boss music, I was confused. I doubted that something good would come out of this. I was completely wrong. The bosses in Chainsaw are from various eras of music (Funk, Rockabilly, Punk) and the boss music for Lewis Legend (Rock and Roll) is really great. In addition to being somewhat fitting, the music goes through various stages as the boss battle go on, each being more different than the last.
5. “Silver Lights” from Hotline Miami, by CoConuts
The soundtrack of Hotline Miami is by committee, but wow, does it make that game great. The group of artists are each impressive in their own right, but “Silver Lights” takes the Miami throne. The scenes in the dark room where you face the three masked people (horse, rooster, owl) were great, mainly because of this song. This song just feels dirty, fitting for a dark decaying place. Whether that place is a dark hotel room or the darkness of someone’s soul as they kill yet again.
I wrote a lot about the ending of Spec Ops for my awards earlier in the week. I said that the music for the scene makes it more memorable, and I stand by that. There is no official release of this song, but after listening to it, I knew it was one of the best of the year. Every moment in the ending is accented by the changes in this song. It begins as a quiet ambiance, then keeps building. By the time the song hits its stride you’re in an intense showdown that only ends when the song ends. To be honest, any mediocre song could be elevated by the scene that is going on, it’s that good. It’s amazing that the music could add to a scene like this, this one definitely does.
The remixes in Rhythm Heaven are always neat, a combination of the previous minigames with a different song attached. You can always tell which games are going to make up the remix, until later on. Later in the game it’ll pull mechanics from all over, so it was neat seeing certain minigames return. This song was for Remix 8, which was a combination of a great photo theme, a fitting choice of minigames, and the aforementioned song. It’s made better by the sounds of the minigames, but the song by itself is still great. A pop song through and through, with catchy lyrics and a great beat. I'm linking the in-game version with the sound effects below. Both are great, but I love the Air Rally cat so damn much. When I came across that part, probably my favorite in the whole game.
I love anytime a game composer takes a shot at traditional western (as in, wild west western) music. The “Orphan Wolf Legend” songs are Yasha’s theme throughout the game. Fang is the main battle theme, and is awesome. It’s a perfect companion to the over-the-top nature of Asura’s Wrath. It does border on being overused at times. You go from being pumped when it starts playing to wondering if Yasha is playing this song when he walks into the room. But despite that, it’s an awesome song. This was definitely one I kept playing throughout the year. It’s one that stands out, you know where this one is from. It was almost my favorite song of this year, and it would have been if not for an old game coming back with some new tricks.
The up and down and slight up again following Solo Remix was exhausting. From the hype about a new TWEWY related thing, to the huge disappointment of an iOS game, to the slight positive that hey, they recognize this exists, and new people get to discover this. The World Ends With You has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, and it was jarring as hell to find the changes they made in the game. Throughout the game, I kept thinking “No! (This song) is associated with (This moment).” However, there are some good things, and “Tatakai” is the best thing about that game. It is a new song specifically made for Solo Remix, and it lives up to the extremely high level of the original soundtrack. From the guitar to the mostly understandable English lyrics, it is a TWEWY song through and through. That is awesome and shocking, I have no idea how they pulled it off. I was listening to this song over and over again after it came out. So fantastic.
Thanks for reading and listening, my Game of the Year list will be out tomorrow, and if you haven’t checked out my other random awards you can see Days One, Two, Three, and Four here. It’s been a great year for video game music, here’s hoping next year is just as good.