By vidiot 25 Comments
It's been difficult month, but I'm slowly (FINALLY) bouncing back.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Before I pull out a giant 2010 retrospective like a lot of people are doing, I'd thought I would do what I did last year by talking about my favorite game soundtracks of this year. The big giant retrospect will come later: And I have a ton to talk about.
It should be noted that I don't have a personal favorite, or list the soundtracks in any-form of competition, or in no particular order. I don't think we give enough credit to the music that's in our games sometimes. I know I've missed a few, and if you feel like you want to donate to this list: By all means go at it. I can't play everything. Even though I tried.
By cloning myself....
...it didn't work out...
...although my clone did have like, six arms....that was pretty cool.
So without further ado, let's get at the giant list. Or, as I affectionately call this blog:
Final Fantasy XIII
Composer: Masashi HamauzuA few year's back I picked up a very confusing game called Dirge of Cerberus. After reading a torrent of negative reviews I had initially passed on the game, then picked it up for barely nothing out of a bargain-bin. Dirge of Cerberus acts and feels as if it was developed by a team that has never played a shooter in the last decade, and had multiple problems, but it wasn't the terrible mess I was awaiting it to be. The game was a mediocre shooter that had the name "Final Fantasy VII" attached to it and fans rightfully grumbled about it.
This was also the first time I really took notice of Masashi Hamauzu as a composer. He previously worked on the Saga series and working alongside Uematsu with Final Fantasy X, but with Dirge of Cerberus he was technically filling in the shoes of Uematsu exclusively, who's works at this point almost have mythological repercussions. Like the game, Hamauzu's soundtrack was accepted in a very polarizing manner by fans. He decision to not cover any actual music from the original Final Fantasy VII was confusing enough, but then Square thought it was cool to promote this turd in the soundtrack.
It was upsetting to me because outside of whatever the hell this turd is, and the lack of any Final Fantasy VII music, Dirge of Cerberus had a pretty good soundtrack.
What's fascinating for me is that Final Fantasy XIII has, yet again, barely no redone Uematsu music. No victory fanfare, just an increased focus on his own work. I think it shows maturity, and perhaps it's probably best to sometimes ignore fans. Hamauzu is not Uematsu, and unlike Sakimoto with Final Fantasy XII he seems far more confident in his work. Final Fantasy XIII has a very solid soundtrack and style, and there's more than enough memorable tracks here to qualify a purchase outside of listening to the music exclusively in the game. The battle-theme that's most heard will be stuck in your head for a while, not because of it's repetitive use: But because it's simply good music.
Mass Effect 2 Composer: Jack Wall
It's a bit hard to remember, but there was a time before and just after Mass Effect 2's release, when there was a bit of controversy regarding Mass Effect 2's soundtrack. The first Mass Effect seemed to be a homage to 80's sci-fi and it's soundtrack followed suit, featuring heavy synth rarely diving into anything orchestral. Jack Wall kept the sound of the original game, while adding a full-blown orchestra for multiple tracks. The end result is a mix of something more traditional, with something that equally still respects the original concept.
I dig it. I think the combination of synth and orchestra, gives Mass Effect more identity. Something that's more than just a homage and is able to stand-alone. To compliment the soundtrack are several character and planet themes that more mirror what was on display in the first game, so there is still something for everyone.
In lesser hands this had a higher probability of not working. Jack Wall has been scoring game soundtracks for years now, and I was always a fan of his work with the Myst series and have been wondering if he would ever undeniably top that effort. I really do feel like he did just that here.
Not only that, but he never stopped making music for the game. Every DLC for Mass Effect 2 has come with it's own "mini-soundtrack", each one with new themes that work phenomenally with not just what's in the game, but on it's own as well. Great work all-around.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game Composer: Anamanaguchi
How strange was 2010? My favorite downloadable title was a movie tie-in.
That's freaking strange.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game has a soundtrack, to top all retro soundtracks. Anamanaguchi is a chiptune punk band, and before you ask or say anything: Just say "chiptune punk" a few times out-loud. Doesn't that sound awesome? I'll let you be for a few minutes.
It's probably the best description of their genre of music too, the band consists of the usual suspects: Guitar, Bass, and Drums. Then they throw over a hacked NES and Gameboy into the mix and the end result is nothing short of freaking awesome. One of my favorite experiences this year was running through the first level of this game, then having around the mid-point the live instruments slowly work their way into the music track. It's probably something that can't be replicated by just sitting and listening to the music. Regardless, the entire soundtrack feels like a giant love-letter to the NES generation. It makes sense in the context of Scott Pilgrim, and it's just plain awesome to boot.
Anamanaguchi has performed live a few times at Pax. For those who have more interest in the actual band, you might want to check their official site.
Resonance of FateComposers: Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka
Resonance of Fate is that really good JRPG that was released on an HD console this year, that you probably didn't play because you heard it has a really crazy battle-system. That's true, the battle system at times defiantly over-the-top. Mechanics and design not organically meshing with each-other, and instead seems like someone just threw-up a bunch of idea's into a battle-system.
It is functional though, and while the game defiantly does have a bunch of problems, it's kinda upsetting to see this thing go under the radar. Apparently, just having Nolan North in your game does not constitute sales. You actually you to advertise your game.
Wait, who published it? Sega? Ohhhhhh...
Resonance of Fate also has a phenomenal soundtrack. Every-time you turn on the game, you are reminded about how awesome the soundtrack.
That's what plays when on the freaking main-menu. I know right?!
The soundtrack itself is divided between two extremes. Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka are the composers and their styles couldn't be more different. Kōhei Tanaka does the heavy orchestral work, while also doing environmental music. My personal favorite is this piece that plays in an impoverished town. Sakuraba on the other hand deals primarily with the battle theme's which seem hit-or-miss.
In terms of just sheer variety, the soundtrack for Resonance of Fate deserves your attention and was defiantly the biggest surprise for me this year.
Halo ReachComposer: Martin "Marty" O'Donnell
Halo has good music.
No matter how much your opinion on the actual series might be, that iconic gregorian chant has been etched into the brains of generations, similar to the victory fanfare or Mario going into sewers.
Admit it, just the sheer mention of "Mario" and "Sewers", made you do the "Duna-Duna-Duna" out-loud. We are weird.
What's really interesting on how the Halo series from a musical standpoint has developed. Halo 2's soundtrack stumbled, Halo 3 felt like a definitive Halo soundtrack. Then you had Halo ODST, which for me was absolutely fascinating. Having a game as intensive as Halo, then risking the experience by deciding to incorporate Jazz...In a Halo game...and then have it work, is something that really impressed me last year.
Halo: Reach on the other-hand does two things:
1) It acts as a standalone soundtrack, filled with dark and depressing themes in context to the game's story.
2) An audio prequel to the first game. Hearing quick snippets of other Halo themes in new tracks, as if they are in some-form of metamorphosis is something that has to be heard. Marty isn't just a great composer, but his more thematic nebulous music for the down-time of Reach is still equally fantastic. This is worthy to be in your collection.
Red Dead RedemptionComposers: Bill Elm and Woody Jackson
Let's put it this way: Everyone this year remembers when they crossed into Mexico.
Bill Elm is a member of the band Friends of Dean Martinez and ex-member Woody Jackson, team-up to probably create one of the best soundtracks this year. For the longest time now Rockstar has been using licensed music in it's open-world games, all accessible from the vehicles. Horses don't have radios, (Unless they're alien hybrids, which if they are: Send pics) so how Rockstar was going to implement music into Red Dead Redemption was something that interested me. The instrumental music is just fantastic.
Red Dead Redemption at least refreshed my memory, that music in western movies can be freaking awesome. Not just the instrumental work, but also sequences like crossing into Mexico, giving you the feeling that you are in an interactive western. It's good stuff and deserves to be on this list.
I missed a bunch.Shorter list than last year. I know, I feel awful: This blog is only a little over three pages. I felt like there was a few missed opportunities this year. I was debating Fable 3, perhaps it deserves a shout-out. Someone recommended God of War 3, a game I've sadly skipped this year. I didn't know if Tron: Evolution was deserving either, haven't played the game but I've heard that Daft Punk tracks from Tron: Legacy do appear on the soundtrack.
If you have any recommendations, feel free to add.
Oh, and before I forget.
Merry Christmas everyone.