Jul 182008

For those of you who have missed it, Greg Tannahill has a fun series of posts about great gaming music up at his blog, The Dust Forms Words. While I don’t agree with all his selections (I prefer “Hikari” to “Sanctuary”, for instance), and I think he ommitted some really good ones (more on that below), it’s a great series of posts. Greg, who will soon be standing for election in Canberra, brings back happy memories of some really good games with great music, but he also dug up some very interesting renditions, such as the one below the fold.

Yes, those are musical tesla coils, and yes, that is the Mario Level 1-1 theme.

One of my favorites among the games he’s mentioned is the opening theme to Katamari Damacy. You should follow that link and watch the clip, but be forewarned that hearing this music even one time will burn it permanently into that part of your brain that keeps songs in your head all day. I also think this is one of the best introductory sequences to a video game. Watching the intro doesn’t prepare you in any way for the gameplay or the story, but the wacky visuals and catchy music put you in the right mood.

As I said, Greg missed a couple of great soundtracks. Rather than leave a snarky comment on his blog, I thought I’d include put some of the omissions in my own post.

The most obvious of these is Kō Ōtani’s soundtrack to Shadow of the Colossus. You can find the whole soundtrack about eight times over on YouTube, but the following video will give you a good start.

One of the best parts about the sound design in Shadow of the Colossus is that it doesn’t make every battle an exercise in overwhelming horns and heavy, pounding rhythms. Several combat sequences feature calmer music that builds tension with sinister or mournful undertones. Shadow of the Colossus would probably make the shortlist for best game of all time even if the soundtrack consisted entirely of kids beating sticks together, but featuring some of the best music in the history of gaming certainly doesn’t hurt. “Revived Power” is one of my favorite heroic themes ever.

Second on my list of omissions is Christophe Heral’s soundtrack for Beyond Good and Evil, which is simply amazing. One of the recognized high points is “Home Sweet Home“, which plays over the credits and out on the water before you complete the Black Isle Mission. And my god, this piano arrangement of the main theme by Mythili Mahendran is fantastic:

The game that really cemented my love affair with computer RPGs was Betrayal at Krondor, and this was certainly helped by Jan Paul Moorhead’s excellent midi soundtrack. This is harder to get these days, but I remember coming across some .ogg files from it not too long ago. Amazingly, YouTube actually had a clip of the credits (German version) to this great game, with the main theme playing over them. I actually prefer the funkier “Jimmy the Hand”, which plays during this walkthrough, starting at about 0:18.

The PS2 had an amazingly vast library of RPGs to choose from, but perhaps the best, and certainly the most unique, was Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Playing fast and loose with history, it featured cameos from Roger Bacon, Anastasia, and Rasputin, blending its bizarre humor in with three convoluted and emotional love stories. And then there was the character who fights with a doll that can only gain new attacks if you give a particular tailor gay porn. The soundtrack was fairly diverse, ranging from creepy electronic themes like this one from the battle with Astaroth, to very placid piano and string pieces. Almost all of it was excellent, but I am inordinately fond of “Getsurenka”, which played over the closing credits. Yes, it’s almost hilariously overwrought, but after the “good” ending of Covenant a cathartic love song is precisely what you need:

There are certainly more that could go in here, but that’s enough embedding for one post. If you’re interested in more technical discussions of video game music, you should check out Cruise Elroy. Click his category link on the side to find the music posts.

  4 Responses to “Great Game Music”

  1. Hey, thanks for the links and the shoutout! I just went through all the clips. Good choices, with the exception of that love song from Covenant. ;-)

    All right, off to go check Greg Tannahill's links now…

  2. (This comment is cross-posted from The Dust Forms Words:)

    Mr Clarkson – thanks for the comment, and thanks for putting in your own suggestions! You're right that the Beyond Good & Evil piano track is fantastic.

    Music, by its nature, is something that's quite hard to describe in reviews, so it often gets the short end of the stick in game discussion. If I can get a few people thinking a little more about good gaming music then I'll consider my posts a success!

  3. Once again, I think I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't mention the Chrono Cross soundtrack. Yasunori Mitsuda creates the best soundscape I've ever heard to go with a video game. If you've never played Chrono Cross and you like RPGs do yourself a favor and buy a copy. Michael, you can borrow mine next time you are in town.

  4. Dream of the Shore Bordering Another World. Finally found the name!

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