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Mega Man photo
Mega Man

OverClocked ReMix releases official Mega Man album

Capcom-sanctioned album shows they're thinking of Mega Man
Oct 31
// Jayson Napolitano
OverClocked ReMix has already made it big in our books, contributing to the Video Games Live concert series and creating the soundtrack for Capcom's Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. On that latter front, OCR has t...
Super Mario 3D World photo
Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World features a lot of live music

The emphasis is on a big-band jazz style
Oct 30
// Jayson Napolitano
The Super Mario Galaxy soundtracks feature some of the best Mario music of all time. That's in part thanks to the majestic atmosphere generated by the live symphony orchestra they recorded for those games. The recent New...
Pokemon Music photo
New album seeking Kickstarter funding needs your help
I know there are a lot of fans of Pokemon Reorchestrated's Kanto Symphony and Lost Diaries albums out there. The team is now looking to release a new project titled Double Team, which will cover music from the first five gene...

I'm convinced: Final Fantasy VI is Uematsu's best work

Oct 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksFINAL FANTASY VI Original Soundtrack Remaster VersionRelease Date: September 4, 2013Price: 3,300 Yen ($34)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo UematsuWhat can I say about this other than re-listening to it for this review made me come to terms that this is Uematsu’s best work. I gushed about the job OverClocked ReMix did with Balance & Ruin, but there’s nothing quite like the original. Spot-on character themes packed with emotion, a perfect expression of good and evil that isn't too cheesy one way or the other ... it’s pretty much perfect.Everyone has their favorite tracks, and they tend to be the same, so I want to call out some underappreciated gems: “Kids Run Through the Corner,” which I think is one of Uematsu’s most soothing town themes, “Grand Finale?,” the comical battle with Ultros at the Opera House that unfortunately never makes it into live performances, the insanely terrifying battle theme, “The Fierce Battle,” and the mischievous “The Magic House” are among my favorites.Buy this now if you don’t already own it. There’s not much difference I could detect from the original version, although if I had to make one gripe, it’d be that their official English track listing breaks a lot of conventions and ignores localization efforts (“The Snake Path” and “Searching Friends” are particularly bad).BEYOND: Two Souls SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Pre-Order Bonus Artist(s): Lorne BalfeOkay, maybe we didn't like the game, but I love the soundtrack. Lorne Balfe, who recently did Assassin’s Creed III, is quickly becoming one of my favorite composers, and he’s only recently made his way from film to games. This score, while short, is a blend of beautiful and distraught orchestral cues. While that probably sounds boring, I really love the ambiance Balfe creates with the score. The unassuming main theme, “Jodie’s Suite,” features haunting female humming/singing, while “Beyond,” my favorite piece, is dark and tumultuous. Some tracks bring in heavier rock-style percussion to highlight the game’s action, but for the most part, I enjoy the textures that Balfe weaves over the course of nearly 45 minutes.Spectrum of ManaRelease Date: September 28, 2013Price: Free (digital) / $15 (physical)Availability: Spectrum of Mana website Artist(s): Various ArtistsHere’s an impressive album that covers all of the themes from the legendary Secret of Mana soundtrack. Get ready for tons of rock of all flavors, including riveting metal, some mellow acoustic material, and more. The entire album is gold (in part thanks to the source material, and also due to the artists’ apparent love for it). My favorites? There are a lot, and they tended to be my favorites from the original score: Ailsean’s chip-meets-rock “Leave Time for Love,” Norg’s explosive “Like a Boss,” stemage’s dreamy yet rockin’ “Holy Intruder,” Dr. Manhattan’s spunky “Steampunk Fun,” and my two favorites, the alternative-esque “Forest Lesson” by Tim Yarbrough and “A Wish” by VikingGuitar and Larua Liebowitz. Oh, and “Girl, You Got a Nice Beard” (town of dwarves) wins for best song title.Download. NOW. And then think about buying the awesome elemental shirts and art book.Stolen Hearts / Nanaa Mihgo'sRelease Date: September 11, 2013Price: 2,667 ($27)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nanaa Mihgo’s[Sound Samples]Here’s the Final Fantasy XI live arrange album you never knew you wanted. After most of the members of the Star Onions left Square Enix, this trio got together and brings a much heavier jazz flavor to the mix. The album’s eight tracks are really meaty, coming in at close to an hour, and I think fans will dig the jazz/funk and ballad elements.While “Bustle of the Capital” takes a lighter tone, “Fighters of the Crystal” is quite epic at 11 minutes in length. “Distant Worlds” takes a more ballad-oriented approach, while fan-favorite “Ronfaure” is super funky!Grab this album. It also comes with some codes for in-game stuff.Other Releases[embed]263332:50862:0[/embed]Bells of YggdrasilRelease Date: October 1, 2013Price: $4Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Jeff BallThis is a short but sweet solo piano album by Tiny Barbarian composer Jeff Ball. He cites the Piano Collections Final Fantasy CDs among its inspiration, which you can hear from time to time, especially in the ballad-esque “Girl with Platinum Hair.” My favorite, however, is the sleep-inducing “Aurora above Taiga,” which forms a nice contrast between high and low notes in an almost call-and-response manner. Lovely stuff, grab it if you like piano music.DENJI MASHI-MASHI Original SoundtrackRelease Date: February 7, 2013Price: 2,000 Yen ($20)Availability: Limited Artist(s): Various ArtistsI’m a huge fan of Nobuyoshi Sano, best known for Ridge Racer and Tekken, and I just recently found out he had his own record label with music distributed by SuperSweep. DENJI MASHI-MASHI is one such release that is admittedly mostly sound effects, but there are some bumping electronic tracks with some hip vocaloid vocals. The main theme in particular is rather infectious, while the electro “Parameters” is trip, and the retro “Dear Radio,” which will have you thinking of classic SEGA tunes, is probably my favorite track on the album.Still, there are about seven real songs here, and even if you could find the CD (it’s been sold at events in Japan), $20 for seven tracks is a lot to ask. Still, interesting to know what Sano does in his free time!Disgaea D2 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited Edition Bonus Artist(s): Tenpei SatoWe kind of did this one in reverse order! We recently reviewed the arrange album, and I was admittedly unimpressed. However, I think the original soundtrack offers a little more variety: classic fantasy tunes, Sato’s signature style of rock infused with wacky synths, and quirky vocal themes (one of which sounds like the Pokemon theme). I particularly dig the final battle theme “Dramatic Devil Story” and the sweet and comforting “Brown Leaf.”The second disc includes tracks from previous Disgaea games, while the beautiful limited edition set (still available exclusively on the NISA shop houses figurines, an art book, collectible cards, and the game. Fans who are looking forward to the game will want to strongly consider springing for the limited edition set, as the contents, including the soundtrack, are great additions to any collection.Sakura Flamingo Audiography –GREY– and –PINK–Release Date: July 26, 2013Price: 2,100 ($21) eachAvailability: Limited Artist(s): Various ArtistsI, like you, had no idea what these albums were when I first saw them. They were distributed by SuperSweep, and contain tracks and remix from ChaosField, Radirgy, Ilmatic Envelope, and Karaos. You end up with two discs packed with club, house, and other various kinds of electronic music. When I say electronic music, I mean the real stuff, too, not game-y stuff. PINK didn’t do much form me outside of the icy “Timeline,” although GREY get a bit more into game-y melodic territory with tracks like the perfect schmup accompaniment, “Human Figure -Remix-“ and the upbeat “2 the Sky -Remix-.” Still, even if you can find these, you’re probably going to want to be a huge electronic music fan to care.SQUARE ENIX COMPOSERS BEST/SELECTION BLACK DISKRelease Date: September 18, 2013Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various Artists[Sound Samples]This album draws attention to Square Enix’s current roster of composers, arrangers, and synthesizer operators. Each of nine artists gets a single track that acts as a medley that goes through their various works. While I can get behind Square Enix wanting to support its sound staff in this project, and while it will draw attention to some of the work some of their lesser-known team members have contributed to, I can’t help but think they could have done it in another, better way.First, medleys shift from one track to the next without much transition in some cases, making it difficult to isolate a specific piece you may want to listen to on its own. And you’ll sometimes be left scratching you head, knowing that a different composer composed the piece you’re listening to, but that this guy arranged or operated the synthesizer. Decently priced by Japanese standards, but would have made a better $10 digital release.SQUARE ENIX MUSiC SAMPLER CD Vol.8Release Date: September 21, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Tokyo Game Show 2013 Artist(s): Various ArtistsAn unassuming name, yes, but this disc is important. Square Enix hands these out every year at TGS, and they contain music previews of their upcoming release, often announcing many new CDs that we never knew were coming. This year’s disc is no different.There are some Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII trailer tracks (a nice bonus) which sound nice, although don’t give us much indication of what we’re going to hear, an underwhelming preview of their second volume of Christmas music, an action-y track from Drag-On Dragoon 3 (I was hoping for some more emotional NieR-esque material), and a few tracks from their smaller mobile titles. What really caught my attention were Cure SQ and SQ Swing, however, with the former bringing playful woodwinds to “Battle on the Big Bridge” and the latter giving us a medley from Final Fantasy VI. I’m not looking forward to both.A disappointing sampler for the most part, but there’s some interesting things that Square Enix will have for us this year!
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Note Worthy 020: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Okay, so we've featured a lot of Final Fantasy in Note Worthy lately, in part thanks to the recent remaster soundtracks. Looking at Final Fantasy VI this month, however, finally brought me around to accepting that this is tru...

Yoshitaka Amano photo
Yoshitaka Amano

Look at Yoshitaka Amano's Deva Zan story and art book

Literary debut of legendary illustrator
Oct 04
// Jayson Napolitano
I've been looking forward to getting this book for a long time. When we featured The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy some months back, we were told about the impending release of Deva Zan, Amano's literary debut that not ...
Secret of Mana photo
Secret of Mana

Spectrum of Mana tribute album now available

Three discs of arrangements paying homage to Secret of Mana
Sep 30
// Jayson Napolitano
Last month we shared an exclusive sample of Spectrum of Mana, a 3-disc tribute album to Hiroki Kikuta's timeless Secret of Mana soundtrack featuring stemage, Alexander Brandon, Tim Yarborough of The OneUps, and many others. T...

Top ten game music tracks to sleep to

Sep 24 // Jayson Napolitano
10. "Eruyt Village" - Final Fantasy XII (PS2) [embed]261464:50403:0[/embed] I knew from the moment this track started in with its beautiful harp and woodwinds that it'd be perfect to sleep to. Not only is the music soothing, but imagery of a lush deep forest comes to mind, really putting me in the mood. This is also one of my favorites from the highly underrated Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, and one of my favorite Sakimoto compositions to date. 9. "The Queens" - Secret of Evermore (SNES) [embed]261464:50404:0[/embed] Did you know that Secret of Evermore was composer Jeremy Soule's musical debut? This track, while somber, is simply magical. There are the peaceful harmonies in the beginning, followed by the warm bass, and finally the scattered woodwinds that seemingly drift off into a dream. 8. "Still of the Night" - Secret of Mana (SNES) [embed]261464:50405:0[/embed] I could have easily made a top ten list of music to sleep to from Secret of Mana alone. I went with "Still of the Night" mainly because some of my other picks were either more relaxing than sleep-inducing, or they were already featured on past lists. The bell tones and choir pads get a nice rhythm going that will do just trick on those sleepless nights! 7. "Peace of Akatosh" - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC / PS3 / 360) [embed]261464:50406:0[/embed] My sleep playlist is loaded with Jeremy Soule's work from The Elder Scrolls. "Peace of Akatosh" is especially effective, however, with its dreamy pads, slow pacing, and effective use of silence. It's not as exciting as many of the other tracks here, but it's somewhat of a sleeper hit (hah!). 6. "The One Who Is Torn Apart" - Xenogears (PS1) [embed]261464:50407:0[/embed] Okay, this one is a bit sinister, but man, that steady pad in the background and the fading bell tone backing does wonders. I often find the track contemplative, but given its length at over five minutes, I'm usually knocked out by the time it's through. This is another soundtrack with tons of great music to sleep to, though, so dig in! 5. "Subterra" - A Boy and His Blob (Wii) [embed]261464:50408:0[/embed] This was such a charming and gorgeous-looking game. Daniel Sadowski really outdid himself with the soundtrack, with "Subterra" being my favorite track from the game as well as one of my favorite songs to sleep to. It's that rich reverb that gives the track such an encompassing feel. 4. "Dimension Break" - Chrono Cross (PS1) [embed]261464:50409:0[/embed] Chrono Cross is another title with more than ten tracks that could easily be on this list. This lazy track moseys along with solo guitar, a measured pace, and a beautiful melody that is never intrusive. I can't help but remember the track's context, as well, in the bizarre yet beautiful space between worlds. 3. "Submerged Temple" - Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC) [embed]261464:50410:0[/embed] I was pleasantly surprised that this arrangement of the red soil area from Super Metroid found its way into Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It's an exceptional example of memorable ambiance, and the updated version featured here really put the theme over the top. There's power in repetition, and I find a certain regenerative quality in this track. 2. "Lifestream" - Final Fantasy VII (PS1) [embed]261464:50411:0[/embed] Okay, getting down to the bottom here, I had some really tough decisions to make. "Lifestream" is simply my favorite track from Final Fantasy VII, and for some reason, people never seem to pay it much mind! I remember going into Bugenhagen's observatory and leaving my TV on just to relax to this track, and I'll admit that it was first MP3 I ever encountered back in 1998. A friend brought over 21 floppy discs with three songs from the FFVII OST so he could show me "this cool new MP3 thing" (I now own the soundtrack legally, of course!). 1. "This Dream" - NieR (PS3 / 360) [embed]261464:50412:0[/embed] Nearly the entirety of the NieR soundtrack is on my sleep playlist. However, I went with "This Dream" because it literally put me to sleep while I was playing the game. This forest town is foggy and dream-like to begin with, but this track plays during one of the text adventures that you encounter while trying to save the villagers from their eternal dream state. So beautiful! BONUS! "Nao Chorra Menina" - Final Fantasy: Pray [embed]261464:50413:0[/embed] Okay, I intentionally said I wouldn't be including arranged tracks, so I had to pick my very favorite and make it a bonus track. "Nao Chora Menina" is a lullaby-esque arrangement from the Final Fantasy vocal album, Pray, and covers "Kids Run Through the City Corner" from Final Fantasy VI. It's one of just a handful of songs that contain vocals on my playlist, and I think you'll find that it's a wonderful lullaby.
The Sound Card photo
Sound Card 013: Try not to fall asleep while reading!
This one's been on the back burner for way too long. While most recent editions of The Sound Card have focused on a single game franchise, I've been wanting to get back to the good ol' "What's on your playlist" kind of posts....

I never realized Final Fantasy V's OST was this good

Sep 16 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksFINAL FANTASY V Original Soundtrack Remaster VersionRelease Date: August 7, 2013Price: 3,200 Yen ($32)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu[Sound Samples]Okay, I admit it. I still haven’t finished Final Fantasy V, and given that I never really played it, I never sat down and listened to its soundtrack with a critical ear. It’s interesting to note that with all the remix albums released by Square Enix over the years, I’ve been mostly exposed to this music through arrangements, and so it’s nice that this remaster version has given me the opportunity to visit the originals, and I have to say that I’m impressed!The composition is really top-notch Uematsu stuff, fitting nicely in between Final Fantasy IV’s newfound storytelling and the epic scale of Final Fantasy VI. Uematsu really nails the emotion right out of the gate with the bubbly main theme that is repeated elsewhere through the album, including in the foreboding “Bewitched” and the melancholy, “One Day, for Certain.” The town theme and overworld themes are fantastic and catchy, “Spreading Vast Wings” is pure Uematsu bliss, and “Far-Distant Hometown” is offers a rustic RPG sound that makes for an instant classic. And that’s not even touching on the legendary “Clash on the Big Bridge,” the powerful “Epic Battle,” and touching “Dear Friends.”You can count me as a fan of this soundtrack. Really, given its emotional impact, I think I’m inspired to go back and play the game now.As far as what the remaster version offers, I can’t tell the difference from the original soundtrack release, but there is the first-press cardboard sleeve if you were able to get that, and now there’s an official English tracklisting that is going to take old timers some time to get used to (no more “Ahead on our Way” or “Home Sweet Home”).LET ME TELL YOU A STORYRelease Date: September 26, 2013Price: $10Availability: Band Website (physical) | Bandcamp (digital) Artist(s): Random Encounter [embed]261873:50491:0[/embed]I’ll admit that I saw this band at MAGFest and thought they sounded terrible. However, I decided to give them another chance, this time with their new album, LET ME TELL YOU A STORY, and man, they’ve record a mean album. While the arrangements are short, the rock stylings with the addition of accordion sometimes feels like a pirate jig, and at other times it just seriously rocks. I love “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger, “Heart of Fire” from Castlevania, and the very cool “Serpent Trench” and “Slam Shuffle” (perfect for an accordion) from Final Fantasy VI, and the super epic “Wind Waker” (what better game for a pirate jig performance?).Vocals are strewn across the album. I know these will turn some people off, but the content is actually pretty funny if you take the time to listen (I’m looking at you, “Katamari on the Rocks”). “Theme of Sorrow” from Final Fantasy IV gets a serious vocal arrangement, and the choral fragment of “Epona” is also quite sweet.I hope they clean up their live act and bring some of these new arrangements to MAGFest this year! In the meantime, check them out. They’ve got a very unique sound and some great arrangements.Toukiden Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 28, 2013Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Hideki SakamotoHideki Sakamoto is a name that you should learn if you don’t already know it. While he’s known mostly for his work on echochrome, nearly everything he’s written is worth your time and attention, and this soundtrack is no different. It takes the monster hunting formula and adds traditional Japanese elements, which is reflected in the music. Now, this game is from Tecmo Koei, and I was expecting the soundtrack to take a heavy metal turn, but it never does, instead relying on traditional Japanese instrumentation with a strong orchestral backing, and, from time to time, an injection of tasteful electronics that really gets the blood pumping.There are emotional moments, grandiose epic ones, and everything in between. There are two discs of amazing composition here, with excellent production values. I can’t really call out the tracks by name (the track list hasn’t been translated yet), but this album comes highly recommended. Other Releases2ND SUPER ROBOT WARS OG ORIGINAL SOUND TRACKRelease Date: June 26, 2013Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsThis robot-themed tactical RPG soundtrack spans four discs of some pretty awesome rock and orchestral stuff, and given the critical acclaim of the franchise in Japan, it’s a shame that this installment will likely never be localized. The soundtrack touches on a ton of genres, but heavily emphasizes the action-oriented gameplay with rock, sometimes sounding upbeat and bouncy like something out of the Virtual On franchise, and at others taking on a retro synth sound like something from the SNES era (no complaints from me on this!).There is a lot of brilliance here, but unfortunately there’s a lot to wade through to find those magical moments. JAM Project serves up two heavy metal vocal themes that don’t disappoint, either.Check it out if retro gamey rock is your thing.Before Meteor FINAL FANTASY XIV Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 14, 2013Price: 5,250 Yen ($53)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, et al[Sound Samples]I’m not going to belabor what I’ve already written about in other reviews of this soundtrack. There were the Hot Pocket-esque mini albums (20 tracks between two albums), the meatier iTunes release (38 tracks), and now the full Blu-ray release (104 tracks). There’s a lot of great music here, the best of which was featured on the mini-albums, but for the completionists out there, this is worth checking out.Most of this music is by Nobuo Uematsu in his classic style, including the nostalgic Final Fantasy “Opening Theme,” the cutesy electronic “Supply & Demand,” the rockin’ battle theme, “No Quarter,” and a slew of emotional ballads and slower pieces (many will end up on my sleep playlist), with “Where the Heart is,” “From the Heart,” and “Tranquility” being a few of my favorites. There’s epic chocobo with “Bo-Down,” spooky with “Enraptured” and “Final Respite,” and decisive and resolute in “Breaking Boundaries” and “Imperial Will.” Oh, and a Nanashi no Geemu cameo in “Siren Song!”The album ships on a Blu-ray with accompanying visuals which is nice. You can download MP3s via your home network. While $53 is a lot to ask for, there’s six hours of music here, which would have shipped on 5-6 CDs (see this interview for more), so it’s not really as bad as it sounds.[embed]261873:50490:0[/embed]Cubic Climber Official SoundtrackRelease Date: August 31, 2013Price: $4Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Chase BetheaWhile the soundtrack for this indie title gets off to a rocky start (har har, it’s about climbing mountains), there are some great moments here. The soundtrack sports an icy electronic vibe, accented with some great rhythmic percussion. The crunchy “Boulderdash” is particularly cool with its industrial soundscape, and the dreamy “Class 5” with its female choral elements is simply stunning. Check ‘em out.Grisaia no Rakuen Soundtrack & Theme Song CollectionRelease Date: May 22, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Pixelbee, Elements GardenThis is another smutty soundtrack in the same series as Le Labyrinthe, which we covered some months back. The duo Pixelbee and members of Elements Garden tag up to serve an eclectic collection of orchestral, pop, and electronic-infused themes. I really dig the vibe here, as there are some really great tracks to relax to. The problem is that I didn’t really find many of the themes to be overly memorable. The second disc containing the vocal themes offers the standard J-rock fare, and didn’t really do much for me.It’s funny though, listening to the music, you’d never guess it was for a pornographic visual novel game.Lost Planet 3 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 27, 2013Price: $8.99Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Jack Wall[embed]261873:50496:0[/embed]Composer Jack Wall (Myst, Mass Effect) takes the helm of the Lost Planet franchise, surprising me with over an hour of heavy blues and folk music. The musicianship is fantastic, with the gritty and moody “Lost Souls” and the highly overdriven and abstract “In the Bayou” blowing my mind. It’s not all blues and folk, however, as the second half of the soundtrack treads on familiar orchestral territory. There’s the chilly and ominous main theme followed by a series of sometimes tense and sometimes big orchestral cues, my favorite of which is the terror-inducing “Research Base” with screeching electronic guitar and unsettling string stabs.This is great stuff, and there’s two hours of music here for a fair asking price. Check it out.[embed]261873:50492:0[/embed]Puzzle Bobble Wii Original Sound TrackRelease Date: September 11, 2013Price: $8.91Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Yasuhisa WatanabeI love me some Bobble action. Former ZUNTATA and SuperSweep member Yasuhisa Watanabe was responsible for this short-but-sweet soundtrack. You get icy electronic backings and whimsical melodies that yield a cool and futuristic vibe. The funky “Premonition of a Breeze” and the driving “Swan Park” are my two favorites.This is all good and great. The problem? $8.91 for 15 minutes of music is a bit steep. Pick out your favorites and buy them individually!THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY Compilation AlbumRelease Date: July 31, 2013Price: 3,990 Yen ($40)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsAfter a scattered iTunes release, Square Enix has put out a five-disc collection of music from Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. The first four discs contain the original versions of the songs featured in the game, so if you’re new to collecting game music, this is a good place to start, although seasoned collectors will be most interested in the fifth disc that contains brand new arrangements for the various menus found in the game.Still, even this will probably fail to amaze, although some of the tracks are pretty cool. There are multiple versions of “Prelude” and “Final Fantasy,” with my favorite of the former being the light electronic opening version and the latter being a cute pizzicato version. Other standouts include a rockin’ version of “Setzer’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, a classy harpsichord version of “Corenlia Castle” (from the original Final Fantasy), and a cool overworld-y version of “The Sunleth Waterscape” from Final Fantasy XIII. Finally, the packaging is pretty rad, too, with sprites of the protagonists all over the front, and sprites of the antagonists covering the inside of the cardboard sleeve.Buy it if you’re a completionist and need the fifth disc or if you’re just starting a collection.
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Note Worthy 019: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Another month, another batch of ten soundtracks to cover in our monthly Note Worthy feature. We've got a lot of great music in this issue, including the Final Fantasy V Remaster Version, six hours of music with Before Meteor:...

Super Mario World photo
Super Mario World

This Super Mario World orchestral arrangement is glorious

Might be included on Video Games Live: LEVEL 3
Sep 09
// Jayson Napolitano
Video Games Live is making a final push for its Kickstarter campaign, unveiling a fantastic arrangement from Super Mario World (which you can hear below) that it hopes to take to Nintendo and get on the upcoming Video Ga...
Game music photo
Game music

Come see Gamer Jams concert if you're near Los Angeles

Journey, BioShock, Call of Duty, Uncharted, and Diablo III to be performed
Sep 07
// Jayson Napolitano
Will you be in the Los Angeles area near the end of September? If so, you might want to head over to the Ford Theater on Friday, September 27 at 8:30pm for a special orchestral performance featuring the Young Musicians Founda...

Enjoy these Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft music samples

Aug 20 // Jayson Napolitano
[embed]259767:49948:0[/embed] Eric Dodds (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: Lead DesignerPast Works: A 16-year veteran at Blizzard Entertainment, he's touched nearly everything On the team's approach to the game's soundtrack "We wanted to make sure the music in Hearthstone perfectly complemented what we were trying to do with the game. I think everyone working on the direction for the music was on the same page in that we needed music that was familiar, and at the same time had its own unique feel and signature. Ultimately, we wanted the music to convey three important things -- Warcraft, whimsy, and warmth -- to reflect the lighthearted nature of the game, and to make players feel as though they were sitting in their favorite tavern from Warcraft. I would love to say that I brought something special to the mix, but I think that right from the start everyone was on the same page about what the game needed." On bringing in composer Peter McConnell to score the music "Working with Peter has been fantastic! When we first started working with him, we gave him the assignment to create music that combined Warcraft themes with something whimsical and mysterious.. He delivered a sample track that captured that, and we were very excited to move forward in that direction. Then the magic happened, and when we started working on the final music, Peter took it in an entirely different direction from the initial tracks. In the end, we felt that this new style -- which is what you hear in the game now -- really nailed the combination of themes we were looking for. We think Peter really knocked it out of the park. The team has listened to a lot of different variations of what could have been our music, and we are really happy with what Peter came up with." On why fans should care about this soundtrack and about a soundtrack release "For us, the focus has been on making great, fast-paced, energetic music that complements a game intended to be played in shorter bursts. Releasing that music in the form of a soundtrack is really just a cool bonus for the community. In the end, if you’ve been playing the game for a while, and you’ve been enjoying the music the whole time, then I would chalk that up as a win. I think Peter has delivered music that’s well-suited to that." Jason Hayes (Blizzard Entertainment)Role: Trailer music, in-game singersPast Works: StarCraft franchise, Warcraft III, World of Warcraft On "Hearthstone Revealed" [embed]259767:49949:0[/embed]"The moment I saw the trailer, with the inclusion of all these classic heroes, I knew the team was going for something that would evoke a sense of myth, magic, and limitless adventure -- the promise of a Warcraft experience. At least, that's the way the beginning had to feel. But at the end of the trailer we wanted to pull the rug out from under the viewer, and reveal that all the buildup is just about having fun playing a collectible card game. We wanted it to have a decidedly more lighthearted tone than some of our other epic gaming experiences. "It was a challenge trying to figure out the logistics of how the surprise twist with this music would take place. We knew that the shot in the tavern would be the pivotal moment, when the dwarf says, 'But of course, you could forget all that and just have FUN!' The question was how to express musically that this was a stark departure from the expected. We decided that the logical choice was to switch to a type of 'tavern music,' but we also didn't want to lose momentum as we headed to the final scene. So I kept the tempo going at the same speed, and left in part of the orchestra in the form of some rhythmic strings and brass to carry the viewer through this moment with energy. To achieve a huge contrast, I added in the sound of an accordion, a hard drum, and the very piercing signature sound of a penny whistle. When you hear a jaunty melody played on that instrument, it immediately connotes a fun traditional Scottish feeling and sounds right at home in a tavern. "I had a lot of fun mixing in a couple of Warcraft thematic elements into the music, albeit in a somewhat hidden way that might not be obvious. First of all, I used the climactic motif from the piece 'A Call To Arms' during the tavern scene. And on the last shot when the cards fly in the box, the lead french horn melody from that same theme plays right before the logo appears. Even if it's not consciously detected by everyone, I think that touches like this add a nice continuity that puts this trailer in the Warcraft universe."In addition to the trailer, I worked on numerous musical stingers for Hearthstone along with Glenn Stafford. These are short pieces of music that last about five seconds each, and happen when you play 'Legendary' cards in the game. Peter McConnell did a great job setting a nice bouncy mood for the music in the game, as if you are hanging out in a tavern with some friends enjoying a casual card battle. But because we still wanted a sense of importance when you cast big spells or summon powerful minions, these special card stingers infuse the gameplay with moments that feel satisfying and add a little extra epic punch." Peter McConnellRole: ComposerPast Works: Sly Cooper series, Brutal Legend, Psychonauts, Grim Fandango On "Bad Reputation" [embed]259767:49950:0[/embed] "When I first started to work on Hearthstone, there were lots of discussions with the team about music style and direction. We eventually honed in on the idea of a small ensemble, capturing the feel of a bar band that might actually be playing in the tavern where the game is taking place. At the same time, we didn't want to be too literal about this, because the music also needed an ambient quality to support the mood of the gameplay without overpowering it. "With all this in mind I had to answer the question: What sort of sound and instrumentation is really going to get across what it feels like to play Hearthstone? Beyond the fact that I knew there would be some pub-friendly instruments like guitar and fiddle, I thought a lot about the attitude I wanted to project -- tough guys and bar-room brawls with a round of cards in the tavern twist. This led me to come up with the unlikely pairing of celtic and early instruments, and blues rock. Like what if ZZ Top or Golden Earring had been transported back in time to the Middle Ages? What would they play? The music would have a swagger, and an attitude, and a certain groove -- a bluesy-ness without being overtly the blues. "So I started riffing around with a triplet guitar groove, and 'Bad Reputation' was what I came up with. The piece has a Celtic flavor, especially in the instrumentation with the guitar, fiddle, and harp, but the Celtic triplet rhythm is transformed into more of a steady blues groove. The wind instruments, especially contrabassoon, give an ancient flavor, and the piece also has a lot of space, so that you have time to feel the mood without being overloaded by melody as you play the game. When bits of original Warcraft themes do appear, they are meant to work like little cheers, as if they are from the player's faction, or taunts from the faction the player is facing. 'Bad Reputation' really set the precedent for the whole score, including the game's title music. "This score has been a wonderful opportunity for me to play instruments I love -- guitar and violin -- and in a spirit of fun, to pay homage to music that I greatly admire. To me, it feels like a jam in my living room that ties into a larger world we all love."
Hearthstone music photo
Exclusive tunes along with commentary from the sound team
It's been a while since we've talked about the Warcraft card game spin-off, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Blizzard Entertainment is currently taking beta sign-ups, so I thought it would be a good time to find out what's go...

Pokemon photo

Pokemon X and Y soundtrack to ship on four discs

Gotta listen to them all
Aug 18
// Jayson Napolitano
Nintendo is on a roll. After the five-disc Fire Emblem: Awakening soundtrack earlier this year, they're now putting out a four-disc Pokemon X and Y soundtrack titled Nintendo 3DS Pokémon X・Y Super Music Col...

Nobuo Uematsu's return to form with Blik-0 soundtrack

Aug 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksBlik-0 1946 SoundtrackRelease Date: July 28, 2013Price: $2.98Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Nobuo UematsuWe spoke with Uematsu about this e-book at Comic-Con last month, and now that we’ve had the chance to read the book and listen to the music, we wanted to tell you that it’s lots of fun. The book is a children’s story about unconditional parental love, the confusion of childhood, and sacrifice. It’s short and sweet.The music is spread across three tracks at just 12 minutes in length. The main theme, “Blik-0 1946” covers ominous electronics to highlight the story of a robot, but turns to whimsical and upbeat towards the end. My favorite track, “Ah, But Why?” sports digitized singing and an incredibly catchy melody that sounds like classic Uematsu (it’s so good!). Finally, “So Close” goes all-out vocaloid ballad, nicely wrapping up the story.Check out the book and music if you’re a fan of Uematsu. You won’t be disappointed.[embed]259849:49965:0[/embed]Indie B-Side, Vol. 1Release Date: June 29, 2013Price: Name Your Own PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Joshua MorseJoshua Morse is a fantastic composer and arranger, tackling a variety of funk-infused electronic genres, and this release is no different. What this release does, however, is bring attention to a number of unsung heroes, and some great Korean game music tunes.There’s “Adventure” from Fez, one of my favorite tracks for the game, which gets a more invigorating mix, the incredibly smooth “Oasis Epsilon” from Globulous (with live sax), the groovin’ “Dive Into Volcano” from PangYa Portable, the soothing “Elias Palace” from La Tale, a track from Cryamore, and my favorite of the bunch, a super sleek and sexy arrangement from Cardboard Box Assembler.Name that price and download it, now![embed]259849:49966:0[/embed]Remember Me Original SoundtrackRelease Date: June 3, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Olivier DeriviereI was impressed with what I was hearing when we had our preview of the Remember Me soundtrack with composer Olivier Deriviere, and the rest of the soundtrack is just as good. What’s here is a glitchy blend of orchestral and electronics that is at times beautiful, at others spooky, but always “cool.”I love the pitch-bending synth work featured throughout lending that “spooky” vibe. Particular favorites are the stop-and-go “Fragments” with its chopped up digitized vocals and the tasty drum ‘n’ bass found in powerful “Memorize” and the ominous “The Ego Room.”I recommend giving this one a listen.Other ReleasesDisgaea D2 Arrange SoundtrackRelease Date: June 12, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Tenpei SatoLooking forward to Disgaea D2? Well, composer Tenpei Sato wanted to take his usual eclectic and quirky soundtrack to the next level with this arrange album. It’s heavy on vocal themes, a couple of which are great, and others which are grating with their shrill female vocals. There’s plenty of Sato rock to enjoy (the upbeat and explosive “Moving Express” is my favorite track on the album), a few darker and broodier tunes (“Whisper Of Hell~Darkness” comes to mind), and of course your epic fantasy RPG stuff as well.It’s a solid collection that Sato fans will want to check out, although I’d say the casual Sato fan might not find as many memorable melodies here. [embed]259849:49986:0[/embed]Halo: Spartan AssaultRelease Date: July 18, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Tom SaltaThis one takes an interesting approach. Halo: Spartan Assault takes the series in a different direction, but it’s obvious from the first piano and choir notes of “Legacy” that composer Tom Salta was asked to emulate the classic Halo sound, and he does so very convincingly.While tracks tend to be short (one to two minutes, a few over the three-minute mark), there’s everything Halo here from electronic-infused orchestra to explosive bass and percussion-heavy rock. To call out a few of my favorites, I love the desperate “Bridge Too Far” with its deep bass and floating bell tones, the piano and choral ballad, “Prelude,” the ominous and slow “Quiet Giant,” and the appropriately dreamy “Night Dreams.”Halo fans will want to check out the soundtrack even if they’re not into the game.[embed]259849:49967:0[/embed]Ravenmark: Mercenaries Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 2013Price: FreeAvailability: SoundCloudArtist(s): Xiao'an LiI admit my interest in this soundtrack stemmed from Joshua Whelchel’s score to the Ravenmark: The Scourge of Estellion soundtrack. I quickly discovered, however, that composer Xiao’an Li took over composition duties for this title, and that the soundtrack length clocked in at just about 15 minutes as opposed to the former’s 75 minutes.Still, it’s free to download, and what’s here is great. There’s an epic overworld theme, a beautiful and contemplative piece to accompany the codex, and a series of tense battle themes. Again, there’s not much, but fans will want to check it out.ROCKMAN Xover ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: June 10, 2013Price: FreeAvailability: Capcom Japan Artist(s): Masahiro AokiSurprise! Masahiro Aoki of the Mega Man band, the ROCK-MEN, appear to have been responsible for Xover’s soundtrack, and while short (six tracks, 12 minutes), they serve up some very convincing metal. It’s short, but sweet, with an energetic main theme, an explosive boss theme, a decisive “Battle Arena” (my favorite track), a percussion-heavy “Arcade Man,” and even a piano remix of the main theme. There’s plenty of guitar shredding and even solos, so dig in if that’s your kind of thing.I will say that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like classic Mega Man (it has a more commercial slant), but I do like what I’m hearing. And hey, they could have charged $5 for this, but are instead offering it for free, so good for them.[embed]259849:49987:0[/embed]Shadowrun Returns Official SoundtrackRelease Date: July 25, 2013Price: $30Availability: Comes with various versions of the game Artist(s): Marshall Parker, Gavin Parker, Sam PowellI love Shadowrun. Maybe I’m not an authority on it, but I did play the tabletop RPG (I had a shark shaman named Sharky) and loved the hell out of the Super Nintendo game. So it came as a huge surprise when I found many of my favorite tracks from the SNES title remixed in Shadowrun Returns.Honestly, the album’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think it’s meant to sound like something out of a different time, and the gritty nature of the recording along with the strong sense of atmosphere and the throwback to classic tunes is all I could have asked for. I love the moody “Shoot Straight” that gets just the smallest reference to the main exploration theme from the SNES game (more heavily featured in the awesome “Double Cross”), the slower and more grungy take on the battle theme, “Null Sheen,” and other references as well. The original tracks are interesting as well, making me want to dig into the game myself and find their context.Ultimately, this one’s all about fan service. And I’m all for that!Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.2 ~ORDYNE~Release Date: April 12, 2013Price: 2,940 Yen ($30)Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Store)Artist(s): Shinji HosoeShinji Hosoe is back, this time with another collection of old and rare soundtracks from his past. The main feature is for the shooter, ORDYNE, which admittedly falls a bit flat with its overly upbeat tunes that don’t really have a hook to draw you in, but the surprisingly somber ending theme, electronic-infused special stage themes, and exclusive remix are quite nice.Disc two offers the soundtracks to Metal Hawk and Dirt Fox, which are more in line with what you’d expect from Hosoe. Metal Hawk serves up some fantastic shooter tracks (the bumpin’“BGM3” is super rad), while Dirt Fox gets more playful and funky with its arcade racing action, even though it’s essentially the same song over and over.I’d say this one is for hardcore Hosoe fans. The exclusives and rare soundtracks are a nice addition,but ORDYNE itself is somewhat disappointing.SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs Original Video Game SoundtrackRelease Date: May 10, 20122Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: La La Land Records (physical) / iTunes (digital)Artist(s): Bear McCrearyReviewing Bear McCreary’s amazing soundtrack for Defiance last month made me remember that I had wanted to take a look at his SOCOM 4 soundtrack. I had been excited about the idea of it featuring a slew of ethnic Asian instruments, including a gamelan ensemble, but never got around to reviewing it.McCreary has a knack for writing catchy themes, which he weaves throughout his scores, and SOCOM 4 is no different, although it admittedly feels a bit cliché with its woodwind melody that reminds me of Kung Fu Panda. Thankfully the tribal percussion and gamelan ensemble help differentiate the theme and most of the score. “Naga Formation” is a perfect example, and is one of the best tracks on the album, but other sounds are also worked in, including the hip-hoppish “Confrontation,” the heavy electronic-infused “Clawhammer,” electronic guitar-ridden rock in “Onslaught on the Bridge,” and in the album’s epic climax, “Battle for Control.” The two-disc soundtrack features a lot of high-energy atmosphere which may make for a strained listening, but if you liked McCreary’s work on Defiance and want to hear more, there’s this.
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Note Worthy 018: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke t...

Secret of Mana photo
Secret of Mana

Celebrate 20 years of Secret of Mana with fan remix album

Your ears are ready to be invaded
Aug 14
// Jayson Napolitano
It's really been 20 years since Secret of Mana was released. I still listen to the game's amazing soundtrack composed by Hiroki Kikuta on a weekly basis, so it's great news that a group of musical masterminds have combin...
Video Games Live photo
Video Games Live

Video Games Live takes to Kickstarter to fund third album

Because music publishers still don't get game music
Aug 13
// Jayson Napolitano
Maybe you've been to a Video Games Live concert. Maybe, like me, you loved it, and sought out past CD and DVD releases. The show has only gotten better with time as they incorporate more and more music into the program, and a...
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Lords of Shadow 2's Dracula still evolving as a character

Voice acting talent is impacting character development in a big way
Aug 08
// Jayson Napolitano
While there was a ton of news about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 a few weeks back at San Diego Comic Con, we did have a few more tidbits to share from a joint session with the voice of Gabriel Belmont/Dracula, Robert C...
Lords of Shadow 2 photo
Lords of Shadow 2

Classic Castlevania music teased for Lords of Shadow 2?

'Vampire Killer' or 'Bloody Tears' might be coming to a game near you
Jul 26
// Jayson Napolitano
We mentioned a few days ago that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will feature a brand new soundscape. However, what has me even more excited was producer Dave Cox's response to my plea for classic Castlevania tracks, such as "...
Final Fantasy XIII photo
Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII OST on four discs

Most heavily-promoted Final Fantasy soundtrack to date
Jul 25
// Jayson Napolitano
Square Enix is super serious about the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. I've never seen so much activity in terms of pre-releasing singles from a game as they've done three times now with "The Savior," "Crims...

Digging deeper into Lords of Shadow 2 with Dave Cox

Jul 24 // Jayson Napolitano
On refining the game’s combat systemWhat we did in the demo is give you the basic elements of the combat system, we give you the void sword and chaos sword, but you have unlimited power. In the actual game you don’t have that. You have to build up power. If you remember in the original Lords of Shadow, you had the focus bar. The way that worked was you hit enemies, and as you hit enemies you filled up the focus bar, if you got hit you lost focus. The goal is to build up focus so enemies drop blood. As they drop blood, you can decide if the blood goes into void power or chaos power, and that’s essentially how it works.The key difference is that the void sword and chaos claws have their own set of combos and abilities. And we have the mastery system which is a combat tree for each weapon. So you have one for the shadow whip, one for the void sword, and one for the chaos claws. So when you buy combos by killing enemies and earning experience to buy combos, you can decide if you’re going to buy combos for the shadow whip, the void sword, or the chaos claws, and they’re all different so you have a lot more abilities this time than you did in the previous game.As you use that particular combo you fill up a little gauge for that combo. When it’s filled as you’ve used it a lot in combat, that turns into a mastery, and that mastery can be siphoned into that weapon to upgrade it and make it more powerful, more special, and make it do things it couldn’t do before or make it more efficient than it was before, that kind of stuff.I think we’ve tried to refine the combat and make it more powerful. What you haven’t seen in the demo are Dracula’s vampiric abilities. You can turn into mist, for example.On the difficulties balancing a character as powerful as DraculaWhat we do with the demo is give you the basics, then you wake up a thousand years in the future and you have nothing. You’re literally an old man who can barely walk, so you have to get back to where you were. Introducing enemies at the right time to fit what you might have at that particular moment is a challenge, obviously, but with this particular game you have more tools at your disposal, and I think that’s what makes combat interesting from a hack ‘n’ slash perspective.We want to introduce the core tenants of the game, the focus system and weapons systems, then give it to you in chunks so as you progress you feel like you’re evolving and getting back to yourself. And by the end of the game, you obviously are a bad mother f***er. And you need to be because Satan’s back, and he’s one bad mother f***er too, and he wants payback for what you did to him in the last game.On the lessons learned with Lords of Shadow and Mirror of FateWe got a lot of fan feedback from the first game. A lot of people loved the combat system, but they wanted to explore. We created these amazing vistas, but they couldn’t look at them. Those are things we took onboard. A fixed camera is not friendly for exploration. So that’s the first thing we thought, we needed a free camera system. In order to do that it became evident straight away that if we wanted to maintain the art direction and very intricate details and flavor of what we did before, we needed a brand new engine. And that meant starting from the beginning, and that’s hard to do, and hard to sell to senior management. They ask, “When’s the sequel coming out? One year?,” and we’re like, “No, actually three years,” and they’re like, “What?!”Exploration is something people really wanted to do. Backtrack, discover new secrets, find new abilities. That’s something we knew we would need to create a new engine for because it meant we couldn’t be a linear game anymore. It had to be a game where players could explore a real world. So that again was one of the reasons we’re using a lot of streaming technology. We’re doing a lot of things that you don’t see in the hack ‘n’ slash genre. You can go back, which you can’t do in a lot of games. In this game, you can. You can go back, you can go left, you can go right. And we have to be sure the game’s contents are loading in the background. We had to design the engine to be able to load and offload really quickly. And it’s a good thing because it’s thinking about the future, and thinking about next-gen. So we decided to take the plunge, create the game we really want to make, fix the problems from the first game, improve upon what we have, and get our tech ready for the next generation.On the roles of Simon Belmont and AlucardIf you think of this as a separate universe, we’ve tried to take a different approach. Reintroduce these characters but in a different way. Alucard is Trevor Belmont, and Dracula killed his son and realized he killed his son at the last minute. It’s very tragic. When Robert Carlyle did that scene, he was really crying, and it was quite powerful. And when I play the game now, I say, “Wow,” and it really brings a tear to my eye. And we’ve never seen that from Alucard before. He was different in past games. We’ve never felt that emotional attachment to him and the tragedy of that character. We play on that in this game, as he’s very important to the story in Dracula’s motivation.For Simon Belmont, I thought to myself playing the old games, why is it the Belmonts are always fighting Dracula? It’s never been explained. There was an opportunity to explain that within our universe because we weren’t beholden to the original timeline. The reason why is because there’s a blood feud and a misunderstanding. Real things that can happen with families, and we wanted to portray that, and I think that’s what‘s given the Lords of Shadow series an interesting take. It’s an interesting idea. And we suddenly understand why it’s the Belmonts. And we understand Dracula as a character.That’s what interested me in doing this game from the beginning. It was being able to tell Dracula’s story and doing something unique with the characters that hadn’t been done before. That’s what the team got excited about.On what ever happened to IgarashiHe’s still at Konami. I saw him a few weeks ago. He’s still there, creating games.One thing I will say about Mr. Igarashi is that there were certain things we didn’t want to do in our game because we felt it was stepping on his toes. Out of respect. I can’t tell you now, but there was a certain thing that we were going to have in this game that I felt was going too far, it was encroaching on his universe. I didn’t want to do it purely because if he had the opportunity to do another title, it’s his baby and it’d be wrong for us to do that. We set out our story, we’re separate, this is our take. Whatever happens next, it’s not up to me.He’s been very supportive of the title and has wished us luck. He’s not been involved at all or had a bad word to say.
Lords of Shadow 2 photo
Combat, balance, characters, and lessons learned
We learned a lot about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 from our time at San Diego Comic-Con last week. We saw a demo showcasing the game's emphasis on exploration and combat, experienced it on PC, and have also delved into the...

Lords of Shadow 2 photo
A more electronically-tinged soundtrack ahead
In a recent chat with producer Dave Cox at San Diego Comic Con, we learned that composer Oscar Araujo is busily working on the soundtrack, and that it will sound very much different compared to those of Lords of Shadow and Mi...

Lords of Shadow 2 photo
Lords of Shadow 2

Castlevania's Dave Cox answers our biggest question

We finally have an answer
Jul 21
// Jayson Napolitano
As mentioned yesterday, we had the chance to sit down with producer Dave Cox regarding the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2, and he was fortunately able to answer our most pressing question:

New Lords of Shadow 2 gameplay emphasizes exploration

Jul 21 // Jayson Napolitano
As noted, the new gameplay shown was contained within Dracula’s castle. I found it to be dark, moody, and showing signs of decay, and I have to say first and foremost that the music accompanying this area is amazing. We heard building string work that was ominous yet adventurous, and had a strong sense of melody. I can’t wait to hear more of this soundtrack, which we know will feature a return of composer Oscar Araujo.We were introduced to the free-range camera that allowed us to fully explore our surroundings as well as spot different routes and secret areas that were not accessible at this time. These areas, we were told, will require backtracking once we acquire abilities such as the double jump or mist transformation. This kind of exploration with often turn up hidden relics which can be used to heal life points, increase the amount of experience gained for a duration of time, or even allow you to transform into a dragon.Another key feature that was re-emphasized was the focus system, whereby attacking your enemies builds up a gauge that, once filled, allows you to use the special abilities of your three weapons: the shadow whip, void sword, and chaos claws. Getting hit reduces your focus, so it’s important that you play this game well to succeed, and even our expert demonstrator had difficulty at times, so look forward to a challenging experience. Additionally, there are specific skill trees for each weapon that can be leveled up, and once a particular skill is mastered, you can improve the effectiveness of that particular weapon.At this point in the game, we had access only to the shadow whip, but were attempting to acquire the void sword. Along the way, we encountered some marvelous feats of sound design as a chaotic whirl of whispers, screams, and chanting filled the corridor while the floor fell away, giving rise to geysers of blood and stone. Upon retrieving the void sword on the other side of the corridor, the pools of blood and crumbled stone came together to form a stone golem, who proved to be quite a challenge, and exploded in waves of blood when defeated.Several trappings from the first also game made a return as well, including the travel book that contains a combo list, bestiary, and lore section to read up on the game’s characters and locales, as well as knight’s scrolls to tell the game’s back story.From here we learn that there are forces persuading Dracula to leave his castle, while the castle itself is rebelling against its master to prevent him from escaping. The powers luring Dracula away from his castle are represented by the ghost of his son, Trevor, who gives Dracula the white wolf medallion to travel between the castle and the modern city areas, while the castle itself senses Dracula’s desire to escape and devises ways to stop him, usually involving the appearance of pools of blood that hinder his progress and turn his minions against him.This desire to prevent Dracula’s escape culminates in a battle with one of Dracula’s former minions, the vampire orc. This battle was particularly gruesome as the foe is able to knock you down and drive a sword straight through your chest, requiring a series of button presses to remove the sword and beat back the enemy. We were introduced to weapon abilities as well, including  freeze projection for the void sword that not only acted as a means to freeze enemies in battle, but can also be used in exploration to freeze water elements to solve puzzles and move forward.At the end of the demo, I found myself particularly excited about the prospect of exploring the world of Lords of Shadow 2 and discovering its secrets for myself. One of the goals of the team is to make the combat interesting, and I think the variety of weapons and skill trees will do just that.
Castlevania photo
New abilities, music, and camera system shown
In an unexpected surprise here at Comic Con, Konami showed off an extensive hands-off gameplay walkthrough detailing more of the game’s systems, music, and environs. The demo took place a brief time after the events see...

Namco Bandai photo
Namco Bandai

Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is coming to North America

Get ready for awesome rock music in November
Jul 20
// Jayson Napolitano
We recently mentioned that Europe was getting some Saint Seiya love with Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers for the PlayStation 3. As it turns out, Namco Bandai intends to bring the game to North America as a downloadable title on t...
Dragon Ball Z photo
Dragon Ball Z

Get ready to rumble with Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z

This game is definitely pretty
Jul 20
// Jayson Napolitano
Namco Bandai announced of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z a few weeks back at Anime Expo, but here at San Diego Comic Con, we're getting more details.You've heard that the emphasis is on team battles (up to eight players at once, ...
Castlevania photo
Next Castlevania will have to come from new team
Speaking with producer Dave Cox at San Diego Comic Con about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, we found ourselves surprised by the candid response we received when we asked about the future of the franchise: "I’ve always ...

Belch out eyeballs of your foes in latest Pac-Man game

Jul 20 // Jayson Napolitano
As noted, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures draws upon Pac-Man's roots with a heavy emphasis on eating everything, including the game's primary enemies: ghosts. You'll find yourself eating pellets as well as a variety of foods that replenish your health as you progress through 20 different levels that explore a number of different environments.We were shown an ice level this time around, which had plenty of puzzles of solve, friends to rescue, and a nifty ice slide that had us dodging obstacles in an almost extreme sports-like fashion. From there, we were shown the new Fire Pac-Man power-up that had our prominently-eyebrowed companion spewing fire to demolish enemies and melt ice-based puzzle elements. Other power-ups will include Ice Pac-Man and Metal Pac-Man.The game will also feature a multiplayer mode that will play like the classic maze-based Pac-Man titles as well as a hub area with an arcade that is full of mini-games.I think this game is actually looking pretty good, although it's clear that the audience is meant to be those who are fans of the cartoon series. While that's not me, this by no means looks like it's going to bring shame to the series, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it shapes up moving forward.Are there any fans of the television show out there that are looking forward to this game? Can you get behind a Pac-Man who disposes of his enemies' remains in such a vulgar fashion?
Pac-Man photo
More details about Pac-Man's latest adventure
We covered the newly-announced Pac-Man game at E3, and while Brett's assessment wasn't positive, I was shocked most by the belch that Pac-Man lets loose at the end of each stage, from which the eyeballs of his consumed ghostl...

Nobuo Uematsu photo
Nobuo Uematsu

Final Fantasy composer talks to us about upcoming e-book

Three pieces of music and a touching story
Jul 19
// Jayson Napolitano
We mentioned a few days ago that Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu was preparing an e-book titled Blik-0 with accompanying music. I was immediately curious to learn more, and fortunately Uematsu was on hand at San Diego Co...
Castlevania photo

We played Lords of Shadow 2 on PC, plus new screens

Nine screenshots to sink your fangs into
Jul 19
// Jayson Napolitano
Have I ever mentioned that I'm really looking forward to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2? It was my personal favorite game at E3 last month, but Konami gave us some hands-on time with the PC version here at San Diego Comi...
Final Fantasy photo
Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy is a whole new concert

New arrangements played at San Diego Comic Con
Jul 19
// Jayson Napolitano
We've covered the Distant Worlds concert series extensively over the years, but after seeing last night's stop in San Diego for Comic Con, I think it's fair to say that this is an entirely new show with tons of new arrangemen...

Why Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin blew my mind

Jul 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Final Fantasy VI: Balance and RuinRelease Date: July 1, 2013Price: FreeAvailability: OverClocked ReMixArtist(s): Various Artists[embed]258070:49562:0[/embed]Well, after a turbulent journey, Balance and Ruin is finally here, and there are so many reasons why it's our top pick this month.This album features not only bumping electronic remixes, but also grandiose orchestral suites (several of which cross the ten-minute mark) and everything in between, and best of all, they've beefed up some of the lesser-appreciated tracks to the point where they may actually be some of your favorites. Nearly everything here is gold, in part due to the strength of the source material, but also due to the care each artist has taken with their respective arrangements. The love and respect they have for Uematsu's masterpiece is obvious in every track. I wish I could give every arrangement its moment in the spotlight, but I've promised myself to limit my gushing to just ten tracks, although you'll want to download this and explore the magic for yourself.Right out of the gate, the groggy “Awakening” gets a super smooth rendition by Joshua Morse, making for a nice contrast to the original Terra’s theme, which it references heavily. “The Returners” will turn heads with the liberties taken with the source material (you can barely hear it), but it’s my favorite track on the album. It takes on a rich '80s-flavored electronic vibe similar to Depeche Mode. “Gau” gets a gorgeous instrumental arrangement featuring accordion, strings, piano, and woodwind (I’d love an entire album of this stuff), while “Serpent’s Trench” is amazingly transformed from tense into sexy chip-meets-bossa-nova.There’s an interpretive acoustic guitar version of “Kids Run Through the City Corner” (definitely going on my sleep playlist), a playfully epic combination of the heroic and comical “Save Them!” and “Grand Finale?” themes, and a refreshing take on the chocobo theme with “Electro de Chocobo” (it’s hard to make this theme memorable after hearing hundreds of arrangements of it). Rounding out my favorites, there’s Jake Kaufman’s heavily Queen-influenced rendition of the opera scene with tons of signature vocal harmonies and guitar work, a funktacular “The Day After,” and the smooth, sweeping, and moving “Searching for Friends” with amazing woodwind work.Even limiting myself to ten tracks, this review is longer than I’d hoped, and there are still so many others that I love on this album. For those who backed this on Kickstarter and are expecting a physical copy, you’re in for a treat: this is the real deal, so download it without delay!Defiance: Original Video Game Soundtrack / Television SoundtrackRelease Date: April 2, 2013Price: $11.99 eachAvailability: iTunes (game / television)Artist(s): Bear McCrearyGiven the unique side-by-side development of this game and television series, of course we have to review both soundtracks! Both are composed by Bear McCreary, and each offers a different soundscape that is great in its own way. Both feature a very catchy theme that combines emotional orchestral moments and layered electronic sounds that define the sound of Defiance.Starting with the game soundtrack, you get a more ambient experience given the MMO nature of the title. I particularly like the folky and adventurous “Ninety-Niners,” the moody atmospheric track, “Marin Exploration,” and the grungy “Ridgecrest Mine.” The bumping “Mount Tam” and the overdriven “Madera Combat” also stand out.The television score is much more pop-oriented, featuring heavy use of the main theme along with a variety of vocal tracks that visit everything from blues to heavy electronic tunes. I particularly enjoy the exotic alien vocal tracks that really add an ethnic flair, and also the arrangement of “Time After Time.” “Concerto for Insects,” which uses insect sounds for percussion, is also a joy.This is some great work by Bear McCreary, with some of my favorite themes of his that I’ve heard to date. I recommend picking up both albums, as they really explore two different styles of the same musical universe, which is as fun and unique as the game/television show concept itself.Distant Worlds music from FINAL FANTASY THE CELEBRATIONRelease Date: June 26, 2013Price: 6,150 Yen ($61.50)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various Artists[Sound Samples]We recently mentioned that this was coming, and it’s safe to think of this as the visual accompaniment to the fantastic Final Fantasy Orchestra Album released at the end of last year.Many new arrangements are performed, including “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, “Phantom Forest” from VI, and a brand new (and amazing) chocobo medley. The track list covers the original Final Fantasy through XIV, and throws in vocal tracks including Susan Calloway’s powerful “Answers” from XIV, “Eyes on Me” with Crystal Kay (I personally prefer the original by Faye Wong, or even Angella Aki’s version), and the opera from VI. There’s also a segment from the battle medley featured on the orchestra album, but I was disappointed that the entire 14-minute piece wasn’t performed in its entirety.While the asking price is quite steep, this is a wonderful DVD. It’s fun to watch the orchestra, as several the players really get into the music, and it’s nice to be able to see the new arrangements if you haven’t had a concert stop near you lately. I also dig the packaging, which sports a see-through case and English commentary in the booklet.[embed]258070:49563:0[/embed]Dopamix SoundtrackRelease Date: June 28, 2013Price: 1,500 Yen ($15)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsIt’s great to see SuperSweep releasing the soundtrack to the 3DS eShop single-button rhythm game Dopamix. The game features all original music, and it’s quite good. This album serves up over 30 minutes of music, including pumping electronic beats, retro gamey goodness, Japanese pop tracks, and even some R&B. There’s a lot to like, but the playful electronic-meets-electric guitar “Parade” and the basstacular “Aurora” are my favorites. There’s also a 23-minute megamix tucked away at the end that’s nice to put on in the background, and the price is right! Check this one out. [embed]257003:49343:0[/embed]FINAL FANTASY IV Original Sound Track Remaster VersionRelease Date: July 3, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Nobuo Uematsu[Sound Samples]I’ve been super excited about Square Enix re-rereleasing the out of print soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV. They promised a remastered version with two loops instead of the original’s single playthrough along with unreleased tracks. Well, true to that promise, you get a meatier experience with this album, which is much appreciated. There’s also the snazzy box that comes with first-press editions that we unboxed.The unreleased tracks are essentially a few jingles. It’s nice having that funny Namingway sound, but the rest of it isn’t very interesting. Given that there’s 50 minutes of unused space across both discs, I was hoping for something more substantial, but I really do feel silly complaining about this at all given that what’s presented is a better version of one of the best soundtracks of all time. I suggest picking it up.Oh, and “Dancing Calcobrena” has a bit of a hiccup at the beginning that I guess is a big enough deal for Square Enix to be swapping out everyone’s discs in Japan. I didn’t find it that big of a deal, but we’ll keep you posted if that offer extends to fans abroad.[embed]258070:49564:0[/embed]Mighty Switch Force 2 Official SoundtrackRelease Date: June 14, 2013Price: Name Your PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Jake KaufmanI absolutely adored Jake Kaufman’s first Mighty Switch Force soundtrack, and this follow-up does not disappoint. Get ready for some heavy retro-infused disco, funk, and electronic music right out of the gate with the incredibly catchy “Title,” into the bass-bumpin’ “Got2BAStar,” and into the upbeat drum ‘n’ bass “Exothermic” (my favorite on the album). “Glow,” “The Afterblaze,” and “Soak Patrol Alpha” are also pure genius.You'll dig the remixes tucked away at the end, including surasshu’s dreamy “Title Screen,” a hilarious vocal take on “Title” (you have to hear it), and a Mario Galaxy-esque version of “Glow,” complete with epic orchestra and spacey pitch-bending synth work.Download this, now! PRIORITY ONE: The music of TRONRelease Date: June 8, 2013Price: $5Availability: LoudrArtist(s): Grant “stemage” Henry[Sound Samples]One word: stemage. That should be enough to have your interest, given he’s the brains behind one of the best game music tribute bands, Metroid Metal. But going even further, he’s paying homage to one of the most beloved film scores of all time: TRON. I can’t pretend to be an expert on that score, but I’ve heard it numerous times over the years, and stemage brings his signature sound to the mix. Layered guitars will build a dreamy tapestry of sound at one moment, then heavy-hitting rock percussion, monstrous bass, and wailing electric guitar will come in at the next. It’s a wonderful 30-minute journey.My favorite tracks are the ominous and reverberating “Hydrophilia” and the tense “Sea of Stimulation,” featuring crazy time signatures and C64 sounds by Inverse Phase.If you’re a fan of stemage, get this. If you’re a fan of TRON, get this. If you don’t know either, get this, and you’ll be a fan of both in just 30 minutes. [embed]258070:49565:0[/embed]TIME AND ETERNITY ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: May 24, 2013Price: 3,150 Yen ($31)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Yuzo KoshiroI love this game’s artwork, and the music surprised me at E3. Some people have said it’s not Koshiro’s best work, but I’d say it’s not his typical work more than anything. It suits the anime-flavored visuals perfectly, bringing in upbeat and whimsical themes in that you’d hear in any anime these days (with live instruments to boot), but that doesn’t mean specific tracks don’t stick out.I particularly dig the adventurous overworld exploration theme, “Juvenile,” the mischievous and exotic “Cursed Forest’s Theme” with some funky sax work, the rockin’ “Theme of Towa” and “Threat,” the epic Latin vocals in “Memory Infused,” which is in line with a last boss theme, and the emotional ending themes (“A Heart That Can't Be Broken” is amazing).Oh, plus great artwork throughout the packaging. Thanks for releasing this, SuperSweep, and watch for a single-disc redux coming with the game from NISA.[embed]258070:49566:0[/embed]TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK PLUSRelease Date: June 28, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis is a hugely unexpected surprise. I’d checked out the original Tekken Tag Tournament 2 OST and loved it, but who knew there was so much more music to hear? This album offers over an hour and a half of additional tracks, much of which is amazing.You can expect an eclectic mix of everything from electronic music to tropical themes, but my favorites tend to land on the electronic side. The bumping bass and explosive percussion in “Siga (Tropical Rainforest)” and the Asian-flavored vocal theme, “Landscape Under The Ghost -Kaminano (AD2012)” are two of my favorites on the serious side, while “Your Sunset” and “Battle Cry” both get quite a funk going, and stand out with their digitized vocals. There’s disco with “Luxury Garden,” cheesy vocal ballad with “Highschool love!” (it’s painful, but strangely catchy), and glitchy 8-bit goodness with “Backer.” There’s so much to like here, most of which I can’t call out by name because I’d be naming every track, so you’re going to want to pick this one up.Also of note, those who pick it up at SuperSweep in Japan will get an additional megamix CD. Cool to have, but don’t feel too bad if you have to get it from CD Japan.[embed]258070:49567:0[/embed]A Warrior’s OdysseyRelease Date: October 2, 2012Price: $11.95 (physical) / $8.99 (digital)Availability: Howlin’ Wolf Records (physical) / Amazon (digital)Artist(s): Penka KounevaOkay, I feel like an asshole for having this sit on my desk for so long. And it saddens me that people will skip over it because it’s not attached to a big game franchise. Composer Penka Kouneva has worked on titles like Prince of Persia and Gears of War in the past, but this album is a solo effort that treads on familiar ground: first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and anything involving war and soldiers.There is so much melody on this album. You’ll constantly find yourself looking up and saying, “Wow, this is awesome. What track is this so I can listen again later?” I did this for nearly every track on the album. There’s lots of orchestral work augmented by electronics and sometimes event rock elements. I literally can’t call out favorite tracks because all of it’s so good. Please at least listen to some of the samples above and consider picking it up to support this artist actually creating this kind of music for a real game.
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Note Worthy 017: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Okay, let me first say that this installment of Note Worthy features the best collection of ten soundtracks ever featured in this series. That's why I won't be breaking down the albums into "Top Picks" and "Other Releases" th...

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