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The Sound Card

Top ten game music tracks to get you pumped for the gym

Dec 30 // Jayson Napolitano
10. "Db 606" - de Blob (Wii) [embed]265845:51406:0[/embed] Let's start with something energetic and fun! While you can probably guess that this list will be dominated by battle themes, this track, from the amazing soundtrack to de Blob, brings live instruments to the mix with a jubilant disco track. In the game, the tracks are named by mood, and this one is aptly called "Euphoric." Pretty fitting, and it will certainly put a smile on your face as you're torturing your body at the gym! 9. "Boss Battle" - Final Fantasy XII (PS2) [embed]265845:51408:0[/embed] I have so much Hitoshi Sakimoto on my exercise playlist, it's not even funny. Kind of odd when you consider his orchestral style, but this track in particular has some epic buildups in the chorus section that will really get your blood pumping. You may also want to check out some of his themes from Valkyria Chronicles as they're surprisingly good for a workout. 8. "Geometric City" - Raystorm (PS1) [embed]265845:51409:0[/embed] Raystorm has several tracks I'd like to include, but I love the smooth soundscape of this track. It's not too intense, and gently eases you into a workout, or gives you a much needed break towards the end of a tough session. You can also check out the NEU TANZ MIX remix album for more Raystorm goodness for the gym. 7. "Maze of Death" - Mega Man 9 (Wii / PS3 / 360) [embed]265845:51410:0[/embed] There are so many Mega Man tracks to consider, but I had to pick this one. The track title, the pumping basslines, and the fast-paced notes make for such a great motivation for that workout. There's also an arrange album for this game which has a great version of "Maze of Death," and several other themes from Mega Man 9 and of course the entire franchise are great for the gym (check out our top ten underrated Mega Man tracks here). 6. "Sealed Time" - Ys III: Wanderers From Ys (PC) [embed]265845:51411:0[/embed] This is one of my favorite songs of all time, period. So it goes without saying that I also love to take it with me for exercise sessions. It's a powerful '80s rock adventure, as is the rest of this amazing soundtrack, and all of it could be included on this list. Man, that melody is just so awesome! 5. "Dispossessed Eidolons ~Minudes~" - FFIV: The After Years (Wii / PSP) [embed]265845:51412:0[/embed] I bet this one is a surprise to most. The chaotic nature of this track and the pounding orchestral elements are just so awesome, I couldn't help but bring people's attention to it here. In fact, the word "explosive" comes to mind with this track... it will really work you up into a frenzy at the gym. 4. "Awakening" - Xenogears (PS1) [embed]265845:51413:0[/embed] This is one of my favorite final boss themes out there, and it always comes to mind when people ask me about my favorite battle themes, or heaviest game music tracks. Mitsuda really outdid himself with the orchestral elements and choir, bringing in a memorable melody and a perfect ending to such a powerful game. 3. "Glory Days" - Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 (Arcade) [embed]265845:51414:0[/embed] The Wangan Midnight franchise features music by Yuzo Koshiro, and this track in particular brings in the pumping electronics for which the series is known and combines it with a mean sax performance by Metal Gear Solid composer Norihiko Hibino (the two often collaborate on the Etrian Odyssey series, so this track is a trip to hear after hearing the style of music they create for those games). It makes me think of the "Glory Days" when I weighed a lot less, which gets me into gear! 2. "Worlds Collide" - Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3) [embed]265845:51415:0[/embed] I absolutely love the Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack, and this track and "Paradigm Shift" are absolute musts on your exercise playlist. This is one of the first songs featured in the early demos of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and it blew me away with its heavy electronics-infused hip-hop sound, and I think if you really give it a chance, it will grow on you and become one of your favorites as well. 1. "Argon Refinery" - Shatter (PS3) [embed]265845:51416:0[/embed] The entire Shatter soundtrack is a gym playlist in itself. It's absolutely stunning, and "Argon Refinery" in particular with its 8:23 length will keep you going for a while. There's a part towards the middle where some killer electric guitar makes an entrance and will really get you in the mood to kick some ass. Go download this whole soundtrack now, in fact! BONUS! "To Far Away Times" - Love SQ [embed]265845:51417:0[/embed] I wanted to throw in a bonus, and this one is an arrangement of the ending theme from Chrono Trigger. This track has a special meaning to me in my life, and always managed to bring a tear to my eye, but this version is just so energetic and positive that I love when it pops up during a workout.I also present this arrangement here for another special occasion. I know the articles I write on Destructoid are long, but I know there are those out there that read every word, and for those of you reading this now, I have this message: this is my last post on Destructoid. I'm not one to write a big going away post for the front page, so I wanted to say goodbye here, to those of you that have read this far, in the best way I know how: with the most fitting piece of music I could think of.Thanks to everyone running Destructoid for giving me the opportunity to share my passion for game music with all of you, and most of all, thank you, dear readers, for your ear in more ways than one. I will continue sharing my passion for game music with others as I delve into providing public relations services for composers around the globe as well as releasing albums as a part of a new record label I'm launching. You can bet that the good folks here at Destructoid will be keeping you informed about these projects in the future. And I'll hopefully see many of you at MAGFest.Until that time, I beg you all to keep an open ear, listen to as much game music as possible, and share the love with your friends! Thanks for everything! 
The Sound Card photo
Sound Card 014: Get ready to kick some ass!
Like our last issue of The Sound Card, which focused on music to sleep to, this has also been on my back burner for some time. I have over 300 tracks on my exercise playlist in iTunes, and a lot of that is game music. I thoug...

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....

The top ten Contra songs OF ALL TIME

Feb 24 // Tony Ponce
10. "Venus" - Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2) [embed]246547:47171:0[/embed] Shattered Soldier's soundtrack blends pulse-pounding techno, produced by Konami musician Sota Fujimori, with face-melting metal, done by none other than the legendary Akira Yamaoka. Contra gave Yamaoka a chance to let his inner metalhead out, which would surprise those who only know him for his much more atmospheric work on the Silent Hill series. The intro theme, "Venus," sets the tone for the rest the game -- a much darker, grimier Contra then you've ever played before. That intensity comes at a price: the soundtrack as a whole is very repetitive and doesn't lend itself well to standalone listens. But as the backdrop to your alien-murdering rampage, it will make you feel like a god. 9. "Alien Hive" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47172:0[/embed] WayForward knocked the ball way out of the park with Contra 4. It is the most consistent game in the entire series, enhanced even further by Jake "virt" Kaufman's stellar soundtrack, which heavily re-interprets classic Contra tunes while adding plenty of amazing original numbers. "Alien Hive" may be the penultimate level, but its music makes it sound like heroes Bill Rizer and Lance Bean's final assault. It is intense and furious, made all the more haunting with sound bites of people shrieking in despair. And if you want to hear an even more amazing version of this track, check out "Let's Attack Aggressively!" off the Contra 4 rock arrange album Rocked 'n' Loaded. 8. "Area 2" - Operation C (GB) [embed]246547:47173:0[/embed] I'll never stop praising the incredible sound quality of the original Game Boy, so you better get used to my bringing up Game Boy music whenever I find an opportunity. The soundtrack for Operation C, the portable side story between Super C and Contra III, consists almost entirely of re-arrangements from the two NES games. With one notable exception. And like the amazing tunes in Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, it is so heavy on the bass that you could drown in it -- more proof that, if you are playing Game Boy without wearing headphones, you are doing it wrong. 7. "Ruins" - Hard Corps: Uprising (PSN / XBLA) [embed]246547:47174:0[/embed] Hard Corps: Uprising may not be the most curious entry in the Contra series -- that distinction goes to Contra Force, which technically isn't even a Contra game at all -- but it is easily the most unique. Uprising takes the franchise in a whole different direction, fueled by a soundtrack composed by Daisuke Ishiwatari of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue fame. Uprising features the same deft guitar work found in the venerable Arc System Works fighters, but the music that plays during the "Ruins" level is a little extra special. With the melodious incorporation of organ and piano sections, "Ruins" at first sounds like it could have been pulled out of a post-Symphony of the Night-era Castlevania. But then the crazy guitars come back and simply DO. NOT. QUIT. 6. "Boss" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47175:0[/embed] Easily the most badass boss theme of any NES game, this piece of music lets you know that shit just got real. Even though it only lasts 35 seconds before looping, I could seriously listen to it on repeat all day. I wish I could replace other games' boss music with this one. So why is it only played at the end of the two "Base" levels and nowhere else? I love the original Contra to death, but I can't forgive Konami for such a gross oversight. For shame! 5. "The Showdown" - Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) [embed]246547:47176:0[/embed] If you ask me, I find the soundtrack to Contra III to be on the weak side when stacked against the rest of the series. Whereas Contra music is typically loud and rhythmic, Contra III's is a lot slower and more ominous, which I admit fits the game's apocalyptic tone. Some people swear by the music, but it simply doesn't feel like Contra to me personally. Which is probably why I don't remember Contra III as fondly as I do the other entries. That said, the final battle music is insanely cool. You have to test you might against against a gauntlet of progressively more aggressive bosses, including a few familiar faces from the NES days. To reflect the multiple phases, "The Showdown" is split apart into three movements, each more intense than the last -- the Contra equivalent of Final Fantasy VI's "Dancing Mad." Nice. 4. "GTR Attack!" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47177:0[/embed] I'm in the "Hard Corps > Contra III" camp. Furthermore, I believe that Hard Corps is the best Contra game period. I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I couldn't give less of a damn. Among its many triumphs over Contra III is its hard rock-dance soundtrack that puts the Genesis' FM synth sound chip through its paces. And among the game's many different boss themes, "GTR Attack!" stands head and shoulders above the rest. Like the NES Contra "Boss" music, it unfortunately only plays twice -- but one of those fights is against an incredibly cool endlessly transforming mechanical chimera, so I'll let this particular musical oversight slide. 3. "Jungle Normal" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47178:0[/embed] Paying homage to the original Contra "Jungle" theme is not an easy feat, but Jake Kaufman is not some bum off the street banging on a keyboard. He wanted to recapture that same feeling you got when you hopped off the chopper that first time back in 1988 (or 1987 for you arcade jockies) and felt empowered by the music. I'd like to think that he succeeded and more. Fun bit of trivia: Did you know that the "Jungle Normal" theme is actually a shortened version of a Contra-inspired chiptune that virt released way back in 2002 called "Vile Red Falcon"? "Jungle Exploder," the "Jungle Normal" arrangement found on Rocked 'n' Loaded, is actually more based on the original chiptune than the Contra 4 version. 2. "Jungle" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47179:0[/embed] It's one of the most iconic pieces of videogame music ever. Naturally, the classic "Jungle" theme would worm its way near the top of the list. No matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times it's re-worked or remixed, it never gets old. I'm certain you all feel the same way too. Trying to describe Contra's "Jungle" music is like trying to describe perfection. It simply can't be done. You just hear it and go, "Oh, totally! Yes! Yes! That's right!" The memories all come flooding back: the exploding bridge that sent you into the drink, the glory of the spread gun, the wall. Boys became men and the Konami Code became a playground mantra. So why did I give it the #2 spot and not top honors? 1. "The Hard Corps" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47180:0[/embed] This is why. You begin with a shot of a city street overrun by robots, the skyline ablaze. Out of nowhere, you come barreling through in your armored truck, mowing the bastards down like weeds, until you collide into a broken-down car and fly through the windshield. You land unscathed, of course, and you proceed to blow everyone away. You rip apart a giant spider before an earthquake cracks the ground. A flame-throwing robot blocks your path, but you send it crashing into a building, knocking the structure over and giving you an incline to climb to the rooftops. Miles in the distance, you see a towering cyclops razing the city with its eye beams. It spots you and immediately jumps to your location. The sheer power emanating from its body causes debris to levitate, and you must flying cars and laser beams. And that's just a mid-boss! Meanwhile, the music is going BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And you wonder why I'm calling it the best Contra song of all time!? It's read "hardcore" for a reason. BONUS! "Simon 1994RD" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47181:0[/embed] Even though "Simon 1994RD" is not in my top ten, there's no way I couldn't not mention it in an article about Contra music. In Hard Corps' third stage, there is an alternate exit that takes you to a secret tournament. Your first opponent is a strange afro-headed man who is a cross between Castlevania's Simon Belmont and Japanese vocalist Masato Shimon; he tosses a fish cracker boomerang while a dance remix of "Vampire Killer" plays in the background. Afterwards, you fight an alien baby in a carriage, then a tear in the fabric of space-time sends you into the distant past where you marry a monkey. God, I love this game. [embed]246547:47185:0[/embed]
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Sound Card 012: Rocked and loaded!
Castlevania. Mega Man. And finally, Contra. With this, my holy trinity is complete. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the greatest run and gun videogame series ever, Allistair Pinsof ranked the top five Contra games. ...


Sound Card 011: Ten awesome, underrated Mega Man songs

Dec 16 // Tony Ponce
[embed]240668:46101:0[/embed] Jayson: If you read my staff bio, I talk about having hummed videogame music and driving my friends nuts as a kid. This was one of those tracks. The snappy percussion and decisive bass will have you bopping your head as the synth guitar and pads kick major ass. It actually gives off a rather spooky vibe that is only heightened by the lengthy and awesome buildup that features bell tone arpeggios -- one of my favorite things in life -- and some ethereal pads that seemingly call out from beyond. Given the highly over-remixed nature of "Dr. Wily Stage 1" from Mega Man 2, this has long since taken over as my personal favorite Wily stage theme, and you should consider it for yours as well! [embed]240668:46102:0[/embed] Tony: I've regularly professed my love for the Sega Genesis' FM synth audio. As a Sega child, I have a fondness towards the raw, crunchy sounds of games such as Comix Zone, Thunder Force IV, and Konami's Genesis line. Include Mega Man: The Wily Wars in that list as well. The Wily Wars was to Mega Man 1-3 what Super Mario All-Stars was to Mario 1-3, so the soundtrack for the most part consisted of arrangements of older tunes. However, there was a bonus fourth game called "Wily Tower" that included original bosses, levels, and music. And "Wily Tower 4," which sets the "this party's goin' down tonight" vibe for the final stage, is definitely the standout of the lot. [embed]240668:46103:0[/embed] Jayson: This one has the typical bell tone trappings of an ice stage then throws in smooth saxophone, galloping electronic percussion, and a bumpin' bassline that are pretty damn cool. I certainly wasn't expecting that. This "cool" atmosphere is supposed to go along with the hip rocket snowboard segment of the level, although the computerized "JUMP! JUMP! SLIDE! SLIDE!" directions get in the way of the music. You may also be interested in checking out Joshua Morse's remix, "Frost Bossa," which is actually how I first became aware of this track. [embed]240668:46104:0[/embed] Tony: Hands down, this is the best boss theme in the entire series. Whereas Wily stage bosses in most Mega Man games have an element of "cute" about them, like ginormous goofy eyes or bright color schemes, the ones from Mega Man IV are surprisingly cold and faceless, with detailed designs that contrast with the simplicity of the Yellow Devil or Mecha Dragon. And the music that plays during their encounters is every bit as dark and grim as their appearance; you've gotta love the intense keyboard section that runs from 0:21 through 0:47. [embed]240668:46105:0[/embed] Jayson: Two ice stages? Yes! This one takes a different approach to the stereotypical ice stage by laying a foundation with a subdued chugging bass and a rather solemn melody. There's something foreboding and moody about it, and I appreciate the fact that it's not forcing itself upon you by going all-out rock. I think that definitely makes it memorable in my mind, although some out there may have forgotten about it. It's time to get reacquainted! [embed]240668:46106:0[/embed] Tony: The creepy, imposing tune from the first three endgame levels gives you the impression that this will be X and Zero's final stand against Sigma's forces -- and it would have been had Capcom actually respected Keiji Inafune's wishes and ended the series with X5. Then for the final level, the music changes to an electric dance number that gets everyone up out of their seat. And just when it couldn't get any better, cue the guitar solo at the minute mark! Have you even seen what the final level looks like? It's literally a robot rave! [embed]240668:46107:0[/embed] Jayson: Okay, this one is amazing. The epic brass in the intro actually made me chuckle as it sounded like I was listening to a Rocky anthem -- or perhaps Europe's "The Final Countdown" -- but the rock quickly rolls in with chugging bass, wailing electric guitar, and some great bell tones. It's all somewhat laid back, giving off a cool vibe as you battle your way through one of the most interesting Mega Man stages of all time. Check out a playthrough of the level to get an idea of its awesomeness. There are a couple great tracks from this game, and I admit that I didn't get far enough in the X series to enjoy it -- I got tired of all the additional characters and voice acting. But given some of the great music from the game, I may need to go back and give it a chance! [embed]240668:46108:0[/embed] Tony: This recurring piece of music from Mega Man Legends has been used as Legends characters' themes in Namco X Capcom, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Project X Zone. But considering how next to nobody played Legends, to call this song "popular" would be like calling an ant the strongest in its colony. Which is a shame, because it's an excellent song. Just as Legends is a vastly different Mega Man game, "Flutter VS Gesellschaft" is not your typical Mega Man jam. It's got a very Caribbean vibe that sticks with you. I especially love the We are ROCK-MEN cover version, which goes in a slightly more chill but -- in my opinion -- superior direction. [embed]240668:46109:0[/embed] Jayson: Call me crazy, but this could very well be my favorite Mega Man tune of all time, and I just recently discovered it! The Network Transmission soundtrack, composed by electronic guru Shinji Hosoe and his team at SuperSweep, was never released until SuperSweep Records came to the rescue just last month. This track in particular blew me away. There are snazzy arpeggios, smooth bell tones, and crazy synth sweeps that accent an incredibly catchy melody and bassline. It's pure aural heaven! As I'd never played the game, I took a peek at StarMan.EXE's Zero Gravity Area to get a sense of the track in context -- it's funny how great of a track this is for such a boring area. Then again, the entire game looks slow-paced and uninteresting compared to SuperSweep's hip electronic score. [embed]240668:46110:0[/embed] Tony: From the gradual buildup until 0:39, this song makes you feel the weight of Zero's lonely struggle. Then the main melody kicks in and it's all like, "There's the badass Zero we all know and love!" Definitely among the better opening stage themes in the entire franchise, second only to that of the original Mega Man X. I'm not a fan of the GBA's sound capabilities, and I don't think it does this song enough justice. Thankfully, Zero developer Inti Creates has released several arrange albums of its game soundtracks, and the version of "Departure" off Remastered Tracks Rockman Zero Mythos may just be the definitive one. [embed]240668:46111:0[/embed] Tony: Surprise! Bonus eleventh song! I didn't include this among the original ten because it's never actually heard in any game. It was only used in commercials for Rockman's Soccer, known out West as Mega Man Soccer. It's also the secret best Mega Man song. Why is the song so good? Take the lyrics of Japanese comedy singer-songwriter Tatsuo Kamon, toss in an English rap by a non-Japanese artist who -- to the best of my knowledge -- has never been acknowledged, then compose a duet about breaking down the walls between Tokyo and New York City so that our people can come together as one. That would be a very positive message, if it weren't for a very "special" moment at 0:46 -- you'll know it when you hear it. "We Are Rockman" raises many questions, the least of which is, what the hell does any of this have to do with soccer? But that's what makes it so great! It's the perfect encapsulation of Japanese weirdness, with only a tenuous connection to the Mega Man series. A true masterpiece!
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Because Mega Man 2 is played out
If it wasn't obvious from the many musical references throughout the series, the Mega Man games are as much about excellent tunes as they are about tried-and-true action gameplay. He's not called "Rockman" for nothing! But de...

Sound Card 010: Top ten game music tracks for Christmas

Nov 26 // Jayson Napolitano
[embed]238989:45848:0[/embed] Ahhhh, let's start with something measured and relaxing. A lot of the music featured on this list will be upbeat and sticky sweet, but this track from Xenoblade Chronicles captures the whimsical essence of the holidays while retaining a mature sound, making it one of my modern favorites on this list. [embed]238989:45849:0[/embed] And off we go! This is easily one of the first songs that comes to mind when I think about Christmas-appropriate music from videogames. The icy strings and playful tambourine create a perfect backdrop for what's really a pretty jazzy Christmas theme. It's actually so much more soothing outside of the game, as I can't help but be reminded of the slippery road and those damn penguins always getting in my way! [embed]238989:45847:0[/embed] Well, let's just say that Koreans know how to write Christmas music. All of the Korean titles featured on this list (there are four in all) had numerous tracks that were theme appropriate, but I wanted to spread the love and give other games some rep. "Snowfield" is jubilant and poppy, working in elements of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas," which should go a long way towards helping those non-gamers around you accept your "weird" music preferences. At least, that's what my friends and family call my unhealthy obsession with game music! [embed]238989:45850:0[/embed] This one is near and dear to my heart. I absolutely adore Ragnarok Online and its soundtrack, composed by Korean sound studio soundTeMP. I remember playing the game when Lutie was first added to the servers and being instantly blown away by this track as well. Now it's just not Christmas without hearing it regularly on my Christmas iPod rotation! I appreciate that this one is rather subdued and doesn't beat you over the head with the holiday atmosphere. [embed]238989:45851:0[/embed] There aren't many tracks out there more appropriate for this list than "Jeuno ~Starlight Celebration~," a song that accompanied an in-game FFXI event to celebrate the holidays. This one opens with jingle bells and jubilant brass before icy bell tones and a funky bassline roll in, remaining upbeat and classy at the same time. [embed]238989:45852:0[/embed] What kind of list would this be without Christmas NiGHTS? To go along with the game's vibrant visual appeal, there's a flashy arrangement of "Joy to the World" with some great improv work. It's jolly, funky, and a great way to get into the season! [embed]238989:45853:0[/embed] I have to shamefully admit that I've never played Shenmue, but that hasn't kept me from loving the music from the series. This track is so warm and encompassing while also sporting an icy quality that captures both the winter cold and the essence of the holidays all at once. It definitely has me wanting to bundle up and play through the game this holiday season. [embed]238989:45854:0[/embed] Surprised to see Parasite Eve? You shouldn't be! The game takes place around Christmas, and there are actually several great tracks that could have made this list. This one in particular is a little jam session featuring several composers at Square Enix. It has a loose jazz structure with a lovely xylophone melody and some snazzy rhythm guitar. [embed]238989:45855:0[/embed] While there was a lot of talk as to what should be on this list, we all agreed that this minimalistic track from Secret of Mana was a must. It's so pure and beautiful, a perfect accompaniment to a chilly winter morning. And even though it's the oldest piece of music on this list, I still think it withstands the test of time thanks to its minimalism. [embed]238989:45856:0[/embed] A few years back, Jinbae "ESTi" Park posted this track on his Twitter account as a Christmas present to his fans. As it turns out, it was a track from his work on TalesWeaver, and it remains my favorite Christmas theme from any game. The original "Feliz Navidad" is such a fun Christmas song, and ESTi takes it in a more serious direction with a full pop treatment. As I mentioned, there are several tracks from the above titles and more that we wanted on this list, but alas, we had to pick just ten! Here are some others you can check out, and please also chime in to let us know which of your favorites didn't make the list. Maybe we'll put together a round two for next year! Bar Oasis 2 - "Silent Night" Chrono Cross - "Dimension Breach" Lord of Vermillion - "Spiege Snow Plains" (for the hardcore winter experience!) Super Mario Galaxy 2 - "White Snow" Valkyria Chronicles II - "Winter in Lanseal"
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'Tis the season!
It's the most wonderful time of the year! And I truly believe that. While Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday, Christmas is a close second, and I've always made an iPod playlist with tons of holiday music that I roll o...

Sound Card 009: The top ten Castlevania songs OF ALL TIME

Oct 31 // Tony Ponce
[embed]237711:45606:0[/embed] Every franchise has "that one game" that makes everyone scratch their head and exclaim, "What were they thinking!?" For Castlevania, Judgment is that game. Everything about it is just wrong -- the wrong genre, the wrong platform, the wrong art style, etc. But the soundtrack is oh so right! Most of the tunes are high-octane arrangements of iconic themes from throughout the series, but there is a small handful of original pieces. The opening theme, "Darkness of Fear," is so intense that it might actually sucker you into playing this filth! [embed]237711:45607:0[/embed] Speaking of the wrong art style, who at Konami thought it was a brilliant idea replace Ayami Kojima's brilliant character designs with that? Thankfully, the rest of the game didn't fall prey to the same lapse in sensibility. "Condemned Tower" is one of those tracks that starts off slow and forlorn then crescendos until it reaches a mighty crash. It's a prime example of how Castlevania music is as much about building atmosphere as it is about delivering infectious, head-bobbing melodies. [embed]237711:45608:0[/embed] Symphony of the Night was the start of a new Castlevania era in more ways than one. The music in particular took on a whole new dimension, thanks to composer Michiru Yamane. This was neither her first game nor her first Castlevania title, but this was the project that properly demonstrated her range and expertise. Blending classical, techno, and rock styles, she forged a spirit all her own. Players are introduced to that spirit in "Dracula's Castle," heard as Alucard tears through the opening section like a... well... like a bat out of hell. [embed]237711:45609:0[/embed] Of the NES Castlevanias, Dracula's Curse is the undisputed leader. It also packed quite a punch in the audio department... if you were playing the Japanese version, that is. Listen to the first stage theme, "Beginning," and tell me you don't feel that extra "oomph." In Japan, a special audio chip called VRC6 was included in the cartridge, bestowing upon the game  a couple of extra sound channels. That meant the music was richer and deeper than other games in the Famicom library. Unfortunately, the NES hardware out West could not support the VRC6, so our music sounds inadequate by comparison. [embed]237711:45610:0[/embed] The song that started it all! I doubt composer Kinuyo Yamashita had any idea how influential her work on the original Castlevania soundtrack would become when she scored Simon Belmont's first battle against the undead horde. To this day, "Vampire Killer" continues to worm its way into just about every Castlevania game, arranged and re-imagined in various styles. It stands as one of the most iconic pieces of game music, alongside such memorable melodies as the overworld themes from Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. [embed]237711:45611:0[/embed] I will put my foot down and claim that the soundtrack to Belmont's Revenge is the best Castlevania soundtrack of all. It is so criminally underrated, simply because the title is for the Game Boy. People seem to forget just how powerful the Game Boy's audio capabilities are. Why do you think the Game Boy is the tool of choice for many chiptune musicians? What makes the Belmont's Revenge music so amazing -- "New Messiah," in particular -- is the deep, booming bass that you can only really appreciate by plugging a set of headphones into your portable. It's speed metal! On a friggin' Game Boy! C'mon! [embed]237711:45612:0[/embed] Before Symphony of the Night arrived to rock our world, Rondo of Blood demonstrated what clean, high-quality CD audio could bring to the table. In that opening stage, as "Divine Bloodlines" plays and Richter marches past a besieged European town burning in the background, you get the sense that an epic challenge unlike any you have ever faced before awaits. And no, the version that appears on Castlevania: Dracula X on the Super Nintendo doesn't cut the mustard. [embed]237711:45613:0[/embed] Symphony of the Night, the game so nice I mentioned it twice! "Lost Painting" may be the calmest song on this list, but it's precisely that haunting beauty that I find so incredible. This is Michiru Yamane once again showing off how talented she is, making all other music composers look like chumps. Contrast this with "Dracula's Castle" earlier in the list, and you begin to understand the scope of Symphony of the Night's groundbreaking soundtrack. [embed]237711:45614:0[/embed] Next to "Vampire Killer," Kenichi Matsubara's "Bloody Tears" is the second song people tend to associate with the Castlevania franchise. Because it's damn good. Let's be honest: "Vampire Killer" will always be a classic, but "Bloody Tears" is a musical triumph. That rhythmic bass line, those pounding drums -- they send a chill down your spine. Not out of fright, but out of sheer excitement and anticipation of the struggle to come. [embed]237711:45615:0[/embed] Whoopsies! Looks like I ran down the timer because I was too busy flailing my whip in eight directions to the beat of the GREATEST THEME SONG IN THE HISTORY OF MAN! Castlevania has some of the greatest videogame music of any franchise, and a simple top ten list was never going to be enough. I'm sure you'll argue about some of these inclusions and wonder why you personal favorite track didn't make the grade. Still, I feel that this list gathers a solid selection of the best music in the series. Of course, there are other songs that barely missed inclusion, but I'd like to honor them anyway. These aren't in any particular order, but you can consider them "further listening." "Awakened Soul" - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night "The Gears Go Awry" - Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin "Ripe Seeds" - Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge "The Silence of the Daylight" - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest "Wicked Child" - Castlevania Enjoy the tunes and have a happy Halloween!
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Celebrate Halloween with awesome music!
This Halloween, you might feel like turning down the lights and cranking up the frights with a run through of a classic game like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. But for my time and money, nothing beats the premier name in acti...

The Sound Card 008: The top ten best soundtracks at E3

Jun 11 // Jayson Napolitano
Let me start by saying I’m not ranking these titles. I’m going to instead list them alphabetically as some titles had a lot more to offer aurally than others, and it wouldn’t be fair to rank them as such. Let’s begin! [embed]229284:44017[/embed] 10: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate We got word directly from producer David Cox that Oscar Araujo of Lords of Shadow was returning for both Lords of Shadow 2 and Mirror of Fate. I admit, I’m torn, as I loved Araujo’s re-imagining of the Castlevania universe with his dark orchestral score, but missed the classic Gothic rock stylings of Castlevania's past. I really love the emotional cue in the above trailer, and the music that we heard in-game, while less melodic, was similar in style to what he accomplished with the original Lords of Shadow. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more. [embed]229284:44019[/embed] 9: Code of Princess I was greatly looking forward to checking out Code of Princess at E3, and I wasn’t disappointed. The side-scrolling beat-‘em-up sports some lovely visuals and the RPG-appropriate soundtrack, covering adventurous battle scenes and an upbeat bar locale that was perfect for the game. We found out that ACE, known for their work on Emil Chronicles and Xenoblade are responsible for the soundtrack, so look forward to some great things from the included soundtrack disc that Atlus is giving to customers [embed]229284:44027[/embed] 8: Halo 4 It sounds like Metroid, right? In the brief time we spent with Halo 4 at E3, I was impressed by Neil Davidge of Massive Attack’s highly synthesized score. The synth bass sweeps and electronic percussion reminded me of Kenji Yamamoto’s work on the Metroid franchise which is definitely a good thing, although admittedly not “Halo.” When we were able to speak to the creative team about the game, however, we were assured that the big orchestral and choral sounds established in the original Halo trilogy would appear in Halo 4 as well, so it seems there will be something for everyone. [embed]229284:44028[/embed] 7: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance What’s not to love about a Metal Gear series soundtrack? They’ve made it no big secret that they’ve been pursuing a big Hollywood action sound, and that’s exactly what I heard during my time with Revengeance. Unfortunately I don’t know who’s doing the music at this time, but my guess would be that GEM Impact, the studio headed up by Metal Gear Solid series veteran Norihiko Hibino, is involved in some way. Of all the titles covered here, you can be sure that this one will get a soundtrack release. 6: Nintendo Land Maybe you already knew this one was coming, but with so many classic Nintendo franchises to draw from for inspiration, of course this one is going to stand out in our minds. I loved the retro 8-bit sounds we were hearing in the amazing Donkey Kong Crash Course, and of course Zelda and Animal Crossing also have throwbacks to their respective franchises. Of all the titles here, this one is the least likely to get a soundtrack release, which is a shame, because you know it will be a nostalgiafest for sure! [embed]229284:44030[/embed] 5: Orgarhythm I enjoyed extensive hands-on with Orgarhythm, and while it’s a difficult game to understand, the music is universal and should be easy to enjoy. As music is a big part of the gameplay, you can expect some catchy tracks to enjoy, with the first stage we played featuring some electronic percussion and a beautiful woodwind melody. The second stage that we caught a glimpse of went more in a rock direction, which I’m looking forward to hearing more of. Ayako Minami is the person behind this soundtrack, responsible for past titles in the Armored Core series as well as Enchant Arms. [embed]229284:44031[/embed] 4: Persona 4 Arena What’s not to love about remixed music from the Persona franchise, which is already some of the best in the business? You can expect lots of fan service from this one from the characters included, the beautifully 3D rendered backgrounds, and of course the blood-pumping soundtrack [embed]229284:44032[/embed] 3: Pikmin 3 I didn’t play Pikmin 3 at E3, but instead was able to watch Chad play and enjoy the game’s stunning visuals and relaxing soundtrack. The game’s music was very Pikmin appropriate with lots of organic sounds including a soothing woodwind melody. I’m sure we’ll be hearing some great music out of this one, so stay tuned. [embed]229284:44033[/embed] 2: Sound Shapes This is hands-down one of the coolest things we heard at E3 this year. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend checking out the video with composer Jim Guthrie (Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP) where he shows off his album in the game as well as the game’s music generator that can be used to create your own levels. There’s not only fantastic music, but a great and innovative way to create and experience audio, so consider me a fan. [embed]229284:44034[/embed] 1: Unchained Blades I already gushed about this game’s soundtrack, but it’s really good. As a “punishingly difficult” RPG for the hardcore, the soundtrack is a perfect match with its more rock-oriented themes. There’s the standard RPG town and overworld themes a well, but composer Tsutomu Narita has gone as to far as to upstage Nobuo Uematsu who’s responsible for the game’s Iron Chef-flavored main theme. This soundtrack can already be imported from Japan from Uematsu’s label, so I recommend picking it up if you want a preview of what to expect from the game later this year. Just check out "Titan of Agira" above, my favorite track from the album, and tell me it's not amazing.
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E3 is a hard place to get a good sense of music in games. The show floor is generally so noisy that you’re lucky if you can hear the attendant next to you telling you how to play the game. Fortunately, game companies ar...

The Sound Card 007: Game music on vinyl

May 23 // Jayson Napolitano
So, what the hell is vinyl?I think this is a pretty valid question. My first experience with the medium was coming across a copy of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Use You Illusion and Appetite for Destruction in my parents' closet. It had some pretty provocative artwork, which is probably why it was in the closet, and probably why I never asked about it. It was big, bulky, and looked cool, but I had no idea what it was.Being born in the mid-1980s, the audio cassette tape had largely taken over, so I was enjoying my music on that medium. I remember seeing a turn table on top of my grandfather’s stereo setup, but even having seen the record in my parents' closet and the turn table at my grandfather’s, I didn’t put two and two together until much later. Probably when seeing some sort of DJ shenanigans on television.Anyway, vinyl still, to this day, has some benefits which may be countered by some pretty severe negatives. They’re essentially large discs of wax with grooves cut into either side. They come in different sizes, and can be played at different speeds to produce interesting effects (they can also be played backwards, which some artists used as a neat gimmick to hide things in their music). In terms of benefits, the audio cut into a record is all analog, or, in other words, not digital as you’ll find in compact disc (CD) or, obviously, digital files. Digital files approximate the original sound waves that were generated by the artist, so in a sense, what you hear on a vinyl record is the true, purest sound as if you were hearing it performed live. However, music written in a digital format (on a computer) is already digitized, so while you might not get that complete analog sound on vinyl, if the music is prepared properly, can still benefit from the medium. In that case (as is the case with most recent vinyl releases), I think the major attraction is that they just look cool, and there’s this romantic notion about a forgotten medium from the past.About those negatives though. Due to the optimal spacing of the grooves on the record, you can’t really squeeze more than 20-25 minutes of music per side. Additionally, due to the fact that a needle has to be in physical contact with the record to produce sound, over time, the grooves erode and the sound quality is reduced. Think of that grainy sound that you associate with vinyl, and that’s what you’re looking at. The fact that there’s a finite number of times you can enjoy it, however, adds a sort of rustic charm to the medium. I guess this also applied to cassette tapes, but cassettes aren’t nearly as cool as vinyl, right?Game music on vinylNow, it’s pretty difficult to explore the history of game music on vinyl. There aren't a lot of resources, and some of the early stuff was pretty obscure. However, VGMdb, a fan-updated resource, is probably your best bet and is what I’m using extensively for this feature. To take a look for yourself, go into the advanced search, check “game music” and “vinyl,” and hit search. Then sort by date. There should be about 8 pages of releases.The limitation, however, and a disclaimer before I launch into this, is that if it’s not in fans’ hands, it’s probably not in the database, so if anything, there’s more music out there on vinyl than VGMdb would indicate.According to VGMdb, however, one of the first instances of game music on vinyl was in 1978 with Yellow Magic Orchestra’s self-titled record. It contained remixes from Circus and Space Invaders and paved the way for other releases through the late 1970s and early 1980s that included lots of Pac-Man, Asteroids, Yars’ Revenge, Missile Command, and others. These even got their own drama albums complete with read-along books that told brief stories from these games. Jump forward to 1983 and you have Do the Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong proper. Through the mid-1980s, Namco came on board with Xevious followed by their compilation album, Namco Video Game Graffiti which featured Dig Dug, Sky Kid, New Rally-X!, Mappy, and more.From here flowed a golden age of game music on vinyl. There were releases for  Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda with original and orchestra versions and a Famicom music collection with tons of classic NES hits which were followed by Konami, Capcom, Hudson, Sega, Taito, SNK, and Tecmo releases through the mid-1980s.Enix was one of the pioneers with Koichi Sugiyama bringing a live orchestra to game music (his Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite series was actually the first orchestral game music concert ever back in the 1980s, but that’s a topic for another time), and in addition to live orchestra, brass ensembles and electone arrangements were also produced on vinyl. Everything from Ultima and Ys to Contra and Final Fantasy came next to round out the 80s and get us started into the 1990s. There were literally hundreds of vinyl releases during this decade, and the volume of releases dropped precipitously from there. To give you a sense of the changes that occurred, let me give you a quick count (again, from VGMdb with its known limitations):1970s – 41980s – 1191990s – 432000s – 412010s – 27 (in just three years!)With CD taking over in the 1990s and the launch of the new platforms by Sega and Nintendo, there were fewer but still some amazing releases. Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut on vinyl around this time, along with Tetris, the much deserving Pulseman, and Street Fighter II. There were also a slew of remix albums around this time, including this funky Super Mario Land: Ambassadors of Funk release:[embed]226437:43506[/embed]After only a few releases to celebrate our beloved SEGA Genesis and Super Nintendo, it was on to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Wipeout, a series seemingly made for vinyl, was released, along with Tekken, Ridge Racer, and the amazing Parappa the Rapper. I also got my hands on these rare remixes from stage 4 in Rez which aren’t even in VGMdb:[embed]226437:43507[/embed][embed]226437:43508[/embed]Squaresoft made an appearance during the mid-1990s with Front Mission Alternative, a fantastic arrange album, and later with “Eyes on Me” from Final Fantasy VIII, along with Konami’s Dracula X / Vampire Killer from Symphony of the Night and beatmania, Capcom’s Biohazard 2, and Sega’s Sonic R and Burning Rangers. While the packaging for many of these releases was pretty minimal, I found the following dual-record GHOST IN THE SHELL MEGATECH BODY.VINYL.LTD release to be pretty amazing in the packaging department:[embed]226437:43509[/embed]Another reason we’ll never really know how much vinyl is out there is because of releases like this one:[embed]226437:43510[/embed]Squaresoft prepared this dual-record release of Parasite Eve Remixes as a promotional tool for DJs to start messing around with their material. This was never released commercially, and so with things like this, we may never know all of what’s out there. There were slightly fewer releases in the 2000s. By this time, vinyl was rare and more promotional than commercial. There was seemingly nothing sexy about the format by this time, and aside from a few releases like Grand Theft Auto III, Doom 3, and a nifty red Super Street Fighter II Turbo Battle release. There were some interesting fan remix albums (also rare and not in VGMdb) that can be seen here:[embed]226437:43511[/embed]A friend, Haroon “FFMusicDJ” Piracha (who also sent me many of these rare vinyl releases to include in this feature) sent me this interesting animated graphic showing percentage of music sales from 1980 through 2010, which is quite telling in what happened to vinyl during this period.Then came the 2010s. We saw a resurgence of the medium both in underground circles and from big name publishes. I think what’s partially responsible is the enthusiastic underground communities that comprise the indie game scene. The atmosphere is one that makes it seem as though anything is possible, and some great music is being created for these titles. One such release, and the first to hit in 2010 was the excellent soundtrack to Machinarium, which is actually still available to fans who are interested:[embed]226437:43512[/embed]This was followed by a slew of both promotional and commercial releases from game companies including 2K (BioShock), Square Enix (Final Fantasy XIII), Blizzard Entertainment (StarCraft II), Rockstar (Red Dead Redemption), THQ (the rare de Blob and de Blob 2) and even Microsoft (Halo: Combat Evolved). Check some of these out below:[embed]226437:43513[/embed][embed]226437:43514[/embed][embed]226437:43515[/embed]Indie releases also kept things going with the popular Sword & Sworcery LP hitting vinyl, and a title that I think is the single most deserving soundtrack of a vinyl release, 2009s Shatter (the vinyl was released in 2011), which is easily one of my favorite soundtracks of all time:[embed]226437:43516[/embed]I think what Jim Guthrie, composer of Sword & Sworcery, has to say about why vinyl and why now is quite telling of the indie scene’s desire to get things like this done:“For as long as I've been making records/music the ultimate goal has always been to release stuff on vinyl. It's never been a question of should I press vinyl. It's ‘can I press vinyl and not lose my shirt?’ It's the perfect format to experience music and it's out-lived every medium that's come since. Sound great. The art is nice and big and you have to interact with it in order to hear it in a way that is very satisfying. I don't want to sound like a broken record (pun intended) but CDs and mp3s don't provide the same experience. They are convenient and easy to store, rip and steal but that's about it. No matter how high tech things get I believe vinyl will always have a place in this world.”I couldn’t have said it better myself.Not since the 1980s have we seen so many vinyl releases per year. This year already has seen releases celebrating the Commodore 64, the Music of Retro City Rampage (get that blue one while you still can!) and the upcoming Botanicula from Minority Records (the same label that put out Machinarium). It’s a good time for fans of vinyl, and after a turbulent history, it’s time to dust off (or in my case, go out and buy!) a turn table and relive a piece of musical history.[embed]226437:43779[/embed]Where to find vinylUnfortunately most of the stuff released up through 2010 is nearly impossible to find at this point. Even the most recent releases are only printed in limited quantities, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. With that in mind, it’s best to hit up auction sites like eBay to find older stuff. Haroon Piracha, who was responsible for finding a lot of the stuff featured here, also recommends Juno Records where he’s seen some pretty cool stuff, including “Heavenly Star” by the Genki Rockets.Some companies still do offer their vinyl releases for sale. Here’s a quick run-down:Square-Enix (Japanese only): http://store.jp.square-enix.com/You can pick up two from Final Fantasy XIII, one from Final Fantasy XI, the Myth: The Xenogears Orchestral Album, and the SQ Trax remix album for relatively cheap (about $30 USD), although it’s exclusive to the e-Store and must be purchased from within Japan.Blizzard Entertainment: http://us.blizzard.com/store/details.xml?id=1100001265You can still pick up Revolution Overdrive – Songs of Liberty, a collection of original music created for the jukebox in StarCraft II for $25.Sumthing Else Music Works: http://www.sumthing.com/itemDetails.aspx?id=5495You can still pick up the limited edition Halo: Combat Evolved vinyl for a mere $24.99, which comes with a free download code for the soundtrack.Minority Records: http://www.minorityrecords.com/Machinarium has gone through a reprint due to high demand. Pick it up now if you want it; it’s a great soundtrack and the packaging is stellar. Botanicula is their latest release coming out in May.Retro City Rampage: http://retrocityrampage.bandcamp.com/We already noted that these are extremely limited, with 100 blue, 100 green, and 300 black. Green is sold out, and there are very few blue remaining. There’s also a sale directly through Lotus Audio right now for $4 CAD off: http://lotusaudio.com/retrocityrampagevinyl.htmShatter: http://sidhe.bandcamp.com/album/shatter-official-videogame-soundtrackEasily one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, signed by Jeremiah “module” Ross himself. Pick this one up before it’s gone!Sword & Sworcery LP: http://jimguthrie.bandcamp.com/album/sword-sworcery-lp-the-ballad-of-the-space-babiesHugely popular soundtrack. Jim Guthrie is swimming orders right now, so pick this up soon if you want a chance at it.The Minibosses: brass 2: http://minibosses.bandcamp.com/album/brass-2-mouthI want to highlight the fan remix/band scene as well. The Minibosses are the pioneers responsible for a lot of what we enjoy at events like MAGFest today. Support them and pick up a nifty vinyl release while you’re at it.In closingI don’t claim to be an expert on the medium. When Square Enix started up their vinyl series starting with Final Fantasy XIII and upon hearing that Shatter was getting a vinyl release, my interest was sparked. I hadn’t explored vinyl before this, and this was only a year or two ago! Anyone can get into this as a sub-hobby of game music, and I think you’ll find it’s very addictive trying to track down your favorite releases on the used market. I guess it’s also frustrating when you can’t find what you’re looking for, though!Still, I’d love to hear if anyone out there has a ‘game music on vinyl’ experience. I think we’re going to be seeing more of this moving forward. Even if the CD format gives way to digital, as that animated graphic would suggest, I think the true benefit of pure analog sound is an attraction that’s unique to the medium, not to mention the sheer size of these records makes the sleeves great display pieces (although the small vinyl releases are also cute!).Welcome back to The Sound Card, and welcome back to vinyl!  
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It’s back! It started and ended in 2008. The Sound Card, I mean. Dale North started the series many years ago, and while it had a very short run, I was always a fan of the column which featured zany lists that included ...

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The Sound Card 006: The top ten rhythm games that don't use a plastic guitar


Sep 19
// Dale North
A rhythm game is a videogame that asks players to follow a beat and execute prompted actions like button presses (or guitar strums) at preset times. When you boil this type of title down to its core, they're usually not much ...
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The Sound Card 005: The top ten most obnoxious game songs


Sep 12
// Dale North
Videogame music has come a long way, hasn't it? In the last several years, game music went from being noise in the background to being fully-funded, high-profile music good enough to stand on its own, sometimes rivaling even ...
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The Sound Card 004: The 8 most f*cked up vocal remixes


Aug 25
// Dale North
Awhile back in an earlier Sound Card feature, we explained that the world of videogame music is vast. There's so many different genres and performance types that's its pretty hard to keep tabs on them all. Believe it or not, ...
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The Sound Card Remixer Profile: Hyadain


May 05
// Dale North
Destructoid's weekly Sound Card Remixer Profiles highlights the works and music of the internet's game music remixers. If you've read our game music primer, you'll know that "remixers" are what the game music community calls...
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The Sound Card 003: The top 7 most f*cked-up arranged game music tracks


May 02
// Dale North
The vast world of videogame music is scattered with plenty of really weird songs. And let's face it: there's some really weird videogames out there, like Namco's Katamari Damacy, that need equally weird soundtracks. That make...

The Sound Card 002: Interview with vertexguy

Apr 20 // Dale North
Destructoid: First off, what does "vertexguy" mean? vertexguy: What? It isn’t obvious?! Ok…ok… so in my final year of college, I needed to create my online portfolio. Coming up with a catchy domain is tough, and I wanted it job related as a 3d artist. A vertex is basically a point in 3D space. Connect 3 of these points and you create a polygon (triangle). Polygons are used to create 3D objects. Since I'd be spending all my time manipulating vertices making 3d objects, I thought it would be appropriate to incorporate “Vertex” into the title. Adding "Guy" to the end seemed to be a decent fit and thus “vertexguy” was born. A lot of people break it up and call me "the vertex guy". Either way works, but I prefer to keep it as a single combined word. You can't have spaces in domain names, so keeping it together matches the site URL and makes search results a lot more accurate. Okay...vertexguy, tell us your answer to the age-old question: Why game music? I've always had a fondness for instrumental music. To me, the very core definition of music is expressing ideas and emotions through sound. It's the one universal language everyone understands. That has nothing to do with words, which is probably why I prefer instrumentals. Game music has always been primarily instrumental, and regardless if it was a beep coming from my NES or a live orchestral recording from a modern Final Fantasy game, it has always intrigued me. Combine that with a childhood lust for playing video games, and it only made sense that I would be greatly influenced by the music contained within them. Unfortunately I don't think the game industry gives enough credit to the importance of original music, and the impact it has on the player. I often find many game compositions are as good, or better, than anything you'd hear in a major motion picture. You've got quite a list of games you've contributed to. How did you start composing game music? I've worked on over a dozen titles on the art side, but musically only on two so far. I started composing at a very young age using the MOD and MIDI formats. Later in high school I composed a few tunes for some independent game projects. Around this time I also started doing game remixes on guitar. After college I joined a Web site called Musician War and started competing, mostly with game tunes. My first published original game composition was produced during my time at FarSight Studios. What was your role at FarSight? What did you work on? I was initially hired on as an artist / assistant producer. It was a small studio, so I found myself taking on lots of lead responsibility, and working on multiple games at once. I quickly became the driving force behind raising the bar with new technologies and techniques. There was no audio department at the time, so I seized the opportunity and took on the role of Audio Designer as well. Unfortunately most of the games I worked on didn't have a budget for a soundtrack, so I mainly worked on sound effects. Eventually an opportunity popped up to do a soundtrack if I could do it in a 2 week time frame. From this insane 2 week crunch emerged my first soundtrack to Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection. The soundtrack was only 5 songs in total and fit a 70's classic rock / funk style to match the time period of the game. Speaking of pinball, tell us about your work on Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. The Williams Collection was probably my best work from my time at FarSight Studios. I did a large amount of artwork in the game and helped to push it way beyond the first installment in the series (The Gottlieb Collection). The end result is an extremely solid game that's been getting pretty good reviews so far. On the audio side, I finally had an audio designer under me to help offset the load. He did a fantastic job at capturing and enhancing the soundscape of the original tables. Probably the best thing for me to come out of this game was the opportunity to finally produce a soundtrack with a small budget. Given that I had so much on my plate, I certainly couldn't do it all myself. Luckily I know several amazing musicians on the net who I convinced to contribute for very little in return. I also managed to finish a new track from home so I could be a part of it. In my humble opinion, the end result was an incredibly kick ass 80’s soundtrack that's very fitting to the time era in the game. If you like 80’s rock / metal, it’s worth hunting down online just for the music. At less than 15 bucks on the PS2, it’s a steal. [embed]82425:45317:0[/embed] You've since moved onto a new job at Idol Minds. Can you tell us what you're working on there? Idol Minds has been a really great experience so far. They have some incredibly talented people that know how to make great games. PAIN is thriving with on-going expansions, but that project hasn’t been my primary focus. All I can say for now is that I’m the lead artist on a AAA title, due out sometime this year. I know you've performed with VGL a couple of times now. How did that opportunity come about? A while back a fellow MySpace user named "Stretch" contacted me and suggested I contact Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall to see if they might be interested in doing something together. It just happened to be at the perfect time when they were planning for GDC. I'm very grateful for getting to be a part of this amazing show. Performing in front of Shigeru Miyamoto and Koji Kondo was an incredible honor that I'll never forget. Since then I’ve performed at E for All, and have done several compositions for VGL on the side. I’ll also be making an appearance on their first greatest hits CD when it comes out. Although I can't be a part of the regular tour, I do hope to continue playing gigs with them down the road. It’s always a blast to see a concert hall filled with fans who appreciate video game music as much as I do. Speaking of performing, I hear you're playing the Iron Man of Gaming festival. I might be there too. What do you have planned? Any chance we can rock out? Wait, on second thought, never mind; I suck. I can't rock. Sure man, I’m always up for a jam session! I suck at improv so you've got nothing to worry about. ;) The Iron Man of Gaming event is something I’m really looking forward to. Craig from ScrewAttack.com was nice enough to invite me to perform my own set at the show, so how could I possibly refuse? I’ll be performing a very large selection of songs, including the highly requested "Duke Nukem Jam." There might even be a new song or two in the mix…we’ll see what happens. It’ll definitely be an event you don’t want to miss! I hear that you're working with "a major publisher to work on a heavy metal theme song for their upcoming AAA next gen title." Are there any details you can give us? Just before I took my new job with Idol Minds, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a fan who also just happened to be a producer at a major publisher. He loved what I did with classic game tunes, and was very interested in having me do a rock / metal theme song remix for their upcoming AAA next gen title. I can’t say much more at this time, but I’ll do my best to make it rock. Is there anything else you've got coming up? Also, where can we find out more about you? Over the past couple years I’ve been trying to improve my audio setup so I can crank out high quality tunes faster. Copying game tunes is quick and easy, but making it my own can be a real challenge. I’ve thought about doing my own solo album too, but who knows if I’ll ever find the time. As far as finding out more about me, I’d recommend my Web site at www.vertexguy.com. If you'd like to be the first to hear about new events with me, sign up for my newsletter on the site. And finally, Interview Quickfire:  Worst Overall RPG? Geez…as if picking the best isn’t hard enough, I think crowning the worst is even harder! I’m gonna have to go way back and say the Immortal. This game was kind of a mix of RPG / Action / Puzzle. It had potential, but I remember getting frustrated with it and lost interest. Best Soundtrack Ever? That’s easy…Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection of course! ;) Hmm…seriously though, I think I’ll go with the Final Fantasy series. Nobuo Uematsu created incredible melodies that will be stuck in my head forever. Favorite Music Videogame? Anything from the NES / SNES CastleVania series….unless you’re asking about a game based around music, in which case…Guitar Hero! Mashed Potatoes or Baked Potatoes? Definitely mashed… --- Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Readers, be sure to check out his latest release, "Premonition," straight from the soundtrack of the Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. 
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Around these parts we've always dug the work of guitarist and artist Chris Kline, better known as "vertexguy." Even in our earliest days we rocked out to his kickass versions of songs from Lords of Thunder and Contra, and we ...

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The Sound Card 001: The Game Music Listening Primer


Apr 10
// Dale North
"Hey, I know this song! Isn't this from...The Legend of Zelda!?" "Wait, why are you listening to music from The Legend of Zelda?" Fans of videogame music (well, the non-closet variety) will tell you that they've been throug...

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