As a gamer, I intuitively know the theme songs to a great variety of games: Mario, Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and Halo are all great examples of this. What original music strives to accomplish besides providing an entertaining track is the establishment of aural recognition on the part of a gamer. When you hear the music of Mario, the song establishes sense memory, and the intrinsic memories (the pleasant parts of your gaming experience) are recalled. It is therefore beneficial, some would even argue critical, to craft a theme song while establishing an iconic character.
However, there has been a trend since the advent of CD quality audio to officially licensed songs. While one can argue that officially licensed songs take away from the originality that original music can give to its characters, it is appropriate to recognize this type of music for what it can accomplish. Simply put: Officially licensed music targets a demographic.
Take Need For Speed: Underground (whose soundtrack will grace another iteration of this series) as an example. In order to establish an aural environment that best simulates the atmosphere of underground racing, the creators decided on an electronica/rap one-two punch. It wouldn't work as well if they had Kenny Loggins blaring as you lined up for the race (scratch that, I do
in fact want to ride into the Danger Zone).
Which brings me to the point I am trying to make. This article, and hopefully several more, will revolve around when the officially licensed music works so well in a game that it almost becomes akin to original scoring. There are many games that use official music, but only a few can claim this distinction. I will start with what I feel to be the best soundtrack, certainly one of the earliest, in gaming today: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.
Before we get started, please recognize the inherent subjectivity of music. While you may not agree with my choices, who's writing this? Yeah, that's right. STFUAJPG.
First here is a listing of the tracks:
The Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop
Red Hot Chili Peppers Fight Like A Brave
Motorhead Ace of Spades
Rollins Band What's the Matter Man
House of Pain I'm A Swing It
Ozomatli Cut Chemist Suite
Alien Ant Farm Wish
Redman Let's Get Dirty
Del the Funky Homosapien If You Must
AFI The Boy Who Destroyed The World
Reverend Horton Heat I Can't Surf
CKY 96 Quite Bitter Beings
Guttermouth I'm Destroying the World
Nextmen Amongst Madness
Bodyjar Not The Same
Mad Capsule Markets Pulse
Overall, one can deduce the nature of the game from the titles of the songs alone. There is an undercurrent of defiance, natural with subculture music (see I'm destroying the world), however, the tone is playful, with not too many serious songs (namely Del the Funky Homosapien).
We have punk rock grandfathers The Ramones in with titular song Blitzkrieg Bop. We have psychobilly goodness in Reverend Horton Heat. We have rap in the absolutely phenomenal Ozomatli's Cut Chemist suite. Each one of these songs fits a niche perfectly, there is truly something for everyone in this songlist.
The perfect example of what I want to say, however, rests in one song on this list. The song is 96 quite bitter beings by CKY. If you don't know who CKY is, it's a band whose drummer is brother to Bam Margera, a skater in this game. if you're still unfamiliar, here is a reminder.
CKY can put their success squarely on the shoulders of Bam, who used them in Jackass. Their inclusion in this game is a perfect synergy between skater and developer. From a less objective standpoint, I was introduced into skater mythos through this game, being it was the first THPS I played. However, this song is an encapsulation of this game. Whenever I hear this song, I think instinctively of THPS3, and I'm guessing you do too.
The other bands on here, while not as prime an example as CKY, fit perfectly into the skater punk atmosphere. It is also no small thing that I played this game the most, and am therefore more partial to it than the other THPS's, but the series went downhill after 3, in my humble opinion.
So what do you think? Do you have an unhealthy love of this soundtrack like me? Any suggestions for another songlist? read