Originally this was meant to be a list of great videogame scores, but when I realized I had gone well over two thousand words with it, I decided to do this in shorter segments.
HEAVENLY SWORD was criticized for its short length and the combat system divided opinions. I thought it was a beautiful game and as long as it needed to be, but what truly hooked me was the touching story about sacrifice protagonized by Nariko, a daughter blamed by her father and her clan for not being the chosen one they expected, cursed by her decision to wield the Heavenly Sword and fulfill the prophecy that condemned her to lifelong rejection.
This is evoked magnificently by the slow percussion, the plucked strings, the beautiful wind instruments and the constant, soft chiming of Nitin Sawhney's wonderful main theme:
But the example that summarizes the genius of Sawhney's work is SHEN'S ESCAPE:
The track is gorgeous in its own right, but the brilliance of it is where in the game it appears. The following is a mild spoiler, so jump right to the next paragraph if you want to miss it: this music plays when a character named Shen, wounded, is very slowly trying to escape from armed soldiers being barely held back by the arrows of the character you play as. Due to the gameplay mechanics, most of the section plays in slow-motion, perfectly fitting the pacing of the music -- but its brilliance is in its melancholy, and in how it evokes tension by portraying Shen's efforts to pick up the pace and not pass out.
The score as a whole is tinged with melancholy, but in BEWARE OF FLYING FOX, Sawhney proves himself capable of keeping that up while delivering the fast-paced epicness required by some of the game's combat sections. Due to the dynamic nature of gameplay, the following track has noticeable audio cuts as it switches melodies, but it is nevertheless beautifully engaging:
Sawhney's score is worth experiencing the entirety of HEAVENLY SWORD. Fortunately, there's many more reasons to do so. Again if you don't mind mild spoilers, this is how the previous music plays in-game:
"That's what I said: BOOOOOOORIIIIIIIING."