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8:09 AM on 09.30.2010 // TonicBH
More than just noise: Good game music from beyond the rising sun.

(Better late than never, eh?)

For a long while I used to listen to a lot of video game music isolated from the game itself. NES, SNES, Genesis, Xbox, I had a myriad of game music. But one thing that sort of irritates me is how some composers -- particularly in some regions -- don't get noticed or mentioned by gamers when you ask them what their favorite music is.

Think of a few video game composers off the top of your head. I bet that the ones that probably popped into your head were a bunch of greats: Koji Kondo, Hip Tanaka, Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda. Maybe Masato Nakamura or Jun Senoue if you're a Sonic nut. I bet if I were to make this a user-submitted list, Japanese composers would dominate the list.

My problem is that I rarely hear anything about American or European composers when gamers talk about video game music. It's always about Japanese composers, and maybe a few standouts like Marty O'Donnell or Tommy Tallarico. Hell, when the music list for Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out a few years back, I bemoaned at the fact that there were very few American or European composers on the list. When I mentioned this in an IRC chatroom, they thought I wanted Justin Timberlake doing a cover of The Legend of Zelda. This pissed me off dearly.

So I would like to show Destructoid some American and European composers who I think are pretty damn awesome and that you should be listening to (if you aren't already). Just a heads-up: This will be a bit YouTube video heavy, so I hope you don't have a slow PC.

First off is Jesper Kyd. Anyone who's played an iO Interactive game in the past few years -- be it the frustratingly challenging Hitman or the Kane & Lynch games -- may know of his work. He's also the primary composer of the Assassin's Creed series, which had some nice ambient tracks to compliment the scenery. Hitman 2's score has been one of my personal favorites of his, and really showed his evolution from the tracker-based music in Codename 47 to the sweeping orchestra that fit each stage in the game. For instance, this track, "Japanese Mansion," uses Eastern instruments to give the track an awesome Japanese feel to it. This is one of the many great tracks in that game. The other Hitman games -- Codename 47, Contracts and Blood Money -- also have great standout tracks, and I recommend listening to those as well.



Next on my list is Tim Follin. A British composer from the days of the Commodore 64, he along with his brother Geoff did a lot of compositions for Software Creations-developed games, which always had a distinct "sound" to it. NES games like Solstice or Treasure Master showed off that distinct sound that Follin put to his music. One of my favorite Follin compositions was in the SNES game Plok, which had dynamic music that shifted from one style to the next even in the same track. It's really awesome, as featured in this track from the Beach levels.



Unfortunately Follin left the game music industry a few years back, his last compositions were for Lemmings on the PSP and PS3. I believe he works as a director for TV advertisements now. Sad, because he brought a unique style that cannot be easily duplicated.

Hey, do you like Lost? Watched anything produced by J.J. Abrams? Then you might have heard of Michael Giacchino's work. Before being a film and TV composer, he was primarily a video game composer. Giacchino composed the music for most of the Medal of Honor games, the only exceptions were Rising Sun, European Assault and Pacific Assault, which were done by Christopher Lennertz (another composer I recommend); and the upcoming 2010 MOH reboot. His scores were known for being relatively action-packed, but also very soft and low-key if there wasn't much action going on. One of my favorite Giacchino tracks comes from Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. While most of the score was done by Giacchino protege Chris Tilton, Giacchino did compose the main theme that plays at the title screen. It brings me goosebumps every time I hear it.



Remember when Rare was awesome and had a great music team writing some awesome ditties? One of them was David Wise, who I thought was the best of the bunch. Having been around with Rare from its early days up until this year, Wise composed a huge amount of Rare's games from the C64 and NES days, and contributed in other games from the SNES era on. Donkey Kong Country 2's soundtrack had some really catchy tunes, some of the best on the SNES. Some of my favorites were Mining Melancholy, Flight of the Zinger and Primal Rave. Featured here is Stickerbush Symphony, which complimented the bramble stages I love(d to hate).



Finally, one of those composer underdogs and one of my personal favorites: Richard Jacques. While his music may not always set the world on fire compared to the others, I always loved his "action movie" vibe in some of the games he composed for, like Pursuit Force and Headhunter. Jacques has not only composed for those games, but has contributed music to other games. Such as The Club -- which was mostly a Jesper Kyd-composed game -- and Mass Effect, which was a Jack Wall-composed score, but 3-4 other composers contributed as well as Jacques. One of my personal favorite Jacques scores is Headhunter, which features a nice mix of orchestra and synthesizers. While the game blew chunks, the score was absolutely fantastic. Here's one of my favorites, Jack's Theme:



You might have heard of these people. I might've shown you new artists and music to listen to. My point to this is that there's a lot of really good American and European game music that goes unheard or unnoticed by the general gaming populace. By the way, I have absolutely nothing against Japanese game music, games like Chrono Trigger have some of the best game music I've heard. But there is game music that isn't from Japan, and it's pretty awesome.
Tagged:    cblog    Opinion Editorial  

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