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Ben Davis avatar 4:27 PM on 07.24.2014  (server time)
Bbain's Jukebox: Western

The past few weeks, I've been playing Wild Arms. It's a pretty solid fantasy RPG, but what drew me to the game in the first place was its western theme. Much of the game seems to be tenuously related to the western genre at best, however. It's essentially a typical fantasy RPG, with some western flair to help it stand out from other RPGs. The game's soundtrack is pretty great, though. It was inspired by the music from some of my favorite spaghetti westerns, namely The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as the overworld theme in the first game is a cover of The Ecstasy of Gold, my favorite song from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack.

This got me thinking about all of the great western-themed songs I've heard from other games. Westerns tracks tend to be a favorite of mine, because they always remind me of Sergio Leone's films. My fascination with the western genre is sort of a recent development, I only started watching westerns about four or five years ago, when I got the sudden urge to watch a Clint Eastwood movie and decided on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It instantly became one of my favorite movies, and since then, I've seen most of Sergio Leone's other films, and a few westerns from other directors as well.

This week's theme will obviously be the western genre. I thought of a lot more than five examples that I really liked, so there will probably be a sequel to this theme in the future (in case you're wondering where Guacamelee is). What do you guys think of western films/games?

The Shootist 
Red Dead Redemption

Ah, Red Dead Redemption... by far the most perfect game to play after binging on a bunch of spaghetti western films! If you ever want to play a game where you can pretty much be the Man with No Name, this is certainly the game to play. Of course, you do have a name, and a family and everything, so it's not exactly the same, but it's just about as close as you're gonna get. Obviously, the whole soundtrack is worth looking into if you like western music. The Shootist just happens to be my personal favorite track. It's got everything: whistling, rattlesnake noises, twangs, horns, men shouting "hah!"... and it's got a slick sound to it, befitting a talented gunslinger like John Marston.

Spike in a Rail 

The Bastion soundtrack is a beautiful thing. It manages to simultaneously bring to mind images of the Wild West and some sort of futuristic fantasy world. Some of the tracks sound like they could have been taken straight out of Firefly. The vocal tracks are definitely the highlight of the soundtrack (I'll no doubt be revisiting those in a future blog), but the instrumental tracks are, in my opinion, equally brilliant. There are several tracks I could have chosen here (Slinger's Song is another excellent choice), but the energy of Spike in a Rail makes it a favorite of mine. It sounds like a theme song for a badass cowboy riding into town like he owns the place, while outlaws stand around giving him the stink-eye.

Shadow's Theme
Final Fantasy VI

This song was an interesting choice for a character who is essentially a ninja. You might expect something with a little more eastern influence (kinda like Cyan's Theme), but Shadow's twangy theme certainly evokes images of the west. And somehow, it makes perfect sense. Shadow is a loner and a mercenary, much like the Man with No Name. Working on your own and taking assassination jobs to make money does seem like a very Wild West thing to do. Only instead of having a faithful horse companion, Shadow has a super loyal doberman partner.

Hidden Village 
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I'll be honest, I actually completely forgot about this song until I heard it in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This is probably because I played Twilight Princess before I started watching western films, so it didn't stand out to me as much back then. But now, the Hidden Village is one of my favorite areas in Twilight Princess. It's essentially a ghost town; only one resident still resides there (Impaz).The town certainly looks like something straight out of a western; I'd expect to see some tumbleweeds roll by as Link rides his horse up to the nearest saloon! Too bad the place is deserted...

Nowhere to Run
Rayman Origins

This one gets bonus points for the whistling. There's nothing like a good whistled tune to give something that old Wild West feeling. I mean, look at all the tunes the Man with No Name had, whistling as he rode into town. Or even the cowboy from Cowboy Bebop (you know the one). Aside from the music, the Land of the Livid Dead is not a particularly western setting, it's basically a graveyard of undead, agitated grannies. Platforming-wise, it's also the most intense level of the game, so having some awesome music to accompany the often frustrating difficulty certainly helped make these levels very enjoyable. I found myself whistling along to the music as I died over and over!

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