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Game music on guitar like you've never heard before

2:00 PM on 05.15.2013 // Jayson Napolitano

Note Worthy 015: Soundtracks you should be listening to!

Top honors for this month's Note Worthy go to a new guitar duo, The Altered Beasts, who you may recognize as the guitar players from the best game music cover band out there, The OneUps. The two team up for their debut album, Transfiguration, bringing smooth and laid-back guitar arrangements of some of the best tracks from across gaming. This one is definitely a must-have.

We've also got the powerful BioShock Infinite and the dark fantasy Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, along with Austin Wintory's Monaco, Star Command, and Soul Sacrifice, among others. Check out below and enjoy streaming music samples while you read!

Top Picks

Release Date: May 3, 2013
Price: $10.00
Availability: Loudr (digital) / Mustin Enterprises (physical)
Artist(s): The Altered Beasts

This is definitely the album I never knew I always wanted. William Reyes and Tim Yarbrough from The OneUps have formed a side project called The Altered Beasts, performing a variety of game music arrangements for guitar, and the results are amazing.

Not only are they spot on with their song selection, they also offer some great interpretations throughout. Everything is laid back and surprisingly full despite only featuring two instruments.

A number of tracks stay true to their original source stylings. "Green Hill Zone" from Sonic the Hedgehog retains its coolness; "Fisherman's Horizon" from Final Fantasy VIII is as beautiful as ever (if not more so!); "Overworld" from Super Mario Bros. 2 is as bouncy and fun as you'd expect; "Pollyanna" from Mother is still one of the best ballads in the business; "Radical Dreamers" from Chrono Cross is incredibly sweet; and "Dire, Dire Docks" from Super Mario 64 is super dreamy. "Sub-Castle" from Super Mario World was always a desperate and broody track and retains that feeling here, making it one of the darker songs on the album, but it's still subdued and plays well with the others.

Now, on to the surprises. The rhythmic variation in "To Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X, the funky swing in "Zelda's Lullaby," and the sunny and joyous "Bloody Tears" from Castlevania II blow my mind (what a wonderful day to have a curse!). "Menu Select" from Metroid Prime is another treat as a wondrous and contemplative tune that remains upbeat. The album closes with another dreamy one, "The Legendary Theme" from Gitaroo Man. With this track and "Pollyana," I would have guessed that Dale North came up with this track listing!

This album is simply fantastic and will be on constant rotation throughout my house on lazy days. I've been looking for something like this to relax to lately, so the timing couldn't have been better. Perhaps you'd like to chime in with other recommendations after picking this one up?

BioShock Infinite Digital Soundtrack
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Price: Not for sale
Availability: Digital bonus with collector's editions
Artist(s): Garry Schyman, et al.

Despite a number of deviations from the BioShock formula, Infinite has been a huge success. Series composer Garry Schyman is back on board and provides 40+ minutes of orchestral music.

After reprises of some comforting Christian hymns, we get bombastic combat, an emotional standout with "Elizabeth," and a lot of tension and great musical moments. The somewhat mischievous "Lions Walk with Lions" with pizzicato strings and xylophone and the heavy and unsettling "Smothered" are among my favorites. The licensed tracks are a lot of fun and work nicely with Schyman's pieces as well, including the playful and upbeat Irish jig, "Rory O'More/Saddle the Pony."

Schyman shows his mastery of the videogame medium once again, crafting a score worthy of the game and franchise. Most tracks are under two minutes in length, but I still can't help but love everything here.

Other Releases

Dead Space 3 Original Video Game Soundtrack
Release Date: February 13, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jason Graves and James Hannigan

Series composer Jason Graves is joined by James Hannigan to take you along a tense ride full of ominous orchestral themes in Dead Space 3. There are some great moments here, but as you would expect, the score is very cinematic, so it's hard to pick out a single track that shines given how many emotions are contained within a single piece.

Still, I love the chugging electronic moments that Hannigan brings in "The Broken Past" and "Lunar Express" along with his more emotional "Rosetta Suite." I would say that there are several moments that are more "cool" that "horrifying," which coincides with the more action-oriented gameplay that the game features. Graves brings the terror, however, with the explosive "Apoplexia" and foreboding "In Tents."

This is a great score with some great moments and is more action-oriented than its predecessors, just like the game. That's good or bad, depending on what you thought of the game.

Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisen Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 24, 2013
Price: 2,800 Yen (~$27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tadayoshi Makino

[Sound Samples]

This two-disc set contains music from the new Dark Arisen content as well as a "best of" collection from the original soundtrack album along with some unreleased and bonus tracks. The same complaints I had regarding the original Dragon's Dogma soundtrack still stand: There is a lot of moody rock-infused orchestral music here, but the melodies don't really draw you in and there's not a strong sense of atmosphere to compensate.

I will say, however, that this album sports far more standouts than the original soundtrack. I really like a few of the more mellow tracks, and there are a couple pieces that rock really hard and had me looking up to find out what I was listening to. Somber vocal themes featuring a young boy's voice found at the end of the album are simply stellar, and are worth your attention (go to the official site to hear). The unreleased tracks feature strong melodies and should have been on the original album (I would have probably liked it a little better if they had!), and two remixes, one by Square Enix guitarist/composer Tsuyoshi Sekito and one by Dragon's Dogma composer Tadayoshi Makino (on piano) are also nice treats.

So if anything, this is the Dragon's Dogma soundtrack to own. The Dark Arisen music has some shining moments, and you still get the best of the original soundtrack with some excellent bonus content

Dungeon Hearts Official Soundtrack
Release Date: March 15, 2013
Price: Not for sale
Availability: SoundCloud
Artist(s): Various artists

We've talked about the puzzle/RPG title Dungeon Hearts a few times here on Destructoid, and I was curious about the game's multiple soundtracks. What you have is series of soundtracks that come in fantasy, chiptune, rock, and electronic flavors. I'd say that the fantasy version by Sam English is my favorite of the bunch, but there's good stuff across the entire collection.

English's harpsichord-laden and electronic-infused "Demon Slayers" and "Troublesome Foe" had me thinking of a hybrid between Castlevania and Mega Man, while Bill Killey's chippy "Acro Circus" makes great use of 8-bit evil laughs. PostPre's smooth "They of Legend" works in beautiful arpeggios, and VikingJesus's decisive "Under a Gray Sky" is simply great.

While various artists involved have offered the soundtrack for streaming or purchase across the web, the developer has a nice collection of tracks from the game totaling nearly an hour of music. Check it out.

GINGA FORCE Complete Soundtrack
Release Date: March 22, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen (~$29)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various artists

This is the two-disc soundtrack to the Xbox 360 shooter Ginga Force, composed by the electronic music masters at SuperSweep. As you can imagine, there's a lot of heavy-hitting electronic music with a retro edge.

After an intentionally anime-esque opener with female vocals, it's strictly on to electronic and rock. Some of my favorites are the bassy and contemplative menu theme, the incredibly funky briefing theme, and a handful of stage themes, including the bumpin' "Dubious Dealer," the rockin' "Gallant Gunshot," and the dark and foreboding "Illicit Ideology -Invasion-" (cool track names, right?). A few featured remixes take a more modern approach, but for a soundtrack that focuses on a retro soundscape, I can't say they did much for me.

While Ginga Force nails that retro shmup sound perfectly, I feel there's a lot of flash here without substance. Very few tracks stuck with me after repeated listens, which is a shame, because it's so well-composed and produced. Still, fans of this retro style or the game itself may find something to like, especially with in-game context.

Release Date: April 24, 2013
Price: $9
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Austin Wintory

We loved Monaco, but what you might not have known is that Journey's Austin Wintory was behind the music. This bundle combines the original soundtrack with a series of remixes by artists that include Mega Ran, VikingGuitar, and others.

But don't come looking for a follow-up to Journey. This honky tonk piano score is a ton of fun and is not meant to be a moving orchestral experience. So forget about Journey coming into this and enjoy it for what it is: an incredibly zany and original score that matches the game's visuals and chaotic gameplay quite perfectly.

I love the rambunctious main theme, "What's Yours Is Mine," the swanky "Liquidity," and the tense "The Devil's Trick." The remixes are also quite nice, including a jazzy flute performance by Laura Intravia, a fun a cappella by Peter Hollens, the ominous cello of Tina Guo, and some retro gaminess provided by William Kage.

Check out the game and the soundtrack. They're both a blast and worth your investment!

SOUL SACRIFICE Original Soundtrack
Release Date: March 13, 2013
Price: 3,150 Yen ($31) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan (physical) / PlayStation Network Store (digital)
Artist(s): Yasunori Mitsuda and Wataru Hokoyama

[Sound Samples]

This isn't your typical Mitsuda and Hokoyama (AFRIKA). I've been extremely curious to see how they would tackle a darker title like Soul Sacrifice, and as you'd expect given their work with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, you've got a lot of big, bombastic, and tense orchestral soundscapes.

The production values here are amazing. There are a lot of great moments, but unfortunately there isn't a lot to latch onto with track lengths falling under two minutes. To name a few of my favorites, though, I love the exotic female vocals and swaying strings in "A Certain Magician's Life," the somber "Tearful Tone," the beautiful string swells in "Requiem Within," the uplifting and adventurous "The Sky Used to be Blue," and the horrifying "Rumbles Echoing with Regrets." There's also some great electric guitar work in tracks like "Dangerous Miasma," "An Eternal Fight to End," and the main theme, "Soul Melody.” The closing track, "Hope and Future on the Same Page," finally shows a softer side and also incorporates vocals.

Overall, I really like this album, but don't see myself coming back to it often. I just wish there were some lengthier listening experiences to really allow some of these great ideas to sink in.

Star Command Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2, 2013
Price: $8
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Marius Masalar

If you're like me and weren't following Star Command, it's a pretty awesome and deep spaceship strategy game for iOS. The game certainly displays a sense of humor that is present throughout the comically epic space orchestra soundtrack. It's just unfortunate that there's only 40 minutes of it, given how much time I know I'd end up spending on this game.

Right out the gate, you have the powerful "Skyward (Star Command Theme)" which is quite fitting. The regal brass of "Admiral on the Horn," the strong melody and sense of tension in "Steady as She Blows," the quirky "Doing Science," and the contemplative "Wonder" (my favorite track) all stand out.

Still, $8 may be too much to ask for a soundtrack without a big name behind it. I really dig a lot of the lengthier tracks but wish some of the others had the play times to develop further. I'd love to hear some arrangements, however, as there are some solid ideas and melodies present.

The Lost Angelic Chronicles of Frane: Dragons' Odyssey Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Price: $10
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Steven Jordan

Jordan "bLiNd" Steven's appearance at MAGFest 2013 and release of NESteryears have been some of my favorite things this year, so I was curious to see how he'd tackle a traditional action RPG. What we have is two hours of amazingly well-produced music written for the US release of the game (replacing the Japanese soundtrack), covering all of the typical RPG trappings from rockin' battle themes to jovial towns and ominous dungeons.

I'll touch on a few of my favorites. A piano rendition of the main theme titled "Salvation" is both contemplative and catchy (and, in my opinion, is far superior to the vocal version of the theme that's also featured on this album), while "Snow Angels" channels the same vibe with strings and some dreamy reverberating guitar work. From there, it's time to rock out with the Asian-flavored "Fired Up!," the badass "Hell's Angel," the tumultuous and epic "Hades Beckons," and the retro-tinged "Bloody Rose."

In all, this is a pleasant surprise from Steven, whom I've mostly known for his electronic work. I think he's well on his way to doing great things in a variety of genres and styles if this is any indication.

Jayson Napolitano, Music Editor
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Jayson Napolitano was Destructoid's Music Editor, specializing in coverage of game music, chiptunes, and more. He now owns and operates , a game audio PR and record label company, continuing to s... more   |   staff directory

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