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Note Worthy

So much great game music was released this past month

Dec 16 // Jayson Napolitano
Top Picks[embed]267541:51850:0[/embed]Cure SQRelease Date: December 11, 2013Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsAn official Square Enix arrange album featuring a quartet of recorders? Sometimes a ukulele? But mostly recorders? I never thought I’d find myself being excited about such an album, but here I am. Despite the album’s short length (around 33 minutes), the quirky song and instrument selection for a lot of fun.You have a beautiful rendition of “Opening” from Romancing SaGa, an impressive “Clash on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V, a delightful “Gogo’s Theme ~ Slam Shuffle” from Final Fantasy VI (my favorite track!), a perfectly-matched “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger, and a gorgeous “Gau’s Theme ~ Relm’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI.So good! Get this now!LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: November 21, 2013Price: 3,990 Yen ($40)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various Artists[Sound Samples]Ready for another surprise? While Final Fantasy XIII-2 was laden with pop and ballad vocal tracks, Lightning Returns takes yet another direction, instead relying on exotic instrumentation, lots of choral elements, and a dark ambient vibe. There are a few cutting electronic tracks that caught my attention, some great jazz and Dragon Quest-esque orchestral themes, an ending suite that will move you to tears, and even a few references to past Final Fantasy XIII songs that fans should appreciate.My favorites of the bunch are: “The Devout,” a dark and droning ambient tracks that’s over eight minutes in length, “Salvation’s Fanfare,” a funky electronic victory theme, “Eternal Midnight,” a free-form jazz piece, “The Savior’s Song,” a vocal lullaby by Mitsuto Suzuki that sounds like a classic from ages ago, “Desert Lullaby,” an ‘80s-flavored easy listening track with bongos and a seductive male vocal performance, “Evening Returns” with its super soothing woodwinds and acoustic guitars, and “Angel’s Tears,” the contrasting beautiful-yet-unsettling piece that relies on chopped up strings and a synthesized choir. I love a lot of tracks here, but three discs is a lot to cover.Those who pick this up at CD Japan can still get the first press bonus: a fancy textured box that houses the album. Fans of the game or those who are curious beforehand will want to look into this.Nintendo FAMICOM MUSICRelease Date: December 4, 2013Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsNintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Famicom in style, bringing several classic soundtracks to Blu-spec CD. Soundtracks include everything from Super Mario Bros. and Zelda to Metroid, Famicom Wars, Kid Icarus, Mach Rider and their sports lineup (see a full list here).Collections like this have come along a few times over the years, but they’ve quickly sold out and have gone out of print. This is a great opportunity to pick them up now if you haven’t already. I was particularly surprised by the Shin Onigashima soundtracks. My only complaint about the collection would be the absence of Doki Doki Panic (Super Mario Bros. 2 outside of Japan) and the fact that each title is presented as an individual track as opposed to breaking out each individual song into its own track for easy picking out of your favorite moments.At the price point of $24, which is cheap by Japanese standards, I think it’d make a fun stocking stuffer. If I hadn’t already bought it, it would be the coolest stocking stuffer I’d ever hope to receive![embed]267541:51851:0[/embed]The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsRelease Date: November 22, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: In-game only Artist(s): Ryo NagamatsuAfter writing some of my favorites tracks for Super Mario Galaxy 2, I was surprised to see that Ryo Nagamatsu was not involved with Super Mario 3D World. This is why. He was writing over two hours of music for this game! I’d heard great things about the score, and for those who loved the soundtrack to A Link to the Past, the nostalgia is laid on thick with tons of references to past tunes.Nagamatsu is no slouch when it comes to original works, however. What I’m most impressed by is his knack for a classical orchestral sound, as heard in his castle stealth theme and the castle theme you’ve heard in the trailer (that plays the Hyrule Castle theme in reverse). That theme in particular is featured in several different layers of intensity, which is a real treat to hear. Aside from that, Nagamatsu adds emotional themes, a grandiose overworld theme, an icy dungeon theme, and a mysterious witch’s hut track that really impressed me. Then there are the milk bar tracks that provide acoustic versions of many of the game’s themes… there’s a lot to hear in this game.With that, it’s a shame there probably won’t be a soundtrack release. I feel that maybe they did rely too heavily on A Link to the Past, but as a fan of that score, I can’t complain. Nagamatsu has done an amazing job.Other Releases[embed]267541:51849:0[/embed]Blur BomberRelease Date: December 10, 2013Price: $7 (digital) / $30 (physical)Availability: BandcampArtist(s): Mega Ran and Mister Wilson Mega Ran and Mister Wilson team up to tell a tale of the merging of the worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man through their unique blend of chiptunes and hip hop. The story is just as big a part of the experience as the music, and fortunately, both are quite interesting. On a whole, the album is rather mellow, with lots of slow jams, my favorites of which are the spooky “Skull Egg Zone,” the heavier 8-bit infused “20XX,” the super chill “Unite! (feat. Tha Kure)” (my favorite track on the album), and the jubilant “Ending.”Want to find out how Robotnik and Wily plan to turn Mega Man and Sonic against one another? Fans of either franchise should buy this and find out.[embed]267541:51848:0[/embed]MeowMeow & BowWowRelease Date: September 1, 2013Price: $10Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Dj CUTMAN, SpamtronI’ll admit I never played more than a few minutes of Link’s Awakening, but I have been playing the Gameboy Color titles recently, and fortunately they use a lot of the same music! This album stays true to the original soundscapes of the Gameboy with some retro synth work with added bass grooves and percussive elements, all of which are tastefully done. I love the jubilant “Mabe Village,” the bumping “Awakening (Overworld), the funky “The Woods,” the deep and bassy “Dungeons,” the head-boppin’ Mega Man-esque “Mountain Range (Tal Tal Heights),” and a sweet, dreamy version of “Ballad of the Wind Fish.”Very good stuff.[embed]267541:51852:0[/embed]SONIC LOST WORLD ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK WITHOUT BOUNDARIESRelease Date: November 27, 2013Price: 4,200 Yen ($42)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Tomoya Ohtani and Takahito EguchiTomoya Ohtani continues to lead the Sonic team's musical efforts, keeping the quality high while exploring an eclectic mix of styles. There’s the amazingly catchy “Wonder World - Title Theme -,” which gets the big orchestral treatment, but there’s also a fun electronic version to be had later on the album. It then launches into pop rock sans lyrics with “Windy Hill Zone 1,” followed by everything from ska and big band jazz to Latin and Japanese-flavored tracks. I particularly enjoy the desert-y “Desert Ruins Zone 4,” the chilled out “Sky Road,” and the rockin’ showdown with the final boss.While Ohtani works his magic yet again and impresses with the sheer number of genres he’s seemingly mastered, I could have gone for an entire soundtrack in the style of “Wonder World” and “Windy Hill Zone 1,” which were my favorite tracks from the beginning of the album. Still, it’s a fun musical journey that Sonic fans will appreciate.[embed]267541:51847:0[/embed]Ultionus: A Soundtrack of Petty RevengeRelease Date: December 12, 2013Price: Name Your PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Jake Kaufman and A_Rival This is a perfect project for Jake Kaufman: a retro synth shmup with a silly premise (read about it on the Bandcamp page). While Kaufman generally goes all out with his synth work, adding all sorts of flair with impressive solos and such, Ultionus is a rather subdued affair, and I have to say that I really dig it. It feels like a lost Japanese soundtrack from the early ‘90s. I particularly enjoy the energetic “Orbital Bombardment,” funky “Snow Peaks,” and the sleek “Inner Sanctum.” A_Rival’s contribution is “Wandering” from his TRUTHCANNON album, which was easily the best track on that album, so I love it here.Hey, name your price and get this now! World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Soundtrack Volume IIRelease Date: November 8, 2013Price: $12Availability: BlizzCon Exclusive Artist(s): Blizzard EntertainmentIn addition to the StarCraft II CD that we covered last month, Blizzard also released a second volume of music from Mists of Pandaria. While the original Pandaria CD sported an ethnic sound that seemed to fit quite nicely with the expansion’s visuals, this album, compiling music from the content updates, is a bit more sinister.It begins with the tumultuous “Thunder King” and the powerful and ominous choir in “Heal the Land,” and rarely lets up in intensity over the course of an hour of listening. I did appreciate the soothing Chinese zither work in “Worth Fighting For,” but for the most part, even if the tracks aren’t loud, they’re dark and terrifying, which should bring World of Warcraft soundtrack fans back to some of the earliest expansions in terms of soundscape.Unfortunately the album was meant to be a BlizzCon exclusive, so chances are slim that it will turn up again.[embed]267541:51846:0[/embed]X'mas Collections II music from SQUARE ENIXRelease Date: November 27, 2013Price: 2,190 Yen ($22)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsWe mentioned this album a few weeks back. Yuzo Koshiro on “Rydia” from Final Fantasy IV, the return of Junya Nakano tackling Dewprism, Kenichiro Fukui doing a lovely piano ballad of “Crono and Marle” from Chrono Trigger, a performance by one of our favorite new bands of 2013, Nanaa Migho’s, a track from NieR, and even an arrangement from a Mana game that hasn’t been announced.The album offers a lot of surprises, and the music is amazingly well-produced, and not cheesy in the slightest. Expect lots of icy bell tones, chilly strings and pads with lots of crystal-like reverb, and some tasteful use of jingle bells. This is the game music you want to listen to for Christmas, so hopefully you’ve already ordered it by now!Oh, and the cardboard sleeve that houses the album? There’s a foam spacer just in case you happen to own the first X’mas Collections CD, which is a nice treat.
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Note Worthy 023: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
You know the drill: another month, ten more game soundtracks to review. We usually have a pick of the month, but there was so much great music released this time around, I decided to recognize four separate releases as our to...

Super Mario 3D World soundtrack is another masterpiece

Nov 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksSuper Mario 3D WorldRelease Date: November 22, 2013Price: N/AAvailability: In-gameArtist(s): Mahito Yokota, Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Yasuaki Iwata[embed]265455:51383:0[/embed]I'll say that Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo (interviewed here) had a lot to live up to after their work on Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, they've brought together the best of both worlds, both in terms of a big orchestral sound and the traditional Mario big band jazz that's been missing for so long.Every bit of this soundtrack is a love note to fans, from the arrangement of the character select screen from Super Mario Bros. 2, to the Super Mario Bros. 3 death jingle (I almost wanted to die just to hear it), to tons of references to past Mario titles that I won't spoil here.In terms of the new, there's the infectious theme that everyone has heard in trailers, tons of catchy overworld tracks (disco meets brass for one of the final stages? Yes please!), epic orchestral for the castle stages, a great Christmas-esque snow theme, a beautiful yet spooky ghost house theme, some smooth jazz (very good!) for the beach, some fun woodwind-meets-funk bass, more disco, more funk, cool synths, traditional Japanese sounds... it goes on and on. It's all amazingly well produced, and the cheesy game-y synth sounds that Nintendo is apt to use are used tastefully in this game.This soundtrack looks to be a Club Nintendo exclusive in Japan. That means I'll pay $50+ to gouging importers because it's that good. Get ready for a beautiful aural experience (I didn't even mention the sound design... underwater effects are awesome!), and watch for our review in the coming days![embed]265455:51303:0[/embed]Castlevania ~Lords of Shadow~ Exclusive Director's Cut SoundtrackRelease Date: October 29, 2013Price: $9.99 (digital only)Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works Artist(s): Oscar AraujoI admit the Lords of Shadow soundtrack isn’t as sexy as the gothic rock scores of Castlevania’s past (interesting article on the contrast here). However, it’s found favor for fans with its highly emotional orchestral score that still emphasizes melody and atmosphere. Back when the game was released, the limited edition contained a soundtrack disc with about 20 tracks, but to celebrate Halloween last month, Sumthing Else Music Works released the Director’s Cut version with a whopping 42 tracks.My favorites from the original, including the foreboding “Dead Bog,” the beautiful “Waterfalls of Agharta,” and the defiant “Belmont’s Theme,” still stand out, but in terms of new material, the powerful “Underground Cave” is a track I was always hoping to see released, as well as short but sweet “Forest Dream” and melancholy “Into Darkness.”I loved the Lords of Shadow soundtrack, and this is the definitive version. Check it out.[embed]265455:51297:0[/embed]Club NeedlemouseRelease Date: October 31, 2013Price: $10 (physical) / $7 (digital)Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): RobKTAThis electronic remix album spans the entire Sonic universe and is damn smooth. Italian artist RobKTA hits a homerun with his funkalicious take on “Spring Yard Zone” from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the feel-good “Disco Absolution” from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), the sexy “Sambapolis” from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and even a bumpin’ remix from Sonic Lost World (the bass on this one is killer!). Our favorite electronic remixer, bLiNd, even makes an appearance in “Neddlemau5,” which covers the ending theme from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and does wonders with its minimalistic approach.If you ever loved Sonic music (not the cheesy rock stuff), download this now![embed]265455:51298:0[/embed]MM25: Mega Man RocksRelease Date: October 29, 2013Price: $9.99 (digital only)Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works Artist(s): Various ArtistsThis is one half of the officially sanctioned Mega Man 25th anniversary fan arrangement albums (the other is here). Mega Man Rocks focuses on game music cover bands/artists, and it’s a vocal-heavy affair. That actually had me a bit worried at first, but the vocal work here is quite tastefully done.Acts include ARMCANNON, Mega Ran, The Megas, The Protomen, X-Hunters, and Bit Brigade (yes, it looks like a MAGFest lineup). Everyone does a fantastic job, and I have to say that after hearing many of these acts live and not being overly impressed, their studio efforts are a whole lot more enjoyable. Your favorite tracks are probably going to depend on your musical preferences and the source tracks, but ARMCANNON and Mega Ran do a lot in the way of interpretation and The Protomen are incredibly… dreamy? I wouldn’t think twice if I heard them on the radio.Check it out if you’re a Mega Man fan.Other Releases[embed]265455:51294:0[/embed]Castlevania -Lords of Shadow- MIRROR OF FATE Original Game SoundtrackRelease Date: November 26, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works Artist(s): Oscar AraujoI am super happy that Konami has finally decided to release this soundtrack. Oscar Araujo had a daunting task reimaging the musical soundscape of Castlevania with Lords of Shadow, and after doing a fantastic job, I was looking forward to hearing the score for Mirror of Fate.The score is certainly subdued in a lot of ways. The theme is a bit unassuming, and the tail end of the album is packed with most of the heavier action cues, which are rather terrifying. I really love the emotional and rich “Gabriel’s Farewell,” which is probably my favorite track here, although the ethereal bell tone-laden “Library,” tumultuous “Succubus” (love the deep brass bass), and moving “Carousel” are also highlights.While this album isn’t nearly as strong as Lords of Shadow, I still think it’s good, and worth checking out for fans of the Lords of Shadow saga.Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 18, 2013Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Naoki Sato[Soundtrack Samples]I’m with you in not really knowing what this is. Doing a little research on Wikipedia, the anime series is about elementary school kids and futuristic “A.I. cars,” and this album features music from the subsequent games on arcade and 3DS by Naoki Sato.It’s a shame that the franchise this is attached to is so obscure, because the music is quite good. In typical anime fashion, you have high production values and some great composition covering rock, orchestral, ballads and more across two discs. There are a few moments that will make you look up and take note of what you’re listening to, but the fact that likely nobody reading this will have played the games, you probably won’t find yourself connecting with the album.Sengoku BASARA Chronicle Heroes Original SoundtracksRelease Date: July 27, 2011Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): T’s MUSICHere’s one that’s been on my desk for way too long. That’s probably because I’m not really a fan of the series and haven’t been impressed with past efforts in terms of music. However, I’m surprised that this is my favorite Sengoku BASARA soundtrack that I’ve heard, bringing together the usual rock, electronic, and orchestral fusion with some really catchy results.The foreboding traditional Japanese and rock in “The End of the Beginning,” chugging “Burning Soul,” an awesome brass and piano-infused rock track, “Lamentation,” the contemplative “Contest the Differences” and “Full Throttle,” the gritty and funky “Now to the Fated Battle,” the classical-inspired “Ravaging Red” (probably my favorite), and the octave-jumping and energetic “CHRONICLE HEROES” are all fantastic.Check this one out if you like traditional Japanese-flavored rock at its best!StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Soundtrack Volume IIRelease Date: November 8, 2013Price: $12Availability: BlizzCon 2013 exclusive Artist(s): Blizzard EntertainmentWe had an awesome feature on StarCraft II: Heart of the Swam’s OST, and I loved the soundtrack was it was released. I was therefore very excited that they decided to release more music from the game in the form of an exclusive CD at BlizzCon this year.While Heart of the Swarm and therefore Volume I of the OST focused on the Zerg, featuring evolving soundscapes that were a lot of fun to listen to, this disc captures the Terran perspective, incorporating more orchestral and rock. There’s emotion in tracks like “Worlds Will Burn,” some rockin’ and funkin’ Terran in “Kaldir,” and the patriotic march, “The Old Directorate.” It’s nice to see the other side, but I was hoping for more textural Zerg themes.Still, fans of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and its music should try to track this album down. It features amazing composition and production values, as always.[embed]265455:51301:0[/embed]Thanks a MillionRelease Date: December 31, 2012Price: FreeAvailability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Descendants of ErdrickWhile Descendants of Erdrick have been one of my favorite acts at past MAGFest events, I failed to notice the release of Thanks a Million, a fan-funded album that was released for free online after physical copies were sold out. How cool is that? Now, I’ve never been a fan of medleys because you don’t really get to savor that one track you’re looking to hear, but this band does them so well, I can’t help but love them. I think it’s the flute added to the rock ensemble that makes their sound so unique… plus any band that does Ninja Gaiden (the NES ones!) deserves major props. What you like will probably depend on what you’re nostalgic for, but the Sonic II, Double Dragon, and Zelda II medleys are all fantastic.No reason not to pick this up. Watch for them at future MAGFests![embed]265455:51300:0[/embed]Valdis Story: Abyssal CityRelease Date: August 1, 2013Price: $15Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Zach ParrishBefore you write this off as “never heard of it, don’t care,” take a moment to check out this fantastic JRPG-style soundtrack by composer Zach Parrish. There is nearly three and a half hours of music presented here, including pumping battle tracks, foreboding dungeon themes, and of course some emotional cues thrown in. It’s all wonderfully produced for an indie title. I particularly enjoy the more mellow tunes, including the dreamy “Once a Mine, Now a Shrine” and the sweet guitar and bell ballad, “The Heir of Valdis.”I recommend streaming it on Bandcamp and picking it up if you like what you hear.
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Note Worthy 022: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Coming to the end of the year, there's always a lot of great game music releases planned. Top honors go to Super Mario 3D World, and there are so many reasons why that you'll read about here in a second.We've got reviews...

I'm convinced: Final Fantasy VI is Uematsu's best work

Oct 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksFINAL FANTASY VI Original Soundtrack Remaster VersionRelease Date: September 4, 2013Price: 3,300 Yen ($34)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo UematsuWhat can I say about this other than re-listening to it for this review made me come to terms that this is Uematsu’s best work. I gushed about the job OverClocked ReMix did with Balance & Ruin, but there’s nothing quite like the original. Spot-on character themes packed with emotion, a perfect expression of good and evil that isn't too cheesy one way or the other ... it’s pretty much perfect.Everyone has their favorite tracks, and they tend to be the same, so I want to call out some underappreciated gems: “Kids Run Through the Corner,” which I think is one of Uematsu’s most soothing town themes, “Grand Finale?,” the comical battle with Ultros at the Opera House that unfortunately never makes it into live performances, the insanely terrifying battle theme, “The Fierce Battle,” and the mischievous “The Magic House” are among my favorites.Buy this now if you don’t already own it. There’s not much difference I could detect from the original version, although if I had to make one gripe, it’d be that their official English track listing breaks a lot of conventions and ignores localization efforts (“The Snake Path” and “Searching Friends” are particularly bad).BEYOND: Two Souls SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Pre-Order Bonus Artist(s): Lorne BalfeOkay, maybe we didn't like the game, but I love the soundtrack. Lorne Balfe, who recently did Assassin’s Creed III, is quickly becoming one of my favorite composers, and he’s only recently made his way from film to games. This score, while short, is a blend of beautiful and distraught orchestral cues. While that probably sounds boring, I really love the ambiance Balfe creates with the score. The unassuming main theme, “Jodie’s Suite,” features haunting female humming/singing, while “Beyond,” my favorite piece, is dark and tumultuous. Some tracks bring in heavier rock-style percussion to highlight the game’s action, but for the most part, I enjoy the textures that Balfe weaves over the course of nearly 45 minutes.Spectrum of ManaRelease Date: September 28, 2013Price: Free (digital) / $15 (physical)Availability: Spectrum of Mana website Artist(s): Various ArtistsHere’s an impressive album that covers all of the themes from the legendary Secret of Mana soundtrack. Get ready for tons of rock of all flavors, including riveting metal, some mellow acoustic material, and more. The entire album is gold (in part thanks to the source material, and also due to the artists’ apparent love for it). My favorites? There are a lot, and they tended to be my favorites from the original score: Ailsean’s chip-meets-rock “Leave Time for Love,” Norg’s explosive “Like a Boss,” stemage’s dreamy yet rockin’ “Holy Intruder,” Dr. Manhattan’s spunky “Steampunk Fun,” and my two favorites, the alternative-esque “Forest Lesson” by Tim Yarbrough and “A Wish” by VikingGuitar and Larua Liebowitz. Oh, and “Girl, You Got a Nice Beard” (town of dwarves) wins for best song title.Download. NOW. And then think about buying the awesome elemental shirts and art book.Stolen Hearts / Nanaa Mihgo'sRelease Date: September 11, 2013Price: 2,667 ($27)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nanaa Mihgo’s[Sound Samples]Here’s the Final Fantasy XI live arrange album you never knew you wanted. After most of the members of the Star Onions left Square Enix, this trio got together and brings a much heavier jazz flavor to the mix. The album’s eight tracks are really meaty, coming in at close to an hour, and I think fans will dig the jazz/funk and ballad elements.While “Bustle of the Capital” takes a lighter tone, “Fighters of the Crystal” is quite epic at 11 minutes in length. “Distant Worlds” takes a more ballad-oriented approach, while fan-favorite “Ronfaure” is super funky!Grab this album. It also comes with some codes for in-game stuff.Other Releases[embed]263332:50862:0[/embed]Bells of YggdrasilRelease Date: October 1, 2013Price: $4Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Jeff BallThis is a short but sweet solo piano album by Tiny Barbarian composer Jeff Ball. He cites the Piano Collections Final Fantasy CDs among its inspiration, which you can hear from time to time, especially in the ballad-esque “Girl with Platinum Hair.” My favorite, however, is the sleep-inducing “Aurora above Taiga,” which forms a nice contrast between high and low notes in an almost call-and-response manner. Lovely stuff, grab it if you like piano music.DENJI MASHI-MASHI Original SoundtrackRelease Date: February 7, 2013Price: 2,000 Yen ($20)Availability: Limited Artist(s): Various ArtistsI’m a huge fan of Nobuyoshi Sano, best known for Ridge Racer and Tekken, and I just recently found out he had his own record label with music distributed by SuperSweep. DENJI MASHI-MASHI is one such release that is admittedly mostly sound effects, but there are some bumping electronic tracks with some hip vocaloid vocals. The main theme in particular is rather infectious, while the electro “Parameters” is trip, and the retro “Dear Radio,” which will have you thinking of classic SEGA tunes, is probably my favorite track on the album.Still, there are about seven real songs here, and even if you could find the CD (it’s been sold at events in Japan), $20 for seven tracks is a lot to ask. Still, interesting to know what Sano does in his free time!Disgaea D2 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: October 8, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited Edition Bonus Artist(s): Tenpei SatoWe kind of did this one in reverse order! We recently reviewed the arrange album, and I was admittedly unimpressed. However, I think the original soundtrack offers a little more variety: classic fantasy tunes, Sato’s signature style of rock infused with wacky synths, and quirky vocal themes (one of which sounds like the Pokemon theme). I particularly dig the final battle theme “Dramatic Devil Story” and the sweet and comforting “Brown Leaf.”The second disc includes tracks from previous Disgaea games, while the beautiful limited edition set (still available exclusively on the NISA shop houses figurines, an art book, collectible cards, and the game. Fans who are looking forward to the game will want to strongly consider springing for the limited edition set, as the contents, including the soundtrack, are great additions to any collection.Sakura Flamingo Audiography –GREY– and –PINK–Release Date: July 26, 2013Price: 2,100 ($21) eachAvailability: Limited Artist(s): Various ArtistsI, like you, had no idea what these albums were when I first saw them. They were distributed by SuperSweep, and contain tracks and remix from ChaosField, Radirgy, Ilmatic Envelope, and Karaos. You end up with two discs packed with club, house, and other various kinds of electronic music. When I say electronic music, I mean the real stuff, too, not game-y stuff. PINK didn’t do much form me outside of the icy “Timeline,” although GREY get a bit more into game-y melodic territory with tracks like the perfect schmup accompaniment, “Human Figure -Remix-“ and the upbeat “2 the Sky -Remix-.” Still, even if you can find these, you’re probably going to want to be a huge electronic music fan to care.SQUARE ENIX COMPOSERS BEST/SELECTION BLACK DISKRelease Date: September 18, 2013Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various Artists[Sound Samples]This album draws attention to Square Enix’s current roster of composers, arrangers, and synthesizer operators. Each of nine artists gets a single track that acts as a medley that goes through their various works. While I can get behind Square Enix wanting to support its sound staff in this project, and while it will draw attention to some of the work some of their lesser-known team members have contributed to, I can’t help but think they could have done it in another, better way.First, medleys shift from one track to the next without much transition in some cases, making it difficult to isolate a specific piece you may want to listen to on its own. And you’ll sometimes be left scratching you head, knowing that a different composer composed the piece you’re listening to, but that this guy arranged or operated the synthesizer. Decently priced by Japanese standards, but would have made a better $10 digital release.SQUARE ENIX MUSiC SAMPLER CD Vol.8Release Date: September 21, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Tokyo Game Show 2013 Artist(s): Various ArtistsAn unassuming name, yes, but this disc is important. Square Enix hands these out every year at TGS, and they contain music previews of their upcoming release, often announcing many new CDs that we never knew were coming. This year’s disc is no different.There are some Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII trailer tracks (a nice bonus) which sound nice, although don’t give us much indication of what we’re going to hear, an underwhelming preview of their second volume of Christmas music, an action-y track from Drag-On Dragoon 3 (I was hoping for some more emotional NieR-esque material), and a few tracks from their smaller mobile titles. What really caught my attention were Cure SQ and SQ Swing, however, with the former bringing playful woodwinds to “Battle on the Big Bridge” and the latter giving us a medley from Final Fantasy VI. I’m not looking forward to both.A disappointing sampler for the most part, but there’s some interesting things that Square Enix will have for us this year!
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Note Worthy 020: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Okay, so we've featured a lot of Final Fantasy in Note Worthy lately, in part thanks to the recent remaster soundtracks. Looking at Final Fantasy VI this month, however, finally brought me around to accepting that this is tru...

I never realized Final Fantasy V's OST was this good

Sep 16 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksFINAL FANTASY V Original Soundtrack Remaster VersionRelease Date: August 7, 2013Price: 3,200 Yen ($32)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu[Sound Samples]Okay, I admit it. I still haven’t finished Final Fantasy V, and given that I never really played it, I never sat down and listened to its soundtrack with a critical ear. It’s interesting to note that with all the remix albums released by Square Enix over the years, I’ve been mostly exposed to this music through arrangements, and so it’s nice that this remaster version has given me the opportunity to visit the originals, and I have to say that I’m impressed!The composition is really top-notch Uematsu stuff, fitting nicely in between Final Fantasy IV’s newfound storytelling and the epic scale of Final Fantasy VI. Uematsu really nails the emotion right out of the gate with the bubbly main theme that is repeated elsewhere through the album, including in the foreboding “Bewitched” and the melancholy, “One Day, for Certain.” The town theme and overworld themes are fantastic and catchy, “Spreading Vast Wings” is pure Uematsu bliss, and “Far-Distant Hometown” is offers a rustic RPG sound that makes for an instant classic. And that’s not even touching on the legendary “Clash on the Big Bridge,” the powerful “Epic Battle,” and touching “Dear Friends.”You can count me as a fan of this soundtrack. Really, given its emotional impact, I think I’m inspired to go back and play the game now.As far as what the remaster version offers, I can’t tell the difference from the original soundtrack release, but there is the first-press cardboard sleeve if you were able to get that, and now there’s an official English tracklisting that is going to take old timers some time to get used to (no more “Ahead on our Way” or “Home Sweet Home”).LET ME TELL YOU A STORYRelease Date: September 26, 2013Price: $10Availability: Band Website (physical) | Bandcamp (digital) Artist(s): Random Encounter [embed]261873:50491:0[/embed]I’ll admit that I saw this band at MAGFest and thought they sounded terrible. However, I decided to give them another chance, this time with their new album, LET ME TELL YOU A STORY, and man, they’ve record a mean album. While the arrangements are short, the rock stylings with the addition of accordion sometimes feels like a pirate jig, and at other times it just seriously rocks. I love “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger, “Heart of Fire” from Castlevania, and the very cool “Serpent Trench” and “Slam Shuffle” (perfect for an accordion) from Final Fantasy VI, and the super epic “Wind Waker” (what better game for a pirate jig performance?).Vocals are strewn across the album. I know these will turn some people off, but the content is actually pretty funny if you take the time to listen (I’m looking at you, “Katamari on the Rocks”). “Theme of Sorrow” from Final Fantasy IV gets a serious vocal arrangement, and the choral fragment of “Epona” is also quite sweet.I hope they clean up their live act and bring some of these new arrangements to MAGFest this year! In the meantime, check them out. They’ve got a very unique sound and some great arrangements.Toukiden Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 28, 2013Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Hideki SakamotoHideki Sakamoto is a name that you should learn if you don’t already know it. While he’s known mostly for his work on echochrome, nearly everything he’s written is worth your time and attention, and this soundtrack is no different. It takes the monster hunting formula and adds traditional Japanese elements, which is reflected in the music. Now, this game is from Tecmo Koei, and I was expecting the soundtrack to take a heavy metal turn, but it never does, instead relying on traditional Japanese instrumentation with a strong orchestral backing, and, from time to time, an injection of tasteful electronics that really gets the blood pumping.There are emotional moments, grandiose epic ones, and everything in between. There are two discs of amazing composition here, with excellent production values. I can’t really call out the tracks by name (the track list hasn’t been translated yet), but this album comes highly recommended. Other Releases2ND SUPER ROBOT WARS OG ORIGINAL SOUND TRACKRelease Date: June 26, 2013Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsThis robot-themed tactical RPG soundtrack spans four discs of some pretty awesome rock and orchestral stuff, and given the critical acclaim of the franchise in Japan, it’s a shame that this installment will likely never be localized. The soundtrack touches on a ton of genres, but heavily emphasizes the action-oriented gameplay with rock, sometimes sounding upbeat and bouncy like something out of the Virtual On franchise, and at others taking on a retro synth sound like something from the SNES era (no complaints from me on this!).There is a lot of brilliance here, but unfortunately there’s a lot to wade through to find those magical moments. JAM Project serves up two heavy metal vocal themes that don’t disappoint, either.Check it out if retro gamey rock is your thing.Before Meteor FINAL FANTASY XIV Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 14, 2013Price: 5,250 Yen ($53)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, et al[Sound Samples]I’m not going to belabor what I’ve already written about in other reviews of this soundtrack. There were the Hot Pocket-esque mini albums (20 tracks between two albums), the meatier iTunes release (38 tracks), and now the full Blu-ray release (104 tracks). There’s a lot of great music here, the best of which was featured on the mini-albums, but for the completionists out there, this is worth checking out.Most of this music is by Nobuo Uematsu in his classic style, including the nostalgic Final Fantasy “Opening Theme,” the cutesy electronic “Supply & Demand,” the rockin’ battle theme, “No Quarter,” and a slew of emotional ballads and slower pieces (many will end up on my sleep playlist), with “Where the Heart is,” “From the Heart,” and “Tranquility” being a few of my favorites. There’s epic chocobo with “Bo-Down,” spooky with “Enraptured” and “Final Respite,” and decisive and resolute in “Breaking Boundaries” and “Imperial Will.” Oh, and a Nanashi no Geemu cameo in “Siren Song!”The album ships on a Blu-ray with accompanying visuals which is nice. You can download MP3s via your home network. While $53 is a lot to ask for, there’s six hours of music here, which would have shipped on 5-6 CDs (see this interview for more), so it’s not really as bad as it sounds.[embed]261873:50490:0[/embed]Cubic Climber Official SoundtrackRelease Date: August 31, 2013Price: $4Availability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Chase BetheaWhile the soundtrack for this indie title gets off to a rocky start (har har, it’s about climbing mountains), there are some great moments here. The soundtrack sports an icy electronic vibe, accented with some great rhythmic percussion. The crunchy “Boulderdash” is particularly cool with its industrial soundscape, and the dreamy “Class 5” with its female choral elements is simply stunning. Check ‘em out.Grisaia no Rakuen Soundtrack & Theme Song CollectionRelease Date: May 22, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Pixelbee, Elements GardenThis is another smutty soundtrack in the same series as Le Labyrinthe, which we covered some months back. The duo Pixelbee and members of Elements Garden tag up to serve an eclectic collection of orchestral, pop, and electronic-infused themes. I really dig the vibe here, as there are some really great tracks to relax to. The problem is that I didn’t really find many of the themes to be overly memorable. The second disc containing the vocal themes offers the standard J-rock fare, and didn’t really do much for me.It’s funny though, listening to the music, you’d never guess it was for a pornographic visual novel game.Lost Planet 3 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 27, 2013Price: $8.99Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Jack Wall[embed]261873:50496:0[/embed]Composer Jack Wall (Myst, Mass Effect) takes the helm of the Lost Planet franchise, surprising me with over an hour of heavy blues and folk music. The musicianship is fantastic, with the gritty and moody “Lost Souls” and the highly overdriven and abstract “In the Bayou” blowing my mind. It’s not all blues and folk, however, as the second half of the soundtrack treads on familiar orchestral territory. There’s the chilly and ominous main theme followed by a series of sometimes tense and sometimes big orchestral cues, my favorite of which is the terror-inducing “Research Base” with screeching electronic guitar and unsettling string stabs.This is great stuff, and there’s two hours of music here for a fair asking price. Check it out.[embed]261873:50492:0[/embed]Puzzle Bobble Wii Original Sound TrackRelease Date: September 11, 2013Price: $8.91Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Yasuhisa WatanabeI love me some Bobble action. Former ZUNTATA and SuperSweep member Yasuhisa Watanabe was responsible for this short-but-sweet soundtrack. You get icy electronic backings and whimsical melodies that yield a cool and futuristic vibe. The funky “Premonition of a Breeze” and the driving “Swan Park” are my two favorites.This is all good and great. The problem? $8.91 for 15 minutes of music is a bit steep. Pick out your favorites and buy them individually!THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY Compilation AlbumRelease Date: July 31, 2013Price: 3,990 Yen ($40)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Various ArtistsAfter a scattered iTunes release, Square Enix has put out a five-disc collection of music from Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. The first four discs contain the original versions of the songs featured in the game, so if you’re new to collecting game music, this is a good place to start, although seasoned collectors will be most interested in the fifth disc that contains brand new arrangements for the various menus found in the game.Still, even this will probably fail to amaze, although some of the tracks are pretty cool. There are multiple versions of “Prelude” and “Final Fantasy,” with my favorite of the former being the light electronic opening version and the latter being a cute pizzicato version. Other standouts include a rockin’ version of “Setzer’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, a classy harpsichord version of “Corenlia Castle” (from the original Final Fantasy), and a cool overworld-y version of “The Sunleth Waterscape” from Final Fantasy XIII. Finally, the packaging is pretty rad, too, with sprites of the protagonists all over the front, and sprites of the antagonists covering the inside of the cardboard sleeve.Buy it if you’re a completionist and need the fifth disc or if you’re just starting a collection.
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Note Worthy 019: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Another month, another batch of ten soundtracks to cover in our monthly Note Worthy feature. We've got a lot of great music in this issue, including the Final Fantasy V Remaster Version, six hours of music with Before Meteor:...

Nobuo Uematsu's return to form with Blik-0 soundtrack

Aug 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksBlik-0 1946 SoundtrackRelease Date: July 28, 2013Price: $2.98Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Nobuo UematsuWe spoke with Uematsu about this e-book at Comic-Con last month, and now that we’ve had the chance to read the book and listen to the music, we wanted to tell you that it’s lots of fun. The book is a children’s story about unconditional parental love, the confusion of childhood, and sacrifice. It’s short and sweet.The music is spread across three tracks at just 12 minutes in length. The main theme, “Blik-0 1946” covers ominous electronics to highlight the story of a robot, but turns to whimsical and upbeat towards the end. My favorite track, “Ah, But Why?” sports digitized singing and an incredibly catchy melody that sounds like classic Uematsu (it’s so good!). Finally, “So Close” goes all-out vocaloid ballad, nicely wrapping up the story.Check out the book and music if you’re a fan of Uematsu. You won’t be disappointed.[embed]259849:49965:0[/embed]Indie B-Side, Vol. 1Release Date: June 29, 2013Price: Name Your Own PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Joshua MorseJoshua Morse is a fantastic composer and arranger, tackling a variety of funk-infused electronic genres, and this release is no different. What this release does, however, is bring attention to a number of unsung heroes, and some great Korean game music tunes.There’s “Adventure” from Fez, one of my favorite tracks for the game, which gets a more invigorating mix, the incredibly smooth “Oasis Epsilon” from Globulous (with live sax), the groovin’ “Dive Into Volcano” from PangYa Portable, the soothing “Elias Palace” from La Tale, a track from Cryamore, and my favorite of the bunch, a super sleek and sexy arrangement from Cardboard Box Assembler.Name that price and download it, now![embed]259849:49966:0[/embed]Remember Me Original SoundtrackRelease Date: June 3, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Olivier DeriviereI was impressed with what I was hearing when we had our preview of the Remember Me soundtrack with composer Olivier Deriviere, and the rest of the soundtrack is just as good. What’s here is a glitchy blend of orchestral and electronics that is at times beautiful, at others spooky, but always “cool.”I love the pitch-bending synth work featured throughout lending that “spooky” vibe. Particular favorites are the stop-and-go “Fragments” with its chopped up digitized vocals and the tasty drum ‘n’ bass found in powerful “Memorize” and the ominous “The Ego Room.”I recommend giving this one a listen.Other ReleasesDisgaea D2 Arrange SoundtrackRelease Date: June 12, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Tenpei SatoLooking forward to Disgaea D2? Well, composer Tenpei Sato wanted to take his usual eclectic and quirky soundtrack to the next level with this arrange album. It’s heavy on vocal themes, a couple of which are great, and others which are grating with their shrill female vocals. There’s plenty of Sato rock to enjoy (the upbeat and explosive “Moving Express” is my favorite track on the album), a few darker and broodier tunes (“Whisper Of Hell~Darkness” comes to mind), and of course your epic fantasy RPG stuff as well.It’s a solid collection that Sato fans will want to check out, although I’d say the casual Sato fan might not find as many memorable melodies here. [embed]259849:49986:0[/embed]Halo: Spartan AssaultRelease Date: July 18, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Tom SaltaThis one takes an interesting approach. Halo: Spartan Assault takes the series in a different direction, but it’s obvious from the first piano and choir notes of “Legacy” that composer Tom Salta was asked to emulate the classic Halo sound, and he does so very convincingly.While tracks tend to be short (one to two minutes, a few over the three-minute mark), there’s everything Halo here from electronic-infused orchestra to explosive bass and percussion-heavy rock. To call out a few of my favorites, I love the desperate “Bridge Too Far” with its deep bass and floating bell tones, the piano and choral ballad, “Prelude,” the ominous and slow “Quiet Giant,” and the appropriately dreamy “Night Dreams.”Halo fans will want to check out the soundtrack even if they’re not into the game.[embed]259849:49967:0[/embed]Ravenmark: Mercenaries Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 2013Price: FreeAvailability: SoundCloudArtist(s): Xiao'an LiI admit my interest in this soundtrack stemmed from Joshua Whelchel’s score to the Ravenmark: The Scourge of Estellion soundtrack. I quickly discovered, however, that composer Xiao’an Li took over composition duties for this title, and that the soundtrack length clocked in at just about 15 minutes as opposed to the former’s 75 minutes.Still, it’s free to download, and what’s here is great. There’s an epic overworld theme, a beautiful and contemplative piece to accompany the codex, and a series of tense battle themes. Again, there’s not much, but fans will want to check it out.ROCKMAN Xover ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: June 10, 2013Price: FreeAvailability: Capcom Japan Artist(s): Masahiro AokiSurprise! Masahiro Aoki of the Mega Man band, the ROCK-MEN, appear to have been responsible for Xover’s soundtrack, and while short (six tracks, 12 minutes), they serve up some very convincing metal. It’s short, but sweet, with an energetic main theme, an explosive boss theme, a decisive “Battle Arena” (my favorite track), a percussion-heavy “Arcade Man,” and even a piano remix of the main theme. There’s plenty of guitar shredding and even solos, so dig in if that’s your kind of thing.I will say that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like classic Mega Man (it has a more commercial slant), but I do like what I’m hearing. And hey, they could have charged $5 for this, but are instead offering it for free, so good for them.[embed]259849:49987:0[/embed]Shadowrun Returns Official SoundtrackRelease Date: July 25, 2013Price: $30Availability: Comes with various versions of the game Artist(s): Marshall Parker, Gavin Parker, Sam PowellI love Shadowrun. Maybe I’m not an authority on it, but I did play the tabletop RPG (I had a shark shaman named Sharky) and loved the hell out of the Super Nintendo game. So it came as a huge surprise when I found many of my favorite tracks from the SNES title remixed in Shadowrun Returns.Honestly, the album’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think it’s meant to sound like something out of a different time, and the gritty nature of the recording along with the strong sense of atmosphere and the throwback to classic tunes is all I could have asked for. I love the moody “Shoot Straight” that gets just the smallest reference to the main exploration theme from the SNES game (more heavily featured in the awesome “Double Cross”), the slower and more grungy take on the battle theme, “Null Sheen,” and other references as well. The original tracks are interesting as well, making me want to dig into the game myself and find their context.Ultimately, this one’s all about fan service. And I’m all for that!Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.2 ~ORDYNE~Release Date: April 12, 2013Price: 2,940 Yen ($30)Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Store)Artist(s): Shinji HosoeShinji Hosoe is back, this time with another collection of old and rare soundtracks from his past. The main feature is for the shooter, ORDYNE, which admittedly falls a bit flat with its overly upbeat tunes that don’t really have a hook to draw you in, but the surprisingly somber ending theme, electronic-infused special stage themes, and exclusive remix are quite nice.Disc two offers the soundtracks to Metal Hawk and Dirt Fox, which are more in line with what you’d expect from Hosoe. Metal Hawk serves up some fantastic shooter tracks (the bumpin’“BGM3” is super rad), while Dirt Fox gets more playful and funky with its arcade racing action, even though it’s essentially the same song over and over.I’d say this one is for hardcore Hosoe fans. The exclusives and rare soundtracks are a nice addition,but ORDYNE itself is somewhat disappointing.SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs Original Video Game SoundtrackRelease Date: May 10, 20122Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: La La Land Records (physical) / iTunes (digital)Artist(s): Bear McCrearyReviewing Bear McCreary’s amazing soundtrack for Defiance last month made me remember that I had wanted to take a look at his SOCOM 4 soundtrack. I had been excited about the idea of it featuring a slew of ethnic Asian instruments, including a gamelan ensemble, but never got around to reviewing it.McCreary has a knack for writing catchy themes, which he weaves throughout his scores, and SOCOM 4 is no different, although it admittedly feels a bit cliché with its woodwind melody that reminds me of Kung Fu Panda. Thankfully the tribal percussion and gamelan ensemble help differentiate the theme and most of the score. “Naga Formation” is a perfect example, and is one of the best tracks on the album, but other sounds are also worked in, including the hip-hoppish “Confrontation,” the heavy electronic-infused “Clawhammer,” electronic guitar-ridden rock in “Onslaught on the Bridge,” and in the album’s epic climax, “Battle for Control.” The two-disc soundtrack features a lot of high-energy atmosphere which may make for a strained listening, but if you liked McCreary’s work on Defiance and want to hear more, there’s this.
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Note Worthy 018: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke t...

Why Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin blew my mind

Jul 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Final Fantasy VI: Balance and RuinRelease Date: July 1, 2013Price: FreeAvailability: OverClocked ReMixArtist(s): Various Artists[embed]258070:49562:0[/embed]Well, after a turbulent journey, Balance and Ruin is finally here, and there are so many reasons why it's our top pick this month.This album features not only bumping electronic remixes, but also grandiose orchestral suites (several of which cross the ten-minute mark) and everything in between, and best of all, they've beefed up some of the lesser-appreciated tracks to the point where they may actually be some of your favorites. Nearly everything here is gold, in part due to the strength of the source material, but also due to the care each artist has taken with their respective arrangements. The love and respect they have for Uematsu's masterpiece is obvious in every track. I wish I could give every arrangement its moment in the spotlight, but I've promised myself to limit my gushing to just ten tracks, although you'll want to download this and explore the magic for yourself.Right out of the gate, the groggy “Awakening” gets a super smooth rendition by Joshua Morse, making for a nice contrast to the original Terra’s theme, which it references heavily. “The Returners” will turn heads with the liberties taken with the source material (you can barely hear it), but it’s my favorite track on the album. It takes on a rich '80s-flavored electronic vibe similar to Depeche Mode. “Gau” gets a gorgeous instrumental arrangement featuring accordion, strings, piano, and woodwind (I’d love an entire album of this stuff), while “Serpent’s Trench” is amazingly transformed from tense into sexy chip-meets-bossa-nova.There’s an interpretive acoustic guitar version of “Kids Run Through the City Corner” (definitely going on my sleep playlist), a playfully epic combination of the heroic and comical “Save Them!” and “Grand Finale?” themes, and a refreshing take on the chocobo theme with “Electro de Chocobo” (it’s hard to make this theme memorable after hearing hundreds of arrangements of it). Rounding out my favorites, there’s Jake Kaufman’s heavily Queen-influenced rendition of the opera scene with tons of signature vocal harmonies and guitar work, a funktacular “The Day After,” and the smooth, sweeping, and moving “Searching for Friends” with amazing woodwind work.Even limiting myself to ten tracks, this review is longer than I’d hoped, and there are still so many others that I love on this album. For those who backed this on Kickstarter and are expecting a physical copy, you’re in for a treat: this is the real deal, so download it without delay!Defiance: Original Video Game Soundtrack / Television SoundtrackRelease Date: April 2, 2013Price: $11.99 eachAvailability: iTunes (game / television)Artist(s): Bear McCrearyGiven the unique side-by-side development of this game and television series, of course we have to review both soundtracks! Both are composed by Bear McCreary, and each offers a different soundscape that is great in its own way. Both feature a very catchy theme that combines emotional orchestral moments and layered electronic sounds that define the sound of Defiance.Starting with the game soundtrack, you get a more ambient experience given the MMO nature of the title. I particularly like the folky and adventurous “Ninety-Niners,” the moody atmospheric track, “Marin Exploration,” and the grungy “Ridgecrest Mine.” The bumping “Mount Tam” and the overdriven “Madera Combat” also stand out.The television score is much more pop-oriented, featuring heavy use of the main theme along with a variety of vocal tracks that visit everything from blues to heavy electronic tunes. I particularly enjoy the exotic alien vocal tracks that really add an ethnic flair, and also the arrangement of “Time After Time.” “Concerto for Insects,” which uses insect sounds for percussion, is also a joy.This is some great work by Bear McCreary, with some of my favorite themes of his that I’ve heard to date. I recommend picking up both albums, as they really explore two different styles of the same musical universe, which is as fun and unique as the game/television show concept itself.Distant Worlds music from FINAL FANTASY THE CELEBRATIONRelease Date: June 26, 2013Price: 6,150 Yen ($61.50)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various Artists[Sound Samples]We recently mentioned that this was coming, and it’s safe to think of this as the visual accompaniment to the fantastic Final Fantasy Orchestra Album released at the end of last year.Many new arrangements are performed, including “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, “Phantom Forest” from VI, and a brand new (and amazing) chocobo medley. The track list covers the original Final Fantasy through XIV, and throws in vocal tracks including Susan Calloway’s powerful “Answers” from XIV, “Eyes on Me” with Crystal Kay (I personally prefer the original by Faye Wong, or even Angella Aki’s version), and the opera from VI. There’s also a segment from the battle medley featured on the orchestra album, but I was disappointed that the entire 14-minute piece wasn’t performed in its entirety.While the asking price is quite steep, this is a wonderful DVD. It’s fun to watch the orchestra, as several the players really get into the music, and it’s nice to be able to see the new arrangements if you haven’t had a concert stop near you lately. I also dig the packaging, which sports a see-through case and English commentary in the booklet.[embed]258070:49563:0[/embed]Dopamix SoundtrackRelease Date: June 28, 2013Price: 1,500 Yen ($15)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsIt’s great to see SuperSweep releasing the soundtrack to the 3DS eShop single-button rhythm game Dopamix. The game features all original music, and it’s quite good. This album serves up over 30 minutes of music, including pumping electronic beats, retro gamey goodness, Japanese pop tracks, and even some R&B. There’s a lot to like, but the playful electronic-meets-electric guitar “Parade” and the basstacular “Aurora” are my favorites. There’s also a 23-minute megamix tucked away at the end that’s nice to put on in the background, and the price is right! Check this one out. [embed]257003:49343:0[/embed]FINAL FANTASY IV Original Sound Track Remaster VersionRelease Date: July 3, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Nobuo Uematsu[Sound Samples]I’ve been super excited about Square Enix re-rereleasing the out of print soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV. They promised a remastered version with two loops instead of the original’s single playthrough along with unreleased tracks. Well, true to that promise, you get a meatier experience with this album, which is much appreciated. There’s also the snazzy box that comes with first-press editions that we unboxed.The unreleased tracks are essentially a few jingles. It’s nice having that funny Namingway sound, but the rest of it isn’t very interesting. Given that there’s 50 minutes of unused space across both discs, I was hoping for something more substantial, but I really do feel silly complaining about this at all given that what’s presented is a better version of one of the best soundtracks of all time. I suggest picking it up.Oh, and “Dancing Calcobrena” has a bit of a hiccup at the beginning that I guess is a big enough deal for Square Enix to be swapping out everyone’s discs in Japan. I didn’t find it that big of a deal, but we’ll keep you posted if that offer extends to fans abroad.[embed]258070:49564:0[/embed]Mighty Switch Force 2 Official SoundtrackRelease Date: June 14, 2013Price: Name Your PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Jake KaufmanI absolutely adored Jake Kaufman’s first Mighty Switch Force soundtrack, and this follow-up does not disappoint. Get ready for some heavy retro-infused disco, funk, and electronic music right out of the gate with the incredibly catchy “Title,” into the bass-bumpin’ “Got2BAStar,” and into the upbeat drum ‘n’ bass “Exothermic” (my favorite on the album). “Glow,” “The Afterblaze,” and “Soak Patrol Alpha” are also pure genius.You'll dig the remixes tucked away at the end, including surasshu’s dreamy “Title Screen,” a hilarious vocal take on “Title” (you have to hear it), and a Mario Galaxy-esque version of “Glow,” complete with epic orchestra and spacey pitch-bending synth work.Download this, now! PRIORITY ONE: The music of TRONRelease Date: June 8, 2013Price: $5Availability: LoudrArtist(s): Grant “stemage” Henry[Sound Samples]One word: stemage. That should be enough to have your interest, given he’s the brains behind one of the best game music tribute bands, Metroid Metal. But going even further, he’s paying homage to one of the most beloved film scores of all time: TRON. I can’t pretend to be an expert on that score, but I’ve heard it numerous times over the years, and stemage brings his signature sound to the mix. Layered guitars will build a dreamy tapestry of sound at one moment, then heavy-hitting rock percussion, monstrous bass, and wailing electric guitar will come in at the next. It’s a wonderful 30-minute journey.My favorite tracks are the ominous and reverberating “Hydrophilia” and the tense “Sea of Stimulation,” featuring crazy time signatures and C64 sounds by Inverse Phase.If you’re a fan of stemage, get this. If you’re a fan of TRON, get this. If you don’t know either, get this, and you’ll be a fan of both in just 30 minutes. [embed]258070:49565:0[/embed]TIME AND ETERNITY ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: May 24, 2013Price: 3,150 Yen ($31)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Yuzo KoshiroI love this game’s artwork, and the music surprised me at E3. Some people have said it’s not Koshiro’s best work, but I’d say it’s not his typical work more than anything. It suits the anime-flavored visuals perfectly, bringing in upbeat and whimsical themes in that you’d hear in any anime these days (with live instruments to boot), but that doesn’t mean specific tracks don’t stick out.I particularly dig the adventurous overworld exploration theme, “Juvenile,” the mischievous and exotic “Cursed Forest’s Theme” with some funky sax work, the rockin’ “Theme of Towa” and “Threat,” the epic Latin vocals in “Memory Infused,” which is in line with a last boss theme, and the emotional ending themes (“A Heart That Can't Be Broken” is amazing).Oh, plus great artwork throughout the packaging. Thanks for releasing this, SuperSweep, and watch for a single-disc redux coming with the game from NISA.[embed]258070:49566:0[/embed]TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK PLUSRelease Date: June 28, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis is a hugely unexpected surprise. I’d checked out the original Tekken Tag Tournament 2 OST and loved it, but who knew there was so much more music to hear? This album offers over an hour and a half of additional tracks, much of which is amazing.You can expect an eclectic mix of everything from electronic music to tropical themes, but my favorites tend to land on the electronic side. The bumping bass and explosive percussion in “Siga (Tropical Rainforest)” and the Asian-flavored vocal theme, “Landscape Under The Ghost -Kaminano (AD2012)” are two of my favorites on the serious side, while “Your Sunset” and “Battle Cry” both get quite a funk going, and stand out with their digitized vocals. There’s disco with “Luxury Garden,” cheesy vocal ballad with “Highschool love!” (it’s painful, but strangely catchy), and glitchy 8-bit goodness with “Backer.” There’s so much to like here, most of which I can’t call out by name because I’d be naming every track, so you’re going to want to pick this one up.Also of note, those who pick it up at SuperSweep in Japan will get an additional megamix CD. Cool to have, but don’t feel too bad if you have to get it from CD Japan.[embed]258070:49567:0[/embed]A Warrior’s OdysseyRelease Date: October 2, 2012Price: $11.95 (physical) / $8.99 (digital)Availability: Howlin’ Wolf Records (physical) / Amazon (digital)Artist(s): Penka KounevaOkay, I feel like an asshole for having this sit on my desk for so long. And it saddens me that people will skip over it because it’s not attached to a big game franchise. Composer Penka Kouneva has worked on titles like Prince of Persia and Gears of War in the past, but this album is a solo effort that treads on familiar ground: first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and anything involving war and soldiers.There is so much melody on this album. You’ll constantly find yourself looking up and saying, “Wow, this is awesome. What track is this so I can listen again later?” I did this for nearly every track on the album. There’s lots of orchestral work augmented by electronics and sometimes event rock elements. I literally can’t call out favorite tracks because all of it’s so good. Please at least listen to some of the samples above and consider picking it up to support this artist actually creating this kind of music for a real game.
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Note Worthy 017: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Okay, let me first say that this installment of Note Worthy features the best collection of ten soundtracks ever featured in this series. That's why I won't be breaking down the albums into "Top Picks" and "Other Releases" th...

Tiny Barbarian DX is a retro soundtrack that you must own

Jun 17 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksTiny Barbarian DX: The Serpent Lord OSTRelease Date: June 6, 2013Price: Pay what you wantAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Jeff Ball[embed]256447:49213:0[/embed]This is a soundtrack that you absolutely must have. It’s written with limitations similar to the NES with a few additional channels which is entirely okay because it kicks some serious ass!Right out of the gate with the title screen you get chugging chip bass and a triumphant and catchy melody. You’ve likely heard the trailer music, “Workout Montage,” as well, which is as fun as it is cool. Delving into the game, “Break Down the Walls” (my favorite track) had me thinking of Mega Man with its groovy bass while the explosive and awesome “Bomb n’ Bass,” the desperate “Rebirth,” the unsettling “Kinda Creepy,” and the beautiful pop ballad “Muscular Sunsets” all show off Ball’s skill at crafting a lot with a little.Seriously, this soundtrack is fantastic, and if you claim to be a fan of chiptunes, the NES, or retro game music, you need to own this. Hands down, one of the best things I’ve heard this year, and the price is right.[embed]256447:49211:0[/embed]IMERUAT (DVD)Release Date: April 24, 2013Price: 2,500 Yen ($25)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): IMERUATThe formation of IMERUAT has easily been one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen over the past couple years. The group is comprised of Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, and we covered their first full-length album in Note Worthy some time ago.Now that they’ve been recording music videos, they’re finally releasing a compilation. There are a total of seven tracks featured on the DVD, including several of my favorites, such as the electrifying “IMERUAT” and “Black Ocean” and the dreamy “Haru No Kasumi” and “Cirotto.” The videos are pretty varied in style, but mostly feature Mina. “IMERUAT” displays a series of photographs in rapid succession, while “Left” and “Black Ocean” get interesting animated videos. “Giant” is one of the highlights with an impressive dance routine by Mina, and the included behind-the-scenes footage goes into more depth as to what went into this performance.While this collection is widely available in Japan, it may be hard to get a hold of outside. Hopefully the group will make it more widely available, as they did for their first album, but you can check out many of their music videos on the official website.TRUTHCANNONRelease Date: May 21, 2013Price: $5Availability: BandcampArtist(s): A_Rival[embed]256447:49214:0[/embed]Okay, we love A_Rival. His tasty blend of hip-hop and electronic music are unstoppable, and it’s only a matter of time before this guy makes it big. His latest and greatest, TRUTHCANNON, furthers this notion, bringing pumping beats, strong melodies, and impressive vocals into the fold.The opener, “TRUTHCANNON,” opens with some beautifully harmonized vocals before going dubstep, while my favorite track on the album, “Wandering” combines retro 8-bit sounds with beautiful female vocals and a melody that will be stuck in your head for weeks. The sinister “Venus,” 80s synth pop-flavored “OMF” (think Shatter), the guttural “OMF2,” the reflective “DEAD,” and the closer, “Ready,” which features A_Rival’s own voice, are all stellar.This is a fantastic album. Period. And it’s only $5. Support an amazing artist, get some amazing music. Do it now! Other ReleasesGears of War: Judgment The SoundtrackRelease Date: March 19, 2013Price: $13.86Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Steve Jablonsky, Jacob Shea[Soundtrack Samples]I’ve generally been a fan of Gears of War music, even before Steve Jablonsky took over the reins. As such, Gears of War: Judgment offers more of the same: action cues with distorted electric guitar chugging and heavy percussion and string stabs to drive tension on one half, and gritty ambiance on the other. Tracks here tend to be short (most under two minutes), but I liked what was here, even if the offerings aren’t that diverse. The twangy Western-style guitar work in the main theme, “Judgment,” the powerful “High Surge,” and foreboding “Vantage Point” are among my favorites.Pick this up if you’re a fan of the franchise. But don’t expect anything Earth shattering. KINGDOM HEARTS 10th Anniversary FAN SELECTION -Melodies & Memories-Release Date: September 19, 2012Price: 3,500 Yen ($35)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Yoko Shimomura[Soundtrack Samples]What better way to celebrate the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III than with a compilation album containing the best tracks from across the series? Really though, this two-disc album was released last year to commemorate ten years of the franchise, and the tracks included were selected by a fan vote in Japan. As such, many of the most prominent tracks from across the series are featured.The packaging here is quite nice, and for those who haven’t already purchased the individual Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, this might be worth picking up, although the price tag is a bit steep.La Tale SoundtrackRelease Date: 2008Price: FreeAvailability: Install Directory / Official Website (Korean)Artist(s): DINY, ESTi, various artistsLa Tale is a beautiful Korean-developed action-oriented 2D sidescrolling MMORPG that came to North America in 2008. The music, contained within the game’s installation directory, quickly spread across the Internet with its tasty blend of electronic music and Asian-flavored pop, and the developers have taken notice, and will be offering it online as a free download in English territories.With the release of STORM, the latest and biggest content update for the game, I wanted to catch up from a review I'd written previously. Lead composer DINY is joined by other Korean composers to bring more pop, fantasy, and electronic tunes that, while different in flavor, still offer up catchy melodies that will have you coming back for more. This is fantastic stuff, so check it out.Monarch Original SoundtrackRelease Date: TBAPrice: TBAAvailability: TBAArtist(s): Nauts[embed]256447:49212:0[/embed]Here’s some more great music out of Korea, also for a fantasy MMORPG. You may remember Nauts from his work on the jazzy Bar Oasis, but this is a fully-fledged RPG affair. I was surprised by the big orchestral sound that touches on what we’re hearing in a lot of Western MMORPG titles, but it’s the strong melodies and more measured songs that really blew me away.The theme song is incredible, working in swaying strings and acoustic guitar, while the lullaby-esque “Quiet Village,” the somber “Tomb,” ominous “Orc,” joyous “Capital” (featuring harpsichord!), the amazing piano concerto “Forgotten Princess,” and the dark and foreboding “Die in Hell” all stand out.While the soundtrack isn’t yet available, you can preview many of these tracks on Nauts’s SoundCloud. I recommend doing so, and if you’re like me, you’ll be heading back there for more.The World Ends With You 5th Anniversary Live -Crossover-Release Date: TBAPrice: 1,200 Yen ($12)Availability: TBAArtist(s): Takeharu IshimotoThis is a live recording from a recent live concert held in Japan. There’s nearly 50 minutes of music covering mainly the new Crossover material, including my favorite The World Ends With You track, “Run Away.” While it’s great that they’ve took the time to release this for fans of the music, and they’re asking for a very fair price, I’d say this is only for the most hardcore fan. Several of the tracks have been featured on other CDs, and some of the out-of-tune vocals are painful.Still, bravo to Square Enix for releasing it. Now if we could only get their other live events on CD! The World Ends With You Crossover ~TributeRelease Date: June 19, 2013Price: 2,100 Yen ($21)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Takeharu Ishimoto[Soundtrack Samples]This is another album celebrating The World Ends with You, featuring some new tracks, a series of tribute remixes, and some live tracks from the 5th anniversary live concert. I’ve already discussed the live concert material, so I’ll say that the new tracks, “March On” and “Revelation” are great additions to The World Ends with You, coming as cohesive and catchy.The remixes generally stay true to their original sources, with a nice dubstep-flavored remix of “Twister,” a nice bossa nova-esque take on “Make or Break,” and pumping electronic versions of “Satisfy,” “Calling,” and “Twister.” They’re quite nice, and fans of The World Ends with You will want to check them out.Vectros SoundtrackRelease Date: February 26, 2013Price: 1,050 Yen ($10)Availability: SuperSweepArtist(s): Hisayoshi OguraI’ll say right out that this album is a service to hardcore Ogura fans. For those who don’t know him, he’s the legendary ZUNTATA composer responsible for a ton of stuff from Taito over the years. This soundtrack offers 13 minutes of music he wrote for a recent iOS title featuring ambient and sometimes maddening electronic sounds along with three remixes by the SuperSweep team. Even these, however, didn’t leave much of a lasting impression outside of Shinji Hosoe’s icy electronic soundscapes in “SociAl ErRors MegA Mix.”Still, it’s priced appropriately given the short play time and specialized nature. Check it out only if you’re a big Ogura fan.
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Note Worthy 016: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of ret...

Game music on guitar like you've never heard before

May 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top Picks TransfigurationRelease Date: May 3, 2013Price: $10.00Availability: Loudr (digital) / Mustin Enterprises (physical)Artist(s): The Altered Beasts [embed]253588:48627:0[/embed] 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 SoundtrackRelease Date: March 26, 2013Price: Not for saleAvailability: Digital bonus with collector's editionsArtist(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 [embed]253588:48649:0[/embed] Dead Space 3 Original Video Game SoundtrackRelease Date: February 13, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(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 SoundtrackRelease Date: April 24, 2013Price: 2,800 Yen (~$27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(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 [embed]253588:48623:0[/embed] Dungeon Hearts Official SoundtrackRelease Date: March 15, 2013Price: Not for saleAvailability: SoundCloudArtist(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 SoundtrackRelease Date: March 22, 2013Price: 3,000 Yen (~$29)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various artistsThis 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. [embed]253588:48624:0[/embed] MONACO / GENTLEMAN'S PRIVATE COLLECTION - BundleRelease Date: April 24, 2013Price: $9Availability: BandcampArtist(s): Austin WintoryWe 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 SoundtrackRelease Date: March 13, 2013Price: 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. [embed]253588:48625:0[/embed] Star Command Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 2, 2013Price: $8Availability: BandcampArtist(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. [embed]253588:48626:0[/embed] The Lost Angelic Chronicles of Frane: Dragons' Odyssey Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 11, 2012Price: $10Availability: BandcampArtist(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.
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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,...

Halo 4 OST Volume 2 is everything I wanted out of Halo 4

Apr 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Top PicksHALO 4 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK VOL 2.Release Date: April 8, 2013Price: $9.99Availability: Halo 4 Soundtrack WebsiteArtist(s): Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi[embed]250730:48105:0[/embed]I’ve been waiting for this album even though I never knew it was coming. I enjoyed the Halo 4 soundtrack, but did feel it was a bit too cinematic. It contained only a fraction of the in-game soundtrack and was meant to tell the story of the game through sound. That makes Volume 2 the perfect place to explore the amazing atmospheres that Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi were able to create for the game. This album is much darker and much more atmospheric, featuring lots of orchestral elements with interwoven electronics.Half of the tracks are provided by Jinnouchi, who was mostly absent from Volume 1. His opener, “Atonement,” will have you thinking of Halo soundtracks of old with its use of choir, and he even goes as far as to remix a past Halo track. From there, we launch into chugging electronics with heavy-hitting bass in percussion in “Intruders,” “Mantis,” with added glitchy percussion, and “Gravity” with its ominous pulsating bass synths.Davidge returns with similarly-cool soundscapes. “Kantele Bow” and “Pylons” give off a very bad ass vibe along with “Convoy,” which really gets down to business and reminds me of some of my favorite Halo moments. I love the siren-like sounds in “Escape,” the reverberating electronic tones in “Swamp,” the familiar tribal percussion in “Push Through,” and the Metroid-esque ambiance of “Foreshadow.” Finally, “Aliens,” my favorite track on the album, sports deep bassy tones and exotic female chanting.Halo fans who didn’t appreciate the Halo 4 soundtrack last year will want to give this album a try. It more effectively combines the old and the new quite nicely, and having played the game, I knew these moments were in the game despite not appearing on the soundtrack album, so I’m happy to be able to enjoy them outside of the gaming experience.FINAL FANTASY XI: Seekers of Adoulin Original SoundtrackRelease Date: March 27, 2013Price: 2,000 Yen ($21)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Naoshi Mizuta[Official soundtrack samples]We posted about this album a few weeks back, and with its lovely packaging and over 50 minutes of new music, I have to say this is the most excited I’ve been for new Final Fantasy XI music in a while.After an upbeat orchestral opener titled “A New Direction,” the album launches into a number of playful tunes including the adventurous “Breaking Ground” with its funky slap bass, the fun rhythmic pizzicato strings in “The Pioneers,” the prehistoric vibes of “Into Lands Primeval – Ulbuka” with its bongos and bell tones, and the relaxing tropical escape, “Mog Resort.” My two favorites are “Water's Umbral Knell” with its abstract use of water drops and metallic bell tones that are dark and unsettling and the decisive and foreboding “Hades.” Two bonus tracks, likely from content updates between major expansions, are also appreciated inclusions.This price is right with this one. Naoshi Mizuta continues to grow with the series and shows off some of his best.Magical Chase Original SoundtrackRelease Date: February 26, 2013Price: 2,625 Yen ($27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata[Official soundtrack samples]Get ready for a history lesson. Back before Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata became known for their orchestral RPG scores for Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics, they worked together on this PC Engine shmup title that earned quite a following for its vibrant visuals and upbeat and bubbly soundtrack. Yes, Sakimoto and cute videogame music.If I had to pick a title that this music most closely resembles, it would be Fantasy Zone, which I also love. From the incredibly catchy chorus section of the first stage theme, “Rampish Chase” to the playful “Ripple’s Theme,” there’s lots of sticky sweet melodies to enjoy. Then there’s the rambunctious “Azure Way,” the decisive “Waltz of Meditation” that hints at the Sakimoto/Iwata that would appear in later years, the chippy final stage theme, and boss themes that will have you bopping your head. The ending theme is also incredible.And that doesn’t even touch on the 26 minutes of arranged and unused tracks provided by Basiscape Records to commemorate this album. There are five arrangements in all, updating the retro sound of the originals with orchestral or electronic sounds, although Sakimoto’s Sakimoto-esque version of “Ripple’s Theme” is probably my favorite. The undiscovered tracks are similar to other tracks found on the album, so no biggie.I’d always heard about this game and soundtrack. After listening and watching some gameplay videos, I want to play it. If you’re a fan of Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, you need to pick this up. It’s a piece of history and it’s amazing that it’s finally out there.Other Releases[embed]250730:48106:0[/embed]Alter Ego Dreamwalker OSTRelease Date: March 21, 2013Price: Name Your Own PriceAvailability: Bandcamp via UbiktuneArtist(s): Ken “coda” SnyderYogurtbox is back. Well, at least half of it. We’ve featured coda a few times here on Destructoid, and this time he’s bringing his chiptune magic to a game soundtrack courtesy of Ubiktune. In addition to providing some upbeat and pumpin’ chiptune action with a swagger (the pop-oriented and super catchy “Sweet Home” and powerful epic final stage, “Void,” being my favorites), there are also some fantastic remixes from other artists including the amazingly talented kulor, Madbrain, Blitz Lunar, and DJ Bouche. All for name-your-own-price, so do it now.[embed]250730:48107:0[/embed]Fly’n OSTRelease Date: November 9, 2012Price: $4.99 EURAvailability: Ankama ShopArtist(s): Guillaume PervieuxWe need to give Ankama’s Guillaume Pervieux some love. He wrote a lengthy and amazing score for the beautiful Islands of Wakfu a couple years ago, and his latest work for Fly’n will also surprise you with its eclectic and abstract electronic soundscapes. The meandering and gamey opener, “Adcoffe,” hints at aural joys to follow which include the tense yet playful “Andndamm,” the bassy chill-fest “Yservat,” the Radiohead-esque “Sonwide,” the comical and mischievous “Fucus,”and the dreamy and psychedelic “Oysicide" and “Carbonic.” There’s lots of gamey stuff and other more serious electronic music, but it’s all great, and there’s nearly two hours of it. Check it out.Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Sounds of that other GamindustriRelease Date: March 21, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: NISA Online Store (Sold Out)Artist(s): Nobuo UematsuI admit that my primary draw to this game was its soundtrack by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve since found myself interested in the game’s world and characters more so than the music!What you have is a lot of bubbly electronic music and typical JRPG rock themes. That’s fine, as that’s what we know and love Uematsu for, but this isn’t his most inspired work. The upbeat tunes fit the game’s visuals and quirky sense of humor perfectly, but the sticky-sweet melodies lack substance and memorability. Aside from several character theme remixes from previous titles (“Rom's/Ram's Theme ver. V” is particularly cool), you’ll mostly want to keep your ears peeled for the Japanese-flavored “The Rock Garden” and the Earthbound Papas rockfests, “4th Dimension” and “Invader 1960,” but I wouldn’t feel too bad if you missed out on this one.[embed]250730:48108:0[/embed]The Mystic Quest For MetalRelease Date: July 12, 2012Price: $4Availability: BandcampArtist(s): Daniel TidwellFinal Fantasy: Mystic Quest is one of my favorite games (ridicule all you want!), and that’s in large part due to the game’s amazing soundtrack. In fact, one of the highlights of my many years writing about game music was an interview with the composer about this game.It’s heavy metal rock in game music at its best, and Daniel Tidwell (previously of Lords of Thunder) has given it a fitting tribute with some amazing guitar solos and great metal production work. You get the game’s three battle themes as well as the epic final dungeon and rockin’ “Lava Dome." Thanks to Nubuwo for turning me on to this one.NanoSweep 15 / overdrive hell 9: Hizumi Tengoku Moeru MaharajaRelease Date: December 31, 2012Price: 500 Yen / 325 YenAvailability: LimitedArtist(s): SuperSweepHere’s another round of original electronic music from SuperSweep Records.In what’s probably my favorite NanoSweep to date, I loved the hell out of the dreamy chillout track, “Focus,” and the super funky “Oscillation” which features some great rhythmic electric piano. Ayako Saso’s appropriately-titled “Patchwork” combines a lot of different ideas, the most interesting of which is a modified female vocal section that reminds me a lot of The World Ends With You, while Hosoe himself closes out with “Killing Terramorphous,” a hammering electronic track that gallops along with mind-crushing bass synths.Overdrive Hell 9 yields an ethnic experience focusing on what sounds to be Indian music. Lots of vocals abound with the lovely “Ethno Vibration,” which is pretty tame by overdrive hell standards. “Curry Burns,” “Screaming Yoga,” and “Go Go West” get back on track, however, with crazy effects on the vocals and throbbing bass drums that never let up.As always, these are hard to come by as they’re sold at events in Japan, but they do exist![embed]250730:48109:0[/embed]Sidetracks - Music from SidescrollerRelease Date: June 25, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): High Frequency BandwidthThis month concludes my look back at the PixelJunk franchise. Sidetracks is similar in style and even borrows a few tracks from PixelJunk Shooter (including an even more laidback version of “Fotographik,” my favorite track from that album). There’s the grungy opener, “Dog is No Hero,” which combines rock and electronic elements, but aside from this and the glitch rock track, “Zodiac 3 Arts Klub” with its catchy male chorus section, it’s mostly an icy trip-hop affair.“More or Less” is a perfect example of chill hop with its snazzy hip hop stylings, while “Planet Thanet” brings in alien-sounding synths, “Ghetto World” gets funky bass and percussion, and “MNP” goes for a spooky vibe with lots of weird sound effects and organ. The two remixes featured of “Planet Thanet” and “More or Less” get more icy ambiance and reverb, and are nice additions.As my favorite tracks from Shooter are also presented here, this is definitely by favorite PixelJunk soundtrack to date. We’ll see what the future brings![embed]250730:48110:0[/embed]TOMB RAIDER ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: March 5, 2013Price: $15.51Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Jason GravesWe reviewed the limited edition soundtrack disc last month, and this is the follow-up review of the stand-alone release containing twenty tracks as opposed to ten. Everything said last time remains true: this is a wonderful soundtrack full of tense moments that covers the Tomb Raider setting perfectly.Key tracks from the beginning and end were featured on the other album, so this fills out things in the middle with plenty of great moments that include the ominous “Exploring the Island,” the ambient percussion and bassy didgeridoo of “Infiltrating the Bunker,” the buzzy and tense “The Scavenger’s Camp,” the emotionally-tinged “On the Beach,” and the fantastic rhythms of “The Oni.” This is the definitive way to enjoy this soundtrack if you have the LE and wanted to hear more, if even better, if you don’t own the soundtrack at all.
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Note Worthy 014: Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Welcome back to Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up. This issue marks one year of Note Worthy, and I'm changing up things a bit with formatting. In the past, I've featured our ten monthly reviews in alphabetical orde...

Note Worthy 013: StarCraft, Metal Gear, and Tomb Raider

Mar 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Dive into PixelJunk MonstersRelease Date: May 22, 2008Price: $2.99Availability: PlayStation StoreArtist(s): Otograph[embed]248311:47557:0[/embed]We’ve dove into PixelJunk Eden and Shooter 1&2, and now I’m tackling PixelJunk Monsters. The colorful tower defense game features less music than the previous PixelJunk titles we’ve covered with only 40 minutes of music. The tracks are short and sweet in that regard.What you have is some seriously dreamy electronic music. I’d say it’s highly reminiscent of Square Enix’s Mitsuto Suzuki’s solo productions paired with the whimsical melodies of Hiroki Kikuta. And I mean this in a good way, as those are to my favorite artists out there.Even though the tracks are generally short (around the two-minute mark) and blend into one another, it’s a wonderful 40 minute journey. Very few tracks will jump out at you and prove memorable, but the overall listening experience certainly is. My favorites are “a-maze-ing maze” with its layered acoustic guitar and bells and the reflective lullaby, “bye bye monsters.”This is great stuff. If it were more fleshed out, it could be my favorite PixelJunk score to date, but for now, Shooter 1&2 takes that honor with its innovative approach. Still, anyone looking to relax with some great electronic soundscapes, check out PixelJunk Monsters.Emil Chronicle Online Original Soundtrack 6th Anniversary Memorial SoundtrackRelease Date: January 11, 2012Price: 4,200 Yen ($45)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): ACE+While Gravity picked up the publishing rights to Emil Chronicle, I was apparently too busy playing Ragnarok Online to pay much attention. This is also a highly-stylized MMORPG that instead employed the talents of Japan-based ACE+, who you may remember from their work on Xenoblade Chronicles and Code of Princess.This four-disc collection adds a single disc of new music to the 4th anniversary soundtrack that was released years ago. I love the upbeat nature of the music that matches perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. There are tons of Celtic influences, bouncy towns, vibrant fields, and tasty pop-oriented themes to enjoy. I feel it’s ACE+’s best work, as Xenoblade Chronicles was a little on the ambient side and Code of Princess a bit lacking in the memorability department.There are some key moments on the album, including the opening theme, “FAR AND AWAY,” which brings a heavy Celtic sound with woodwinds and a beautiful and touching string section. The distant and solemn “Sound of the ruin,” the fun accordion-laden dance tune, “Beyond the Destiny,” the pumping rock fest “Over the infinite helix,” the dark and reflective “Phantasmagoria,” the upbeat and jazzy “Theme of Emil,” and the weird (but good!) vocaloid vocal track, “Song for Battle Field” are some of my favorites. As far as the new stuff on the fourth disc is concerned, you’ll want to listen for the opener, “Lands of Groundbreaker,” which is also a moving orchestral theme, and the closing vocal theme, “12sec seno mano -the voice from yourself-.”It’s great to get in touch with ACE+’s history, and this looks to be some of their best. There’s some great artwork to enjoy, although the booklet is admittedly pretty thin. Still, I recommend checking it out if you liked ACE+’s other works.Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan Rough Drafts & OuttakesRelease Date: February 26, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: First press bonusArtist(s): Yuzo KoshiroWe reviewed the Etrian Odyssey IV soundtrack in Note Worthy 005 and loved it. Koshiro has done an amazing job transitioning the series from the retro FM synthesis featured in preceding titles over to a live orchestral soundscape featured in Etrian Odyssey IV. I was immediately interested, then, when it was announced that the bonus CD included with early shipments of the game would feature outtakes and rough draft versions of the tracks used for recording purposes.What you get are five rough drafts and two outtakes. The rough drafts, as interesting as they sound, won’t do much for you if you’ve already listened to the OST versions. These are synth mock-ups that Koshiro created to prepare for the recording sessions, so they aren’t as vibrant or warm as their OST counterparts, although they’re fun to listen to for comparison purposes.The outtakes are both village themes. “The Wind’s Gentle Touch” meanders about dreamily, sounding almost like a lullaby, while “All is Well” goes classical with harpsichord (one of my favorite instruments ever) and a lovely woodwind accompaniment. It almost sounds like something Koichi Sugiyama would write for a Dragon Quest game.So there you have it. I’d say if you missed out on the disc, you’ll be okay. Just pick up the OST, which is one of the best albums released in 2012.GUN FRONTIER/METAL BLACK/DINO REX Sound Tracks for Digital GenerationRelease Date: December 21, 2012Price: 3,780 Yen ($40)Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Shop)Artist(s): Yasuhisa Watanabe, Hidetoshi Fukumori, TAITO[embed]248311:47531:0[/embed]A new entry into SuperSweep’s GameMusic Discovery Series, this is a collection of arcade soundtracks from Taito’s catalog including two shooters and a fighting game. There are also some arranged tracks and a DVD containing complete playthroughs of each game (cool for those who want to know more about the music’s context).The album kicks off with my favorite soundtrack of the bunch, Metal Black. This is a side-scrolling shooter about a fight against an alien invasion of Earth. There are a number of great melodies, including the intro stage, “Bone to be free” with its triumphant and sweet melody as players take back Earth. I also dig the ambient “Waste days” and the many boss themes which are somewhat atypical. I’m used to heavy action in my shmup boss themes, but all of these here take a more interesting approach, some slow and mysterious, and others a bit terrifying, highlighting the weird and alien-y appearance of the enemies you’re fighting.The other two soundtracks don’t stand out as much. Gun Frontier is also heavy on the melody side, but nothing really stuck with me. Two remixes from the game, however, really shine as some of the best that this collection has to offer with a bumpin’ dance remix and a sort of world music/electronic jazz remix that somehow manage to take the unmemorable OST and make it into something worthwhile. Dino Rex, a strange fighting game featuring a variety of dinosaurs, gets a stereotypical dose of tribal percussion and sparse melodies. You have to watch the DVD footage, as this game looks truly terrible.There’s another disc containing the Sega Saturn versions of Metal Black and Gun Frontier. The two versions are similar, except there’re more reverb effects on the Sega Saturn version, which I think I enjoy slightly more.This is a nice collection for fans of Taito shooters. Metal Black is excellent, but probably not worth the price alone. If any of these titles have your interest, however, you may want to check this out.Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance SoundtrackRelease Date: February 19, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited Edition bonusArtist(s): Jamie ChristophersonThis soundtrack is a surprise in so many ways. Generally, Konami keeps to itself with Metal Gear titles, relying on current Konami composers and former Metal Gear composers to maintain that “Metal Gear” sound. But Platinum Games had other plans, turning to Jamie Christopherson who certainly had a few tricks up his sleeve.This album is the soundtrack disc that comes housed with the pricey limited edition version of the game. It contains in-game music by Christopherson, and doesn’t have much overlap with the Vocal Tracks album that has been made more widely available.While it retains the Hollywood action stylings of past Metal Gear titles, it strays from that sound in many ways. I’d say it’s more of a Hollywood orchestral/electronic fusion with heavy rock elements. It’s really moody and cool in a lot of ways, but reminds me of, say, Deus Ex: Human Revolution more than Metal Gear.That’s okay though. I love the opening track, “Title,” to death with its great melody and distant guitar work beckoning from beyond, while the furious drum ‘n’ bass “Chase” and exotic “Old City” are also pleasing. The gritty Western movie-esque “Plaza,” the Asian-flavored “Japanese Garden,” the ominous “Tension,” and the techy “Result” are also awesome. A few battle themes make an appearance in their vocal-less forms, but more about those later.In all, this is a wonderful soundtrack. I haven’t played the game, but from what I can gather from Conrad, it works amazingly well, and Platinum Games ought to be pleased with their choice and Christopherson proud of his accomplishment. He had big shoes to fill and has successfully injected new life into the franchise.Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Vocal TracksRelease Date: February 18, 2013Price: $15.44Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Jamie Christopherson, Various Artists[embed]248311:47530:0[/embed]Here’s the previously mentioned vocal tracks album. Contained within are the boss battle themes from the game that coincidentally are all vocal tracks. The tracks fit in well with the score, incorporating a blend of rock and electronics that is somewhere between ‘90s alternative metal and Linkin Park. Shredding guitars, wailing solos, and gritty vocals litter the album.Before you balk, however, it’s important to note how the music is used in-game. In battle, the pieces generally appear in their instrumental form with cross-fades into the vocal versions as the action picks up in battle, which Conrad tells me works incredibly well to drive the action home. With that in mind, though, and the fact that many of the instrumental versions are included, even if the vocals aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the musical backings as I found myself doing for tracks where the vocals didn’t really strike me.Some of the vocals really do stand out, though. The explosive “Dark Skies” with its choppy vocals, the bass-heavy “A Stranger I Remain” with a great female vocalist, and the amazing guitar work in “The Stains of All Time” are among my favorites. The deep vocal stylings of Jason Miller in “Red Sun” are also particularly memorable. The moody and slower “The War Still Rages Within,” the longest track on the album, provides a nice closer.My only complaint would be that the tracks are generally pretty short. In the two-minute range, actually. Still, fans of the game might even prefer this album to the OST, and it’s a lot more easily to obtain since it’s being sold separately. It’s worth checking out if this kind of music is your thing.RARE SQ - BONUS DISC -Release Date: December 5, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Tower Records / Village Vanguard customer bonusArtist(s): Various ArtistsHere we are with yet another exclusive disc to fans in Japan who purchase Square Enix music at brick-and-mortar stores in Japan. This is the accompaniment disc to Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and features a compilation of past SQ customer bonus disc tracks along with new ones, and I have to say that this compiles some of the best SQ series music to date.In terms of re-released material, you have the amazing “Aria” from Final Fantasy VI, redone by Reign of the Kindo, which is easily the best version of the touching opera scene I’ve ever heard despite it being sung in English by a man. There’s a lot of great new stuff, too, including an arrangement from Soukaigi (composed by Secret of Mana’s Hiroki Kikuta), which is a rare treat, and a great arrangement. There’s a dreamy electronic remix from Einhander, a funky version of “MEGAROMANIA” from LIVE A LIVE that will have you thinking of The OneUps, a bumpin’ chiptune medley from Final Fantasy VII, and dubstep versions of “Battle on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V and “TWISTER” from The World Ends With You (which is fantastic). Finally, we get a 20-minute DJ set from a recent live event that Square Enix held which combines popular Final Fantasy themes including “Red Wings” from Final Fantasy IV, “Battle” from Final Fantasy VI, and more LIVE A LIVE in a great set.This is a great album, but unfortunately it’s only available to those who purchase the album physically in Japan. CD Japan cells a combination of Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- along with this bonus disc, but it comes at a premium. So think hard as to whether these remixes sound worth it. I think they are.StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm SoundtrackRelease Date: March 12, 2013Price: $10.99 (digital)Availability: Collector’s Edition bonus / iTunesArtist(s): Blizzard EntertainmentI can’t help but be a fan of the musical universe of StarCraft. There are the rockin’ Terran, the creepy and textural Zerg, and the regal and serene Protoss. Wings of Liberty touched on all of these, but focused on the Terran race, and now we get our hands on a lot of Zerg-tinged themes, which is actually my favorite race, musically.Derek Duke, the musical voice of the Zerg, does a lot of heavy lifting alongside sound lead Glenn Stafford (resident Terran specialist), and even Jason Hayes who was responsible for the Protoss in the original StarCraft returns to Blizzard Entertainment and is featured with Audio Director Russell Brower, cinematics expert Neal Acree, and contributor Cris Velasco.So, how does it sound? This album is certainly much darker and heavier than Wings of Liberty. It really nails the Zerg sound right out of the gate with “Corruptors” which touches on classic Zerg themes that will awaken that sense of nostalgia within. Duke does an amazing job with textural electric guitar and ambient electronic backings, marrying them to tense strings and defiant brass. We get these sounds throughout.Other tracks, including “Heart of the Swarm” and “Fire in the Sky,” bring in that bombastic Hollywood action sound with big orchestra with cool electronics in a very tasteful way, while there are a number of foreboding pieces featuring great choral work in “The Coming Storm,” moody rock in “Phantoms of the Void,” and some fantastic booming percussion in “Conscience.”Other times I was reminded of Halo (and I make this comparison in the most flattering way possible), with “Collateral Damage” featuring emotional strings and bassy piano notes that are followed by the blistering electronic-infused rock that is typical of the Terrans, while “Stronger” really channels that badass Halo sound with rock percussion and heavy electronic guitar work. The final track, “Whispering from the Stars,” has some finality to it, although things sound pretty bleak. Be prepared for what sounds to be a pretty distressing end to the game.This is really a fantastic soundtrack filled with great music and great production values. I have to say it’s one of my favorite Blizzard Entertainment albums in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot given the quality they are consistently able to deliver.The Black BoxRelease Date: March 8, 2013Price: Name Your Own PriceAvailability: BandcampArtist(s): Aivi “waltzforluma” Tran, Steven “surasshu” Valema[embed]248311:47529:0[/embed]This album is so good that I had to post about it when it was released last week despite knowing that I’d be reviewing it here. The team, who you may recognize from the recently-funded Cryamore project, combines piano and chiptunes through a number of original tracks and remixes. Tran’s piano work is fantastic, and Valema’s chiptune work, constructed in Impulse Tracker, adds a dreamy quality that sounds so natural.In terms of remixes, there’s my favorite track from Katamari Damacy, “Lonely Rolling Star,” which is upbeat, fun, and classy, while the bonus track, “Mabe Village,” from Link’s Awakening is simply sweet and adorable. The final remix is from Asturias’s Cryptogenic Illusion album, titled “Distance,” which gets a bubbly treatment.The originals cover a lot of territory, with “Shapeshifter” exploring what feels like a contemporary jazz style that is smooth and mood-setting, while “Diamond Dove” flutters about an adventurous atmosphere and “Here’s How!” gets into some swankier jazz territory. “Mika” is an emotional ballad that feels rooted in classical piano, and “Pocket Universe” explores jazz-tinged pop.It’s all quite lovely, and I can’t quite get over how natural this combination of sounds is. It also comes packed with a comic series that is “to be continued,” suggesting that we’re going to see more collaborations between Tran and Valema. I can’t wait! Stream it, and if you like it, throw some money their way! This is great stuff.TOMB RAIDER ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: March 5, 2013Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited edition bonusArtist(s): Jason Graves[embed]248311:47528:0[/embed]This is the Tomb Raider soundtrack disc that comes with the limited edition version of the game. It comes with ten tracks totaling a little over 35 minutes of music, comprising only half of the tracks featured on the full-length soundtrack being released by Sumthing Else Music Works.What’s here is quite good. You have your typical action cues with heavy tension, not too unlike what Graves was able to do with Dead Space, but this score is a lot more dynamic. There’s tribal percussion to highlight the more organic locales of the game as well as tracks that bring out a more personal side of the game’s protagonist. “First Blood” in particular stands out for its emotional melody tinged with desperation, while the deep and broody brass tones in “The One” had me thinking of The Terminator. Everything culminates in the intensely chaotic “The Ritual” before listeners reflect on their journey in the contemplative “A Survivor is Born.”It would have been great to have seen the full-length soundtrack included with the limited edition, or at least the inclusion of some exclusive tracks. If you really like what you hear here, you’ll probably want to pick up the full-length OST from Sumthing Else Music Works.
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Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Welcome back! We're looking at recent soundtrack releases, and there are a number of big ones this month. We've got impressions of the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Tomb Raider soundtra...

Note Worthy 012: Final Fantasy Vocal/Orchestral, Wizardry

Feb 15 // Jayson Napolitano
DJMAX TECHNIKA TUNE Original Sound TrackRelease Date: September 27, 2012Price: 8,190 Yen ($90)Availability: Out of PrintArtist(s): Various ArtistsI love the DJMAX series. Actually, I’ve only played the arcade-based TECHNIKA series, but the K-pop heavy soundtracks has always been some of my favorites. With recent DJMAX soundtracks rehashing a lot of music, I’ve admittedly been a bit disappointed, but DJMAX TECHNIKA TUNE remedies that somewhat.There’s a healthy portion of new tracks (about half of a disc’s worth), bringing back everything that made me fall in love with the franchise in the first place. There are some great pop offerings right out of the gate with the smooth “Take on Me” by Cuve, the bubbly "Shining my Boy" by Astro Kid, and the dreamy “Silent Clarity” by Tsukasa. The game’s main theme, "The Max" by NDLee, is also a lot of fun with its heavily-accented English that still manages to leave an impression for all the right reasons.There’s the usual eclectic offerings, including makou’s joyous Celtic track, "Emblem," tasteful alternate rock with Planetboom's "Brand NEW Days," and an amazing rock remix of ESTi's "Oblivion," one of the best DJMAX tunes ever, by NieN.From there, the remaining disc-and-a-half revisits old material, but fortunately many classics are featured, including tracks by DINY, Nauts, Lin-G, Shinji Hosoe, and a few of my favorites that I'll call out by name: BJJ's "First Kiss," Rex's amazing ballad, "Propose, Flower, Wolf Part. 1," and what's easily one of the most catchy DJMAX tracks of all time, "HeartBeaT Part.2" by NDLee. The album closes with extended versions of some of the best new tracks, including "The Max," "Silent Clarity," and "Shining my Boy," along with tracks used for the game’s menus.In all, I’m happy with the new material presented here, and the booklet included features extensive credits, lyrics, and commentary on every track. The set also includes a visual art book and a screen cleaner. It’s a great package with some great music.[embed]244687:46938:0[/embed]Donpachi / Dodonpachi / Dodonpachi II SoundtrackRelease Date: November 2, 2012Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis album is a big deal. This series is from Cave’s early days, and the shmups featured some pretty twisted stories along with the standard electronic and rock soundtracks. Unfortunately, the soundtrack albums have since gone out of print, and here’s SuperSweep to the rescue with the music to the first three games in the series.Donpachi from 1995 didn’t really strike my fancy. It features some dated orchestral sounds without much in the way of a memorable melody. The funky name entry theme is probably my favorite of the bunch. Likewise, the Dodonpachi II soundtrack doesn’t really have a lot going for it, but you may want to take note of the third stage’s battle theme that blatantly rips the Final Fantasy IX battle theme.Where it’s at is the Dodonpachi soundtrack. Serious electronic music marks its entrance before it launches in live wailing electric guitars in the stage themes, all of which are amazing. The ending themes also stand out for their pop approach. It’s a shame that Dodonpachi II was such a step backward from the amazingness that is Dodonpachi.The album includes a second disc that really isn’t worth your time. It features the mono output versions of the Donpachi and Dodonpachi soundtracks (why does anyone want this?) and one of the console ports of Dodonpachi II.As somebody who’s never played these games, I can’t recommend this album to anyone but the most hardcore fans, but hey, I’m glad it’s out there for those who were looking for the out of print originals.Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New EyesRelease Date: October 16, 2012Price: $19.99Availability: Bundle ExclusiveArtist(s): Periscope StudioWhile Allistair wasn’t thrilled about the PC adventure title, Harvey’s New Eyes, one of the few highlights he noted was the game’s soundtrack. As “one of the best released [last] year,” I thought I should probably check it out.The 30-minute soundtrack comes bundled with the two games (Harvey’s New Eyes is a sequel) along with some other goodies. The track names are in German, so I won’t bother you with them, but I’ll say that what little is here is good, and as you’d imagine from the description Allistair gives of the game, the music is quite eclectic.There’s a catchy main theme that sounds like something out of a French café with the use of accordion and some dreamy acoustic guitar as well as a vocal version of the theme with German lyrics that comes later (an English version is available as well). Two organ pieces are featured, which is good for me as it’s one of my favorite instruments. They’re quite ominous, and probably my favorite tracks here. There’s a desolate desert right out of a Western film, a weird tribal track with most of the sounds made using the human voice, dark and broody jazz with a walking bass and all kinds of unsettling sound effects, and a tense orchestral/electronic fusion that comes in towards the end sounding like something Craig Armstrong would write for a big Hollywood action film (that means good).But before it starts, it seemingly ends. I’d love to hear more of this, as it’s all very well produced. It’d also be nice to see it available online outside of the bundle. I can’t say it’s really one of the best of 2012 given how little there is, but it is quite good.[embed]244687:46937:0[/embed]FINAL FANTASY Orchestral AlbumRelease Date: December 26, 2012Price: 5,250 Yen ($56) (standard) / 7,800 Yen ($84) (limited)Availability: CD Japan (standard / limited)Artist(s): Various ArtistsWell, here it is. We’ve been super excited for this album, and I already unboxed the limited edition for you. And now we have impressions of the over two hours of music featured.As the name suggests, this is all live orchestral music, most of which was recorded in Prague specifically for this album. Some tracks are borrowed from previously-released orchestral albums, which, while a little disappointing, could have been excluded altogether, so they’re still nice to have here.The arrangements and recording are all fantastic. You get two different medleys from Final Fantasy I-III that open the album, a new and amazing “Battle With the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, a regal arrangement of the Final Fantasy V main theme, and an awesome atmosphere in “Phantom Forest” from Final Fantasy VI. There’s a new version of “Maria and Draco” in Japanese (I prefer the English versions found elsewhere without the narration) followed by borrowed arrangements from the Final Fantasy VII Reunion disc that are still fantastic.A big deal was made of Crystal Kay recording “Eyes on Me.” She does a great job, but I must say I prefer the original Faye Wong, or even FFXII’s vocalist, Angela Aki’s, version. We get an unexpected new track from Final Fantasy IX, “Unexpected Feelings,” which comes as a moving ballad with sweeping strings. Final Fantasy XII gets orchestrated for the first time with “The Dalmasca Estersand,” which is easily one of my favorite tracks. The album closes out with a 15-minute medley of battle themes from across the entire franchise, and while I typically don’t like medleys (not enough time is devoted to each track), this one kicks some serious ass.All of this, plus the fact that this comes on a Blu-ray disc. Pop it into a Blu-ray player and it shows you the logo and track title for each track and displays lyrics in real time. Look at photo galleries from the recording session, listen to original soundtrack versions of the tracks to compare with the arrangements, download MP3s of the album to your computer, and watch a number of promotional videos for this and other recent albums. It’s a nice package, and that doesn’t even include the vinyl that comes packed in with the limited edition.Square Enix knocked the ball out of the park with this one. Get it before it becomes as difficult to come by as past Final Fantasy orchestral albums.[samples]FINAL FANTASY Vocal CollectionRelease Date: January 30, 2013Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Various ArtistsHere we are with Square Enix’s first album of 2013. It’s a compilation of vocal themes from across the series. Crazy that they finally have enough of it to fill a CD!Final Fantasy fans should already be aware of most of what’s here. “Eyes on Me” from Final Fantasy VIII was the first, and is still one of my favorites. Faye Wong is awesome. “Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX is sweet, coming off as a children’s song, while “Suteki da ne” and “Otherworld” from Final Fantasy X explore different styles (ballad and hardcore metal). “Distant Worlds” from Final Fantasy XI has grown on me over the years, but original vocalist Izumi Masuda is almost a joke compared to the Susan Calloway version heard in the Distant Worlds concert tour. Final Fantasy IV DS also gets some love with the amazing vocal rendition of “Theme of Love.”From there, “Kiss me Good-Bye” by Angela Aki is my favorite Final Fantasy vocal theme. Final Fantasy XII wasn’t my favorite, but this pop ballad is so powerful and moving. Even lesser-known material follows, with the two vocal themes from Final Fantasy XIII’s Japanese release. They’re very convincing J-pop ballads, showing off Hamazu’s versatility, but don’t resonate with me much since they were swapped out in the international release of the game.Finally, we get the original recording of “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV (a live version was featured on the Distant Worlds: Returning Home album), and it features the previously-mentioned Susan Calloway. It’s similar in style to “Distant Worlds,” with epic choir and moving vocal passages, but it explodes with electric guitar and rock organ, making for a very memorable experience.There are many fans out there like me who already own all of this music. The only exclusive is the in-game version of “Answers,” but if you’re a fan who doesn’t own many of these OSTs already, this is worth picking up to catch up on your Final Fantasy vocal history. It’s just a shame that RIKKI’s “Pure Heart” (an arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme”) wasn’t included! HFB: PixelJunked - The Original Soundtrack to Shooter 1 & 2Release Date: April 12, 2011Price: $7.99 (PlayStation Store) / $9.99 (iTunes)Availability: PlayStation Store / iTunesArtist(s): High Frequency BandwidthAfter not caring much for the PixelJunk: Eden soundtrack last month, I didn’t have high hopes for Shooter. I haven’t played Shooter, but I thought I’d give the soundtrack a try. As it turns out, I like it. A lot.In the album’s booklet, they classify the music as “chill hop.” This suits the album quite nicely. There’s a great spacey atmosphere with lots of reverb, exotic sound effects, and some fantastic beats. This soundtrack is actually a series of arrangements from one of HFB’s previously-released albums, with these mixes made exclusively to fit the areas of the game. They say it took them longer to remix the existing tracks to use in the game than it would have to write new ones.Right out of the gate with “Hundred Forty Billion” there’s a thick chill out vibe. You’ll hear lots of electric piano and gamey sound effects. “Happy Funkin' Birthday” sports gritty electronics, lots of bass, and is dark, while “Hill Film Blue” takes orchestral elements such as pizzicato strings and mixes them with spooky synths from outer space. The fat snare hits and exotic chants in “Hell Fire and Brimstone” are startling, while “Hidden Foto Banks,” my favorite track, is super funky with robotic vocals.There’s dreamy encompassing bass in “Nano Bytes,” icy hip-hop with rap lyrics in “More or Less,” scratching in “World Ghetto,” and some cool wah-wah guitar work and bells that remind of Shatter in “Come on Down.” The moody filtered guitar work in “Godisnowhere” had me thinking Dexter, and the final track, “Hippy in Transit,” won me over with its crystalline bells and electric piano runs.I guess I should listen to the original source tracks before I get so excited about this album, but as it is, this is some great music. After looking at gameplay videos and listening to this soundtrack, you’d think they were made for one another. The music is mixed into the game in an interactive way, where the music picks up and gets more lively as you approach enemies. It’s really cool, so get it![embed]244687:46936:0[/embed]Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia Soundtrack & Theme CollectionRelease Date: March 7, 2012Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Elements GardenI was curious about this soundtrack based on the involvement of Elements Garden, a Japanese-based group of composers who’ve put out some great material in the past (see their VGMdb credits here). After listening and doing some research as to what the game was all about, the music presented here made a lot more sense: it’s an adult visual novel game for PC.What you have is a number of catchy J-pop theme songs for the game’s various characters and a lot of pop-oriented instrumental music. The production values are high, with some great strings and piano, and there are a lot of upbeat melodies and soothing backdrops (this album threatened to put me to sleep a few times), but there admittedly isn’t a wide emotional range covered with the tracks here. Even “the murder,” which introduces electronic elements, sounds kind of bubbly. The tracks are also a bit on the short side at generally under two minutes in length.The vocal themes are pretty good. “World End,” which acts as the main theme, is the most adventurous of the pack, while my favorite track, “Crystal Clear,” acts as one of the character’s ending themes, throwing in a funky bass line and some snappy percussion to mix things upOverall, this is some great music by Elements Garden. Even if I never play the game, I can appreciate what they’ve done, but it is a bit weak in terms of variety.MUSIC GUNGUN! Best Hit Tune!Release Date: August 31, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)Availability: Limited (Amazon JP)Artist(s): Various ArtistsThis is the soundtrack to MUISC GUNGUN!, an interesting arcade rhythm game where you shoot things in time with the music. The game was released by Taito and featured a lot of original pop and rock tunes along with arrangements from various videogames. With Taito’s relationship with Square Enix, there are also tracks by Takeharu Ishimoto (The World Ends With You) and Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII). Get ready for some upbeat pop, rock, and electronic music with interspersed vocaloid.Honestly, only a few of the originals stuck out to me. I loved "Beat the Sound" with its grungy rock sound, the super catchy “MUSIC STAR” which is sticky sweet in its pop incarnation and equally hip when it later gets a rock version. There’s a cool rock track that reminds me of Castlevania, but two of the highlights are “Dreamer” by Takeharu Ishimoto, which sounds like it’s right out of The World Ends With You, and "Shooting Star" by Masashi Hamauzu, using his signature strings and electronics with Mina (see our Black Ocean review) on vocals.In terms of remixes, they’re all fairly straightforward. There’s Bubble Bobble, which I love, complete with the hurry up jingle and increased tempo, as well as Elevator Action, the popular horse race jingle, and lots of other classical tunes that include a rock version of “Air” by Bach and an electronic “Swan Lake.”Overall, there wasn’t a lot here that stuck with me. The major things that caught my interest were Hamazu and Ishimoto’s involvement and the remixes. While the former are great, they only get a single track each, and the later aren’t worth the asking price.[embed]244687:46956:0[/embed]Sengoku BASARA HD Collection Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 5, 2012Price: 2,500 Yen ($27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsFor the uninitiated, the Sengoku Basara franchise tends to feature a lot of Japanese-flavored rock. That is, lots of chugging and wailing electric guitar with the addition of Japanese instruments like the shakahauchi and koto. This album, which is a companion piece to the HD collection (containing three HD remakes from the franchise) is no different, but the great thing is that the focus of these soundtracks is on character themes, so they really explore a lot of territory trying to give each character a distinct personality through their theme.The album sports everything from rock with orchsetral influences to pumping electronic tracks, playful jazz, and more. I would say that while the 36 tracks featured tend to be on the shorter side, at least there's a lot of variety. The guitar work throughout is quite nice, although the strings aren't very convincing, having a distinctly retro quality that I actually found quite enjoyable. This music, like the game, doesn’t take itself too seriously.There’s one track with a bumping electronic bass that had me thinking of Ninja Gaiden, while a jazzy tune with a walking bass line and big brass and a foreboding track with guttural electronics and a defiant French horn really stood out. There’s some organ, drum 'n' bass, and even a romantic cue thrown into the mix as well.This album is a good pick up for those who haven’t explored the music of Sengoku Basara before, while those who already own some of the previously-released soundtracks may just see this as a way for Sony to milk more money out of music they’ve previously released. Be that as it may, I like it.Wizardry Online Original Sound TrackRelease Date: November 7, 2012Price: 3,300 Yen ($36)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Akimasa Shibata, Kenji ItoWe’ve mentioned Wizardry Online a couple times recently. What you have is the classic dungeon crawler, now online, and man, the music is fantastic.After a sweeping orchestral theme by Kenji Ito (Romancing SaGa series), there are all the typical RPG trappings, including soothing town themes, dark and foreboding dungeons, heart-wrenching ballads, and an occasional playful moment here and there. It’s all wonderfully produced, and a lot of what’s here takes on a rather ominous tone that I think is perfect fit for the Wizardry franchise.There are some exotic twists thrown into the mix, including several tracks with tribal chants and rhythmic percussion, as well as a few Western-sounding soundscapes, and these are also enjoyable. The end of the album goes out with a bang, introducing some more action-oriented pieces that combine orchestral and electronic elements that really get the blood pumping.There are several tracks that really stand out on this soundtrack. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of music from Wizardry or RPGs in general. There’s over an hour and a half of music to enjoy, so dig in!
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Soundtracks you should be listening to!
Do you like Final Fantasy music? This month we're reviewing both Final Fantasy Orchestral Album and Final Fantasy Vocal Collection, both of which we've been greatly looking forward to. We're also looking at the latest DJMAX t...

Note Worthy 011: Twilight Symphony, NSMBU, NESteryears

Jan 18 // Jayson Napolitano
GROOVE COASTER ZERO ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: December 5, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis is the soundtrack to Taito’s latest tap-based rhythm game for iOS, Groove Coaster Zero. Following in the footsteps of Groove Coaster, there are a number of electronic tracks up on offer, but the catch this time is that there are a number of big-name composers involved.In-house ZUNATA composer COSIO handles many of the tracks, bringing a dreamy electronic soundscape to the title with original tracks like “Eclipse Landscape” and remakes of tracks from the original Groove Coaster, of which his “Invader Disco (GCZ Edition)” is probably my favorite. And if you ever wanted an electronic remix of “Star-Spangled Banner,” COSIO has you covered here. Artist Shohei Tsuchiya, also of ZUNTATA, gives us the house-tinged “Sleep” and one of my favorite tracks, “Kannanshinku (GCZ Edition).”Regarding the special guests, Squre Enix’s Mitsuto Suzuki starts us off with a weird bassy rap that is a bit too strange for my tastes, while electronic master Shinji Hosoe gives us a fun ethnic-tinged track. Masashi Hamauzu gives us his signature sound with vocals by Mina in “Shooting Star (GCZ Edition),” while fans of The World Ends With You will enjoy Takeharu Ishimoto’s “Dreamer (GCZ Edition).”This is a decent collection of a music, but for 14 tracks totaling less than 30 minutes of music, $9.99 is a bit steep. Still, if you enjoy the game and want to take the tunes with you, here it is.[embed]242324:46375[/embed]Halo 3: ODST Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 22, 2009Price: $15.98Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePardLet’s take a look back at Halo 3: ODST, which came to us back in 2009 with a very different gameplay style and accompanying soundtrack. Lead composer Martin O’Donnell made it no secret that film noir was one of his influences for this score, and that comes through right from the start with a seductive saxophone calling out from beneath the sound of rain. The soundtrack is also considerably more emotional and character-driven than those that came before it. Of particular note is the title’s main theme, which comes as broody and simple, yet instantly catchy, making it a great thing that it’s repeated so frequently throughout the score. There’s a contemplative version with a repetitive bass line in “More Than His Share” that I love, along with a badass rock version in “Traffic Jam.” There’s sexy and seductive in “Neon Night” and “Bits and Pieces,” and a desperate version found in “The Office of Naval Intelligence.” The ominous and windy version in “One Way Ride” and the cool electronic version found in “The Light at the End” also stand out.But enough about the main theme. There are tons of great moments here, including the guttural opener, “The Rookie,” the Daft Punk-esque electronics found in “More Than His Share,” and the emotional piano, strings, and saxophone track, “Deference for Darkness.” There’s the Halo-standard tribal percussion and rock in “The Managerie,” and some lovely distant electric guitar wailing in “Asphalt and Absolution.” “Special Delivery” acts as sort of a climax along with “Finale,” and both provide for an epic ending.I wrote previously that the Halo: Reach was one of my favorites in the series. I stand by that, but Halo 3: ODST was something new and entertaining all the same. It’s worth checking out for those yearning to dig back into Halo music of old.[embed]242324:46358[/embed] Nanosweep 14 / overdrive hell 7: Hizumi Tengoku to Kanja no IshiRelease Date: August 13, 2012Price: 500 Yen ($6)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): SuperSweep Alright, it’s about time I get to talk about Nanosweep and overdrive hell from SuperSweep. In case you haven’t heard of SuperSweep before, the studio is headed up by electronic extraordinaire Shinji Hosoe who’s one of the most prolific composers and arrangers in the business. Just look at his VGMdb profile here. He’s worked alongside Ayako Saso and many others over the years on a variety of game soundtracks, but every once in awhile the team releases a set of original compositions events throughout Japan for cheap.Nanosweep encompasses electronic music by a bunch of Ridge Racer guys, including SuperSweep and Namco Bandai’s Hiroshi Okubo. This edition gets five tracks starting with the super cool and icy “Blue” by Okubo, the deep funk “Luz” by Ryo Watanabe, the racey “Deep Freeze Gun” by Hosoe, a club tune with vocals called “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” by Saso, and a pounding and chaotic “Welcome(flex)” by SuperSweep’s Takahiro Eguchi.[embed]242324:46356[/embed]Now, overdrive hell on the other hand is an electronic music experiment that’s not for the faint of heart. Lots of sampling of vocal snippets, throbbing percussion, hammering synth lines, and vulgar titles are its hallmark. The tracks are titled in sequential ‘lessons’ with lesson 27 through 30 found here. Track titles include “Harry rage of kidney stones,” “Beat Malfoy diarrhea,” and “Dudley fart dance” this time around. I can’t say much stuck with me from overdrive hell 7, but I found the weird folky acoustic guitars in “Beat Malfoy diarrhea” and the emphasis on the lower end in “Dudley fart dance” that sounds… well, farty, to be humorous.These discs are hard to come by outside of Japan, but are worth having a friend pick up if they go to game music events where SuperSweep is on hand.[embed]242324:46355[/embed]NESteryearsRelease Date: January 3, 2013Price: $10 (physical) / $7 (digital)Availability: BandcampArtist(s): bLiNdIf you don’t recall, bLiNd’s DJ set at MAGFest 11 was one of my favorite performances of the event. Most of what was performed came from his recently-released album, NESteryears.Now, if there’s one thing you need to know about bLiNd, it’s that he’s one of the best remixers out there doing electronic music, and you can bet there are a lot of those. What makes his work so great is that he takes liberties with his arrangements, transforming them in unexpected ways so that even those you’ve heard remixed a million times sounds fresh and amazing.And that’s the genius of NESteryears. There are a lot of game music standards here, including the Super Mario Bros. world 1-2 theme, “Vampire Killer” from Castlevania, “Wily 1” from Mega Man 2, “Title” from Metroid, and the fight theme from Punch Out! However, there’s always a spin on the melody, a shift in the bass, or an unexpected breakdown that really adds something entirely new. His tasteful use of sound effect sampling will also bring a smile to your face on more than one occasion.Some remixes are from lesser-known but equally awesome sources. Take “Death Mountain” from The Legend of Zelda. Who remixes that? Prepare yourself for this dubstep-meets-rock arrangement that will have your subwoofer rumbling. From there, “Killer Seaweed” from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will blow your mind with its dreamy electronic ambiance, and “Moonstyle” from Ducktales (one of my favorite songs of all time) will have you bopping your head with the beat. And the Pac-Man remix? It’s weird as hell.All of the tracks on this album are pure magic, and it comes in at nearly an hour in length. Stream it below and on Bandcamp, then buy it! I can’t wait to call this one out as one of my favorites of 2013 when the end of the year rolls around![embed]242324:46357[/embed]New Super Mario Bros. URelease Date: N/APrice: N/AAvailability: In-gameArtist(s): Shiho Fujii and Mahito YokotaWhen a new Mario game comes out, I’m always interested in hearing what they do with the music. While the Super Mario Galaxy titles have featured some of the best music in the franchise, the New Super Mario Bros. titles have been somewhat lackluster in the soundtrack department over the years, so would the Wii U get something new and exciting to show off the system’s audio capabilities?The answer is simply no. I think most fans are already aware that most of the game’s music was re-used from previous New Super Mario Bros. titles, which is really a huge missed opportunity. With Mahito Yokota on board (the primary composer of Super Mario Galaxy), I had high expectations, but even the borrowed material wasn’t all that great to begin with. The main theme is new, but doesn’t really do much to capture me with its melody.While the game’s soundtrack is a disappointment, I will say that from a sound design perspective, the team at Nintendo has done a lot of fun things with the game’s audio. Take, for instance, the added musical backing when riding Yoshi or the singing of baby yoshi. These are new sounds that were not featured in previous Mario titles (the singing baby yoshis are particularly adorable), but I can’t say this is new. Also, the dancing coins found in a few stages and the enemies stopping to dance along with the melody, while cute, are also borrowed from past Mario titles. Still, I appreciate the interactive themes used in the game’s sound design.Much as people complained about re-used visual assets in the game, I’m just as let down by the audio, but I hope this means that Yokota is busy on the next major Mario or Zelda title given he didn’t contribute much, if any, new music to this game.PixelJunk Eden + Encore ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: February 2, 2012Price: $5.99Availability: SteamArtist(s): BaiyonI’ve heard a lot about PixelJunk Eden and its soundtrack created by artist Baiyon. It’s not really fair to simply call Baiyon the game’s composer, however, as he was also involved with the game’s visuals, which, in my opinion, are inseparable.Included here are the soundtracks to PixelJunk Eden and the DLC content. I happened to give this one a listen before playing the game and thought to myself, “Okay, this is some pretty authentic house music.” There isn’t much in the way of melody, so I didn’t find myself hooked like I had expected. I’d describe this soundtrack as heavy chillout music for the most part, which I found matched perfectly with the game’s psychedelic neon-colored visuals when I finally got around to playing it. As far as outside listening is concerned, however, you’re not going to find a lot to drag you in, but it does make for great electronic music if that's your thing.The problem for me is that I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the game. As such, I’m not the biggest fan of the game’s soundtrack. I did enjoy “Flat frog” with its ribbit-like sounds in the background and the jazzy “621 Balena,” but I think this one may be best reserved for those looking for some experimental electronic chillout music, and more importantly, those who loved the game.The PixelJunk Eden soundtrack was released on CD back in 2008, but this release encompasses the DLC content. Unfortunately it’s only available on Steam to those who purchase the game, which is fine given that the music is best enjoyed in the context of the game.[embed]242324:46376[/embed]RAIL CHASE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: July 27, 2011Price: 2,625 Yen ($30)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Kouichi Namiki, Hiro Prepare yourself for the excitement that is Rail Chase! I’ve never seen this arcade (maybe it was only in Japan?), but apparently somebody loved the music enough to warrant Sega releasing a soundtrack album to celebrate the series (yes, there are three Rail Chase titles).What you’ll care about is the original Rail Chase soundtrack which is composed in classic Sega fashion with fantastic melodies, and oddly, track names in Spanish. The pumping boss themes are particularly cool, but everything here is great.Rail Chase 2 gets an upgraded sound, but most of the melodies are uninspired with tracks making use of strange samples that are more annoying than entertaining. There’s “Dark Beat” that reminds me a bit of Ninja Gaiden and the dancey “Runnin’” that I enjoyed, and there’s even an unused track titled “Devil’s Factory” that is more pop-tinged with strings and tribal percussion accents. The final game in the set, Rail Chase The Ride Eiyuu Fukkatsu Hen, gets the cinematic orchestral treatment with a pretty snazzy main theme that is repeated throughout. “Setting Off” stands out for sounding almost like a Zelda field theme.The booklet features some funny promotional art and shots of the arcade machines. Unfortunately Sega doesn’t sell many of their smaller CDs like this through major outlets, so it is a little hard to come by. Really, though, $30 isn’t worth what’s here. If this ends up on iTunes, I recommend checking out the original Rail Chase soundtrack for some classic Sega goodness. Saturday Morning RPGRelease Date: TBAPrice: TBAAvailability: Not for saleArtist(s): Vince DiCola and Kenny MeriedethSurprise! Vince DiCola is working in videogames.In case you didn’t know, Vince DiCola is the man behind the Transformers animated movie soundtrack and Rocky IV, and is one of my musical heroes. His signature progressive rock sound with heavy electronic bass lines will probably remind you of the ‘80s, but I think it’s great even today, and his work has been cited as a major inspiration to composers including Jake “virt” Kaufman and many others.Saturday Morning RPG is an episodic indie game that pays homage to the 1980s, and DiCola and his writing partner Kenny Meriedeth’s soundtrack couldn’t be more appropriate. Those familiar with his work on the Transformers animated movie will be right at home from the time the main theme kicks in with a beautiful marriage between synths and live guitar work. From there, several upbeat tracks are featured, but my favorites are the heavy rock-oriented battle themes as well as his rock variation of a track titled “Castle of the Gods.” You gotta love that deep electronic bass that DiCola is best known for, and his use of rock organ in one track will have you thinking of more modern acts like Nobuo Uematsu’s The Black Mages/Earthbound Papas.Exploring new territory, the sleek and smooth “Power Plant” impresses with its sexy guitar work and snappy percussion, while “Saved by a Bell” explores pop territory with bell tones and deep reverb over a warm melody.I can’t be more excited that DiCola is getting involved in games. As more episodes are released, more music will be out there, and we hope that a soundtrack release will be prepared. In the meantime, enjoy the samples below and tell us how awesome it is. And check out the game itself here.[embed]242324:46372[/embed]The Legend of Zelda: Twilight SymphonyRelease Date: Early 2013Price: $49.99 (physical) / TBA (digital)Availability: Sold out (physical) / Digital retailers (TBA)Artist(s): ZREOAfter being involved with the reveal of this massive undertaking both at OSV and Dtoid, the release of Twilight Symphony, an impressive three-disc orchestral re-imagining of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’s soundtrack is finally upon us.To really appreciate this album, you’re going to need to listen to it in its entirety. It’s emotional, fun, dark, and epic, just like the game. Unfortunately the game never received a proper soundtrack release, but after listening to this, I’ve come to realize that this was the way to go. Even if the soundtrack were to be released today, it would sound dated, and so this re-imagining which uses high-end sample libraries augmented with live performances and choir is truly the best way to experience this soundtrack.Right from the opening “Overture,” which visits many themes from the game, you know you’re in for something special. I love the whimsical “Ordon Village,” the wonderful guitar work in “Ordon Ranch,” the beautiful and mysterious “Midna,” the nostalgic “Hyrule Castle,” and the dark and moody “Light Spirit’s Message.” The epic take on “Hyrule Field,” the gentle and sweet “Kakariko Village,” the moody guitar work in “Gerudo Valley” and the soothing piano found in “Rutela’s Wish” are all highlights of the album. On the topic of piano, “Midna’s Lament” comes as a gorgeous piano concerto, and the surprisingly tumultuous “Princess Zelda,” foreboding “History of Light and Shadow,” and majestic “Fishing Hole” were unexpected treats.There are many epic cues that come in towards the end, and it’s obvious a lot of the recording budget was used here. I was never a big fan of the broodier Zelda stuff, but as far as the listening experience, this brings us to the climax quite nicely. The ending theme meanders through several tracks, tying everything together.I’m so thrilled to see this album finally on the horizon. I know fans are going to love it, and it's great to see such a massive undertaking by what amounts to a group of hardcore Zelda fans with some amazing musical talents.[embed]242324:46361[/embed]The World Ends With You (Subarashiki Kono Sekai) -Crossover-Release Date: September 20, 2012Price: 1,890 Yen ($24)Availability: Square Enix e-Store JapanArtist(s): Takeharu IshimotoFor those who were excited about The World Ends With You Crossover for iOS, this album’s for you. It contains ten tracks spanning almost 45 minutes that includes everything from remixes and originals featured in Crossover to remixes from the recently-released Kingdom Hearts 3D soundtrack.Yes, The World Ends With You was featured in Kingdom Hearts 3D, and three key tracks received new remixes, including “TWISTER,” “SOMEDAY,” and “CALLING.” The latter is probably my favorite as it’s the most different from the original with dreamy bell tones and a more synth approach. It’s nice to see these here for fans who love The World Ends With You but don’t care for Kingdom Hearts (what kind of person is this, you ask? Why, me!).The two Crossover remixes of “TWISTER” and “DTM” are also great, with new vocals. The nearly seven minute-long “DTM” is particularly cool with its new duet between male and female vocals.The new tracks are the highlight, however. I love the pop-oriented “Jump Over Yourself,” the grungy “TATAKAI” with a chorus section that reminds me of Faith no More, and the guttural and high energy “MMM / The World Ends With You.” My favorite track on the album, however, is “RUN AWAY,” mixing piano, glassy and filtered synth lines, and English vocals that turn from melancholy to inspirational. It’s worth checking out.Overall, this is a solid collection, but unfortunately Square Enix hasn’t made it widely available. Hopefully it’ll hit e-Stores outside Japan in the near future.
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Soundtracks you should be listening to!
This sounds like the Nintendo edition, doesn't it? Don't worry, we also have other cool stuff like The World Ends With You -Crossover- and Saturday Morning RPG, the soundtrack you never knew you wanted.There are a lot of big ...

Note Worthy 010: Black Ops II, Final Fantasy, Mega Man

Dec 18 // Jayson Napolitano
Bar Oasis Official BootlegRelease Date: September 2012Price: FreeAvailability: Bar Oasis Facebook Fan Page (promotion over)Artist(s): Nauts We covered Bar Oasis 2 in Note Worthy 005. It offered some great pop, jazz, and electronic music from Korean composer Nauts for the bartending/relationship simulation title Bar Oasis. We loved the music and recently caught wind of the Bar Oasis Official Bootleg being offered to fans who interact on the Bar Oasis fan page on Facebook. The album contains ten tracks, with seven alternate mixes coming from Bar Oasis 1 and 2, and three new remixes for this release. The seven remasters take the best of the first two soundtracks and add some reverb, making them much more wide and open. There's also a "bar version" of the lovely vocal theme from Bar Oasis 2 that sounds like it was recorded live in a bar. The three new remixes start with "Brazilian (Alt Ver. Feat.SPIKE)," featuring some great acoustic guitar work as opposed to the original's more electronic sound. The melancholy "Fill in This Black" from the original Bar Oasis gets a more upbeat take in "Fill in This Black (Delinquent REMIX Feat.EQP)," giving it some snappy percussion and a nice swing. Finally, "To the Oasis" is a beautiful solo piano recording combining the vocal theme, "OASIS," with the main title theme. This is more great stuff from Korean composer Nauts, although the promotion to obtain the release has ended. We'll keep an ear out for where to find it again, but in the meantime, enjoy a streaming sample of "To the Oasis" that we've been able to host. [embed]240764:46117:0[/embed] Call of Duty: Black Ops II SoundtrackRelease Date: November 13, 2012Price: $11.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Jack Wall, various others I've never played a Call of Duty game, but I am glad I got to see my brother-in-law play some Black Ops II over the Thanksgiving break. Even without seeing the gameplay, Jack Wall's cool electronic, orchestral, and ethnic world music fusion would have been amazing, but in the context of all the cool futuristic gear and varied locales of the game, the soundtrack is even better. The digital album features 49 tracks that come close to the 150-minute mark. There's a lot of music to enjoy, including everything from tense combat and cool espionage cues to more ambient exploration themes. It's all great, and what I love most is that you'll be listening to something out of the African desert at one moment then from the deep jungle during the next. It makes for a varied and entertaining listening experience even without playing the game. I love the moody main theme, "Theme from Call of Duty Black Ops II," which is actually composed by Trent Reznor. Before you balk, there are no cheesy vocals, which was a wise decision -- it's perfect. "DeFalco's Theme" is easily my favorite with its flanged synths and guitar, creating a dark and ominous atmosphere, and the desert-themed "Farid" gets some serious badassness going with its hip percussion paired with ethnic guitar playing. You even get some Mozart in here which will hopefully introduce the kiddies out there to REAL music. In all, this has to be my favorite Jack Wall score to date. It's fantastic, and you need to check it out whether you play the game or not. [embed]240764:46121:0[/embed] CODE OF PRINCESS SOUND & VISUAL BOOKRelease Date: October 9, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Pre-order bonusArtist(s): ACE Code of Princess had me really excited at E3 2012, making my list for top soundtracks from the event. With music composed b ACE, a two-member group that worked extensively on the Xenoblade soundtrack, I had some high expectations. This eight-track sampler comes with pre-order versions of the game along with accompanying artwork. After a bombastic and triumphant main theme, the album visits a number of character themes including the upbeat and vibrant "Holy Princess (Solange's Theme)" and the stereotypical desert-tinged "There's Nothing I Can't Steal (Ali's Theme)," which is actually quite good and sounds like something out of Wild Arms. The beautiful yet unsettling "Queen Distiny (Distiny's Theme)," which makes use of bell tones and choir, and the sleek Asian-flavored "Shooting Star Tsukikage (Tsukikage's Theme)" round out the character theme selections. From there, we get the playful and catchy "Band of Thieves" with a fun trumpet melody, the soothing "Calm Day," and the rockin' battle theme, "Turn It Up!" The selections here are great, although hardcore fans will want to seek out the full two-disc soundtrack release from Japan. It's unfortunately sold out and out of print as far as I can tell, so this sampler may be the best option if you can still find one given the pre-order period is over. [embed]240764:46119:0[/embed] COZMO ~ZUNTATA 25th Anniversary~ [Limited Edition]Release Date: October 31, 2012Price: 5,040 Yen ($61)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): ZUNTATA ZUNTATA may not be a household name, but it really should be. Alongside the important internal sound teams of the day, including Falcom's JDK Band and Konami's Kukeiha Club, Taito's ZUNTATA group got its start over 25 years ago, responsible for titles in the Ray, Darius, BUST-A-MOVE, and Space Invaders franchises, among many others. This album celebrates 25 years of history with a special collection of music (two discs for the regular edition, four for the limited edition). The first disc features 12 original tracks composed by ZUNTATA members past and present with the theme "Cosmos" in mind. This is, of course, right up the alley of many of these composers, as Taito has been heavy on the shmup genre. I love the silly spoken intro and smooth electronic elements in "Candy Bomb" by Ray series composer TAMAYO, as well as the abstract "World collapse" by Darius Burst's Shohei Tsuchiya. The second disc acts as a "best of" collection, which is great for the uninitiated as it introduces the listener to the diverse offerings ZUNTATA has made over the years. There are too many cool tracks to mention individually, but I do have a soft spot for the track from Raystorm, "Intolerance," as it is really one of the coolest boss themes ever. The third disc, exclusive to the limited edition, contains rare, remixed, and unreleased tracks. There are tons of great material from Dariusburst, some cool Japanese-flavored material from The Legend of Kage, some rock from Pierrot World, and a lost ten-minute remix from the Raystorm Nue Tanz Mix album, which is really a cool treat given my love for that game in particular. The fourth disc features live talk with ZUNTATA composers in Japanese from a recent USTREAM event. And there you have it. The bonus discs are worth the small bump in price, and long-time ZUNTATA fans will certainly want to jump on this along with those who want to learn more about ZUNTATA's history. The packaging is quite nice with tons of commentary from the composers (again, in Japanese). [embed]240764:46122:0[/embed] FINAL FANTASY TRIBUTE ~ THANKS ~Release Date: December 5, 2012Price: 2,857 Yen ($34)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various Artists We posted about this two-disc collection of Final Fantasy arrangements some time ago, and now it's finally here. This album falls into the middling SQ remix album series; in fact, four of the tracks here are actually from previous SQ album, which is somewhat of a bummer. The album sports tons of medleys covering everything from the original Final Fantasy through XIII. For the most part I remained unimpressed, especially with the grating bagpipes in one track, the minimalist whistle arrangement of "Battle on the Big Bridge," and the lisp-y version of "Melodies of Life" that would have otherwise been a beautiful track. While these are annoying, others are simply unremarkable, including an arrangement of my favorite track from Final Fantasy VII, "Lifestream" (although the artist gets major kudos for picking this track). As for what they've done right, there are some great Celtic arrangements to be heard, including a lovely version of the town theme from Final Fantasy III along with a rockin' take on "Crystal Tower" and a dubstep "Forbidden Land." The dance-infused versions of "A Fleeting Dream" and "At Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X are also nice, as are a grungy medley of battle themes from across the series and a trippy "Man with the Machine Gun" that transitions into a cool space funk version of the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. My favorites are a dreamy medley of town themes from Final Fantasy I-III, a laid-back and moody rock medley from Final Fantasy VI, and a swingin' piano and guitar track from the original Final Fantasy, all which are amazing. The album sports some great artwork, including sprite versions of more modern Final Fantasy characters, and first press editions come with a nice plastic sleeve. CD Japan is also offering fans the option to purchase the disc along with the customer bonus disc found exclusively at Village/Vanguard stores in Japan, although it will set you back $60 total. Overall, this is a somewhat hit-or-miss collection of tracks, not unlike past SQ albums. [Sound Samples] [embed]240764:46123:0[/embed] Initium SquaredRelease Date: September 17, 2012Price: $5Availability: BandcampArtist(s): Alexander Brandon This is an interesting release. I've been a big fan of Alexander Brandon since his days in the demoscene, where he was known as Siren, quickly becoming one of the most popular artists at a very young age. Since then, he's found his way into games, having works on titles including Unreal and Deus Ex, as well as delving into sound design and voice recording. Initium Squared is actually an interactive audio demo from his sound studio, Funky Rustic. As you explore the pretty-looking fantasy world, you hear Brandon's music, sound design, and vocal work on display. The soundtrack is being sold separately on Bandcamp, and it encompasses a lot of different styles, as you'd expect from a demo. You have bumpin' electronic with a tinge of dubstep in "Kusanagi's Parkour," which keeps the wub wub at a minimum and is actually quite tasteful, while cinematic orchestral is explored in "Dragon Chase," gritty rock in "Filled with Fire," ambient electronic/fantasy fusion in "Palatial Caverns," and cool and contemplative in "Resolution Part 1." My two favorites, however, are the acoustic guitar-laden "Is Nothing Sacred" with its desperate melody and the scintillating "Citadel Undulation" which features a blaring synth melody. All of this is great, although short at 15 minutes in total. But if you're a fan of Alexander Brandon and want a taste of just a few of the styles he's capable of, check it out. Check out the interactive demo as well -- it looks beautiful. Jet Set Radio Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 18, 2012Price: $15.64Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Hideki Naganuma, Richard Jacques, Toronto Jet Set Radio is a much-beloved game that maybe hasn't aged so well. Still, the funky hip hop beats and chopped-up vocal snippets still make for a unique and fun listening experience. This album combines tracks form the original Jet Set Radio as well as Jet Set Radio Future to celebrate the recent digital release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The bad part is that neither soundtrack is presented in its entirety, making this more of a "best of" compilation of sorts. It all begins with the irreverent and playful "Let Mom Sleep," working in a series of sound effects and a British woman saying, "Would you stop playing with that radio of yours? I'm trying to get to sleep." It's quirky but strangely memorable. The super smooth "Sweet Soul Brother" is one of my favorites, while the bouncy "Rock It On" introduces CURSE WORDS. The ominous electro-choral track, "Grace and Glory" stands out for its weirdness, as do the digitized vocals in "Teknopathetic." The disco "Sneakman" is another favorite, and British composer Richard Jacques even gets in on the action with "Everybody Jump Around," that fits right in with Hideki Naganuma's work. In all, this is a great album for the uninitiated and for those who are having trouble tracking down the individual Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future albums released in the early 2000s. Re:Birth II / Romancing SaGa Battle ArrangeRelease Date: August 29, 2012Price: 3,000 Yen ($36)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Kenji Ito How many times can I listen to this album before writing about it? This is what I thought to myself on the fifth listen-through. As the title suggests, this album takes battle themes from the Romancing SaGa franchise and gives them the live rock treatment. The problem is that most of these games were never released in the United States, so I never had the chance to take them in one by one. As a collection, they come off as a bunch of cool rock arrangements of tracks that were already cool and rock in style to begin with. With this live performance upgrade, you'll probably like the album if you liked the original source material. There are good moments found across the album, including the playful "Magical Tank Battle," the dirty jazz "Occult Castle Battle," and the epic "Four Demon Nobles Battle Medley" from Romancing SaGa 3, as well as the desperate "Believing My Justice" and "Decisive Battle! Saruin" from Minstrel Song. The contemplative closer, "Seven Heroes Battle," is also a nice touch. But the problem remains that among the great guitar solos and great technical rock, I haven't really walked away with anything from this album in terms of a memorable melody, even after repeat listens. Still, Romancing SaGa fans will definitely want this. Just because I never latched on to the Romancing SaGa series doesn't mean there aren't fans out there who haven't. This album is for them. [Sound Samples] ROCKMAN EXE TRANSMISSION SOUND TRACKRelease Date: November 2, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, Yousuke Yasui[Update: CD Japan has since started stocking this item as a regular item, and no longer requires the 2,000 Yen special order fee. Thanks for pointing this out, Don!]  This is really awesome. Rockman EXE Transmission (Network Transmission outside of Japan) never received a proper soundtrack release, which was a huge shame given the amazing talent behind its soundtrack. Fortunately, SuperSweep has come to the rescue with this album at long last, and it will blow your mind. SuperSweep is the master at electronic music, and they don't disappoint here. But don't believe for a moment that the rock-oriented stuff you've come to love from Mega Man isn't here either. There's a nice blend of rock, electronic, and pop to enjoy, all of which are wonderfully composed. I would say that there are times that it feels like you're listening the a shmup soundtrack (SuperSweep is famous for this style), but it's so good that you probably won't mind. To zip through a few of my favorites, the juicy synth pop "Peaceful Event," the super upbeat and futuristic "Densan Area," and the playful space adventure "Waterworks Cyberspace" should all catch your attention. The real highlights, however, are the rockin' "Internet on Fire" with amazing guitar shredding and an instantly catchy melody, the heavy and foreboding "Zero Account" with its pressurizing bassline, and my absolute favorite, "Zero Gravity Area." The latter brings a funky edge to Mega Man that I never knew he needed, working in dreamy synth lines, snappy percussion, killer sweeps, and a melody that's been stuck in my head for over a week. Unfortunately, the album's only available through SuperSweep's store, but CD Japan is doing a special order because they know this will be a popular item. The cost of that service, however, is 2,000 Yen on top of the item price, so it's quite hefty but worth it for true fans. [Hear "Zero Gravity Zone" in Sound Card 011] ZONE OF THE ENDERS ReMIX SELECTIONRelease Date: October 30, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited Edition bonusArtist(s): Various Artists So this is complicated. To celebrate the Zone of the Enders HD Collection release, Konami put together a remix album containing 13 songs, which was sold separately. Then they packed in a disc with the LE version of the game containing exclusive arrangements not found on the remix album. The North American version, however, received a different pack-in containing eight of the 13 remixes from the standalone album. Confused yet? I've been playing through some Zone of the Enders now that the HD Collection is out. I can't say the music is overly memorable, but it certainly is great for setting up the futuristic world of the game. Therefore, the remixes here are fairly mood-setting more than anything else. This is stuff for the dance floor with a few exceptions. Fans will appreciate the Gradius boss theme cameo in "Leo! Leo! (Smooth Remix)," the great melodic moments in "Compression Space (Evocation Mix)," and the tumultuous "Chaotic Fight (Firework DJs Remix)." My favorite, however, is the trance remix of the vocal theme, "Beyond the Bounds (Eshericks Remix)." There's a nice blend of strings and electronic elements along with exotic female vocals and warm English vocals. Maybe some will think it's cheesy, but I think it's the highlight of the disc. So check out the HD Collection, and if you want an awesome package, pick up the LE and get this soundtrack disc along with other goodies. The box itself is quite impressive as well.
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We're back with another round of Note Worthy! Featured are a number of releases that we've talked about in the past, including the Bar Oasis Official Bootleg, Code of Princess, Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and Rockman...

Note Worthy 009: Halo 4, Rock Man, Bravely Default, ACIII

Nov 15 // Jayson Napolitano
25th Anniversary Rockman Rock Arrange Ver.Release Date: October 10, 2012Price: 3,150 Yen ($40)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsWe’ve mentioned the Rockman 25th anniversary arrange albums a couple times now. They’re finally here, providing a tasty dose of arrangements from the core Rockman series, covering everything from the original up through Rockman 10. The rock album does a great job bringing in live electric guitar among other instruments, and will sufficiently rock your socks off. LivestRow, a rock band comprised of members of Basiscape, starts us off with a fantastic medley from Mega Man 1-3, combining live guitar, bass, and synth with 8-bit sections that definitely have me wanting to hear more from the group.Mega Man 2 gets lots of attention with a medley that visits some under-appreciated themes, while Hitoshi Sakimoto tackles “Metalman,” providing some convincing alternative metal while obscuring the melody to ensure you’re hearing something you’ve never heard before. Finally, “Wily 1” has to be attempted, with Kenji Ito taking honors by bringing in rock guitar, orchestral hits, and a playful and funky organ that makes this one of the most interesting arrangements of the track I've heard.To rattle off a few more, I love the dingy Western-style “Darkman Stage” with a flute-like synth lead and acoustic guitar, the loungy “Dr.Wily Stage1 from ROCKMAN8,” the upbeat “Galaxyman,” and the female vocal accompaniment of “Splash Woman.” “Solarman from ROCKMAN10” gets an ethnic desert vibe in what’s one of the most authentic and epic rock experiences on the album, courtesy of Yoshitaka Hiroto, before “Wilyboss Medley” comes in equally powerful. The album closes with "Ending from ROCKMAN3," a moody arrangement with female vocal yelling and again, great guitar work.There’s a lot here to like. The artists don’t shy away from the real stuff, shredding through the series and serving up some great arrangements that you’ll want to check out if you’re a fan.[Sound Samples]25th Anniversary Rockman Techno Arrange Ver.Release Date: October 10, 2012Price: 3,150 Yen ($40)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsHere’s the other half of the Rockman 25th anniversary arrangement albums. Our review of the rock album is above, so I’ll say that while there’s a lot more fluff on this album that didn’t really stick with me, the tracks I do like are probably my favorites from across the two albums.I’ll start with what I like. Nobuyoshi Sano, who you may know from Ridge Racer and other titles, gives us pumping bass in “Title~Opening & Ending Medley from ROCKMAN1,2,” while Masaharu Iwata introduces an 80s vibe with funky bass and fun synth lines in “Hardman~Snakeman Medley from ROCKMAN3.” I don’t even really know Hardman’s theme, but I love it here.The F-Zero-esque drum ‘n’ bass in the Darkman arrangement and Far East Recordings’s “cool” take on the strange “Dr.Wily Stage2 from ROCKMAN9” are awesome, but the star is, of course, Shinji Hosoe with “Mr.X Stage from ROCKMAN6.” His arrangement also delves into the 80s with some tasty synth pop, complete with octave-jumping bass, digitized vocal phrases, and thick synth chords with reveberating belltones, synths, and snare. It’s great!In terms of what I didn’t care for, the stage select medley tried to cover too many themes in too little time, while the Mega Man 2 medley was too slow and subdued to get my blood pumping. Hitoshi Sakimoto’s “Pharaohman~Skullman Medley” is dark and bassy, but is repetitive and doesn’t do much over the course of five minutes, and the obligatory “Dr.Wily Stage1 from ROCKMAN2” (on every 20th and 25th Rockman arrange album) doesn't add anything new.I’d say most fans will want to pick up the rock version. However, Hosoe’s track and the Hardman arrangement in particular are awesome and worth checking out also.[Sound Samples]Assassin's Creed III Original Game SoundtrackRelease Date: October 30, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Lorne BalfeIt’s always a bummer when a composer who’s been with a series from the beginning is dropped in favor of a Hollywood hot shot, but it’s hard to be mad this time around when the Assassin’s Creed III soundtrack is so good. I refer, of course, to series composer Jesper Kyd who co-composed Assassin’s Creed: Revelations with Lorne Balfe (a team member of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions) only to be replaced by him entirely for this game.The music, however, is simply amazing. I would say that while the game’s setting is Colonial America, you only periodically get a sense of that, as most of what’s here is either cool, minimalistic electronic music or big orchestral/electronic hybrids. The game’s powerful main theme is a perfect example of the latter, and sets the stage for the memorable score that follows.There are tons of great tracks, and I can’t really due them justice here in this review. However, the foreboding-turned-tense “Welcome to Boston,” the searing “A Bitter Truth,” the explosive “Trouble in Town,” and the soothing “HomeStead” are all wonderful. The heavy “Modern Assassin” and the melancholy “Desmond’s Destiny” also struck me, although the playful vocal track, “Needle and Stitch” will probably be most memorable among fans.My personal favorite is “Through the Frontier,” an instant classic that incorporates exotic chants, tumultuous strings, and an pleasantly moody melody.While I haven’t dabbled much in the Assassin’s Creed universe, I’ve loved its music. Balfe does a fantastic job and creates what is easily one of my favorite soundtracks of the year.[embed]238477:45773[/embed]Bravely Default Flying Fairy Original SoundtrackRelease Date: October 10, 2012Price: 3,200 Yen ($39) Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): RevoThe announcement of Bravely Default Flying Fairy was a pleasant surprise. The announcement that Revo would be handling the soundtrack was another. For those who are unfamiliar (as I was), Revo is founder and head of the Japanese project group, Sound Horizon, which has produced a number of highly-acclaimed concept albums in the past.This soundtrack in particular is a curious one as it attempts to give listeners that traditional JRPG sound with rockin’ battle themes and fantasy-tinged dungeons and towns, etc. while raising the bar on quality by bringing in a huge group of live performers. He’s even brought on Motoi Sakuraba who you may know from Dark Souls or the Star Ocean and Tales franchises.There’s a big bombastic orchestral opening theme that admittedly doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it does demonstrate that melody plays a huge role on this soundtrack. The whimsical “The Beginning Country,” the adventurous “Horizon of Light and Shadow,” the sweeping and emotional “The Day the Wind Blew,” the ethnic “The Fascinating Flower Country,” and the jubilant flight theme, “Ship Soaring Through the Heavens,” all stand out. My personal favorites are the serene “Silence of the Forest” and the more foreboding “Cave of Darkness” dungeon themes, however.But then there’s plenty of catchy rock, including “Conflict’s Chime” with its powerful brass accompaniment, the lightning-fast “That Person’s Name Is,” and the flamenco-flavored “Love’s Vagrant.” The end of the two-disc soundtrack features some of the best, with several lengthy rock fests that really hit the spot and close out the album on a high note. The final word comes as vocal ballad between Revo and Joelle (from Final Fantasy XIII-2) incorporating the main theme.In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack with some excellent packaging. Check it out and join me in hoping this game leaves Japan.[Sound Samples]Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two Original Game ScoreRelease Date: November 13, 2012Price: $7.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Jim DooleyJim Dooley returns to score Epic Mickey 2, bringing more musical wonder and the addition of musical numbers that really give the album a distinct Disney quality.Before we get into those, however, the rest of the music will also put you in a Disney frame of mind with the opening theme, “Yen Sid's Lab,” bringing in a nostalgic Disney theme. The remainder of the score visits the spectrum from whimsical to mischievous that you’d expect from an adventure starring Mickey Mouse. On the whimsical side, “Autopia Exploration” is probably my favorite with its playful horns and adventurous strings. I admittedly found myself more drawn to the mischievous tracks, however, including the foreboding and desolate “Mean Street,” the spooky “Floatyard” (my favorite track on the album), and the tumultuous “Dioramas.” The tense music that accompanies the final area, accented by the sounds of ticking clocks, is also great.And about those musical numbers. There are a good six or so of them here, which help tell the game’s story through its music, which is a nice touch. They’re tasteful and entertaining with clever lyrics, and are the highlight of the album. Bits and pieces of the lyrics are also used in the final track on the album, a heavy electronic remix titled “A Heroe's Second Chance,” that, while cheesy, is intentionally so, and is still fun to listen to in context.Overall, This is a great score thanks to the added musical numbers. Fans of Disney will definitely want to check it out even if they skip the game.HALO 4 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK SPECIAL LIMITED EDITIONRelease Date: November 6, 2012Price: $74.99 (LE) / $13.99 (standard, physical), / $9.99 (standard, digital)Availability: Halo 4 SoundtrackArtist(s): Neil DavidgeThis is easily one of my most anticipated soundtracks of 2012. I loved the Metroid-esque stuff I was hearing in the E3 build earlier this year, so I had high expectations for this soundtrack release. It mostly delivers, providing a cool blend of electronic-infused orchestral music that, while different from what’s come before, still feels at home in the Halo universe that I know.The introductory track, “Awakening,” is one of my favorites, with chugging synth lines, big orchestral stabs, and a great piano/synth melody that sets the tone for the rest of the album. With only fifteen tracks, however, don’t expect this to be the entirety of the game score, which is where a tinge of disappointment comes in on my part. I loved what I was hearing in-game, but there are mostly big cinematic cues found on this album, probably giving us a musical walkthrough to the game’s story as opposed to getting into the detailed ambiance of the Halo 4 universe.Still, there’s a lot to like, including the emotionally sweeping “Requiem” and “To Galaxy,” the expansive then tense “Haven,” the sleep-inducing “Solace,” the dark and ethereal “Immaterial,” and the bittersweet “Green and Blue.”The limited edition boasts a second disc full of remixes that actually stand out even further in my mind. If you think the OST is too cinematic, the remix disc goes in a much more hard-hitting electronic and melodic direction. All of it’s gold and worth checking out, but I will call out “Awakening,” ” Ascendancy (Matt Lange Remix),” the hip-hop style “Green And Blue (Andrew Bayer Remix),” and the rockin’ Apocalyptica version of “The Beauty Of Cortana” as my favorites. Our unboxing video shows off all the contents, and the included hour-long DVD also gives a lot of information about Neil Davidge and the score.[embed]238477:45774[/embed]Ragnarok Odyssey Original SoundtrackRelease Date: October 30, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Mercenary Edition bonusArtist(s): Kumi TaniokaHopefully you’ve already read and listened to our feature on this game’s music. Kumi Tanioka, while not soundTeMP by any stretch of the imagination, does Ragnarok Odyssey her way, infusing a sometimes-tense and sometimes-whimsical fantasy backbone into the game. I do love the distinctly “gamey” sound with a emphasis on great melodies which is what Ragnarok Online’s soundtrack was all about.After a bombastic opener, we get into the good stuff with the upbeat and adventurous “Shining Plains” and the more exotic “Ydalir Grand Canyon” and “Leading the Giants” with some lovely woodwinds calling out into the distance. There’s the contemplative “Gaze Upon the World Tree,” the measured yet dreamy “Astride the Flying Steed,” the minimalistic “The Depths of a Dark Love,” and the “Eagle-eye Throne” with some great synth choir. The sleep-inducing new age “Yggdrasil” is another great moment on the album, as is the sweet Celtic ballad that explodes into the main theme, “Ragnarok Odyssey,” which closes out the album.Things get more tense with rapid string stabs and explosive percussion in “Truth of the Sundered Land” and the “dirty” and grungy “GREN/DEL” is probably my favorite track on the album. There’s also the dark and foreboding “The Ruins of Glast Heim” and the epic finale found in “From the Edge of Vigridr” and “Twilight of the Gods.”In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack, and is worth the extra $10 alone for the Mercenary Edition of the game which also includes trading cards and a strategy/art book.[embed]238477:45775[/embed]Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Original SoundtrackRelease Date: June 19, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Michael BrossOkay, so Jim didn’t like Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One very much, and yes, the game’s old news, but the game’s soundtrack composed by Michael Bross was just released a few months back. Given Bross’s involvement with amazing Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath soundtrack, I went into the All 4 One soundtrack with high expectations.Those specifically looking for the gritty electronic stylings found in Stranger’s Wrath may find themselves disappointed. Bross has really embraced the lighthearted nature of the Ratchet & Clank franchise and has adopted a more cinematic orchestral approach that fits this franchise quite nicely, but rest assured, he also works in a healthy dose of electronics to lend the soundtrack a cool edge overall.This combination of cool electronics and bombastic orchestral elements is displayed right out of the gate with the hard-hitting “All 4 One” main theme. It sports a great melody that that is suitable for a superhero.[embed]238477:45784[/embed]The synth-heavy “Luminopolis Rooftops” is another highlight along with the more measured “Journey Through the Forest” which features some lovely belltone arpeggios. The majestic “Vertigus Cliff,” the sneaky “Interlopers,” the tense Hollywood espionage “We Descend” and “Polar Sea,” and the spacey “They Came During the Night” also tie in electronic elements very tastefully. Coming in towards the end, the minimalistic and contemplative “Terawatt Power Station” will remind you of some of Bross’s solo electronic work, which is a nice touch.The verdict: maybe the game wasn’t worth your attention, but the soundtrack is worth checking out if any of the iTunes samples catch your fancy.[embed]238477:45785[/embed]Takeaki Kunimoto WORKS ~Hitsuji no Oka~Release Date: August 3, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Takeaki KunimotoSuperSweep strikes again with its WORKS series, highlighting an important figure in game music that many may not have heard of by name. Takeaki Kunimoto is known for his work on early Hudson titles, and more specifically on Star Solider, Milon’s Secret Castle, Mickey Mousecapades (LOVED this game!) and Bomberman. This album features live performed arrangements of music from some of these games along with original tracks.The album’s ten tracks are performed live. The recording isn’t as clear as one might hope, almost sounding like a bootleg recording, but this does lend the album a certain retro charm.  It’s also interesting to note that among the large list of performers is Shawn Phase of Temp Sound Solutions, which is a surprise.Kunimoto’s originals cover a lot of different territory, from the jubilant opening track that uses squeak toys as an instrument and a poppy vocal theme to a heavy electronic track (still focusing on an upbeat melody) and even a smooth jazz track with some live sax.The remixes are equally fun, with the Challenger track opening with the sound of blowing into a cartridge before guitar carries the listener through various themes, and Star Solider getting an introductory 8-bit intro before some big space rock kicks in. Hector ’87 starts with sexy electronic piano and funky bass before wailing electric guitars come in to electrify the atmosphere, and Milon’s Secret Castle works 8-bit sound effects into the acoustic guitar and vocal children’s song.This album is a lot of fun despite the sound quality and 35-minute play time. It’s a shame it’s not cheaper to allow for more accessibility, but if you’re a fan of any of the titles featured, this may be worth checking out.[embed]238477:45776[/embed]TIME TRAVELERS Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 8, 2012Price: 3,500 Yen ($42)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Hideki SakamotoKnow Hideki Sakamoto? You should. Everything he touches turns to gold. He’s best known for echochrome, but his studio, noisycroak, has been behind a string of amazingly well-produced soundtrack releases, several of which we’ve covered in Note Worthy, including his amazing rock band, TEKARU, which covers his game works.Time Travelers is a three-disc soundtrack with a lighthearted approach, tackling lots of emotional ballads and comical tunes that exaggerate the musical themes of heroism and silliness. This is best highlighted through the game’s many vocal themes, including the instantly catchy “Dr Schrödinger, tell me please? (Mikoto's Theme),” an upbeat rock tune that was covered on TEKARU MECHANICAL. There’s also a great electronic vocal theme, and two strange male vocal themes with lyrics in heavily-accented English that are sung in a weird way that somehow meshes with the rest of the material on the album.Other exaggerated themes include the generic “Love Ballad” that sounds like it was written on a Casio keyboard, and “An American Joke” which tackles patriotic American music. There are some breaks into more electronic-oriented themes that go for atmosphere and are a bit on the repetitive side, as well as jazz and some other unsettling pieces here and there, but the stars are the previously-mentioned vocal themes and the orchestral ballads. There’s tons of live music here, and the effort really shows through the quality of the music.This is definitely worth checking out if you’re a Sakamoto fan or if you want to get more into his works. I don’t know if this is the best starting point for the latter (echochrome ii is probably my favorite work by Sakamoto, and earned him a world record for longest game music song ever).
Latest Soundtracks photo
Soundtracks you should be listening to!
We're back to our regularly-scheduled Note Worthy with reviews for a number of highly-anticipated albums this month. I've been greatly looking forward to the Halo 4 soundtrack, and we have impressions of the entire contents o...

Note Worthy 008: Final Fantasy 25th anniversary special

Nov 02 // Jayson Napolitano
A Decade of Final Fantasy XI: Vana'diel Festival 2012Release Date: June 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited (VanaFest 2012 giveaway)Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, The Star OnionsThis is a special disc of music distributed at the VanaFest 2012 event in Japan. It contains eight tracks with half being performances by The Star Onions (a band created by Final Fantasy XI composers to perform music from the game) and the other half coming from various soundtracks for the game and expansions.All of this music has been released before, but I enjoy how the tracks selected maintain an upbeat mood that I think is indicative of the game. The contemporary smooth jazz stylings of The Star Onions are perfectly accented by the original soundtrack selections, making for an easy listen. I also like the fact that this isn’t really a “best of,” as some more obscure pieces were also selected.For those who are interested, here’s the track list: “Vana’diel March,” “Metalworks,” “Eastward Bound…,” Rapid Onslaught –Assault-,” “Fifth Ode: A Time For Prayer,” “Mithra,” “Griffons Never Die,” and “The Forgotten City - Tavnazian Safehold.”Unfortunately since it was distributed as a gift at VanaFest 2012, it’s kind of hard to come by. But don’t fret, if you have the two albums by The Star Onions and the main Final Fantasy XI soundtrack, you already have this music.FINAL FANTASY 25TH ANNIVERSARY SQUARE ENIX MUSiC COMPOSERS’ SELECTION CDRelease Date: September 1, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Limited (Final Fantasy 25th anniversary event giveaway)Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Junya Nakano, Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masashi HamauzuThis is an interesting promotional disc that was given to fans who purchased 3,000 Yen worth of goods at the Final Fantasy 25th anniversary event in Japan back in September. Each composer involved with the core Final Fantasy franchise was invited to select their favorite track to be presented on this disc, and while most collectors will already have this music, it’s worth checking out which track each composer selected.Nobuo Uematsu picks “Tina,” or “Terra’s Theme” as we know it, the Final Fantasy VI overworld theme. I have no argument there, as it’s really one of his best, although I thought he’d go with Final Fantasy VIII since he’s said in the past that it's his favorite.Junya Nakano, who has the most limited experience working on the series (he contributed a small part to Final Fantasy X) offers “Summoned Beast Battle,” while Final Fantasy XI duo Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka take straightforward picks with “The Federation of Windurst” and “The Republic of Bastok,” respectively.Hitoshi Sakimoto does a good job with “The Dalmasca Eastersand,” a great example of his work and one of the best tracks from Final Fantasy XII while Masashu Hamauzu goes with Final Fantasy XIII’s battle theme, “Blinded by Light.”The picks are interesting, and the booklet included has a brief paragraph from each composer about their respective pick. Unfortunately the disc is probably not going to be seen again with the event being over, but maybe we can get an official translation if you guys are interested.FINAL FANTASY VII CHIPSRelease Date: September 19, 2012Price: 4,100 Yen ($51)Availability: CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): (S_S), MJ & DJ OMKTAfter what I viewed as the success of Final Fantasy XI Chips, Square Enix has followed with Chips albums for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, and X. Before you balk at the price, this is a special order because it’s currently only available through Square Enix’s e-Store in Japan, although there are plans to offer these albums in other regions at a more reasonable price.Jumping in, there are ten arrangements covering close to 40 minutes of music. Although I say arrangements, these are better appreciated as “demakes,” as there isn’t really a whole lot of interpretation or flair despite the involvement of (S_S) of SEXY-SYNTHESIZER who can usually get a crowd going (he does insert little flourishes here and there to remind you he’s there, though).If you’re okay with that approach, this album is a lot of fun, and nearly every high point is visited. “Opening ~ Bombing Mission” will still send chills down your spine while the measured pace of “Those Who Fight,” the slow simmer of “Turks’ Theme,” the crunchy percussion of “Crazy Motorcycle,” the range of “Cosmo Canyon,” and the swagger of “Those Who Fight Further” should all bring a smile to your face. While there’s no “One-Winged Angel” (which I’m okay with), we do get “J-E-N-O-V-A” and the awesome “Birth of a God.” My favorite track on the album, however, is the emotional roller-coaster, “Staff Roll,” which makes me wish I could play an 8-bit Final Fantasy VII just to be rewarded with this track at the end.This is short but sweet. Uber fans may want to pay the price for the import (the special order includes international express shipping, so you can pile up on a big order and not only save, but get it in a jiff), but I’d say you can probably wait for this to hit a Square Enix e-Store near you, whenever that may be.FINAL FANTASY VIII CHIPSRelease Date: September 19, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)Availability: CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): BOKKADENcI, KPLECRAFTHere’s Final Fantasy VIII Chips, which gets two more high-profile remixers on the scene to provide 8-bit versions of your favorite tracks. Whereas VII Chips was straightforward, the artists inject a little more style into this album.I’ve never given a damn about “Liberi Fatali,” but the bassy evil pirate jig arrangement here is at least interesting. I love the layering in the overworld theme, “Blue Fields,” the slow and almost tribal “FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC,” and the dreamy “Fisherman’s Horizon,” which I contend to this day is one of Uematsu’s greatest compositions. You’re also going to love the extremely quirky “The Castle” and the nearly 13-minute long “Ending Theme” which incorporates a crunched and digitized 8-bit vocaloid version of “Eyes on Me,” which is cute.The highlights, however, are the battle themes. The main battle theme, “Don’t Be Afraid,” and the boss battle theme, “Force Your Way,” are lumped into an amazing medley with some great rhythmic variation that will have you bopping your head along, and the transition between the two pieces is the encounter jingle from the original Final Fantasy. Clever!On the topic of the original Final Fantasy, “Man With the Machine Gun” gets original Final Fantasy-esque bass blended into the memorable Laguna battle theme. Finally, “The Extreme” is just as epic as the original with its lengthy build up and even some battling going on towards the end with the insertion of sound effects.Overall, even though I like the Final FantasyVII soundtrack better, Final Fantasy VIII Chips is the superior album, and should be appreciated by fans looking to get an 8-bit fix off their favorite Final Fantasy VIII melodies.FINAL FANTASY IX CHIPSRelease Date: September 19, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)Availability: CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): (S_S), ajiponn, Xinon, mochilon, Far East RecordingAnd we’re back to straightforward 8-bit demakes for the most part. After Final Fantasy VIII Chips’s more arrangement-oriented approach, I was expecting more from Final Fantasy IX Chips, but if you’re looking forward to authentic 8-bit versions of your favorite tracks from the game, this album has you covered.There’s a simple rendition of “A Place to Call Home” which is actually off of the SQ Chips Preview Mini Album, which is great because fans who didn’t pick up that Japanese exclusive can now enjoy the track here. It does, however, give listeners a taste of the straightforward approach of the album. The energetic battle theme is here, as is the emotional “Roses of May,” the gritty “Gulug Volcano” (actually an arrangement from the original Final Fantasy), and the desperate “Not Alone,” a fan-favorite which is great in any way, shape or form.The highlight of the album is actually a bubbly version of the overworld theme, “Over the Hills,” which sounds like it could be right out of a NES-era RPG. It has a great swing and some added percussion that lends the piece a nice punch, providing one great arrangement for this album. The bumpin’ percussion in “Aboard the Hilda Garde” also stands out as something different.There’s not much to say about this one. If you love the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack, pick it up. The “Over the Hills” arrangement is fantastic, and the rest should be enjoyable to those who know their way around the original soundtrack.FINAL FANTASY X CHIPSRelease Date: September 19, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)Availability: CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): ASAGEN, MJ & DJ OMKT, W2X, Bun, KPLECRAFT, Xinon, BOKKADENcII did not like Final Fantasy X. I did not like the soundtrack either. However, somehow, this album brings out the best tracks and corrects issues I had with their original counterparts, perhaps aided by the technical constraints of chip music.“At Zanarkand” starts us off and gets a healthy dose of reverb and some tasty delay on the bass that makes it so spacious and wonderful, and the slower and more contemplative version in “Ending Theme” is also fantastic. Next, “Prelude,” which marked a radical change for the series, is presented here in al its bubbly 8-bit glory. In terms of battle themes, “Normal Battle” and “Seymour Battle” both take a straightforward approach, really sounding like something you’d here on the NES (although I could do without some of the dissonance in the former). “Otherworld” on the other hand, gets some excellent bass and a distorted lead in place of the annoying vocals from the original.“Song of Prayer,” a bassy choral track I hated in the original game after hearing it too often during the annoying trial portions of the game is presented here with an arpeggiated melody that is encompassing and comforting. Finally, the weird “Mi’hen Highroad” gets an awesome schmup-styled outer space arrangement during the chorus section that caught me off guard.In all, I really loved this album. It’s better than the OST in my opinion, and fans of the game, its music, and chip music will want to check this out.FINAL FANTASY XI CHIPSRelease Date: July 13, 2012Price: 4,177 ($53)Availability: CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): Various ArtistsWe are republishing this review to appear alongside the other Chip albums, and to describe it in similar terms, this one's pretty true to the OST. The problem that some of chip arrangements get into is trying to be too complex, so these are a nice treat for those who loved the original melodies.You have the classic and memorable march followed by SEXY-SYNTHESIZER’s medley of the town themes, which is easily the best track on the album. “Airship” from Final Fantasy XI has always been one of my favorite Uematsu compositions, and the version here is absolutely delicious. “Mog House” is another favorite of mine, and while a chip arrangement sounds and is rather strange, I have to say I’m glad it’s here. Both battle themes presented are straight to the point, but great, and the “Shadow Lord – Awakening” track is gritty and dirty, and makes a much better 8-bit track than I would have ever expected. DIRTY-SYNTHESZIER closes with “FFXI Opening Theme,” complete with digitized choir.I really dig this CD. So for that reason, it’s unfortunate that Square Enix is distributing it more widely. It’s available in Japan via their e-Store, which only ships to Japan. CD Japan is doing special orders, but it’ll cost over double the normal price for them to secure a copy for you. Still, it’s a great CD for hardcore FFXI fans and chiptune connoisseurs.FINAL FANTASY XIV - Eorzean FrontiersRelease Date: September 1, 2012Price: $11.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, Ryo Yamazaki, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Naoshi MizutaWell, it’s finally here, but not really in the form any of us were expecting. After the interesting Hot Pocket-styled mini album releases a couple years back, we finally have a more complete Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack, but only in digital form. Nobuo Uematsu is joined by several other Square Enix composers for over three hours of music, and I’ll say it’s a mixed back.Most of my favorite tracks actually come from the mini albums. The moving piano melody from my favorite track, “Twilight Over Thanalan,” is simply beautiful, while other field themes, including the laid back and jazzy “The Twin Faces of Fate - The Theme of Ul'dah,” the adventurous high-fantasy epic, “On Windy Meadows,” the triumphant march “Navigator's Glory - The Theme of Limsa Lomisa,” the lullaby-esque “Emerald Labyrinth,” and the mischievous “Born of the Boughs - The Theme of Gridania” all still stand out among the album’s 38 tracks.Similarly, from the battle mini album, the heavy synth rock “Quicksand” and “Desert Moon Defied” are still two of the best on offer. Fortunately Uematsu’s amazing 12-minute long “Tempest” and Masayoshi Soken’s organ-infused rock track, “Fallen Angel,” also add something new in the rock department.Other highlights not found on the mini albums include the upbeat jazz track, “Starlight and Spellswords” (cool title!), the bass jumpin’ “Conflagration,” the Panzer Dragoon-esque “Whisper of the Land,” the ethnic desert track, “Pitfire,” and the spooky “Tears for Mor Dhona.” I must also mention Soken’s “Good King Moggle Mog XII,” which comes as a The Nightmare Before Christmas vs. “Mog’s Theme” hybrid with silly vocals, and, of course, the lovable “Mog’s Theme” as its foundation.There’s a lot to like here, but again, most of my favorite tracks come from the previously-released mini albums. Even more, some of my favorite tracks form the mini albums are not found here. It’s still unknown as to whether Uematus’s score will be carried over into A Realm Reborn, so we’ll have to wait and see.In the meantime, this offers three hours of music for only $11.99 on iTunes, which is a good deal.Piano Collections FINAL FANTASY XIIRelease Date: November 7, 2012Price: 2,800 Yen ($35) (stand-alone) / 5,250 Yen ($66) (with OST)Availability: CD Japan (stand-alone) / (with OST)Artist(s): Casey Ormond, Hitoshi SakimotoWe recently mentioned this album, and while everyone chimed in that they were hoping for an HD re-release of FFXII, I couldn’t be more happy to finally get this album. Not only is Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Final Fantasy XII soundtrack highly underrated, but it’s the only Final Fantasy title without a piano arrange album, and I’ll take partial credit for finally making it happen (read here)!The Final Fantasy XII soundtrack was certainly a regal and mature affair. It wasn’t as bouncy and melodic as previous outings which is why it takes more effort to find the musical gems hidden within. Arranger and pianist Casey Ormond does a great job highlighting some of the key story elements as well as the game’s most memorable melodies.The more serious side is presented through the powerful “Opening Movie (Theme of FINAL FANTASY XII) ~ The Dream to be a Sky Pirate” and the dastardly “Theme of the Empire.” The latter’s arrangement sports tons of staccato (short) notes that remind me a lot of Kefka’s theme.On the melodic front, we get the popular “The Dalmasca Eastersand,” but in a more upbeat form. “Penelo’s Theme” is as infectiously happy as you’d expect, and the bubbly arrangement of “Near the Water” is my favorite moment on the album with Ormond having a lot of fun with the rhythm. “A Moment’s Rest” also does some interesting things rhythmically, showing off Ormond’s skill, and the bass-heavy “Rabanastre Downtown” approaches funky jazz territory. The closer, The Skycity of Bhujerba,” is appropriately reflective, giving listeners a last look back at the world of Final Fantasy XII.The album’s biggest surprise, “Eruyt Village,” trades the beautiful harp arpeggios and encompassing pads of the original for a much more interpretive approach from Ormond. The result, while impressive, obscures the original melody, leaving me a bit disappointed.Overall, I couldn’t be more happy that this album has finally been made. It can be picked up alone or in conjunction with the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack which also comes highly recommended.SQUARE ENIX MUSiC SAMPLER CD Vol.7Release Date: September 20, 2012Price: Not for SaleAvailability: Tokyo Game Show 2012 giveawayArtist(s): Various ArtistsEvery year for the past several years at Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix has given away a free sampler CD to anyone making a purchase at their merchandise store. These contain samples from Square Enix’s upcoming music releases, and this year proved no different, featuring lots of Final Fantasy lovin’ given the franchise’s 25th anniversary is this year.The unfortunate thing is that, by now, many of these albums are already released. We have Final Fantasy Legends, which was actually released in 2010 in Japan, but recently hit iOS and Droid. The music by Naoshi Mizuta is fantastic, and worth looking into. Then there’s a weird Nightmare Before Christmas vs. "Mog’s Theme" in “Good King Moggle Mog XII” from Final Fantasy XIV, a dancey remix of “Twister” from The World Ends With You -Crossover- for iOS, and a lengthy rock adventure from Bravely Default.The big surprises here, however, come from the final three tracks. “The Dalmasca Eastersand” from Piano Collections Final Fantasy XII is quite lovely, providing a gentle touch the bold theme. A big band performance from Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- of the Final Fantasy main theme also appears, although I think I’ve heard enough arrangements of this theme to last a lifetime. Finally, there’s a sample from an album titled Military Tune that we still know nothing about. The pumping trance remix of my favorite track from Dewprism is a pleasant surprise, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about this CD, as it seems like it could be an SQ-style album.Unfortunately these discs are handed out at TGS then tend to disappear, but it should still give you a preview of what to expect from Square Enix music through the end of the year.
Final Fantasy Music photo
An entire issue dedicated to Final Fantasy!
Wait a second, didn't we just run an issue of Note Worthy two weeks ago? Well, we did, but there have been so many Final Fantasy music releases over the past couple of months that we've accumulated an entire issue's-wort...

Note Worthy 007: Borderlands, Pandaria, Double Dragon

Oct 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Borderlands 2 Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 18, 2012Price: $15.59Availability:Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, Jesper Kyd, Raison VarnerI loved the original Borderlands soundtrack. One of the most amazing things about it was that it brought together a large and varied group of composes and still managed to sound cohesive. Jesper Kyd (Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed series), Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan, and Raison Varner all return for a second course, and it once again doesn’t disappoint.Think of the soundtrack as a dark, gritty electro-Western. Twangy guitars are featured prominently, and there’s a healthy dose of reverb applied to give the entire soundtrack a wide open feel. Classic Western moments come in on tracks like “Lynchwood” which also features cool pitch bends and warbling ambiance and “Fyrestone” with a deserted and dusty feel. “Sanctuary” is also another standout with phasing electronics to give the track a more ethereal vibe.“Dam Top” and “Glacian” are a bit more on the cool synthetic side, while there are some light dub step elements (never overdone) in the final boss theme and the “Vog Fight.” Other highlights include “Main Menu” with some nice panned guitars, the dancey “Bandit Slaughter,” and the unsettling “The Fridge,” which sounds like it could have been pulled directly from a horror flick.I recommend checking this out even if you’re not going to play the game. It’s good music.Double Dragon Neon Official SoundtrackRelease Date: September 11, 2012Price: Name Your PriceAvailability: Bandcamp Artist(s): Jake “virt” KaufmanMind blown. I had high hopes for the Double Dragon Neon soundtrack upon hearing that Jake “virt” Kaufman was scoring it. I imagine it was a dream come true for him to work on such a classic franchise with such a strong musical heritage, and the team at Way Forward pulled out all the stops to ensure he could do it justice with lots of live studio recording and vocal work.Vocal work, you say? Yes, but it’s actually tasteful. As tasteful as super cheesy 80s pop, surfer rock, hair metal, rap, and more can be, at least. Best of all, everything is incredibly well-produced, sounding like something right off of an 80s album.Right from the opening orchestra hits in the “Title Theme,” a remix of the classic Double Dragon theme (which gets an amazing synth choir version later), you know you’re in for a treat. There is a nice blend or remixes and originals, although I’d argue the originals are better. I love “Neon Jungle,” a female pop track, and “Countryside” gets into super sexy synth funk while “Glad I Am” will have you singing along for weeks. Also, the sweet electric piano ballad, “Marian’s Theme?” Awesome![embed]236641:45422[/embed]The soundtrack ends with a series of “mix tapes” that accompany in-game tutorials. These are one of the best things about the soundtrack. While short (less than a minute in length), they go to great lengths to reference everything 80s including: Guns 'N' Roses, Beastie Boys, Rick Astley, Depeche Mode, and more. These are often hilarious, especially the fun and feel-good "Training Wheels" about childhood memories of riding a bike without training wheels before immediately falling, smashing your teeth and fracturing your jaw. And how about kicking cops in the gonads?[embed]236641:45423[/embed]This is easily Jake Kaufman’s best work to date, and one of the best soundtracks released all year. And it’s Name Your Price. GET IT NOW!Etrian Odyssey IV SUPER ARRANGE VERSIONRelease Date: September 5, 2012Price: 3,150 Yen ($40) Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Noriyuki Kamikura, et al. I loved Yuzo Koshiro’s new approach to Etrian Odysesy IV. Out with the PC-88 FM synthesis, and in with live performers. However, while an FM arrange album is still on the way, the obligatory “Super Arrange Version” album has been released, this time headed up by former Basiscape composer Noriyuki Kamikura and friends (some JDK Band folks and Masashi Hamauzu, among others).There’s a lot of rock arrangements here that, while good, don’t really do a whole lot for me. “Battlefield – Storm,” which I’ve previously raved about, is probably my favorite of that bunch. There’s swingin’ jazz with some awesome bass runs, epic orchestral works by Yukihiro Jindo of JDK Band, and a piano solo piece that puts me to sleep every time I listen to it by Final Fantasy XIII’s Masashi Hamauzu. My favorite tracks, however, are the dreamy opening theme which gets a contemplative arrangement and a seductive sax accompaniment, an upbeat pop arrangement of the first labyrinth theme with female vocals, and a funky fresh take on my favorite theme from the original score, “City of Radiant Ruin” (awesome track title too). While this version also takes a contemporary jazz approach, the addition of English vocals by Anemone of blue chee’s and the more pop-leaning arrangement are fantastic.While this album provides an eclectic group of remixes, they’re all well done, and if you loved the original soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to pick it up along with the FM synthesis version being released later this month.HornRelease Date: August 13, 2012Price: $5Availability:BandcampArtist(s): Austin WintoryWell, Austin Wintory is following up his score to Journey here, so there’re likely a lot of high expectations for his score for the iOS title Horn. It’s an iOS title, so I wasn’t expecting miracles, but surprisingly, Wintory brings in live orchestra and session players for what turns out to be a nice little ‘journey’ into another world.It’s a good thing I like the game’s main theme, “Horn,” a whimsical piece with a lovely woodwind melody. I say it’s a good thing because it finds its way into several pieces throughout the score, mostly in the form of adventurous, drum-laden variations, including “The Final Trial” towards the end of the album that particularly stands out. I really love tracks like the moody and emotional “Cuthbert” and the ethnic-tinged “Westernesse,” but a number of the tracks here are a bit too minimalistic to hold my attention. I imagine these pieces are great at setting the mood in the game, but I found myself listening to three or four tracks in in a row without realizing I was on to something new.Overall, I love the main theme and the tracks where it’s later used, but this one may be best enjoyed within the context of the game itself.[embed]236641:45424[/embed]Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition Compilation SoundtrackRelease Date: September 16, 2012Price: $39.99Availability: RetailArtist(s): HAL LaboratoryOkay, so Kirby’s Dream Collection makes me realize I’ve missed out on way too many Kirby games. I loved the first Kirby’s Adventure game and its music, but somewhere down the line I guess I strayed. Well, this collection can catch me up not only on some of the games in the series, but also the music. The game comes with a soundtrack disc featuring music from the original Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on the Wii, and even throws in some remixes.The reason this collection is so important is because there’s very little Kirby music available on CD. What little there is is mostly limited to hard-to-come-by Club Nintendo Japan releases. Most Kirby titles are represented with anywhere from one to four tracks from 16 titles.You’ll get lots of classic “Green Greens” and “Fountain of Dreams” from various games, but the catchy tracks from Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Adventure 3 are some of my favorites. The funky “The Last Iceburg” from the latter is one of my favorite tracks here with its distinct Earthbound-tinged sound. Kirby 64 gets a little more serious, making me want to play the game to find out why that is, while Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land’s “Tower of Midbosses” gets a fun Asian vibe going, Air Ride gets some big orchestral arrangements, and Canvas Curse offers up a perfect organ piece titled “Drawcia Sorceress.” Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land both offer up some fantastic melodies with a more modern sound. There are the standard arrangements which are great, but I really love the epic ending theme from Return to Dream Land. The remixes are also really cool, with a barely recognizable “Electro Kirby” and even a chamber orchestra version of “Green Greens.”I don’t think Kirby fans are aware of how important this CD is. The fact that it was brought over to the US is a big deal, so thank your lucky warp star and pick up this collection for some great games and music!POWER DRIFT ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: April 27, 2011Price: 2,625 Yen ($33) Availability:SEGA Store JapanArtist(s): hiroPower Drift is a strange racing title from Sega that was released first on arcade in the 1980s then again on the Sega Saturn. It featured a bizarre cast of racers seemingly drawing on American stereotypes and featured a soundtrack composed by Sega legend hiro. This music has been released several times over the years, and the latest re-issue here gets a few new bonuses.The album features the both the arcade and Sega Saturn ‘arrangement’ versions of the soundtrack that come in at about 30 minutes a piece. I can’t say this is hiro’s best work, as the arcade version in particular sounds rather muddled with the hectic flurry of guitar, bass, and percussion going on. My favorite track, “Silent Language (Course C),” reminds me of Sega’s glory days with its incredibly catchy melody and measured pace, and it seems to be a Sega favorite as well as there’s a special arrangement tucked away at the end of this album that commemorate this re-issue. The name entry track, “Diversity” is also a lot of fun. Unfortunately not much stands out to me (especially the Sega Saturn version, which is fleshed out a whole lot more than the arcade version). There’s an unused track thrown into the mix, but it doesn’t amount to much.For the price, you may want to consider something else. But if you played and enjoyed Power Drift, it may be worth picking up. Unfortunately Sega music releases are notoriously difficult to find since they’re sold exclusively through Sega’s online store in Japan.Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.1 ~Dragon Spirit~Release Date: October 28, 2012Price: 2,940 Yen ($35 USD)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Shinji HosoeContinuing SuperSweep’s “Works” series (we covered Manabu Namiki’s first volume in our debut Note Worthy entry), SuperSweep leader Shinji Hosoe gets his moment in the spotlight. This two-disc album pays tribute to one of his best and earliest works, Dragon Spirit. This is the original arcade version soundtrack with all its retro goodness intact, including the jubilant “Area 1,” the poppy “Area 3,” the desperate “Area 6” (my personal favorite), a foreboding final stage theme, and some excellent boss themes. Even better, “Area 6” and “Area 3” both get remix upgrades that are exclusive to this album.Disc two features two lesser-known works by Hosoe, Assault and Quester. The latter is only four minutes in length total and likely won’t stand out to listeners, but Assault (co-composed by Kazuo Noguchi) offers some great moments. After a spacey intro track by Hosoe, a number of great melodies follow by Noguchi including “Lift Down” and the funky “BGM 1.” Hosoe returns for “BGM 4,” a measured synth rock adventure in space. This is good stuff.While SuperSweep’s releases are generally hard to come by, this album is available for import from CD Japan. Those seeking out the Dragon Spirit soundtrack in a physical will definitely want to pick this up, as previous CD versions are hard to come by (last printing I could find on VGMdb was from 1989!).Also of note is the fact that virt was originally announced to be contributing an arrangement to this album, but that didn’t end up happening. You can still check out his great rock remix from 2004 on his website, however.Sword Songs ~ FINAL FANTASY XI Battle CollectionRelease Date: June 26, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi TaniokaSimply put, this is a compilation of battle themes from Final Fantasy XI to commemorate ten years of the game. There’s just an under an hour of music here, and most of it has been released on other collections. Additionally, many of the tracks are for major boss battles, which very few regular battle themes being present (the opening “Battle Theme” is an important exception as one of my favorite themes from the game, period).Although many of these battle themes were on the recently-released Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack PLUS CD, I still love “Shinryu” with its amazing chorus section, “Awakening” which I recently learned to love through play Theatrhythm, and the upbeat “Mercenaries’ Delight.” The final track, “Provenance Watcher” is a bonus track that I can’t identify (I admit I didn’t get too far in Final Fantasy XI), but I can’t say that it’s terribly exciting.Hardcore fans of Final Fantasy XI who don’t already own a lot of the previously-released Final Fantasy XI material may want to check this out, as these boss battle themes in particular should remind them of some of the most epic moments in the game. Casual fans may want to pass on this one for the asking price.TEKARU MECHANICALRelease Date: September 26, 2012Price: 1,500 Yen ($19)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, TEKARUOkay, so I instantly became a fan of TEKARU, composer Hideki Sakamoto’s synth rock band, after listening to TEKARU TECHNICAL earlier this year. The problem? It clocked in at just over 20 minutes in length. TEKARU MECHANICAL follows up with something a little more substantial (still under the 40 minute mark) with performances of tunes from the noisycroak team’s Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru (featured last month), 428 ~Fuusasareta Shibuya de~, Ragnarok ~Hikari to Yami no Koujo~, and TIME TRAVELERS.Yes, none of these games should be overly familiar to anyone, but that’s okay because you’ll learn to appreciate them here. The opening track, “Abnormal Returns” is easily the best track on the album with its fun synth scales, organ, and dueling electric guitars that bring back memories of my father playing The Who on the stereo when I was growing up. “Scale Formation” gets experimental with the electronic sounds, while “Blast the Blizzard” is epic metal. “SUN” gets a desolate and dreamy soundscape and strange yet endearing male vocals (by Sakamoto himself) that you’ll notice are English if you listen really hard.But how about those game arrangements? I love the spooky effects and funky slap bass in the track from the suspenseful Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru, the bouncey and poppy track from 428 (another of my favorites), and the hard hitting track from Ragnarok Tactics which may remind you of Castlevania. I leave the track from TIME TRAVELERS for last because it’s a bit polarizing. The same accent-tinged English, but the catchy melody and the ‘sound’ of the voice go well together. I personally love it, but I know not everyone will.This is a fantastic album. Again, I wish it was longer. And I wish TEKARU would come to MAGFest. They’re great, and you need to check them out (especially for the price).[embed]236641:45469[/embed]World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Original SoundtrackRelease Date: September 25, 2012Price: Collector's Edition (physical) / $10.99 (digital) Availability: Collector’s Edition bonus / iTunesArtist(s): Russell Brower, Neil Acree, Scott Cardon, Edo Guidotti, Jeremy SouleI’ve been looking forward to this soundtrack for a long time. As a fan of the music from World of Warcraft (I’ve yet to play the game!), I was excited about the idea of the team visiting such a unique theme and unleashing some stereotypical Chinese instrumentation that I’d be all too happy to hear. Learning that Jeremy Soule would be contributing sweetened the deal even more. So how does this fare?Well, make no mistake about it. This is World of Warcraft music from start to end. The opening theme, “Heart of Pandaria,” begins with the ominous World of Warcraft theme and only teases the more lighthearted ethnic sound I was expecting before quickly transitioning back into serious orchestral territory. And I’d say this is true of most of the score, including the powerful “Why do we Fight?,” the imposing “Temple of the Five Dawns,” and the frightening “Sha {Spirits of Hatred}” and “Townlong Steppes.”There are some great ethnic woodwinds heard through, great use of ehru and other instruments, but the orchestra is the key instrument here. There are many great moments on this album, which flows from one track to the next to mimic the storytelling of the game through its music. I love the dreamy with “August Celestials” and adventurous in “Shado-Pan” that sports layered strings that sound like Jeremy Soule. My two favorite tracks are “The Traveler’s Path” with its deep vocal accompaniment in Chinese (strange, butmemorable), and the softly swaying “Valley of the Four Winds.”“Going Hozen” is playful and mischievous while “Stormstrout Brew” provides comic relief, showing for a few brief moments that Pandaria does have its lighthearted moments. The album ends with the triumphant yet reflective “Wisdom of Yu’Lon.”I’d call the Mists of Pandaria soundtrack tasteful. They don’t hit you over the head with Chinese restaurant music, although I would have been happy to hear that. There are countless more hours of music in the expansion not featured on this album as well, so feel free to chime in and let us know which tracks you’re enjoying most.
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We're back with another issue of Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up feature. In addition to the moody Borderlands 2 soundtrack and the ethnic-flavored Mists of Pandaria, we have what I'm calling one of the best soun...

Note Worthy 006: Last Story, Secret of Mana, Guild Wars 2

Sep 14 // Jayson Napolitano
Darksiders II Original SoundtrackRelease Date: August 14, 2012Price: $13.01Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Jesper Kyd The original Darksiders soundtrack is very highly regarded, so it came as a surprise that the team was swapping out Cris Velasco, Mike Reagan, and Scott Morgan out for Jesper Kyd. Still, I enjoyed the samples we provided leading up to the game’s release, so how does the rest of the soundtrack fare?I have to say I really dig the dreamy sort of new age material that is spread throughout the first disc. There’s a gentle Celtic influence in the opening “The Makers Theme,” and “Into Eternity” is simply beautiful with its edgy electronic accents and subtle female singing in the background. There are also a few grittier, almost Western style action cues that get the blood pumping. The second disc takes a turn for the more ambient with droning soundscapes filled with synthy bass sweeps and big pads. There’s not much in the way of melody, but the atmosphere generated is fantastic.And that’s pretty much all I have to say about this soundtrack release. I really dig the atmosphere on outside listening. I haven’t played the game, but I’ve been told that the sort of fluffy soundtrack I’ve described feels somewhat out of place while exploring the underworld, but I like what I’m hearing and recommend that you check it out if you like the samples provided.[embed]234908:45071[/embed]  Guild Wars 2 Original Game SoundtrackRelease Date: July 8, 2012Price: $29.99Availability: DirectSongArtist(s): Jeremy Soule, Julian Soule As a huge fan of Jeremy Soule’s work on the final Guild Wars expansion, Eye of the North (I think it’s one of his best works of all time), and having loved the massive quantities of atmospheric music found on Skyrim, I had very high hopes for Guild Wars 2. Not to be beaten on scale in terms of Skyrim, the soundtrack weigh in at a whopping four discs and sports a similarly-realistic sound library that will have you believing you’re hearing a live orchestra at times.Where Guild Wars 2 differs is that it covers a much wider range of emotional territory with bombastic battle themes, beautiful soundscapes, and excursions into the more mischievous as well as dark and mysterious. I also noticed that the pieces on a whole are a lot more melodic (some claimed Skyrim was too atmospheric, which I think was a fair criticism) and shorter, which admittedly left me wanting more when I was really starting to dig an idea that was being presented. The familiar overture should please fans with its epic reprise of the Guild Wars theme. “The Darkness Will Fall” should also stir up some nostalgia. From there, I love the whimsical “Snaff’s Workshop,” the enchanting “Out of the Dream,” the dreamy “Ruins of an Empire” and “Farahr” (reminiscent of Skyrim) and the adventurous “Logan’s Journey” and “Battle of the Vanguard.” The ethnic “The Tengu Wall” is one of my favorites on the album with its distinct Asian influence, making me excited for what Soule has in store for fans on Mists of Pandaria. Both “Journey to the Mists” and “We Fight!” are just the right amount of ominous, and I can’t get away without mentioning the games’ vocal theme, “Fear Not This Night,” which is a perfect blend of Soule’s sense of melody with a sweet and tasteful ballad.In all, I like the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack. Nothing really blew my mind like several tracks on Eye of the North or Skyrim, but I did mention a lot of tracks above, and I’m sure on repeated listens that list will grow. There’s a lot of music to sift through, so have at it![embed]234908:45072[/embed]Intergalactic ContinuumRelease Date: September 11, 2012Price: $10 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: Mustin Enterprises (physical) / BandcampArtist(s): The OneUpsThe OneUps are probably my favorite game music cover band. While they were known for their laid back jazz stylings, they launched with a new sound last year at MAGFest, taking a more synth-heavy funk approach, and Intergalactic Continuum follows up on their introductory EP, Intergalactic Redux, with over 50 minutes of new music.Now, a lot of the track selections here weren’t immediately familiar to me. They covered a lot of the stars on Redux, including Contra, Metroid, and Castlevania, so the premise for Continuum was to allow each band member to pick a track to arrange. The results are impressive even when they come from games I never played, digging deep into the electro funk to have you bopping your head despite not knowing the source track. There’s everything from Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies (awesome!) to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, God of War II, and Ikari Warriors. This isn’t your typical cover band territory, and it’s all fantastic.I have to admit, however, that my favorite tracks are those that are most familiar to me: Zelda, Double Dragon, and Final Fantasy VII. The Zelda arrangement, “I Do It For The Faeries” blows my mind given what a fresh take it is on such an overdone theme. This is probably my favorite version of the theme ever, and that’s saying a lot given how often it’s arranged. “One Winged Angel” does exactly the same thing, making me wonder how I ever got by with the un-funked original. Finally, Double Dragon is pretty straight-forward, but simply badass.If there’s one game music cover band album you need to pick up this year, this is it. And you can bet you’ll be hearing most if not all of this and more at MAGFest next year.[embed]234908:45073[/embed]Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru: Juichininme no Suspect Original SoundtrackRelease Date: December 28, 2011Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, Yasufumi Fukuda, Kouta Kato, Kojiro Nakashima There probably aren’t a whole lot of people who know about this, but in 1994 Chunsoft coined the term “sound novel” when releasing the title Kamaitachi no Yoru in Japan. It was essentially a visual novel about a murder mystery at a ski lodge, and the music, composed by Kouta Kato and Kojiro Nakashima had gained a lot of popularity, seeing uses outside of the original game.Jump to now and we have a sequel for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita featuring Hideki Sakamoto and Yasafumi Fukuda. There’s live orchestra here, so the quality is there (as with all of Sakamoto’s works), and the blend of spooky pieces and pop tracks is surprisingly quite enjoyable from a soundtrack I went in knowing nothing about. The second disc features a few pieces from the Super Famicom title tucked away at the end which is also a nice treat.I have to say that two discs of amazingly well-composed music is certainly worth the asking price on this one. I’m surprised it’s not more expensive. Hideki Sakamoto is not one to put out a dud, and Yasafumi Fukuda’s compositions are equally fantastic. Check this one out if you’re feeling adventurous! Secret of Mana Genesis / Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange AlbumRelease Date: August 8, 2012Price: 2,500 Yen ($32 USD)Availability: CD Japan Artist: Hiroki KikutaThis album has released quite the shit storm among hardcore game music fans. Destructoid readers (myself included) were pretty excited about the prospect of a Secret of Mana arrange album created by Hiroki Kikuta, and we’ve known for some time now that the album would feature a “synth upgrade” as opposed to remixes in a traditional sense. I knew what to expect going in, and so I wasn’t disappointed.What you have are 16 of the best tracks from the game with an upgraded sound. I wouldn’t say it’s brought up to today’s standards, but apparently it’s more in line with Kikuta’s original intentions were. While I can’t say I prefer the versions here over their original counterparts, I don’t think that’s the point. As a fan of the original source material, I don’t dislike this album, and I think “Fear of the Heavens” will still give people goosebumps and the final dungeon theme, “Leave Time for Love,” will still get your blood pumping.At the end of the day, this album is for mainstream game fans more than hardcore game music enthusiasts. The album artwork is beautiful and fun to look at with various scenes from the game, but as an owner of the original Secret of Mana OST, there’s really little point in picking this up as it’s not that drastically different. However, for gamers who never imported the original soundtrack (you still can, and I highly recommend doing so here), this may be a great entry point, and I think it’s important to support Hiroki Kikuta’s amazing work by any means possible.[embed]234908:45075[/embed]Songs of "Songs of ANAGURA"Release Date: July 15, 2012Price: 1,050 Yen ($13.36 USD) (physical) / $6.99 (digital)Availability: Limited (physical) / iTunesArtist: Takayuki NakamuraThis is a fun one. It’s not a soundtrack to a game, but rather to an interactive exhibit in Japan featuring modern music and art. Takayuki Nakamura should be a familiar name to game music fans, however, having been involved with everything from SEGA’s Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racer series to ERGHEIZ and Tobal No. 2 at Squaresoft, and Ninety-Nine Nights as well as the Lumines series as a freelancer. When I saw this album announced via Nakamura’s own record label, Brainstorm, I had to check it out.What you have is 25 minutes of vocaloid music covering everything from pop and jazz to rock and electronica. The tracks are playful and catchy, although come off as rather short. While you may scratch your head and want a little more out of the album on a given listen, I think it’s probably important to experience the music alongside the visual and interactive elements of the exhibit. I think Nakamura recognizes this, however, and is offering the CD at a fair price point in Japan.Check out the above video featuring the exhibit in action, read more about it here, and let us know what you think. Would you check something like this out if it ventured outside of Japan?[embed]234908:45074[/embed] Sorcerian Original Soundtrack Vol.1Release Date: August 24, 2011Price: 4,200 Yen ($53) Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Falcom Sound Team JDKSorcerian falls into Falcom’s extensive Dragon Slayer series that includes Xanadu, Legend of Heroes, and Legacy of the Wizard. Interestingly, this re-issue comes via Sega’s internal label, Wave Master, instead of Falcom’s. Most will be interested mainly because legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro was a member of the Falcom Sound Team JDK at the time and worked extensively on this game.What you have is the classic PC-88 version here, so be ready for some retro synthesis. There’s a lot of music to take in here, and I give major props for whoever put this together for providing two loops for each track. I have to say that I haven’t played the game, so maybe the music doesn’t stick with me so much, but many of the pieces don’t come off as instantly catchy as some of the stuff from the Ys series does.There are ominous dungeon tunes and more pop-oriented ones, and I found myself more impressed with the latter. Both “BEAUTIFUL DAY” and “HAPPY! HAPPY!” are brimming with positive energy while “Forest” and “The Lost King's Scepter Clear BGM (Returning Alive)” sound like they could be from Fantasy Zone with their upbeat and cheerful melodies. On the less buoyant side are “Desert,” which is more contemplative, acting almost as a sweet lullaby, and “Depths of the Earth” with its chugging bassline and decisive melody.This game had a ton of music, which is why this is the first volume. The second volume contains music from many of the spin-offs and alternate versions. Still, this album is hard to come by due to Sega’s unwillingness to sell this music outside of their Sega Japan store, and even then the price tag is pretty steep. Only hardcore Sorcerian fans will want to jump in. SQ Chips2 Tower Records and Village/Vanguard Customer Bonus DiscsRelease Date: July 25, 2012Price: Free Availability: Limited (Tower Records and Village/Vangaurd CD shops in Japan)Artist(s): Various ArtistsSquare Enix has been offering fans in Japan some musical bonuses when they purchase SQ series albums at select retailers. We’re looking at the customer bonus discs that come with SQ Chips2 (reviewed last month) when bought at Tower Records and Village/Vanguard shops in Japan which sport four tracks each.The first two tracks are shared between both discs, and include “Aria” from the Final Fantasy VI opera scene and “Rydia” from Final Fantasy IV. The “Aria” arrangement may sound familiar as the vocal performance is lifted from an arrangement found on Chill SQ, but the musical backing by Q;indivi RE:NDZ here is much improved. The “Ryida” arrangement, on the other hand, features a dreamy 8-bit take on the beautiful theme. The exclusive tracks for Tower Records include a lengthy medley from Secret of Mana, that, while not 8-bit, is still a lot of fun, having a brief female vocal intro before bringing in guitar, piano, marimba, and other instruments that really highlight the upbeat nature of the game (even the battle themes are uplifting!). The final track is an acoustic guitar arrangement from Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII.Village/Vangaurd customers instead get a lengthy electronic remix of “Crazy Motorcycle” from Final Fantasy VII that didn’t do a whole lot for me and a jazzy version of “Lightning’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIII that’s quite enjoyable.Some fans will get upset that this music isn’t more readily available, but this sort of thing isn’t really new as these customer bonus discs and other limited promotions have been a part of Square Enix Music for some time. Hopefully they’ll end up online someday. The Amazing Spider-ManRelease Date: TBAPrice: TBAAvailability: TBAArtist(s): Gerard Marino While most videogames based on movie tie-ins tend to be rushed messes, The Amazing Spider-Man is different. Set in a large open world and developed for years leading up to the film’s release, it seems as though the team has succeeded in creating a fun standalone experience.I was most interested in the game based on the involvement of composer Gerard Marino, who most know from his extensive work on the God of War franchise and DC Universe Online. According to Marino, he was tasked with scoring the game before James Horner started work on the film, allowing him to develop his own ideas that bested suited the game, and the results are fantastic.There’s everything here from bombastic boss battle themes with big percussion and intense brass to more subdued, gritty espionage-oriented tracks. While there are the buoyant “A Hero’s Swing Song” and “Swing Like a King,” I’d say most of the music is rather dark, foreboding, and downright cool. I’ve been listening to Marino’s work on God of War for years, so it’s a real treat to hear him succeed in an entirely different universe where so many of us already have preconceived notions of what Spider-Man should sound like. I also love his mock “Oscorp Corporate Promo” track that’s intended to give you a positive impression of the company through its upbeat and uplifting electronic sound.Unfortunately with this movie-licensed stuff, it’s difficult to get the music out there for fans to enjoy, but something may be in the works, and we’ll keep you posted. It’s definitely worth taking notice of the music if you’re going to be playing through the game any time soon.[embed]234908:45049[/embed] The Last Story Original SoundtrackRelease Date: February 23, 2011Price: 3,000 Yen ($39 USD)Availability:CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist: Nobuo UematsuYes, this soundtrack came out ages ago. This album’s release date is a good reminder of just how long it took for The Last Story to see its release in North America. It’s been long known that composer Nobuo Uematsu handled the game’s entire soundtrack, which spans three discs.You’ll immediately note the longer track lengths, with only 42 tracks featured across the three discs. Also of note is arranger, synthesizer operator, and guitarist Yoshitaka Suzuki, who’s worked extensively on the Metal Gear Solid franchise, which you’ll hear come through along with classic Uematsu on occasion. I say on occasion for both because this is a brand new direction for Uematsu. Gone are the bubbly melodies and rockin’ battle themes, and in their place comes a very Hollywood cinematic approach. Reviewing the score last year on OSV, I enjoyed the album, but having played the game now, I have to say I enjoy it even more. I won’t say the melodies have necessarily grown on me, but the music does match the mature visual style of the game. Some of my favorites include the moody town theme, “Timbre of the City,” the somber guitar piece, “Bonds,” and the all-encompassing emotional cue, “When Hearts Connect” (although it’s strange that this track is used for ALL emotional scenes, romantic and otherwise). “Evil Beast” is a classic Uematsu battle theme while “Death Dance” should remind you of The Black Mages and “The One Ruling Everything” kills it with throaty chants and rock organ. Other styles include a waltz, a swingin’ jazz track, the electronic-infused “The Other Side of Oblivion,” and the beautiful vocal theme, “Toberu Mono.” Oh, and “Joyful Voices Can Be Heard” stands out for being a note-for-note rip off of the Iron Chef theme song (from Hans Zimmer’s Backdraft soundtrack). Best of all? Four of the above tracks I mentioned are included on the soundtrack preview disc included with the limited edition version of the game. I recommend picking up the full soundtrack if you want to hear a new Uematsu for the future. If you’re looking for his classic RPG goodness and didn’t care for the game, you can probably pass.

Another month, another batch of soundtracks to look into! We've got reviews of soundtracks to Nobuo Uematu's The Last Story, Jeremy Soule's Guild Wars 2, Jesper Kyd's Darksiders II, the Secret of Mana Genesis arrangement albu...

Note Worthy 005: Square Enix, Etrian Odyssey IV, and more

Aug 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Bar Oasis 2 SoundtrackRelease Date: July 2012Price: $9.99 (iTunes) / ($5.99) AmazonAvailability: iTunes / AmazonArtist(s): NautsI haven’t had much of an opportunity to gush about how much I love game music from Korea here on Destructoid. Starting with Ragnarok Online, I quickly became a fan of the high-production values that Korean game companies often afford their titles, and Bar Oasis for iOS by independent Korean developer Corners Studio was no different. It’s a visual novel game about bartending, mixing drinks, and human relationships, and the music for the original Bar Oasis by composer Nauts blew me away with its high-quality jazz soundtrack.Bar Oasis 2 picks up right where the original Bar Oasis left off with a new rendition of the main theme, “Again,” sporting clean piano and acoustic guitar to give a sweet upbeat vibe that defines the sound of Bar Oasis. The theme is repeated elsewhere to lend continuity. A blend of emotional jazz and pop follows, with the swingin’ “Good Girl,” the sexy bossa nova-flavored “Brazillian,” the moving “Risa” with its whistling and electric piano, and the lullaby-esque “Sunset for Free.” There’s electronic with “Cute Girl” and the funky “Pulse,” the surprisingly jubilant “7 Days Without Him,” and the reflective “Last Year’s Model.” There’s a sleek version of “Silent Night,” and also a big surprise waiting for listeners at the end.This is a truly a wonderful soundtrack, and it’s amazing that it’s been written for an iOS app. This shows once again that Korean game developers know what’s up when it comes to putting great music in their games. I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack and the app by Corners Studio, both available now.[embed]232938:44687[/embed]Battle SQ [Limited Edition]Release Date: July 4, 2012Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)Availability: CD Japan (limited / regular)Artist(s): Various ArtistsBattle SQ was announced alongside SQ Chips2 and Beer SQ, and of the three, I had the least idea of what to expect with this one. Were they going to take non-battle themes and create rock and techno arrangements to give them more oomph, or would these be arrangements of battle themes to encompass a more expansive emotional spectrum?It would actually appear to be a combination, as the themes, mostly battle-oriented, are given heavier electronic remixes. In that sense, I found myself disappointed, as the arrangements go in the same general direction as the original source material. Still, among the album’s 14 tracks and five featured on the bonus disc exclusive to the limited edition, there’s some stuff worth your time. For example, I dig the live rock session covering Final Fantasy IV’s battle themes, the groovy electronic “Miβgestalt & Todesengel” from SaGa Frontier 2, and the gritty electro-infused “Battle on the Bridge” from Final Fantasy Tactics. The team gets major kudos for picking up a tracks from Rudra no Hihou and Sigma Harmonics, although the remixes themselves don’t particularly do much for me. My favorites have to be the Asian-flavored “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River” from LIVE A LIVE (see our review of the OST in Note Worthy 002), a grunge rock “You’re Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX, and an epic take on “Decisive Battle with Magus" from Chrono Trigger.The limited edition bonus disc features a drumtacular “Maybe I’m a Lion” from Final Fantasy VIII, chippy versions of “Frog’s Theme” and an ending medley from various Final Fantasy titles, and a recorded live set from SQ Part Level 3 by Stealth Boys that covers a lot of material from other SQ albums.As usual, there are a few great arrangements here, but most will leave you underwhelmed. I appreciate the team going for some more obscure Square Enix/Squaresoft properties, but in the end I couldn’t find myself blown away by anything here.Beer SQ [Limited Edition]Release Date: July 4, 2012Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)Availability: CD Japan (limited / regular)Artist(s): Various ArtistsBeer SQ certainly has an interesting name going for it. It kind of falls in line with Café SQ, taking on an upbeat lounge kinda vibe. There are only eight arrangements presented, so pickings are slim, but buying the limited edition will snag you a second disc with some awesome bonuses.As far as the album proper, I can’t say I’m all that fond of the polka-esque arrangement of the Final Fantasy main theme by Räfven (who have appeared on several SQ albums, much to my dismay) or the “Gold Saucer” arrangement from Final Fantasy VII. Nothing against the arrangement, I just find the original incredibly irritating. Things get better from here on out with a fantastic acoustic take on “Guardia's Millenial Fair,” an impressive big band jazz medley from Final Fantasy VI that is nearly ten minutes in length and is amazing, and an ethnic version of “Prelude” from Final Fantasy with sitar and hand-beaten percussion. I also dig the playful SaGa Frontier 2 “Roman & Vorspiel” which has been a mainstay on the Beer SQ website.The second disc features an emotional ballad from Unlimited SaGa as well as two live sets from the SQ Party LEVEL 3 event that was held in Japan recently. BOOKADENcI’s set is a 30-minute long psychedelic trip into SaGa (Final Fantasy Legends) and Final Fantasy IV while Hige Driver covers a lot of territory from a chip-hop version of Final Fantasy VI’s “Searching for Friends” and more SaGa to his remix of “Primal Eyes” from SQ Chips2. Cool stuff!I had high hopes for Beer SQ, but unfortunately there are only a couple of tracks that will have me coming back for more. The price difference is minimal, so I’d recommend picking up the limited edition if you’re interested in what is has to offer.Crimson Shroud Original SoundtrackRelease Date: June 27, 2012Price: 3,045 Yen ($38) (physical) / $19.99 USD (digital)Availability: CD Japan / iTunesArtist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, BasiscapeAre you all caught up on Guild01? If not, it’s an interesting project being undertaken by four different producers (well, one is a comedian), and Crimson Shroud happens to be an RPG title in the series by Yasumi Matsuno (Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy XII). This tabletop-inspired RPG features a soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto and his team at Basiscape, although Sakimoto handles most of the duties himself this time around.If the concept of this game and the Guild01 series wasn’t enough to draw me in, the soundtrack certainly is. This is a signature Sakimoto soundtrack that will immediately remind you of the dark atmosphere he created with Final Fantasy Tactics. While I can skip the main theme (it does let you know that you’re in for a classic Sakimoto experience), it’s the dark and foreboding pieces that caught my attention, including “She Broke the Rules” and “The Crimson Shroud.” A few pieces are downright terrifying, with “You Have Erred” sporting heavy metallic clanging and “Your Time is Up” sounding like a death sentence with its minimalistic approach.There are some typical adventure tracks, including “Show Your Mettle,” “They Haven’t Seen Us,” and the tense “The Last Thing.” There are also a few excursions from the dark and oppressive mood with the playful “No Picnic for Me” with live guitar and the emotional “Her Reputation Precedes Her” and “Was it All a Lie?” Even typing these track names have me excited about playing this game to find out what they’re all about.Combine all of this with live orchestra throughout and a powerful ending theme titled “Sinner’s Requiem” to carry you on your way, and you have a winner. I have to play this game now, so hopefully we’ll see outside of Japan although I’m not holding my breath.[embed]232938:44747[/embed]Etrian Odyssey IV Original SoundtrackRelease Date: July 25, 2012Price: 3,360 Yen ($43) Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Yuzo KoshiroThis is sure to be a controversial release. We already mentioned that Koshiro’s retro style FM synthesis sound is being swapped for a more orchestral/acoustic one for Etrian Odyssey IV. This is nothing new to hardcore fans of Koshiro’s music who have enjoyed the Live Music by Piano and Strings Super Arrange Album releases for both Etrian Odyssey and 7th Dragon which both received small chamber orchestra arrangements. They simply went the route of starting with this version this time around, as there will be a separate FM synthesis version of the soundtrack released at a later date.With all of that out of the way, is the music any good? I think the dramatic and powerful opening theme will certainly draw you in. Yes, the orchestral sound doesn’t have that nostalgic charm, but it’s a great introduction to the epic fantasy soundtrack that follows. I found myself enjoying all of the labyrinth themes that include everything from a track drawing inspiration from Japanese oldies (it sounds just like a stroll in the park) to a dark and seductive theme featuring Norihiko Hibino on sax. There’s bombastic and adventurous and an amazingly smooth and jazzy track that sounds something like The OneUps would perform. The battle themes are also very strong, bringing in electric guitar and combining it was brass and other orchestral instruments. I mentioned the battle themes made me want to play the game, and hearing more on the album only makes me yearn more for an announcement that this game will be released outside of Japan.Now, did you have any doubt that Yuzo Koshiro would deliver? The music here is great, and even the lengthy three minute-long tracks get two loops. You should love this soundtrack, but if you’re left wanting something different, watch for the Super Arrange Version and FM version being released in September.[embed]232938:44953[/embed]Lollipop Chainsaw: Music From the Video GameRelease Date: June 12, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Akira Yamaoka, licensed stuff Lollipop Chainsaw turned out to be pure dumb fun, and I think the soundtrack falls right in line with that description. While I was initially bummed by the fact that Akira Yamaoka wasn’t handling the entire score, the licensed tracks end up being the most fun of all.There’s “Lollipop” by The Chordettes which is downright silly, while the remaining tracks cover everything from death metal to nerdy with “Pac Man Fever” and the atmospheric electronic track “Empire State Human.” I have to say I like all of these. We get nine tracks from Akira Yamaoka which cover everything from punk rock in the incredibly catchy “Love for my Insane Lover” to disco funk in “Mirrorball Madhouse.” He jumps in on the death metal bandwagon with “Viking Zombies Sail On Lightning Seas,” but Yamaoka fans shouldn’t worry, he brings a lot of his traditional grungy rock to the table with “Zombie Guts” and “Bowel Purge.”I had a blast with the soundtrack. Yamaoka did a great job writing tracks that were similar in style to the licensed tracks, and they all combine to form a pretty ridiculous soundtrack which is perfect for the game. Grab it from iTunes![embed]232938:44692[/embed]Sorcery Original Soundtrack From The Video GameRelease Date: May 22, 2012Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: La-La Land Records / iTunesArtist(s): Mark MancinaI didn’t have high hopes for this game when it was announced a few years back at Sony’s press conference, and while it ended up coming off as mostly underwhelming according to our review, I think the music is simply fantastic. Composer Mark Mancina, a composer who’s worked mostly in film, does an excellent job combining Celtic influences with orchestral elements that create an appropriately big yet fun soundtrack experience.While the tracks tend to fall on the shorter side, there’s not a single one that I found myself skipping. More often than not I’d activate my sleeping iPod to see which track I was listening to only to find I was doing this for nearly every track, which is a good sign. That Celtic influence enters right from the start with woodwinds and bagpipe in “Sorcery” and into the upbeat and energetic “The Mothertree.” There’s the ominous “Undead Soldiers” which provides some amazing ambiance before taking on a dark, swashbuckling swagger, the tense “Keymaster Battle” and “Endless Stair,” and the beautiful yet foreboding “Trouble is Brewing.” Playful didgeridoo is makes an entrance in “Bogey Village,” and there’s some acoustic guitar and bongos in the wonderfully-produced “Slumbering Palace,” leading up to the finale. The final battle theme adds in electronics, adding even more intensity to the final showdown.This is really a great soundtrack. While there wasn’t a particular melody that stuck in my mind, the production and overall aesthetic of the score really struck me as memorable. Maybe people won’t remember the game for pushing the envelope with the PlayStation Move, but hopefully people will remember the great soundtrack.[embed]232938:44693[/embed]SQ Chips2Release Date: July 25, 2012Price: 1,890 ($24)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis is the follow-up to one of Square Enix’s most popular arrangement albums in recent history. The SQ series pays tribute to Square Enix’s (and Squaresoft’s) musical heritage and SQ Chips sports 8-bit arrangements from every corner of their catalog. SQ Chips2 is no different, tackling some pretty obscure stuff including Tobal No.1, LIVE-A-LIVE and Bahamut Lagoon among others.The album comes right out with a hard-hitting “Prologue Movie” from Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the best track on the album, followed by the drum ‘n’ chip “Clash on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V. Other favorites include a fun and energetic take on “PRIMAL EYES” from Parasite Eve, a beautiful Chrono Cross medley, a playful “Fight With Seymour” (which I recently learned to love from playing Theatrhythm), a majestic and somewhat thought-provoking “Flight” from Xenogears, a sexy “Hometown Domina” from Legend of Mana, a swingin’ “Main Theme” from Final Fantasy that gets a J.S. Bach cameo, and finally a joyous “LIVE FOR LIVE” from LIVE-A-LIVE by the smiley SEXY-SYNTHESIZER.Not every track stands out, but I think that says more about the nostalgia experienced with these songs more than the arrangements. It’s certainly a worthy follow-up with tons of great tracks and you need to pick it up for the price.Sunsoft Music Collection Vol.1Release Date: August 24, 2011Price: 3,675 Yen ($46)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Various ArtistsThis is an interesting release from Sega’s Wave Master record label that came right on the heels of another Sunsoft music compilation by the City Connection label. While it’s a bit redundant, it looks like Sega is going the whole mile, as four volumes have already been released, and based on the cover artwork sporting the letters, S, U, N, and SO through volume 4, I imagine they have one more volume up their sleeve.Across this three-disc collection you’ll find a lot of retro game music that admittedly sounds pretty terrible. Each CD does have a saving grace, however, with Ripple Island from the first disc standing out as the best soundtrack on the entire collection with its vibrant and catchy melodies. The second disc’s Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban has a track that sounds like Hiroki Kikuta’s Secret of Mana soundtrack and the third disc’s Shounen Ninja Sasuke has some cool ninja tunes, but even these only really stand out in comparison to some of the other drabble on the compilation.That’s not to say the entire series isn’t worth your attention, however, as the second volume features the legendary score for Blaster Master! Skip this volume unless you’re a huge fan of a particular offering and save it for the later volumes. We’ll have reviews of those soon.XI Chips - FINAL FANTASY XI Chiptune -Release Date: July 13, 2012Price: 1,800 Yen ($23) / 4,177 ($53)Availability: Square Enix e-Store / CD Japan Special OrderArtist(s): Various ArtistsYes, there are two chiptune albums released by Square Enix recently. We already talked about SQ Chips2, but XI Chips is dedicated entirely to the tenth anniversary of Final Fantasy XI. It sports ten arrangements spanning over 45 minutes of music from several artists including the incredibly jubilant SEXY-SYNTHESIZER.While SQ Chips2 is sort of a mixed back, the quality here is pretty consistent, and they don’t try to do anything more than providing 8-bit demakes of their respective tunes. The problem that some of chip arrangements get into is trying to be too complex, so these are a nice treat for those who loved the original melodies.You have the classic and memorable march followed by SEXY-SYNTHESIZER’s medley of the town themes, which is easily the best track on the album. “Airship” from Final Fantasy XI has always been one of my favorite Uematsu compositions, and the version here is absolutely delicious. “Mog House” is another favorite of mine, and while a chip arrangement sounds and is rather strange, I have to say I’m glad it’s here. Both battle themes presented are straight to the point, but great, and the “Shadow Lord – Awakening” track is gritty and dirty, and makes a much better 8-bit track than I would have ever expected. DIRTY-SYNTHESZIER closes with “FFXI Opening Theme,” complete with digitized choir.I really dig this CD. So for that reason, it’s unfortunate that Square Enix is distributing it more widely. It’s available in Japan via their e-Store, which only ships to Japan. CD Japan is doing special orders, but it’ll cost over double the normal price for them to secure a copy for you. Still, it’s a great CD for hardcore FFXI fans and chiptune connoisseurs.

This is a big month for Square Enix music. Four of our ten reviews in this installment of Note Worthy are Square Enix albums, and we had to hold back on a few to make room for other big releases! We've got impressions of Yuzo...

Note Worthy 004: Anarchy Reigns and Unchained Blades

Jul 16 // Jayson Napolitano
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Original SoundtrackRelease Date: November 15, 2011Price: $12.95 Availability: Sumthing Else Music WorksArtist(s): Michael McCannWhen I heard original Deus Ex composer Alexander Brandon wouldn’t be scoring Human Revolution, I was admittedly disappointed. Upon hearing Michael McCann’s main theme, “Icarus,” however, I was immediately hooked. The theme and much of the album consists of moody and atmospheric electronic music that is accented by exotic female vocals in “Icarus” and elsewhere.Pieces range from ambient, including the pulsating “Detroit City Ambient (Part 1)” and the more dreamy “Singapore Ambient (Part 2),” to more action-oriented in “Barrett Boss Fight” and “Return to Hengsha.” But they’re not in that typical over-the-top Hollywood action film style; this soundtrack is classy and contemplative from start to finish. It doesn’t try to hit you over the head with its thematic content, which I greatly appreciated.The soundtrack has received lots of praise, including winning in-game soundtrack of the year for OSV’s 2011 soundtrack of the year awards. It’s very deserving of all the positive things people have had to say about it, and I can’t recommend it enough, especially at this price point.[embed]231008:44365[/embed][embed]231008:44344[/embed]ESCHATOS ARRANGE TRACKSRelease Date: May 10, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($34)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Yousuke Yasui, Hiroto SaitohESCHATOS was a cool retro top-down shmup title for the Xbox 360 in Japan. It featured a pretty stellar rock-infused electronic soundtrack typical to these kinds of games, but this arrange album takes things a step further. SuperSweep’s Yousuki Yasui has a lot of experience with shooter titles and arrangement projects, and he’s single-handedly rearranged every track from the original soundtrack with a big rock sound reminiscent of Falcom’s JDK band.Expect lots of guitar shredding, bit orchestral hits, thunderous percussion, and lots of reverb that lends the whole album a spacey vibe. This is fantastic stuff, with the upbeat “Silver Lining” and the contemplative “Point of No Return” completely blowing me away. Things go in a pop direction in “Stellar Light” while “Rush Into” gallops into battle with some fantastic percussion. Even all the game’s jingles are arranged. There are two special remixes found at the end, including a more electronic-oriented take on “Point of No Return” by Hiroto Saitoh (an extremely talented and versatile composer) and a fun vocaloid version of “Stellar Light” by Yasui himself.I just wish the price tag wasn’t so high on this because it’s a fantastic album that I’d recommend to anyone. If you love the rock-flavored arrange albums that came out of the late 80s and early 90s, you’ll love ESCHATOS ARRANGE TRACKS.Final Fantasy: Random EncounterRelease Date: June 18, 2012Price: FreeAvailability: OverClocked ReMixArtist(s): OverClocked ReMixI was super excited about this album based on the amazing trailer that we posted about the day before the album’s release. With 21 arrangements dedicated to the first title in the Final Fantasy series, it seemed like just the right number of tracks and narrow focus to make for a cohesive project from the OverClocked ReMix community.What you’ll find are a lot of metal and electronic tracks. They work together pretty well, and despite finding several tracks that didn’t really do much for me (as the silly town theme arrangement by Josh Whelchel is almost too embarrassing to even listen to in the privacy of my own home), I found myself digging this project.I love the shredding in “The Beginning of a Legacy,” which features the iconic bassline from the game’s battle theme. The undeniably jubilant “Secrets Abound (Matoya’s Cave)” and the lengthy dungeon medley, “Dance of Decent” are also highlights from the rock-oriented arrangements. Other favorites include the heart wrenching “Requiem for a Dying World (Dead Music)” that starts out with heavy strings before guitar and percussion are added.From there, we have the tasteful “The Crawl (Dungeon)” which combines electronics with rock, the bouncy and seemingly drunken “Just Passing Through (Town),” and the super dreamy “If I Could Sail the World (Ship)” that I can’t help but feel could use some smooth vocals by our own Dale North.As with any of these arrangement projects, there will be tracks you can take or leave, but there are some great tracks here, making for a worthy tribute to the first Final Fantasy. And it’s free, so why not give it a download?[embed]231008:44364[/embed]Hoshi no Arika ZanmaiRelease Date: December 30, 2011Price: 1,500 Yen ($19) (physical) / $7.99 (digital) Availability: Limited / iTunesArtist(s): Falcom Sound Team jdkDon’t let the album title confuse you, this is the theme song from The Legend of Heroes VI: Sora no Kiseki. There are five different versions of the theme provided with corresponding instrumental versions. Variations include a dancey “beat,” heart wrenching “serenade,” smooth “bossa nova,” mellow “ballad,” and poppy world music versions. Each features different arrangers and vocalists, including former Basiscape composer Noriyuki Kamikura both arranging and performing and former Dog Ear Records (Nobuo Uematsu’s record label) staffer Miyu singing on the bossa nova version under the name Anemone.I can’t say this theme is particularly strong, which may be why I don’t care for any of the variations, but it could also be that none of the vocalists really nail their respective styles. The musical backings are all fantastic, with “beat” and the world music versions being my favorites, and I actually found myself enjoying the instrumental versions more than the originals. I was particularly interested in hearing the bossa nova version as Anemone recently launched a female pop rock group in Japan called Blue Chee’s whose debut mini-album I thoroughly enjoyed.Fans of The Legend of Heroes VI may want to check out the individual tracks on iTunes, but I don’t see much reason to dig in otherwise.MAX ANARCHY ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKReleased: July 4, 2012Price: 3,150 Yen ($38)Availability: CD JapanArtists: Naoto Tanaka, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Akira TakizawaI already noted that the MAX ANARCHY soundtrack far exceeds what was accomplished with MADWORLD. There’s more violent hip hop and rap spanning two discs with a wider variety of rappers and composers involved. There’s a larger emphasis on electronic music as well, which provides a nice mix across the album’s 32 tracks. I think the key is the great musical backings, as even the tracks with weak vocals are sometimes saved by a great melody.It’s hard to call out individual tracks because I like all of them. I often found myself skipping tracks in MADWORLD, but nearly everything here is great. I love the heavy rough-‘n’-tumble stylings of newcomer Tre-Dot (his opening “Ruthless” is fantastic) and the more upbeat and silly tracks by Skitz the Samurida. Vstylez offers the cool electronic track, “MDK’s” and the funky brass-accented track, “Days of Old” while MuzeONE gives us “Jaw,” combining orchestral hits and funky bassline in what’s probably my favorite track on the album. Another star is “Demise” by Wonder Brown, a bumpin’ electronic track with fun lyrics. And how can you not like the lyric, “I want your ribcage meat stuck between my teeth?”Some returning rappers also make their mark once again. My personal favorite, Sick YG, is featured several times, with “Over in a Flash” being my favorite here. Ox, the lead rapper of MADWORLD, puts in a solid effort with “Lights Out,” and Doujah Raze offers his dark and violent lyrics that are a perfect fit. His “Testin’ Me” in particular stands out, describing a character who isn’t fighting for money or fame, but rather to protect his loved ones, adding a more meaningful sense of purpose to the violent world of MAX ANARCHY.Great stuff. The booklet contains all the lyrics and information on all the rappers as well, all in English, so it’s quite nice. I recommend it highly, and can’t wait to play this game![embed]231008:44430[/embed]Moon Breakers EPRelease Date: June 26, 2012Price: $3.96 Availability: iTunesArtist(s): Bear McCrearyMaybe gamers don’t know Bear McCreary’s name, but he’s widely known for his work in television including his work on Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead among others. He scored Dark Void and SOCOM 4 as far as videogames go, and now he’s created music for Moon Breakers, a browser-based game emphasizing space combat.The EP features four tracks, two of which are different versions of McCreary’s main theme that combines pumping retro electronic bass with some beautiful orchestral work. The other two lengthy tracks (six to seven minutes each) highlight the game’s two playable groups, the space pirates and the government forces. The space pirates get a heavy space jig of sorts with a combination of what sounds to be bagpipes with the aforementioned orchestral and electronic goodness, while the government gets a more decisive and regal accompaniment with lots of brass and rolling snares.This is pretty impressive stuff for a browser-based title. On its own, I may not have ever bothered to give this a listen given Moon Breakers’s platform, but fans of Bear McCreary or the game may want to check it out.Starhawk Original Soundtrack From The Video GameRelease Date: May 22, 2012Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: La-La Land Records / iTunesArtist(s): Christopher LennertzI loved what Christopher Lennertz did with Warhawk, although my biggest gripe was, with the single-player campaign getting the axe, that all we were left with were intense battle themes. Starhawk corrects this on both fronts with an intact single-player experience and an epic and dynamic soundtrack to go with it.As you’d expect, the game gets a gritty space western soundtrack complete with twangy guitars and even harmonica performed by the legendary Tommy Morgan. Of course Lennertz brings along a big orchestral presence for the adventure as well, creating an instantly memorable and downright fun score. After a badass opening theme, “Homeworld,” there’s a lot of tension in “The Outcast” with female choral work, adding an ethnic element to the mix. I also love the epic and taunting “Come and Get It.” There’s a nice blend of action and emotion that follows, and you’ll never find yourself bored listening to the nearly one-hour long soundtrack.If I had to level one complaint against the soundtrack, it’d be that the tracks are rather short, with most falling in around the two-minute mark. It feels as though right when you’re starting to get into a track, it moves to the next piece, but it’s all good, so it’s not much of a complaint. You need to pick this one up!Symphonic Fantasies TokyoRelease Date: June 11, 2012Price: $24.95 EURAvailability: MAZ SoundArtist(s): Jonne Valtonen, Yoko Shimomura, Hiroki Kikuta, Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo UematsuIf you didn’t check out the live stream of Symphonic Fantasies or buy the album when it was released in 2010, then shame on you! This is probably one of the most interpretive and, in my opinion, best orchestral concerts that’s ever been devised, dedicating massive 15-20 minute long suites each to Kingdom Hearts, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy. Yes, pretty much everything that’s awesome in game music.They took the one-off show from 2010 on tour for a few more dates around the world which included a stop in Japan. This album offers that recording on two discs as opposed to the original’s one, with an added bonus of having the encore (a medley of the games’ final battle themes) on CD as opposed to the digital-only release it received in the past.These arrangements are brilliant and are some of the best in the business. The Secret of Mana suite in particular is so sweeping and majestic it will send chills down your spine, and the Chrono suite blends the various themes into one another so naturally that you’ll wonder how they were ever separate (and kudos to them for picking “Prisoners of Fate” to arrange). And “Phantom Forest” in the Final Fantasy suite? Amazing.The only problem is that a lot of people already own the original Symphonic Fantasies CD. If anything, I think the recording here lacks some of the dynamics of the original release, as I noticed I wasn’t getting as much low-end with this version. Still, the added bonus of the encore may be a draw for those who didn’t already pick up the original and are looking to do so. I’d highly recommend it, as this is the one orchestral concert CD you need to have in your collection. And I have to mention the thick booklet that contains composer biographies and comments all in English and lots of photos.[embed]231008:44363[/embed]TEKARU TECHNICALRelease Date: March 28, 2012Price: 1,500 Yen ($19)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, TEKARUThis is just amazing. Hideki Sakamato may not be a household name, but he’s incredibly talented. His biggest credits include echochrome and the Yakuza series, although he has quite an extensive list of credits in both games and film.TEKARU TECHNICAL is his experiment performing rock arrangements of his themes with a rock band that includes Sakamoto himself on keyboards and organ and other members of his noisycroak studio team. After an experimental opening, There are two rockin’ but playful tracks from the echochrome series, with “Prime #7” easily coming in as my favorite track on the album with its great organ work and shredding guitar melody. Patchwork Heroes and No Heroes Allowed! are also both featured, with one of the tracks from the latter coming with live piano and lots of organ work. I’d love to hear these guys perform at MAGFest 11 next year, as they’re certainly in line with the Black Mages and Earthbound Papas.Unfortunately the album’s only 22 minutes long. But what’s here is amazing and leaves me wanting more. Also unfortunate is the fact that it’s hard to come by, only available through noisycroak records and SuperSweep Records in Japan.  UnchainBlades ReXX Original SoundtrackRelease Date: July 27, 2011Price: 2,300 Yen ($29)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Tsutomu Narita, Nobuo Uematsu[embed]231008:44479[/embed]I already reviewed this album over on OSV and gushed about its soundtrack in our preview from E3, but I loved it so much that I thought it was worth revisiting here. Basically what we have is a traditional JRPG soundtrack composed by new and upcoming composer Tsutumu Narita who’s a member of the Earthbound Papas with Nobuo Uematsu.Uematsu handles the main theme that sounds like something right out of Hans Zimmer’s Backdraft soundtrack (so fans of Iron Chef should be interested), but Narita handles the rest. There’s everything from a laid back town theme, “Tone of Towns,” to a rockin’ battle theme, “UNCHAINED,” and tons of fantastic dungeon themes. “Titan of Daris,” the lava-filled dungeon, gets a crazy electro-infused rock track while “Titan of Agira,” my favorite track on the album, gets a more exotic sound with acoustic guitar and bongos. It’s all great stuff that I can’t recommend highly enough.If this was Tsutomu Narita’s first test, he passed with flying colors. Uematsu’s main theme actually detracts from what Narita accomplished with the rest of the soundtrack, and I would have preferred to hear what Narita himself would have conjured up after hearing the rest of his offerings. Get this soundtrack and get this game!

And that's just two of the releases we're covering this month. We have everything from Final Fantasy to rock band arrangements from the echochrome soundtracks. It was actually a rather quiet month for game music, but there we...

Note Worthy 003: Diablo, Torchlight, Dragon's Dogma

Jun 15 // Jayson Napolitano
BAROQUE Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 14, 2012Price: 2,310 ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: CD Japan / iTunesArtist(s): Masaharu IwataThis album is a pleasant surprise. Originally released on the now-defunct Digicube label back in 1998, Basiscape Records is giving us a reprint of this gritty new age soundtrack with some bonuses. These bonuses come in the way of two prototype tracks and two new tracks tucked away at the end of the album.First, though, the soundtrack proper is deserving of any game music fan’s attention. Think of the dark atmospheres of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and his synthy stylings of Chronologie and that’s what you have here. Half gritty survival horror, half encompassing new age. Tracks like “Confusion” and “Little” are chaotic and downright frightening, while the massive pads, bassy synth sweeps, and reverberating belltone melodies and “Iraiza,” “Multiplex,” and “Holding Baroque Inside” will satisfy your craving for both great melody and atmosphere. This is literally the best thing I’ve ever heard from Masaharu Iwata who I’d mainly known for his orchestral works alongside Hitoshi Sakimoto on Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics in the past.The two prototype tracks are textural pieces with layered pads, while the new tracks offer something more. “Timelessness” sports some dissonant pads along with the sounds of wind and rain, in line with the rest of the score, while “Miracle’s Loop” is a rather upbeat vocal theme with funky bass and hard-hitting percussion, combining pop sensibilities with the dark musical universe of Baroque. I love it.I highly recommend checking this one out. It’s well worth the investment, even if you’ve never played the game.[embed]229495:44083[/embed]Diablo III Collector's Edition SoundtrackRelease Date: May 15, 2012Price: $11.99 (digital) / Collector’s Edition bonus (physical) Availability: iTunes / Collector’s EditionArtist(s): Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence, Neal Acree, Laurence Juber, Edo GuidottiI already mentioned in our ‘meet the team’ feature that this is one of my most anticipated games (and soundtracks) of the year. I loved what I was hearing in the Diablo III beta, and I love audio director Russell Brower’s past soundtrack production work, and the Diablo III soundtrack is no different. Each piece ties into the next in a continuous listening experience that’s meant to tell the story of Diablo III, making this more than a dumping ground for the game’s music; it’s another way to enjoy the story.I was looking for familiar themes, but only found a few in the way of “And The Heavens Shall Tremble,” a powerful orchestral rendition of the Diablo theme that should please any fan along with the familiar 12-string guitar in “New Tristram.” From there, I found “Caldeum” to be most Diablo-like in its ambiance and most notably for its use of percussion, but nowhere did I find Matt Uelmen’s signature tribal rock percussion, which I missed. Still, I love the dark ambiance of “Tamoe Heights” and “Bastion’s Keep,” the ominous choral work in “Incantation,” and the dreadful “Evil Reawakened.” The beautiful choral work in “A Tenuous Bond” found towards the end of the album also caught me off guard.That’s the thing though. I feel this is Diablo told through the musical voice of the World of Warcraft. Diablo’s ambiance is not as effective when voiced by such epic orchestral work. Still, this soundtrack album only highlights key moments in the story, and I have found much more Diablo-esque music to enjoy within the game itself.[embed]229495:44081[/embed]Dragon's Dogma Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 23, 2012Price: 2,800 Yen ($35)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Tadayoshi Makino, Inon Zur, Rei Kondoh, Chamy.IshiCapcom has made it no big surprise that they’re trying to build a franchise out of Dragon’s Dogma. They went all out with the game’s music, having Square Enix publish the album and bringing on internal composer Tadayoshi Makino (Monster Hunter series), Rei Kondoh (Okami, Bayonetta), and making it an international effort with the inclusion of the ubiquitous Inon Zur (Dragon Age, Rift, TERA).Does the album deliver?The pieces tend to be on the short side, with many around the one-minute mark and most below two minutes. There’s a bombastic orchestral presence with many of the tracks featuring live orchestra and session players, and there’s a nice hint of rock thrown in. Tracks get darker and more intense as the album progresses, with the emotional ending you’d expect.Vocalist Aubrey Ashburn does a great job with the melancholy title theme, and returns again for the adventurous and triumphant main theme. Makino tackles many orchestral tracks, but also some darker and more foreboding ones, which I enjoyed. I love his rockin’ “Desperate Battle” and epic “Decisive Battle ~ Dragon Battle” as well as his Celtic-inspired “Soren, Capital City,” which sports some fantastic female choir and acoustic guitar. Kondoh’s contributions are my favorites, as he handles the softer and more ethnic contributions, with his angelic theme for Serena being my particular favorite. Zur brings his big orchestral sound to the mix, but surprises with the heavy rock influences in two of his tracks that I’d never heard from him before. I’d love to see more of this from him.By the end of the album, I was left wanting something more memorable. A melody to hum, a battle theme to bang my head to. There’s none of that here. There’s big orchestral action from start to finish with a few noteworthy moments, and while that’s great for the in-game experience, I can’t recommend picking this soundtrack up without having the context of the game to back it up. FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 Original Soundtrack PlusRelease Date: May 30, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($26) Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto SuzukiThis is an album that’s sure to confuse, just as the original Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Sound Plus album did. I mentioned that this album would contain some of the music from the recently-released DLC, but there’s a lot of other stuff here as well. I’d break down the collection into remixes from the DLC, alternate versions of tracks that amount to remixes, unreleased tracks, and alternate versions and demo tracks that you could have probably lived without ever hearing.Let’s start with that last group. You’ll get a demonstration of the seamless cross-fades that occur between themes and their heavier ‘aggressive’ mixes (which play when enemies are near) as well as a version of “Historia Crux” with the vocals replaced with an annoying synth that was meant to guide the vocalist. There’s a long version of “The Last Hunter,” one of the weakest battle themes in the game in my opinion, complete with an extended violin solo, and a barely distinguishable version of “New Bodhum.”In terms of new tracks, both “FirstPV” and “yuzo_050” by Masashi Hamauzu are nice, but are approximately 40 seconds apiece, not amounting to overly much. “Hopping Chocobo” is actually a really nice swingin’ honkey tonk piano arrangement of the chocobo theme. The remixes are also great, with the predicted rapless version of “Unseen Intruder,” a funked out version of “Starting Over,” a trancier take on Royal Ripeness battle theme, a pretty rockin’ guitar demo version and the trip-hop version of “Noel’s Theme” that was streamed on the album’s website, a Mitsuto Suzuki remix of “New Bodhum” that sounds like some of his excellent solo works, an amazing rock/traditional Japanese fusion with an “Oriental Mix” of Gilgamesh’s theme that combines rock guitar with koto and shakahauchi in an epic 7-minute remix.Whew, I’m out of breath. There’s some good stuff here, but also lots of filler. The asking price is fair, though, so given how much I love the Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack, I’d say it’s worth giving a try!Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - The SoundtrackRelease Date: February 7, 2012Price: $15.05 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works / iTunesArtist(s): Grant KirkhopeThis one is a huge surprise. When I think of Grant Kirkhope, I generally think of his more upbeat work for RARE’s Donkey Kong 64, Banjo Kazooie, and even the majestic Viva Piñata. Kirkhope clearly demonstrated with Kingdoms of Amalur, however, that he’s not all rainbows and sunshine, starting with a tense main theme before moving into all sorts of dark and gloomy orchestral goodness. You’ll feel like you’re in a fantasy version of Gotham City with his bold themes that have a certain super hero vibe to theme.The ominous “Troll” is one of my favorite tracks with its tense string stabs and amazing brass melody. It’s so powerful yet so simple. There’s the fleeting “Dalentarth” that lets up for just a moment before “Mines and Caves” once again plunges you into the depths with a foreboding and oppressive ambiance. This atmosphere continues through many of the tracks that follow, creating a unique voice for the game that is one of the best things I’ve heard this year.While I haven’t and likely never will play this game, Grant Kirkhope has surprised me with this dark and haunting score. I’d recommend it to everyone, including those who are fans of the game and those who enjoy a great orchestral soundtrack.[embed]229495:44084[/embed]Kyokugen Dasshutsu ADV Zennin Shibou Desu SoundtrackRelease Date: April 19, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)Availability: CD Japan Artist(s): Shinji HosoeShinji Hosoe of SuperSweep is known mostly for his pumping electronic music, but this soundtrack for the successor to 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors explores a different sound from this industry veteran. Fans of 999 should be right at home among this soundtrack’s dark and moody trip hop, drum ‘n’ bass, and industrial compositions that are terrifyingly good. The glitchy and bass-heavy “Lounge” and the disturbingly out-of-tune “Dispensary” are just two examples found at the beginning of the album that set the tone for the rest that follows.The distorted metallic sounds of “Pantry” and the chugging pistons in “Data” lend an industrial edge, while “Sinisterness” and “Portentousness” both sound like they could accompany a horrific boss battle from Dark Souls. And I’d say that the last two are pretty neat track titles along with others like “Consternation” and “Divulgation.”While I missed 999, I’m glad I was able to give this a listen, as it’s turned me on to a whole new sound from Hosoe and shows he’s capable of even more than the incredible electronic music that he’s produced over the years.OTOMEDIUS-X ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: March 29, 2012Price: 4,600 Yen ($58)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): EveryoneOkay, I say everyone is the artist, and that’s because OTOMEDIUS-X (Excellent) features nearly everyone who’s anyone from Japan, China, and the United States. After some catchy pop tunes sung by the game’s vocal talent, GEM Impact heads up a fantastic main soundtrack on the first of five discs along with Motoi Sakuraba who somehow makes convincing shmup music with his signature progressive rock stylings and Michiru Yamane who handles the bonus stages.The remaining four discs contain music from the DLC song packs. You’ll hear everyone from Yuzo Koshiro (Etrian Odyssey) and Jake “virt” Kaufman to Masato Kouda (Monster Hunter) and Jeremy Soule (The Elder Scrolls). There are several shmup veterans here like Motoaki Furukawa (responsible for many of Konami’s early shmups), Manabu Namiki, and Kenichiro Fukui (Einhander), all of whom really tear it up. Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso of SuperSweep also provide an amazing retro-style set of songs while C.S.I. will have you out on the dance floor with their tracks. As this game pays homage to classic Konami shmup titles, there are even a few surprise remixes that should please fans.I have to say that while the novelty does wear off eventually, there is a lot of great music here. I’m impressed that these composers are able to interpret the same game so differently through their music. The price tag is steep, but there’s a lot to enjoy here and I’m surprised to see something like this released at all!PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY IV/V/VIRelease Date: May 16, 2012Price: 2,800 Yen ($35)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Hiroyuki NakayamaWe posted about this album a few months back. It’s a piano arrangement CD intended to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series, and follows up the PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY I/II/III album that was not only much needed, but an impressive effort.I didn’t then, and after listening to this, still don’t understand why they continued with this particular album, however. The first piano opera CD was significant because the first three games never received official piano arrangement albums, whereas Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI did. Even more, seven of the twelve tracks presented here were also covered on those respective piano collections CDs. Why didn’t they tackle different songs to give fans who already own the piano collections CDs more for their money?I loved the original piano collections CDs because they presented soft and simple arrangements, great for relaxing. Arranger and performer Hiroyuki Nakayama has admittedly prepared more balanced arrangements, taking more liberties with the themes as he did on the first piano opera CD, but I just don’t feel it’s necessary to revisit so many of the same themes. Speaking to the new arrangements, they are quite enjoyable, with three coming from Final Fantasy VI alone. “Save Them” was always one of my favorites, and this adventurous and playful interpretation pays perfect homage to Uematsu’s original. There’s also “Searching for Friends,” which is probably my favorite track on this CD with its nice swing, and the 10+ minute “Dancing Mad” suite is as impressive as you’d expect. There’s also the intense “Red Wings ~ Kingdom of Baron” from Final Fantasy IV and the touching “The Sorrow of Parting” from Final Fantasy V. And I will say the presentation is stellar, with a lovely slipcase, a cool metallic red print job on the disc, and a booklet filled with photos and commentary by Uematsu and Nakayama.I will say that while it was covered previously, I don’t mind hearing “Troian Beauty” from Final Fantasy IV again. They could put an arrangement of this song on every CD in existence and I’d be happy (it’s my favorite Uematsu composition, and I even have a bit of its sheet music from the original piano collections CD on my business card!).So yeah, save your money and pick up the first piano opera CD if you haven’t already. Pass on this one.Silent Hill: Book of Memories Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 17, 2012Price: $13.48Availability: AmazonArtist(s): Daniel LichtFor anyone who was impressed with Silent Hill: Downpour, be ready to be amazed by Book of Memories. Sure, maybe you’re not happy about the change in direction that the game is taking, but the music, once again provided by Daniel Licht, is simply amazing. Tons of gritty atmosphere, overdriven electric guitar, and even a couple tracks from Mary Elizabeth McGlynn await you.The game is broken up into different themed areas, including a water, fire, wood, and steel world, to name a few, and Licht does a great job conveying each world through its music. The water world, for example, features warbling ambient sounds, while the wood world gets rhythmic bongos and a groovy guitar riff. I like the decisive march that makes up “Earth World,” the chugging piston-like percussion in “Steel World,” and the incredibly disturbing “Blood World” with distorted synths and emotional string swells. The boss themes are carry these themes forward while providing a tense backing for each combat session. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn returns in “Now We’re Free,” a gloomy alternate rock track that gives rise to a cathartic chorus section appropriate to the end of the game, whereas “Love Pslam,” featuring McGlynn on vocals and Akira Yamaoka on guitar is a heavier rock track with some great lyrics pertaining to books and memories (oh, and there’s a cameo of “Theme of Laura” in here too).I all, I love this soundtrack. Even though I’ll never play the game, the soundtrack will be is one of my favorites of the year thus far. I recommend checking it out.[embed]229495:44082[/embed]Torchlight II Original SoundtrackRelease Date: TBAPrice: PromotionalAvailability: PromotionalArtist(s): Matt UelmenThose who are missing more Matt Uelmen in their Diablo III experience can rest easy because Torchlight II is just around the corner. Uelmen retains the signature sound he developed working on the Diablo franchise by producing a very dreary soundscape accented by his iconic 12-string guitar work, down-pitched rock percussion that yields a more tribal sound, the use of many ethnic instruments, and textural orchestral layering courtesy of the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. The production of the soundtrack is also quite nice in that the tracks flow into one another with cross-fades, creating a continuous listening experience that takes you through the game (although this makes outside listening of individual tracks a bit awkward).In terms of specifics, the “Torchlight II Title Theme” is desperate yet subtle, opening with a brief glimpse of beauty before the tense classically-tinged melody takes over. “Temple Steppes” should also please fans, bringing in the aforementioned 12-string guitar and rock percussion that should sound immediately familiar Uelmen’s fans. There’s oppressive electric guitar work that will have you rocking out in tracks like “Djinn” and “Ever Deeper,” and sheer terror produced by the heavy strings and distant percussion in “Bog.” But it’s not all dark and gloomy, as there are moments of beauty that shine through in the night/day cycles of “Enclave,” “Zerypheph,” and “Camp.” In particular, “Enclave Morning” stands out for its new agey approach and a cameo of “Town” from the original Torchlight, and “Camp Dawn” features swelling strings and extensive 12-string guitar. Oh, and there’s also a cameo of “Mines” from the original Torchlight in “Curse of Ember,” which sports Uelmen live on pedal steel.This is a fantastic soundtrack, and it’s wonderfully produced. It’s really not about any one individual track; there are 28 tracks here, some of which come in at under a minute in length. It’s more about the journey the album takes you through, and I think fans will enjoy it. While a physical CD has been distributed as a promotional item, we'll keep you posted if and when this soundtrack becomes more widely available.[embed]229495:44085[/embed] 

And that's just naming a few. We're also taking a look at the soundtracks to Silent Hill: Book of Memories, Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack Plus, and more.This was a great month for game music with some amazing music...

Note Worthy 002: Fez, Ridge Racer, Silent Hill, and more

May 15 // Jayson Napolitano
Black OceanRelease Date: April 25, 2012 (JP) / May 2012 (EU)Price: 2,800 Yen ($34) / 20.00 EUR ($26)Availability: Amazon Japan / Wayo RecordsArtist(s): IMERUAT (Masashi Hamazu, Mina)While this isn’t a game soundtrack, involvement of composer Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII, SaGa series) makes this one more than note worthy. After Hamauzu’s departure from Square Enix after the completion of Final Fantasy XIII, he founded a group with vocalist Mina that explores a somewhat experimental sound utilizing Hamauzu’s signature piano and strings work along with Mina’s versatile vocals that come in English, Japanese, and her native Ainu. Square Enix’s Mitsuto Suzuki is also featured prominently as an arranger on the album, so there are dreamy electronic soundscapes to be found as well. The group released a single in 2011 that was one of my favorite releases of the year, and Black Ocean, their debut album, features the three tracks featured on that single plus ten more. The title track, “Black Ocean,” is a perfect opener with its pairing of electronic and orchestral elements, with thunderous percussion and Mina’s ethereal voice. I’d use the words otherworldly and experimental to describe the rest of what follows. There’s the incredibly soothing “Cirotto” and “Haru no Kasumi,” the playful “Leave me alone” with Hamauzu’s signature piano work and some silly vocal stylings, the strange “Left” with a heavy Mitsuto Suzuki influence and telephone tones, the pop-oriented “Morning Plate,” and the quirky “Battaki.” I also appreciate the solo piano and strings closer, “Springs,” but my two favorites are the six-minute long “6muk” with pumping bass drums and beautifully layered electronics (and a springy sound that’s right out of a spaghetti western) and the rockin’ “IMERUAT” which throws in everything from guitar, piano, strings, strong vocals, and pads in a powerful explosion of emotion.This is easily one of the most important releases of the year, and everyone needs to check it out. This is pretty groundbreaking stuff, and is a fitting next venture for somebody as talented as Masashi Hamauzu.[embed]227355:43675[/embed]Fez Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 20, 2012Price: $7Availability: BandcampArtist(s): DisasterpeaceI wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Fez soundtrack, but man is it powerful. The opening track, “Adventure,” is somewhat unassuming with a simple arpeggio and upbeat melody, but the album quickly takes a turn for the more ambient and textural and truly becomes more about the entire listening experience that spans over an hour rather than the individual tracks contained within. Each track flows into the next, blurring the lines between where one ends and the next begins. What’s really fascinating, however, is that the single-word track titles are so incredibly descriptive of what’s contained within that it’s hard to decide whether the emphasis is on the individual or the whole.Take the mysterious “Puzzle,” the ethereal and unsettling “Beyond,” or the dreamy “Flow.” The soundtrack becomes very loose and atmospheric, making a soothing backdrop for whatever else you may be doing while listening (for me, it was driving a long distance). There’s very little use of percussion to the point that when it does appear suddenly in “Sync,” it’s a bit jarring. I love the foreboding “Fear,” the healing and angelic “Spirit” and “Nature,” the somber “Death,” and the oppressive “Pressure” which features the constant presence of static. Both “Age” and “Reflection” are contemplative, coming towards the end of the album, and my two favorite tracks, “Majesty” with its triumphant melody and the heartfelt “Love” make great closers.It’s interesting, but just listening to the album from start to finish, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something great. This is a true masterpiece from Disasterpeace, and I think everyone needs to give it a listen.[embed]227355:43660[/embed]HALO: REACH ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKRelease Date: September 28, 2010Price: $15.98Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works Artist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePardThis is an older release, but I was never able to write about it as another writer at OSV handled the review. This was my favorite Halo soundtrack, so I was looking forward to digging in for myself. True to past soundtrack releases from the franchise, the music is presented in lengthy suites that contain several pieces and cues for a given stage, ranging from five to twelve minutes in length. This is great in letting the listener re-live the game through the soundtrack, but bad for those only looking for that one magical moment that they remember from the game.While Reach brought a lot of new ideas to the table with rock instrumentation and even some Middle Eastern-inspired melodies (or not Middle Eastern, as Marty O’Donnell explains here), there is still enough emotional orchestra, tribal percussion, and even a touch of the familiar Halo theme worked in here and there if you listen for it. What surprises me is that I recall while playing the game certain bits of music that made me think, “Wow, I can’t wait to have this on CD,” only to find that it's just a 20-30 second snippet of music here. That just reinforces how powerful this soundtrack is in-game, and I had a blast listening to it on CD. In fact, I feel like I could play through the game once again, this time on legendary!I’ll quickly say my favorite pieces are the riveting “Tip of the Spear,” the desperate “New Alexandria,” and the nostalgic “The Package.” There are also several bonus tracks found at the end, including a nice remix of “Uphill, Both Ways” from Halo 3: ODST.If you’re going to check out a Halo soundtrack, this is the one in my opinion. I don’t know how O’Donnell was able to keep things so fresh after four previous installments, but he somehow did, and it’s a great sendoff for O’Donnell and Bungie.[embed]227355:43674[/embed]LIVE A LIVE Original SoundtrackRelease Date: May 2, 2012Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Yoko ShimomuraSquare Enix (then Squaresoft) published many soundtracks through the 1990s and early 2000s that have since gone out of print and have disappeared into the void. LIVE A LIVE is one such album. While Square Enix has re-released some of these as cross-promotions for their franchises and composers, I can’t think of a specific reason we’re seeing this one now, although I’m not complaining in the slightest. LIVE A LIVE is one of Yoko Shimomura’s first soundtracks at Squaresoft. Beforehand, she worked at Capcom on titles like Breath of Fire and Street Fighter II, but LIVE A LIVE marked her first big project as the sole composer on a Squaresoft title. While most tracks fall under the two minute mark, leaving little time for serious song development, there are some great melodies here, and of course, that lovely SNES sound that will remind you of other Squaresoft titles from this era. From the bombastic opening notes of “LIVE-A-LIVE,” you know you’re in for something special. There’s the funky Asian-flavored “Secret of Mission” and “Sound of Shinobi,” the more subdued “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River,” the rockin’ “KNOCK YOU DOWN!,” the upbeat and cheery “Nice Weather, Ain’t It!,” and the chippy “CAPTAIN SQUARE.” Shimomura even goes wild West with “Under the Fake” and “THE WILDS.” There’s the token emotional track, “CRY-A-LIVE” and some killer organ work in “The Demon King Odio” and “ARMAGEDDON.” The bubbly ending theme, “Live for Live” will melt your heart, and the two bonus remix tracks that were originally included with a strategy guide published in 1994 are also both presented here. “Batlissimo,” treads on 80s pop, flamenco, and 80s rock territory, while “Forgotten Wings” features piano and strings for a more emotional approach.While I’m told this game is amazing (people say this about anything released in Japan only, though) and would like to see it released someday, the music composed by Yoko Shimomura can be understood universally. Those who are curious about the game or are fans of Shimomura may want to check it out.Odin Sphere Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 18, 2012 [Reprint]Price: 3,360 Yen ($46) / $19.99 (digital)Availability: CD Japan / iTunesArtist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, Kimihiro Abe, Manabu NamikiThe year 2007 was an incredibly prolific year for Hitoshi Sakimoto, seeing the release of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Grim Grimoire, Deltora Quest, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Opoona, and Odin Sphere. It also marked the beginnings of Basiscape, Sakimoto’s sound studio featuring a talented team of composers. Odin Sphere in particular also marked the beginnings of Sakimoto's partnership with Vanillaware (his name was even used on the back of the game as a selling point).This is actually a reprint of the 2-disc soundtrack from Basiscape Records. What you have is a transitional work between what Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata were already doing together on games like Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics and their more recent collaborative works with the entire Basiscape team on titles like Opoona and Muramasa.The Odin Sphere soundtrack is a little rough around the edges. I don’t feel that there are very many complex ideas, and the melodies don’t particularly stick with you. In fact, they can get annoying after hearing them over and over again when getting stuck on a particular stage in the game. I do dig the pretty main theme with its female choral singing, and the two arrangements of this theme that come at the end of album are fantastic. Also of note are “Tutorial” which sports a catchy melody and a bouncy harpsichord, the upbeat ”Mysterious Town Pooka” with its jumpy pizzicato strings, "The Country of Death - Second" with its haunting choir and startling sound effects, and the playful “The Fairy Country – Second” by Manabu Namiki. It’s really impressive how some of the Basiscape members are so effectively able to mimic Sakimoto’s signature orchestral style.This isn’t Basiscape’s best work, although I understand if some people enjoy it based on their attachment to the game itself. The price tag is a bit steep, although you get a nice package for the price (I love the cardboard slipcase with artwork by Vanillaware’s George Kamitani).[embed]227355:43659[/embed]RIDGE RACER - PLANETARY SOUNDSRelease Date: March 26, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Hiroshi Okubo, Taku Inoue, Rio Hamamoto, Ryo Watanabe, Yuu Miyake, sanodg, AJURIKA, Kyoko Miyakura, SamplingMasters MEGA, SamplingMasters AYAThis is the soundtrack for Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita. As usual, a diverse team at Namco Bandai is joined by SuperSweep to provide a hard-hitting electronic soundtrack. We get a dreamy opening track followed by two of my favorites, the feel-good “Planet” and the incredibly catchy “Into the Lead” with its repeated lyric, “Slide through the curves / Drift into the lead.” The funky bass in “Future Driven” and the fat encompassing pads in “Virtuoso” also stand out. “Take You Away” has an fun melody, while “Super Acceleration” is the catchy electronic music I wanted to hear more of on this soundtrack.And that’s the bottom line. I didn’t feel there were enough melodies here to draw me in as there has been in past Ridge Racer titles. This works in the game, or maybe driving fast in your car, but the melodies aren’t strong enough for outside listening. Those who purchase the disc directly from SuperSweep in Japan, however, get a 55-minute continuous mix version which I believe is the definitive way to listen to this soundtrack as each piece flows into the next in a well thought-out way that’d be great for a party. But that’s only if you can get your hands on the bonus disc.[embed]227355:43678[/embed]Shinobi 3D Original SoundtrackRelease Date: January 25, 2012Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)Availability: Amazon JapanArtist(s): GEM Impact (Norihiko Hibino, Takaharu Izutani, Yoshitaka Suzuki), hiroSoundtracks form the Shinobi franchise have always been favorites among fans, so despite the fact that Shinobi 3D was either ignored or not reviewed favorably by the gaming press, I thought it was worth checking out the soundtrack. Composed by GEM Impact, the composer team behind the scenes of many Metal Gear Solid soundtracks and Ninja Blade, the studio definitely has the experience to make this work.What you have here is electronic-infused ninja rock of the highest quality. There is also extensive use of shakahauchi (a Japanese woodwind instrument) and other ethnic Japanese instruments to give the whole score a strong Japanese vibe. You get that big, epic orchestral sound from Metal Gear Solid in the opening theme, “Stillness,” then rockin’ electric guitar paired with pumping electronic percussion in tracks like “Oboro Village” and “Yuki Onna.” The adrenalin surging “Kryoborg,” the explosive rock extravaganza “BioShark,” and the synthtacular “Lava Crawler” also stand out, and I think it’s awesome that the main theme is worked into several of these tracks for continuity. As bonuses, there’s also a concept version of “Stillness” and a “Shinobi Style” remix of the After Burner theme which is also featured in the game.There’s some great music here. Moody, cinematic, rockin’, and even some great melodies. It’s certainly one of the best quality soundtracks out there on the Nintendo 3DS. You’ll be hearing more of Norihiko Hibino on the 3DS as he’s the recording director for the live talent on Etrian Odyssey IV, so look forward to that as well.Silent Hill: Downpour Original SoundtrackRelease Date: March 13, 2012Price: $14 USDAvailability: AmazonArtist(s): Daniel Licht, Jonathan LichtThis is one that fans have been greatly looking forward to. Not because Daniel Licht’s score, but mostly to validate their opinion that without Akira Yamaoka, the Silent Hill franchise is doomed. This turns out not to be true at least in terms of the soundtrack as Daniel Licht does an amazing job creating an appropriately dark and textural backdrop for the game. His use of exotic instruments like mandolin and tribal percussion also went far to transporting me into the game through its music.The opening track, “Silent Hill” by Jonathan Davis of Korn is in line with that band’s material, and while fans may hate it, it’s not meant to be a big part of the game. Series vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is apparently also featured, although I had trouble picking her out. Don’t expect the grungy rock stylings that Akira Yamaoka brought to the table. My two favorite tracks would be “Meet JP” with its beautiful yet mysterious harp runs and “Monastic Tendencies” with its throaty choral chanting and organ. You also might appreciate “Clowning Around With Monsters” in the context of the game with its evil clown laughs, overdriven guitar, and crunchified percussion.Overall, a strong effort that has me looking forward to what Licht does with Book of Memories regardless of what I think of the game itself.[embed]227355:43661[/embed]Skullgirls Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 21, 2012Price: $9.99Availability: iTunes Artist(s): Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante, Blaine McGurty, Brenton KossakThe much-anticipated soundtrack for Skullgirls was put on everyone’s radar when it was announced that Castlevania queen Michiru Yamane was signing on to work on the game. Little did we know that Flower’s Vincent Diamante and Retro Remix Revue’s Blain McGurty would also be on board to provide an amazingly snazzy jazz soundtrack.Michiru Yamane handles the main theme and stage themes, with the main theme sounding like a choral singing spoof on Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover,” and her stage themes cover a lot of territory from the aforementioned jazz to some more electronic-oriented offerings. My favorites from her are probably the pumping electronic “Paved With Good Intentions” and the oh-so-smooth “The Lives We Left Behind.” Honestly, however, I think Diamante and the McGurty/Kossak duo outshine Yamane’s contributions. I love McGurty/Kossak’s sexy “Pick of the Litter” and the swanky “A Roll of the Dice,” and all of Diamante’s contributions are pure genius, showing a true mastery of the jazz genre. The laid-back and reflective “Forgotten Moments” is probably my favorite from him.While I have to admit I’m a bit let down by Yamane’s contributions (people will be left wanting something more Castlevania-flavored), on a whole, this is a great jazzy soundtrack, and there aren’t nearly as many of those out there as I’d like to see.[embed]227355:43662[/embed]TERA The Exiled Realm of Arborea Original Soundtrack Part 1Release Date: May 1, 2012Price: $79.99Availability: Collector’s edition bonus Artist(s): Inon Zur, Rod AbernethyI think North America kind of got a bum deal on the collector’s edition of TERA. While those in Europe are enjoying their fancy cloth map, a real book instead of a floppy manual, and an audio CD, the fact that the soundtrack released in North America is actually a data disc means there are 50 tracks as opposed to 26. With music composed by Inon Zur and Rod Abernethy, you’re in for an epic journey.Well, that’s to say that there’s a lot of big, bombastic orchestral music here. While it doesn’t make for the most exciting outside listening (you’ll feel like you’ve heard this all before in countless fantasy games and films), it works wonders in the huge and beautiful environments of the game. Whether exploring the vast wilderness or an exotic locale, the music makes for a great accompaniment. I actually dig the more mellow tracks, including “High Elf – The Children of Karas” with its sweeping strings and angelic choir, the upbeat “Elinu’s Dance,” and the majestic and powerful “City of Truth.” “Solitude” and “Catacomb” really hit the mark for dark and dangerous while “Tulufun Nights,” “To the Oasis,” and “Sailor’s Horn” take a turn for the more exotic. Finally, both “Turnabout” and “Watchtower Panorama” sport some impressive guitar work that should catch your ear both inside and outside the game.As a free soundtrack included with the collector’s edition I can’t really complain, although the presentation leaves much to be desired. It doesn’t come in its own jewel case, but rather is the fourth disc found in the disc tray under the game discs. Still, I’ll be watching to see if there’s a Part 2, as MMOs like this tend to have huge amounts of music.

As promised, we're back with another installment of Note Worthy, Destructoid's newest feature that digs deep into the music from some of the latest games as well as older ones that deserve some attention. This month we take a...

Note Worthy 001: Kingdom Hearts 3D, Journey, and more

Apr 18 // Jayson Napolitano
Airu Love You / I'll Love You ~Monster Hunter Arrange à la carte ~Release Date: August 24, 2011Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)Availability: LimitedArtist(s): Zunba Kobayashi, Jun -setzer- Kadoma, Shoichiro Sakamoto, Takahiro Eguchi, Yousuke Yasui, Teruo Taniguchi Okay, this one’s downright strange. Released by several members of SuperSweep, and more specifically, a bunch of the guys who worked on the 3D Dot Game Heroes soundtrack, this release offers an eclectic array of remixes from the Monster Hunter series.The strange part comes in with the grating Japanese vocal tracks, one of which is about meat. There are also lots of cats meowing and growling throughout the entire album in addition to the packaging featuring images cats geared up to go on an adventure. The karaoke versions provided at least liberate the strong arrangements from the terrible vocals, but it’s not all bad. There are a few great vocal tracks to be found, including one that delves into bossa nova territory, although the retro 8-bit remix of “Testament of a Hero” from Monster Hunter 3, a bumpin’ FM synthesis take on “Day on Pokke Farm” from Monter Hunter Portable 2nd, and the hard-hitting electronic remix of “Jungle Glutton / Congalala” from Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G are my favorites. There are even some arrangements from the Poka Poka Airu Mura spin-off titles.In all, there’s some great stuff here. The problem is getting your hands on it. It’s sold through SuperSweep’s online shop in Japan, and may be worth checking out if you’re a hardcore fan of the series. Denpa Ningen no RPG Original SoundtrackRelease Date: March 28, 2012Price: 2,200 Yen ($26.50)Availability: iTunes JapanArtist(s): Basiscape (Hitoshi Sakimoto, Yoshimi Kudo, Kimihiro Abe, Azusa Chiba, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda)This is certainly a quirky one. Basiscape is one of the top sound studios in Japan with founder Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, Valkyria Chronicles) at its helm and a number of talented composers under him who can emulate his style as well as make bold statements of their own. This release, for a Japanese 3DS title, features nearly an hour and a half of music with Sakimoto handling the main theme which sports funky bass, strange electric shock sound effects, and a bubbly melody that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Think of a blend between Earthbound and Paper Mario and that’s what you have here. It’s kind of in line with the team’s impressive score for Opoona, but unfortunately with a lot less emotion. Two tracks that did stand out for me were the incredibly abstract “Antenna Tower” with its pitch-bending synth lines and the super funky “Cave” with its hip-hop percussion and playfully spooky soundcape.This one probably isn’t for everyone as I didn’t find a whole lot to sink my teeth into. Given the hefty asking price for a digital release (it’s probably best that they went digital, but not at this price point), I can’t see myself recommending it. Still, fans of the Basiscape team or those looking for something ‘weird’ from Japan may want to check it out, even if that means purchasing “Cave” on its own.[embed]225854:43396[/embed] Journey Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 10, 2012Price: $4.99Availability: iTunes / CD release TBAArtist(s): Austin WintoryAfter having an amazing experience playing through the game, I had to wait in anticipation all over again for the game’s soundtrack. We hosted a lovely feature with Austin Wintory about his work on Journey where he discussed the creation of several pieces as well as offered samples, but with the complete soundtrack in hand, I’m surprised there’s actually so much music here, totaling nearly an hour of music. And all of it sounds fantastic with live session artists and even a live orchestra.All the key elements are here for you to re-experience Journey all over again, but this time aurally. There’s the blistering wind of “The Call,” the playful “Threshold,” the vibrant “Road of Trials” (one of my personal favorites), the foreboding “Temptations” with its lovely harp work and the ominous “Descent” with its rumbling percussion. There are some more atmospheric pieces in between before a powerful trio closes out the album with the desperate “Nadir” that accompanies a key moment in the game, the jubilant and dreamy “Apotheosis,” and the emotionally charged ending vocal theme, “I was Born for This.”Even when you’re out on the go, you can experience the magic of Journey any time with this soundtrack. Even those who didn’t play the game should appreciate Austin Wintory’s majestic score, and it obviously comes just as highly recommended as the game itself.[embed]225854:43397[/embed]Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance Original SoundtrackRelease Date: April 18, 2012Price: 3,800 Yen ($47 USD)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Yoko Shimomura, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Takeharu IshimotoI’ve never been a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts titles or their soundtracks. I always found them to be overly upbeat to the point of being cheesy, but that all changed with Birth by Sleep, which took a much more mature approach in the music department. Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance follows suit coming as light-hearted but not cheesy,and changes things up a bit by adding a lot of electronic sounds to the heavily orchestral palette of the series.Series composer Yoko Shimomura handles the majority of the score, starting with the popular series main theme, “Dearly Beloved,” which gets a sweet waltz arrangement. She provides an eclectic mix of tracks, but my favorites would be the angelic “The World of Dream Drops” with its bell tress, piano, and strings, the elegant yet desperate “La Chloche” with timpani and harpsichord, “All for One” with its classy melody, and “Distant From You...,” which comes as a beautiful and heartwrenching duet between strings and harp. “Deep Drop” also stands out with its dark electronic sound accented by organ.Square Enix’s Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto also join the mix, with Sekito providing mostly epic orchestral cues with “Majestic Wings” and “Gigabyte Mantis” being my favorites. Ishimoto, on the other hand, provides several memorable moments with his electronic contributions that start with several remixes from The World Ends With You (the bumpin’ club version of “Calling” is my personal favorite) as well as several moody and textural electronic tracks, of which “Keyblade Cycle” stands out with its unsettling and glitchy soundscape. There are also several classical pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and others tucked away at the end of the album.There’s some great music here, and the packaging for this three-disc collection is delightful with glossy cardboard and some classy silhouettes on the discs themselves. Fans will want to definitely check out what’s new with the Kingdom Hearts series, while others may want to wait and play the game before deciding to drop close to $50 USD on this one.Manabu Namiki WORKS Vol.2 ~Thunder Dragon 2~Release Date: December 21, 2011Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Manabu NamikiFor those who don’t know, Manabu Namiki has become somewhat of a legend over the years for his soundtracks to many a shmup title from Cave, Zuntata, and more. He’s also a member of Basiscape. This album presents his soundtrack to the 1993 title, Thunder Dragon 2. While the album contains 17 tracks, several are ‘alternate versions’ of the same two themes that accompany you throughout all of the game’s seven stages.While “Fly to Live,” “Live to Fly,” and their variations are your standard energetic shmup tracks with an electronic backing and a jazzy vibe, the highlights are the two new arrangements: the super funky “Still Live to Fly” by Shinji Hosoe and the touching piano ballad, “Fly to Live -Love Theme-“ by Namiki himself. I also dig the epic final battle theme, “Marginal Attack” and the ridiculous “Voice Collection,” showing off some of the worst voice acting of all time.With so little music presented here when you remove the countless indistinguishable variations on the two stage themes, only hardcore fans of Manabu Namiki will probably find this worth the price.Piano Collections NieR Gestalt & ReplicantRelease Date: March 21, 2012Price: 2,800 Yen ($34)Availability: CD JapanArtist(s): Keigo Hoashi, Kumi Tanioka, Ryuichi Takada, Yuri Misumi This was easily my most anticipated release of 2012. The NieR soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time, but I wasn’t sure how this album would work without the haunting vocals of Emi Evans. I was impressed to find that the arrangements here retained their magic, but in a different way. The arrangements are pretty straightforward, with MoNACA (the game’s original composition team) handling most of the arrangements and performances and guest Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) performing three, which was a nice treat.In the end, the question as to whether or not these arrangements are ‘better’ than the original ones is kind of a pointless one. I don’t think they are better or worse, but rather, different. I’ll usually default to the original versions with Emi Evans, but I can’t discount the soothing and simply elegant arrangements here either. I definitely think it’s worth checking out on its own merits as well as to send a message to Square Enix that we want more NieR.The Music of Retro City RampageRelease Date: February 2, 2012Price: $7.99 CAD (Digital) / $43 CAD (Vinyl)Availability: BandcampArtist(s): Freaky DNA, Norrin Radd, virt[Update: You can pick up the vinyl for $39 CAD directly from Lotus Audio if you're interested]Retro City Rampage is attempting to be the ultimate expression of fanservice to those like me who consider the NES to be their first videogame love. The quirky humor and endless videogame references carry over into the soundtrack, and the team has once again done things right by releasing the soundtrack composed by three accomplished chiptune artists well before the release of the game to generate hype along with a limited editon vinyl release that is simply beautiful (and yes, the blue version I drooled over is almost sold out, and the green is completely gone).The soundtrack itself is a lot of fun, although somewhat short at just about 40 minutes in length. Fan-favorite virt gives us a gritty and irreverent opening theme as well as a few parody tracks that made me chuckle, including “Not Mega…” that sounds almost exactly like… well, that famous blue guy. He actually contributes the fewest number of tracks, followed by Freaky DNA who brings the funk with “Half Steppin’” and “Bit Happy,” two of my favorite tracks on album. Norrin Rad handles the largest number of tracks, lending a poppy sound with the catchy “Dance Off,” the spacey “Proton Decay,” and the giddy “Smut Peddler.”I can’t say that many of the melodies here stuck with me afterwards, but I imagine that will change after playing the game. I love what the team has done with the soundtrack and especially the fact that they’ve released It before the game’s release. Be sure to check it out.[embed]225854:43399[/embed]SONIC ADVENTURE Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary EditionRelease Date: May 18, 2011Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: CD Japan / iTunesArtist(s): Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Masaru Setsumaru, Fumie KumataniThis is an odd release that came out last year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s odd in that it’s a single disc ‘best of’ collection, whereas the originally issued soundtrack contained two discs. Why they didn’t re-issue the full two-disc soundtrack, I don’t know, but it goes for hundreds of dollars on the used market these days, so with this release, you may as well take what you can get.And you’ll want to take it. Crush40 and Jun Senoue have been, in my opinion, destroying Sonic’s musical legacy for so long with all their cheesy vocal tracks that I’d forgotten just how good this soundtrack was. Senoue and Crush40 are here, but this is their first outing together, so they come off as more subdued. The few tracks that Crush40 is featured on are actually tasteful and catchy. As for the rest of the soundtrack, it’s some of the best that the Sonic series has to offer with incredibly melodies covering pop, rock, and electronic styles. I could list nearly every track on this collection as a favorite, so I’ll refrain and simply say “Windy Hill” from Windy City and “Egg Carrier - A Song That Keeps Us On The Move” are my jam.Fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog music that missed out on the two-disc version will want to pick this up for sure.SONIC THE HEDGEHOG CD Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary EditionRelease Date: November 23, 2011Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia / iTunesArtist(s): Masafumi Ogata, Naofumi HatayaFew soundtracks are as controversial as the Sonic CD soundtrack. The original soundtrack was composed by Sega composers in Japan and was featured intact in the Japanese and European releases of the game. Fans in North America were probably unaware, however, that Sega of America completely re-scored the game for the North America release. The original score was much more electronic in style, resembling past Sonic soundtracks, while the North American version got a more atmospheric slant. Why this was done, nobody knows, but it happened, and there wasn’t a proper release for the original Japanese/European soundtrack until now.What you have are the core stage themes with additional “good future,” “bad future,” and “boss” mixes. I have to say that while I like both versions of the soundtrack, I prefer the ones presented here with a fun, tropical “Palmtree Panic,” the sexy smooth jazz flavored “Tidal Tempest,” the upbeat fusion “Quartz Quandrant,” and the chugging electronic “Wacky Workbench” areas. The early 1990s-flavored hip-hop version of “Stardust Speedway” also made me chuckle. While this version resonates with me more, I do have to admit I like Nielsen’s “Sonic Boom” vocal theme better than the horrible hip-hop “You Can Do Anything” found here, and the inspirational rap ending theme, “Believe in Yourself” is just embarrassing. There are some bonus remixes found here as well, including renditions of “Sonic Boom” and “Stardust Speedway” featuring Jun Senoue, Crush40 and Cash Cash (an electronic group featured heavily on Sonic Generations). Fans of Naofumi Hataya (who also scored NiGHTS) should appreciate the track-by-track artist breakdown.Of all the 20th anniversary soundtrack releases, this one is most worth your attention as it’s not a simple re-issue, but a first-time release with bonuses. It’s worth checking out to get an alternate take on the game’s soundtrack for fans in North America who didn’t know any better. Valkyria Chronicles 3 Sound and Song CollectionRelease Date: May 11, 2011Price: 3,500 Yen ($42)Availability: CD Japan / Play-AsiaArtist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shiro Sagisu, Hikaru Nanase, Masato Nakayama, Katsuhiko Kurosu This is another one by Hitoshi Sakimoto. I love his Western-flavored Valkyria Chronicles soundtracks, and the soundtrack for Valkyria Chronicles 3 was particularly mature and moody after the more upbeat Valkyria Chronicles 2. I’m looking at this one so late after its release because it was initially released by Basiscape Records in February 2011. I was wondering what this re-issue was all about, and apparently it’s the same great soundtrack with the wonderful guitar arrangements featured on the Basiscape release swapped out for four licensed vocal themes used in the game and in the anime adaptation. These are rather standard Japanese pop and rock tracks, although JAM Project’s “Song of the Soldiers Chasing the Wind” from the game actually fits in with the score as a triumphant march with male choral-style singing, much to my surprise.I’d honestly recommend picking up the Basiscape Records version with its guitar arrangements over this one. They are incredibly well done, and with the exception of the aforementioned JAM Project track, the vocal themes here don’t have a whole lot of connection to the series. You can pick up the Basiscape Records version at CD Japan as well.[embed]225854:43423[/embed]

Welcome to Note Worthy, a new feature we’re rolling out on Destructoid! If you’ve read anything I’ve contributed over the past year at Destructoid, you’ve probably noticed that it all pertains to game ...

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