Though it is often de-emphasized in favor of graphics and gameplay, a great soundtrack can help elevate a game to legendary status, and is often the most fondly remembered element of a game when reminisced on years down the line. Hearing a tune can even elicit vivid memories of the emotions and actions associated with the song.
These ten soundtracks not only fit their respective games well, but wonderful in their own rights. They complement the games beautifully, and at their best enhance the experience in a way that only appropriate music could. We will be listening to these years down the road.
Though beautiful, Columbia feels no less sinister than Andrew Ryan's shattered kingdom -- though its malevolence is more insidious in its subtlety. The understated anachronism is one perfect example -- Infinite boasts a gorgeous soundtrack, but like everything in Columbia, it's not quite right. A band on the beach performing a Cyndi Lauper song, an old gramophone blaring out jazz covers of music that shouldn't exist for decades. And then there's the people, smiling pleasantly with all the cold charm of a Stepford wife. Columbia's a scary place -- breathtaking in its magnificence, yet intimidating through just how intimidating it isn't.
The soundtrack is a perfect example. Though mostly original music, the tunes are so informed by melodramatic eighties scores you'll swear you've heard them all before -- in a good way. Heavy synthetic drums and needlessly ominous keyboard loops pierce their way through every cutscene and action sequence, further adding a level of authentic flare, and hammering home the careful attention to detail that makes Blood Dragon more than a cheap pastiche.
Part of the reason for said concession is because, simply put, the art of Awakening is beautiful. During most of the game's story sequences, art will be shown in the form of still drawings with text to move the narrative forward. And man, that Fire Emblem theme sends chills down my spine every time.
As you might expect, the sound direction is impeccable as always. Voice acting in this series never fails to impress me, and this is some of the best yet. From Franklin's street smart seriousness to Michael's barely controlled rage and Trevor's hyperactive mania, the performances found in GTA V are some of the very best in the series. The acting is backed up by a great soundtrack. Original music in missions does a great job of building tension, while there are loads of radio stations playing delightful licensed music, from Elton John, to Def Leppard and -- of course -- All Saints. If you ever get bored of making your own entertainment, there's also more talk radio, where Lazlow and friends chatter away for your amusement as you drive.
The art style is fitting to the subject matter and recalls some of the best of animation of the 90's, like a cross between Disney's Hercules and the finer works of Bruce Timm. Characters are bright, bold, angular, and iconic. They stay true to the Mexican setting while carrying their own unique flair (and plenty of tiny shout outs to other games in this vein, like Castle Crashers, Mario, Mega Man, Majora's Mask, and more). The music is similarly high fructose while maintaining a serious sense of top-notch craftmanship.
The sound effects are subtle and at the same time realistic. It's a good thing they are realistic too, because sometimes they will be the only real thing you can hold on to. The score is especially solid, striking the exact tone just when it is needed. One track in particular is sure to keep you humming days later. It's got a very southern feel to it, with a bit of bluegrass and a bit of gospel combined into one.
In terms of controlling the action it's also easy to see where you are at all times, and the ability to "look" across the way with the d-pad is a nice touch. All things considered, this is one of the most well made top-down Zelda games on a technical level. The soundtrack is essentially a "greatest hits" of A Link To the Past, and although it isn't an advancement in terms of sound direction, it doesn't have any low points either.
This is to say nothing of the music, brought to us by Joe Hisaishi and the Tokyo Philharmonic. Packed with memorable tunes (the world map theme is stuck in my head as I type this) and elegant arrangements, there is a reason why expectant fans have been talking up the soundtrack in the weeks leading to launch. As with so much of the game, its orchestral qualities and sense of fun really put me in mind of Dragon Quest VIII, and that will never be a bad thing.
I don't comment on game soundtracks often, but 3D World's score is one of the best OSTs I've ever heard -- and I'm not just talking about the gaming industry. There are parts where it sounds like a classic Mario game, something completely new (like a straight-up funk track I would buy outright), or even a fully orchestrated Ghibli film. The sound effects are just as flawless, with an insane amount of detail going into minute happenings, like the crackling of torches or the scrunching of certain surfaces. In the future I hope every Mario game has an array of audio this impressive, because I don't think I can go back.
Everything just works so well in unison. The soundtrack is delightful and odd, at times reminiscent of Paprika’s parade fanfare with its lively horns. The world, put together in paper scraps, is unbelievable in its artistry and function. Tearaway’s paper water and ripples as you walk through it are more impressive than any realistic water graphics I’ve ever seen. The level of unique detail in the world is staggering. Every moment spent immersed in it is heartwarming. Fittingly, it feels positively handcrafted.
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