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 were some big sleeper hits in addition to some big releases that just came out days ago that we'll have to get to next month.
In the meantime, dig in, listen to our streaming samples courtesy of the Destructoid Soundcloud account, and let us know what you think of this month's soundtrack round-up!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Original Soundtrack
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Michael McCann
When 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.
ESCHATOS ARRANGE TRACKS
Release Date: May 10, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($34)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yousuke Yasui, Hiroto Saitoh
ESCHATOS 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 Encounter
Release Date: June 18, 2012
Availability: OverClocked ReMix
Artist(s): OverClocked ReMix
I 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?
Hoshi no Arika Zanmai
Release Date: December 30, 2011
Price: 1,500 Yen ($19) (physical) / $7.99 (digital)
Availability: Limited / iTunes
Artist(s): Falcom Sound Team jdk
Don’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 SOUNDTRACK
Released: July 4, 2012
Price: 3,150 Yen ($38)
Availability: CD Japan
Artists: Naoto Tanaka, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Akira Takizawa
I 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!
Moon Breakers EP
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Artist(s): Bear McCreary
Maybe 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 Game
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Price: $19.98 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: La-La Land Records / iTunes
Artist(s): Christopher Lennertz
I 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 Tokyo
Release Date: June 11, 2012
Price: $24.95 EUR
Availability: MAZ Sound
Artist(s): Jonne Valtonen, Yoko Shimomura, Hiroki Kikuta, Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu
If 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.
Release Date: March 28, 2012
Price: 1,500 Yen ($19)
Artist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, TEKARU
This 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 Soundtrack
Release Date: July 27, 2011
Price: 2,300 Yen ($29)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Tsutomu Narita, Nobuo Uematsu
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!