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 album, and a new album by the funktacular OneUps among many others releases.
As always, we have samples courtesy of ours and some other Soundcloud account this months. Given them a listen and let us know what you think.
Darksiders II Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(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.
Guild Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack
Release Date: July 8, 2012
Artist(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!
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Price: $10 (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: Mustin Enterprises (physical) / Bandcamp
Artist(s): The OneUps
The 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.
Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru: Juichininme no Suspect Original Soundtrack
Release Date: December 28, 2011
Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(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 Album
Release Date: August 8, 2012
Price: 2,500 Yen ($32 USD)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist: Hiroki Kikuta
This 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.
Songs of "Songs of ANAGURA"
Release Date: July 15, 2012
Price: 1,050 Yen ($13.36 USD) (physical) / $6.99 (digital)
Availability: Limited (physical) / iTunes
Artist: Takayuki Nakamura
This 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?
Sorcerian Original Soundtrack Vol.1
Release Date: August 24, 2011
Price: 4,200 Yen ($53)
Artist(s): Falcom Sound Team JDK
Sorcerian 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 Discs
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Availability: Limited (Tower Records and Village/Vangaurd CD shops in Japan)
Artist(s): Various Artists
Square 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-Man
Release Date: TBA
Artist(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.
The Last Story Original Soundtrack
Release Date: February 23, 2011
Price: 3,000 Yen ($39 USD)
Availability:CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist: Nobuo Uematsu
Yes, 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.