Common reactions to the mention of a video game concert generally include: "That sounds lame", "Wow, that's dorky" and the ubiquitous "I like games, but not that much." I was always puzzled by these reactions, especially from hardcore gamers. What they don't even realize is the formative power of video game music -- so subtly essential that you don't even notice its presence until a stranger in a public place says to you, "Wow, are you humming the boss theme from Super Metroid?" Ironic, isn't it?
UPDATE: Literally as I posted this, Vertexguy sent us some footage of both his performances from VGL. Hot! Check em out at the end of the jump!
Then of course, there's another core group (mostly pained cosplayers) that truly love game music. By love I mean they watch for new releases, load them onto their iPods and babble to their friends about the third track on disc 5. So where does this leave those of us who just go to events like Video Games Live just to see what its all about? On the final night of GDC, I had the pleasure of finding out firsthand, and let me tell you before you shoot it down -- I saw something truly fantastic.
The show kicked off with a medley of arcade images and themes, getting the crowd reacting right off the bat. Tommy Tallarico came out and got a kid to play Space Invaders using his body for the ship's movement, which was more difficult than it looked at first glance. Engaging the audience with that type of interactive play was awesome, but it wasn't until the orchestra launched into "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy 7 that those amazing chills of memory started to hit me. The best part of the music is remembering -- the moments you played those games for the first time, discovered those characters, and lived through the stories told there.
The highlight of the evening for me was not the much anticipated appearance by Koji Kondo (although he was wonderful), but instead seeing pianist Martin Leung perform. He moved so swiftly across the keys, the massive screens we watched appeared to show fast forwarded footage. We were unable to record at the show itself, but you have to check this guy out as watching him actually blew a couple of my brain fuses.
We also got the pleasure of rocking out with Chris Kline ("vertexguy") as debuted his version of the Contra jungle theme. Tommy Tallarico came out later in the show and joined him and the orchestra for a fierce jam session (check the video below to see that performance). God, Contra makes me more excited than pre-pubescent Japanese schoolgirls being violated by alien life.
To end the evening with a bang, Koji Kondo gave us his rendition of the all the Mario themes. As I watched, I thought about my entire gaming career from age 10 on. What a pleasure it has been, and still the world of games explodes with new life every second. These games have marked my memories in ways that few other things ever could. If reliving the pleasure of all those golden days sounds good to you, you might want to check out Video Games Live. In fact, it made me decide to replay Final Fantasy 7. Imagine my delight watching the world of Midgar surge up around me, and finding it was like watching it again for the first time.
UPDATE: Check out exclusive footage of vertexguy!!!