Author's Note: There is a long introduction at the beginning of this article, so if you just want to get to the meat of it scroll down to the first Youtube video. Enjoy!
Hello Destructoid community! I'm D-Volt and have been a member of this site since around 2012 (though I've lurked since 2009). A longtime fan of the video game medium, I've been gaming almost all my life. The first console I ever played was my older brothers' SNES, and how do I know this? There's a video my mother recorded of a 3 year old me failing to win at NBA Jam (though I seemed to be having a heck of a lot of fun regardless.) The console that really got me firmly into video games, however, was when I recieved a New York Pokemon Center exclusive Golden GBA with a copy of Pokemon Gold for my birthday.
Note: This isn't a picture of my personal GBA. I lost mine years ago with my copy of Fire Red still inside. RIP you beautiful angel. :')
I don't want to bog down this post with too much introduction, so if you have any other questions about me, feel free to ask in the comments section. Or if you'd like me to write a full biography blog post (why would you though?), I can do that as well.
So I finally decided to make some form of contribution to the community in the form of a blog, as I finally felt I had something to talk about. In this case I am talking about video game music, a real passion of mine. I still remember my friends in elementary school asking me why, "you're so obsessed with the music in video games. Half the time you don't even notice the music." Music is one of those elements of video games that is often overlooked or underapprciated because it's rarely ever part of the reason you buy a game. For example, think of all the video game box art you've viewed in your life so far. Sure, some of it is so good you'd like to see it hung up in a museum, but I doubt there are many times you've thought, "Man, I'll buy that game just for the box art alone!" Video game music is similar. And while you may purchase the soundtrack later or a poster of the box art, that's not exactly the reason the art and music were created in the first place. Additionally, a majority of video games don't get an official soundtrack release, either digitally or physically, meaning you have to be motivated enough to track down the soundtrack on Youtube or upload it yourself. I assume most consumers aren't invested enough in video game music to do that and so it is easy to disregard music as an insignificant part of video games.
Lately I've been constructing a Video Game Study Playlist on Youtube with some of my favorite video game songs. Personally there's nothing I'd like better to do in my first blog than to share my passion for video game music with others. So in this article I'm going to share some more obscure video game compositions that you may have forgotten or never heard of to begin with. Countless times I've played a video game with a great song and thought, "Does anyone else know about this rockin' piece?! This needs to be heard by more people!" If I can have even one more person listen to these songs I'm sharing with you today, that will have made this blog totally worth it.
So get those headphones ready and let's listen to some great video game music you probably haven't heard before!
1. Drakkhen (SNES): Night in the Forest
Drakkhen is one of those games that is very easy to overlook. Released originally by Infogrames in 1989 for the Amiga and Atari ST, it was later ported to the SNES by Kemco (yes, those guys that publish all those mobile RPGs now). I tracked down a copy for $5 at my local video game shop and if you can find it on the cheap it's worth a weekend playthrough. While not the best game by any means, it did contain a captivating 3-D world populated by all kinds of memorable and nasty creatures, such as a giant black dog head that shoots lasers and instantly destroys your party or "The Shade of Doom," a giant shadowy figure with a red gem in his chest who emerges from the ground. The music is by and large of a melancholy, sombre tone and really sets the mood for the game. Rather than feel like an uplifting adventure to slay a dragon and bring glory to your kingdom, it instead makes you think of your quest as a tragic one, sent off to save a kingdom that is doomed to ruin someday anyways. Perhaps I'm being too existential about an old SNES RPG where 90% of the sound effects are screeches and hissing, but I can't reccommend this soundtrack enough. Another standout song from this game is Day in the Ice.
2. Kotoba no Puzzle: Mojipittan (PS2): Bedtime Puzzler
Okay, this is lowkey one of my favorite chill out music tracks ever, video game or otherwise. Released on January 9th, 2003 by then Namco (now Bandai-Namco Entertainment) for the Playstation 2, Mojipittan has since gotten games for the PSP, DS, and Wiiware. Despite the multiple games it has never come stateside, though considering how heavily the series relies on the Japanese language for its gameplay, it'd be hard to see how it could be successfully translated into English. I came across this track somewhat by accident, as I was looking for the background music to the popular Youtube video KokorokokoroKOKOROkokoROKOkoroKOKOrokoKOROkokoKokoro-chan iu na by anonymide (which itself is a reupload of a popular Nico Nico Douga video) and discovered it was from the PSP game, Kotoba no Puzzle: Mojipittan Daijiten. It took me an hour to find that song, but only because I found this one first and played it on repeat for 30 minutes. I wouldn't reccomend the games unless you have a firm grasp of the Japanese language, but the soundtracks to all the games in the series are amazing. It's a shame there are no definitive Youtube playlists of all the games soundtracks. They totally deserve them. Shoutout to the vocal version of this song which is also worth a listen. While I'm not the biggest fan of the vocals themselves, the added instumentation is simply scrumptous.
3. Crusader of Centy (Genesis): Burn Daisy
Oh Crusader of Centy. Alongside Chrono Trigger, Mount & Blade, and Risen you are one of those few games I picked up and pushed everything to the wayside until I finished you. Released on June 16th, 1994 and developed by Nextech, Crusader of Centy is a Zelda style action-adventure title for the Sega Genesis. You play as Corona, a 14-year old boy who must take the same test all 14-year olds do in Soleil Town and prepare for battle. Little does Corona know he's about to go on an adventure that will change everything he thinks he knows about the world around him. Crusader of Centy is Undertale before Undertale was even a thing. The story forces the player to question if the monsters he's cutting down are really as evil as you've been led to believe and learn how things turned out so wrong. Thankfully the other thing Crusader of Centy has in common with Undertale is its stellar soundtrack.
This particular piece, Burn Daisy, plays when you're inside a firey mountain. The jazzy rhythm and smooth melody make it really stand out from most other video game volcano themes. It's also a great contrast from the brash theme of the Burn Daisy Overworld which is all loud punchy notes and scattered trills. I'd post the whole soundtrack here if I could. Seriously, find a copy of this game and/or the soundtrack and have a blast! And can we get a re-release sometime in the future Atlus? Maybe?
4. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES): City of Forest (Foresta)
I know I've ranted in a comments section on this site before about how amazing the Final Fantasy Mystic Quest soundtrack is and now I have the distinct pleasure of doing so again, this time in blog format! Released in October 5th, 1992, it happens to be one of the only Final Fantasy games to release in North America before anywhere else (in fact it might be the only one, but I'm not going to go Wikipedia article hopping to find out). Probably one of the more well known examples of overlooked video game soundtracks on account of its namesake, Mystic Quest was citicized for its simple difficulty level and plot compared to other Final Fantasy games. This is another game I grabbed from my local game store and man, is it worth it for the music alone. This happens to be one of my favorite pieces from the game, but the rest is solid as well. The OC Remix of this song by Diggi Dis is also unreal, so put that sucker on your study playlist as well while you're at it.
5. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (PS3, PS4, Vita, PC): Let's Lie In This Case
The first contemporary game on this list, but this song is probably just as overlooked as the rest, which is a damn shame. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 was released in North America on August 25th, 2015 and this song grabbed my attention the moment it first played. It's unfortuately easy to miss some of the great songs in Koei Tecmo's Warriors series of games because the sound effects of slashing and bashing are so loud. Bring those SFX down a knotch, however, and you'll find a soundtrack that has been composed and constructed with care. I've been a Warriors series fan since Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires and I have been dutifully rewarded with amazing music for my troubles. I was torn between posting this song or the track I Want to Live from the same game, so look that one up too when you find the time.
6. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life: Quiet Winter (PS2 Version)
Harvest Moon is a series I sometimes found myself thinking, "Man, didn't Harvest Moon have a lot of great, chill music in it?" Then I go back to find that no, Harvest Moon is comprised mostly or bright, upbeat tunes and that feeling of relaxation I got was from the zen induced by the gameplay, not the music. However I was not wrong in the case of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, released on September 12th, 2003. The game has a much more easygoing vibe to it compared to other entires in the series and while never held up there in quite the same regard as Harvest Moon 64 or More Friends of Mineral Town, I have always regarded it as my favorite Harvest Moon. This track, Quiet Winter, is a wonderful little diddy where the name says it all. You can almost envision staring out the window into a sea of snow and watching snowflakes silently drift from the clouds to the world below. This is the PS2 Special Edition version of the song, but the original is worth a listen as well. Like Crusader of Centy I end this entry on a similar note: Can we please get a re-release Natsume? PLEASE?!
7. Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (GB): The Prince's Adventure
Literally translated as "For the Frog the Bell Tolls," and released exclusively in Japan on September 4th, 1992, you may recognized the main character of this game as the Sablé Prince Assist Trophy in Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS. A classic that deserves to be held up alongside The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (with whom it shares the same engine and some assets), this adventure title has a varied and rich soundtrack with not a bad note in sight (and by that I mean that's a lie and the title screen song is a mess. But mostly it's great!). This song in particular plays while on the overworld and I found myself humming along to it every time it played. I especially like the quick opening 6 notes, which are essentially the motif on which much of the game's music revolves. Honorable mention to the stellar credits song I was this close to posting here. Oh, and there's a wonderful soft guitar cover of this song from the Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive Peach Themed Nintendo Sound Selections CD (man, that was a mouthful). It's somewhere on Youtube, so slap that one on the playlist as well if you can find it.
8. Dark Law: Meaning of Death (SFC): Shanoah Town
Okay, now we're going REEEEEAAALLY obscure here. I'm a big fan of just tracking down some barely known Japanese RPG from the 90s, buying a copy and playing through it on a weekend or two. Dark Law: Meaning of Death was one of those. Released exclusively in Japan on March 28th, 1997, it is the last game in the Dark Lord Trilogy of games by ASCII Corporation, the other two being Wizap! and Dark Lord. It's heavier on story telling and writing than it is combat, which was bad for me because I couldn't read Japanese at the time. After studying Japanese for 3 years now I think I could at least somewhat understand what's going on, but I didn't need to read to enjoy the great soundtrack. While most of it consists of sombre, brooding pieces (as you might expect from a game with the words "Dark" and "Death" in its name), this jazzy, upbeat composition caught me off guard. Shame no one will ever get to appreciate this radical tune again....until today! You're welcome Satoshi Nagano & Michihiko Shich. I'll expose your music to the wider audience it deserves!
9. Neverdead (PS3 & Xbox 360): Rest Your Head (Arcadia's Apartment 1)
I know, I know. If you have heard of Neverdead, you've probably heard that it's a piece of trash and one of the worst games of 2012. I would argue differently, as I found it to be a decent Devil May Cry wannabe with personality and an interesting gameplay mechanic in the form of being able to blow yourself apart and put yourself back together again. It's likely anyone reading this article has never played this game, and that's a shame because the soundrack is actually pretty rad. It's mainly an intense rock music affair, but away from the head banging battle tunes are the real standouts: the calming and peaceful themes that play while in deuteragonist Arcadia's apartment. They're a wonderful break from the action in the game and remind me of the save rooms in Resident Evil 0. They give you time for your blood pressure to go back down and your heatrate to lower before it's on with the action again. Please also give a listen to this song's sister theme Haven (Arcadia's Apartment 2) when you get the chance. It's a stupendous piece that sounds remarkably similar to Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song. It would probably make for some great background music for your upcoming Christmas social alongside the track Christmas on Dobuita Street from Shenmue (another great song by the way!)
10. Super Monkey Ball 2 (GCN): Monkey Target
I hope you've all played Super Monkey Ball 2 by this point! It's one of the classics of the Gamecube era! Seriously, go out and grab a copy now! I'll wait......
Back? Alright, good. Now play that Monkey Target mini game and get ready to feel the zen. Since Super Monkey Ball 2 was released in August 25, 2002 the series has seen a multitide of games on every Nintendo system you can think of. Even so, Super Monkey Ball 2 is still, in this writer's humble opinion, the best game the series ever produced. The maps are creative and the minigames such as Monkey Shot and Monkey Fight had my brothers and I playing against eachother for so long our playtime rivaled Super Smash Bros. Melee! The whole soundtrack is great, but you gotta put this track on your study playlist. Doesn't even matter that it loops in, like, 40 seconds! It's just that good!
Welp, I think that about does it for this blog post. I hope you guys like this. If you do, I might consider making another one of these or some other blog down the line. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Are there any great obscure video game songs I should know about? Have an idea for what I should write about next? Want to know why I think Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is one of the most underrated RPGs in history? Lemme know! Now if you excuse me, I have way too many 3DS games I bought during Black Friday to play through.