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#Note Worthy


CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

An official Square Enix arrange album featuring a quartet of recorders? Sometimes a ukulele? But mostly recorders? I never thought I’d find myself being excited about such an album, but here I am. Despite the album’s short length (around 33 minutes), the quirky song and instrument selection for a lot of fun.

You have a beautiful rendition of “Opening” from Romancing SaGa, an impressive “Clash on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V, a delightful “Gogo’s Theme ~ Slam Shuffle” from Final Fantasy VI (my favorite track!), a perfectly-matched “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger, and a gorgeous “Gau’s Theme ~ Relm’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI.

So good! Get this now!



LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: November 21, 2013
Price: 3,990 Yen ($40)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

[Sound Samples]

Ready for another surprise? While Final Fantasy XIII-2 was laden with pop and ballad vocal tracks, Lightning Returns takes yet another direction, instead relying on exotic instrumentation, lots of choral elements, and a dark ambient vibe. There are a few cutting electronic tracks that caught my attention, some great jazz and Dragon Quest-esque orchestral themes, an ending suite that will move you to tears, and even a few references to past Final Fantasy XIII songs that fans should appreciate.

My favorites of the bunch are: “The Devout,” a dark and droning ambient tracks that’s over eight minutes in length, “Salvation’s Fanfare,” a funky electronic victory theme, “Eternal Midnight,” a free-form jazz piece, “The Savior’s Song,” a vocal lullaby by Mitsuto Suzuki that sounds like a classic from ages ago, “Desert Lullaby,” an ‘80s-flavored easy listening track with bongos and a seductive male vocal performance, “Evening Returns” with its super soothing woodwinds and acoustic guitars, and “Angel’s Tears,” the contrasting beautiful-yet-unsettling piece that relies on chopped up strings and a synthesized choir. I love a lot of tracks here, but three discs is a lot to cover.

Those who pick this up at CD Japan can still get the first press bonus: a fancy textured box that houses the album. Fans of the game or those who are curious beforehand will want to look into this.



Nintendo FAMICOM MUSIC
Release Date: December 4, 2013
Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

Nintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Famicom in style, bringing several classic soundtracks to Blu-spec CD. Soundtracks include everything from Super Mario Bros. and Zelda to Metroid, Famicom Wars, Kid Icarus, Mach Rider and their sports lineup (see a full list here).

Collections like this have come along a few times over the years, but they’ve quickly sold out and have gone out of print. This is a great opportunity to pick them up now if you haven’t already. I was particularly surprised by the Shin Onigashima soundtracks. My only complaint about the collection would be the absence of Doki Doki Panic (Super Mario Bros. 2 outside of Japan) and the fact that each title is presented as an individual track as opposed to breaking out each individual song into its own track for easy picking out of your favorite moments.

At the price point of $24, which is cheap by Japanese standards, I think it’d make a fun stocking stuffer. If I hadn’t already bought it, it would be the coolest stocking stuffer I’d ever hope to receive!

[embed]267541:51851:0[/embed]

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: In-game only
Artist(s): Ryo Nagamatsu

After writing some of my favorites tracks for Super Mario Galaxy 2, I was surprised to see that Ryo Nagamatsu was not involved with Super Mario 3D World. This is why. He was writing over two hours of music for this game! I’d heard great things about the score, and for those who loved the soundtrack to A Link to the Past, the nostalgia is laid on thick with tons of references to past tunes.

Nagamatsu is no slouch when it comes to original works, however. What I’m most impressed by is his knack for a classical orchestral sound, as heard in his castle stealth theme and the castle theme you’ve heard in the trailer (that plays the Hyrule Castle theme in reverse). That theme in particular is featured in several different layers of intensity, which is a real treat to hear. Aside from that, Nagamatsu adds emotional themes, a grandiose overworld theme, an icy dungeon theme, and a mysterious witch’s hut track that really impressed me. Then there are the milk bar tracks that provide acoustic versions of many of the game’s themes… there’s a lot to hear in this game.

With that, it’s a shame there probably won’t be a soundtrack release. I feel that maybe they did rely too heavily on A Link to the Past, but as a fan of that score, I can’t complain. Nagamatsu has done an amazing job.

Other Releases

[embed]267541:51849:0[/embed]


Blur Bomber
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Price: $7 (digital) / $30 (physical)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Mega Ran and Mister Wilson

Mega Ran and Mister Wilson team up to tell a tale of the merging of the worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man through their unique blend of chiptunes and hip hop. The story is just as big a part of the experience as the music, and fortunately, both are quite interesting. On a whole, the album is rather mellow, with lots of slow jams, my favorites of which are the spooky “Skull Egg Zone,” the heavier 8-bit infused “20XX,” the super chill “Unite! (feat. Tha Kure)” (my favorite track on the album), and the jubilant “Ending.”

Want to find out how Robotnik and Wily plan to turn Mega Man and Sonic against one another? Fans of either franchise should buy this and find out.

[embed]267541:51848:0[/embed]

MeowMeow & BowWow
Release Date: September 1, 2013
Price: $10
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Dj CUTMAN, Spamtron

I’ll admit I never played more than a few minutes of Link’s Awakening, but I have been playing the Gameboy Color titles recently, and fortunately they use a lot of the same music! This album stays true to the original soundscapes of the Gameboy with some retro synth work with added bass grooves and percussive elements, all of which are tastefully done. I love the jubilant “Mabe Village,” the bumping “Awakening (Overworld), the funky “The Woods,” the deep and bassy “Dungeons,” the head-boppin’ Mega Man-esque “Mountain Range (Tal Tal Heights),” and a sweet, dreamy version of “Ballad of the Wind Fish.”

Very good stuff.

[embed]267541:51852:0[/embed]

SONIC LOST WORLD ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Price: 4,200 Yen ($42)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tomoya Ohtani and Takahito Eguchi

Tomoya Ohtani continues to lead the Sonic team's musical efforts, keeping the quality high while exploring an eclectic mix of styles. There’s the amazingly catchy “Wonder World - Title Theme -,” which gets the big orchestral treatment, but there’s also a fun electronic version to be had later on the album. It then launches into pop rock sans lyrics with “Windy Hill Zone 1,” followed by everything from ska and big band jazz to Latin and Japanese-flavored tracks. I particularly enjoy the desert-y “Desert Ruins Zone 4,” the chilled out “Sky Road,” and the rockin’ showdown with the final boss.

While Ohtani works his magic yet again and impresses with the sheer number of genres he’s seemingly mastered, I could have gone for an entire soundtrack in the style of “Wonder World” and “Windy Hill Zone 1,” which were my favorite tracks from the beginning of the album. Still, it’s a fun musical journey that Sonic fans will appreciate.

[embed]267541:51847:0[/embed]

Ultionus: A Soundtrack of Petty Revenge
Release Date: December 12, 2013
Price: Name Your Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Jake Kaufman and A_Rival

This is a perfect project for Jake Kaufman: a retro synth shmup with a silly premise (read about it on the Bandcamp page). While Kaufman generally goes all out with his synth work, adding all sorts of flair with impressive solos and such, Ultionus is a rather subdued affair, and I have to say that I really dig it. It feels like a lost Japanese soundtrack from the early ‘90s. I particularly enjoy the energetic “Orbital Bombardment,” funky “Snow Peaks,” and the sleek “Inner Sanctum.” A_Rival’s contribution is “Wandering” from his TRUTHCANNON album, which was easily the best track on that album, so I love it here.

Hey, name your price and get this now!



World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Soundtrack Volume II
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Price: $12
Availability: BlizzCon Exclusive
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

In addition to the StarCraft II CD that we covered last month, Blizzard also released a second volume of music from Mists of Pandaria. While the original Pandaria CD sported an ethnic sound that seemed to fit quite nicely with the expansion’s visuals, this album, compiling music from the content updates, is a bit more sinister.

It begins with the tumultuous “Thunder King” and the powerful and ominous choir in “Heal the Land,” and rarely lets up in intensity over the course of an hour of listening. I did appreciate the soothing Chinese zither work in “Worth Fighting For,” but for the most part, even if the tracks aren’t loud, they’re dark and terrifying, which should bring World of Warcraft soundtrack fans back to some of the earliest expansions in terms of soundscape.

Unfortunately the album was meant to be a BlizzCon exclusive, so chances are slim that it will turn up again.

[embed]267541:51846:0" data-vidtitle="

So much great game music was released this past month You know the drill: another month, ten more game soundtracks to review. We usually have a pick of the month, but there was so much great music released this time around, I decided to recognize four separate releases as our to...  
Full story

" data-purl="so-much-great-game-music-was-released-this-past-month-267541.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Game Music photo
Game Music
CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

An official Square Enix arrange album featuring a quartet of recorders? Sometimes a ukulele? But mostly recorders? I never thought I’d find myself being excited about such an album, but here I am. Despite the album’s short length (around 33 minutes), the quirky song and instrument selection for a lot of fun.

You have a beautiful rendition of “Opening” from Romancing SaGa, an impressive “Clash on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V, a delightful “Gogo’s Theme ~ Slam Shuffle” from Final Fantasy VI (my favorite track!), a perfectly-matched “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger, and a gorgeous “Gau’s Theme ~ Relm’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI.

So good! Get this now!



LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: November 21, 2013
Price: 3,990 Yen ($40)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

[Sound Samples]

Ready for another surprise? While Final Fantasy XIII-2 was laden with pop and ballad vocal tracks, Lightning Returns takes yet another direction, instead relying on exotic instrumentation, lots of choral elements, and a dark ambient vibe. There are a few cutting electronic tracks that caught my attention, some great jazz and Dragon Quest-esque orchestral themes, an ending suite that will move you to tears, and even a few references to past Final Fantasy XIII songs that fans should appreciate.

My favorites of the bunch are: “The Devout,” a dark and droning ambient tracks that’s over eight minutes in length, “Salvation’s Fanfare,” a funky electronic victory theme, “Eternal Midnight,” a free-form jazz piece, “The Savior’s Song,” a vocal lullaby by Mitsuto Suzuki that sounds like a classic from ages ago, “Desert Lullaby,” an ‘80s-flavored easy listening track with bongos and a seductive male vocal performance, “Evening Returns” with its super soothing woodwinds and acoustic guitars, and “Angel’s Tears,” the contrasting beautiful-yet-unsettling piece that relies on chopped up strings and a synthesized choir. I love a lot of tracks here, but three discs is a lot to cover.

Those who pick this up at CD Japan can still get the first press bonus: a fancy textured box that houses the album. Fans of the game or those who are curious beforehand will want to look into this.



Nintendo FAMICOM MUSIC
Release Date: December 4, 2013
Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

Nintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Famicom in style, bringing several classic soundtracks to Blu-spec CD. Soundtracks include everything from Super Mario Bros. and Zelda to Metroid, Famicom Wars, Kid Icarus, Mach Rider and their sports lineup (see a full list here).

Collections like this have come along a few times over the years, but they’ve quickly sold out and have gone out of print. This is a great opportunity to pick them up now if you haven’t already. I was particularly surprised by the Shin Onigashima soundtracks. My only complaint about the collection would be the absence of Doki Doki Panic (Super Mario Bros. 2 outside of Japan) and the fact that each title is presented as an individual track as opposed to breaking out each individual song into its own track for easy picking out of your favorite moments.

At the price point of $24, which is cheap by Japanese standards, I think it’d make a fun stocking stuffer. If I hadn’t already bought it, it would be the coolest stocking stuffer I’d ever hope to receive!

[embed]267541:51851:0[/embed]

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: In-game only
Artist(s): Ryo Nagamatsu

After writing some of my favorites tracks for Super Mario Galaxy 2, I was surprised to see that Ryo Nagamatsu was not involved with Super Mario 3D World. This is why. He was writing over two hours of music for this game! I’d heard great things about the score, and for those who loved the soundtrack to A Link to the Past, the nostalgia is laid on thick with tons of references to past tunes.

Nagamatsu is no slouch when it comes to original works, however. What I’m most impressed by is his knack for a classical orchestral sound, as heard in his castle stealth theme and the castle theme you’ve heard in the trailer (that plays the Hyrule Castle theme in reverse). That theme in particular is featured in several different layers of intensity, which is a real treat to hear. Aside from that, Nagamatsu adds emotional themes, a grandiose overworld theme, an icy dungeon theme, and a mysterious witch’s hut track that really impressed me. Then there are the milk bar tracks that provide acoustic versions of many of the game’s themes… there’s a lot to hear in this game.

With that, it’s a shame there probably won’t be a soundtrack release. I feel that maybe they did rely too heavily on A Link to the Past, but as a fan of that score, I can’t complain. Nagamatsu has done an amazing job.

Other Releases

[embed]267541:51849:0[/embed]


Blur Bomber
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Price: $7 (digital) / $30 (physical)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Mega Ran and Mister Wilson

Mega Ran and Mister Wilson team up to tell a tale of the merging of the worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man through their unique blend of chiptunes and hip hop. The story is just as big a part of the experience as the music, and fortunately, both are quite interesting. On a whole, the album is rather mellow, with lots of slow jams, my favorites of which are the spooky “Skull Egg Zone,” the heavier 8-bit infused “20XX,” the super chill “Unite! (feat. Tha Kure)” (my favorite track on the album), and the jubilant “Ending.”

Want to find out how Robotnik and Wily plan to turn Mega Man and Sonic against one another? Fans of either franchise should buy this and find out.

[embed]267541:51848:0[/embed]

MeowMeow & BowWow
Release Date: September 1, 2013
Price: $10
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Dj CUTMAN, Spamtron

I’ll admit I never played more than a few minutes of Link’s Awakening, but I have been playing the Gameboy Color titles recently, and fortunately they use a lot of the same music! This album stays true to the original soundscapes of the Gameboy with some retro synth work with added bass grooves and percussive elements, all of which are tastefully done. I love the jubilant “Mabe Village,” the bumping “Awakening (Overworld), the funky “The Woods,” the deep and bassy “Dungeons,” the head-boppin’ Mega Man-esque “Mountain Range (Tal Tal Heights),” and a sweet, dreamy version of “Ballad of the Wind Fish.”

Very good stuff.

[embed]267541:51852:0[/embed]

SONIC LOST WORLD ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Price: 4,200 Yen ($42)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tomoya Ohtani and Takahito Eguchi

Tomoya Ohtani continues to lead the Sonic team's musical efforts, keeping the quality high while exploring an eclectic mix of styles. There’s the amazingly catchy “Wonder World - Title Theme -,” which gets the big orchestral treatment, but there’s also a fun electronic version to be had later on the album. It then launches into pop rock sans lyrics with “Windy Hill Zone 1,” followed by everything from ska and big band jazz to Latin and Japanese-flavored tracks. I particularly enjoy the desert-y “Desert Ruins Zone 4,” the chilled out “Sky Road,” and the rockin’ showdown with the final boss.

While Ohtani works his magic yet again and impresses with the sheer number of genres he’s seemingly mastered, I could have gone for an entire soundtrack in the style of “Wonder World” and “Windy Hill Zone 1,” which were my favorite tracks from the beginning of the album. Still, it’s a fun musical journey that Sonic fans will appreciate.

[embed]267541:51847:0[/embed]

Ultionus: A Soundtrack of Petty Revenge
Release Date: December 12, 2013
Price: Name Your Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Jake Kaufman and A_Rival

This is a perfect project for Jake Kaufman: a retro synth shmup with a silly premise (read about it on the Bandcamp page). While Kaufman generally goes all out with his synth work, adding all sorts of flair with impressive solos and such, Ultionus is a rather subdued affair, and I have to say that I really dig it. It feels like a lost Japanese soundtrack from the early ‘90s. I particularly enjoy the energetic “Orbital Bombardment,” funky “Snow Peaks,” and the sleek “Inner Sanctum.” A_Rival’s contribution is “Wandering” from his TRUTHCANNON album, which was easily the best track on that album, so I love it here.

Hey, name your price and get this now!



World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Soundtrack Volume II
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Price: $12
Availability: BlizzCon Exclusive
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

In addition to the StarCraft II CD that we covered last month, Blizzard also released a second volume of music from Mists of Pandaria. While the original Pandaria CD sported an ethnic sound that seemed to fit quite nicely with the expansion’s visuals, this album, compiling music from the content updates, is a bit more sinister.

It begins with the tumultuous “Thunder King” and the powerful and ominous choir in “Heal the Land,” and rarely lets up in intensity over the course of an hour of listening. I did appreciate the soothing Chinese zither work in “Worth Fighting For,” but for the most part, even if the tracks aren’t loud, they’re dark and terrifying, which should bring World of Warcraft soundtrack fans back to some of the earliest expansions in terms of soundscape.

Unfortunately the album was meant to be a BlizzCon exclusive, so chances are slim that it will turn up again.

[embed]267541:51846:0" data-vidtitle="

So much great game music was released this past month You know the drill: another month, ten more game soundtracks to review. We usually have a pick of the month, but there was so much great music released this time around, I decided to recognize four separate releases as our to...  
Full story

" data-purl="so-much-great-game-music-was-released-this-past-month-267541.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

So much great game music was released this past month

You know the drill: another month, ten more game soundtracks to review. We usually have a pick of the month, but there was so much great music released this time around, I decided to recognize four separate releases as our top picks: Square...   read

 
 
here) had a lot to live up to after their work on Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, they've brought together the best of both worlds, both in terms of a big orchestral sound and the traditional Mario big band jazz that's been missing for so long.

Every bit of this soundtrack is a love note to fans, from the arrangement of the character select screen from Super Mario Bros. 2, to the Super Mario Bros. 3 death jingle (I almost wanted to die just to hear it), to tons of references to past Mario titles that I won't spoil here.

In terms of the new, there's the infectious theme that everyone has heard in trailers, tons of catchy overworld tracks (disco meets brass for one of the final stages? Yes please!), epic orchestral for the castle stages, a great Christmas-esque snow theme, a beautiful yet spooky ghost house theme, some smooth jazz (very good!) for the beach, some fun woodwind-meets-funk bass, more disco, more funk, cool synths, traditional Japanese sounds... it goes on and on. It's all amazingly well produced, and the cheesy game-y synth sounds that Nintendo is apt to use are used tastefully in this game.

This soundtrack looks to be a Club Nintendo exclusive in Japan. That means I'll pay $50+ to gouging importers because it's that good. Get ready for a beautiful aural experience (I didn't even mention the sound design... underwater effects are awesome!), and watch for our review in the coming days!

[embed]265455:51303:0[/embed]

Castlevania ~Lords of Shadow~ Exclusive Director's Cut Soundtrack
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Price: $9.99 (digital only)
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Oscar Araujo

I admit the Lords of Shadow soundtrack isn’t as sexy as the gothic rock scores of Castlevania’s past (interesting article on the contrast here). However, it’s found favor for fans with its highly emotional orchestral score that still emphasizes melody and atmosphere. Back when the game was released, the limited edition contained a soundtrack disc with about 20 tracks, but to celebrate Halloween last month, Sumthing Else Music Works released the Director’s Cut version with a whopping 42 tracks.

My favorites from the original, including the foreboding “Dead Bog,” the beautiful “Waterfalls of Agharta,” and the defiant “Belmont’s Theme,” still stand out, but in terms of new material, the powerful “Underground Cave” is a track I was always hoping to see released, as well as short but sweet “Forest Dream” and melancholy “Into Darkness.”

I loved the Lords of Shadow soundtrack, and this is the definitive version. Check it out.

[embed]265455:51297:0[/embed]

Club Needlemouse
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Price: $10 (physical) / $7 (digital)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): RobKTA

This electronic remix album spans the entire Sonic universe and is damn smooth. Italian artist RobKTA hits a homerun with his funkalicious take on “Spring Yard Zone” from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the feel-good “Disco Absolution” from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), the sexy “Sambapolis” from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and even a bumpin’ remix from Sonic Lost World (the bass on this one is killer!). Our favorite electronic remixer, bLiNd, even makes an appearance in “Neddlemau5,” which covers the ending theme from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and does wonders with its minimalistic approach.

If you ever loved Sonic music (not the cheesy rock stuff), download this now!

[embed]265455:51298:0[/embed]

MM25: Mega Man Rocks
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Price: $9.99 (digital only)
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is one half of the officially sanctioned Mega Man 25th anniversary fan arrangement albums (the other is here). Mega Man Rocks focuses on game music cover bands/artists, and it’s a vocal-heavy affair. That actually had me a bit worried at first, but the vocal work here is quite tastefully done.

Acts include ARMCANNON, Mega Ran, The Megas, The Protomen, X-Hunters, and Bit Brigade (yes, it looks like a MAGFest lineup). Everyone does a fantastic job, and I have to say that after hearing many of these acts live and not being overly impressed, their studio efforts are a whole lot more enjoyable. Your favorite tracks are probably going to depend on your musical preferences and the source tracks, but ARMCANNON and Mega Ran do a lot in the way of interpretation and The Protomen are incredibly… dreamy? I wouldn’t think twice if I heard them on the radio.

Check it out if you’re a Mega Man fan.

Other Releases

[embed]265455:51294:0[/embed]

Castlevania -Lords of Shadow- MIRROR OF FATE Original Game Soundtrack
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Oscar Araujo

I am super happy that Konami has finally decided to release this soundtrack. Oscar Araujo had a daunting task reimaging the musical soundscape of Castlevania with Lords of Shadow, and after doing a fantastic job, I was looking forward to hearing the score for Mirror of Fate.

The score is certainly subdued in a lot of ways. The theme is a bit unassuming, and the tail end of the album is packed with most of the heavier action cues, which are rather terrifying. I really love the emotional and rich “Gabriel’s Farewell,” which is probably my favorite track here, although the ethereal bell tone-laden “Library,” tumultuous “Succubus” (love the deep brass bass), and moving “Carousel” are also highlights.

While this album isn’t nearly as strong as Lords of Shadow, I still think it’s good, and worth checking out for fans of the Lords of Shadow saga.



Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter Original Soundtrack
Release Date: September 18, 2013
Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoki Sato

[Soundtrack Samples]

I’m with you in not really knowing what this is. Doing a little research on Wikipedia, the anime series is about elementary school kids and futuristic “A.I. cars,” and this album features music from the subsequent games on arcade and 3DS by Naoki Sato.

It’s a shame that the franchise this is attached to is so obscure, because the music is quite good. In typical anime fashion, you have high production values and some great composition covering rock, orchestral, ballads and more across two discs. There are a few moments that will make you look up and take note of what you’re listening to, but the fact that likely nobody reading this will have played the games, you probably won’t find yourself connecting with the album.



Sengoku BASARA Chronicle Heroes Original Soundtracks
Release Date: July 27, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): T’s MUSIC

Here’s one that’s been on my desk for way too long. That’s probably because I’m not really a fan of the series and haven’t been impressed with past efforts in terms of music. However, I’m surprised that this is my favorite Sengoku BASARA soundtrack that I’ve heard, bringing together the usual rock, electronic, and orchestral fusion with some really catchy results.

The foreboding traditional Japanese and rock in “The End of the Beginning,” chugging “Burning Soul,” an awesome brass and piano-infused rock track, “Lamentation,” the contemplative “Contest the Differences” and “Full Throttle,” the gritty and funky “Now to the Fated Battle,” the classical-inspired “Ravaging Red” (probably my favorite), and the octave-jumping and energetic “CHRONICLE HEROES” are all fantastic.

Check this one out if you like traditional Japanese-flavored rock at its best!



StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Soundtrack Volume II
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Price: $12
Availability: BlizzCon 2013 exclusive
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

We had an awesome feature on StarCraft II: Heart of the Swam’s OST, and I loved the soundtrack was it was released. I was therefore very excited that they decided to release more music from the game in the form of an exclusive CD at BlizzCon this year.

While Heart of the Swarm and therefore Volume I of the OST focused on the Zerg, featuring evolving soundscapes that were a lot of fun to listen to, this disc captures the Terran perspective, incorporating more orchestral and rock. There’s emotion in tracks like “Worlds Will Burn,” some rockin’ and funkin’ Terran in “Kaldir,” and the patriotic march, “The Old Directorate.” It’s nice to see the other side, but I was hoping for more textural Zerg themes.

Still, fans of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and its music should try to track this album down. It features amazing composition and production values, as always.

[embed]265455:51301:0[/embed]

Thanks a Million
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Price: Free
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Descendants of Erdrick

While Descendants of Erdrick have been one of my favorite acts at past MAGFest events, I failed to notice the release of Thanks a Million, a fan-funded album that was released for free online after physical copies were sold out. How cool is that?

Now, I’ve never been a fan of medleys because you don’t really get to savor that one track you’re looking to hear, but this band does them so well, I can’t help but love them. I think it’s the flute added to the rock ensemble that makes their sound so unique… plus any band that does Ninja Gaiden (the NES ones!) deserves major props. What you like will probably depend on what you’re nostalgic for, but the Sonic II, Double Dragon, and Zelda II medleys are all fantastic.

No reason not to pick this up. Watch for them at future MAGFests!

[embed]265455:51300:0" data-vidtitle="

Super Mario 3D World soundtrack is another masterpiece Coming to the end of the year, there's always a lot of great game music releases planned. Top honors go to Super Mario 3D World, and there are so many reasons why that you'll read about here in a second.We've got reviews...  
Full story

" data-purl="super-mario-3d-world-soundtrack-is-another-masterpiece-265455.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Game Soundtracks photo
Game Soundtracks
here) had a lot to live up to after their work on Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, they've brought together the best of both worlds, both in terms of a big orchestral sound and the traditional Mario big band jazz that's been missing for so long.

Every bit of this soundtrack is a love note to fans, from the arrangement of the character select screen from Super Mario Bros. 2, to the Super Mario Bros. 3 death jingle (I almost wanted to die just to hear it), to tons of references to past Mario titles that I won't spoil here.

In terms of the new, there's the infectious theme that everyone has heard in trailers, tons of catchy overworld tracks (disco meets brass for one of the final stages? Yes please!), epic orchestral for the castle stages, a great Christmas-esque snow theme, a beautiful yet spooky ghost house theme, some smooth jazz (very good!) for the beach, some fun woodwind-meets-funk bass, more disco, more funk, cool synths, traditional Japanese sounds... it goes on and on. It's all amazingly well produced, and the cheesy game-y synth sounds that Nintendo is apt to use are used tastefully in this game.

This soundtrack looks to be a Club Nintendo exclusive in Japan. That means I'll pay $50+ to gouging importers because it's that good. Get ready for a beautiful aural experience (I didn't even mention the sound design... underwater effects are awesome!), and watch for our review in the coming days!

[embed]265455:51303:0[/embed]

Castlevania ~Lords of Shadow~ Exclusive Director's Cut Soundtrack
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Price: $9.99 (digital only)
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Oscar Araujo

I admit the Lords of Shadow soundtrack isn’t as sexy as the gothic rock scores of Castlevania’s past (interesting article on the contrast here). However, it’s found favor for fans with its highly emotional orchestral score that still emphasizes melody and atmosphere. Back when the game was released, the limited edition contained a soundtrack disc with about 20 tracks, but to celebrate Halloween last month, Sumthing Else Music Works released the Director’s Cut version with a whopping 42 tracks.

My favorites from the original, including the foreboding “Dead Bog,” the beautiful “Waterfalls of Agharta,” and the defiant “Belmont’s Theme,” still stand out, but in terms of new material, the powerful “Underground Cave” is a track I was always hoping to see released, as well as short but sweet “Forest Dream” and melancholy “Into Darkness.”

I loved the Lords of Shadow soundtrack, and this is the definitive version. Check it out.

[embed]265455:51297:0[/embed]

Club Needlemouse
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Price: $10 (physical) / $7 (digital)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): RobKTA

This electronic remix album spans the entire Sonic universe and is damn smooth. Italian artist RobKTA hits a homerun with his funkalicious take on “Spring Yard Zone” from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the feel-good “Disco Absolution” from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), the sexy “Sambapolis” from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and even a bumpin’ remix from Sonic Lost World (the bass on this one is killer!). Our favorite electronic remixer, bLiNd, even makes an appearance in “Neddlemau5,” which covers the ending theme from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and does wonders with its minimalistic approach.

If you ever loved Sonic music (not the cheesy rock stuff), download this now!

[embed]265455:51298:0[/embed]

MM25: Mega Man Rocks
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Price: $9.99 (digital only)
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is one half of the officially sanctioned Mega Man 25th anniversary fan arrangement albums (the other is here). Mega Man Rocks focuses on game music cover bands/artists, and it’s a vocal-heavy affair. That actually had me a bit worried at first, but the vocal work here is quite tastefully done.

Acts include ARMCANNON, Mega Ran, The Megas, The Protomen, X-Hunters, and Bit Brigade (yes, it looks like a MAGFest lineup). Everyone does a fantastic job, and I have to say that after hearing many of these acts live and not being overly impressed, their studio efforts are a whole lot more enjoyable. Your favorite tracks are probably going to depend on your musical preferences and the source tracks, but ARMCANNON and Mega Ran do a lot in the way of interpretation and The Protomen are incredibly… dreamy? I wouldn’t think twice if I heard them on the radio.

Check it out if you’re a Mega Man fan.

Other Releases

[embed]265455:51294:0[/embed]

Castlevania -Lords of Shadow- MIRROR OF FATE Original Game Soundtrack
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Oscar Araujo

I am super happy that Konami has finally decided to release this soundtrack. Oscar Araujo had a daunting task reimaging the musical soundscape of Castlevania with Lords of Shadow, and after doing a fantastic job, I was looking forward to hearing the score for Mirror of Fate.

The score is certainly subdued in a lot of ways. The theme is a bit unassuming, and the tail end of the album is packed with most of the heavier action cues, which are rather terrifying. I really love the emotional and rich “Gabriel’s Farewell,” which is probably my favorite track here, although the ethereal bell tone-laden “Library,” tumultuous “Succubus” (love the deep brass bass), and moving “Carousel” are also highlights.

While this album isn’t nearly as strong as Lords of Shadow, I still think it’s good, and worth checking out for fans of the Lords of Shadow saga.



Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter Original Soundtrack
Release Date: September 18, 2013
Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoki Sato

[Soundtrack Samples]

I’m with you in not really knowing what this is. Doing a little research on Wikipedia, the anime series is about elementary school kids and futuristic “A.I. cars,” and this album features music from the subsequent games on arcade and 3DS by Naoki Sato.

It’s a shame that the franchise this is attached to is so obscure, because the music is quite good. In typical anime fashion, you have high production values and some great composition covering rock, orchestral, ballads and more across two discs. There are a few moments that will make you look up and take note of what you’re listening to, but the fact that likely nobody reading this will have played the games, you probably won’t find yourself connecting with the album.



Sengoku BASARA Chronicle Heroes Original Soundtracks
Release Date: July 27, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($24)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): T’s MUSIC

Here’s one that’s been on my desk for way too long. That’s probably because I’m not really a fan of the series and haven’t been impressed with past efforts in terms of music. However, I’m surprised that this is my favorite Sengoku BASARA soundtrack that I’ve heard, bringing together the usual rock, electronic, and orchestral fusion with some really catchy results.

The foreboding traditional Japanese and rock in “The End of the Beginning,” chugging “Burning Soul,” an awesome brass and piano-infused rock track, “Lamentation,” the contemplative “Contest the Differences” and “Full Throttle,” the gritty and funky “Now to the Fated Battle,” the classical-inspired “Ravaging Red” (probably my favorite), and the octave-jumping and energetic “CHRONICLE HEROES” are all fantastic.

Check this one out if you like traditional Japanese-flavored rock at its best!



StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Soundtrack Volume II
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Price: $12
Availability: BlizzCon 2013 exclusive
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

We had an awesome feature on StarCraft II: Heart of the Swam’s OST, and I loved the soundtrack was it was released. I was therefore very excited that they decided to release more music from the game in the form of an exclusive CD at BlizzCon this year.

While Heart of the Swarm and therefore Volume I of the OST focused on the Zerg, featuring evolving soundscapes that were a lot of fun to listen to, this disc captures the Terran perspective, incorporating more orchestral and rock. There’s emotion in tracks like “Worlds Will Burn,” some rockin’ and funkin’ Terran in “Kaldir,” and the patriotic march, “The Old Directorate.” It’s nice to see the other side, but I was hoping for more textural Zerg themes.

Still, fans of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and its music should try to track this album down. It features amazing composition and production values, as always.

[embed]265455:51301:0[/embed]

Thanks a Million
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Price: Free
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Descendants of Erdrick

While Descendants of Erdrick have been one of my favorite acts at past MAGFest events, I failed to notice the release of Thanks a Million, a fan-funded album that was released for free online after physical copies were sold out. How cool is that?

Now, I’ve never been a fan of medleys because you don’t really get to savor that one track you’re looking to hear, but this band does them so well, I can’t help but love them. I think it’s the flute added to the rock ensemble that makes their sound so unique… plus any band that does Ninja Gaiden (the NES ones!) deserves major props. What you like will probably depend on what you’re nostalgic for, but the Sonic II, Double Dragon, and Zelda II medleys are all fantastic.

No reason not to pick this up. Watch for them at future MAGFests!

[embed]265455:51300:0" data-vidtitle="

Super Mario 3D World soundtrack is another masterpiece Coming to the end of the year, there's always a lot of great game music releases planned. Top honors go to Super Mario 3D World, and there are so many reasons why that you'll read about here in a second.We've got reviews...  
Full story

" data-purl="super-mario-3d-world-soundtrack-is-another-masterpiece-265455.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Super Mario 3D World soundtrack is another masterpiece

Coming to the end of the year, there's always a lot of great game music releases planned. Top honors go to Super Mario 3D World, and there are so many reasons why that you'll read about here in a second.We've got reviews of a lot of ot...   read

 
 
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
  Watch Video

I'm convinced: Final Fantasy VI is Uematsu's best work

Okay, so we've featured a lot of Final Fantasy in Note Worthy lately, in part thanks to the recent remaster soundtracks. Looking at Final Fantasy VI this month, however, finally brought me around to accepting that this is truly Nobuo Uemats...   read

 
 


Toukiden Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 28, 2013
Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Hideki Sakamoto

Hideki Sakamoto is a name that you should learn if you don’t already know it. While he’s known mostly for his work on echochrome, nearly everything he’s written is worth your time and attention, and this soundtrack is no different. It takes the monster hunting formula and adds traditional Japanese elements, which is reflected in the music. Now, this game is from Tecmo Koei, and I was expecting the soundtrack to take a heavy metal turn, but it never does, instead relying on traditional Japanese instrumentation with a strong orchestral backing, and, from time to time, an injection of tasteful electronics that really gets the blood pumping.

There are emotional moments, grandiose epic ones, and everything in between. There are two discs of amazing composition here, with excellent production values. I can’t really call out the tracks by name (the track list hasn’t been translated yet), but this album comes highly recommended.

Other Releases



2ND SUPER ROBOT WARS OG ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This robot-themed tactical RPG soundtrack spans four discs of some pretty awesome rock and orchestral stuff, and given the critical acclaim of the franchise in Japan, it’s a shame that this installment will likely never be localized. The soundtrack touches on a ton of genres, but heavily emphasizes the action-oriented gameplay with rock, sometimes sounding upbeat and bouncy like something out of the Virtual On franchise, and at others taking on a retro synth sound like something from the SNES era (no complaints from me on this!).

There is a lot of brilliance here, but unfortunately there’s a lot to wade through to find those magical moments. JAM Project serves up two heavy metal vocal themes that don’t disappoint, either.

Check it out if retro gamey rock is your thing.



Before Meteor FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 14, 2013
Price: 5,250 Yen ($53)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, et al

[Sound Samples]

I’m not going to belabor what I’ve already written about in other reviews of this soundtrack. There were the Hot Pocket-esque mini albums (20 tracks between two albums), the meatier iTunes release (38 tracks), and now the full Blu-ray release (104 tracks). There’s a lot of great music here, the best of which was featured on the mini-albums, but for the completionists out there, this is worth checking out.

Most of this music is by Nobuo Uematsu in his classic style, including the nostalgic Final Fantasy “Opening Theme,” the cutesy electronic “Supply & Demand,” the rockin’ battle theme, “No Quarter,” and a slew of emotional ballads and slower pieces (many will end up on my sleep playlist), with “Where the Heart is,” “From the Heart,” and “Tranquility” being a few of my favorites. There’s epic chocobo with “Bo-Down,” spooky with “Enraptured” and “Final Respite,” and decisive and resolute in “Breaking Boundaries” and “Imperial Will.” Oh, and a Nanashi no Geemu cameo in “Siren Song!”

The album ships on a Blu-ray with accompanying visuals which is nice. You can download MP3s via your home network. While $53 is a lot to ask for, there’s six hours of music here, which would have shipped on 5-6 CDs (see this interview for more), so it’s not really as bad as it sounds.

[embed]261873:50490:0[/embed]

Cubic Climber Official Soundtrack
Release Date: August 31, 2013
Price: $4
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Chase Bethea

While the soundtrack for this indie title gets off to a rocky start (har har, it’s about climbing mountains), there are some great moments here. The soundtrack sports an icy electronic vibe, accented with some great rhythmic percussion. The crunchy “Boulderdash” is particularly cool with its industrial soundscape, and the dreamy “Class 5” with its female choral elements is simply stunning. Check ‘em out.



Grisaia no Rakuen Soundtrack & Theme Song Collection
Release Date: May 22, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Pixelbee, Elements Garden

This is another smutty soundtrack in the same series as Le Labyrinthe, which we covered some months back. The duo Pixelbee and members of Elements Garden tag up to serve an eclectic collection of orchestral, pop, and electronic-infused themes. I really dig the vibe here, as there are some really great tracks to relax to. The problem is that I didn’t really find many of the themes to be overly memorable. The second disc containing the vocal themes offers the standard J-rock fare, and didn’t really do much for me.

It’s funny though, listening to the music, you’d never guess it was for a pornographic visual novel game.



Lost Planet 3 Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Price: $8.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jack Wall

[embed]261873:50496:0[/embed]

Composer Jack Wall (Myst, Mass Effect) takes the helm of the Lost Planet franchise, surprising me with over an hour of heavy blues and folk music. The musicianship is fantastic, with the gritty and moody “Lost Souls” and the highly overdriven and abstract “In the Bayou” blowing my mind. It’s not all blues and folk, however, as the second half of the soundtrack treads on familiar orchestral territory. There’s the chilly and ominous main theme followed by a series of sometimes tense and sometimes big orchestral cues, my favorite of which is the terror-inducing “Research Base” with screeching electronic guitar and unsettling string stabs.

This is great stuff, and there’s two hours of music here for a fair asking price. Check it out.

[embed]261873:50492:0" data-vidtitle="

I never realized Final Fantasy Vs OST was this good Another month, another batch of ten soundtracks to cover in our monthly Note Worthy feature. We've got a lot of great music in this issue, including the Final Fantasy V Remaster Version, six hours of music with Before Meteor:...  
Full story

" data-purl="i-never-realized-final-fantasy-v-s-ost-was-this-good-261873.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks


Toukiden Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 28, 2013
Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Hideki Sakamoto

Hideki Sakamoto is a name that you should learn if you don’t already know it. While he’s known mostly for his work on echochrome, nearly everything he’s written is worth your time and attention, and this soundtrack is no different. It takes the monster hunting formula and adds traditional Japanese elements, which is reflected in the music. Now, this game is from Tecmo Koei, and I was expecting the soundtrack to take a heavy metal turn, but it never does, instead relying on traditional Japanese instrumentation with a strong orchestral backing, and, from time to time, an injection of tasteful electronics that really gets the blood pumping.

There are emotional moments, grandiose epic ones, and everything in between. There are two discs of amazing composition here, with excellent production values. I can’t really call out the tracks by name (the track list hasn’t been translated yet), but this album comes highly recommended.

Other Releases



2ND SUPER ROBOT WARS OG ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Price: 3,600 Yen ($36)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This robot-themed tactical RPG soundtrack spans four discs of some pretty awesome rock and orchestral stuff, and given the critical acclaim of the franchise in Japan, it’s a shame that this installment will likely never be localized. The soundtrack touches on a ton of genres, but heavily emphasizes the action-oriented gameplay with rock, sometimes sounding upbeat and bouncy like something out of the Virtual On franchise, and at others taking on a retro synth sound like something from the SNES era (no complaints from me on this!).

There is a lot of brilliance here, but unfortunately there’s a lot to wade through to find those magical moments. JAM Project serves up two heavy metal vocal themes that don’t disappoint, either.

Check it out if retro gamey rock is your thing.



Before Meteor FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 14, 2013
Price: 5,250 Yen ($53)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, et al

[Sound Samples]

I’m not going to belabor what I’ve already written about in other reviews of this soundtrack. There were the Hot Pocket-esque mini albums (20 tracks between two albums), the meatier iTunes release (38 tracks), and now the full Blu-ray release (104 tracks). There’s a lot of great music here, the best of which was featured on the mini-albums, but for the completionists out there, this is worth checking out.

Most of this music is by Nobuo Uematsu in his classic style, including the nostalgic Final Fantasy “Opening Theme,” the cutesy electronic “Supply & Demand,” the rockin’ battle theme, “No Quarter,” and a slew of emotional ballads and slower pieces (many will end up on my sleep playlist), with “Where the Heart is,” “From the Heart,” and “Tranquility” being a few of my favorites. There’s epic chocobo with “Bo-Down,” spooky with “Enraptured” and “Final Respite,” and decisive and resolute in “Breaking Boundaries” and “Imperial Will.” Oh, and a Nanashi no Geemu cameo in “Siren Song!”

The album ships on a Blu-ray with accompanying visuals which is nice. You can download MP3s via your home network. While $53 is a lot to ask for, there’s six hours of music here, which would have shipped on 5-6 CDs (see this interview for more), so it’s not really as bad as it sounds.

[embed]261873:50490:0[/embed]

Cubic Climber Official Soundtrack
Release Date: August 31, 2013
Price: $4
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Chase Bethea

While the soundtrack for this indie title gets off to a rocky start (har har, it’s about climbing mountains), there are some great moments here. The soundtrack sports an icy electronic vibe, accented with some great rhythmic percussion. The crunchy “Boulderdash” is particularly cool with its industrial soundscape, and the dreamy “Class 5” with its female choral elements is simply stunning. Check ‘em out.



Grisaia no Rakuen Soundtrack & Theme Song Collection
Release Date: May 22, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Pixelbee, Elements Garden

This is another smutty soundtrack in the same series as Le Labyrinthe, which we covered some months back. The duo Pixelbee and members of Elements Garden tag up to serve an eclectic collection of orchestral, pop, and electronic-infused themes. I really dig the vibe here, as there are some really great tracks to relax to. The problem is that I didn’t really find many of the themes to be overly memorable. The second disc containing the vocal themes offers the standard J-rock fare, and didn’t really do much for me.

It’s funny though, listening to the music, you’d never guess it was for a pornographic visual novel game.



Lost Planet 3 Original Soundtrack
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Price: $8.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jack Wall

[embed]261873:50496:0[/embed]

Composer Jack Wall (Myst, Mass Effect) takes the helm of the Lost Planet franchise, surprising me with over an hour of heavy blues and folk music. The musicianship is fantastic, with the gritty and moody “Lost Souls” and the highly overdriven and abstract “In the Bayou” blowing my mind. It’s not all blues and folk, however, as the second half of the soundtrack treads on familiar orchestral territory. There’s the chilly and ominous main theme followed by a series of sometimes tense and sometimes big orchestral cues, my favorite of which is the terror-inducing “Research Base” with screeching electronic guitar and unsettling string stabs.

This is great stuff, and there’s two hours of music here for a fair asking price. Check it out.

[embed]261873:50492:0" data-vidtitle="

I never realized Final Fantasy Vs OST was this good Another month, another batch of ten soundtracks to cover in our monthly Note Worthy feature. We've got a lot of great music in this issue, including the Final Fantasy V Remaster Version, six hours of music with Before Meteor:...  
Full story

" data-purl="i-never-realized-final-fantasy-v-s-ost-was-this-good-261873.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

I never realized Final Fantasy V's OST was this good

Another month, another batch of ten soundtracks to cover in our monthly Note Worthy feature. We've got a lot of great music in this issue, including the Final Fantasy V Remaster Version, six hours of music with Before Meteor: Final Fantasy ...   read

 
 



Bandcamp
Artist(s): Joshua Morse

Joshua Morse is a fantastic composer and arranger, tackling a variety of funk-infused electronic genres, and this release is no different. What this release does, however, is bring attention to a number of unsung heroes, and some great Korean game music tunes.

There’s “Adventure” from Fez, one of my favorite tracks for the game, which gets a more invigorating mix, the incredibly smooth “Oasis Epsilon” from Globulous (with live sax), the groovin’ “Dive Into Volcano” from PangYa Portable, the soothing “Elias Palace” from La Tale, a track from Cryamore, and my favorite of the bunch, a super sleek and sexy arrangement from Cardboard Box Assembler.

Name that price and download it, now!

[embed]259849:49966:0[/embed]

Remember Me Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Olivier Deriviere

I was impressed with what I was hearing when we had our preview of the Remember Me soundtrack with composer Olivier Deriviere, and the rest of the soundtrack is just as good. What’s here is a glitchy blend of orchestral and electronics that is at times beautiful, at others spooky, but always “cool.”

I love the pitch-bending synth work featured throughout lending that “spooky” vibe. Particular favorites are the stop-and-go “Fragments” with its chopped up digitized vocals and the tasty drum ‘n’ bass found in powerful “Memorize” and the ominous “The Ego Room.”

I recommend giving this one a listen.

Other Releases



Disgaea D2 Arrange Soundtrack
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tenpei Sato

Looking forward to Disgaea D2? Well, composer Tenpei Sato wanted to take his usual eclectic and quirky soundtrack to the next level with this arrange album. It’s heavy on vocal themes, a couple of which are great, and others which are grating with their shrill female vocals. There’s plenty of Sato rock to enjoy (the upbeat and explosive “Moving Express” is my favorite track on the album), a few darker and broodier tunes (“Whisper Of Hell~Darkness” comes to mind), and of course your epic fantasy RPG stuff as well.

It’s a solid collection that Sato fans will want to check out, although I’d say the casual Sato fan might not find as many memorable melodies here.

[embed]259849:49986:0[/embed]

Halo: Spartan Assault
Release Date: July 18, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Tom Salta

This one takes an interesting approach. Halo: Spartan Assault takes the series in a different direction, but it’s obvious from the first piano and choir notes of “Legacy” that composer Tom Salta was asked to emulate the classic Halo sound, and he does so very convincingly.

While tracks tend to be short (one to two minutes, a few over the three-minute mark), there’s everything Halo here from electronic-infused orchestra to explosive bass and percussion-heavy rock. To call out a few of my favorites, I love the desperate “Bridge Too Far” with its deep bass and floating bell tones, the piano and choral ballad, “Prelude,” the ominous and slow “Quiet Giant,” and the appropriately dreamy “Night Dreams.”

Halo fans will want to check out the soundtrack even if they’re not into the game.

[embed]259849:49967:0[/embed]

Ravenmark: Mercenaries Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2013
Price: Free
Availability: SoundCloud
Artist(s): Xiao'an Li

I admit my interest in this soundtrack stemmed from Joshua Whelchel’s score to the Ravenmark: The Scourge of Estellion soundtrack. I quickly discovered, however, that composer Xiao’an Li took over composition duties for this title, and that the soundtrack length clocked in at just about 15 minutes as opposed to the former’s 75 minutes.

Still, it’s free to download, and what’s here is great. There’s an epic overworld theme, a beautiful and contemplative piece to accompany the codex, and a series of tense battle themes. Again, there’s not much, but fans will want to check it out.



ROCKMAN Xover ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Price: Free
Availability: Capcom Japan
Artist(s): Masahiro Aoki

Surprise! Masahiro Aoki of the Mega Man band, the ROCK-MEN, appear to have been responsible for Xover’s soundtrack, and while short (six tracks, 12 minutes), they serve up some very convincing metal. It’s short, but sweet, with an energetic main theme, an explosive boss theme, a decisive “Battle Arena” (my favorite track), a percussion-heavy “Arcade Man,” and even a piano remix of the main theme. There’s plenty of guitar shredding and even solos, so dig in if that’s your kind of thing.

I will say that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like classic Mega Man (it has a more commercial slant), but I do like what I’m hearing. And hey, they could have charged $5 for this, but are instead offering it for free, so good for them.

[embed]259849:49987:0" data-vidtitle="

Nobuo Uematsus return to form with Blik-0 soundtrack Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke t...  
Full story

" data-purl="nobuo-uematsu-s-return-to-form-with-blik-0-soundtrack-259849.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
Bandcamp
Artist(s): Joshua Morse

Joshua Morse is a fantastic composer and arranger, tackling a variety of funk-infused electronic genres, and this release is no different. What this release does, however, is bring attention to a number of unsung heroes, and some great Korean game music tunes.

There’s “Adventure” from Fez, one of my favorite tracks for the game, which gets a more invigorating mix, the incredibly smooth “Oasis Epsilon” from Globulous (with live sax), the groovin’ “Dive Into Volcano” from PangYa Portable, the soothing “Elias Palace” from La Tale, a track from Cryamore, and my favorite of the bunch, a super sleek and sexy arrangement from Cardboard Box Assembler.

Name that price and download it, now!

[embed]259849:49966:0[/embed]

Remember Me Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Olivier Deriviere

I was impressed with what I was hearing when we had our preview of the Remember Me soundtrack with composer Olivier Deriviere, and the rest of the soundtrack is just as good. What’s here is a glitchy blend of orchestral and electronics that is at times beautiful, at others spooky, but always “cool.”

I love the pitch-bending synth work featured throughout lending that “spooky” vibe. Particular favorites are the stop-and-go “Fragments” with its chopped up digitized vocals and the tasty drum ‘n’ bass found in powerful “Memorize” and the ominous “The Ego Room.”

I recommend giving this one a listen.

Other Releases



Disgaea D2 Arrange Soundtrack
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Tenpei Sato

Looking forward to Disgaea D2? Well, composer Tenpei Sato wanted to take his usual eclectic and quirky soundtrack to the next level with this arrange album. It’s heavy on vocal themes, a couple of which are great, and others which are grating with their shrill female vocals. There’s plenty of Sato rock to enjoy (the upbeat and explosive “Moving Express” is my favorite track on the album), a few darker and broodier tunes (“Whisper Of Hell~Darkness” comes to mind), and of course your epic fantasy RPG stuff as well.

It’s a solid collection that Sato fans will want to check out, although I’d say the casual Sato fan might not find as many memorable melodies here.

[embed]259849:49986:0[/embed]

Halo: Spartan Assault
Release Date: July 18, 2013
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Tom Salta

This one takes an interesting approach. Halo: Spartan Assault takes the series in a different direction, but it’s obvious from the first piano and choir notes of “Legacy” that composer Tom Salta was asked to emulate the classic Halo sound, and he does so very convincingly.

While tracks tend to be short (one to two minutes, a few over the three-minute mark), there’s everything Halo here from electronic-infused orchestra to explosive bass and percussion-heavy rock. To call out a few of my favorites, I love the desperate “Bridge Too Far” with its deep bass and floating bell tones, the piano and choral ballad, “Prelude,” the ominous and slow “Quiet Giant,” and the appropriately dreamy “Night Dreams.”

Halo fans will want to check out the soundtrack even if they’re not into the game.

[embed]259849:49967:0[/embed]

Ravenmark: Mercenaries Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2013
Price: Free
Availability: SoundCloud
Artist(s): Xiao'an Li

I admit my interest in this soundtrack stemmed from Joshua Whelchel’s score to the Ravenmark: The Scourge of Estellion soundtrack. I quickly discovered, however, that composer Xiao’an Li took over composition duties for this title, and that the soundtrack length clocked in at just about 15 minutes as opposed to the former’s 75 minutes.

Still, it’s free to download, and what’s here is great. There’s an epic overworld theme, a beautiful and contemplative piece to accompany the codex, and a series of tense battle themes. Again, there’s not much, but fans will want to check it out.



ROCKMAN Xover ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Price: Free
Availability: Capcom Japan
Artist(s): Masahiro Aoki

Surprise! Masahiro Aoki of the Mega Man band, the ROCK-MEN, appear to have been responsible for Xover’s soundtrack, and while short (six tracks, 12 minutes), they serve up some very convincing metal. It’s short, but sweet, with an energetic main theme, an explosive boss theme, a decisive “Battle Arena” (my favorite track), a percussion-heavy “Arcade Man,” and even a piano remix of the main theme. There’s plenty of guitar shredding and even solos, so dig in if that’s your kind of thing.

I will say that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like classic Mega Man (it has a more commercial slant), but I do like what I’m hearing. And hey, they could have charged $5 for this, but are instead offering it for free, so good for them.

[embed]259849:49987:0" data-vidtitle="

Nobuo Uematsus return to form with Blik-0 soundtrack Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke t...  
Full story

" data-purl="nobuo-uematsu-s-return-to-form-with-blik-0-soundtrack-259849.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Nobuo Uematsu's return to form with Blik-0 soundtrack

Last month's Note Worthy featured some of the best music I've heard this year. It's interesting then, that this month, we have a lot of shorter releases, including several free-to-download albums, which is good if you broke the bank buying ...   read

 
 
turbulent journey, Balance and Ruin is finally here, and there are so many reasons why it's our top pick this month.

This album features not only bumping electronic remixes, but also grandiose orchestral suites (several of which cross the ten-minute mark) and everything in between, and best of all, they've beefed up some of the lesser-appreciated tracks to the point where they may actually be some of your favorites. Nearly everything here is gold, in part due to the strength of the source material, but also due to the care each artist has taken with their respective arrangements. The love and respect they have for Uematsu's masterpiece is obvious in every track. I wish I could give every arrangement its moment in the spotlight, but I've promised myself to limit my gushing to just ten tracks, although you'll want to download this and explore the magic for yourself.

Right out of the gate, the groggy “Awakening” gets a super smooth rendition by Joshua Morse, making for a nice contrast to the original Terra’s theme, which it references heavily. “The Returners” will turn heads with the liberties taken with the source material (you can barely hear it), but it’s my favorite track on the album. It takes on a rich '80s-flavored electronic vibe similar to Depeche Mode. “Gau” gets a gorgeous instrumental arrangement featuring accordion, strings, piano, and woodwind (I’d love an entire album of this stuff), while “Serpent’s Trench” is amazingly transformed from tense into sexy chip-meets-bossa-nova.

There’s an interpretive acoustic guitar version of “Kids Run Through the City Corner” (definitely going on my sleep playlist), a playfully epic combination of the heroic and comical “Save Them!” and “Grand Finale?” themes, and a refreshing take on the chocobo theme with “Electro de Chocobo” (it’s hard to make this theme memorable after hearing hundreds of arrangements of it). Rounding out my favorites, there’s Jake Kaufman’s heavily Queen-influenced rendition of the opera scene with tons of signature vocal harmonies and guitar work, a funktacular “The Day After,” and the smooth, sweeping, and moving “Searching for Friends” with amazing woodwind work.

Even limiting myself to ten tracks, this review is longer than I’d hoped, and there are still so many others that I love on this album. For those who backed this on Kickstarter and are expecting a physical copy, you’re in for a treat: this is the real deal, so download it without delay!



Defiance: Original Video Game Soundtrack / Television Soundtrack
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Price: $11.99 each
Availability: iTunes (game / television)
Artist(s): Bear McCreary

Given the unique side-by-side development of this game and television series, of course we have to review both soundtracks! Both are composed by Bear McCreary, and each offers a different soundscape that is great in its own way. Both feature a very catchy theme that combines emotional orchestral moments and layered electronic sounds that define the sound of Defiance.

Starting with the game soundtrack, you get a more ambient experience given the MMO nature of the title. I particularly like the folky and adventurous “Ninety-Niners,” the moody atmospheric track, “Marin Exploration,” and the grungy “Ridgecrest Mine.” The bumping “Mount Tam” and the overdriven “Madera Combat” also stand out.

The television score is much more pop-oriented, featuring heavy use of the main theme along with a variety of vocal tracks that visit everything from blues to heavy electronic tunes. I particularly enjoy the exotic alien vocal tracks that really add an ethnic flair, and also the arrangement of “Time After Time.” “Concerto for Insects,” which uses insect sounds for percussion, is also a joy.

This is some great work by Bear McCreary, with some of my favorite themes of his that I’ve heard to date. I recommend picking up both albums, as they really explore two different styles of the same musical universe, which is as fun and unique as the game/television show concept itself.



Distant Worlds music from FINAL FANTASY THE CELEBRATION
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Price: 6,150 Yen ($61.50)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

[Sound Samples]

We recently mentioned that this was coming, and it’s safe to think of this as the visual accompaniment to the fantastic Final Fantasy Orchestra Album released at the end of last year.

Many new arrangements are performed, including “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, “Phantom Forest” from VI, and a brand new (and amazing) chocobo medley. The track list covers the original Final Fantasy through XIV, and throws in vocal tracks including Susan Calloway’s powerful “Answers” from XIV, “Eyes on Me” with Crystal Kay (I personally prefer the original by Faye Wong, or even Angella Aki’s version), and the opera from VI. There’s also a segment from the battle medley featured on the orchestra album, but I was disappointed that the entire 14-minute piece wasn’t performed in its entirety.

While the asking price is quite steep, this is a wonderful DVD. It’s fun to watch the orchestra, as several the players really get into the music, and it’s nice to be able to see the new arrangements if you haven’t had a concert stop near you lately. I also dig the packaging, which sports a see-through case and English commentary in the booklet.

[embed]258070:49563:0[/embed]

Dopamix Soundtrack
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Price: 1,500 Yen ($15)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

It’s great to see SuperSweep releasing the soundtrack to the 3DS eShop single-button rhythm game Dopamix. The game features all original music, and it’s quite good. This album serves up over 30 minutes of music, including pumping electronic beats, retro gamey goodness, Japanese pop tracks, and even some R&B. There’s a lot to like, but the playful electronic-meets-electric guitar “Parade” and the basstacular “Aurora” are my favorites. There’s also a 23-minute megamix tucked away at the end that’s nice to put on in the background, and the price is right! Check this one out.

[embed]257003:49343:0[/embed]

FINAL FANTASY IV Original Sound Track Remaster Version
Release Date: July 3, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu

[Sound Samples]

I’ve been super excited about Square Enix re-rereleasing the out of print soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV. They promised a remastered version with two loops instead of the original’s single playthrough along with unreleased tracks. Well, true to that promise, you get a meatier experience with this album, which is much appreciated. There’s also the snazzy box that comes with first-press editions that we unboxed.

The unreleased tracks are essentially a few jingles. It’s nice having that funny Namingway sound, but the rest of it isn’t very interesting. Given that there’s 50 minutes of unused space across both discs, I was hoping for something more substantial, but I really do feel silly complaining about this at all given that what’s presented is a better version of one of the best soundtracks of all time. I suggest picking it up.

Oh, and “Dancing Calcobrena” has a bit of a hiccup at the beginning that I guess is a big enough deal for Square Enix to be swapping out everyone’s discs in Japan. I didn’t find it that big of a deal, but we’ll keep you posted if that offer extends to fans abroad.

[embed]258070:49564:0[/embed]

Mighty Switch Force 2 Official Soundtrack
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Price: Name Your Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Jake Kaufman

I absolutely adored Jake Kaufman’s first Mighty Switch Force soundtrack, and this follow-up does not disappoint. Get ready for some heavy retro-infused disco, funk, and electronic music right out of the gate with the incredibly catchy “Title,” into the bass-bumpin’ “Got2BAStar,” and into the upbeat drum ‘n’ bass “Exothermic” (my favorite on the album). “Glow,” “The Afterblaze,” and “Soak Patrol Alpha” are also pure genius.

You'll dig the remixes tucked away at the end, including surasshu’s dreamy “Title Screen,” a hilarious vocal take on “Title” (you have to hear it), and a Mario Galaxy-esque version of “Glow,” complete with epic orchestra and spacey pitch-bending synth work.

Download this, now!



PRIORITY ONE: The music of TRON
Release Date: June 8, 2013
Price: $5
Availability: Loudr
Artist(s): Grant “stemage” Henry

[Sound Samples]

One word: stemage. That should be enough to have your interest, given he’s the brains behind one of the best game music tribute bands, Metroid Metal. But going even further, he’s paying homage to one of the most beloved film scores of all time: TRON. I can’t pretend to be an expert on that score, but I’ve heard it numerous times over the years, and stemage brings his signature sound to the mix. Layered guitars will build a dreamy tapestry of sound at one moment, then heavy-hitting rock percussion, monstrous bass, and wailing electric guitar will come in at the next. It’s a wonderful 30-minute journey.

My favorite tracks are the ominous and reverberating “Hydrophilia” and the tense “Sea of Stimulation,” featuring crazy time signatures and C64 sounds by Inverse Phase.

If you’re a fan of stemage, get this. If you’re a fan of TRON, get this. If you don’t know either, get this, and you’ll be a fan of both in just 30 minutes.

[embed]258070:49565:0[/embed]

TIME AND ETERNITY ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Price: 3,150 Yen ($31)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

I love this game’s artwork, and the music surprised me at E3. Some people have said it’s not Koshiro’s best work, but I’d say it’s not his typical work more than anything. It suits the anime-flavored visuals perfectly, bringing in upbeat and whimsical themes in that you’d hear in any anime these days (with live instruments to boot), but that doesn’t mean specific tracks don’t stick out.

I particularly dig the adventurous overworld exploration theme, “Juvenile,” the mischievous and exotic “Cursed Forest’s Theme” with some funky sax work, the rockin’ “Theme of Towa” and “Threat,” the epic Latin vocals in “Memory Infused,” which is in line with a last boss theme, and the emotional ending themes (“A Heart That Can't Be Broken” is amazing).

Oh, plus great artwork throughout the packaging. Thanks for releasing this, SuperSweep, and watch for a single-disc redux coming with the game from NISA.

[embed]258070:49566:0[/embed]

TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK PLUS
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is a hugely unexpected surprise. I’d checked out the original Tekken Tag Tournament 2 OST and loved it, but who knew there was so much more music to hear? This album offers over an hour and a half of additional tracks, much of which is amazing.

You can expect an eclectic mix of everything from electronic music to tropical themes, but my favorites tend to land on the electronic side. The bumping bass and explosive percussion in “Siga (Tropical Rainforest)” and the Asian-flavored vocal theme, “Landscape Under The Ghost -Kaminano (AD2012)” are two of my favorites on the serious side, while “Your Sunset” and “Battle Cry” both get quite a funk going, and stand out with their digitized vocals. There’s disco with “Luxury Garden,” cheesy vocal ballad with “Highschool love!” (it’s painful, but strangely catchy), and glitchy 8-bit goodness with “Backer.” There’s so much to like here, most of which I can’t call out by name because I’d be naming every track, so you’re going to want to pick this one up.

Also of note, those who pick it up at SuperSweep in Japan will get an additional megamix CD. Cool to have, but don’t feel too bad if you have to get it from CD Japan.



[embed]258070:49567:0" data-vidtitle="

Why Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin blew my mind Okay, let me first say that this installment of Note Worthy features the best collection of ten soundtracks ever featured in this series. That's why I won't be breaking down the albums into "Top Picks" and "Other Releases" th...  
Full story

" data-purl="why-final-fantasy-vi-balance-and-ruin-blew-my-mind-258070.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
turbulent journey, Balance and Ruin is finally here, and there are so many reasons why it's our top pick this month.

This album features not only bumping electronic remixes, but also grandiose orchestral suites (several of which cross the ten-minute mark) and everything in between, and best of all, they've beefed up some of the lesser-appreciated tracks to the point where they may actually be some of your favorites. Nearly everything here is gold, in part due to the strength of the source material, but also due to the care each artist has taken with their respective arrangements. The love and respect they have for Uematsu's masterpiece is obvious in every track. I wish I could give every arrangement its moment in the spotlight, but I've promised myself to limit my gushing to just ten tracks, although you'll want to download this and explore the magic for yourself.

Right out of the gate, the groggy “Awakening” gets a super smooth rendition by Joshua Morse, making for a nice contrast to the original Terra’s theme, which it references heavily. “The Returners” will turn heads with the liberties taken with the source material (you can barely hear it), but it’s my favorite track on the album. It takes on a rich '80s-flavored electronic vibe similar to Depeche Mode. “Gau” gets a gorgeous instrumental arrangement featuring accordion, strings, piano, and woodwind (I’d love an entire album of this stuff), while “Serpent’s Trench” is amazingly transformed from tense into sexy chip-meets-bossa-nova.

There’s an interpretive acoustic guitar version of “Kids Run Through the City Corner” (definitely going on my sleep playlist), a playfully epic combination of the heroic and comical “Save Them!” and “Grand Finale?” themes, and a refreshing take on the chocobo theme with “Electro de Chocobo” (it’s hard to make this theme memorable after hearing hundreds of arrangements of it). Rounding out my favorites, there’s Jake Kaufman’s heavily Queen-influenced rendition of the opera scene with tons of signature vocal harmonies and guitar work, a funktacular “The Day After,” and the smooth, sweeping, and moving “Searching for Friends” with amazing woodwind work.

Even limiting myself to ten tracks, this review is longer than I’d hoped, and there are still so many others that I love on this album. For those who backed this on Kickstarter and are expecting a physical copy, you’re in for a treat: this is the real deal, so download it without delay!



Defiance: Original Video Game Soundtrack / Television Soundtrack
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Price: $11.99 each
Availability: iTunes (game / television)
Artist(s): Bear McCreary

Given the unique side-by-side development of this game and television series, of course we have to review both soundtracks! Both are composed by Bear McCreary, and each offers a different soundscape that is great in its own way. Both feature a very catchy theme that combines emotional orchestral moments and layered electronic sounds that define the sound of Defiance.

Starting with the game soundtrack, you get a more ambient experience given the MMO nature of the title. I particularly like the folky and adventurous “Ninety-Niners,” the moody atmospheric track, “Marin Exploration,” and the grungy “Ridgecrest Mine.” The bumping “Mount Tam” and the overdriven “Madera Combat” also stand out.

The television score is much more pop-oriented, featuring heavy use of the main theme along with a variety of vocal tracks that visit everything from blues to heavy electronic tunes. I particularly enjoy the exotic alien vocal tracks that really add an ethnic flair, and also the arrangement of “Time After Time.” “Concerto for Insects,” which uses insect sounds for percussion, is also a joy.

This is some great work by Bear McCreary, with some of my favorite themes of his that I’ve heard to date. I recommend picking up both albums, as they really explore two different styles of the same musical universe, which is as fun and unique as the game/television show concept itself.



Distant Worlds music from FINAL FANTASY THE CELEBRATION
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Price: 6,150 Yen ($61.50)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

[Sound Samples]

We recently mentioned that this was coming, and it’s safe to think of this as the visual accompaniment to the fantastic Final Fantasy Orchestra Album released at the end of last year.

Many new arrangements are performed, including “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, “Phantom Forest” from VI, and a brand new (and amazing) chocobo medley. The track list covers the original Final Fantasy through XIV, and throws in vocal tracks including Susan Calloway’s powerful “Answers” from XIV, “Eyes on Me” with Crystal Kay (I personally prefer the original by Faye Wong, or even Angella Aki’s version), and the opera from VI. There’s also a segment from the battle medley featured on the orchestra album, but I was disappointed that the entire 14-minute piece wasn’t performed in its entirety.

While the asking price is quite steep, this is a wonderful DVD. It’s fun to watch the orchestra, as several the players really get into the music, and it’s nice to be able to see the new arrangements if you haven’t had a concert stop near you lately. I also dig the packaging, which sports a see-through case and English commentary in the booklet.

[embed]258070:49563:0[/embed]

Dopamix Soundtrack
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Price: 1,500 Yen ($15)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

It’s great to see SuperSweep releasing the soundtrack to the 3DS eShop single-button rhythm game Dopamix. The game features all original music, and it’s quite good. This album serves up over 30 minutes of music, including pumping electronic beats, retro gamey goodness, Japanese pop tracks, and even some R&B. There’s a lot to like, but the playful electronic-meets-electric guitar “Parade” and the basstacular “Aurora” are my favorites. There’s also a 23-minute megamix tucked away at the end that’s nice to put on in the background, and the price is right! Check this one out.

[embed]257003:49343:0[/embed]

FINAL FANTASY IV Original Sound Track Remaster Version
Release Date: July 3, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu

[Sound Samples]

I’ve been super excited about Square Enix re-rereleasing the out of print soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV. They promised a remastered version with two loops instead of the original’s single playthrough along with unreleased tracks. Well, true to that promise, you get a meatier experience with this album, which is much appreciated. There’s also the snazzy box that comes with first-press editions that we unboxed.

The unreleased tracks are essentially a few jingles. It’s nice having that funny Namingway sound, but the rest of it isn’t very interesting. Given that there’s 50 minutes of unused space across both discs, I was hoping for something more substantial, but I really do feel silly complaining about this at all given that what’s presented is a better version of one of the best soundtracks of all time. I suggest picking it up.

Oh, and “Dancing Calcobrena” has a bit of a hiccup at the beginning that I guess is a big enough deal for Square Enix to be swapping out everyone’s discs in Japan. I didn’t find it that big of a deal, but we’ll keep you posted if that offer extends to fans abroad.

[embed]258070:49564:0[/embed]

Mighty Switch Force 2 Official Soundtrack
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Price: Name Your Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Jake Kaufman

I absolutely adored Jake Kaufman’s first Mighty Switch Force soundtrack, and this follow-up does not disappoint. Get ready for some heavy retro-infused disco, funk, and electronic music right out of the gate with the incredibly catchy “Title,” into the bass-bumpin’ “Got2BAStar,” and into the upbeat drum ‘n’ bass “Exothermic” (my favorite on the album). “Glow,” “The Afterblaze,” and “Soak Patrol Alpha” are also pure genius.

You'll dig the remixes tucked away at the end, including surasshu’s dreamy “Title Screen,” a hilarious vocal take on “Title” (you have to hear it), and a Mario Galaxy-esque version of “Glow,” complete with epic orchestra and spacey pitch-bending synth work.

Download this, now!



PRIORITY ONE: The music of TRON
Release Date: June 8, 2013
Price: $5
Availability: Loudr
Artist(s): Grant “stemage” Henry

[Sound Samples]

One word: stemage. That should be enough to have your interest, given he’s the brains behind one of the best game music tribute bands, Metroid Metal. But going even further, he’s paying homage to one of the most beloved film scores of all time: TRON. I can’t pretend to be an expert on that score, but I’ve heard it numerous times over the years, and stemage brings his signature sound to the mix. Layered guitars will build a dreamy tapestry of sound at one moment, then heavy-hitting rock percussion, monstrous bass, and wailing electric guitar will come in at the next. It’s a wonderful 30-minute journey.

My favorite tracks are the ominous and reverberating “Hydrophilia” and the tense “Sea of Stimulation,” featuring crazy time signatures and C64 sounds by Inverse Phase.

If you’re a fan of stemage, get this. If you’re a fan of TRON, get this. If you don’t know either, get this, and you’ll be a fan of both in just 30 minutes.

[embed]258070:49565:0[/embed]

TIME AND ETERNITY ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Price: 3,150 Yen ($31)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

I love this game’s artwork, and the music surprised me at E3. Some people have said it’s not Koshiro’s best work, but I’d say it’s not his typical work more than anything. It suits the anime-flavored visuals perfectly, bringing in upbeat and whimsical themes in that you’d hear in any anime these days (with live instruments to boot), but that doesn’t mean specific tracks don’t stick out.

I particularly dig the adventurous overworld exploration theme, “Juvenile,” the mischievous and exotic “Cursed Forest’s Theme” with some funky sax work, the rockin’ “Theme of Towa” and “Threat,” the epic Latin vocals in “Memory Infused,” which is in line with a last boss theme, and the emotional ending themes (“A Heart That Can't Be Broken” is amazing).

Oh, plus great artwork throughout the packaging. Thanks for releasing this, SuperSweep, and watch for a single-disc redux coming with the game from NISA.

[embed]258070:49566:0[/embed]

TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK PLUS
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Price: 3,000 Yen ($30)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is a hugely unexpected surprise. I’d checked out the original Tekken Tag Tournament 2 OST and loved it, but who knew there was so much more music to hear? This album offers over an hour and a half of additional tracks, much of which is amazing.

You can expect an eclectic mix of everything from electronic music to tropical themes, but my favorites tend to land on the electronic side. The bumping bass and explosive percussion in “Siga (Tropical Rainforest)” and the Asian-flavored vocal theme, “Landscape Under The Ghost -Kaminano (AD2012)” are two of my favorites on the serious side, while “Your Sunset” and “Battle Cry” both get quite a funk going, and stand out with their digitized vocals. There’s disco with “Luxury Garden,” cheesy vocal ballad with “Highschool love!” (it’s painful, but strangely catchy), and glitchy 8-bit goodness with “Backer.” There’s so much to like here, most of which I can’t call out by name because I’d be naming every track, so you’re going to want to pick this one up.

Also of note, those who pick it up at SuperSweep in Japan will get an additional megamix CD. Cool to have, but don’t feel too bad if you have to get it from CD Japan.



[embed]258070:49567:0" data-vidtitle="

Why Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin blew my mind Okay, let me first say that this installment of Note Worthy features the best collection of ten soundtracks ever featured in this series. That's why I won't be breaking down the albums into "Top Picks" and "Other Releases" th...  
Full story

" data-purl="why-final-fantasy-vi-balance-and-ruin-blew-my-mind-258070.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Why Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin blew my mind

Okay, let me first say that this installment of Note Worthy features the best collection of ten soundtracks ever featured in this series. That's why I won't be breaking down the albums into "Top Picks" and "Other Releases" this month. It al...   read

 
 
Limited
Artist(s): IMERUAT

The formation of IMERUAT has easily been one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen over the past couple years. The group is comprised of Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, and we covered their first full-length album in Note Worthy some time ago.

Now that they’ve been recording music videos, they’re finally releasing a compilation. There are a total of seven tracks featured on the DVD, including several of my favorites, such as the electrifying “IMERUAT” and “Black Ocean” and the dreamy “Haru No Kasumi” and “Cirotto.” The videos are pretty varied in style, but mostly feature Mina. “IMERUAT” displays a series of photographs in rapid succession, while “Left” and “Black Ocean” get interesting animated videos. “Giant” is one of the highlights with an impressive dance routine by Mina, and the included behind-the-scenes footage goes into more depth as to what went into this performance.

While this collection is widely available in Japan, it may be hard to get a hold of outside. Hopefully the group will make it more widely available, as they did for their first album, but you can check out many of their music videos on the official website.



TRUTHCANNON
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Price: $5
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): A_Rival

[embed]256447:49214:0[/embed]

Okay, we love A_Rival. His tasty blend of hip-hop and electronic music are unstoppable, and it’s only a matter of time before this guy makes it big. His latest and greatest, TRUTHCANNON, furthers this notion, bringing pumping beats, strong melodies, and impressive vocals into the fold.

The opener, “TRUTHCANNON,” opens with some beautifully harmonized vocals before going dubstep, while my favorite track on the album, “Wandering” combines retro 8-bit sounds with beautiful female vocals and a melody that will be stuck in your head for weeks. The sinister “Venus,” 80s synth pop-flavored “OMF” (think Shatter), the guttural “OMF2,” the reflective “DEAD,” and the closer, “Ready,” which features A_Rival’s own voice, are all stellar.

This is a fantastic album. Period. And it’s only $5. Support an amazing artist, get some amazing music. Do it now!

Other Releases



Gears of War: Judgment The Soundtrack
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Price: $13.86
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Steve Jablonsky, Jacob Shea

[Soundtrack Samples]

I’ve generally been a fan of Gears of War music, even before Steve Jablonsky took over the reins. As such, Gears of War: Judgment offers more of the same: action cues with distorted electric guitar chugging and heavy percussion and string stabs to drive tension on one half, and gritty ambiance on the other. Tracks here tend to be short (most under two minutes), but I liked what was here, even if the offerings aren’t that diverse. The twangy Western-style guitar work in the main theme, “Judgment,” the powerful “High Surge,” and foreboding “Vantage Point” are among my favorites.

Pick this up if you’re a fan of the franchise. But don’t expect anything Earth shattering.



KINGDOM HEARTS 10th Anniversary FAN SELECTION -Melodies & Memories-
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 3,500 Yen ($35)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura

[Soundtrack Samples]

What better way to celebrate the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III than with a compilation album containing the best tracks from across the series? Really though, this two-disc album was released last year to commemorate ten years of the franchise, and the tracks included were selected by a fan vote in Japan. As such, many of the most prominent tracks from across the series are featured.

The packaging here is quite nice, and for those who haven’t already purchased the individual Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, this might be worth picking up, although the price tag is a bit steep.



La Tale Soundtrack
Release Date: 2008
Price: Free
Availability: Install Directory / Official Website (Korean)
Artist(s): DINY, ESTi, various artists

La Tale is a beautiful Korean-developed action-oriented 2D sidescrolling MMORPG that came to North America in 2008. The music, contained within the game’s installation directory, quickly spread across the Internet with its tasty blend of electronic music and Asian-flavored pop, and the developers have taken notice, and will be offering it online as a free download in English territories.

With the release of STORM, the latest and biggest content update for the game, I wanted to catch up from a review I'd written previously. Lead composer DINY is joined by other Korean composers to bring more pop, fantasy, and electronic tunes that, while different in flavor, still offer up catchy melodies that will have you coming back for more. This is fantastic stuff, so check it out.



Monarch Original Soundtrack
Release Date: TBA
Price: TBA
Availability: TBA
Artist(s): Nauts

[embed]256447:49212:0" data-vidtitle="

Tiny Barbarian DX is a retro soundtrack that you must own Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of ret...  
Full story

" data-purl="tiny-barbarian-dx-is-a-retro-soundtrack-that-you-must-own-256447.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
Limited
Artist(s): IMERUAT

The formation of IMERUAT has easily been one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen over the past couple years. The group is comprised of Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, and we covered their first full-length album in Note Worthy some time ago.

Now that they’ve been recording music videos, they’re finally releasing a compilation. There are a total of seven tracks featured on the DVD, including several of my favorites, such as the electrifying “IMERUAT” and “Black Ocean” and the dreamy “Haru No Kasumi” and “Cirotto.” The videos are pretty varied in style, but mostly feature Mina. “IMERUAT” displays a series of photographs in rapid succession, while “Left” and “Black Ocean” get interesting animated videos. “Giant” is one of the highlights with an impressive dance routine by Mina, and the included behind-the-scenes footage goes into more depth as to what went into this performance.

While this collection is widely available in Japan, it may be hard to get a hold of outside. Hopefully the group will make it more widely available, as they did for their first album, but you can check out many of their music videos on the official website.



TRUTHCANNON
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Price: $5
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): A_Rival

[embed]256447:49214:0[/embed]

Okay, we love A_Rival. His tasty blend of hip-hop and electronic music are unstoppable, and it’s only a matter of time before this guy makes it big. His latest and greatest, TRUTHCANNON, furthers this notion, bringing pumping beats, strong melodies, and impressive vocals into the fold.

The opener, “TRUTHCANNON,” opens with some beautifully harmonized vocals before going dubstep, while my favorite track on the album, “Wandering” combines retro 8-bit sounds with beautiful female vocals and a melody that will be stuck in your head for weeks. The sinister “Venus,” 80s synth pop-flavored “OMF” (think Shatter), the guttural “OMF2,” the reflective “DEAD,” and the closer, “Ready,” which features A_Rival’s own voice, are all stellar.

This is a fantastic album. Period. And it’s only $5. Support an amazing artist, get some amazing music. Do it now!

Other Releases



Gears of War: Judgment The Soundtrack
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Price: $13.86
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Steve Jablonsky, Jacob Shea

[Soundtrack Samples]

I’ve generally been a fan of Gears of War music, even before Steve Jablonsky took over the reins. As such, Gears of War: Judgment offers more of the same: action cues with distorted electric guitar chugging and heavy percussion and string stabs to drive tension on one half, and gritty ambiance on the other. Tracks here tend to be short (most under two minutes), but I liked what was here, even if the offerings aren’t that diverse. The twangy Western-style guitar work in the main theme, “Judgment,” the powerful “High Surge,” and foreboding “Vantage Point” are among my favorites.

Pick this up if you’re a fan of the franchise. But don’t expect anything Earth shattering.



KINGDOM HEARTS 10th Anniversary FAN SELECTION -Melodies & Memories-
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 3,500 Yen ($35)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura

[Soundtrack Samples]

What better way to celebrate the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III than with a compilation album containing the best tracks from across the series? Really though, this two-disc album was released last year to commemorate ten years of the franchise, and the tracks included were selected by a fan vote in Japan. As such, many of the most prominent tracks from across the series are featured.

The packaging here is quite nice, and for those who haven’t already purchased the individual Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, this might be worth picking up, although the price tag is a bit steep.



La Tale Soundtrack
Release Date: 2008
Price: Free
Availability: Install Directory / Official Website (Korean)
Artist(s): DINY, ESTi, various artists

La Tale is a beautiful Korean-developed action-oriented 2D sidescrolling MMORPG that came to North America in 2008. The music, contained within the game’s installation directory, quickly spread across the Internet with its tasty blend of electronic music and Asian-flavored pop, and the developers have taken notice, and will be offering it online as a free download in English territories.

With the release of STORM, the latest and biggest content update for the game, I wanted to catch up from a review I'd written previously. Lead composer DINY is joined by other Korean composers to bring more pop, fantasy, and electronic tunes that, while different in flavor, still offer up catchy melodies that will have you coming back for more. This is fantastic stuff, so check it out.



Monarch Original Soundtrack
Release Date: TBA
Price: TBA
Availability: TBA
Artist(s): Nauts

[embed]256447:49212:0" data-vidtitle="

Tiny Barbarian DX is a retro soundtrack that you must own Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of ret...  
Full story

" data-purl="tiny-barbarian-dx-is-a-retro-soundtrack-that-you-must-own-256447.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Tiny Barbarian DX is a retro soundtrack that you must own

Our top pick for this month's issue of Note Worthy is the NES-flavored soundtrack for Tiny Barbarian DX, composed by Jeff Ball. There's a variety of styles presented, but all of it is super catchy and melodic, and fans of retro game music n...   read

 
 
Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
  Watch Video

Game music on guitar like you've never heard before

Top honors for this month's Note Worthy go to a new guitar duo, The Altered Beasts, who you may recognize as the guitar players from the best game music cover band out there, The OneUps. The two team up for their debut album, Transfiguratio...   read

 
 
Halo 4 soundtrack, but did feel it was a bit too cinematic. It contained only a fraction of the in-game soundtrack and was meant to tell the story of the game through sound. That makes Volume 2 the perfect place to explore the amazing atmospheres that Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi were able to create for the game. This album is much darker and much more atmospheric, featuring lots of orchestral elements with interwoven electronics.

Half of the tracks are provided by Jinnouchi, who was mostly absent from Volume 1. His opener, “Atonement,” will have you thinking of Halo soundtracks of old with its use of choir, and he even goes as far as to remix a past Halo track. From there, we launch into chugging electronics with heavy-hitting bass in percussion in “Intruders,” “Mantis,” with added glitchy percussion, and “Gravity” with its ominous pulsating bass synths.

Davidge returns with similarly-cool soundscapes. “Kantele Bow” and “Pylons” give off a very bad ass vibe along with “Convoy,” which really gets down to business and reminds me of some of my favorite Halo moments. I love the siren-like sounds in “Escape,” the reverberating electronic tones in “Swamp,” the familiar tribal percussion in “Push Through,” and the Metroid-esque ambiance of “Foreshadow.” Finally, “Aliens,” my favorite track on the album, sports deep bassy tones and exotic female chanting.

Halo fans who didn’t appreciate the Halo 4 soundtrack last year will want to give this album a try. It more effectively combines the old and the new quite nicely, and having played the game, I knew these moments were in the game despite not appearing on the soundtrack album, so I’m happy to be able to enjoy them outside of the gaming experience.



FINAL FANTASY XI: Seekers of Adoulin Original Soundtrack
Release Date: March 27, 2013
Price: 2,000 Yen ($21)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta

[Official soundtrack samples]

We posted about this album a few weeks back, and with its lovely packaging and over 50 minutes of new music, I have to say this is the most excited I’ve been for new Final Fantasy XI music in a while.

After an upbeat orchestral opener titled “A New Direction,” the album launches into a number of playful tunes including the adventurous “Breaking Ground” with its funky slap bass, the fun rhythmic pizzicato strings in “The Pioneers,” the prehistoric vibes of “Into Lands Primeval – Ulbuka” with its bongos and bell tones, and the relaxing tropical escape, “Mog Resort.” My two favorites are “Water's Umbral Knell” with its abstract use of water drops and metallic bell tones that are dark and unsettling and the decisive and foreboding “Hades.” Two bonus tracks, likely from content updates between major expansions, are also appreciated inclusions.

This price is right with this one. Naoshi Mizuta continues to grow with the series and shows off some of his best.



Magical Chase Original Soundtrack
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: 2,625 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata

[Official soundtrack samples]

Get ready for a history lesson. Back before Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata became known for their orchestral RPG scores for Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics, they worked together on this PC Engine shmup title that earned quite a following for its vibrant visuals and upbeat and bubbly soundtrack. Yes, Sakimoto and cute videogame music.

If I had to pick a title that this music most closely resembles, it would be Fantasy Zone, which I also love. From the incredibly catchy chorus section of the first stage theme, “Rampish Chase” to the playful “Ripple’s Theme,” there’s lots of sticky sweet melodies to enjoy. Then there’s the rambunctious “Azure Way,” the decisive “Waltz of Meditation” that hints at the Sakimoto/Iwata that would appear in later years, the chippy final stage theme, and boss themes that will have you bopping your head. The ending theme is also incredible.

And that doesn’t even touch on the 26 minutes of arranged and unused tracks provided by Basiscape Records to commemorate this album. There are five arrangements in all, updating the retro sound of the originals with orchestral or electronic sounds, although Sakimoto’s Sakimoto-esque version of “Ripple’s Theme” is probably my favorite. The undiscovered tracks are similar to other tracks found on the album, so no biggie.

I’d always heard about this game and soundtrack. After listening and watching some gameplay videos, I want to play it. If you’re a fan of Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, you need to pick this up. It’s a piece of history and it’s amazing that it’s finally out there.

Other Releases

[embed]250730:48106:0[/embed]

Alter Ego Dreamwalker OST
Release Date:
 March 21, 2013
Price:
 Name Your Own Price
Availability:
 Bandcamp via Ubiktune
Artist(s):
 Ken “coda” Snyder

Yogurtbox is back. Well, at least half of it. We’ve featured coda a few times here on Destructoid, and this time he’s bringing his chiptune magic to a game soundtrack courtesy of Ubiktune. In addition to providing some upbeat and pumpin’ chiptune action with a swagger (the pop-oriented and super catchy “Sweet Home” and powerful epic final stage, “Void,” being my favorites), there are also some fantastic remixes from other artists including the amazingly talented kulor, Madbrain, Blitz Lunar, and DJ Bouche. All for name-your-own-price, so do it now.

[embed]250730:48107:0[/embed]

Fly’n OST
Release Date: November 9, 2012
Price: $4.99 EUR
Availability: Ankama Shop
Artist(s): Guillaume Pervieux

We need to give Ankama’s Guillaume Pervieux some love. He wrote a lengthy and amazing score for the beautiful Islands of Wakfu a couple years ago, and his latest work for Fly’n will also surprise you with its eclectic and abstract electronic soundscapes. 

The meandering and gamey opener, “Adcoffe,” hints at aural joys to follow which include the tense yet playful “Andndamm,” the bassy chill-fest “Yservat,” the Radiohead-esque “Sonwide,” the comical and mischievous “Fucus,”and the dreamy and psychedelic “Oysicide" and “Carbonic.” There’s lots of gamey stuff and other more serious electronic music, but it’s all great, and there’s nearly two hours of it. Check it out.



Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Sounds of that other Gamindustri
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: NISA Online Store (Sold Out)
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu

I admit that my primary draw to this game was its soundtrack by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve since found myself interested in the game’s world and characters more so than the music!

What you have is a lot of bubbly electronic music and typical JRPG rock themes. That’s fine, as that’s what we know and love Uematsu for, but this isn’t his most inspired work. The upbeat tunes fit the game’s visuals and quirky sense of humor perfectly, but the sticky-sweet melodies lack substance and memorability. Aside from several character theme remixes from previous titles (“Rom's/Ram's Theme ver. V” is particularly cool), you’ll mostly want to keep your ears peeled for the Japanese-flavored “The Rock Garden” and the Earthbound Papas rockfests, “4th Dimension” and “Invader 1960,” but I wouldn’t feel too bad if you missed out on this one.

[embed]250730:48108:0[/embed]

The Mystic Quest For Metal
Release Date: July 12, 2012
Price: $4
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Daniel Tidwell

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is one of my favorite games (ridicule all you want!), and that’s in large part due to the game’s amazing soundtrack. In fact, one of the highlights of my many years writing about game music was an interview with the composer about this game.

It’s heavy metal rock in game music at its best, and Daniel Tidwell (previously of Lords of Thunder) has given it a fitting tribute with some amazing guitar solos and great metal production work. You get the game’s three battle themes as well as the epic final dungeon and rockin’ “Lava Dome." Thanks to Nubuwo for turning me on to this one.



NanoSweep 15 / overdrive hell 9: Hizumi Tengoku Moeru Maharaja
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Price: 500 Yen / 325 Yen
Availability: Limited
Artist(s): SuperSweep

Here’s another round of original electronic music from SuperSweep Records.

In what’s probably my favorite NanoSweep to date, I loved the hell out of the dreamy chillout track, “Focus,” and the super funky “Oscillation” which features some great rhythmic electric piano. Ayako Saso’s appropriately-titled “Patchwork” combines a lot of different ideas, the most interesting of which is a modified female vocal section that reminds me a lot of The World Ends With You, while Hosoe himself closes out with “Killing Terramorphous,” a hammering electronic track that gallops along with mind-crushing bass synths.

Overdrive Hell 9 yields an ethnic experience focusing on what sounds to be Indian music. Lots of vocals abound with the lovely “Ethno Vibration,” which is pretty tame by overdrive hell standards. “Curry Burns,” “Screaming Yoga,” and “Go Go West” get back on track, however, with crazy effects on the vocals and throbbing bass drums that never let up.

As always, these are hard to come by as they’re sold at events in Japan, but they do exist!

[embed]250730:48109:0[/embed]

Sidetracks - Music from Sidescroller
Release Date: June 25, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): High Frequency Bandwidth

This month concludes my look back at the PixelJunk franchise. Sidetracks is similar in style and even borrows a few tracks from PixelJunk Shooter (including an even more laidback version of “Fotographik,” my favorite track from that album). There’s the grungy opener, “Dog is No Hero,” which combines rock and electronic elements, but aside from this and the glitch rock track, “Zodiac 3 Arts Klub” with its catchy male chorus section, it’s mostly an icy trip-hop affair.

“More or Less” is a perfect example of chill hop with its snazzy hip hop stylings, while “Planet Thanet” brings in alien-sounding synths, “Ghetto World” gets funky bass and percussion, and “MNP” goes for a spooky vibe with lots of weird sound effects and organ. The two remixes featured of “Planet Thanet” and “More or Less” get more icy ambiance and reverb, and are nice additions.

As my favorite tracks from Shooter are also presented here, this is definitely by favorite PixelJunk soundtrack to date. We’ll see what the future brings!

[embed]250730:48110:0" data-vidtitle="

Halo 4 OST Volume 2 is everything I wanted out of Halo 4 Welcome back to Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up. This issue marks one year of Note Worthy, and I'm changing up things a bit with formatting. In the past, I've featured our ten monthly reviews in alphabetical orde...  
Full story

" data-purl="halo-4-ost-volume-2-is-everything-i-wanted-out-of-halo-4-250730.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Game Soundtracks photo
Latest Game Soundtracks
Halo 4 soundtrack, but did feel it was a bit too cinematic. It contained only a fraction of the in-game soundtrack and was meant to tell the story of the game through sound. That makes Volume 2 the perfect place to explore the amazing atmospheres that Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi were able to create for the game. This album is much darker and much more atmospheric, featuring lots of orchestral elements with interwoven electronics.

Half of the tracks are provided by Jinnouchi, who was mostly absent from Volume 1. His opener, “Atonement,” will have you thinking of Halo soundtracks of old with its use of choir, and he even goes as far as to remix a past Halo track. From there, we launch into chugging electronics with heavy-hitting bass in percussion in “Intruders,” “Mantis,” with added glitchy percussion, and “Gravity” with its ominous pulsating bass synths.

Davidge returns with similarly-cool soundscapes. “Kantele Bow” and “Pylons” give off a very bad ass vibe along with “Convoy,” which really gets down to business and reminds me of some of my favorite Halo moments. I love the siren-like sounds in “Escape,” the reverberating electronic tones in “Swamp,” the familiar tribal percussion in “Push Through,” and the Metroid-esque ambiance of “Foreshadow.” Finally, “Aliens,” my favorite track on the album, sports deep bassy tones and exotic female chanting.

Halo fans who didn’t appreciate the Halo 4 soundtrack last year will want to give this album a try. It more effectively combines the old and the new quite nicely, and having played the game, I knew these moments were in the game despite not appearing on the soundtrack album, so I’m happy to be able to enjoy them outside of the gaming experience.



FINAL FANTASY XI: Seekers of Adoulin Original Soundtrack
Release Date: March 27, 2013
Price: 2,000 Yen ($21)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta

[Official soundtrack samples]

We posted about this album a few weeks back, and with its lovely packaging and over 50 minutes of new music, I have to say this is the most excited I’ve been for new Final Fantasy XI music in a while.

After an upbeat orchestral opener titled “A New Direction,” the album launches into a number of playful tunes including the adventurous “Breaking Ground” with its funky slap bass, the fun rhythmic pizzicato strings in “The Pioneers,” the prehistoric vibes of “Into Lands Primeval – Ulbuka” with its bongos and bell tones, and the relaxing tropical escape, “Mog Resort.” My two favorites are “Water's Umbral Knell” with its abstract use of water drops and metallic bell tones that are dark and unsettling and the decisive and foreboding “Hades.” Two bonus tracks, likely from content updates between major expansions, are also appreciated inclusions.

This price is right with this one. Naoshi Mizuta continues to grow with the series and shows off some of his best.



Magical Chase Original Soundtrack
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: 2,625 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata

[Official soundtrack samples]

Get ready for a history lesson. Back before Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata became known for their orchestral RPG scores for Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics, they worked together on this PC Engine shmup title that earned quite a following for its vibrant visuals and upbeat and bubbly soundtrack. Yes, Sakimoto and cute videogame music.

If I had to pick a title that this music most closely resembles, it would be Fantasy Zone, which I also love. From the incredibly catchy chorus section of the first stage theme, “Rampish Chase” to the playful “Ripple’s Theme,” there’s lots of sticky sweet melodies to enjoy. Then there’s the rambunctious “Azure Way,” the decisive “Waltz of Meditation” that hints at the Sakimoto/Iwata that would appear in later years, the chippy final stage theme, and boss themes that will have you bopping your head. The ending theme is also incredible.

And that doesn’t even touch on the 26 minutes of arranged and unused tracks provided by Basiscape Records to commemorate this album. There are five arrangements in all, updating the retro sound of the originals with orchestral or electronic sounds, although Sakimoto’s Sakimoto-esque version of “Ripple’s Theme” is probably my favorite. The undiscovered tracks are similar to other tracks found on the album, so no biggie.

I’d always heard about this game and soundtrack. After listening and watching some gameplay videos, I want to play it. If you’re a fan of Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, you need to pick this up. It’s a piece of history and it’s amazing that it’s finally out there.

Other Releases

[embed]250730:48106:0[/embed]

Alter Ego Dreamwalker OST
Release Date:
 March 21, 2013
Price:
 Name Your Own Price
Availability:
 Bandcamp via Ubiktune
Artist(s):
 Ken “coda” Snyder

Yogurtbox is back. Well, at least half of it. We’ve featured coda a few times here on Destructoid, and this time he’s bringing his chiptune magic to a game soundtrack courtesy of Ubiktune. In addition to providing some upbeat and pumpin’ chiptune action with a swagger (the pop-oriented and super catchy “Sweet Home” and powerful epic final stage, “Void,” being my favorites), there are also some fantastic remixes from other artists including the amazingly talented kulor, Madbrain, Blitz Lunar, and DJ Bouche. All for name-your-own-price, so do it now.

[embed]250730:48107:0[/embed]

Fly’n OST
Release Date: November 9, 2012
Price: $4.99 EUR
Availability: Ankama Shop
Artist(s): Guillaume Pervieux

We need to give Ankama’s Guillaume Pervieux some love. He wrote a lengthy and amazing score for the beautiful Islands of Wakfu a couple years ago, and his latest work for Fly’n will also surprise you with its eclectic and abstract electronic soundscapes. 

The meandering and gamey opener, “Adcoffe,” hints at aural joys to follow which include the tense yet playful “Andndamm,” the bassy chill-fest “Yservat,” the Radiohead-esque “Sonwide,” the comical and mischievous “Fucus,”and the dreamy and psychedelic “Oysicide" and “Carbonic.” There’s lots of gamey stuff and other more serious electronic music, but it’s all great, and there’s nearly two hours of it. Check it out.



Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Sounds of that other Gamindustri
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: NISA Online Store (Sold Out)
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu

I admit that my primary draw to this game was its soundtrack by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. I’ve since found myself interested in the game’s world and characters more so than the music!

What you have is a lot of bubbly electronic music and typical JRPG rock themes. That’s fine, as that’s what we know and love Uematsu for, but this isn’t his most inspired work. The upbeat tunes fit the game’s visuals and quirky sense of humor perfectly, but the sticky-sweet melodies lack substance and memorability. Aside from several character theme remixes from previous titles (“Rom's/Ram's Theme ver. V” is particularly cool), you’ll mostly want to keep your ears peeled for the Japanese-flavored “The Rock Garden” and the Earthbound Papas rockfests, “4th Dimension” and “Invader 1960,” but I wouldn’t feel too bad if you missed out on this one.

[embed]250730:48108:0[/embed]

The Mystic Quest For Metal
Release Date: July 12, 2012
Price: $4
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Daniel Tidwell

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is one of my favorite games (ridicule all you want!), and that’s in large part due to the game’s amazing soundtrack. In fact, one of the highlights of my many years writing about game music was an interview with the composer about this game.

It’s heavy metal rock in game music at its best, and Daniel Tidwell (previously of Lords of Thunder) has given it a fitting tribute with some amazing guitar solos and great metal production work. You get the game’s three battle themes as well as the epic final dungeon and rockin’ “Lava Dome." Thanks to Nubuwo for turning me on to this one.



NanoSweep 15 / overdrive hell 9: Hizumi Tengoku Moeru Maharaja
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Price: 500 Yen / 325 Yen
Availability: Limited
Artist(s): SuperSweep

Here’s another round of original electronic music from SuperSweep Records.

In what’s probably my favorite NanoSweep to date, I loved the hell out of the dreamy chillout track, “Focus,” and the super funky “Oscillation” which features some great rhythmic electric piano. Ayako Saso’s appropriately-titled “Patchwork” combines a lot of different ideas, the most interesting of which is a modified female vocal section that reminds me a lot of The World Ends With You, while Hosoe himself closes out with “Killing Terramorphous,” a hammering electronic track that gallops along with mind-crushing bass synths.

Overdrive Hell 9 yields an ethnic experience focusing on what sounds to be Indian music. Lots of vocals abound with the lovely “Ethno Vibration,” which is pretty tame by overdrive hell standards. “Curry Burns,” “Screaming Yoga,” and “Go Go West” get back on track, however, with crazy effects on the vocals and throbbing bass drums that never let up.

As always, these are hard to come by as they’re sold at events in Japan, but they do exist!

[embed]250730:48109:0[/embed]

Sidetracks - Music from Sidescroller
Release Date: June 25, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): High Frequency Bandwidth

This month concludes my look back at the PixelJunk franchise. Sidetracks is similar in style and even borrows a few tracks from PixelJunk Shooter (including an even more laidback version of “Fotographik,” my favorite track from that album). There’s the grungy opener, “Dog is No Hero,” which combines rock and electronic elements, but aside from this and the glitch rock track, “Zodiac 3 Arts Klub” with its catchy male chorus section, it’s mostly an icy trip-hop affair.

“More or Less” is a perfect example of chill hop with its snazzy hip hop stylings, while “Planet Thanet” brings in alien-sounding synths, “Ghetto World” gets funky bass and percussion, and “MNP” goes for a spooky vibe with lots of weird sound effects and organ. The two remixes featured of “Planet Thanet” and “More or Less” get more icy ambiance and reverb, and are nice additions.

As my favorite tracks from Shooter are also presented here, this is definitely by favorite PixelJunk soundtrack to date. We’ll see what the future brings!

[embed]250730:48110:0" data-vidtitle="

Halo 4 OST Volume 2 is everything I wanted out of Halo 4 Welcome back to Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up. This issue marks one year of Note Worthy, and I'm changing up things a bit with formatting. In the past, I've featured our ten monthly reviews in alphabetical orde...  
Full story

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Halo 4 OST Volume 2 is everything I wanted out of Halo 4

Welcome back to Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up. This issue marks one year of Note Worthy, and I'm changing up things a bit with formatting. In the past, I've featured our ten monthly reviews in alphabetical order, giving each ...   read

 
 



PixelJunk Eden and Shooter 1&2, and now I’m tackling PixelJunk Monsters. The colorful tower defense game features less music than the previous PixelJunk titles we’ve covered with only 40 minutes of music. The tracks are short and sweet in that regard.

What you have is some seriously dreamy electronic music. I’d say it’s highly reminiscent of Square Enix’s Mitsuto Suzuki’s solo productions paired with the whimsical melodies of Hiroki Kikuta. And I mean this in a good way, as those are to my favorite artists out there.

Even though the tracks are generally short (around the two-minute mark) and blend into one another, it’s a wonderful 40 minute journey. Very few tracks will jump out at you and prove memorable, but the overall listening experience certainly is. My favorites are “a-maze-ing maze” with its layered acoustic guitar and bells and the reflective lullaby, “bye bye monsters.”

This is great stuff. If it were more fleshed out, it could be my favorite PixelJunk score to date, but for now, Shooter 1&2 takes that honor with its innovative approach. Still, anyone looking to relax with some great electronic soundscapes, check out PixelJunk Monsters.



Emil Chronicle Online Original Soundtrack 6th Anniversary Memorial Soundtrack
Release Date: January 11, 2012
Price: 4,200 Yen ($45)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): ACE+

While Gravity picked up the publishing rights to Emil Chronicle, I was apparently too busy playing Ragnarok Online to pay much attention. This is also a highly-stylized MMORPG that instead employed the talents of Japan-based ACE+, who you may remember from their work on Xenoblade Chronicles and Code of Princess.

This four-disc collection adds a single disc of new music to the 4th anniversary soundtrack that was released years ago. I love the upbeat nature of the music that matches perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. There are tons of Celtic influences, bouncy towns, vibrant fields, and tasty pop-oriented themes to enjoy. I feel it’s ACE+’s best work, as Xenoblade Chronicles was a little on the ambient side and Code of Princess a bit lacking in the memorability department.

There are some key moments on the album, including the opening theme, “FAR AND AWAY,” which brings a heavy Celtic sound with woodwinds and a beautiful and touching string section. The distant and solemn “Sound of the ruin,” the fun accordion-laden dance tune, “Beyond the Destiny,” the pumping rock fest “Over the infinite helix,” the dark and reflective “Phantasmagoria,” the upbeat and jazzy “Theme of Emil,” and the weird (but good!) vocaloid vocal track, “Song for Battle Field” are some of my favorites. As far as the new stuff on the fourth disc is concerned, you’ll want to listen for the opener, “Lands of Groundbreaker,” which is also a moving orchestral theme, and the closing vocal theme, “12sec seno mano -the voice from yourself-.”

It’s great to get in touch with ACE+’s history, and this looks to be some of their best. There’s some great artwork to enjoy, although the booklet is admittedly pretty thin. Still, I recommend checking it out if you liked ACE+’s other works.



Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan Rough Drafts & Outtakes

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: First press bonus
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

We reviewed the Etrian Odyssey IV soundtrack in Note Worthy 005 and loved it. Koshiro has done an amazing job transitioning the series from the retro FM synthesis featured in preceding titles over to a live orchestral soundscape featured in Etrian Odyssey IV. I was immediately interested, then, when it was announced that the bonus CD included with early shipments of the game would feature outtakes and rough draft versions of the tracks used for recording purposes.

What you get are five rough drafts and two outtakes. The rough drafts, as interesting as they sound, won’t do much for you if you’ve already listened to the OST versions. These are synth mock-ups that Koshiro created to prepare for the recording sessions, so they aren’t as vibrant or warm as their OST counterparts, although they’re fun to listen to for comparison purposes.

The outtakes are both village themes. “The Wind’s Gentle Touch” meanders about dreamily, sounding almost like a lullaby, while “All is Well” goes classical with harpsichord (one of my favorite instruments ever) and a lovely woodwind accompaniment. It almost sounds like something Koichi Sugiyama would write for a Dragon Quest game.

So there you have it. I’d say if you missed out on the disc, you’ll be okay. Just pick up the OST, which is one of the best albums released in 2012.



GUN FRONTIER/METAL BLACK/DINO REX Sound Tracks for Digital Generation
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Price: 3,780 Yen ($40)
Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Shop)
Artist(s): Yasuhisa Watanabe, Hidetoshi Fukumori, TAITO

[embed]248311:47531:0[/embed]

A new entry into SuperSweep’s GameMusic Discovery Series, this is a collection of arcade soundtracks from Taito’s catalog including two shooters and a fighting game. There are also some arranged tracks and a DVD containing complete playthroughs of each game (cool for those who want to know more about the music’s context).

The album kicks off with my favorite soundtrack of the bunch, Metal Black. This is a side-scrolling shooter about a fight against an alien invasion of Earth. There are a number of great melodies, including the intro stage, “Bone to be free” with its triumphant and sweet melody as players take back Earth. I also dig the ambient “Waste days” and the many boss themes which are somewhat atypical. I’m used to heavy action in my shmup boss themes, but all of these here take a more interesting approach, some slow and mysterious, and others a bit terrifying, highlighting the weird and alien-y appearance of the enemies you’re fighting.

The other two soundtracks don’t stand out as much. Gun Frontier is also heavy on the melody side, but nothing really stuck with me. Two remixes from the game, however, really shine as some of the best that this collection has to offer with a bumpin’ dance remix and a sort of world music/electronic jazz remix that somehow manage to take the unmemorable OST and make it into something worthwhile. Dino Rex, a strange fighting game featuring a variety of dinosaurs, gets a stereotypical dose of tribal percussion and sparse melodies. You have to watch the DVD footage, as this game looks truly terrible.

There’s another disc containing the Sega Saturn versions of Metal Black and Gun Frontier. The two versions are similar, except there’re more reverb effects on the Sega Saturn version, which I think I enjoy slightly more.

This is a nice collection for fans of Taito shooters. Metal Black is excellent, but probably not worth the price alone. If any of these titles have your interest, however, you may want to check this out.



Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Soundtrack
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited Edition bonus
Artist(s): Jamie Christopherson

This soundtrack is a surprise in so many ways. Generally, Konami keeps to itself with Metal Gear titles, relying on current Konami composers and former Metal Gear composers to maintain that “Metal Gear” sound. But Platinum Games had other plans, turning to Jamie Christopherson who certainly had a few tricks up his sleeve.

This album is the soundtrack disc that comes housed with the pricey limited edition version of the game. It contains in-game music by Christopherson, and doesn’t have much overlap with the Vocal Tracks album that has been made more widely available.

While it retains the Hollywood action stylings of past Metal Gear titles, it strays from that sound in many ways. I’d say it’s more of a Hollywood orchestral/electronic fusion with heavy rock elements. It’s really moody and cool in a lot of ways, but reminds me of, say, Deus Ex: Human Revolution more than Metal Gear.

That’s okay though. I love the opening track, “Title,” to death with its great melody and distant guitar work beckoning from beyond, while the furious drum ‘n’ bass “Chase” and exotic “Old City” are also pleasing. The gritty Western movie-esque “Plaza,” the Asian-flavored “Japanese Garden,” the ominous “Tension,” and the techy “Result” are also awesome. A few battle themes make an appearance in their vocal-less forms, but more about those later.

In all, this is a wonderful soundtrack. I haven’t played the game, but from what I can gather from Conrad, it works amazingly well, and Platinum Games ought to be pleased with their choice and Christopherson proud of his accomplishment. He had big shoes to fill and has successfully injected new life into the franchise.



Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Vocal Tracks
Release Date: February 18, 2013
Price: $15.44
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Jamie Christopherson, Various Artists

[embed]248311:47530:0[/embed]

Here’s the previously mentioned vocal tracks album. Contained within are the boss battle themes from the game that coincidentally are all vocal tracks. The tracks fit in well with the score, incorporating a blend of rock and electronics that is somewhere between ‘90s alternative metal and Linkin Park. Shredding guitars, wailing solos, and gritty vocals litter the album.

Before you balk, however, it’s important to note how the music is used in-game. In battle, the pieces generally appear in their instrumental form with cross-fades into the vocal versions as the action picks up in battle, which Conrad tells me works incredibly well to drive the action home. With that in mind, though, and the fact that many of the instrumental versions are included, even if the vocals aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the musical backings as I found myself doing for tracks where the vocals didn’t really strike me.

Some of the vocals really do stand out, though. The explosive “Dark Skies” with its choppy vocals, the bass-heavy “A Stranger I Remain” with a great female vocalist, and the amazing guitar work in “The Stains of All Time” are among my favorites. The deep vocal stylings of Jason Miller in “Red Sun” are also particularly memorable. The moody and slower “The War Still Rages Within,” the longest track on the album, provides a nice closer.

My only complaint would be that the tracks are generally pretty short. In the two-minute range, actually. Still, fans of the game might even prefer this album to the OST, and it’s a lot more easily to obtain since it’s being sold separately. It’s worth checking out if this kind of music is your thing.



RARE SQ - BONUS DISC -
Release Date: December 5, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Tower Records / Village Vanguard customer bonus
Artist(s): Various Artists

Here we are with yet another exclusive disc to fans in Japan who purchase Square Enix music at brick-and-mortar stores in Japan. This is the accompaniment disc to Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and features a compilation of past SQ customer bonus disc tracks along with new ones, and I have to say that this compiles some of the best SQ series music to date.

In terms of re-released material, you have the amazing “Aria” from Final Fantasy VI, redone by Reign of the Kindo, which is easily the best version of the touching opera scene I’ve ever heard despite it being sung in English by a man.

There’s a lot of great new stuff, too, including an arrangement from Soukaigi (composed by Secret of Mana’s Hiroki Kikuta), which is a rare treat, and a great arrangement. There’s a dreamy electronic remix from Einhander, a funky version of “MEGAROMANIA” from LIVE A LIVE that will have you thinking of The OneUps, a bumpin’ chiptune medley from Final Fantasy VII, and dubstep versions of “Battle on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V and “TWISTER” from The World Ends With You (which is fantastic). Finally, we get a 20-minute DJ set from a recent live event that Square Enix held which combines popular Final Fantasy themes including “Red Wings” from Final Fantasy IV, “Battle” from Final Fantasy VI, and more LIVE A LIVE in a great set.

This is a great album, but unfortunately it’s only available to those who purchase the album physically in Japan. CD Japan cells a combination of Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- along with this bonus disc, but it comes at a premium. So think hard as to whether these remixes sound worth it. I think they are.



StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Soundtrack
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Price: $10.99 (digital)
Availability: Collector’s Edition bonus / iTunes
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

I can’t help but be a fan of the musical universe of StarCraft. There are the rockin’ Terran, the creepy and textural Zerg, and the regal and serene Protoss. Wings of Liberty touched on all of these, but focused on the Terran race, and now we get our hands on a lot of Zerg-tinged themes, which is actually my favorite race, musically.

Derek Duke, the musical voice of the Zerg, does a lot of heavy lifting alongside sound lead Glenn Stafford (resident Terran specialist), and even Jason Hayes who was responsible for the Protoss in the original StarCraft returns to Blizzard Entertainment and is featured with Audio Director Russell Brower, cinematics expert Neal Acree, and contributor Cris Velasco.

So, how does it sound? This album is certainly much darker and heavier than Wings of Liberty. It really nails the Zerg sound right out of the gate with “Corruptors” which touches on classic Zerg themes that will awaken that sense of nostalgia within. Duke does an amazing job with textural electric guitar and ambient electronic backings, marrying them to tense strings and defiant brass. We get these sounds throughout.

Other tracks, including “Heart of the Swarm” and “Fire in the Sky,” bring in that bombastic Hollywood action sound with big orchestra with cool electronics in a very tasteful way, while there are a number of foreboding pieces featuring great choral work in “The Coming Storm,” moody rock in “Phantoms of the Void,” and some fantastic booming percussion in “Conscience.”

Other times I was reminded of Halo (and I make this comparison in the most flattering way possible), with “Collateral Damage” featuring emotional strings and bassy piano notes that are followed by the blistering electronic-infused rock that is typical of the Terrans, while “Stronger” really channels that badass Halo sound with rock percussion and heavy electronic guitar work. The final track, “Whispering from the Stars,” has some finality to it, although things sound pretty bleak. Be prepared for what sounds to be a pretty distressing end to the game.

This is really a fantastic soundtrack filled with great music and great production values. I have to say it’s one of my favorite Blizzard Entertainment albums in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot given the quality they are consistently able to deliver.



The Black Box
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Price: Name Your Own Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Aivi “waltzforluma” Tran, Steven “surasshu” Valema

[embed]248311:47529:0[/embed]

This album is so good that I had to post about it when it was released last week despite knowing that I’d be reviewing it here. The team, who you may recognize from the recently-funded Cryamore project, combines piano and chiptunes through a number of original tracks and remixes. Tran’s piano work is fantastic, and Valema’s chiptune work, constructed in Impulse Tracker, adds a dreamy quality that sounds so natural.

In terms of remixes, there’s my favorite track from Katamari Damacy, “Lonely Rolling Star,” which is upbeat, fun, and classy, while the bonus track, “Mabe Village,” from Link’s Awakening is simply sweet and adorable. The final remix is from Asturias’s Cryptogenic Illusion album, titled “Distance,” which gets a bubbly treatment.

The originals cover a lot of territory, with “Shapeshifter” exploring what feels like a contemporary jazz style that is smooth and mood-setting, while “Diamond Dove” flutters about an adventurous atmosphere and “Here’s How!” gets into some swankier jazz territory. “Mika” is an emotional ballad that feels rooted in classical piano, and “Pocket Universe” explores jazz-tinged pop.

It’s all quite lovely, and I can’t quite get over how natural this combination of sounds is. It also comes packed with a comic series that is “to be continued,” suggesting that we’re going to see more collaborations between Tran and Valema. I can’t wait! Stream it, and if you like it, throw some money their way! This is great stuff.



TOMB RAIDER ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited edition bonus
Artist(s): Jason Graves

[embed]248311:47528:0" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 013: StarCraft, Metal Gear, and Tomb Raider Welcome back! We're looking at recent soundtrack releases, and there are a number of big ones this month. We've got impressions of the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Tomb Raider soundtra...  
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" data-purl="note-worthy-013-starcraft-metal-gear-and-tomb-raider-248311.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks
PixelJunk Eden and Shooter 1&2, and now I’m tackling PixelJunk Monsters. The colorful tower defense game features less music than the previous PixelJunk titles we’ve covered with only 40 minutes of music. The tracks are short and sweet in that regard.

What you have is some seriously dreamy electronic music. I’d say it’s highly reminiscent of Square Enix’s Mitsuto Suzuki’s solo productions paired with the whimsical melodies of Hiroki Kikuta. And I mean this in a good way, as those are to my favorite artists out there.

Even though the tracks are generally short (around the two-minute mark) and blend into one another, it’s a wonderful 40 minute journey. Very few tracks will jump out at you and prove memorable, but the overall listening experience certainly is. My favorites are “a-maze-ing maze” with its layered acoustic guitar and bells and the reflective lullaby, “bye bye monsters.”

This is great stuff. If it were more fleshed out, it could be my favorite PixelJunk score to date, but for now, Shooter 1&2 takes that honor with its innovative approach. Still, anyone looking to relax with some great electronic soundscapes, check out PixelJunk Monsters.



Emil Chronicle Online Original Soundtrack 6th Anniversary Memorial Soundtrack
Release Date: January 11, 2012
Price: 4,200 Yen ($45)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): ACE+

While Gravity picked up the publishing rights to Emil Chronicle, I was apparently too busy playing Ragnarok Online to pay much attention. This is also a highly-stylized MMORPG that instead employed the talents of Japan-based ACE+, who you may remember from their work on Xenoblade Chronicles and Code of Princess.

This four-disc collection adds a single disc of new music to the 4th anniversary soundtrack that was released years ago. I love the upbeat nature of the music that matches perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. There are tons of Celtic influences, bouncy towns, vibrant fields, and tasty pop-oriented themes to enjoy. I feel it’s ACE+’s best work, as Xenoblade Chronicles was a little on the ambient side and Code of Princess a bit lacking in the memorability department.

There are some key moments on the album, including the opening theme, “FAR AND AWAY,” which brings a heavy Celtic sound with woodwinds and a beautiful and touching string section. The distant and solemn “Sound of the ruin,” the fun accordion-laden dance tune, “Beyond the Destiny,” the pumping rock fest “Over the infinite helix,” the dark and reflective “Phantasmagoria,” the upbeat and jazzy “Theme of Emil,” and the weird (but good!) vocaloid vocal track, “Song for Battle Field” are some of my favorites. As far as the new stuff on the fourth disc is concerned, you’ll want to listen for the opener, “Lands of Groundbreaker,” which is also a moving orchestral theme, and the closing vocal theme, “12sec seno mano -the voice from yourself-.”

It’s great to get in touch with ACE+’s history, and this looks to be some of their best. There’s some great artwork to enjoy, although the booklet is admittedly pretty thin. Still, I recommend checking it out if you liked ACE+’s other works.



Etrian Odyssey IV: Legend of the Titan Rough Drafts & Outtakes

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: First press bonus
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

We reviewed the Etrian Odyssey IV soundtrack in Note Worthy 005 and loved it. Koshiro has done an amazing job transitioning the series from the retro FM synthesis featured in preceding titles over to a live orchestral soundscape featured in Etrian Odyssey IV. I was immediately interested, then, when it was announced that the bonus CD included with early shipments of the game would feature outtakes and rough draft versions of the tracks used for recording purposes.

What you get are five rough drafts and two outtakes. The rough drafts, as interesting as they sound, won’t do much for you if you’ve already listened to the OST versions. These are synth mock-ups that Koshiro created to prepare for the recording sessions, so they aren’t as vibrant or warm as their OST counterparts, although they’re fun to listen to for comparison purposes.

The outtakes are both village themes. “The Wind’s Gentle Touch” meanders about dreamily, sounding almost like a lullaby, while “All is Well” goes classical with harpsichord (one of my favorite instruments ever) and a lovely woodwind accompaniment. It almost sounds like something Koichi Sugiyama would write for a Dragon Quest game.

So there you have it. I’d say if you missed out on the disc, you’ll be okay. Just pick up the OST, which is one of the best albums released in 2012.



GUN FRONTIER/METAL BLACK/DINO REX Sound Tracks for Digital Generation
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Price: 3,780 Yen ($40)
Availability: Limited (SuperSweep Shop)
Artist(s): Yasuhisa Watanabe, Hidetoshi Fukumori, TAITO

[embed]248311:47531:0[/embed]

A new entry into SuperSweep’s GameMusic Discovery Series, this is a collection of arcade soundtracks from Taito’s catalog including two shooters and a fighting game. There are also some arranged tracks and a DVD containing complete playthroughs of each game (cool for those who want to know more about the music’s context).

The album kicks off with my favorite soundtrack of the bunch, Metal Black. This is a side-scrolling shooter about a fight against an alien invasion of Earth. There are a number of great melodies, including the intro stage, “Bone to be free” with its triumphant and sweet melody as players take back Earth. I also dig the ambient “Waste days” and the many boss themes which are somewhat atypical. I’m used to heavy action in my shmup boss themes, but all of these here take a more interesting approach, some slow and mysterious, and others a bit terrifying, highlighting the weird and alien-y appearance of the enemies you’re fighting.

The other two soundtracks don’t stand out as much. Gun Frontier is also heavy on the melody side, but nothing really stuck with me. Two remixes from the game, however, really shine as some of the best that this collection has to offer with a bumpin’ dance remix and a sort of world music/electronic jazz remix that somehow manage to take the unmemorable OST and make it into something worthwhile. Dino Rex, a strange fighting game featuring a variety of dinosaurs, gets a stereotypical dose of tribal percussion and sparse melodies. You have to watch the DVD footage, as this game looks truly terrible.

There’s another disc containing the Sega Saturn versions of Metal Black and Gun Frontier. The two versions are similar, except there’re more reverb effects on the Sega Saturn version, which I think I enjoy slightly more.

This is a nice collection for fans of Taito shooters. Metal Black is excellent, but probably not worth the price alone. If any of these titles have your interest, however, you may want to check this out.



Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Soundtrack
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited Edition bonus
Artist(s): Jamie Christopherson

This soundtrack is a surprise in so many ways. Generally, Konami keeps to itself with Metal Gear titles, relying on current Konami composers and former Metal Gear composers to maintain that “Metal Gear” sound. But Platinum Games had other plans, turning to Jamie Christopherson who certainly had a few tricks up his sleeve.

This album is the soundtrack disc that comes housed with the pricey limited edition version of the game. It contains in-game music by Christopherson, and doesn’t have much overlap with the Vocal Tracks album that has been made more widely available.

While it retains the Hollywood action stylings of past Metal Gear titles, it strays from that sound in many ways. I’d say it’s more of a Hollywood orchestral/electronic fusion with heavy rock elements. It’s really moody and cool in a lot of ways, but reminds me of, say, Deus Ex: Human Revolution more than Metal Gear.

That’s okay though. I love the opening track, “Title,” to death with its great melody and distant guitar work beckoning from beyond, while the furious drum ‘n’ bass “Chase” and exotic “Old City” are also pleasing. The gritty Western movie-esque “Plaza,” the Asian-flavored “Japanese Garden,” the ominous “Tension,” and the techy “Result” are also awesome. A few battle themes make an appearance in their vocal-less forms, but more about those later.

In all, this is a wonderful soundtrack. I haven’t played the game, but from what I can gather from Conrad, it works amazingly well, and Platinum Games ought to be pleased with their choice and Christopherson proud of his accomplishment. He had big shoes to fill and has successfully injected new life into the franchise.



Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Vocal Tracks
Release Date: February 18, 2013
Price: $15.44
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Jamie Christopherson, Various Artists

[embed]248311:47530:0[/embed]

Here’s the previously mentioned vocal tracks album. Contained within are the boss battle themes from the game that coincidentally are all vocal tracks. The tracks fit in well with the score, incorporating a blend of rock and electronics that is somewhere between ‘90s alternative metal and Linkin Park. Shredding guitars, wailing solos, and gritty vocals litter the album.

Before you balk, however, it’s important to note how the music is used in-game. In battle, the pieces generally appear in their instrumental form with cross-fades into the vocal versions as the action picks up in battle, which Conrad tells me works incredibly well to drive the action home. With that in mind, though, and the fact that many of the instrumental versions are included, even if the vocals aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the musical backings as I found myself doing for tracks where the vocals didn’t really strike me.

Some of the vocals really do stand out, though. The explosive “Dark Skies” with its choppy vocals, the bass-heavy “A Stranger I Remain” with a great female vocalist, and the amazing guitar work in “The Stains of All Time” are among my favorites. The deep vocal stylings of Jason Miller in “Red Sun” are also particularly memorable. The moody and slower “The War Still Rages Within,” the longest track on the album, provides a nice closer.

My only complaint would be that the tracks are generally pretty short. In the two-minute range, actually. Still, fans of the game might even prefer this album to the OST, and it’s a lot more easily to obtain since it’s being sold separately. It’s worth checking out if this kind of music is your thing.



RARE SQ - BONUS DISC -
Release Date: December 5, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Tower Records / Village Vanguard customer bonus
Artist(s): Various Artists

Here we are with yet another exclusive disc to fans in Japan who purchase Square Enix music at brick-and-mortar stores in Japan. This is the accompaniment disc to Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and features a compilation of past SQ customer bonus disc tracks along with new ones, and I have to say that this compiles some of the best SQ series music to date.

In terms of re-released material, you have the amazing “Aria” from Final Fantasy VI, redone by Reign of the Kindo, which is easily the best version of the touching opera scene I’ve ever heard despite it being sung in English by a man.

There’s a lot of great new stuff, too, including an arrangement from Soukaigi (composed by Secret of Mana’s Hiroki Kikuta), which is a rare treat, and a great arrangement. There’s a dreamy electronic remix from Einhander, a funky version of “MEGAROMANIA” from LIVE A LIVE that will have you thinking of The OneUps, a bumpin’ chiptune medley from Final Fantasy VII, and dubstep versions of “Battle on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V and “TWISTER” from The World Ends With You (which is fantastic). Finally, we get a 20-minute DJ set from a recent live event that Square Enix held which combines popular Final Fantasy themes including “Red Wings” from Final Fantasy IV, “Battle” from Final Fantasy VI, and more LIVE A LIVE in a great set.

This is a great album, but unfortunately it’s only available to those who purchase the album physically in Japan. CD Japan cells a combination of Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- along with this bonus disc, but it comes at a premium. So think hard as to whether these remixes sound worth it. I think they are.



StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Soundtrack
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Price: $10.99 (digital)
Availability: Collector’s Edition bonus / iTunes
Artist(s): Blizzard Entertainment

I can’t help but be a fan of the musical universe of StarCraft. There are the rockin’ Terran, the creepy and textural Zerg, and the regal and serene Protoss. Wings of Liberty touched on all of these, but focused on the Terran race, and now we get our hands on a lot of Zerg-tinged themes, which is actually my favorite race, musically.

Derek Duke, the musical voice of the Zerg, does a lot of heavy lifting alongside sound lead Glenn Stafford (resident Terran specialist), and even Jason Hayes who was responsible for the Protoss in the original StarCraft returns to Blizzard Entertainment and is featured with Audio Director Russell Brower, cinematics expert Neal Acree, and contributor Cris Velasco.

So, how does it sound? This album is certainly much darker and heavier than Wings of Liberty. It really nails the Zerg sound right out of the gate with “Corruptors” which touches on classic Zerg themes that will awaken that sense of nostalgia within. Duke does an amazing job with textural electric guitar and ambient electronic backings, marrying them to tense strings and defiant brass. We get these sounds throughout.

Other tracks, including “Heart of the Swarm” and “Fire in the Sky,” bring in that bombastic Hollywood action sound with big orchestra with cool electronics in a very tasteful way, while there are a number of foreboding pieces featuring great choral work in “The Coming Storm,” moody rock in “Phantoms of the Void,” and some fantastic booming percussion in “Conscience.”

Other times I was reminded of Halo (and I make this comparison in the most flattering way possible), with “Collateral Damage” featuring emotional strings and bassy piano notes that are followed by the blistering electronic-infused rock that is typical of the Terrans, while “Stronger” really channels that badass Halo sound with rock percussion and heavy electronic guitar work. The final track, “Whispering from the Stars,” has some finality to it, although things sound pretty bleak. Be prepared for what sounds to be a pretty distressing end to the game.

This is really a fantastic soundtrack filled with great music and great production values. I have to say it’s one of my favorite Blizzard Entertainment albums in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot given the quality they are consistently able to deliver.



The Black Box
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Price: Name Your Own Price
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Aivi “waltzforluma” Tran, Steven “surasshu” Valema

[embed]248311:47529:0[/embed]

This album is so good that I had to post about it when it was released last week despite knowing that I’d be reviewing it here. The team, who you may recognize from the recently-funded Cryamore project, combines piano and chiptunes through a number of original tracks and remixes. Tran’s piano work is fantastic, and Valema’s chiptune work, constructed in Impulse Tracker, adds a dreamy quality that sounds so natural.

In terms of remixes, there’s my favorite track from Katamari Damacy, “Lonely Rolling Star,” which is upbeat, fun, and classy, while the bonus track, “Mabe Village,” from Link’s Awakening is simply sweet and adorable. The final remix is from Asturias’s Cryptogenic Illusion album, titled “Distance,” which gets a bubbly treatment.

The originals cover a lot of territory, with “Shapeshifter” exploring what feels like a contemporary jazz style that is smooth and mood-setting, while “Diamond Dove” flutters about an adventurous atmosphere and “Here’s How!” gets into some swankier jazz territory. “Mika” is an emotional ballad that feels rooted in classical piano, and “Pocket Universe” explores jazz-tinged pop.

It’s all quite lovely, and I can’t quite get over how natural this combination of sounds is. It also comes packed with a comic series that is “to be continued,” suggesting that we’re going to see more collaborations between Tran and Valema. I can’t wait! Stream it, and if you like it, throw some money their way! This is great stuff.



TOMB RAIDER ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited edition bonus
Artist(s): Jason Graves

[embed]248311:47528:0" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 013: StarCraft, Metal Gear, and Tomb Raider Welcome back! We're looking at recent soundtrack releases, and there are a number of big ones this month. We've got impressions of the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Tomb Raider soundtra...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-013-starcraft-metal-gear-and-tomb-raider-248311.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 013: StarCraft, Metal Gear, and Tomb Raider

Welcome back! We're looking at recent soundtrack releases, and there are a number of big ones this month. We've got impressions of the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Tomb Raider soundtracks along with ...   read

 
 


Donpachi / Dodonpachi / Dodonpachi II Soundtrack
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This album is a big deal. This series is from Cave’s early days, and the shmups featured some pretty twisted stories along with the standard electronic and rock soundtracks. Unfortunately, the soundtrack albums have since gone out of print, and here’s SuperSweep to the rescue with the music to the first three games in the series.

Donpachi from 1995 didn’t really strike my fancy. It features some dated orchestral sounds without much in the way of a memorable melody. The funky name entry theme is probably my favorite of the bunch. Likewise, the Dodonpachi II soundtrack doesn’t really have a lot going for it, but you may want to take note of the third stage’s battle theme that blatantly rips the Final Fantasy IX battle theme.

Where it’s at is the Dodonpachi soundtrack. Serious electronic music marks its entrance before it launches in live wailing electric guitars in the stage themes, all of which are amazing. The ending themes also stand out for their pop approach. It’s a shame that Dodonpachi II was such a step backward from the amazingness that is Dodonpachi.

The album includes a second disc that really isn’t worth your time. It features the mono output versions of the Donpachi and Dodonpachi soundtracks (why does anyone want this?) and one of the console ports of Dodonpachi II.

As somebody who’s never played these games, I can’t recommend this album to anyone but the most hardcore fans, but hey, I’m glad it’s out there for those who were looking for the out of print originals.



Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Price: $19.99
Availability: GOG.com Bundle Exclusive
Artist(s): Periscope Studio

While Allistair wasn’t thrilled about the PC adventure title, Harvey’s New Eyes, one of the few highlights he noted was the game’s soundtrack. As “one of the best released [last] year,” I thought I should probably check it out.

The 30-minute soundtrack comes bundled with the two games (Harvey’s New Eyes is a sequel) along with some other goodies. The track names are in German, so I won’t bother you with them, but I’ll say that what little is here is good, and as you’d imagine from the description Allistair gives of the game, the music is quite eclectic.

There’s a catchy main theme that sounds like something out of a French café with the use of accordion and some dreamy acoustic guitar as well as a vocal version of the theme with German lyrics that comes later (an English version is available as well). Two organ pieces are featured, which is good for me as it’s one of my favorite instruments. They’re quite ominous, and probably my favorite tracks here. There’s a desolate desert right out of a Western film, a weird tribal track with most of the sounds made using the human voice, dark and broody jazz with a walking bass and all kinds of unsettling sound effects, and a tense orchestral/electronic fusion that comes in towards the end sounding like something Craig Armstrong would write for a big Hollywood action film (that means good).

But before it starts, it seemingly ends. I’d love to hear more of this, as it’s all very well produced. It’d also be nice to see it available online outside of the bundle. I can’t say it’s really one of the best of 2012 given how little there is, but it is quite good.

[embed]244687:46937:0[/embed]



FINAL FANTASY Orchestral Album
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Price: 5,250 Yen ($56) (standard) / 7,800 Yen ($84) (limited)
Availability: CD Japan (standard / limited)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Well, here it is. We’ve been super excited for this album, and I already unboxed the limited edition for you. And now we have impressions of the over two hours of music featured.

As the name suggests, this is all live orchestral music, most of which was recorded in Prague specifically for this album. Some tracks are borrowed from previously-released orchestral albums, which, while a little disappointing, could have been excluded altogether, so they’re still nice to have here.

The arrangements and recording are all fantastic. You get two different medleys from Final Fantasy I-III that open the album, a new and amazing “Battle With the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, a regal arrangement of the Final Fantasy V main theme, and an awesome atmosphere in “Phantom Forest” from Final Fantasy VI. There’s a new version of “Maria and Draco” in Japanese (I prefer the English versions found elsewhere without the narration) followed by borrowed arrangements from the Final Fantasy VII Reunion disc that are still fantastic.

A big deal was made of Crystal Kay recording “Eyes on Me.” She does a great job, but I must say I prefer the original Faye Wong, or even FFXII’s vocalist, Angela Aki’s, version. We get an unexpected new track from Final Fantasy IX, “Unexpected Feelings,” which comes as a moving ballad with sweeping strings. Final Fantasy XII gets orchestrated for the first time with “The Dalmasca Estersand,” which is easily one of my favorite tracks. The album closes out with a 15-minute medley of battle themes from across the entire franchise, and while I typically don’t like medleys (not enough time is devoted to each track), this one kicks some serious ass.

All of this, plus the fact that this comes on a Blu-ray disc. Pop it into a Blu-ray player and it shows you the logo and track title for each track and displays lyrics in real time. Look at photo galleries from the recording session, listen to original soundtrack versions of the tracks to compare with the arrangements, download MP3s of the album to your computer, and watch a number of promotional videos for this and other recent albums. It’s a nice package, and that doesn’t even include the vinyl that comes packed in with the limited edition.

Square Enix knocked the ball out of the park with this one. Get it before it becomes as difficult to come by as past Final Fantasy orchestral albums.

[samples]



FINAL FANTASY Vocal Collection
Release Date: January 30, 2013
Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Various Artists

Here we are with Square Enix’s first album of 2013. It’s a compilation of vocal themes from across the series. Crazy that they finally have enough of it to fill a CD!

Final Fantasy fans should already be aware of most of what’s here. “Eyes on Me” from Final Fantasy VIII was the first, and is still one of my favorites. Faye Wong is awesome. “Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX is sweet, coming off as a children’s song, while “Suteki da ne” and “Otherworld” from Final Fantasy X explore different styles (ballad and hardcore metal). “Distant Worlds” from Final Fantasy XI has grown on me over the years, but original vocalist Izumi Masuda is almost a joke compared to the Susan Calloway version heard in the Distant Worlds concert tour. Final Fantasy IV DS also gets some love with the amazing vocal rendition of “Theme of Love.”

From there, “Kiss me Good-Bye” by Angela Aki is my favorite Final Fantasy vocal theme. Final Fantasy XII wasn’t my favorite, but this pop ballad is so powerful and moving. Even lesser-known material follows, with the two vocal themes from Final Fantasy XIII’s Japanese release. They’re very convincing J-pop ballads, showing off Hamazu’s versatility, but don’t resonate with me much since they were swapped out in the international release of the game.

Finally, we get the original recording of “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV (a live version was featured on the Distant Worlds: Returning Home album), and it features the previously-mentioned Susan Calloway. It’s similar in style to “Distant Worlds,” with epic choir and moving vocal passages, but it explodes with electric guitar and rock organ, making for a very memorable experience.

There are many fans out there like me who already own all of this music. The only exclusive is the in-game version of “Answers,” but if you’re a fan who doesn’t own many of these OSTs already, this is worth picking up to catch up on your Final Fantasy vocal history. It’s just a shame that RIKKI’s “Pure Heart” (an arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme”) wasn’t included!



HFB: PixelJunked - The Original Soundtrack to Shooter 1 & 2
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Price: $7.99 (PlayStation Store) / $9.99 (iTunes)
Availability: PlayStation Store / iTunes
Artist(s): High Frequency Bandwidth

After not caring much for the PixelJunk: Eden soundtrack last month, I didn’t have high hopes for Shooter. I haven’t played Shooter, but I thought I’d give the soundtrack a try. As it turns out, I like it. A lot.

In the album’s booklet, they classify the music as “chill hop.” This suits the album quite nicely. There’s a great spacey atmosphere with lots of reverb, exotic sound effects, and some fantastic beats. This soundtrack is actually a series of arrangements from one of HFB’s previously-released albums, with these mixes made exclusively to fit the areas of the game. They say it took them longer to remix the existing tracks to use in the game than it would have to write new ones.

Right out of the gate with “Hundred Forty Billion” there’s a thick chill out vibe. You’ll hear lots of electric piano and gamey sound effects. “Happy Funkin' Birthday” sports gritty electronics, lots of bass, and is dark, while “Hill Film Blue” takes orchestral elements such as pizzicato strings and mixes them with spooky synths from outer space. The fat snare hits and exotic chants in “Hell Fire and Brimstone” are startling, while “Hidden Foto Banks,” my favorite track, is super funky with robotic vocals.

There’s dreamy encompassing bass in “Nano Bytes,” icy hip-hop with rap lyrics in “More or Less,” scratching in “World Ghetto,” and some cool wah-wah guitar work and bells that remind of Shatter in “Come on Down.” The moody filtered guitar work in “Godisnowhere” had me thinking Dexter, and the final track, “Hippy in Transit,” won me over with its crystalline bells and electric piano runs.

I guess I should listen to the original source tracks before I get so excited about this album, but as it is, this is some great music. After looking at gameplay videos and listening to this soundtrack, you’d think they were made for one another. The music is mixed into the game in an interactive way, where the music picks up and gets more lively as you approach enemies. It’s really cool, so get it!

[embed]244687:46936:0[/embed]



Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia Soundtrack & Theme Collection
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Elements Garden

I was curious about this soundtrack based on the involvement of Elements Garden, a Japanese-based group of composers who’ve put out some great material in the past (see their VGMdb credits here). After listening and doing some research as to what the game was all about, the music presented here made a lot more sense: it’s an adult visual novel game for PC.

What you have is a number of catchy J-pop theme songs for the game’s various characters and a lot of pop-oriented instrumental music. The production values are high, with some great strings and piano, and there are a lot of upbeat melodies and soothing backdrops (this album threatened to put me to sleep a few times), but there admittedly isn’t a wide emotional range covered with the tracks here. Even “the murder,” which introduces electronic elements, sounds kind of bubbly. The tracks are also a bit on the short side at generally under two minutes in length.

The vocal themes are pretty good. “World End,” which acts as the main theme, is the most adventurous of the pack, while my favorite track, “Crystal Clear,” acts as one of the character’s ending themes, throwing in a funky bass line and some snappy percussion to mix things up

Overall, this is some great music by Elements Garden. Even if I never play the game, I can appreciate what they’ve done, but it is a bit weak in terms of variety.



MUSIC GUNGUN! Best Hit Tune!
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability: Limited (Amazon JP)
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is the soundtrack to MUISC GUNGUN!, an interesting arcade rhythm game where you shoot things in time with the music. The game was released by Taito and featured a lot of original pop and rock tunes along with arrangements from various videogames. With Taito’s relationship with Square Enix, there are also tracks by Takeharu Ishimoto (The World Ends With You) and Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII). Get ready for some upbeat pop, rock, and electronic music with interspersed vocaloid.

Honestly, only a few of the originals stuck out to me. I loved "Beat the Sound" with its grungy rock sound, the super catchy “MUSIC STAR” which is sticky sweet in its pop incarnation and equally hip when it later gets a rock version. There’s a cool rock track that reminds me of Castlevania, but two of the highlights are “Dreamer” by Takeharu Ishimoto, which sounds like it’s right out of The World Ends With You, and "Shooting Star" by Masashi Hamauzu, using his signature strings and electronics with Mina (see our Black Ocean review) on vocals.

In terms of remixes, they’re all fairly straightforward. There’s Bubble Bobble, which I love, complete with the hurry up jingle and increased tempo, as well as Elevator Action, the popular horse race jingle, and lots of other classical tunes that include a rock version of “Air” by Bach and an electronic “Swan Lake.”

Overall, there wasn’t a lot here that stuck with me. The major things that caught my interest were Hamazu and Ishimoto’s involvement and the remixes. While the former are great, they only get a single track each, and the later aren’t worth the asking price.

[embed]244687:46956:0" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 012: Final Fantasy Vocal/Orchestral, Wizardry Do you like Final Fantasy music? This month we're reviewing both Final Fantasy Orchestral Album and Final Fantasy Vocal Collection, both of which we've been greatly looking forward to. We're also looking at the latest DJMAX t...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-012-final-fantasy-vocal-orchestral-wizardry-244687.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks


Donpachi / Dodonpachi / Dodonpachi II Soundtrack
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

This album is a big deal. This series is from Cave’s early days, and the shmups featured some pretty twisted stories along with the standard electronic and rock soundtracks. Unfortunately, the soundtrack albums have since gone out of print, and here’s SuperSweep to the rescue with the music to the first three games in the series.

Donpachi from 1995 didn’t really strike my fancy. It features some dated orchestral sounds without much in the way of a memorable melody. The funky name entry theme is probably my favorite of the bunch. Likewise, the Dodonpachi II soundtrack doesn’t really have a lot going for it, but you may want to take note of the third stage’s battle theme that blatantly rips the Final Fantasy IX battle theme.

Where it’s at is the Dodonpachi soundtrack. Serious electronic music marks its entrance before it launches in live wailing electric guitars in the stage themes, all of which are amazing. The ending themes also stand out for their pop approach. It’s a shame that Dodonpachi II was such a step backward from the amazingness that is Dodonpachi.

The album includes a second disc that really isn’t worth your time. It features the mono output versions of the Donpachi and Dodonpachi soundtracks (why does anyone want this?) and one of the console ports of Dodonpachi II.

As somebody who’s never played these games, I can’t recommend this album to anyone but the most hardcore fans, but hey, I’m glad it’s out there for those who were looking for the out of print originals.



Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Price: $19.99
Availability: GOG.com Bundle Exclusive
Artist(s): Periscope Studio

While Allistair wasn’t thrilled about the PC adventure title, Harvey’s New Eyes, one of the few highlights he noted was the game’s soundtrack. As “one of the best released [last] year,” I thought I should probably check it out.

The 30-minute soundtrack comes bundled with the two games (Harvey’s New Eyes is a sequel) along with some other goodies. The track names are in German, so I won’t bother you with them, but I’ll say that what little is here is good, and as you’d imagine from the description Allistair gives of the game, the music is quite eclectic.

There’s a catchy main theme that sounds like something out of a French café with the use of accordion and some dreamy acoustic guitar as well as a vocal version of the theme with German lyrics that comes later (an English version is available as well). Two organ pieces are featured, which is good for me as it’s one of my favorite instruments. They’re quite ominous, and probably my favorite tracks here. There’s a desolate desert right out of a Western film, a weird tribal track with most of the sounds made using the human voice, dark and broody jazz with a walking bass and all kinds of unsettling sound effects, and a tense orchestral/electronic fusion that comes in towards the end sounding like something Craig Armstrong would write for a big Hollywood action film (that means good).

But before it starts, it seemingly ends. I’d love to hear more of this, as it’s all very well produced. It’d also be nice to see it available online outside of the bundle. I can’t say it’s really one of the best of 2012 given how little there is, but it is quite good.

[embed]244687:46937:0[/embed]



FINAL FANTASY Orchestral Album
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Price: 5,250 Yen ($56) (standard) / 7,800 Yen ($84) (limited)
Availability: CD Japan (standard / limited)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Well, here it is. We’ve been super excited for this album, and I already unboxed the limited edition for you. And now we have impressions of the over two hours of music featured.

As the name suggests, this is all live orchestral music, most of which was recorded in Prague specifically for this album. Some tracks are borrowed from previously-released orchestral albums, which, while a little disappointing, could have been excluded altogether, so they’re still nice to have here.

The arrangements and recording are all fantastic. You get two different medleys from Final Fantasy I-III that open the album, a new and amazing “Battle With the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, a regal arrangement of the Final Fantasy V main theme, and an awesome atmosphere in “Phantom Forest” from Final Fantasy VI. There’s a new version of “Maria and Draco” in Japanese (I prefer the English versions found elsewhere without the narration) followed by borrowed arrangements from the Final Fantasy VII Reunion disc that are still fantastic.

A big deal was made of Crystal Kay recording “Eyes on Me.” She does a great job, but I must say I prefer the original Faye Wong, or even FFXII’s vocalist, Angela Aki’s, version. We get an unexpected new track from Final Fantasy IX, “Unexpected Feelings,” which comes as a moving ballad with sweeping strings. Final Fantasy XII gets orchestrated for the first time with “The Dalmasca Estersand,” which is easily one of my favorite tracks. The album closes out with a 15-minute medley of battle themes from across the entire franchise, and while I typically don’t like medleys (not enough time is devoted to each track), this one kicks some serious ass.

All of this, plus the fact that this comes on a Blu-ray disc. Pop it into a Blu-ray player and it shows you the logo and track title for each track and displays lyrics in real time. Look at photo galleries from the recording session, listen to original soundtrack versions of the tracks to compare with the arrangements, download MP3s of the album to your computer, and watch a number of promotional videos for this and other recent albums. It’s a nice package, and that doesn’t even include the vinyl that comes packed in with the limited edition.

Square Enix knocked the ball out of the park with this one. Get it before it becomes as difficult to come by as past Final Fantasy orchestral albums.

[samples]



FINAL FANTASY Vocal Collection
Release Date: January 30, 2013
Price: 3,150 Yen ($35)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Various Artists

Here we are with Square Enix’s first album of 2013. It’s a compilation of vocal themes from across the series. Crazy that they finally have enough of it to fill a CD!

Final Fantasy fans should already be aware of most of what’s here. “Eyes on Me” from Final Fantasy VIII was the first, and is still one of my favorites. Faye Wong is awesome. “Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX is sweet, coming off as a children’s song, while “Suteki da ne” and “Otherworld” from Final Fantasy X explore different styles (ballad and hardcore metal). “Distant Worlds” from Final Fantasy XI has grown on me over the years, but original vocalist Izumi Masuda is almost a joke compared to the Susan Calloway version heard in the Distant Worlds concert tour. Final Fantasy IV DS also gets some love with the amazing vocal rendition of “Theme of Love.”

From there, “Kiss me Good-Bye” by Angela Aki is my favorite Final Fantasy vocal theme. Final Fantasy XII wasn’t my favorite, but this pop ballad is so powerful and moving. Even lesser-known material follows, with the two vocal themes from Final Fantasy XIII’s Japanese release. They’re very convincing J-pop ballads, showing off Hamazu’s versatility, but don’t resonate with me much since they were swapped out in the international release of the game.

Finally, we get the original recording of “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV (a live version was featured on the Distant Worlds: Returning Home album), and it features the previously-mentioned Susan Calloway. It’s similar in style to “Distant Worlds,” with epic choir and moving vocal passages, but it explodes with electric guitar and rock organ, making for a very memorable experience.

There are many fans out there like me who already own all of this music. The only exclusive is the in-game version of “Answers,” but if you’re a fan who doesn’t own many of these OSTs already, this is worth picking up to catch up on your Final Fantasy vocal history. It’s just a shame that RIKKI’s “Pure Heart” (an arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme”) wasn’t included!



HFB: PixelJunked - The Original Soundtrack to Shooter 1 & 2
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Price: $7.99 (PlayStation Store) / $9.99 (iTunes)
Availability: PlayStation Store / iTunes
Artist(s): High Frequency Bandwidth

After not caring much for the PixelJunk: Eden soundtrack last month, I didn’t have high hopes for Shooter. I haven’t played Shooter, but I thought I’d give the soundtrack a try. As it turns out, I like it. A lot.

In the album’s booklet, they classify the music as “chill hop.” This suits the album quite nicely. There’s a great spacey atmosphere with lots of reverb, exotic sound effects, and some fantastic beats. This soundtrack is actually a series of arrangements from one of HFB’s previously-released albums, with these mixes made exclusively to fit the areas of the game. They say it took them longer to remix the existing tracks to use in the game than it would have to write new ones.

Right out of the gate with “Hundred Forty Billion” there’s a thick chill out vibe. You’ll hear lots of electric piano and gamey sound effects. “Happy Funkin' Birthday” sports gritty electronics, lots of bass, and is dark, while “Hill Film Blue” takes orchestral elements such as pizzicato strings and mixes them with spooky synths from outer space. The fat snare hits and exotic chants in “Hell Fire and Brimstone” are startling, while “Hidden Foto Banks,” my favorite track, is super funky with robotic vocals.

There’s dreamy encompassing bass in “Nano Bytes,” icy hip-hop with rap lyrics in “More or Less,” scratching in “World Ghetto,” and some cool wah-wah guitar work and bells that remind of Shatter in “Come on Down.” The moody filtered guitar work in “Godisnowhere” had me thinking Dexter, and the final track, “Hippy in Transit,” won me over with its crystalline bells and electric piano runs.

I guess I should listen to the original source tracks before I get so excited about this album, but as it is, this is some great music. After looking at gameplay videos and listening to this soundtrack, you’d think they were made for one another. The music is mixed into the game in an interactive way, where the music picks up and gets more lively as you approach enemies. It’s really cool, so get it!

[embed]244687:46936:0[/embed]



Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia Soundtrack & Theme Collection
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Price: 2,800 Yen ($28)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Elements Garden

I was curious about this soundtrack based on the involvement of Elements Garden, a Japanese-based group of composers who’ve put out some great material in the past (see their VGMdb credits here). After listening and doing some research as to what the game was all about, the music presented here made a lot more sense: it’s an adult visual novel game for PC.

What you have is a number of catchy J-pop theme songs for the game’s various characters and a lot of pop-oriented instrumental music. The production values are high, with some great strings and piano, and there are a lot of upbeat melodies and soothing backdrops (this album threatened to put me to sleep a few times), but there admittedly isn’t a wide emotional range covered with the tracks here. Even “the murder,” which introduces electronic elements, sounds kind of bubbly. The tracks are also a bit on the short side at generally under two minutes in length.

The vocal themes are pretty good. “World End,” which acts as the main theme, is the most adventurous of the pack, while my favorite track, “Crystal Clear,” acts as one of the character’s ending themes, throwing in a funky bass line and some snappy percussion to mix things up

Overall, this is some great music by Elements Garden. Even if I never play the game, I can appreciate what they’ve done, but it is a bit weak in terms of variety.



MUSIC GUNGUN! Best Hit Tune!
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability: Limited (Amazon JP)
Artist(s): Various Artists

This is the soundtrack to MUISC GUNGUN!, an interesting arcade rhythm game where you shoot things in time with the music. The game was released by Taito and featured a lot of original pop and rock tunes along with arrangements from various videogames. With Taito’s relationship with Square Enix, there are also tracks by Takeharu Ishimoto (The World Ends With You) and Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII). Get ready for some upbeat pop, rock, and electronic music with interspersed vocaloid.

Honestly, only a few of the originals stuck out to me. I loved "Beat the Sound" with its grungy rock sound, the super catchy “MUSIC STAR” which is sticky sweet in its pop incarnation and equally hip when it later gets a rock version. There’s a cool rock track that reminds me of Castlevania, but two of the highlights are “Dreamer” by Takeharu Ishimoto, which sounds like it’s right out of The World Ends With You, and "Shooting Star" by Masashi Hamauzu, using his signature strings and electronics with Mina (see our Black Ocean review) on vocals.

In terms of remixes, they’re all fairly straightforward. There’s Bubble Bobble, which I love, complete with the hurry up jingle and increased tempo, as well as Elevator Action, the popular horse race jingle, and lots of other classical tunes that include a rock version of “Air” by Bach and an electronic “Swan Lake.”

Overall, there wasn’t a lot here that stuck with me. The major things that caught my interest were Hamazu and Ishimoto’s involvement and the remixes. While the former are great, they only get a single track each, and the later aren’t worth the asking price.

[embed]244687:46956:0" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 012: Final Fantasy Vocal/Orchestral, Wizardry Do you like Final Fantasy music? This month we're reviewing both Final Fantasy Orchestral Album and Final Fantasy Vocal Collection, both of which we've been greatly looking forward to. We're also looking at the latest DJMAX t...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-012-final-fantasy-vocal-orchestral-wizardry-244687.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 012: Final Fantasy Vocal/Orchestral, Wizardry

Do you like Final Fantasy music? This month we're reviewing both Final Fantasy Orchestral Album and Final Fantasy Vocal Collection, both of which we've been greatly looking forward to. We're also looking at the latest DJMAX title for the PS...   read

 
 


Halo 3: ODST Original Soundtrack
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Price: $15.98
Availability:
Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePard

Let’s take a look back at Halo 3: ODST, which came to us back in 2009 with a very different gameplay style and accompanying soundtrack. Lead composer Martin O’Donnell made it no secret that film noir was one of his influences for this score, and that comes through right from the start with a seductive saxophone calling out from beneath the sound of rain. The soundtrack is also considerably more emotional and character-driven than those that came before it.

Of particular note is the title’s main theme, which comes as broody and simple, yet instantly catchy, making it a great thing that it’s repeated so frequently throughout the score. There’s a contemplative version with a repetitive bass line in “More Than His Share” that I love, along with a badass rock version in “Traffic Jam.” There’s sexy and seductive in “Neon Night” and “Bits and Pieces,” and a desperate version found in “The Office of Naval Intelligence.” The ominous and windy version in “One Way Ride” and the cool electronic version found in “The Light at the End” also stand out.

But enough about the main theme. There are tons of great moments here, including the guttural opener, “The Rookie,” the Daft Punk-esque electronics found in “More Than His Share,” and the emotional piano, strings, and saxophone track, “Deference for Darkness.” There’s the Halo-standard tribal percussion and rock in “The Managerie,” and some lovely distant electric guitar wailing in “Asphalt and Absolution.” “Special Delivery” acts as sort of a climax along with “Finale,” and both provide for an epic ending.

I wrote previously that the Halo: Reach was one of my favorites in the series. I stand by that, but Halo 3: ODST was something new and entertaining all the same. It’s worth checking out for those yearning to dig back into Halo music of old.

[embed]242324:46358" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 011: Twilight Symphony, NSMBU, NESteryears This sounds like the Nintendo edition, doesn't it? Don't worry, we also have other cool stuff like The World Ends With You -Crossover- and Saturday Morning RPG, the soundtrack you never knew you wanted.There are a lot of big ...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-011-twilight-symphony-nsmbu-nesteryears-242324.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks


Halo 3: ODST Original Soundtrack
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Price: $15.98
Availability:
Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePard

Let’s take a look back at Halo 3: ODST, which came to us back in 2009 with a very different gameplay style and accompanying soundtrack. Lead composer Martin O’Donnell made it no secret that film noir was one of his influences for this score, and that comes through right from the start with a seductive saxophone calling out from beneath the sound of rain. The soundtrack is also considerably more emotional and character-driven than those that came before it.

Of particular note is the title’s main theme, which comes as broody and simple, yet instantly catchy, making it a great thing that it’s repeated so frequently throughout the score. There’s a contemplative version with a repetitive bass line in “More Than His Share” that I love, along with a badass rock version in “Traffic Jam.” There’s sexy and seductive in “Neon Night” and “Bits and Pieces,” and a desperate version found in “The Office of Naval Intelligence.” The ominous and windy version in “One Way Ride” and the cool electronic version found in “The Light at the End” also stand out.

But enough about the main theme. There are tons of great moments here, including the guttural opener, “The Rookie,” the Daft Punk-esque electronics found in “More Than His Share,” and the emotional piano, strings, and saxophone track, “Deference for Darkness.” There’s the Halo-standard tribal percussion and rock in “The Managerie,” and some lovely distant electric guitar wailing in “Asphalt and Absolution.” “Special Delivery” acts as sort of a climax along with “Finale,” and both provide for an epic ending.

I wrote previously that the Halo: Reach was one of my favorites in the series. I stand by that, but Halo 3: ODST was something new and entertaining all the same. It’s worth checking out for those yearning to dig back into Halo music of old.

[embed]242324:46358" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 011: Twilight Symphony, NSMBU, NESteryears This sounds like the Nintendo edition, doesn't it? Don't worry, we also have other cool stuff like The World Ends With You -Crossover- and Saturday Morning RPG, the soundtrack you never knew you wanted.There are a lot of big ...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-011-twilight-symphony-nsmbu-nesteryears-242324.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 011: Twilight Symphony, NSMBU, NESteryears

This sounds like the Nintendo edition, doesn't it? Don't worry, we also have other cool stuff like The World Ends With You -Crossover- and Saturday Morning RPG, the soundtrack you never knew you wanted.There are a lot of big releases featur...   read

 
 
Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks
  Watch Video

Note Worthy 010: Black Ops II, Final Fantasy, Mega Man

We're back with another round of Note Worthy! Featured are a number of releases that we've talked about in the past, including the Bar Oasis Official Bootleg, Code of Princess, Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and Rockman EXE Transmissi...   read

 
 


Bravely Default Flying Fairy Original Soundtrack
Release Date: October 10, 2012
Price: 3,200 Yen ($39)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Revo

The announcement of Bravely Default Flying Fairy was a pleasant surprise. The announcement that Revo would be handling the soundtrack was another. For those who are unfamiliar (as I was), Revo is founder and head of the Japanese project group, Sound Horizon, which has produced a number of highly-acclaimed concept albums in the past.

This soundtrack in particular is a curious one as it attempts to give listeners that traditional JRPG sound with rockin’ battle themes and fantasy-tinged dungeons and towns, etc. while raising the bar on quality by bringing in a huge group of live performers. He’s even brought on Motoi Sakuraba who you may know from Dark Souls or the Star Ocean and Tales franchises.

There’s a big bombastic orchestral opening theme that admittedly doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it does demonstrate that melody plays a huge role on this soundtrack. The whimsical “The Beginning Country,” the adventurous “Horizon of Light and Shadow,” the sweeping and emotional “The Day the Wind Blew,” the ethnic “The Fascinating Flower Country,” and the jubilant flight theme, “Ship Soaring Through the Heavens,” all stand out. My personal favorites are the serene “Silence of the Forest” and the more foreboding “Cave of Darkness” dungeon themes, however.

But then there’s plenty of catchy rock, including “Conflict’s Chime” with its powerful brass accompaniment, the lightning-fast “That Person’s Name Is,” and the flamenco-flavored “Love’s Vagrant.” The end of the two-disc soundtrack features some of the best, with several lengthy rock fests that really hit the spot and close out the album on a high note. The final word comes as vocal ballad between Revo and Joelle (from Final Fantasy XIII-2) incorporating the main theme.

In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack with some excellent packaging. Check it out and join me in hoping this game leaves Japan.

[Sound Samples]



Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two Original Game Score
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Price: $7.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jim Dooley

Jim Dooley returns to score Epic Mickey 2, bringing more musical wonder and the addition of musical numbers that really give the album a distinct Disney quality.

Before we get into those, however, the rest of the music will also put you in a Disney frame of mind with the opening theme, “Yen Sid's Lab,” bringing in a nostalgic Disney theme. The remainder of the score visits the spectrum from whimsical to mischievous that you’d expect from an adventure starring Mickey Mouse.

On the whimsical side, “Autopia Exploration” is probably my favorite with its playful horns and adventurous strings. I admittedly found myself more drawn to the mischievous tracks, however, including the foreboding and desolate “Mean Street,” the spooky “Floatyard” (my favorite track on the album), and the tumultuous “Dioramas.” The tense music that accompanies the final area, accented by the sounds of ticking clocks, is also great.

And about those musical numbers. There are a good six or so of them here, which help tell the game’s story through its music, which is a nice touch. They’re tasteful and entertaining with clever lyrics, and are the highlight of the album. Bits and pieces of the lyrics are also used in the final track on the album, a heavy electronic remix titled “A Heroe's Second Chance,” that, while cheesy, is intentionally so, and is still fun to listen to in context.

Overall, This is a great score thanks to the added musical numbers. Fans of Disney will definitely want to check it out even if they skip the game.



HALO 4 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Price: $74.99 (LE) / $13.99 (standard, physical), / $9.99 (standard, digital)
Availability: Halo 4 Soundtrack
Artist(s): Neil Davidge

This is easily one of my most anticipated soundtracks of 2012. I loved the Metroid-esque stuff I was hearing in the E3 build earlier this year, so I had high expectations for this soundtrack release. It mostly delivers, providing a cool blend of electronic-infused orchestral music that, while different from what’s come before, still feels at home in the Halo universe that I know.

The introductory track, “Awakening,” is one of my favorites, with chugging synth lines, big orchestral stabs, and a great piano/synth melody that sets the tone for the rest of the album. With only fifteen tracks, however, don’t expect this to be the entirety of the game score, which is where a tinge of disappointment comes in on my part. I loved what I was hearing in-game, but there are mostly big cinematic cues found on this album, probably giving us a musical walkthrough to the game’s story as opposed to getting into the detailed ambiance of the Halo 4 universe.

Still, there’s a lot to like, including the emotionally sweeping “Requiem” and “To Galaxy,” the expansive then tense “Haven,” the sleep-inducing “Solace,” the dark and ethereal “Immaterial,” and the bittersweet “Green and Blue.”

The limited edition boasts a second disc full of remixes that actually stand out even further in my mind. If you think the OST is too cinematic, the remix disc goes in a much more hard-hitting electronic and melodic direction. All of it’s gold and worth checking out, but I will call out “Awakening,” ” Ascendancy (Matt Lange Remix),” the hip-hop style “Green And Blue (Andrew Bayer Remix),” and the rockin’ Apocalyptica version of “The Beauty Of Cortana” as my favorites. Our unboxing video shows off all the contents, and the included hour-long DVD also gives a lot of information about Neil Davidge and the score.

[embed]238477:45774[/embed]



Ragnarok Odyssey Original Soundtrack
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Mercenary Edition bonus
Artist(s): Kumi Tanioka

Hopefully you’ve already read and listened to our feature on this game’s music. Kumi Tanioka, while not soundTeMP by any stretch of the imagination, does Ragnarok Odyssey her way, infusing a sometimes-tense and sometimes-whimsical fantasy backbone into the game. I do love the distinctly “gamey” sound with a emphasis on great melodies which is what Ragnarok Online’s soundtrack was all about.

After a bombastic opener, we get into the good stuff with the upbeat and adventurous “Shining Plains” and the more exotic “Ydalir Grand Canyon” and “Leading the Giants” with some lovely woodwinds calling out into the distance. There’s the contemplative “Gaze Upon the World Tree,” the measured yet dreamy “Astride the Flying Steed,” the minimalistic “The Depths of a Dark Love,” and the “Eagle-eye Throne” with some great synth choir. The sleep-inducing new age “Yggdrasil” is another great moment on the album, as is the sweet Celtic ballad that explodes into the main theme, “Ragnarok Odyssey,” which closes out the album.

Things get more tense with rapid string stabs and explosive percussion in “Truth of the Sundered Land” and the “dirty” and grungy “GREN/DEL” is probably my favorite track on the album. There’s also the dark and foreboding “The Ruins of Glast Heim” and the epic finale found in “From the Edge of Vigridr” and “Twilight of the Gods.”

In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack, and is worth the extra $10 alone for the Mercenary Edition of the game which also includes trading cards and a strategy/art book.

[embed]238477:45775[/embed]



Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Michael Bross

Okay, so Jim didn’t like Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One very much, and yes, the game’s old news, but the game’s soundtrack composed by Michael Bross was just released a few months back. Given Bross’s involvement with amazing Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath soundtrack, I went into the All 4 One soundtrack with high expectations.

Those specifically looking for the gritty electronic stylings found in Stranger’s Wrath may find themselves disappointed. Bross has really embraced the lighthearted nature of the Ratchet & Clank franchise and has adopted a more cinematic orchestral approach that fits this franchise quite nicely, but rest assured, he also works in a healthy dose of electronics to lend the soundtrack a cool edge overall.

This combination of cool electronics and bombastic orchestral elements is displayed right out of the gate with the hard-hitting “All 4 One” main theme. It sports a great melody that that is suitable for a superhero.

[embed]238477:45784[/embed]

The synth-heavy “Luminopolis Rooftops” is another highlight along with the more measured “Journey Through the Forest” which features some lovely belltone arpeggios. The majestic “Vertigus Cliff,” the sneaky “Interlopers,” the tense Hollywood espionage “We Descend” and “Polar Sea,” and the spacey “They Came During the Night” also tie in electronic elements very tastefully. Coming in towards the end, the minimalistic and contemplative “Terawatt Power Station” will remind you of some of Bross’s solo electronic work, which is a nice touch.

The verdict: maybe the game wasn’t worth your attention, but the soundtrack is worth checking out if any of the iTunes samples catch your fancy.

[embed]238477:45785[/embed]



Takeaki Kunimoto WORKS ~Hitsuji no Oka~
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Takeaki Kunimoto

SuperSweep strikes again with its WORKS series, highlighting an important figure in game music that many may not have heard of by name. Takeaki Kunimoto is known for his work on early Hudson titles, and more specifically on Star Solider, Milon’s Secret Castle, Mickey Mousecapades (LOVED this game!) and Bomberman. This album features live performed arrangements of music from some of these games along with original tracks.

The album’s ten tracks are performed live. The recording isn’t as clear as one might hope, almost sounding like a bootleg recording, but this does lend the album a certain retro charm.  It’s also interesting to note that among the large list of performers is Shawn Phase of Temp Sound Solutions, which is a surprise.

Kunimoto’s originals cover a lot of different territory, from the jubilant opening track that uses squeak toys as an instrument and a poppy vocal theme to a heavy electronic track (still focusing on an upbeat melody) and even a smooth jazz track with some live sax.

The remixes are equally fun, with the Challenger track opening with the sound of blowing into a cartridge before guitar carries the listener through various themes, and Star Solider getting an introductory 8-bit intro before some big space rock kicks in. Hector ’87 starts with sexy electronic piano and funky bass before wailing electric guitars come in to electrify the atmosphere, and Milon’s Secret Castle works 8-bit sound effects into the acoustic guitar and vocal children’s song.

This album is a lot of fun despite the sound quality and 35-minute play time. It’s a shame it’s not cheaper to allow for more accessibility, but if you’re a fan of any of the titles featured, this may be worth checking out.

[embed]238477:45776" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 009: Halo 4, Rock Man, Bravely Default, ACIII We're back to our regularly-scheduled Note Worthy with reviews for a number of highly-anticipated albums this month. I've been greatly looking forward to the Halo 4 soundtrack, and we have impressions of the entire contents o...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-009-halo-4-rock-man-bravely-default-aciii-238477.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks


Bravely Default Flying Fairy Original Soundtrack
Release Date: October 10, 2012
Price: 3,200 Yen ($39)
Availability:
CD Japan
Artist(s): Revo

The announcement of Bravely Default Flying Fairy was a pleasant surprise. The announcement that Revo would be handling the soundtrack was another. For those who are unfamiliar (as I was), Revo is founder and head of the Japanese project group, Sound Horizon, which has produced a number of highly-acclaimed concept albums in the past.

This soundtrack in particular is a curious one as it attempts to give listeners that traditional JRPG sound with rockin’ battle themes and fantasy-tinged dungeons and towns, etc. while raising the bar on quality by bringing in a huge group of live performers. He’s even brought on Motoi Sakuraba who you may know from Dark Souls or the Star Ocean and Tales franchises.

There’s a big bombastic orchestral opening theme that admittedly doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it does demonstrate that melody plays a huge role on this soundtrack. The whimsical “The Beginning Country,” the adventurous “Horizon of Light and Shadow,” the sweeping and emotional “The Day the Wind Blew,” the ethnic “The Fascinating Flower Country,” and the jubilant flight theme, “Ship Soaring Through the Heavens,” all stand out. My personal favorites are the serene “Silence of the Forest” and the more foreboding “Cave of Darkness” dungeon themes, however.

But then there’s plenty of catchy rock, including “Conflict’s Chime” with its powerful brass accompaniment, the lightning-fast “That Person’s Name Is,” and the flamenco-flavored “Love’s Vagrant.” The end of the two-disc soundtrack features some of the best, with several lengthy rock fests that really hit the spot and close out the album on a high note. The final word comes as vocal ballad between Revo and Joelle (from Final Fantasy XIII-2) incorporating the main theme.

In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack with some excellent packaging. Check it out and join me in hoping this game leaves Japan.

[Sound Samples]



Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two Original Game Score
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Price: $7.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jim Dooley

Jim Dooley returns to score Epic Mickey 2, bringing more musical wonder and the addition of musical numbers that really give the album a distinct Disney quality.

Before we get into those, however, the rest of the music will also put you in a Disney frame of mind with the opening theme, “Yen Sid's Lab,” bringing in a nostalgic Disney theme. The remainder of the score visits the spectrum from whimsical to mischievous that you’d expect from an adventure starring Mickey Mouse.

On the whimsical side, “Autopia Exploration” is probably my favorite with its playful horns and adventurous strings. I admittedly found myself more drawn to the mischievous tracks, however, including the foreboding and desolate “Mean Street,” the spooky “Floatyard” (my favorite track on the album), and the tumultuous “Dioramas.” The tense music that accompanies the final area, accented by the sounds of ticking clocks, is also great.

And about those musical numbers. There are a good six or so of them here, which help tell the game’s story through its music, which is a nice touch. They’re tasteful and entertaining with clever lyrics, and are the highlight of the album. Bits and pieces of the lyrics are also used in the final track on the album, a heavy electronic remix titled “A Heroe's Second Chance,” that, while cheesy, is intentionally so, and is still fun to listen to in context.

Overall, This is a great score thanks to the added musical numbers. Fans of Disney will definitely want to check it out even if they skip the game.



HALO 4 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Price: $74.99 (LE) / $13.99 (standard, physical), / $9.99 (standard, digital)
Availability: Halo 4 Soundtrack
Artist(s): Neil Davidge

This is easily one of my most anticipated soundtracks of 2012. I loved the Metroid-esque stuff I was hearing in the E3 build earlier this year, so I had high expectations for this soundtrack release. It mostly delivers, providing a cool blend of electronic-infused orchestral music that, while different from what’s come before, still feels at home in the Halo universe that I know.

The introductory track, “Awakening,” is one of my favorites, with chugging synth lines, big orchestral stabs, and a great piano/synth melody that sets the tone for the rest of the album. With only fifteen tracks, however, don’t expect this to be the entirety of the game score, which is where a tinge of disappointment comes in on my part. I loved what I was hearing in-game, but there are mostly big cinematic cues found on this album, probably giving us a musical walkthrough to the game’s story as opposed to getting into the detailed ambiance of the Halo 4 universe.

Still, there’s a lot to like, including the emotionally sweeping “Requiem” and “To Galaxy,” the expansive then tense “Haven,” the sleep-inducing “Solace,” the dark and ethereal “Immaterial,” and the bittersweet “Green and Blue.”

The limited edition boasts a second disc full of remixes that actually stand out even further in my mind. If you think the OST is too cinematic, the remix disc goes in a much more hard-hitting electronic and melodic direction. All of it’s gold and worth checking out, but I will call out “Awakening,” ” Ascendancy (Matt Lange Remix),” the hip-hop style “Green And Blue (Andrew Bayer Remix),” and the rockin’ Apocalyptica version of “The Beauty Of Cortana” as my favorites. Our unboxing video shows off all the contents, and the included hour-long DVD also gives a lot of information about Neil Davidge and the score.

[embed]238477:45774[/embed]



Ragnarok Odyssey Original Soundtrack
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Mercenary Edition bonus
Artist(s): Kumi Tanioka

Hopefully you’ve already read and listened to our feature on this game’s music. Kumi Tanioka, while not soundTeMP by any stretch of the imagination, does Ragnarok Odyssey her way, infusing a sometimes-tense and sometimes-whimsical fantasy backbone into the game. I do love the distinctly “gamey” sound with a emphasis on great melodies which is what Ragnarok Online’s soundtrack was all about.

After a bombastic opener, we get into the good stuff with the upbeat and adventurous “Shining Plains” and the more exotic “Ydalir Grand Canyon” and “Leading the Giants” with some lovely woodwinds calling out into the distance. There’s the contemplative “Gaze Upon the World Tree,” the measured yet dreamy “Astride the Flying Steed,” the minimalistic “The Depths of a Dark Love,” and the “Eagle-eye Throne” with some great synth choir. The sleep-inducing new age “Yggdrasil” is another great moment on the album, as is the sweet Celtic ballad that explodes into the main theme, “Ragnarok Odyssey,” which closes out the album.

Things get more tense with rapid string stabs and explosive percussion in “Truth of the Sundered Land” and the “dirty” and grungy “GREN/DEL” is probably my favorite track on the album. There’s also the dark and foreboding “The Ruins of Glast Heim” and the epic finale found in “From the Edge of Vigridr” and “Twilight of the Gods.”

In all, this is a fantastic soundtrack, and is worth the extra $10 alone for the Mercenary Edition of the game which also includes trading cards and a strategy/art book.

[embed]238477:45775[/embed]



Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Michael Bross

Okay, so Jim didn’t like Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One very much, and yes, the game’s old news, but the game’s soundtrack composed by Michael Bross was just released a few months back. Given Bross’s involvement with amazing Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath soundtrack, I went into the All 4 One soundtrack with high expectations.

Those specifically looking for the gritty electronic stylings found in Stranger’s Wrath may find themselves disappointed. Bross has really embraced the lighthearted nature of the Ratchet & Clank franchise and has adopted a more cinematic orchestral approach that fits this franchise quite nicely, but rest assured, he also works in a healthy dose of electronics to lend the soundtrack a cool edge overall.

This combination of cool electronics and bombastic orchestral elements is displayed right out of the gate with the hard-hitting “All 4 One” main theme. It sports a great melody that that is suitable for a superhero.

[embed]238477:45784[/embed]

The synth-heavy “Luminopolis Rooftops” is another highlight along with the more measured “Journey Through the Forest” which features some lovely belltone arpeggios. The majestic “Vertigus Cliff,” the sneaky “Interlopers,” the tense Hollywood espionage “We Descend” and “Polar Sea,” and the spacey “They Came During the Night” also tie in electronic elements very tastefully. Coming in towards the end, the minimalistic and contemplative “Terawatt Power Station” will remind you of some of Bross’s solo electronic work, which is a nice touch.

The verdict: maybe the game wasn’t worth your attention, but the soundtrack is worth checking out if any of the iTunes samples catch your fancy.

[embed]238477:45785[/embed]



Takeaki Kunimoto WORKS ~Hitsuji no Oka~
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Takeaki Kunimoto

SuperSweep strikes again with its WORKS series, highlighting an important figure in game music that many may not have heard of by name. Takeaki Kunimoto is known for his work on early Hudson titles, and more specifically on Star Solider, Milon’s Secret Castle, Mickey Mousecapades (LOVED this game!) and Bomberman. This album features live performed arrangements of music from some of these games along with original tracks.

The album’s ten tracks are performed live. The recording isn’t as clear as one might hope, almost sounding like a bootleg recording, but this does lend the album a certain retro charm.  It’s also interesting to note that among the large list of performers is Shawn Phase of Temp Sound Solutions, which is a surprise.

Kunimoto’s originals cover a lot of different territory, from the jubilant opening track that uses squeak toys as an instrument and a poppy vocal theme to a heavy electronic track (still focusing on an upbeat melody) and even a smooth jazz track with some live sax.

The remixes are equally fun, with the Challenger track opening with the sound of blowing into a cartridge before guitar carries the listener through various themes, and Star Solider getting an introductory 8-bit intro before some big space rock kicks in. Hector ’87 starts with sexy electronic piano and funky bass before wailing electric guitars come in to electrify the atmosphere, and Milon’s Secret Castle works 8-bit sound effects into the acoustic guitar and vocal children’s song.

This album is a lot of fun despite the sound quality and 35-minute play time. It’s a shame it’s not cheaper to allow for more accessibility, but if you’re a fan of any of the titles featured, this may be worth checking out.

[embed]238477:45776" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 009: Halo 4, Rock Man, Bravely Default, ACIII We're back to our regularly-scheduled Note Worthy with reviews for a number of highly-anticipated albums this month. I've been greatly looking forward to the Halo 4 soundtrack, and we have impressions of the entire contents o...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-009-halo-4-rock-man-bravely-default-aciii-238477.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 009: Halo 4, Rock Man, Bravely Default, ACIII

We're back to our regularly-scheduled Note Worthy with reviews for a number of highly-anticipated albums this month. I've been greatly looking forward to the Halo 4 soundtrack, and we have impressions of the entire contents of the limited e...   read

 
 



Final Fantasy Music photo
Final Fantasy Music

Note Worthy 008: Final Fantasy 25th anniversary special

Wait a second, didn't we just run an issue of Note Worthy two weeks ago? Well, we did, but there have been so many Final Fantasy music releases over the past couple of months that we've accumulated an entire issue's-worth of reviews an...   read

 
 

[embed]236641:45423[/embed]

This is easily Jake Kaufman’s best work to date, and one of the best soundtracks released all year. And it’s Name Your Price. GET IT NOW!



Etrian Odyssey IV SUPER ARRANGE VERSION
Release Date: September 5, 2012
Price: 3,150 Yen ($40)
Availability: 
CD Japan
Artist(s): Noriyuki Kamikura, et al.

I loved Yuzo Koshiro’s new approach to Etrian Odysesy IV. Out with the PC-88 FM synthesis, and in with live performers. However, while an FM arrange album is still on the way, the obligatory “Super Arrange Version” album has been released, this time headed up by former Basiscape composer Noriyuki Kamikura and friends (some JDK Band folks and Masashi Hamauzu, among others).

There’s a lot of rock arrangements here that, while good, don’t really do a whole lot for me. “Battlefield – Storm,” which I’ve previously raved about, is probably my favorite of that bunch. There’s swingin’ jazz with some awesome bass runs, epic orchestral works by Yukihiro Jindo of JDK Band, and a piano solo piece that puts me to sleep every time I listen to it by Final Fantasy XIII’s Masashi Hamauzu.

My favorite tracks, however, are the dreamy opening theme which gets a contemplative arrangement and a seductive sax accompaniment, an upbeat pop arrangement of the first labyrinth theme with female vocals, and a funky fresh take on my favorite theme from the original score, “City of Radiant Ruin” (awesome track title too). While this version also takes a contemporary jazz approach, the addition of English vocals by Anemone of blue chee’s and the more pop-leaning arrangement are fantastic.

While this album provides an eclectic group of remixes, they’re all well done, and if you loved the original soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to pick it up along with the FM synthesis version being released later this month.



Horn
Release Date: August 13, 2012
Price: $5
Availability:Bandcamp
Artist(s): Austin Wintory

Well, Austin Wintory is following up his score to Journey here, so there’re likely a lot of high expectations for his score for the iOS title Horn. It’s an iOS title, so I wasn’t expecting miracles, but surprisingly, Wintory brings in live orchestra and session players for what turns out to be a nice little ‘journey’ into another world.

It’s a good thing I like the game’s main theme, “Horn,” a whimsical piece with a lovely woodwind melody. I say it’s a good thing because it finds its way into several pieces throughout the score, mostly in the form of adventurous, drum-laden variations, including “The Final Trial” towards the end of the album that particularly stands out. I really love tracks like the moody and emotional “Cuthbert” and the ethnic-tinged “Westernesse,” but a number of the tracks here are a bit too minimalistic to hold my attention. I imagine these pieces are great at setting the mood in the game, but I found myself listening to three or four tracks in in a row without realizing I was on to something new.

Overall, I love the main theme and the tracks where it’s later used, but this one may be best enjoyed within the context of the game itself.

[embed]236641:45424[/embed]



Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition Compilation Soundtrack
Release Date: September 16, 2012
Price: $39.99
Availability: Retail
Artist(s): HAL Laboratory

Okay, so Kirby’s Dream Collection makes me realize I’ve missed out on way too many Kirby games. I loved the first Kirby’s Adventure game and its music, but somewhere down the line I guess I strayed. Well, this collection can catch me up not only on some of the games in the series, but also the music. The game comes with a soundtrack disc featuring music from the original Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on the Wii, and even throws in some remixes.

The reason this collection is so important is because there’s very little Kirby music available on CD. What little there is is mostly limited to hard-to-come-by Club Nintendo Japan releases. Most Kirby titles are represented with anywhere from one to four tracks from 16 titles.

You’ll get lots of classic “Green Greens” and “Fountain of Dreams” from various games, but the catchy tracks from Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Adventure 3 are some of my favorites. The funky “The Last Iceburg” from the latter is one of my favorite tracks here with its distinct Earthbound-tinged sound. Kirby 64 gets a little more serious, making me want to play the game to find out why that is, while Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land’s “Tower of Midbosses” gets a fun Asian vibe going, Air Ride gets some big orchestral arrangements, and Canvas Curse offers up a perfect organ piece titled “Drawcia Sorceress.”

Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land both offer up some fantastic melodies with a more modern sound. There are the standard arrangements which are great, but I really love the epic ending theme from Return to Dream Land. The remixes are also really cool, with a barely recognizable “Electro Kirby” and even a chamber orchestra version of “Green Greens.”

I don’t think Kirby fans are aware of how important this CD is. The fact that it was brought over to the US is a big deal, so thank your lucky warp star and pick up this collection for some great games and music!



POWER DRIFT ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: April 27, 2011
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability:SEGA Store Japan
Artist(s): hiro

Power Drift is a strange racing title from Sega that was released first on arcade in the 1980s then again on the Sega Saturn. It featured a bizarre cast of racers seemingly drawing on American stereotypes and featured a soundtrack composed by Sega legend hiro. This music has been released several times over the years, and the latest re-issue here gets a few new bonuses.

The album features the both the arcade and Sega Saturn ‘arrangement’ versions of the soundtrack that come in at about 30 minutes a piece. I can’t say this is hiro’s best work, as the arcade version in particular sounds rather muddled with the hectic flurry of guitar, bass, and percussion going on. My favorite track, “Silent Language (Course C),” reminds me of Sega’s glory days with its incredibly catchy melody and measured pace, and it seems to be a Sega favorite as well as there’s a special arrangement tucked away at the end of this album that commemorate this re-issue. The name entry track, “Diversity” is also a lot of fun. Unfortunately not much stands out to me (especially the Sega Saturn version, which is fleshed out a whole lot more than the arcade version). There’s an unused track thrown into the mix, but it doesn’t amount to much.

For the price, you may want to consider something else. But if you played and enjoyed Power Drift, it may be worth picking up. Unfortunately Sega music releases are notoriously difficult to find since they’re sold exclusively through Sega’s online store in Japan.



Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.1 ~Dragon Spirit~
Release Date: October 28, 2012
Price: 2,940 Yen ($35 USD)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Shinji Hosoe

Continuing SuperSweep’s “Works” series (we covered Manabu Namiki’s first volume in our debut Note Worthy entry), SuperSweep leader Shinji Hosoe gets his moment in the spotlight. This two-disc album pays tribute to one of his best and earliest works, Dragon Spirit. This is the original arcade version soundtrack with all its retro goodness intact, including the jubilant “Area 1,” the poppy “Area 3,” the desperate “Area 6” (my personal favorite), a foreboding final stage theme, and some excellent boss themes. Even better, “Area 6” and “Area 3” both get remix upgrades that are exclusive to this album.

Disc two features two lesser-known works by Hosoe, Assault and Quester. The latter is only four minutes in length total and likely won’t stand out to listeners, but Assault (co-composed by Kazuo Noguchi) offers some great moments. After a spacey intro track by Hosoe, a number of great melodies follow by Noguchi including “Lift Down” and the funky “BGM 1.” Hosoe returns for “BGM 4,” a measured synth rock adventure in space. This is good stuff.

While SuperSweep’s releases are generally hard to come by, this album is available for import from CD Japan. Those seeking out the Dragon Spirit soundtrack in a physical will definitely want to pick this up, as previous CD versions are hard to come by (last printing I could find on VGMdb was from 1989!).

Also of note is the fact that virt was originally announced to be contributing an arrangement to this album, but that didn’t end up happening. You can still check out his great rock remix from 2004 on his website, however.



Sword Songs ~ FINAL FANTASY XI Battle Collection
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka

Simply put, this is a compilation of battle themes from Final Fantasy XI to commemorate ten years of the game. There’s just an under an hour of music here, and most of it has been released on other collections. Additionally, many of the tracks are for major boss battles, which very few regular battle themes being present (the opening “Battle Theme” is an important exception as one of my favorite themes from the game, period).

Although many of these battle themes were on the recently-released Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack PLUS CD, I still love “Shinryu” with its amazing chorus section, “Awakening” which I recently learned to love through play Theatrhythm, and the upbeat “Mercenaries’ Delight.” The final track, “Provenance Watcher” is a bonus track that I can’t identify (I admit I didn’t get too far in Final Fantasy XI), but I can’t say that it’s terribly exciting.

Hardcore fans of Final Fantasy XI who don’t already own a lot of the previously-released Final Fantasy XI material may want to check this out, as these boss battle themes in particular should remind them of some of the most epic moments in the game. Casual fans may want to pass on this one for the asking price.



TEKARU MECHANICAL
Release Date: September 26, 2012
Price: 1,500 Yen ($19)
Availability: Limited
Artist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, TEKARU

Okay, so I instantly became a fan of TEKARU, composer Hideki Sakamoto’s synth rock band, after listening to TEKARU TECHNICAL earlier this year. The problem? It clocked in at just over 20 minutes in length. TEKARU MECHANICAL follows up with something a little more substantial (still under the 40 minute mark) with performances of tunes from the noisycroak team’s Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru (featured last month), 428 ~Fuusasareta Shibuya de~, Ragnarok ~Hikari to Yami no Koujo~, and TIME TRAVELERS.

Yes, none of these games should be overly familiar to anyone, but that’s okay because you’ll learn to appreciate them here. The opening track, “Abnormal Returns” is easily the best track on the album with its fun synth scales, organ, and dueling electric guitars that bring back memories of my father playing The Who on the stereo when I was growing up. “Scale Formation” gets experimental with the electronic sounds, while “Blast the Blizzard” is epic metal. “SUN” gets a desolate and dreamy soundscape and strange yet endearing male vocals (by Sakamoto himself) that you’ll notice are English if you listen really hard.

But how about those game arrangements? I love the spooky effects and funky slap bass in the track from the suspenseful Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru, the bouncey and poppy track from 428 (another of my favorites), and the hard hitting track from Ragnarok Tactics which may remind you of Castlevania. I leave the track from TIME TRAVELERS for last because it’s a bit polarizing. The same accent-tinged English, but the catchy melody and the ‘sound’ of the voice go well together. I personally love it, but I know not everyone will.

This is a fantastic album. Again, I wish it was longer. And I wish TEKARU would come to MAGFest. They’re great, and you need to check them out (especially for the price).

[embed]236641:45469" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 007: Borderlands, Pandaria, Double Dragon We're back with another issue of Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up feature. In addition to the moody Borderlands 2 soundtrack and the ethnic-flavored Mists of Pandaria, we have what I'm calling one of the best soun...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-007-borderlands-pandaria-double-dragon-236641.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">Latest Soundtracks photo
Latest Soundtracks

[embed]236641:45423[/embed]

This is easily Jake Kaufman’s best work to date, and one of the best soundtracks released all year. And it’s Name Your Price. GET IT NOW!



Etrian Odyssey IV SUPER ARRANGE VERSION
Release Date: September 5, 2012
Price: 3,150 Yen ($40)
Availability: 
CD Japan
Artist(s): Noriyuki Kamikura, et al.

I loved Yuzo Koshiro’s new approach to Etrian Odysesy IV. Out with the PC-88 FM synthesis, and in with live performers. However, while an FM arrange album is still on the way, the obligatory “Super Arrange Version” album has been released, this time headed up by former Basiscape composer Noriyuki Kamikura and friends (some JDK Band folks and Masashi Hamauzu, among others).

There’s a lot of rock arrangements here that, while good, don’t really do a whole lot for me. “Battlefield – Storm,” which I’ve previously raved about, is probably my favorite of that bunch. There’s swingin’ jazz with some awesome bass runs, epic orchestral works by Yukihiro Jindo of JDK Band, and a piano solo piece that puts me to sleep every time I listen to it by Final Fantasy XIII’s Masashi Hamauzu.

My favorite tracks, however, are the dreamy opening theme which gets a contemplative arrangement and a seductive sax accompaniment, an upbeat pop arrangement of the first labyrinth theme with female vocals, and a funky fresh take on my favorite theme from the original score, “City of Radiant Ruin” (awesome track title too). While this version also takes a contemporary jazz approach, the addition of English vocals by Anemone of blue chee’s and the more pop-leaning arrangement are fantastic.

While this album provides an eclectic group of remixes, they’re all well done, and if you loved the original soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to pick it up along with the FM synthesis version being released later this month.



Horn
Release Date: August 13, 2012
Price: $5
Availability:Bandcamp
Artist(s): Austin Wintory

Well, Austin Wintory is following up his score to Journey here, so there’re likely a lot of high expectations for his score for the iOS title Horn. It’s an iOS title, so I wasn’t expecting miracles, but surprisingly, Wintory brings in live orchestra and session players for what turns out to be a nice little ‘journey’ into another world.

It’s a good thing I like the game’s main theme, “Horn,” a whimsical piece with a lovely woodwind melody. I say it’s a good thing because it finds its way into several pieces throughout the score, mostly in the form of adventurous, drum-laden variations, including “The Final Trial” towards the end of the album that particularly stands out. I really love tracks like the moody and emotional “Cuthbert” and the ethnic-tinged “Westernesse,” but a number of the tracks here are a bit too minimalistic to hold my attention. I imagine these pieces are great at setting the mood in the game, but I found myself listening to three or four tracks in in a row without realizing I was on to something new.

Overall, I love the main theme and the tracks where it’s later used, but this one may be best enjoyed within the context of the game itself.

[embed]236641:45424[/embed]



Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition Compilation Soundtrack
Release Date: September 16, 2012
Price: $39.99
Availability: Retail
Artist(s): HAL Laboratory

Okay, so Kirby’s Dream Collection makes me realize I’ve missed out on way too many Kirby games. I loved the first Kirby’s Adventure game and its music, but somewhere down the line I guess I strayed. Well, this collection can catch me up not only on some of the games in the series, but also the music. The game comes with a soundtrack disc featuring music from the original Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on the Wii, and even throws in some remixes.

The reason this collection is so important is because there’s very little Kirby music available on CD. What little there is is mostly limited to hard-to-come-by Club Nintendo Japan releases. Most Kirby titles are represented with anywhere from one to four tracks from 16 titles.

You’ll get lots of classic “Green Greens” and “Fountain of Dreams” from various games, but the catchy tracks from Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Adventure 3 are some of my favorites. The funky “The Last Iceburg” from the latter is one of my favorite tracks here with its distinct Earthbound-tinged sound. Kirby 64 gets a little more serious, making me want to play the game to find out why that is, while Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land’s “Tower of Midbosses” gets a fun Asian vibe going, Air Ride gets some big orchestral arrangements, and Canvas Curse offers up a perfect organ piece titled “Drawcia Sorceress.”

Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land both offer up some fantastic melodies with a more modern sound. There are the standard arrangements which are great, but I really love the epic ending theme from Return to Dream Land. The remixes are also really cool, with a barely recognizable “Electro Kirby” and even a chamber orchestra version of “Green Greens.”

I don’t think Kirby fans are aware of how important this CD is. The fact that it was brought over to the US is a big deal, so thank your lucky warp star and pick up this collection for some great games and music!



POWER DRIFT ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: April 27, 2011
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability:SEGA Store Japan
Artist(s): hiro

Power Drift is a strange racing title from Sega that was released first on arcade in the 1980s then again on the Sega Saturn. It featured a bizarre cast of racers seemingly drawing on American stereotypes and featured a soundtrack composed by Sega legend hiro. This music has been released several times over the years, and the latest re-issue here gets a few new bonuses.

The album features the both the arcade and Sega Saturn ‘arrangement’ versions of the soundtrack that come in at about 30 minutes a piece. I can’t say this is hiro’s best work, as the arcade version in particular sounds rather muddled with the hectic flurry of guitar, bass, and percussion going on. My favorite track, “Silent Language (Course C),” reminds me of Sega’s glory days with its incredibly catchy melody and measured pace, and it seems to be a Sega favorite as well as there’s a special arrangement tucked away at the end of this album that commemorate this re-issue. The name entry track, “Diversity” is also a lot of fun. Unfortunately not much stands out to me (especially the Sega Saturn version, which is fleshed out a whole lot more than the arcade version). There’s an unused track thrown into the mix, but it doesn’t amount to much.

For the price, you may want to consider something else. But if you played and enjoyed Power Drift, it may be worth picking up. Unfortunately Sega music releases are notoriously difficult to find since they’re sold exclusively through Sega’s online store in Japan.



Shinji Hosoe Works Vol.1 ~Dragon Spirit~
Release Date: October 28, 2012
Price: 2,940 Yen ($35 USD)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Shinji Hosoe

Continuing SuperSweep’s “Works” series (we covered Manabu Namiki’s first volume in our debut Note Worthy entry), SuperSweep leader Shinji Hosoe gets his moment in the spotlight. This two-disc album pays tribute to one of his best and earliest works, Dragon Spirit. This is the original arcade version soundtrack with all its retro goodness intact, including the jubilant “Area 1,” the poppy “Area 3,” the desperate “Area 6” (my personal favorite), a foreboding final stage theme, and some excellent boss themes. Even better, “Area 6” and “Area 3” both get remix upgrades that are exclusive to this album.

Disc two features two lesser-known works by Hosoe, Assault and Quester. The latter is only four minutes in length total and likely won’t stand out to listeners, but Assault (co-composed by Kazuo Noguchi) offers some great moments. After a spacey intro track by Hosoe, a number of great melodies follow by Noguchi including “Lift Down” and the funky “BGM 1.” Hosoe returns for “BGM 4,” a measured synth rock adventure in space. This is good stuff.

While SuperSweep’s releases are generally hard to come by, this album is available for import from CD Japan. Those seeking out the Dragon Spirit soundtrack in a physical will definitely want to pick this up, as previous CD versions are hard to come by (last printing I could find on VGMdb was from 1989!).

Also of note is the fact that virt was originally announced to be contributing an arrangement to this album, but that didn’t end up happening. You can still check out his great rock remix from 2004 on his website, however.



Sword Songs ~ FINAL FANTASY XI Battle Collection
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($27)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka

Simply put, this is a compilation of battle themes from Final Fantasy XI to commemorate ten years of the game. There’s just an under an hour of music here, and most of it has been released on other collections. Additionally, many of the tracks are for major boss battles, which very few regular battle themes being present (the opening “Battle Theme” is an important exception as one of my favorite themes from the game, period).

Although many of these battle themes were on the recently-released Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack PLUS CD, I still love “Shinryu” with its amazing chorus section, “Awakening” which I recently learned to love through play Theatrhythm, and the upbeat “Mercenaries’ Delight.” The final track, “Provenance Watcher” is a bonus track that I can’t identify (I admit I didn’t get too far in Final Fantasy XI), but I can’t say that it’s terribly exciting.

Hardcore fans of Final Fantasy XI who don’t already own a lot of the previously-released Final Fantasy XI material may want to check this out, as these boss battle themes in particular should remind them of some of the most epic moments in the game. Casual fans may want to pass on this one for the asking price.



TEKARU MECHANICAL
Release Date: September 26, 2012
Price: 1,500 Yen ($19)
Availability: Limited
Artist(s): Hideki Sakamoto, TEKARU

Okay, so I instantly became a fan of TEKARU, composer Hideki Sakamoto’s synth rock band, after listening to TEKARU TECHNICAL earlier this year. The problem? It clocked in at just over 20 minutes in length. TEKARU MECHANICAL follows up with something a little more substantial (still under the 40 minute mark) with performances of tunes from the noisycroak team’s Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru (featured last month), 428 ~Fuusasareta Shibuya de~, Ragnarok ~Hikari to Yami no Koujo~, and TIME TRAVELERS.

Yes, none of these games should be overly familiar to anyone, but that’s okay because you’ll learn to appreciate them here. The opening track, “Abnormal Returns” is easily the best track on the album with its fun synth scales, organ, and dueling electric guitars that bring back memories of my father playing The Who on the stereo when I was growing up. “Scale Formation” gets experimental with the electronic sounds, while “Blast the Blizzard” is epic metal. “SUN” gets a desolate and dreamy soundscape and strange yet endearing male vocals (by Sakamoto himself) that you’ll notice are English if you listen really hard.

But how about those game arrangements? I love the spooky effects and funky slap bass in the track from the suspenseful Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru, the bouncey and poppy track from 428 (another of my favorites), and the hard hitting track from Ragnarok Tactics which may remind you of Castlevania. I leave the track from TIME TRAVELERS for last because it’s a bit polarizing. The same accent-tinged English, but the catchy melody and the ‘sound’ of the voice go well together. I personally love it, but I know not everyone will.

This is a fantastic album. Again, I wish it was longer. And I wish TEKARU would come to MAGFest. They’re great, and you need to check them out (especially for the price).

[embed]236641:45469" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 007: Borderlands, Pandaria, Double Dragon We're back with another issue of Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up feature. In addition to the moody Borderlands 2 soundtrack and the ethnic-flavored Mists of Pandaria, we have what I'm calling one of the best soun...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-007-borderlands-pandaria-double-dragon-236641.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 007: Borderlands, Pandaria, Double Dragon

We're back with another issue of Note Worthy, our monthly soundtrack round-up feature. In addition to the moody Borderlands 2 soundtrack and the ethnic-flavored Mists of Pandaria, we have what I'm calling one of the best soundtracks of the ...   read

 
 
 photo
8===D
  Watch Video

Note Worthy 006: Last Story, Secret of Mana, Guild Wars 2

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 al...   read

 
 


Battle SQ [Limited Edition]
Release Date: July 4, 2012
Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)
Availability: CD Japan (
limited / regular)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Battle SQ was announced alongside SQ Chips2 and Beer SQ, and of the three, I had the least idea of what to expect with this one. Were they going to take non-battle themes and create rock and techno arrangements to give them more oomph, or would these be arrangements of battle themes to encompass a more expansive emotional spectrum?

It would actually appear to be a combination, as the themes, mostly battle-oriented, are given heavier electronic remixes. In that sense, I found myself disappointed, as the arrangements go in the same general direction as the original source material. Still, among the album’s 14 tracks and five featured on the bonus disc exclusive to the limited edition, there’s some stuff worth your time.

For example, I dig the live rock session covering Final Fantasy IV’s battle themes, the groovy electronic “Miβgestalt & Todesengel” from SaGa Frontier 2, and the gritty electro-infused “Battle on the Bridge” from Final Fantasy Tactics. The team gets major kudos for picking up a tracks from Rudra no Hihou and Sigma Harmonics, although the remixes themselves don’t particularly do much for me. My favorites have to be the Asian-flavored “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River” from LIVE A LIVE (see our review of the OST in Note Worthy 002), a grunge rock “You’re Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX, and an epic take on “Decisive Battle with Magus" from Chrono Trigger.

The limited edition bonus disc features a drumtacular “Maybe I’m a Lion” from Final Fantasy VIII, chippy versions of “Frog’s Theme” and an ending medley from various Final Fantasy titles, and a recorded live set from SQ Part Level 3 by Stealth Boys that covers a lot of material from other SQ albums.

As usual, there are a few great arrangements here, but most will leave you underwhelmed. I appreciate the team going for some more obscure Square Enix/Squaresoft properties, but in the end I couldn’t find myself blown away by anything here.



Beer SQ [Limited Edition]
Release Date: July 4, 2012
Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)
Availability: CD Japan (limited / regular)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Beer SQ certainly has an interesting name going for it. It kind of falls in line with Café SQ, taking on an upbeat lounge kinda vibe. There are only eight arrangements presented, so pickings are slim, but buying the limited edition will snag you a second disc with some awesome bonuses.

As far as the album proper, I can’t say I’m all that fond of the polka-esque arrangement of the Final Fantasy main theme by Räfven (who have appeared on several SQ albums, much to my dismay) or the “Gold Saucer” arrangement from Final Fantasy VII. Nothing against the arrangement, I just find the original incredibly irritating. Things get better from here on out with a fantastic acoustic take on “Guardia's Millenial Fair,” an impressive big band jazz medley from Final Fantasy VI that is nearly ten minutes in length and is amazing, and an ethnic version of “Prelude” from Final Fantasy with sitar and hand-beaten percussion. I also dig the playful SaGa Frontier 2 “Roman & Vorspiel” which has been a mainstay on the Beer SQ website.

The second disc features an emotional ballad from Unlimited SaGa as well as two live sets from the SQ Party LEVEL 3 event that was held in Japan recently. BOOKADENcI’s set is a 30-minute long psychedelic trip into SaGa (Final Fantasy Legends) and Final Fantasy IV while Hige Driver covers a lot of territory from a chip-hop version of Final Fantasy VI’s “Searching for Friends” and more SaGa to his remix of “Primal Eyes” from SQ Chips2. Cool stuff!

I had high hopes for Beer SQ, but unfortunately there are only a couple of tracks that will have me coming back for more. The price difference is minimal, so I’d recommend picking up the limited edition if you’re interested in what is has to offer.



Crimson Shroud Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 27, 2012
Price: 3,045 Yen ($38) (physical) / $19.99 USD (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Basiscape

Are you all caught up on Guild01? If not, it’s an interesting project being undertaken by four different producers (well, one is a comedian), and Crimson Shroud happens to be an RPG title in the series by Yasumi Matsuno (Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy XII). This tabletop-inspired RPG features a soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto and his team at Basiscape, although Sakimoto handles most of the duties himself this time around.

If the concept of this game and the Guild01 series wasn’t enough to draw me in, the soundtrack certainly is. This is a signature Sakimoto soundtrack that will immediately remind you of the dark atmosphere he created with Final Fantasy Tactics. While I can skip the main theme (it does let you know that you’re in for a classic Sakimoto experience), it’s the dark and foreboding pieces that caught my attention, including “She Broke the Rules” and “The Crimson Shroud.” A few pieces are downright terrifying, with “You Have Erred” sporting heavy metallic clanging and “Your Time is Up” sounding like a death sentence with its minimalistic approach.



There are some typical adventure tracks, including “Show Your Mettle,” “They Haven’t Seen Us,” and the tense “The Last Thing.” There are also a few excursions from the dark and oppressive mood with the playful “No Picnic for Me” with live guitar and the emotional “Her Reputation Precedes Her” and “Was it All a Lie?” Even typing these track names have me excited about playing this game to find out what they’re all about.

Combine all of this with live orchestra throughout and a powerful ending theme titled “Sinner’s Requiem” to carry you on your way, and you have a winner. I have to play this game now, so hopefully we’ll see outside of Japan although I’m not holding my breath.

[embed]232938:44747[/embed]



Etrian Odyssey IV Original Soundtrack
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Price: 3,360 Yen ($43)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

This is sure to be a controversial release. We already mentioned that Koshiro’s retro style FM synthesis sound is being swapped for a more orchestral/acoustic one for Etrian Odyssey IV. This is nothing new to hardcore fans of Koshiro’s music who have enjoyed the Live Music by Piano and Strings Super Arrange Album releases for both Etrian Odyssey and 7th Dragon which both received small chamber orchestra arrangements. They simply went the route of starting with this version this time around, as there will be a separate FM synthesis version of the soundtrack released at a later date.

With all of that out of the way, is the music any good? I think the dramatic and powerful opening theme will certainly draw you in. Yes, the orchestral sound doesn’t have that nostalgic charm, but it’s a great introduction to the epic fantasy soundtrack that follows. I found myself enjoying all of the labyrinth themes that include everything from a track drawing inspiration from Japanese oldies (it sounds just like a stroll in the park) to a dark and seductive theme featuring Norihiko Hibino on sax. There’s bombastic and adventurous and an amazingly smooth and jazzy track that sounds something like The OneUps would perform.

The battle themes are also very strong, bringing in electric guitar and combining it was brass and other orchestral instruments. I mentioned the battle themes made me want to play the game, and hearing more on the album only makes me yearn more for an announcement that this game will be released outside of Japan.

Now, did you have any doubt that Yuzo Koshiro would deliver? The music here is great, and even the lengthy three minute-long tracks get two loops. You should love this soundtrack, but if you’re left wanting something different, watch for the Super Arrange Version and FM version being released in September.

[embed]232938:44953[/embed]



Lollipop Chainsaw: Music From the Video Game
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Akira Yamaoka, licensed stuff

Lollipop Chainsaw turned out to be pure dumb fun, and I think the soundtrack falls right in line with that description. While I was initially bummed by the fact that Akira Yamaoka wasn’t handling the entire score, the licensed tracks end up being the most fun of all.

There’s “Lollipop” by The Chordettes which is downright silly, while the remaining tracks cover everything from death metal to nerdy with “Pac Man Fever” and the atmospheric electronic track “Empire State Human.” I have to say I like all of these. We get nine tracks from Akira Yamaoka which cover everything from punk rock in the incredibly catchy “Love for my Insane Lover” to disco funk in “Mirrorball Madhouse.” He jumps in on the death metal bandwagon with “Viking Zombies Sail On Lightning Seas,” but Yamaoka fans shouldn’t worry, he brings a lot of his traditional grungy rock to the table with “Zombie Guts” and “Bowel Purge.”

I had a blast with the soundtrack. Yamaoka did a great job writing tracks that were similar in style to the licensed tracks, and they all combine to form a pretty ridiculous soundtrack which is perfect for the game. Grab it from iTunes!

[embed]232938:44692[/embed]



Sorcery 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): Mark Mancina

I didn’t have high hopes for this game when it was announced a few years back at Sony’s press conference, and while it ended up coming off as mostly underwhelming according to our review, I think the music is simply fantastic. Composer Mark Mancina, a composer who’s worked mostly in film, does an excellent job combining Celtic influences with orchestral elements that create an appropriately big yet fun soundtrack experience.

While the tracks tend to fall on the shorter side, there’s not a single one that I found myself skipping. More often than not I’d activate my sleeping iPod to see which track I was listening to only to find I was doing this for nearly every track, which is a good sign. That Celtic influence enters right from the start with woodwinds and bagpipe in “Sorcery” and into the upbeat and energetic “The Mothertree.” There’s the ominous “Undead Soldiers” which provides some amazing ambiance before taking on a dark, swashbuckling swagger, the tense “Keymaster Battle” and “Endless Stair,” and the beautiful yet foreboding “Trouble is Brewing.” Playful didgeridoo is makes an entrance in “Bogey Village,” and there’s some acoustic guitar and bongos in the wonderfully-produced “Slumbering Palace,” leading up to the finale. The final battle theme adds in electronics, adding even more intensity to the final showdown.

This is really a great soundtrack. While there wasn’t a particular melody that stuck in my mind, the production and overall aesthetic of the score really struck me as memorable. Maybe people won’t remember the game for pushing the envelope with the PlayStation Move, but hopefully people will remember the great soundtrack.

[embed]232938:44693" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 005: Square Enix, Etrian Odyssey IV, and more This is a big month for Square Enix music. Four of our ten reviews in this installment of Note Worthy are Square Enix albums, and we had to hold back on a few to make room for other big releases! We've got impressions of Yuzo...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-005-square-enix-etrian-odyssey-iv-and-more-232938.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch"> photo
8===D


Battle SQ [Limited Edition]
Release Date: July 4, 2012
Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)
Availability: CD Japan (
limited / regular)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Battle SQ was announced alongside SQ Chips2 and Beer SQ, and of the three, I had the least idea of what to expect with this one. Were they going to take non-battle themes and create rock and techno arrangements to give them more oomph, or would these be arrangements of battle themes to encompass a more expansive emotional spectrum?

It would actually appear to be a combination, as the themes, mostly battle-oriented, are given heavier electronic remixes. In that sense, I found myself disappointed, as the arrangements go in the same general direction as the original source material. Still, among the album’s 14 tracks and five featured on the bonus disc exclusive to the limited edition, there’s some stuff worth your time.

For example, I dig the live rock session covering Final Fantasy IV’s battle themes, the groovy electronic “Miβgestalt & Todesengel” from SaGa Frontier 2, and the gritty electro-infused “Battle on the Bridge” from Final Fantasy Tactics. The team gets major kudos for picking up a tracks from Rudra no Hihou and Sigma Harmonics, although the remixes themselves don’t particularly do much for me. My favorites have to be the Asian-flavored “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River” from LIVE A LIVE (see our review of the OST in Note Worthy 002), a grunge rock “You’re Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX, and an epic take on “Decisive Battle with Magus" from Chrono Trigger.

The limited edition bonus disc features a drumtacular “Maybe I’m a Lion” from Final Fantasy VIII, chippy versions of “Frog’s Theme” and an ending medley from various Final Fantasy titles, and a recorded live set from SQ Part Level 3 by Stealth Boys that covers a lot of material from other SQ albums.

As usual, there are a few great arrangements here, but most will leave you underwhelmed. I appreciate the team going for some more obscure Square Enix/Squaresoft properties, but in the end I couldn’t find myself blown away by anything here.



Beer SQ [Limited Edition]
Release Date: July 4, 2012
Price: 2,100 ($27) (limited) / 1,890 ($24) (regular)
Availability: CD Japan (limited / regular)
Artist(s): Various Artists

Beer SQ certainly has an interesting name going for it. It kind of falls in line with Café SQ, taking on an upbeat lounge kinda vibe. There are only eight arrangements presented, so pickings are slim, but buying the limited edition will snag you a second disc with some awesome bonuses.

As far as the album proper, I can’t say I’m all that fond of the polka-esque arrangement of the Final Fantasy main theme by Räfven (who have appeared on several SQ albums, much to my dismay) or the “Gold Saucer” arrangement from Final Fantasy VII. Nothing against the arrangement, I just find the original incredibly irritating. Things get better from here on out with a fantastic acoustic take on “Guardia's Millenial Fair,” an impressive big band jazz medley from Final Fantasy VI that is nearly ten minutes in length and is amazing, and an ethnic version of “Prelude” from Final Fantasy with sitar and hand-beaten percussion. I also dig the playful SaGa Frontier 2 “Roman & Vorspiel” which has been a mainstay on the Beer SQ website.

The second disc features an emotional ballad from Unlimited SaGa as well as two live sets from the SQ Party LEVEL 3 event that was held in Japan recently. BOOKADENcI’s set is a 30-minute long psychedelic trip into SaGa (Final Fantasy Legends) and Final Fantasy IV while Hige Driver covers a lot of territory from a chip-hop version of Final Fantasy VI’s “Searching for Friends” and more SaGa to his remix of “Primal Eyes” from SQ Chips2. Cool stuff!

I had high hopes for Beer SQ, but unfortunately there are only a couple of tracks that will have me coming back for more. The price difference is minimal, so I’d recommend picking up the limited edition if you’re interested in what is has to offer.



Crimson Shroud Original Soundtrack
Release Date: June 27, 2012
Price: 3,045 Yen ($38) (physical) / $19.99 USD (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Basiscape

Are you all caught up on Guild01? If not, it’s an interesting project being undertaken by four different producers (well, one is a comedian), and Crimson Shroud happens to be an RPG title in the series by Yasumi Matsuno (Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy XII). This tabletop-inspired RPG features a soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto and his team at Basiscape, although Sakimoto handles most of the duties himself this time around.

If the concept of this game and the Guild01 series wasn’t enough to draw me in, the soundtrack certainly is. This is a signature Sakimoto soundtrack that will immediately remind you of the dark atmosphere he created with Final Fantasy Tactics. While I can skip the main theme (it does let you know that you’re in for a classic Sakimoto experience), it’s the dark and foreboding pieces that caught my attention, including “She Broke the Rules” and “The Crimson Shroud.” A few pieces are downright terrifying, with “You Have Erred” sporting heavy metallic clanging and “Your Time is Up” sounding like a death sentence with its minimalistic approach.



There are some typical adventure tracks, including “Show Your Mettle,” “They Haven’t Seen Us,” and the tense “The Last Thing.” There are also a few excursions from the dark and oppressive mood with the playful “No Picnic for Me” with live guitar and the emotional “Her Reputation Precedes Her” and “Was it All a Lie?” Even typing these track names have me excited about playing this game to find out what they’re all about.

Combine all of this with live orchestra throughout and a powerful ending theme titled “Sinner’s Requiem” to carry you on your way, and you have a winner. I have to play this game now, so hopefully we’ll see outside of Japan although I’m not holding my breath.

[embed]232938:44747[/embed]



Etrian Odyssey IV Original Soundtrack
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Price: 3,360 Yen ($43)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Yuzo Koshiro

This is sure to be a controversial release. We already mentioned that Koshiro’s retro style FM synthesis sound is being swapped for a more orchestral/acoustic one for Etrian Odyssey IV. This is nothing new to hardcore fans of Koshiro’s music who have enjoyed the Live Music by Piano and Strings Super Arrange Album releases for both Etrian Odyssey and 7th Dragon which both received small chamber orchestra arrangements. They simply went the route of starting with this version this time around, as there will be a separate FM synthesis version of the soundtrack released at a later date.

With all of that out of the way, is the music any good? I think the dramatic and powerful opening theme will certainly draw you in. Yes, the orchestral sound doesn’t have that nostalgic charm, but it’s a great introduction to the epic fantasy soundtrack that follows. I found myself enjoying all of the labyrinth themes that include everything from a track drawing inspiration from Japanese oldies (it sounds just like a stroll in the park) to a dark and seductive theme featuring Norihiko Hibino on sax. There’s bombastic and adventurous and an amazingly smooth and jazzy track that sounds something like The OneUps would perform.

The battle themes are also very strong, bringing in electric guitar and combining it was brass and other orchestral instruments. I mentioned the battle themes made me want to play the game, and hearing more on the album only makes me yearn more for an announcement that this game will be released outside of Japan.

Now, did you have any doubt that Yuzo Koshiro would deliver? The music here is great, and even the lengthy three minute-long tracks get two loops. You should love this soundtrack, but if you’re left wanting something different, watch for the Super Arrange Version and FM version being released in September.

[embed]232938:44953[/embed]



Lollipop Chainsaw: Music From the Video Game
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Akira Yamaoka, licensed stuff

Lollipop Chainsaw turned out to be pure dumb fun, and I think the soundtrack falls right in line with that description. While I was initially bummed by the fact that Akira Yamaoka wasn’t handling the entire score, the licensed tracks end up being the most fun of all.

There’s “Lollipop” by The Chordettes which is downright silly, while the remaining tracks cover everything from death metal to nerdy with “Pac Man Fever” and the atmospheric electronic track “Empire State Human.” I have to say I like all of these. We get nine tracks from Akira Yamaoka which cover everything from punk rock in the incredibly catchy “Love for my Insane Lover” to disco funk in “Mirrorball Madhouse.” He jumps in on the death metal bandwagon with “Viking Zombies Sail On Lightning Seas,” but Yamaoka fans shouldn’t worry, he brings a lot of his traditional grungy rock to the table with “Zombie Guts” and “Bowel Purge.”

I had a blast with the soundtrack. Yamaoka did a great job writing tracks that were similar in style to the licensed tracks, and they all combine to form a pretty ridiculous soundtrack which is perfect for the game. Grab it from iTunes!

[embed]232938:44692[/embed]



Sorcery 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): Mark Mancina

I didn’t have high hopes for this game when it was announced a few years back at Sony’s press conference, and while it ended up coming off as mostly underwhelming according to our review, I think the music is simply fantastic. Composer Mark Mancina, a composer who’s worked mostly in film, does an excellent job combining Celtic influences with orchestral elements that create an appropriately big yet fun soundtrack experience.

While the tracks tend to fall on the shorter side, there’s not a single one that I found myself skipping. More often than not I’d activate my sleeping iPod to see which track I was listening to only to find I was doing this for nearly every track, which is a good sign. That Celtic influence enters right from the start with woodwinds and bagpipe in “Sorcery” and into the upbeat and energetic “The Mothertree.” There’s the ominous “Undead Soldiers” which provides some amazing ambiance before taking on a dark, swashbuckling swagger, the tense “Keymaster Battle” and “Endless Stair,” and the beautiful yet foreboding “Trouble is Brewing.” Playful didgeridoo is makes an entrance in “Bogey Village,” and there’s some acoustic guitar and bongos in the wonderfully-produced “Slumbering Palace,” leading up to the finale. The final battle theme adds in electronics, adding even more intensity to the final showdown.

This is really a great soundtrack. While there wasn’t a particular melody that stuck in my mind, the production and overall aesthetic of the score really struck me as memorable. Maybe people won’t remember the game for pushing the envelope with the PlayStation Move, but hopefully people will remember the great soundtrack.

[embed]232938:44693" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 005: Square Enix, Etrian Odyssey IV, and more This is a big month for Square Enix music. Four of our ten reviews in this installment of Note Worthy are Square Enix albums, and we had to hold back on a few to make room for other big releases! We've got impressions of Yuzo...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-005-square-enix-etrian-odyssey-iv-and-more-232938.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 005: Square Enix, Etrian Odyssey IV, and more

This is a big month for Square Enix music. Four of our ten reviews in this installment of Note Worthy are Square Enix albums, and we had to hold back on a few to make room for other big releases! We've got impressions of Yuzo Koshiro's sure...   read

 
 
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
Price: Free
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?

[embed]231008:44364[/embed]



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!

[embed]231008:44430[/embed]



Moon Breakers EP
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Price: $3.96
Availability: iTunes
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.

[embed]231008:44363" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 004: Anarchy Reigns and Unchained Blades 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 we...  
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" data-purl="note-worthy-004-anarchy-reigns-and-unchained-blades-231008.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch"> photo
8===D
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
Price: Free
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?

[embed]231008:44364[/embed]



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!

[embed]231008:44430[/embed]



Moon Breakers EP
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Price: $3.96
Availability: iTunes
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.

[embed]231008:44363" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 004: Anarchy Reigns and Unchained Blades 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 we...  
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Note Worthy 004: Anarchy Reigns and Unchained Blades

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 sle...   read

 
 





Diablo III Collector's Edition Soundtrack
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Price: $11.99 (digital) / Collector’s Edition bonus (physical) 
Availability: 
iTunes / Collector’s Edition
Artist(s): Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence, Neal Acree, Laurence Juber, Edo Guidotti

I already mentioned in our ‘meet the team’ feature that this is one of my most anticipated games (and soundtracks) of the year. I loved what I was hearing in the Diablo III beta, and I love audio director Russell Brower’s past soundtrack production work, and the Diablo III soundtrack is no different. Each piece ties into the next in a continuous listening experience that’s meant to tell the story of Diablo III, making this more than a dumping ground for the game’s music; it’s another way to enjoy the story.

I was looking for familiar themes, but only found a few in the way of “And The Heavens Shall Tremble,” a powerful orchestral rendition of the Diablo theme that should please any fan along with the familiar 12-string guitar in “New Tristram.” From there, I found “Caldeum” to be most Diablo-like in its ambiance and most notably for its use of percussion, but nowhere did I find Matt Uelmen’s signature tribal rock percussion, which I missed. Still, I love the dark ambiance of “Tamoe Heights” and “Bastion’s Keep,” the ominous choral work in “Incantation,” and the dreadful “Evil Reawakened.” The beautiful choral work in “A Tenuous Bond” found towards the end of the album also caught me off guard.

That’s the thing though. I feel this is Diablo told through the musical voice of the World of Warcraft. Diablo’s ambiance is not as effective when voiced by such epic orchestral work. Still, this soundtrack album only highlights key moments in the story, and I have found much more Diablo-esque music to enjoy within the game itself.

[embed]229495:44081" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 003: Diablo, Torchlight, Dragons Dogma And that's just naming a few. We're also taking a look at the soundtracks to Silent Hill: Book of Memories, Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack Plus, and more.This was a great month for game music with some amazing music...  
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8===D


Diablo III Collector's Edition Soundtrack
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Price: $11.99 (digital) / Collector’s Edition bonus (physical) 
Availability: 
iTunes / Collector’s Edition
Artist(s): Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence, Neal Acree, Laurence Juber, Edo Guidotti

I already mentioned in our ‘meet the team’ feature that this is one of my most anticipated games (and soundtracks) of the year. I loved what I was hearing in the Diablo III beta, and I love audio director Russell Brower’s past soundtrack production work, and the Diablo III soundtrack is no different. Each piece ties into the next in a continuous listening experience that’s meant to tell the story of Diablo III, making this more than a dumping ground for the game’s music; it’s another way to enjoy the story.

I was looking for familiar themes, but only found a few in the way of “And The Heavens Shall Tremble,” a powerful orchestral rendition of the Diablo theme that should please any fan along with the familiar 12-string guitar in “New Tristram.” From there, I found “Caldeum” to be most Diablo-like in its ambiance and most notably for its use of percussion, but nowhere did I find Matt Uelmen’s signature tribal rock percussion, which I missed. Still, I love the dark ambiance of “Tamoe Heights” and “Bastion’s Keep,” the ominous choral work in “Incantation,” and the dreadful “Evil Reawakened.” The beautiful choral work in “A Tenuous Bond” found towards the end of the album also caught me off guard.

That’s the thing though. I feel this is Diablo told through the musical voice of the World of Warcraft. Diablo’s ambiance is not as effective when voiced by such epic orchestral work. Still, this soundtrack album only highlights key moments in the story, and I have found much more Diablo-esque music to enjoy within the game itself.

[embed]229495:44081" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 003: Diablo, Torchlight, Dragons Dogma And that's just naming a few. We're also taking a look at the soundtracks to Silent Hill: Book of Memories, Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack Plus, and more.This was a great month for game music with some amazing music...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-003-diablo-torchlight-dragon-s-dogma-229495.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video

Note Worthy 003: Diablo, Torchlight, Dragon's Dogma

And that's just naming a few. We're also taking a look at the soundtracks to Silent Hill: Book of Memories, Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack Plus, and more.This was a great month for game music with some amazing music coming from so...   read

 
 


Fez Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 20, 2012
Price: $7
Availability: 
Bandcamp
Artist(s): Disasterpeace

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Fez soundtrack, but man is it powerful. The opening track, “Adventure,” is somewhat unassuming with a simple arpeggio and upbeat melody, but the album quickly takes a turn for the more ambient and textural and truly becomes more about the entire listening experience that spans over an hour rather than the individual tracks contained within. Each track flows into the next, blurring the lines between where one ends and the next begins. What’s really fascinating, however, is that the single-word track titles are so incredibly descriptive of what’s contained within that it’s hard to decide whether the emphasis is on the individual or the whole.

Take the mysterious “Puzzle,” the ethereal and unsettling “Beyond,” or the dreamy “Flow.” The soundtrack becomes very loose and atmospheric, making a soothing backdrop for whatever else you may be doing while listening (for me, it was driving a long distance). There’s very little use of percussion to the point that when it does appear suddenly in “Sync,” it’s a bit jarring. I love the foreboding “Fear,” the healing and angelic “Spirit” and “Nature,” the somber “Death,” and the oppressive “Pressure” which features the constant presence of static. Both “Age” and “Reflection” are contemplative, coming towards the end of the album, and my two favorite tracks, “Majesty” with its triumphant melody and the heartfelt “Love” make great closers.

It’s interesting, but just listening to the album from start to finish, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something great. This is a true masterpiece from Disasterpeace, and I think everyone needs to give it a listen.

[embed]227355:43660[/embed]



HALO: REACH ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Price: $15.98
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works 
Artist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePard

This is an older release, but I was never able to write about it as another writer at OSV handled the review. This was my favorite Halo soundtrack, so I was looking forward to digging in for myself. True to past soundtrack releases from the franchise, the music is presented in lengthy suites that contain several pieces and cues for a given stage, ranging from five to twelve minutes in length. This is great in letting the listener re-live the game through the soundtrack, but bad for those only looking for that one magical moment that they remember from the game.

While Reach brought a lot of new ideas to the table with rock instrumentation and even some Middle Eastern-inspired melodies (or not Middle Eastern, as Marty O’Donnell explains here), there is still enough emotional orchestra, tribal percussion, and even a touch of the familiar Halo theme worked in here and there if you listen for it. What surprises me is that I recall while playing the game certain bits of music that made me think, “Wow, I can’t wait to have this on CD,” only to find that it's just a 20-30 second snippet of music here. That just reinforces how powerful this soundtrack is in-game, and I had a blast listening to it on CD. In fact, I feel like I could play through the game once again, this time on legendary!

I’ll quickly say my favorite pieces are the riveting “Tip of the Spear,” the desperate “New Alexandria,” and the nostalgic “The Package.” There are also several bonus tracks found at the end, including a nice remix of “Uphill, Both Ways” from Halo 3: ODST.

If you’re going to check out a Halo soundtrack, this is the one in my opinion. I don’t know how O’Donnell was able to keep things so fresh after four previous installments, but he somehow did, and it’s a great sendoff for O’Donnell and Bungie.

[embed]227355:43674[/embed]



LIVE A LIVE Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura

Square Enix (then Squaresoft) published many soundtracks through the 1990s and early 2000s that have since gone out of print and have disappeared into the void. LIVE A LIVE is one such album. While Square Enix has re-released some of these as cross-promotions for their franchises and composers, I can’t think of a specific reason we’re seeing this one now, although I’m not complaining in the slightest. 

LIVE A LIVE is one of Yoko Shimomura’s first soundtracks at Squaresoft. Beforehand, she worked at Capcom on titles like Breath of Fire and Street Fighter II, but LIVE A LIVE marked her first big project as the sole composer on a Squaresoft title. While most tracks fall under the two minute mark, leaving little time for serious song development, there are some great melodies here, and of course, that lovely SNES sound that will remind you of other Squaresoft titles from this era. 

From the bombastic opening notes of “LIVE-A-LIVE,” you know you’re in for something special. There’s the funky Asian-flavored “Secret of Mission” and “Sound of Shinobi,” the more subdued “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River,” the rockin’ “KNOCK YOU DOWN!,” the upbeat and cheery “Nice Weather, Ain’t It!,” and the chippy “CAPTAIN SQUARE.” Shimomura even goes wild West with “Under the Fake” and “THE WILDS.” There’s the token emotional track, “CRY-A-LIVE” and some killer organ work in “The Demon King Odio” and “ARMAGEDDON.” The bubbly ending theme, “Live for Live” will melt your heart, and the two bonus remix tracks that were originally included with a strategy guide published in 1994 are also both presented here. “Batlissimo,” treads on 80s pop, flamenco, and 80s rock territory, while “Forgotten Wings” features piano and strings for a more emotional approach.

While I’m told this game is amazing (people say this about anything released in Japan only, though) and would like to see it released someday, the music composed by Yoko Shimomura can be understood universally. Those who are curious about the game or are fans of Shimomura may want to check it out.



Odin Sphere Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 18, 2012 [Reprint]
Price: 3,360 Yen ($46) / $19.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, Kimihiro Abe, Manabu Namiki

The year 2007 was an incredibly prolific year for Hitoshi Sakimoto, seeing the release of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Grim Grimoire, Deltora Quest, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Opoona, and Odin Sphere. It also marked the beginnings of Basiscape, Sakimoto’s sound studio featuring a talented team of composers. Odin Sphere in particular also marked the beginnings of Sakimoto's partnership with Vanillaware (his name was even used on the back of the game as a selling point).

This is actually a reprint of the 2-disc soundtrack from Basiscape Records. What you have is a transitional work between what Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata were already doing together on games like Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics and their more recent collaborative works with the entire Basiscape team on titles like Opoona and Muramasa.

The Odin Sphere soundtrack is a little rough around the edges. I don’t feel that there are very many complex ideas, and the melodies don’t particularly stick with you. In fact, they can get annoying after hearing them over and over again when getting stuck on a particular stage in the game. I do dig the pretty main theme with its female choral singing, and the two arrangements of this theme that come at the end of album are fantastic. Also of note are “Tutorial” which sports a catchy melody and a bouncy harpsichord, the upbeat ”Mysterious Town Pooka” with its jumpy pizzicato strings, "The Country of Death - Second" with its haunting choir and startling sound effects, and the playful “The Fairy Country – Second” by Manabu Namiki. It’s really impressive how some of the Basiscape members are so effectively able to mimic Sakimoto’s signature orchestral style.

This isn’t Basiscape’s best work, although I understand if some people enjoy it based on their attachment to the game itself. The price tag is a bit steep, although you get a nice package for the price (I love the cardboard slipcase with artwork by Vanillaware’s George Kamitani).

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RIDGE RACER - PLANETARY SOUNDS
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Hiroshi Okubo, Taku Inoue, Rio Hamamoto, Ryo Watanabe, Yuu Miyake, sanodg, AJURIKA, Kyoko Miyakura, SamplingMasters MEGA, SamplingMasters AYA

This is the soundtrack for Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita. As usual, a diverse team at Namco Bandai is joined by SuperSweep to provide a hard-hitting electronic soundtrack. We get a dreamy opening track followed by two of my favorites, the feel-good “Planet” and the incredibly catchy “Into the Lead” with its repeated lyric, “Slide through the curves / Drift into the lead.” The funky bass in “Future Driven” and the fat encompassing pads in “Virtuoso” also stand out. “Take You Away” has an fun melody, while “Super Acceleration” is the catchy electronic music I wanted to hear more of on this soundtrack.

And that’s the bottom line. I didn’t feel there were enough melodies here to draw me in as there has been in past Ridge Racer titles. This works in the game, or maybe driving fast in your car, but the melodies aren’t strong enough for outside listening. Those who purchase the disc directly from SuperSweep in Japan, however, get a 55-minute continuous mix version which I believe is the definitive way to listen to this soundtrack as each piece flows into the next in a well thought-out way that’d be great for a party. But that’s only if you can get your hands on the bonus disc.

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Shinobi 3D Original Soundtrack
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)
Availability: Amazon Japan
Artist(s): GEM Impact (Norihiko Hibino, Takaharu Izutani, Yoshitaka Suzuki), hiro

Soundtracks form the Shinobi franchise have always been favorites among fans, so despite the fact that Shinobi 3D was either ignored or not reviewed favorably by the gaming press, I thought it was worth checking out the soundtrack. Composed by GEM Impact, the composer team behind the scenes of many Metal Gear Solid soundtracks and Ninja Blade, the studio definitely has the experience to make this work.

What you have here is electronic-infused ninja rock of the highest quality. There is also extensive use of shakahauchi (a Japanese woodwind instrument) and other ethnic Japanese instruments to give the whole score a strong Japanese vibe. You get that big, epic orchestral sound from Metal Gear Solid in the opening theme, “Stillness,” then rockin’ electric guitar paired with pumping electronic percussion in tracks like “Oboro Village” and “Yuki Onna.” The adrenalin surging “Kryoborg,” the explosive rock extravaganza “BioShark,” and the synthtacular “Lava Crawler” also stand out, and I think it’s awesome that the main theme is worked into several of these tracks for continuity. As bonuses, there’s also a concept version of “Stillness” and a “Shinobi Style” remix of the After Burner theme which is also featured in the game.

There’s some great music here. Moody, cinematic, rockin’, and even some great melodies. It’s certainly one of the best quality soundtracks out there on the Nintendo 3DS. You’ll be hearing more of Norihiko Hibino on the 3DS as he’s the recording director for the live talent on Etrian Odyssey IV, so look forward to that as well.



Silent Hill: Downpour Original Soundtrack
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Price: $14 USD
Availability: Amazon
Artist(s): Daniel Licht, Jonathan Licht

This is one that fans have been greatly looking forward to. Not because Daniel Licht’s score, but mostly to validate their opinion that without Akira Yamaoka, the Silent Hill franchise is doomed. This turns out not to be true at least in terms of the soundtrack as Daniel Licht does an amazing job creating an appropriately dark and textural backdrop for the game. His use of exotic instruments like mandolin and tribal percussion also went far to transporting me into the game through its music.

The opening track, “Silent Hill” by Jonathan Davis of Korn is in line with that band’s material, and while fans may hate it, it’s not meant to be a big part of the game. Series vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is apparently also featured, although I had trouble picking her out. Don’t expect the grungy rock stylings that Akira Yamaoka brought to the table. My two favorite tracks would be “Meet JP” with its beautiful yet mysterious harp runs and “Monastic Tendencies” with its throaty choral chanting and organ. You also might appreciate “Clowning Around With Monsters” in the context of the game with its evil clown laughs, overdriven guitar, and crunchified percussion.

Overall, a strong effort that has me looking forward to what Licht does with Book of Memories regardless of what I think of the game itself.

[embed]227355:43661[/embed]



Skullgirls Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 21, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes 
Artist(s): Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante, Blaine McGurty, Brenton Kossak

The much-anticipated soundtrack for Skullgirls was put on everyone’s radar when it was announced that Castlevania queen Michiru Yamane was signing on to work on the game. Little did we know that Flower’s Vincent Diamante and Retro Remix Revue’s Blain McGurty would also be on board to provide an amazingly snazzy jazz soundtrack.

Michiru Yamane handles the main theme and stage themes, with the main theme sounding like a choral singing spoof on Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover,” and her stage themes cover a lot of territory from the aforementioned jazz to some more electronic-oriented offerings. My favorites from her are probably the pumping electronic “Paved With Good Intentions” and the oh-so-smooth “The Lives We Left Behind.” Honestly, however, I think Diamante and the McGurty/Kossak duo outshine Yamane’s contributions. I love McGurty/Kossak’s sexy “Pick of the Litter” and the swanky “A Roll of the Dice,” and all of Diamante’s contributions are pure genius, showing a true mastery of the jazz genre. The laid-back and reflective “Forgotten Moments” is probably my favorite from him.

While I have to admit I’m a bit let down by Yamane’s contributions (people will be left wanting something more Castlevania-flavored), on a whole, this is a great jazzy soundtrack, and there aren’t nearly as many of those out there as I’d like to see.

[embed]227355:43662" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 002: Fez, Ridge Racer, Silent Hill, and more As promised, we're back with another installment of Note Worthy, Destructoid's newest feature that digs deep into the music from some of the latest games as well as older ones that deserve some attention. This month we take a...  
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8===D


Fez Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 20, 2012
Price: $7
Availability: 
Bandcamp
Artist(s): Disasterpeace

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Fez soundtrack, but man is it powerful. The opening track, “Adventure,” is somewhat unassuming with a simple arpeggio and upbeat melody, but the album quickly takes a turn for the more ambient and textural and truly becomes more about the entire listening experience that spans over an hour rather than the individual tracks contained within. Each track flows into the next, blurring the lines between where one ends and the next begins. What’s really fascinating, however, is that the single-word track titles are so incredibly descriptive of what’s contained within that it’s hard to decide whether the emphasis is on the individual or the whole.

Take the mysterious “Puzzle,” the ethereal and unsettling “Beyond,” or the dreamy “Flow.” The soundtrack becomes very loose and atmospheric, making a soothing backdrop for whatever else you may be doing while listening (for me, it was driving a long distance). There’s very little use of percussion to the point that when it does appear suddenly in “Sync,” it’s a bit jarring. I love the foreboding “Fear,” the healing and angelic “Spirit” and “Nature,” the somber “Death,” and the oppressive “Pressure” which features the constant presence of static. Both “Age” and “Reflection” are contemplative, coming towards the end of the album, and my two favorite tracks, “Majesty” with its triumphant melody and the heartfelt “Love” make great closers.

It’s interesting, but just listening to the album from start to finish, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something great. This is a true masterpiece from Disasterpeace, and I think everyone needs to give it a listen.

[embed]227355:43660[/embed]



HALO: REACH ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Price: $15.98
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works 
Artist(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Stan LePard

This is an older release, but I was never able to write about it as another writer at OSV handled the review. This was my favorite Halo soundtrack, so I was looking forward to digging in for myself. True to past soundtrack releases from the franchise, the music is presented in lengthy suites that contain several pieces and cues for a given stage, ranging from five to twelve minutes in length. This is great in letting the listener re-live the game through the soundtrack, but bad for those only looking for that one magical moment that they remember from the game.

While Reach brought a lot of new ideas to the table with rock instrumentation and even some Middle Eastern-inspired melodies (or not Middle Eastern, as Marty O’Donnell explains here), there is still enough emotional orchestra, tribal percussion, and even a touch of the familiar Halo theme worked in here and there if you listen for it. What surprises me is that I recall while playing the game certain bits of music that made me think, “Wow, I can’t wait to have this on CD,” only to find that it's just a 20-30 second snippet of music here. That just reinforces how powerful this soundtrack is in-game, and I had a blast listening to it on CD. In fact, I feel like I could play through the game once again, this time on legendary!

I’ll quickly say my favorite pieces are the riveting “Tip of the Spear,” the desperate “New Alexandria,” and the nostalgic “The Package.” There are also several bonus tracks found at the end, including a nice remix of “Uphill, Both Ways” from Halo 3: ODST.

If you’re going to check out a Halo soundtrack, this is the one in my opinion. I don’t know how O’Donnell was able to keep things so fresh after four previous installments, but he somehow did, and it’s a great sendoff for O’Donnell and Bungie.

[embed]227355:43674[/embed]



LIVE A LIVE Original Soundtrack
Release Date: May 2, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura

Square Enix (then Squaresoft) published many soundtracks through the 1990s and early 2000s that have since gone out of print and have disappeared into the void. LIVE A LIVE is one such album. While Square Enix has re-released some of these as cross-promotions for their franchises and composers, I can’t think of a specific reason we’re seeing this one now, although I’m not complaining in the slightest. 

LIVE A LIVE is one of Yoko Shimomura’s first soundtracks at Squaresoft. Beforehand, she worked at Capcom on titles like Breath of Fire and Street Fighter II, but LIVE A LIVE marked her first big project as the sole composer on a Squaresoft title. While most tracks fall under the two minute mark, leaving little time for serious song development, there are some great melodies here, and of course, that lovely SNES sound that will remind you of other Squaresoft titles from this era. 

From the bombastic opening notes of “LIVE-A-LIVE,” you know you’re in for something special. There’s the funky Asian-flavored “Secret of Mission” and “Sound of Shinobi,” the more subdued “The Bird Flies in the Sky, The Fish Swims in the River,” the rockin’ “KNOCK YOU DOWN!,” the upbeat and cheery “Nice Weather, Ain’t It!,” and the chippy “CAPTAIN SQUARE.” Shimomura even goes wild West with “Under the Fake” and “THE WILDS.” There’s the token emotional track, “CRY-A-LIVE” and some killer organ work in “The Demon King Odio” and “ARMAGEDDON.” The bubbly ending theme, “Live for Live” will melt your heart, and the two bonus remix tracks that were originally included with a strategy guide published in 1994 are also both presented here. “Batlissimo,” treads on 80s pop, flamenco, and 80s rock territory, while “Forgotten Wings” features piano and strings for a more emotional approach.

While I’m told this game is amazing (people say this about anything released in Japan only, though) and would like to see it released someday, the music composed by Yoko Shimomura can be understood universally. Those who are curious about the game or are fans of Shimomura may want to check it out.



Odin Sphere Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 18, 2012 [Reprint]
Price: 3,360 Yen ($46) / $19.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, Kimihiro Abe, Manabu Namiki

The year 2007 was an incredibly prolific year for Hitoshi Sakimoto, seeing the release of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Grim Grimoire, Deltora Quest, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Opoona, and Odin Sphere. It also marked the beginnings of Basiscape, Sakimoto’s sound studio featuring a talented team of composers. Odin Sphere in particular also marked the beginnings of Sakimoto's partnership with Vanillaware (his name was even used on the back of the game as a selling point).

This is actually a reprint of the 2-disc soundtrack from Basiscape Records. What you have is a transitional work between what Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata were already doing together on games like Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics and their more recent collaborative works with the entire Basiscape team on titles like Opoona and Muramasa.

The Odin Sphere soundtrack is a little rough around the edges. I don’t feel that there are very many complex ideas, and the melodies don’t particularly stick with you. In fact, they can get annoying after hearing them over and over again when getting stuck on a particular stage in the game. I do dig the pretty main theme with its female choral singing, and the two arrangements of this theme that come at the end of album are fantastic. Also of note are “Tutorial” which sports a catchy melody and a bouncy harpsichord, the upbeat ”Mysterious Town Pooka” with its jumpy pizzicato strings, "The Country of Death - Second" with its haunting choir and startling sound effects, and the playful “The Fairy Country – Second” by Manabu Namiki. It’s really impressive how some of the Basiscape members are so effectively able to mimic Sakimoto’s signature orchestral style.

This isn’t Basiscape’s best work, although I understand if some people enjoy it based on their attachment to the game itself. The price tag is a bit steep, although you get a nice package for the price (I love the cardboard slipcase with artwork by Vanillaware’s George Kamitani).

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RIDGE RACER - PLANETARY SOUNDS
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($33)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Hiroshi Okubo, Taku Inoue, Rio Hamamoto, Ryo Watanabe, Yuu Miyake, sanodg, AJURIKA, Kyoko Miyakura, SamplingMasters MEGA, SamplingMasters AYA

This is the soundtrack for Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita. As usual, a diverse team at Namco Bandai is joined by SuperSweep to provide a hard-hitting electronic soundtrack. We get a dreamy opening track followed by two of my favorites, the feel-good “Planet” and the incredibly catchy “Into the Lead” with its repeated lyric, “Slide through the curves / Drift into the lead.” The funky bass in “Future Driven” and the fat encompassing pads in “Virtuoso” also stand out. “Take You Away” has an fun melody, while “Super Acceleration” is the catchy electronic music I wanted to hear more of on this soundtrack.

And that’s the bottom line. I didn’t feel there were enough melodies here to draw me in as there has been in past Ridge Racer titles. This works in the game, or maybe driving fast in your car, but the melodies aren’t strong enough for outside listening. Those who purchase the disc directly from SuperSweep in Japan, however, get a 55-minute continuous mix version which I believe is the definitive way to listen to this soundtrack as each piece flows into the next in a well thought-out way that’d be great for a party. But that’s only if you can get your hands on the bonus disc.

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Shinobi 3D Original Soundtrack
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)
Availability: Amazon Japan
Artist(s): GEM Impact (Norihiko Hibino, Takaharu Izutani, Yoshitaka Suzuki), hiro

Soundtracks form the Shinobi franchise have always been favorites among fans, so despite the fact that Shinobi 3D was either ignored or not reviewed favorably by the gaming press, I thought it was worth checking out the soundtrack. Composed by GEM Impact, the composer team behind the scenes of many Metal Gear Solid soundtracks and Ninja Blade, the studio definitely has the experience to make this work.

What you have here is electronic-infused ninja rock of the highest quality. There is also extensive use of shakahauchi (a Japanese woodwind instrument) and other ethnic Japanese instruments to give the whole score a strong Japanese vibe. You get that big, epic orchestral sound from Metal Gear Solid in the opening theme, “Stillness,” then rockin’ electric guitar paired with pumping electronic percussion in tracks like “Oboro Village” and “Yuki Onna.” The adrenalin surging “Kryoborg,” the explosive rock extravaganza “BioShark,” and the synthtacular “Lava Crawler” also stand out, and I think it’s awesome that the main theme is worked into several of these tracks for continuity. As bonuses, there’s also a concept version of “Stillness” and a “Shinobi Style” remix of the After Burner theme which is also featured in the game.

There’s some great music here. Moody, cinematic, rockin’, and even some great melodies. It’s certainly one of the best quality soundtracks out there on the Nintendo 3DS. You’ll be hearing more of Norihiko Hibino on the 3DS as he’s the recording director for the live talent on Etrian Odyssey IV, so look forward to that as well.



Silent Hill: Downpour Original Soundtrack
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Price: $14 USD
Availability: Amazon
Artist(s): Daniel Licht, Jonathan Licht

This is one that fans have been greatly looking forward to. Not because Daniel Licht’s score, but mostly to validate their opinion that without Akira Yamaoka, the Silent Hill franchise is doomed. This turns out not to be true at least in terms of the soundtrack as Daniel Licht does an amazing job creating an appropriately dark and textural backdrop for the game. His use of exotic instruments like mandolin and tribal percussion also went far to transporting me into the game through its music.

The opening track, “Silent Hill” by Jonathan Davis of Korn is in line with that band’s material, and while fans may hate it, it’s not meant to be a big part of the game. Series vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is apparently also featured, although I had trouble picking her out. Don’t expect the grungy rock stylings that Akira Yamaoka brought to the table. My two favorite tracks would be “Meet JP” with its beautiful yet mysterious harp runs and “Monastic Tendencies” with its throaty choral chanting and organ. You also might appreciate “Clowning Around With Monsters” in the context of the game with its evil clown laughs, overdriven guitar, and crunchified percussion.

Overall, a strong effort that has me looking forward to what Licht does with Book of Memories regardless of what I think of the game itself.

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Skullgirls Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 21, 2012
Price: $9.99
Availability: iTunes 
Artist(s): Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante, Blaine McGurty, Brenton Kossak

The much-anticipated soundtrack for Skullgirls was put on everyone’s radar when it was announced that Castlevania queen Michiru Yamane was signing on to work on the game. Little did we know that Flower’s Vincent Diamante and Retro Remix Revue’s Blain McGurty would also be on board to provide an amazingly snazzy jazz soundtrack.

Michiru Yamane handles the main theme and stage themes, with the main theme sounding like a choral singing spoof on Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover,” and her stage themes cover a lot of territory from the aforementioned jazz to some more electronic-oriented offerings. My favorites from her are probably the pumping electronic “Paved With Good Intentions” and the oh-so-smooth “The Lives We Left Behind.” Honestly, however, I think Diamante and the McGurty/Kossak duo outshine Yamane’s contributions. I love McGurty/Kossak’s sexy “Pick of the Litter” and the swanky “A Roll of the Dice,” and all of Diamante’s contributions are pure genius, showing a true mastery of the jazz genre. The laid-back and reflective “Forgotten Moments” is probably my favorite from him.

While I have to admit I’m a bit let down by Yamane’s contributions (people will be left wanting something more Castlevania-flavored), on a whole, this is a great jazzy soundtrack, and there aren’t nearly as many of those out there as I’d like to see.

[embed]227355:43662" data-vidtitle="

Note Worthy 002: Fez, Ridge Racer, Silent Hill, and more As promised, we're back with another installment of Note Worthy, Destructoid's newest feature that digs deep into the music from some of the latest games as well as older ones that deserve some attention. This month we take a...  
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Note Worthy 002: Fez, Ridge Racer, Silent Hill, and more

As promised, we're back with another installment of Note Worthy, Destructoid's newest feature that digs deep into the music from some of the latest games as well as older ones that deserve some attention. This month we take a look at Fez, R...   read

 
 


Journey Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Price: $4.99
Availability:
iTunes / CD release TBA
Artist(s): Austin Wintory

After having an amazing experience playing through the game, I had to wait in anticipation all over again for the game’s soundtrack. We hosted a lovely feature with Austin Wintory about his work on Journey where he discussed the creation of several pieces as well as offered samples, but with the complete soundtrack in hand, I’m surprised there’s actually so much music here, totaling nearly an hour of music. And all of it sounds fantastic with live session artists and even a live orchestra.

All the key elements are here for you to re-experience Journey all over again, but this time aurally. There’s the blistering wind of “The Call,” the playful “Threshold,” the vibrant “Road of Trials” (one of my personal favorites), the foreboding “Temptations” with its lovely harp work and the ominous “Descent” with its rumbling percussion. There are some more atmospheric pieces in between before a powerful trio closes out the album with the desperate “Nadir” that accompanies a key moment in the game, the jubilant and dreamy “Apotheosis,” and the emotionally charged ending vocal theme, “I was Born for This.”

Even when you’re out on the go, you can experience the magic of Journey any time with this soundtrack. Even those who didn’t play the game should appreciate Austin Wintory’s majestic score, and it obviously comes just as highly recommended as the game itself.

[embed]225854:43397[/embed]



Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 18, 2012
Price: 3,800 Yen ($47 USD)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Takeharu Ishimoto

I’ve never been a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts titles or their soundtracks. I always found them to be overly upbeat to the point of being cheesy, but that all changed with Birth by Sleep, which took a much more mature approach in the music department. Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance follows suit coming as light-hearted but not cheesy,and changes things up a bit by adding a lot of electronic sounds to the heavily orchestral palette of the series.

Series composer Yoko Shimomura handles the majority of the score, starting with the popular series main theme, “Dearly Beloved,” which gets a sweet waltz arrangement. She provides an eclectic mix of tracks, but my favorites would be the angelic “The World of Dream Drops” with its bell tress, piano, and strings, the elegant yet desperate “La Chloche” with timpani and harpsichord, “All for One” with its classy melody, and “Distant From You...,” which comes as a beautiful and heartwrenching duet between strings and harp. “Deep Drop” also stands out with its dark electronic sound accented by organ.

Square Enix’s Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto also join the mix, with Sekito providing mostly epic orchestral cues with “Majestic Wings” and “Gigabyte Mantis” being my favorites. Ishimoto, on the other hand, provides several memorable moments with his electronic contributions that start with several remixes from The World Ends With You (the bumpin’ club version of “Calling” is my personal favorite) as well as several moody and textural electronic tracks, of which “Keyblade Cycle” stands out with its unsettling and glitchy soundscape. There are also several classical pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and others tucked away at the end of the album.

There’s some great music here, and the packaging for this three-disc collection is delightful with glossy cardboard and some classy silhouettes on the discs themselves. Fans will want to definitely check out what’s new with the Kingdom Hearts series, while others may want to wait and play the game before deciding to drop close to $50 USD on this one.



Manabu Namiki WORKS Vol.2 ~Thunder Dragon 2~
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Manabu Namiki

For those who don’t know, Manabu Namiki has become somewhat of a legend over the years for his soundtracks to many a shmup title from Cave, Zuntata, and more. He’s also a member of Basiscape. This album presents his soundtrack to the 1993 title, Thunder Dragon 2. While the album contains 17 tracks, several are ‘alternate versions’ of the same two themes that accompany you throughout all of the game’s seven stages.

While “Fly to Live,” “Live to Fly,” and their variations are your standard energetic shmup tracks with an electronic backing and a jazzy vibe, the highlights are the two new arrangements: the super funky “Still Live to Fly” by Shinji Hosoe and the touching piano ballad, “Fly to Live -Love Theme-“ by Namiki himself. I also dig the epic final battle theme, “Marginal Attack” and the ridiculous “Voice Collection,” showing off some of the worst voice acting of all time.

With so little music presented here when you remove the countless indistinguishable variations on the two stage themes, only hardcore fans of Manabu Namiki will probably find this worth the price.



Piano Collections NieR Gestalt & Replicant
Release Date: March 21, 2012
Price: 2,800 Yen ($34)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Keigo Hoashi, Kumi Tanioka, Ryuichi Takada, Yuri Misumi

This was easily my most anticipated release of 2012. The NieR soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time, but I wasn’t sure how this album would work without the haunting vocals of Emi Evans. I was impressed to find that the arrangements here retained their magic, but in a different way. The arrangements are pretty straightforward, with MoNACA (the game’s original composition team) handling most of the arrangements and performances and guest Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) performing three, which was a nice treat.

In the end, the question as to whether or not these arrangements are ‘better’ than the original ones is kind of a pointless one. I don’t think they are better or worse, but rather, different. I’ll usually default to the original versions with Emi Evans, but I can’t discount the soothing and simply elegant arrangements here either. I definitely think it’s worth checking out on its own merits as well as to send a message to Square Enix that we want more NieR.



The Music of Retro City Rampage
Release Date: February 2, 2012
Price: $7.99 CAD (Digital) / $43 CAD (Vinyl)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Freaky DNA, Norrin Radd, virt

[Update: You can pick up the vinyl for $39 CAD directly from Lotus Audio if you're interested]

Retro City Rampage is attempting to be the ultimate expression of fanservice to those like me who consider the NES to be their first videogame love. The quirky humor and endless videogame references carry over into the soundtrack, and the team has once again done things right by releasing the soundtrack composed by three accomplished chiptune artists well before the release of the game to generate hype along with a limited editon vinyl release that is simply beautiful (and yes, the blue version I drooled over is almost sold out, and the green is completely gone).

The soundtrack itself is a lot of fun, although somewhat short at just about 40 minutes in length. Fan-favorite virt gives us a gritty and irreverent opening theme as well as a few parody tracks that made me chuckle, including “Not Mega…” that sounds almost exactly like… well, that famous blue guy. He actually contributes the fewest number of tracks, followed by Freaky DNA who brings the funk with “Half Steppin’” and “Bit Happy,” two of my favorite tracks on album. Norrin Rad handles the largest number of tracks, lending a poppy sound with the catchy “Dance Off,” the spacey “Proton Decay,” and the giddy “Smut Peddler.”

I can’t say that many of the melodies here stuck with me afterwards, but I imagine that will change after playing the game. I love what the team has done with the soundtrack and especially the fact that they’ve released It before the game’s release. Be sure to check it out.

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SONIC ADVENTURE Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary Edition
Release Date: May 18, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Masaru Setsumaru, Fumie Kumatani

This is an odd release that came out last year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s odd in that it’s a single disc ‘best of’ collection, whereas the originally issued soundtrack contained two discs. Why they didn’t re-issue the full two-disc soundtrack, I don’t know, but it goes for hundreds of dollars on the used market these days, so with this release, you may as well take what you can get.

And you’ll want to take it. Crush40 and Jun Senoue have been, in my opinion, destroying Sonic’s musical legacy for so long with all their cheesy vocal tracks that I’d forgotten just how good this soundtrack was. Senoue and Crush40 are here, but this is their first outing together, so they come off as more subdued. The few tracks that Crush40 is featured on are actually tasteful and catchy. As for the rest of the soundtrack, it’s some of the best that the Sonic series has to offer with incredibly melodies covering pop, rock, and electronic styles. I could list nearly every track on this collection as a favorite, so I’ll refrain and simply say “Windy Hill” from Windy City and “Egg Carrier - A Song That Keeps Us On The Move” are my jam.

Fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog music that missed out on the two-disc version will want to pick this up for sure.



SONIC THE HEDGEHOG CD Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary Edition
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia / iTunes
Artist(s): Masafumi Ogata, Naofumi Hataya

Few soundtracks are as controversial as the Sonic CD soundtrack. The original soundtrack was composed by Sega composers in Japan and was featured intact in the Japanese and European releases of the game. Fans in North America were probably unaware, however, that Sega of America completely re-scored the game for the North America release. The original score was much more electronic in style, resembling past Sonic soundtracks, while the North American version got a more atmospheric slant. Why this was done, nobody knows, but it happened, and there wasn’t a proper release for the original Japanese/European soundtrack until now.

What you have are the core stage themes with additional “good future,” “bad future,” and “boss” mixes. I have to say that while I like both versions of the soundtrack, I prefer the ones presented here with a fun, tropical “Palmtree Panic,” the sexy smooth jazz flavored “Tidal Tempest,” the upbeat fusion “Quartz Quandrant,” and the chugging electronic “Wacky Workbench” areas. The early 1990s-flavored hip-hop version of “Stardust Speedway” also made me chuckle. While this version resonates with me more, I do have to admit I like Nielsen’s “Sonic Boom” vocal theme better than the horrible hip-hop “You Can Do Anything” found here, and the inspirational rap ending theme, “Believe in Yourself” is just embarrassing. There are some bonus remixes found here as well, including renditions of “Sonic Boom” and “Stardust Speedway” featuring Jun Senoue, Crush40 and Cash Cash (an electronic group featured heavily on Sonic Generations). Fans of Naofumi Hataya (who also scored NiGHTS) should appreciate the track-by-track artist breakdown.

Of all the 20th anniversary soundtrack releases, this one is most worth your attention as it’s not a simple re-issue, but a first-time release with bonuses. It’s worth checking out to get an alternate take on the game’s soundtrack for fans in North America who didn’t know any better.



Valkyria Chronicles 3 Sound and Song Collection
Release Date: May 11, 2011
Price: 3,500 Yen ($42)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shiro Sagisu, Hikaru Nanase, Masato Nakayama, Katsuhiko Kurosu

This is another one by Hitoshi Sakimoto. I love his Western-flavored Valkyria Chronicles soundtracks, and the soundtrack for Valkyria Chronicles 3 was particularly mature and moody after the more upbeat Valkyria Chronicles 2. I’m looking at this one so late after its release because it was initially released by Basiscape Records in February 2011. I was wondering what this re-issue was all about, and apparently it’s the same great soundtrack with the wonderful guitar arrangements featured on the Basiscape release swapped out for four licensed vocal themes used in the game and in the anime adaptation. These are rather standard Japanese pop and rock tracks, although JAM Project’s “Song of the Soldiers Chasing the Wind” from the game actually fits in with the score as a triumphant march with male choral-style singing, much to my surprise.

I’d honestly recommend picking up the Basiscape Records version with its guitar arrangements over this one. They are incredibly well done, and with the exception of the aforementioned JAM Project track, the vocal themes here don’t have a whole lot of connection to the series. You can pick up the Basiscape Records version at CD Japan as well.

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Note Worthy 001: Kingdom Hearts 3D, Journey, and more Welcome to Note Worthy, a new feature we’re rolling out on Destructoid! If you’ve read anything I’ve contributed over the past year at Destructoid, you’ve probably noticed that it all pertains to game ...  
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Journey Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Price: $4.99
Availability:
iTunes / CD release TBA
Artist(s): Austin Wintory

After having an amazing experience playing through the game, I had to wait in anticipation all over again for the game’s soundtrack. We hosted a lovely feature with Austin Wintory about his work on Journey where he discussed the creation of several pieces as well as offered samples, but with the complete soundtrack in hand, I’m surprised there’s actually so much music here, totaling nearly an hour of music. And all of it sounds fantastic with live session artists and even a live orchestra.

All the key elements are here for you to re-experience Journey all over again, but this time aurally. There’s the blistering wind of “The Call,” the playful “Threshold,” the vibrant “Road of Trials” (one of my personal favorites), the foreboding “Temptations” with its lovely harp work and the ominous “Descent” with its rumbling percussion. There are some more atmospheric pieces in between before a powerful trio closes out the album with the desperate “Nadir” that accompanies a key moment in the game, the jubilant and dreamy “Apotheosis,” and the emotionally charged ending vocal theme, “I was Born for This.”

Even when you’re out on the go, you can experience the magic of Journey any time with this soundtrack. Even those who didn’t play the game should appreciate Austin Wintory’s majestic score, and it obviously comes just as highly recommended as the game itself.

[embed]225854:43397[/embed]



Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance Original Soundtrack
Release Date: April 18, 2012
Price: 3,800 Yen ($47 USD)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Yoko Shimomura, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Takeharu Ishimoto

I’ve never been a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts titles or their soundtracks. I always found them to be overly upbeat to the point of being cheesy, but that all changed with Birth by Sleep, which took a much more mature approach in the music department. Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance follows suit coming as light-hearted but not cheesy,and changes things up a bit by adding a lot of electronic sounds to the heavily orchestral palette of the series.

Series composer Yoko Shimomura handles the majority of the score, starting with the popular series main theme, “Dearly Beloved,” which gets a sweet waltz arrangement. She provides an eclectic mix of tracks, but my favorites would be the angelic “The World of Dream Drops” with its bell tress, piano, and strings, the elegant yet desperate “La Chloche” with timpani and harpsichord, “All for One” with its classy melody, and “Distant From You...,” which comes as a beautiful and heartwrenching duet between strings and harp. “Deep Drop” also stands out with its dark electronic sound accented by organ.

Square Enix’s Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto also join the mix, with Sekito providing mostly epic orchestral cues with “Majestic Wings” and “Gigabyte Mantis” being my favorites. Ishimoto, on the other hand, provides several memorable moments with his electronic contributions that start with several remixes from The World Ends With You (the bumpin’ club version of “Calling” is my personal favorite) as well as several moody and textural electronic tracks, of which “Keyblade Cycle” stands out with its unsettling and glitchy soundscape. There are also several classical pieces by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and others tucked away at the end of the album.

There’s some great music here, and the packaging for this three-disc collection is delightful with glossy cardboard and some classy silhouettes on the discs themselves. Fans will want to definitely check out what’s new with the Kingdom Hearts series, while others may want to wait and play the game before deciding to drop close to $50 USD on this one.



Manabu Namiki WORKS Vol.2 ~Thunder Dragon 2~
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Manabu Namiki

For those who don’t know, Manabu Namiki has become somewhat of a legend over the years for his soundtracks to many a shmup title from Cave, Zuntata, and more. He’s also a member of Basiscape. This album presents his soundtrack to the 1993 title, Thunder Dragon 2. While the album contains 17 tracks, several are ‘alternate versions’ of the same two themes that accompany you throughout all of the game’s seven stages.

While “Fly to Live,” “Live to Fly,” and their variations are your standard energetic shmup tracks with an electronic backing and a jazzy vibe, the highlights are the two new arrangements: the super funky “Still Live to Fly” by Shinji Hosoe and the touching piano ballad, “Fly to Live -Love Theme-“ by Namiki himself. I also dig the epic final battle theme, “Marginal Attack” and the ridiculous “Voice Collection,” showing off some of the worst voice acting of all time.

With so little music presented here when you remove the countless indistinguishable variations on the two stage themes, only hardcore fans of Manabu Namiki will probably find this worth the price.



Piano Collections NieR Gestalt & Replicant
Release Date: March 21, 2012
Price: 2,800 Yen ($34)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Keigo Hoashi, Kumi Tanioka, Ryuichi Takada, Yuri Misumi

This was easily my most anticipated release of 2012. The NieR soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time, but I wasn’t sure how this album would work without the haunting vocals of Emi Evans. I was impressed to find that the arrangements here retained their magic, but in a different way. The arrangements are pretty straightforward, with MoNACA (the game’s original composition team) handling most of the arrangements and performances and guest Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) performing three, which was a nice treat.

In the end, the question as to whether or not these arrangements are ‘better’ than the original ones is kind of a pointless one. I don’t think they are better or worse, but rather, different. I’ll usually default to the original versions with Emi Evans, but I can’t discount the soothing and simply elegant arrangements here either. I definitely think it’s worth checking out on its own merits as well as to send a message to Square Enix that we want more NieR.



The Music of Retro City Rampage
Release Date: February 2, 2012
Price: $7.99 CAD (Digital) / $43 CAD (Vinyl)
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Freaky DNA, Norrin Radd, virt

[Update: You can pick up the vinyl for $39 CAD directly from Lotus Audio if you're interested]

Retro City Rampage is attempting to be the ultimate expression of fanservice to those like me who consider the NES to be their first videogame love. The quirky humor and endless videogame references carry over into the soundtrack, and the team has once again done things right by releasing the soundtrack composed by three accomplished chiptune artists well before the release of the game to generate hype along with a limited editon vinyl release that is simply beautiful (and yes, the blue version I drooled over is almost sold out, and the green is completely gone).

The soundtrack itself is a lot of fun, although somewhat short at just about 40 minutes in length. Fan-favorite virt gives us a gritty and irreverent opening theme as well as a few parody tracks that made me chuckle, including “Not Mega…” that sounds almost exactly like… well, that famous blue guy. He actually contributes the fewest number of tracks, followed by Freaky DNA who brings the funk with “Half Steppin’” and “Bit Happy,” two of my favorite tracks on album. Norrin Rad handles the largest number of tracks, lending a poppy sound with the catchy “Dance Off,” the spacey “Proton Decay,” and the giddy “Smut Peddler.”

I can’t say that many of the melodies here stuck with me afterwards, but I imagine that will change after playing the game. I love what the team has done with the soundtrack and especially the fact that they’ve released It before the game’s release. Be sure to check it out.

[embed]225854:43399[/embed]



SONIC ADVENTURE Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary Edition
Release Date: May 18, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / iTunes
Artist(s): Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Masaru Setsumaru, Fumie Kumatani

This is an odd release that came out last year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s odd in that it’s a single disc ‘best of’ collection, whereas the originally issued soundtrack contained two discs. Why they didn’t re-issue the full two-disc soundtrack, I don’t know, but it goes for hundreds of dollars on the used market these days, so with this release, you may as well take what you can get.

And you’ll want to take it. Crush40 and Jun Senoue have been, in my opinion, destroying Sonic’s musical legacy for so long with all their cheesy vocal tracks that I’d forgotten just how good this soundtrack was. Senoue and Crush40 are here, but this is their first outing together, so they come off as more subdued. The few tracks that Crush40 is featured on are actually tasteful and catchy. As for the rest of the soundtrack, it’s some of the best that the Sonic series has to offer with incredibly melodies covering pop, rock, and electronic styles. I could list nearly every track on this collection as a favorite, so I’ll refrain and simply say “Windy Hill” from Windy City and “Egg Carrier - A Song That Keeps Us On The Move” are my jam.

Fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog music that missed out on the two-disc version will want to pick this up for sure.



SONIC THE HEDGEHOG CD Original Soundtrack 20th Anniversary Edition
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Price: 2,400 Yen ($29) (physical) / $9.99 (digital)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia / iTunes
Artist(s): Masafumi Ogata, Naofumi Hataya

Few soundtracks are as controversial as the Sonic CD soundtrack. The original soundtrack was composed by Sega composers in Japan and was featured intact in the Japanese and European releases of the game. Fans in North America were probably unaware, however, that Sega of America completely re-scored the game for the North America release. The original score was much more electronic in style, resembling past Sonic soundtracks, while the North American version got a more atmospheric slant. Why this was done, nobody knows, but it happened, and there wasn’t a proper release for the original Japanese/European soundtrack until now.

What you have are the core stage themes with additional “good future,” “bad future,” and “boss” mixes. I have to say that while I like both versions of the soundtrack, I prefer the ones presented here with a fun, tropical “Palmtree Panic,” the sexy smooth jazz flavored “Tidal Tempest,” the upbeat fusion “Quartz Quandrant,” and the chugging electronic “Wacky Workbench” areas. The early 1990s-flavored hip-hop version of “Stardust Speedway” also made me chuckle. While this version resonates with me more, I do have to admit I like Nielsen’s “Sonic Boom” vocal theme better than the horrible hip-hop “You Can Do Anything” found here, and the inspirational rap ending theme, “Believe in Yourself” is just embarrassing. There are some bonus remixes found here as well, including renditions of “Sonic Boom” and “Stardust Speedway” featuring Jun Senoue, Crush40 and Cash Cash (an electronic group featured heavily on Sonic Generations). Fans of Naofumi Hataya (who also scored NiGHTS) should appreciate the track-by-track artist breakdown.

Of all the 20th anniversary soundtrack releases, this one is most worth your attention as it’s not a simple re-issue, but a first-time release with bonuses. It’s worth checking out to get an alternate take on the game’s soundtrack for fans in North America who didn’t know any better.



Valkyria Chronicles 3 Sound and Song Collection
Release Date: May 11, 2011
Price: 3,500 Yen ($42)
Availability: CD Japan / Play-Asia
Artist(s): Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shiro Sagisu, Hikaru Nanase, Masato Nakayama, Katsuhiko Kurosu

This is another one by Hitoshi Sakimoto. I love his Western-flavored Valkyria Chronicles soundtracks, and the soundtrack for Valkyria Chronicles 3 was particularly mature and moody after the more upbeat Valkyria Chronicles 2. I’m looking at this one so late after its release because it was initially released by Basiscape Records in February 2011. I was wondering what this re-issue was all about, and apparently it’s the same great soundtrack with the wonderful guitar arrangements featured on the Basiscape release swapped out for four licensed vocal themes used in the game and in the anime adaptation. These are rather standard Japanese pop and rock tracks, although JAM Project’s “Song of the Soldiers Chasing the Wind” from the game actually fits in with the score as a triumphant march with male choral-style singing, much to my surprise.

I’d honestly recommend picking up the Basiscape Records version with its guitar arrangements over this one. They are incredibly well done, and with the exception of the aforementioned JAM Project track, the vocal themes here don’t have a whole lot of connection to the series. You can pick up the Basiscape Records version at CD Japan as well.

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Note Worthy 001: Kingdom Hearts 3D, Journey, and more Welcome to Note Worthy, a new feature we’re rolling out on Destructoid! If you’ve read anything I’ve contributed over the past year at Destructoid, you’ve probably noticed that it all pertains to game ...  
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Note Worthy 001: Kingdom Hearts 3D, Journey, and more

Welcome to Note Worthy, a new feature we’re rolling out on Destructoid! If you’ve read anything I’ve contributed over the past year at Destructoid, you’ve probably noticed that it all pertains to game music. I live f...   read

 
 
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