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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
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 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...   read
[Gallery] Swipe or use arrow keys
 
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
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 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...   read
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Latest Game Soundtracks
  Watch Video 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 tru...   read
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Final Fantasy Music
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-wort...   read
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[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

[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 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...   read
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8===D
  Watch Video 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 albu...   read
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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">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 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...   read
[Gallery] Swipe or use arrow keys
 
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...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-004-anarchy-reigns-and-unchained-blades-231008.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">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...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-004-anarchy-reigns-and-unchained-blades-231008.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video 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...   read
[Gallery] Swipe or use arrow keys
 


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">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 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...   read
[Gallery] Swipe or use arrow keys
 


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.

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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...  
Full story

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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.

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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.

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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...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-002-fez-ridge-racer-silent-hill-and-more-227355.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">  Watch Video 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...   read
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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.

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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.

[embed]225854:43423" data-vidtitle="

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 ...  
Full story

" data-purl="note-worthy-001-kingdom-hearts-3d-journey-and-more-225854.phtml" data-vidsummary="" data-remodal-target="watch">8===D


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.

[embed]225854:43423" data-vidtitle="

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 ...  
Full story

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