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

Soundtracks you should be listening to!

We’re back with another round of Note Worthy! Featured are a number of releases that we’ve talked about in the past, including the Bar Oasis Official Bootleg, Code of Princess, Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and Rockman EXE Transmission, along with heavy-hitters like Call of Duty: Black Ops II and ZUNTATA’s 25th anniversary album.

As always, we’ve done our best to bring you samples from our Destructoid SoundCloud as well as from the albums’ official websites and even YouTube when possible. Dig in and let us know which albums are your favorite this month.

Bar Oasis Official Bootleg
Release Date: September 2012
Price: Free
Availability: Bar Oasis Facebook Fan Page (promotion over)
Artist(s): Nauts

We covered Bar Oasis 2 in Note Worthy 005. It offered some great pop, jazz, and electronic music from Korean composer Nauts for the bartending/relationship simulation title Bar Oasis. We loved the music and recently caught wind of the Bar Oasis Official Bootleg being offered to fans who interact on the Bar Oasis fan page on Facebook.

The album contains ten tracks, with seven alternate mixes coming from Bar Oasis 1 and 2, and three new remixes for this release. The seven remasters take the best of the first two soundtracks and add some reverb, making them much more wide and open. There’s also a “bar version” of the lovely vocal theme from Bar Oasis 2 that sounds like it was recorded live in a bar.

The three new remixes start with “Brazilian (Alt Ver. Feat.SPIKE),” featuring some great acoustic guitar work as opposed to the original’s more electronic sound. The melancholy “Fill in This Black” from the original Bar Oasis gets a more upbeat take in “Fill in This Black (Delinquent REMIX Feat.EQP),” giving it some snappy percussion and a nice swing. Finally, “To the Oasis” is a beautiful solo piano recording combining the vocal theme, “OASIS,” with the main title theme.

This is more great stuff from Korean composer Nauts, although the promotion to obtain the release has ended. We’ll keep an ear out for where to find it again, but in the meantime, enjoy a streaming sample of “To the Oasis” that we’ve been able to host.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II Soundtrack
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Price: $11.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Jack Wall, various others

I’ve never played a Call of Duty game, but I am glad I got to see my brother-in-law play some Black Ops II over the Thanksgiving break. Even without seeing the gameplay, Jack Wall’s cool electronic, orchestral, and ethnic world music fusion would have been amazing, but in the context of all the cool futuristic gear and varied locales of the game, the soundtrack is even better.

The digital album features 49 tracks that come close to the 150-minute mark. There’s a lot of music to enjoy, including everything from tense combat and cool espionage cues to more ambient exploration themes. It’s all great, and what I love most is that you’ll be listening to something out of the African desert at one moment then from the deep jungle during the next. It makes for a varied and entertaining listening experience even without playing the game.

I love the moody main theme, “Theme from Call of Duty Black Ops II,” which is actually composed by Trent Reznor. Before you balk, there are no cheesy vocals, which was a wise decision — it’s perfect. “DeFalco’s Theme” is easily my favorite with its flanged synths and guitar, creating a dark and ominous atmosphere, and the desert-themed “Farid” gets some serious badassness going with its hip percussion paired with ethnic guitar playing. You even get some Mozart in here which will hopefully introduce the kiddies out there to REAL music.

In all, this has to be my favorite Jack Wall score to date. It’s fantastic, and you need to check it out whether you play the game or not.

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Pre-order bonus
Artist(s): ACE

Code of Princess had me really excited at E3 2012, making my list for top soundtracks from the event. With music composed b ACE, a two-member group that worked extensively on the Xenoblade soundtrack, I had some high expectations.

This eight-track sampler comes with pre-order versions of the game along with accompanying artwork. After a bombastic and triumphant main theme, the album visits a number of character themes including the upbeat and vibrant “Holy Princess (Solange’s Theme)” and the stereotypical desert-tinged “There’s Nothing I Can’t Steal (Ali’s Theme),” which is actually quite good and sounds like something out of Wild Arms. The beautiful yet unsettling “Queen Distiny (Distiny’s Theme),” which makes use of bell tones and choir, and the sleek Asian-flavored “Shooting Star Tsukikage (Tsukikage’s Theme)” round out the character theme selections.

From there, we get the playful and catchy “Band of Thieves” with a fun trumpet melody, the soothing “Calm Day,” and the rockin’ battle theme, “Turn It Up!”

The selections here are great, although hardcore fans will want to seek out the full two-disc soundtrack release from Japan. It’s unfortunately sold out and out of print as far as I can tell, so this sampler may be the best option if you can still find one given the pre-order period is over.

COZMO ~ZUNTATA 25th Anniversary~ [Limited Edition]
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Price: 5,040 Yen ($61)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): ZUNTATA

ZUNTATA may not be a household name, but it really should be. Alongside the important internal sound teams of the day, including Falcom’s JDK Band and Konami’s Kukeiha Club, Taito’s ZUNTATA group got its start over 25 years ago, responsible for titles in the Ray, Darius, BUST-A-MOVE, and Space Invaders franchises, among many others.

This album celebrates 25 years of history with a special collection of music (two discs for the regular edition, four for the limited edition). The first disc features 12 original tracks composed by ZUNTATA members past and present with the theme “Cosmos” in mind. This is, of course, right up the alley of many of these composers, as Taito has been heavy on the shmup genre. I love the silly spoken intro and smooth electronic elements in “Candy Bomb” by Ray series composer TAMAYO, as well as the abstract “World collapse” by Darius Burst‘s Shohei Tsuchiya.

The second disc acts as a “best of” collection, which is great for the uninitiated as it introduces the listener to the diverse offerings ZUNTATA has made over the years. There are too many cool tracks to mention individually, but I do have a soft spot for the track from Raystorm, “Intolerance,” as it is really one of the coolest boss themes ever.

The third disc, exclusive to the limited edition, contains rare, remixed, and unreleased tracks. There are tons of great material from Dariusburst, some cool Japanese-flavored material from The Legend of Kage, some rock from Pierrot World, and a lost ten-minute remix from the Raystorm Nue Tanz Mix album, which is really a cool treat given my love for that game in particular. The fourth disc features live talk with ZUNTATA composers in Japanese from a recent USTREAM event.

And there you have it. The bonus discs are worth the small bump in price, and long-time ZUNTATA fans will certainly want to jump on this along with those who want to learn more about ZUNTATA’s history. The packaging is quite nice with tons of commentary from the composers (again, in Japanese).

Release Date: December 5, 2012
Price: 2,857 Yen ($34)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Various Artists

We posted about this two-disc collection of Final Fantasy arrangements some time ago, and now it’s finally here. This album falls into the middling SQ remix album series; in fact, four of the tracks here are actually from previous SQ album, which is somewhat of a bummer.

The album sports tons of medleys covering everything from the original Final Fantasy through XIII. For the most part I remained unimpressed, especially with the grating bagpipes in one track, the minimalist whistle arrangement of “Battle on the Big Bridge,” and the lisp-y version of “Melodies of Life” that would have otherwise been a beautiful track. While these are annoying, others are simply unremarkable, including an arrangement of my favorite track from Final Fantasy VII, “Lifestream” (although the artist gets major kudos for picking this track).

As for what they’ve done right, there are some great Celtic arrangements to be heard, including a lovely version of the town theme from Final Fantasy III along with a rockin’ take on “Crystal Tower” and a dubstep “Forbidden Land.” The dance-infused versions of “A Fleeting Dream” and “At Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X are also nice, as are a grungy medley of battle themes from across the series and a trippy “Man with the Machine Gun” that transitions into a cool space funk version of the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII.

My favorites are a dreamy medley of town themes from Final Fantasy I-III, a laid-back and moody rock medley from Final Fantasy VI, and a swingin’ piano and guitar track from the original Final Fantasy, all which are amazing.

The album sports some great artwork, including sprite versions of more modern Final Fantasy characters, and first press editions come with a nice plastic sleeve. CD Japan is also offering fans the option to purchase the disc along with the customer bonus disc found exclusively at Village/Vanguard stores in Japan, although it will set you back $60 total.

Overall, this is a somewhat hit-or-miss collection of tracks, not unlike past SQ albums.

[Sound Samples]

Initium Squared
Release Date: September 17, 2012
Price: $5
Availability: Bandcamp
Artist(s): Alexander Brandon

This is an interesting release. I’ve been a big fan of Alexander Brandon since his days in the demoscene, where he was known as Siren, quickly becoming one of the most popular artists at a very young age. Since then, he’s found his way into games, having works on titles including Unreal and Deus Ex, as well as delving into sound design and voice recording.

Initium Squared is actually an interactive audio demo from his sound studio, Funky Rustic. As you explore the pretty-looking fantasy world, you hear Brandon’s music, sound design, and vocal work on display. The soundtrack is being sold separately on Bandcamp, and it encompasses a lot of different styles, as you’d expect from a demo.

You have bumpin’ electronic with a tinge of dubstep in “Kusanagi’s Parkour,” which keeps the wub wub at a minimum and is actually quite tasteful, while cinematic orchestral is explored in “Dragon Chase,” gritty rock in “Filled with Fire,” ambient electronic/fantasy fusion in “Palatial Caverns,” and cool and contemplative in “Resolution Part 1.” My two favorites, however, are the acoustic guitar-laden “Is Nothing Sacred” with its desperate melody and the scintillating “Citadel Undulation” which features a blaring synth melody.

All of this is great, although short at 15 minutes in total. But if you’re a fan of Alexander Brandon and want a taste of just a few of the styles he’s capable of, check it out. Check out the interactive demo as well — it looks beautiful.

Jet Set Radio Original Soundtrack
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Price: $15.64
Availability: Sumthing Else Music Works
Artist(s): Hideki Naganuma, Richard Jacques, Toronto

Jet Set Radio is a much-beloved game that maybe hasn’t aged so well. Still, the funky hip hop beats and chopped-up vocal snippets still make for a unique and fun listening experience.

This album combines tracks form the original Jet Set Radio as well as Jet Set Radio Future to celebrate the recent digital release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The bad part is that neither soundtrack is presented in its entirety, making this more of a “best of” compilation of sorts.

It all begins with the irreverent and playful “Let Mom Sleep,” working in a series of sound effects and a British woman saying, “Would you stop playing with that radio of yours? I’m trying to get to sleep.” It’s quirky but strangely memorable. The super smooth “Sweet Soul Brother” is one of my favorites, while the bouncy “Rock It On” introduces CURSE WORDS. The ominous electro-choral track, “Grace and Glory” stands out for its weirdness, as do the digitized vocals in “Teknopathetic.” The disco “Sneakman” is another favorite, and British composer Richard Jacques even gets in on the action with “Everybody Jump Around,” that fits right in with Hideki Naganuma’s work.

In all, this is a great album for the uninitiated and for those who are having trouble tracking down the individual Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future albums released in the early 2000s.

Re:Birth II / Romancing SaGa Battle Arrange
Release Date: August 29, 2012
Price: 3,000 Yen ($36)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Kenji Ito

How many times can I listen to this album before writing about it? This is what I thought to myself on the fifth listen-through. As the title suggests, this album takes battle themes from the Romancing SaGa franchise and gives them the live rock treatment.

The problem is that most of these games were never released in the United States, so I never had the chance to take them in one by one. As a collection, they come off as a bunch of cool rock arrangements of tracks that were already cool and rock in style to begin with. With this live performance upgrade, you’ll probably like the album if you liked the original source material.

There are good moments found across the album, including the playful “Magical Tank Battle,” the dirty jazz “Occult Castle Battle,” and the epic “Four Demon Nobles Battle Medley” from Romancing SaGa 3, as well as the desperate “Believing My Justice” and “Decisive Battle! Saruin” from Minstrel Song. The contemplative closer, “Seven Heroes Battle,” is also a nice touch. But the problem remains that among the great guitar solos and great technical rock, I haven’t really walked away with anything from this album in terms of a memorable melody, even after repeat listens.

Still, Romancing SaGa fans will definitely want this. Just because I never latched on to the Romancing SaGa series doesn’t mean there aren’t fans out there who haven’t. This album is for them.

[Sound Samples]

Release Date: November 2, 2012
Price: 2,625 Yen ($32)
Availability: CD Japan
Artist(s): Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, Yousuke Yasui

[Update: CD Japan has since started stocking this item as a regular item, and no longer requires the 2,000 Yen special order fee. Thanks for pointing this out, Don!] 

This is really awesome. Rockman EXE Transmission (Network Transmission outside of Japan) never received a proper soundtrack release, which was a huge shame given the amazing talent behind its soundtrack. Fortunately, SuperSweep has come to the rescue with this album at long last, and it will blow your mind.

SuperSweep is the master at electronic music, and they don’t disappoint here. But don’t believe for a moment that the rock-oriented stuff you’ve come to love from Mega Man isn’t here either. There’s a nice blend of rock, electronic, and pop to enjoy, all of which are wonderfully composed. I would say that there are times that it feels like you’re listening the a shmup soundtrack (SuperSweep is famous for this style), but it’s so good that you probably won’t mind.

To zip through a few of my favorites, the juicy synth pop “Peaceful Event,” the super upbeat and futuristic “Densan Area,” and the playful space adventure “Waterworks Cyberspace” should all catch your attention.

The real highlights, however, are the rockin’ “Internet on Fire” with amazing guitar shredding and an instantly catchy melody, the heavy and foreboding “Zero Account” with its pressurizing bassline, and my absolute favorite, “Zero Gravity Area.” The latter brings a funky edge to Mega Man that I never knew he needed, working in dreamy synth lines, snappy percussion, killer sweeps, and a melody that’s been stuck in my head for over a week.

Unfortunately, the album’s only available through SuperSweep’s store, but CD Japan is doing a special order because they know this will be a popular item. The cost of that service, however, is 2,000 Yen on top of the item price, so it’s quite hefty but worth it for true fans.

[Hear “Zero Gravity Zone” in Sound Card 011]

Release Date: October 30, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited Edition bonus
Artist(s): Various Artists

So this is complicated. To celebrate the Zone of the Enders HD Collection release, Konami put together a remix album containing 13 songs, which was sold separately. Then they packed in a disc with the LE version of the game containing exclusive arrangements not found on the remix album. The North American version, however, received a different pack-in containing eight of the 13 remixes from the standalone album.

Confused yet?

I’ve been playing through some Zone of the Enders now that the HD Collection is out. I can’t say the music is overly memorable, but it certainly is great for setting up the futuristic world of the game. Therefore, the remixes here are fairly mood-setting more than anything else. This is stuff for the dance floor with a few exceptions. Fans will appreciate the Gradius boss theme cameo in “Leo! Leo! (Smooth Remix),” the great melodic moments in “Compression Space (Evocation Mix),” and the tumultuous “Chaotic Fight (Firework DJs Remix).”

My favorite, however, is the trance remix of the vocal theme, “Beyond the Bounds (Eshericks Remix).” There’s a nice blend of strings and electronic elements along with exotic female vocals and warm English vocals. Maybe some will think it’s cheesy, but I think it’s the highlight of the disc.

So check out the HD Collection, and if you want an awesome package, pick up the LE and get this soundtrack disc along with other goodies. The box itself is quite impressive as well.

Jayson Napolitano