Music of the Week #10

Tracks: “Unfinished Battle”, “Colony 9”, and “Gaur Plains”

From: Xenoblade Original Soundtrack

Composed by:  Yoko Shimomura (Unfinished Battle & Colony 9), ACE+ (Gaur Plains)

I’ve never actually played Xenoblade, though I’ve heard it’s good.  Don’t have a Wii, in addition to my lack of time for games these days.  But the music is just fantastic.  Picked it up after looking up a few tracks out of curiosity; definitely a good decision.

“Unfinished Battle” is a very cool battle theme, one of the better ones I’ve heard in any RPG.  It has a very tense feel, like the tide of the conflict could (and probably will) turn sharply at any moment.  There’s also a sense of this being an important battle; not just any old fight against some stray monsters, but something important to the story.  It also has a very strong “extra fantasy” vibe.  This wouldn’t fit in with a story that was purely medieval fantasy; there’s a definite genre-crossing flavor, at least to me. I can also see the fight itself being much more lively, much less realistic, than “medieval fantasy” would suggest (i.e. more magic, more acrobatics).

Of course, I have no idea how, exactly, it’s used in the game, but that’s how I’d use it.

“Colony 9” and “Gaur Plains” both evoke traveling to me.  Perhaps exploring, perhaps simply traveling from one place to another, but moving, being on a journey of some sort.  The former also has a more relaxing feel, giving the impression of passing through peaceful lands, or looking out over a beautiful lake and contemplating whatever your journey’s purpose is.  Gaur Plains, on the other hand, has a more lively, upbeat feel, and this seems to me like the music for when you are traveling with friends, uncovering some new wonder as you explore uncharted lands.  And again, like “Unfinished Battle”, this track has a feel to it that would work well with slightly less “traditional” fantasy.  These tracks are present in nearly every playlist I make for my iPod these days; I find both of them excellent companion pieces when I’m walking around somewhere and not in a hurry!  I listen to them quite a bit when working on Valocea, as well, and have started to sort of associate them with that project.  They make for excellent music to listen to while designing fictional lands, or even just sitting there and imagining I’m on a train somewhere in Valocea.

There are a LOT of other really good tracks on this OST; some other favorites include “Main Theme”, both “Prologue” pieces, “Fight!”, “Grandeur”, “One Who Gets In Our Way”, “To One’s Own Future”, and the “Night” versions of both “Colony 9” and “Gaur Plains.”

-Saito S

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Music of the Week #8

Tracks: “The Scout” and “The Cause”

From: Elemental Gearbolt Original Soundtrack

Composed by:  Kei Wakakusa

EG was a rather bizarre light-gun shooter that was released for the PlayStation in 1998 (published in the US by the defunct enthusiast-darling Working Designs).  It’s an obscure title that didn’t gain a lot of notoriety, and while it was a pretty good game as light-gunners go, the real standout was the fully orchestral score.

“The Scout” is simply amazing.  While this OST has a number of really good tracks, and I did pick two of them for MOTW, this one is just so ridiculously beautiful that I felt it deserved to be singled out.  The piece is carried by wonderfully haunting strings that give it a very strong melancholy feel – sorrowful, but with just a bit of hope coming through near the end.  Most of the music I listen to tends to be stuff that would work well with one of my own story projects; this track evokes the feel of a story that is just getting going and is still near the beginning, but something has happened to thrust the main character – unprepared – into something she is overwhelmed by, something she never wanted to know anything about, and now she has to find a way to deal with that.

Also, it’s raining.  I don’t know why, but every time I picture anything in terms of a specific scene that could accompany this music, there is rain coming down.

“The Cause” spans a wider range of moods, from mysterious to inquisitive to foreboding.  To me, this sounds like the perfect music for sort of an introduction sequence in a fantasy movie – basically, remember the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring?  Where Galadriel narrates a summary of what went down at the end of the last age and the Ring and whatnot?  That kind of thing.

Other standouts from this soundtrack include “Echoes”, “Solitude”, “Forest”, and “Dance”.

-Saito S

Music of the Week #7

Tracks: “Metroid Legacy” and “Solitude”

From: Harmony of a Hunter – the tracks featured here are from the original HOAH album, but they also released a follow-up (“HOAH 101%”), which can be downloaded from the same page.  I haven’t heard the follow-up yet, but I will be downloading it tonight!

Composed by:  Omni-Psyence (“Metroid Legacy”) / zircon & C-GPO (“Solitude”)

Two of my favorite tracks from an excellent album.  Of course, if you are a fan of Metroid (and who WOULDN’T be?!), then you are familiar with the source music, and it’s likely you’ve heard stuff from HOAH already, too.  But even if you have never played a Metroid game in your life, these are just some really top-notch tunes.

“Metroid Legacy” remixes “Theme of Super Metroid,” and really sounds like the beginning of a huge, epic adventure.  Which is fitting, because that’s kind of what the source music was in Super Metroid.  The blend of electronic elements, strings, and that soaring choir really works.  There’s a very dark, sort of foreboding element to it as well – which, again, is really just a reflection and amplification of the source music itself.

“Solitude” remixes “Tallon Overworld” from Metroid Prime, beautifully capturing that feel of isolation, danger, and… well, solitude, that the game itself evokes.  You are ALONE, and virtually everything on this planet with you is hostile; now get to work, you have mysteries involving ancient aliens and superpowered nightmarish monsters to solve.

The sudden inclusion of strong electric guitar during the last part of the track marks a break from the mood of the original, but works very well as it injects a shot of adrenaline and determination into the whole thing, reminding you of the fact that – while Samus may always be alone – she’d never let that stop her.

I actually heard about 101% a while ago, but then completely forgot about it until I went to look up the info for this post.  So I’m going to go download that now!

-Saito S

Music of the Week #6

Tracks: “Mother Earth of Dishonesty – Part 1” and “Rose Confession”

From: Phantasy Star Online: Episode 1&2

Composed by:  Hideaki Kobayashi/Fumie Kumatani (note: including both of the names that are associated with PSO’s music, because I don’t know which of them composed these specific tracks)

Picking just one track to feature from the music of PSO would be a daunting task.  The game’s beautiful, atmospheric music was one of it’s strengths.  So again I am cheating and picking two.  (I wonder if – since I started letting myself put up more than one track at a time – we’ll ever see a single-track MOTW again).

The first track is one of the background pieces that played during the “exploration” segments (i.e. when no enemies are present) of the game’s dungeons, in this case, the  Forest.  It really captures the feeling of mystery, of strange, unknown lands that the game has (and it’s fitting as the music for the first area you visit as a new player).  It also fits perfectly with the fusion of sci-fi and fantasy that fuels the game’s setting.  The “battle” version of this music is quite good as well, though overall, I prefer this version.

The other track is rather well-known among players of PSO or it’s quasi-sequel, PSU.  A haunting, but also uplifting, piano-dominated piece, this plays at the end of certain quests (though if I recall correctly, the full version featured here didn’t actually play during the game – not in the original PSO, anyway – and a truncated version took its place).  The piece evokes a very strong sense of the end of a long journey, of a mainly positive but still bittersweet resolution; it’d be perfect as the final piece of music that plays at the end of a sci-fi movie trilogy or long-running series or something like that, accompanying the last shots of the main characters and the world their stories took place in, showing the results of all the events leading to that point.

There are plenty of other good tracks from PSO, so I won’t try to list them here.  Perhaps I’ll feature the series again in future MOTW posts, though.

Music of the Week #5

Tracks: Themes of Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie

Album: Fighting is Magic OST

Artist: RainbowCrash88 (Dash and AJ), Whitetail (Pinkie)

Damn shame about the cancellation of this game due to the C&D thrown down by Hasbro.  But at least some amazing music came out of it!

While all 6 of the tracks made for the game are good, and fit the characters well, I do find I like these three better than the other three.  And if I had to pick ONE favorite… it’d have to be Dashie’s theme.  It’s just perfect, from being a badass rock theme in its own right that would feel at home in an ArcSys fighter, to being something that I think Rainbow Dash herself would listen to.

Still, the other two are quite good, as well: Applejack’s theme is weird, because I really don’t like country-flavored music (or banjo) at all, yet I like this.  Maybe it’s just because I like the character so much, I don’t know.  Either way it’s just really fun to listen to, and again, I think AJ herself would like it.

Pinkie Pie’s theme is an appropriately hyper electronic piece (and I DO like electronic stuff, so this was less of a surprise), with a break in the middle for a brass section that is slower, but still retains that feeling of irrepressible happiness that makes it perfect as a Pinkie theme (and she’d definitely like it herself!).  This track is also just really addicting. 

And honestly, the other three tracks are still good, even if they’re not as good.  Kudos to both composers for an excellent job all around!

-Saito S

Music of the Week #2

http://hyperduck.bandcamp.com/track/short-fuse

Track: Short Fuse

From: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Composed by: HyperDuck SoundWorks

This week’s piece is from the amazing soundtrack to Dust: An Elysian Tail.  While I haven’t actually played the game (because I don’t have a 360… though it’s apparently coming to Steam soon.  I don’t have a lot of time for games these days, but I might check it out), I stumbled on the music by random chance a while back while looking for something else (I don’t even remember what).  Really excellent stuff, with a very otherworldly quality to it.  It makes me think of the Secret of Mana soundtrack, or at least, what that OST would sound like if it were made today, with modern sensibilities and modern sound quality.  You can listen to the entire OST by going to this page, and can buy the digital album directly from there if you like it, which I highly recommend doing!

The hardest part about using a track from Dust for Music of the Week was picking a track.  Those that I consider my favorites are all so frakin good that it made for a tough decision.  In the end, I chose this one because it’s one of the more unique tracks, combining orchestral and electronic elements in an interesting and seamless way.  The fusion of those two genres in particular is something I love, and that I always feel there isn’t enough of in the world.  I can’t help but think that this track would make a badass “main battle theme” for a classic JRPG.  In particular, the section from about 1:02 to about 1:52 is just amazingly cool.

Other favorites from the soundtrack are “Cirromon Caverns”, “The Glade”, “Abadis Forest”, “The Blackmoor Mountains”, and “Everdawn Basin”.

Music of the Week #1

Music!  Everybody loves music.  Each week between Friday and Monday, I will put up a new link (usually to a Youtube video) to a piece that I really like.  Just a fun little way to shout out to specific pieces that I think are particularly good, and who knows, maybe if you’re reading this, you’ll get to hear some stuff you’ve never heard!

So, we’ll start off with something very appropriate for being the “beginning”.

Track: The Prelude

From: Distant Worlds II – Music from Final Fantasy

Composed by: Nobuo Uematsu

Performed by: Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (2010)

Twenty freakin’ years I’ve been waiting for this!  I’ve wanted to hear the full, symphonic version of this piece performed by a real orchestra since I first played Final Fantasy IV (II in the US) way back in 1991.  It took a while, but the result is spectacular.  While it is technically a departure from the original orchestral version heard in FFIV (or it’s variant heard in FFVI and VII), the addition of the choir really works.  Gives the piece even more of an ethereal quality than it already had, reinforcing that feeling one gets from listening to it that they are about to be transported to this other world.