Published on November 22nd, 2012 |
by Thom Peacock
Sounding off on Soundtracks #1: Six of the Best
A great video game score is something of a dying art in the days when soundtracks are either licensed, forgettable, or by highly paid artists who want a bigger wallet. We aim to collate those games which helped to create some of the high points in the long history of video game soundtracks. Roughly once a week, one of us will curate our own playlist, made up of soundtracks that have kicked us square in the private parts and have lodged themselves deep in the darkest depths of our memory. First up: Thom
I have been a big fan of video game OSTs since I began gaming as a four year old. It all began with the release of Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse. This game, to my memory, helped develop my early interest in platformers but also made me take notice of how effective a video game soundtrack could be in drawing a player into a game, it hasn’t made my list, but everyone remembers their first videogame music memory! Anyway, enough of these lesser distractions, let’s dive in!
The Reason: The soundtrack of Rez is a melting pot of electronic styles. The beauty of this gem of a game is that it emulates a sort of synesthesia, meaning that when you play it any longer than five minutes you get taken away into another world made entirely of wires and flashing lights with a thumping techno soundtrack. It is never quite the same twice either as your inputs have an effect on what you’ll end up hearing. It is such a carefully thought out soundtrack even if it isn’t strictly all original tracks. I am still waiting for Rez HD to come out on PS3 after all this time!
The Standout: Area 4 which reminds me of my clubbing days. Safe to say it is the closest a video game will take you to Berghain and for this reason alone it has my attention – it’s a whole lot cheaper than a flight to Berlin.
2. Majora’s Mask
The Reason: I could have picked any Legend of Zelda game quite frankly. My love of Koji Kondo seemingly knows no bounds, but I decided to plump for Majora’s Mask. Whilst Wind Waker would come a very close second, I could not overlook songs such as those heard in the astral observatory, Stone Tower Temple or the ‘last hours’ of Termina. It still has all the classics that Zelda fans are now used to but this was Kondo at his finest. The sheer desperation and urgency in the soundtrack builds every passing day that the falling moon comes that bit closer to the clock tower.
The Standout: Astral Observatory, a simple little refrain and an area of the game that you only really have to visit once. Despite this I remember hanging around in there just to listen to the music play over and think a little bit about mortality and inevitability, which was quite a lot to fathom for a ten year old.
3. Metroid Prime
The Reason: Everything about this game for me is just “wow”. I was admittedly a bit young for Super Metroid, and have played it since, but my introduction to the Metroid Series was Prime. It’s still a reasonably good looking game today, almost a decade on, and is still in my mind the best game on the GameCube. There are a few other contenders for that title, but Metroid Prime is the most complete game on the system in terms of a single player experience and is an intensely focussed title that has very few flaws besides a lot of scanning. The soundtrack is tinged with electronica and really helps evoke the feeling you are alone in the perilous landscape of Tallon IV.
The Standout: The Phazon Mines wouldn’t sound out of place in an Anstam mix; it has an isolated bleakness about it that complements the setting brilliantly. It’s just a shame that the sequels weren’t quite as good and that Other M was such a giant sack of horseshit. Still, I will always have this to cling to, even if nostalgia isn’t deemed particularly healthy. I will never tire of charging around firing super-missiles at Space Pirates. Never.
4. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
The Reason: From what I can tell this would be quite a popular choice amongst other gamers. It is near impossible not to get drawn in by the likes of Stickerbrush Symphony, Hornet Hole and In A Snow-Bound Land. David Wise pushed the limits of what the SNES was capable of for this soundtrack, and I can quite happily admit that, while nothing in this game quite reaches the heights of “Aquatic Ambience” from the original game, Diddy Kong’s Quest is certainly more consistently brilliant. The variety of settings in the game are all perfectly soundtracked by galleon sea shantys, moody atmospherics, adrenaline fuelled chases and even a bit of disco for good measure.
The Standout: Well… it has got to be Stickerbrush Symphony really. It’s loved by many for a reason: it’s ace.
The Reason: I put Plok because I had to choose one game, but really just listen to anything Tim Follin has done. Plok is a particular favourite because it’s just out and out mad, catchy and entertaining.
The Standout: Beach, from that game, but please check out his work on Silver Surfer, Spider-Man and the X-Men, Equinox, and Solstice among others. Most of the games are not actually that great apart from Plok but I vouch that if you are even vaguely into your videogame OSTs you must be initiated in the ways of Follin! Join us.
6. Silent Hill 2
The Reason: Confession time here: I actually heard the soundtrack to this game before I played it. This soundtrack actually inspired this feature and the whole thing is on YouTube so go listen to it (above) and love it, and play it over and over really loud to annoy everyone in your vicinity. Akira Yamoaka received major plaudits from fans and critics alike. And rightly so.
The Standout: The bizarre ambience of A World of Madness and White Noiz remind me a little bit of Japan’s Tin Drum album mixed with Boards of Canada, but the soundtrack is really it’s own entity in terms of being a perfectly judged mood piece for a video game. What stands out? The whole thing.
Disagree with Thom? Confused as to what Berghain is? Amazed he left out the Crazy Bus theme? Leave a comment and let the debate continue!
Thom Peacock Thom blames most of his love of videos game on video game soundtracks. Koji Kondo, Tim Follin and Motoi Sakuraba have a lot to answer for. The rest he blames on his father for letting him play Syndicate, Chaos Engine and Doom as a 4 year old.