"“Civilizations,” however, is the single most delightfully unexpected tune on the soundtrack, a simple overland theme for a zone shrouded beneath a canopy of trees. The Rak’tika Greatwood is one of the few dark places in a world assaulted by endless daylight. Imagine flying through the tangled roots of gigantic trees as haunting chanting rises from the forest floor. The words are unintelligible—not even Soken himself knows what they mean—but they stick with you throughout the forest and beyond."
"Gaiden’s opening track, “VISIONNERZ ~Hallucinated People~” is a knockout, a four-and-a-half minute epic that plays uninterrupted over the game’s first two stages. While instantly recognizable as a continuation of Ogura’s previous Darius music, five years of progress in arcade hardware had given him a much richer palette with which to work, and the leap in sophistication is apparent.
“Close your eyes… Close your head…” sings a breathy female vocal over synth-y beats. Nonsensical, yet somehow perfect, especially coming from the guy responsible for Darius II’s enthusiastic first-stage proclamation “I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi!” A piano comes and goes, sometimes driving the melody, and while far less complex, in parts it reminds me of Mick Garson’s legendary improvisations in one of my favorite Bowie songs, “Aladdin Sane.”
So I have been remiss… @mediiiiiiii is going to be busy downloading all this…
“I’ve only gotten into Final Fantasy XIV this year, but I can’t think of another game’s music I’ve been so consistently drawn to. I’m currently taking a break from playing the game until its next expansion in December, yet still I find myself wanting to listen to its songs, which I find at turns invigorating and calming.”
“Burning Force splits most stages into day and night sections, with the night music being a variation on the day’s. The game starts out bright and peppy, but by Day Two more urgent, off-kilter, and creative arrangements start creeping in.”
“In case the series passed you by, they are all about wild, uniquely armed, powerful vehicles shooting it out and crashing into each other, often in areas where you wouldn’t expect such mayhem. And each level had its very own musical theme, each as diverse as the vehicles you could drive.”
“The way Resogun bounces between songs that make me want to move my feet and songs that make me want to give them a rest takes me back to brighter, louder days. It’s not the same as experiencing this stuff in person. It’s not even the next best thing. But it sure gives me something to look forward to next summer (if we’re being optimistic).”
“Sayonara Wild Hearts is among just a handful of games I’ve played in a single sitting. I liked it well enough from the get-go. Then I hit “Parallel Universes,” and voraciously consumed the rest in one synth-soaked sprint. Part of that is because Sayonara Wild Hearts is fantastic—a confident rhythm game with distinct art direction and fascinating thematic elements. But part of it is because the soundtrack, with its irresistible bubble pop bona fides, gripped me from start to finish. It’s akin to what I’ve listened to regularly for years (see: Chvrches), but not exactly the same—almost like this album was air-dropped to our plane of existence from a parallel universe.”
"Tama wasn’t a thrilling game in 1994, and it’s only mildly interesting now that it’s a 26-year-old artifact of a past era, a timeworn marker demonstrating what third-string devs with a few months and a dev kit were able to cobble together by the launch dates of the world’s first mass-market, polygon-pushing home consoles. (See also King’s Field and uh, Cosmic Race.)
But the music’s more than alright."
“There’s really only one extended piece of music in Among Us, and it’s the main HQ theme that plays when you first load it up. It’s both eerie and irresistible. Sometimes I can’t even bring myself to start a new match immediately, instead just staring off into outer space wandering about all the imposters and innocents alike that have been flushed out the airlock since the game came out two years ago.”
“Galactic Pinball (playlist / longplay) stands out for a few reasons, not the least of which is it’s a very good pinball game by 1995 standards. Four tables, an interesting 3D effect (thanks, Virtual Boy), and a few cool Metroid references (a lot of its developers worked on Super Metroid!) make it an obvious winner among the unlucky semi-portable’s tiny library.”
“…had some fun times blowin’ up enemy aircraft to these distinctive tunes. Some of them have a bit of a sad vibe—I wonder if that has to do with the game’s origins as an adaptation of manga / anime Area 88, which I understand could get pretty intense re: the horrors of war and whatnot. Never read or watched those; worth a go?”
“2009’s Plants vs. Zombies (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) is an all-time classic tower defense and a game that I would put up with Tetris. Seriously. It’s very good. The sequels and spin-offs have been fine, but none of them capture the original’s simple mix of real-time strategy, cartoon visuals, and comedy. And throughout, all the music slaps. Every song in Plants vs. Zombies is great.”
"One perfect example was 1991’s Gynoug, known in the USA as Wings of Wor. It’s a pretty fun horizontal shooter from a time when shmups were drowning the Genesis, the rousing tale of an avenging angel locked in combat with a series of increasingly grotesque tumors, elderly fetuses, and crustaceous dick-monsters."
"I’m not sure there’s a unifying thread in this album, other than each track’s arranged from Mega Man 9. It’s a real grab-bag of styles and sometimes it hits, as with the laid-back, dreamy “Jewel Temptation (Jewel Man Stage)” and the elegiac / climactic “Overdrive Scramble.” The slow, slightly mystical “Splash Blue (Splash Woman Stage)” is a nice take too; its melody certainly sounds very classic Mega Man. Note, also, Mega Man 1 composer Manami Matsumae jumping in for track 11, “We’re the Robots.”:
“I don’t love it all, but the high points are well worth the ride, in particular “Son dessein,” “Formless living bodies,” “There are no nails at my tiptoe,” Vit-symty” (vocals again, English this time), and closer “All is shut down.” Just like that, RayCrisis’ existence feels fully justified. Cool trick.”
“Half-Life is a game that has already had so many things written and said about it that I’m not really sure what to say here. You probably already know this, but Half-Life came out in 1998 and almost overnight seemed to change video games forever. It’s one of the most influential games ever made and was the origin of countless mods, some of which, like Counter-Strike, became huge hits themselves. But Half-Life wasn’t just an incredible shooter with innovative gameplay and visuals, it also had a great soundtrack featuring very moody, atmospheric electronica.”
"Banjo-Kazooie played great, looked great, and did you hear that soundtrack? Composer Grant Kirkhope delivered a virtuoso performance for Rare’s game. Banjo-Kazooie’s soundtrack is energetic and frequently silly, a splendid accompaniment to the game’s colorful, comedic style."
"For some representative highlights check out Ryu’s “Rising Dragoon,” Chun’s “Spinning Bird,” Sakura’s “Precious Heart,” Hokuto’s “Yozakura Mankai,” Ken’s “Guardian of Light,” D.Dark’s “Under Tube,” and…well, I could just keep going. Wonderful stuff almost across the board."
“Opening demo track “All This World” is a great example of the game’s sometimes jarring mish-mash of sounds. This soundtrack goes a lot of places, and I imagine the heavy use of radio static throughout is meant to tie in with the wispy, half-lost memories always flitting through the characters’ minds.”
"Every action-adventure game needs a soaring theme with enough unexpected twists to stop it from getting repetitive and Alundra’s overworld music, “The Wind That Crosses The Earth,” is one of the best."
"World of Warcraft deftly uses its music to tell a story in the absence of quests. For example you can hear Stormwind music in Stromgarde Keep in the Arathi Highlands (Arathi Basin soldiers let me hear you say “For the Alliance!”). Once abandoned after war and now slowly being reclaimed, Stromgarde uses the music of Stormwind to serve as a reminder of the city’s past when it was a member of the powerful Lordaeron Alliance."
"In a handful of levels, Garcia must traverse areas of Hell covered in thick, black nothingness. Fortunately, these areas always include a Sushi Lamp, angler fish-looking creatures that act as moving safe zones through the darkness. During these sections, Shadows of the Damned uses a great little song that can’t be found on any of the official soundtracks. With its bongos, mouth harp, and indecipherable spoken word lyrics, the Sushi Lamp theme is unlike anything found in the rest of the game’s music."
"Friends Ilo and Milo take turns navigating levels built from patchwork crafted cubes. Each stage begins with the pair separated, and you’re tasked with navigating the twisting constructs to bring the fated pair back together. It’s a game about friends sticking together no matter what tries to come between them. The melancholy patchwork, inhabited by odd, stitched-together creatures, makes Ilomilo feel pleasantly like a faded old scrapbook.
The game’s music, composed by Daniel Olsén of Sayonara Wild Hearts (previously on Morning Music) and Device6 fame, beautifully supports the game’s pieced-together aesthetic. He evokes an old-timey feel with vinyl album artifacts and instruments evocative of simpler times, like accordion and melodica. Listen to the track “Cozy Couch.” It sounds to me like being sprawled out in my living room as a child in the late ‘70s, in those sleepy moments after the Saturday morning cartoons ended."
"Level 1 is hellish, a bad composition vandalized with random samples. Level 2 is a big step up (I really like the synthetic voice), Level 3 is more of a tense action tune, Level 4 is strangely conceived but kinda comes together in the end, Level 5 is ‘80s af, Level 6 samples Leonard Nimoy saying “h-h-hot, wild” (as one does), Level 7 is kind of a Rolling Thunder-y spy tune, Level 8 sounds a bit Arabian…This is a weird soundtrack. The only two familiar songs are the iffy arrangement of the final boss fight (those orchestra hits don’t help) and a piano take on the main theme that sounds right out of a Casio demo at Radio Shack. Hmm, I do not think I will purchase this keyboard.
In any case, I hope this sated your appetite for Double Dragon II tunes, because I’m plum out. You’re voracious!"
"All told, it’s a real good soundtrack that perfectly syncs with and plays off of each stage’s remarkably cinematic visuals. Most games credit “directors,” but perhaps you could argue that Silpheed’s filmic qualities required its creators to think more like filmmakers than most game designers had had to up ‘til that point. It’s not a particularly great shooter to play, but it’s a real cool shooter to experience, if you follow my distinction."
"Some of these tracks might sound like they could easily be tossed into a huge Hollywood action movie about pirates, and there’s a good reason. The soundtrack was put together by composer Brian Tyler, who is one of the most prolific film composers in recent history. He’s scored a long list of major films, including Iron Man 3, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fast Five, Constantine, and many, many more.
As of November 2017, films that he’s scored have grossed $12 billion worldwide, making him one of the top 10 highest-grossing film composers of all time. Weirdly, he hasn’t actually done many games, especially compared to other composers we’ve talked about in past Morning Music entries. Maybe he got bored creating huge soundtracks for giant films? Maybe he just wanted an early copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Who can say. Regardless of why he decided to score a random entry of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, the end result is a big, fun soundtrack that is one of the best in the franchise’s history."
"The game’s great, of course. Blaster Master designer Yoshiaki Iwata is on record saying, “basically we were trying to make the best action game to date, with all that entails,” and, well, they did good. I guess word got around, because in America Blaster Master broke through in a big way, becoming a sneaky hit widely discussed in schoolyards across the nation and a mainstay in Nintendo Power’s reader-voted Top 30."
"When Bayonetta’s not remixing hits from the golden age of lounge singing, its orchestral songs are damn good too. “One of a Kind” evokes the same emotion as John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates,” which is fitting because you first hear this song as Bayonetta fights an onslaught of demonic angels on a chunk of masonry that’s slowly—very slowly, considering terminal velocity—hurtling toward the earth. It’s over the top to the point of jarring ridiculousness, but done so damn well that it loops back around to cool.
I was never one of those people who took issue with the way Bayonetta is sexualized in her games. I was always firmly on the “empowerment” side of the argument. One of my favorite scenes is when she first equips her famous guns Scarborough Fair. As she puts them on, she cavorts about her demon friend Rodin’s bar in increasingly suggestive poses that I felt should have clued me into my burgeoning “you’re not quite straight are you?” feelings right away—all while the eponymous “Scarborough Fair Equipped” song plays."
"Maybe you’ve heard that playing through Gris is like playing through a poem, or a painting, or just a really, really pretty platformer. Those are all true—Gris has many layers, and is a must-play game because of it—but I’d like to add another to the pile. Playing through Gris is like playing through a multisensory puzzle, and that’s in large part a result of the soundscapes."
"Persona 5’s combat and dungeon music has some of the best guitar/bass work on the entire soundtrack. “The Days When My Mother Was There” is my favorite dungeon track of all. It’s so chill and downtempo that it almost seems out of place in a video game dungeon crawling with monsters, and is better suited to be on someone’s roadtrip playlist (as it is on mine). The bass sounds of “The Days When My Mother Was There Another Version” are so warm and comforting, fitting given the track’s name and its association with the character Futaba, who—and I won’t spoil specifics—has mother issues."
"And that’s just music from the first game. In true Capcom fashion, the doujin masterminds at Type-Moon and their collaborators at devhouse French Bread developed a number of confusingly named updates and updates-upon-updates, most notably 2005’s Melty Blood Act Cadenza and 2008’s Melty Blood Actress Again, which is available in its final version on Steam"
"Astro’s Playroom (playlist / longplay) is a cute platformer that comes pre-installed on every PS5. It does, in a weird way, make it one of the most expensive games ever released. Or it is a nice free bonus you get when buying a PS5. You decide how to think about it. What isn’t up for debate: Astro’s Playroom rules. It’s short, most folks will beat it in less than three hours. But it’s a blast and shows off the new PS5 controller and all its neat features. It also has an amazing soundtrack. Seriously."
"Maybe I’m just a sucker for sultry female vocals (I am) or swoon whenever a song mixes twangy acoustic guitar and crunchy distorted riffs (also true). Whatever the case, “Blood Blood Blood” hits all the right spots. It also dovetails neatly with The Fantastic Fustercluck’s thematic elements and narrative arc. (For spoilers, just scroll through the comments of that YouTube video.) But “Blood Blood Blood” also hits a very specific spot—one that, in 2020, has been sorely missed."