This week’s songs are from Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI, KOEI’s epic strategy game set in war-torn Ancient China (and the last of its series to be translated into English). The game’s music is situational, so I want to say the first theme, “Spring Buds”, plays when you’re at peace, and that the second, “Shattered Bamboo”, plays when (A) you have a large empire and (B) you’re at war (I don’t recall hearing it when I was an underdog at the start of the game), but I can’t quite be sure! I can say they are as lovely as they are atmospheric, and I hope you enjoy them.
This week’s theme is a piece of ambient music from the Wii’s flagship RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles. Like the area in which it plays (depicted in the concept art below), it has an otherworldly loveliness that actually made me halt what I was doing in the game, sit back, and drink in the experience for a couple of minutes. Enjoy!
And we’re back! This week’s song is Marty Robbins’ 1959 country ballad “Big Iron”, featured in Fallout: New Vegas. Including it in the game was an inspired choice! Not only does the song help establish the game’s pseudo-Western atmosphere, but its lyrics — about a gunslinger who rides into town with a “big iron on his hip” — could easily have been about your exploits as an RPG hero. Enjoy!
It’s Christmas Eve! For an uplifting song, I give you something that’s not actually from a soundtrack — “Kia Hora Te Marino” (“May Peace Be Widespread”), from Christopher Tin’s “Calling All Dawns” album (1). The liner notes describe it as a “traditional Maori blessing”, and its tone and lyrics are a wonderful fit for the season. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!
Full credits for song: “Kia Hora Te Marino” was composed by Christopher Tin, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and featuring lyricist Jerome Kavanagh and backing vocalists Ben Mullon, John Mullon, Jordan Young and Tangaroatuane.
Long before video game music took off in the West, the Final Fantasy series had a long tradition of beautiful vocal and orchestral music — all the way back to the NES/SNES era! Developer Squaresoft circumvented the technical limitations of the time by re-arranging its in-game music into orchestral, piano, and vocal CD albums, which remain a treat to this day. Below, I’ve linked two of my favourites, both from the 1994 “Final Fantasy: Pray” vocal album. “Into the Light” (Japanese: “Hikari no naka e”) is based on “Theme of Love” from Final Fantasy IV, while “Voyage” is based on “Boundless Ocean” from Final Fantasy III (NES). Enjoy!
Full credits for songs: Both songs were composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Both were sung by Risa Ohki.
This week’s song is something I guarantee you’ll find unique: “Exceeding Love”, the opening song of PS2 RPG Suikoden III. I’ve linked two versions below. The first is the actual in-game version, presented as part of the game’s intro movie — my favourite intro movie ever. The visuals and music complement each other perfectly, and as an added bonus, every single character and event depicted in that video — dragonfly-mounted warriors firebombing a village, knights charging into battle, a boy facing off against a dragon, torchbearers filing through the night, whole armies on the march — actually features in the game! The second version of the song is a clearer, sharper, deeper remix that I prefer, though sadly this one lacks the accompanying visuals. Enjoy!
Full credits for song: The game’s soundtrack was composed by Michiru Yamane, Keiko Fukami, and Masahiko Kimura. “Exceeding Love” was performed by the band Himekami.
This week’s song is another golden oldie: “Baba Yetu”, the opening theme to 2005’s Civilization IV. Soaring, hopeful, filled with joy — this is the perfect celebration of civilisation, of our achievements in science and art and engineering. Sadly, the official music video below (with its footage taken from the game’s intro movies) also highlights the other half of Civ, our talent for finding new ways to kill each other, but that’s another story…
Note that the official music video uses the version of the song from the “Calling All Dawns” album. Enjoy!
While I was bitterly disappointed by Creative Assembly’s Fall of the Samurai, the stand-alone expansion to last year’s Total War: Shogun 2, its soundtrack was another matter. Series composer Jeff van Dyck turned in some of his best work to date, as seen in energetic battle theme “Uncle Samurai” (Uncle Sam + Samurai – geddit?). Enjoy!
Sorry for the delays, guys — Musical Monday is back! Since I’ve been talking a lot about XCOM: Enemy Unknown lately, for this week’s song I’ve opted to present one of composer Michael McCann’s previous works: “Icarus”, from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. What I love about “Icarus” is the way it blends two very different musical strains. There’s the obligatory cyberpunk techno, but also haunting vocals that hint at the game’s attempt to tell a story about the human soul, the desire to surpass the flesh. (In the end, sadly I don’t think the game lives up to that ambition, but that’s a subject for another day.) Enjoy!
One of the cleverest and most memorable games I’ve played this year was Digital: A Love Story, Christine Love’s 2010 visual novel. Its retro, pseudo-8-bit music is a key part of its conceit, that the player is a teenager discovering the Internet of 1988. Below is my favourite piece, the energetic “Space Beacon”. Enjoy!
Sorry for the delay, folks. This week, I have not one, not two, but FOUR songs for you — all are from Sleeping Dogs, since I just praised its soundtrack in my review. Three sound more traditional to my novice ears: “Butterfly Garden” (Ritchie Lo, M. P. Mabel Ki, and Charles Chan), which I linked in the review, is a lovely, relaxing vocal piece, while “Lhasa Groove” and “On Buddha’s Land” (Ritchie Lo) offer something more energetic. The fourth, pop number “Yellow Fever” (note: Vivienne Lu, the artist usually credited, is a character in thegame; the actual composer is Nathan Wang) might not be the best song in the game, but good lord was it hard to get out of my head. Enjoy!
Yoko Kanno is justly famed for her beautiful anime music (I previously spotlighted one of her compositions, “Inner Universe” from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). Less well known is the lovely music she previously did for KOEI’s strategy franchises, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition. I’ve attached an orchestral performance of one song below. Enjoy!
This week’s song is another Bethesda opening title theme, this time from post-apocalyptic extravaganza Fallout 3. I’ve linked both the in-game version (ab0ve), which you can also download from the game’s official site, and the orchestral version from the Greatest Video Game Music album. Enjoy!
This week’s song is another great battle theme from Tactics Ogre, “Fight It Out!” I love the little discordant clash at the start of the song — it makes me envision everyone pulling steel before (at 0:15) the battle is joined. Enjoy!
This week’s tracks are cousins: both are effectively variations on the main musical refrain of Princess Mononoke, one of my favourite movies (animated or otherwise). “Legend of Ashitaka” is the conventionally heroic version, strong but a bit wistful; “Journey to the West” is the more upbeat and adventurous of the two. The versions I’ve attached below are from the “A Night in Fantasia 2004” orchestral concert, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Enjoy!
We’re back into game soundtracks with this week’s song, the “Main Theme” to the PS3 tactical RPG Valkyria Chronicles. It was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, of Tactics Ogre/FFT/FFXII fame, and it lives up to that pedigree. Enjoy!
This week’s song is the opening theme to John Adams, the very nice 2008 HBO miniseries. Below, I’ve linked both the full-length version and the shortened version that plays over the gorgeous credits sequence. Enjoy!
In my review of Tactics Ogre last year, I praised its music as a “labour of love”, and now it’s time to highlight it. I had a hard time choosing a track for this week, but I eventually settled on “Blasphemous Experiment”, the theme that plays whenever you fight a certain powerful necromancer. Enjoy!
This week, I have two songs for you: “Omoi Haruka”, the soft, gentle theme from the 2007 anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, and its vocal version, “Nahji no Uta”. Excellent but criminally overlooked, Moribito brings its low-fantasy world to life with such verisimilitude, I could almost think it’s really historical fiction. Composer Kenji Kawai’s (Ghost in the Shell, Fate/stay night) music, particularly the folk song-esque “Nahji no Uta”, is a key part of that appeal. Enjoy!
Track: “Omoi Haruka” & “Nahji no Uta”.
Source: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – OST #1.
I never played Mass Effect 2, the source for this week’s song, “Suicide Mission”. Instead, I discovered the song on my newly bought copy of the “Greatest Video Game Music” CD, and took a shine to it at once. The version linked below is the one from the CD, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Enjoy!
This week’s song is the theme of Terra, the heroine of Final Fantasy VI, and also the game’s first overworld track. Melancholy, wistful, yet with a strain of hope, it is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard despite being composed for the SNES sound chip. Here it is:
Deservedly, it also features in pretty much every Final Fantasy remix collection there is: I’ve listened to piano, vocal, and multiple orchestral versions of the song. However, while the orchestral versions are grand and glorious and good (I’ve linked one below, from the “Distant Worlds II” collection), I can’t help but think that they miss the sweet sadness that made the original so special. The vocal version, “Wanderer of Time” (linked, bottom), comes a bit closer to the original. Still, they’re all well worth a listen.
Source: Final Fantasy VI original soundtrack.
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu. “Wanderer of Time” version sung by Risa Ohki.
This week’s song is neither an opening nor a closing theme — it is, effectively, Okami‘s overworld theme. It’s the background music for the Shinshuu Fields, the “hub” area for the game’s first act, and much like the Morrowind theme from two weeks ago, its lilting, upbeat tones are the perfect thing to send you off on an adventure. Enjoy!
Track: “Shinshu Plains 1” & “Shinshu Plains 2” (spliced together in this video and in the in-game music player)
It’s Musical Monday again, folks! This week’s song, composed by Jeremy Soule, goes by several names — “Call of Magic”, “Nerevar Rising”, “Morrowind Title” or just “the Morrowind theme”. Of all these titles, I like “Call of Magic” the best: it’s a hopeful song, filled with the spirit of adventure. Just the thing to see you off on your journey:
Sorry, guys, still no major update — not only is my computer still out of commission, but I’ve been feeling under the weather for the last week. I have written most of a post on squad-level strategy and tactical RPGs, but ’til it’s ready, I thought I’d tide you over by kicking off a new series: Musical Monday. Every Monday, I plan to highlight the soundtracks that make my favourite games, movies, TV and anime what they are — and first up, I’ve chosen one of my all-time favourites, “Inner Universe”. Soaring and angelic, it perfectly accompanies the opening credits to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
A longer, five-minute version appears on the first soundtrack CD. Back in the day, I used this as background music for Freelancer:
Enjoy, and stay tuned for more next week!
Track: “Inner Universe”
Source: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack – OST CD #1
Credits: Composed by Yoko Kanno, lyrics by Shanti Snyder & Origa, sung by Origa.