Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Perfect Note (Part 2): Cam's Music Notables

Alright. Yesterday I encouraged you all to appreciate your video games for their musical value. Today, I will give some examples of video game music that affected me in the ways I referred to yesterday, and tell you about why they are so memorable to this day. Heck maybe you'll actually use that BGM test option that they put in the game the next time you play... Get your headphones out and plugged in! Let's get started, shall we?

Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Notable Music: ALL OF IT

If you're playing Luigi you might want to go start cooking your food now... it's going to be a while before your turn...

This one is simply a no brainer. Quite possibly the most notable music of a few generations. Chances are, you've played this game. And chances are even greater that you know at least two or three of the musical themes in it. Even those who have never played a video game in their lives will recognize the Overworld Theme if someone else were to hum it. BUT, only a few of you probably know the ending theme that you get to hear after you beat the game. Go ahead and think about it for a second... I won't hold it against you if you've never heard it. It took me till I was nearly in college before I got around to beating the game and hearing it myself. If you've never gotten a chance I've posted a link to the Ending Theme below. Spoilers for those too prideful to hear it without beating the game...

Star Fox Assault (GCN)
Notable Music: Star Wolf Theme

It's no Star Fox 64... but it's better than Star Fox Adventures...

The Star Fox franchise has always been an interesting one for many reasons. Lots of people are fans of the Space Animals (pretty accurate fan nickname) from their inclusion in the Super Smash Bros. series of games. The original Star Fox is notable for being one of just a handful of games released with the Super FX chip for the Super Nintendo (it allowed the console to render 3D graphics which, back then, was really, REALLY awesome). But most people who are familiar with the games know them for being one of the last mainstream rail shooters out there (except, of course, Star Fox Adventures which was a Zelda clone... but that's a whole nother debacle...).

Star Fox Assault was somewhat a return to the series' railshooting roots, but it added in some third person action sequences that many fans of the series could have done without. What makes this instalment stand out among the others is the fact that the entire soundtrack was performed by The Tokyo New City Orchestra. To sum that up in geek speak: You are playing an actual space opera backed by an orchestra. Not only that, but much of the music is reimagined from the previous games. That's right, no more music board made chiptunes, baby. Real instruments. How. Dope. Is. That!? If you don't think that dogfighting planes in space to fanfares and cymbal crashes would be awesome just check out my favorite song from the soundtrack - The rival Star Wolf's team theme played as backdrop while you and your crew have to shoot them out of the sky. It's so cool that I had the trumpet solo as my ringtone for a while.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (DC/ARC/PS2/PS3/360)
Notable Music: the character selection theme
Fight M. Bison with Wolverine... WITH LOUNGE JAZZ!
Capcom has owned the fighting crossover genre ever since the Street Fighter series has been in existence. No fighting game can boast the prowess of MvC2, however. With its massive roster of playable characters, its over the top, screen filling, 3-on-3 flamboyant fighting style, and its flat out awkward and nonsensical music, MvC2 may be the most distinct of the entire Capcom Vs. series. The game itself is still played competitively to this day, 14 years after its release. But the music it's so take-it-or-leave-it weird that... well... beating people up to lounge jazz and big band music is just... just imagine that you've chosen your team of Ryu, Magneto, and Wolverine and your next opponent team consists of Thanos, Akuma, and a Sentinel, and you're fighting in what looks to be Hell, and this music comes on... Yeah... I don't know if the musical directors were trolling or just trying something new. Either way, it's got our attention...
Monster Hunter 3/Ultimate (Wii/3DS/WiiU)
Notable Music: various battle themes
Dude, you're going to need some better weapons and armor...
Sometimes in a game the music can be notable because there is a lack of it. In games where a certain realistic or scary subtlety is desired the music composer may choose to play music very lightly or not at all. Horror movies commonly use this effect to build tension for jump scares (absolute silence is pretty creepy, after all). Monster Hunter is one of those games that uses music to denote that something eventful is actually happening. For much of the time that the player is not going toe to toe with some giant beasty, the game simply doesn't play any music. Instead it opts for ambient sound effects of whatever environment you happen to be jogging around in.
Once one of the monsters actually spots you however, a scare chord strikes alerting you that the fight is imminent. Your character may flinch as the monster sizes you up. The roar comes and announces that the situation is now dire for both human and monster parties involved and the music kicks up to high gear. The battle is on. I can rave about al of the things that make this series awesome but I will bite my tongue for now and instead, simply show you this early epic fight against the Lagiacrus where the music distinctly adds tension.
 You only need to watch from 55s to 2m to get the gist - *Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - Lagiacrus Battle*
Kirby Air Ride (GCN)
Notable Music: all the Kirby music
TWO Kirbys with bombs!?! This won't end well for anyone here...
First things first: Kirby is NOT a Pokémon. Yes, I know he looks like Jigglypuff, but Kirby came first. Hard to believe, I know, just take my word for it.
Now that that's out of the way...
I'm a huge Kirby fan. Three or four of my most played games of all time would probably be Kirby games, which is amazing because they are traditionally short games with small replay value. HAL Laboratory (the makers of Kirby games, and Smash Bros.) have a way of fashioning music that is perfect for setting the mood that they want regardless of what is happening on screen. And Kirby games are the perfect medium.
Simply put, the music composers do a great job of changing Kirby and his environments from cute and cuddly to bonified badass just by changing the music. And they tend to do it by rearranging the same musical compositions and motifs over and over to fit the setting. The Kirby Air Ride soundtrack is fantastic evidence, as it is composed of original compositions, remixes of old music, and music from the older games themselves (namely the Kirby's Superstar [SNES] era) and they all still work together in the same game in different settings and moods. Linked below are the original first stage songs and its updated versions for Superstar and Air Ride. Same musical motif, completely different context.
Kirby's Dream Land (GB) original, for reference - *Green Greens (GB)*
Kirby Superstar (SNES) first stage music, featured in Air Ride - *Spring Breeze*
Air Ride version -  *Green Greens (GCN)*
Feel free to take a listen to anything else on the Air Ride OST it's all good and fairly different. And awesome. Etc.
Anywho, that's a decent sized sample of some of the most influential music in my video gaming life so far. What kind of game music do you have for me to sample? Should I have included Zelda in there somewhere (I excluded Zelda for a reason)? Hopefully you will think they are pretty good even outside the context of their games. Share some music with me and I'll be ready to chat you up next week with more video game goodness!
~Cameron Moore

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