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Without music, many modern video games would not resonate with us on such an emotional level. It’s possible we would not feel a pang of dread as we rounded a blind corner in Dead Space 3, and we likely wouldn’t feel such urgency to hack our way through baddies in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The sometimes abrasive yet compelling quality to even dissonant tones can change how we perceive virtual worlds.
This month we take a look at Fire Emblem: Awakening, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Dead Space 3, and we discuss creating music out of non-musical items and the Tomb Raider soundtrack with composer Jason Graves.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Composer: Yuka Tsujiyoko
Yuka Tsujiyoko’s music is the backbone of the Fire Emblem franchise. She’s the main composer for the series, which explains how organically music flows from one Fire Emblem to the next. Awakening’s score follows its predecessors with sometimes dreamy, often powerful orchestral melodies poised to elevate victorious highs and make us cry every time we lose a solider in battle.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Composer: Kevin Riepl
Unlike the poorly received game housing it, Kevin Riepl’s score for Aliens: Colonial Marines is a true love letter to the film series. It plays with tonal similarities to both James Horner’s (Aliens) and Jerry Goldsmith’s (Alien) work on the film series while striking out on its own with gritty industrial sounds. You can feel the passion and dedication in every unsettling note and anvil strike Riepl uses. If you close your eyes and listen to the tracks linked to the picture above, you can imagine the much more frightening and generally more enjoyable game that Colonial Marines should have been.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Composer: Jamie Christopherson
In fine Platinum Games tradition, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s soundtrack is very unconventional. When Platinum hired Jamie Christopherson to compose, they already had a pumping, heavy-metal sound in mind. The result is a very energetic album full of well-crafted guitar rifts and a successful hybridization of metal and electronic tones. It’s hard to imagine that Christopherson hadn’t written heavy metal on this scale before this project, but as he says in a supplemental interview to this article, it was all new to him.
Dead Space 3
Composer: Jason Graves, James Hannigan
Echoing, overwhelming percussion and spine-tingling dissonance is a hallmark of all three Dead Space scores, but Dead Space 3 combines those signature tones with more enjoyable orchestral movements. The result is a creepy soundtrack that is actually pleasant to listen to when removed from its game. The music is definitely much less claustrophobic, much like its inspiration.