I have been throwing around the idea of doing a video game music blog for a few weeks now, I kept on trying to come up with a way to really make it stand out from other blog posts about the same topic. I considered doing a somewhat top 10 of my favourite piece of game music or a more stright forward history of game music, I even considered doing a seprate blog for every generation of gaming (8-bit, 16-bit etc.). But game music, like all music, is personal. For every lover of the Mario theme there’s a hater, it’s a simple fact, for every ying there is a yang. So I’m gonna blog about my personal experiences of game music.
I was going to start this by have a classy quote from someone like Victor Hugo or Frank Zappa, about how music is a universal language or something along those lines, but one can get very bogged down by a quote and simply loose the whole meaning of the post.
So let’s begin….
Let’s a have a brief history of game music. First there was no music, then there was. Fin.
Now my personal history with game music, and the moments that define Video Game Music for me.
The first time I remember ever noticing music in a game was Last Ninja 2 for the C64. The sound was blocky and I couldn’t tell what instruments they were trying to emulate (still can’t) but the whole use of music in games was an eye opening experience, I got to the stage that when I heard those single blocky beats that Matt Gray worte I knew this was gonna be one hell of a game. The music started before the game, so that you had something to listen to while it loaded. This was not something new that Last Ninja 2 did, but it was a somewhat staple of the C64, espically for those who lived in Europe and used Datatapes to load our games.
After the C64, we got a NES, in the winter of ’88. That was one hell of a christmas day. We only had 2 games, Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, so you can guess which one we played first. The opening theme of Mario is strange, and by all accounts should have never been good enough to remember. It’s blockly and sounds abit like a harpicord, but Mario music did something that other g ames didn’t do. It changed as you played. From entering World 1-2 and you headed underground, the music became more deeper and lower notes and fastly play to give you a sense of ungencey. Even when you got the star, the music changed, and made you feel powered up and that you could kick anythings ass (and you could).
When the SNES arrived the landscape of game music changed, more music channels, and also we had upgraded our gaming TV at home from a mono speaker TV to a Stereo TV, I think the TV was 15″ in size and towered over my brother and I like the black monolith from 2001, and of course it was the first time I played a Zelda game, I had simply never played the two games on the NES and didn’t know that they existed till someone told me the full title of the game was The Legend Of Zelda 3: A Link To The Past. The theme that stood out for my was the Light World Overworld Theme, it still does, its sound wonderful when you heard the trumpets announce the themes opening.
Also with the SNES came Street Fighter 2 and of course Ken’s Theme, which like the fighter was in your face and loud. Over the years the song has stayed with the series and has simply been remixed more times then anyone cares to remember, but my favourite remix is by Hiroaki Yoshida.
With the advent of the PS1 came the CD quality soundtrack and while most people think of the Final Fantasy Series as having the definaitive PS1 soundtracks, I think Wild Arms opening theme surpasses all 3 of those soundtracks combinded. It is hauntingly beautiful and a use of whistling and guitar work that remind me of early Clint Eastwoods movies.
It’s a piece of music that kinda stays with you and it’s a piece of music that you can show to people and then watch their faces as you tell them it’s from a video game. Also I found this beautiful piano cover of the theme that is well worth listening to.
The first video game soundtrack I ever bought was the Metal Gear Solid 2 OST. From watching the E3 trailer and listening to the main theme, I could feel nothing but awe towards it. It’s sheer size and scope was truly a force to be reckoned with and was the ringtone for my phone for a number of years.
I just love how the choir comes in at the end. At the time I was listening to alot of film soundtracks and this felt fresh to my ears, like if my ears were starting to clog up and this piece came and pierced a tiny hole and let it’s beautiful sounds in. Please note that MGS3 Opening theme is just as amazing.
The Silent Hill Series has always been something that has been close to my heart, it was the reason I jumped ship from the Nintendo 64 to the PS1, while the music for Silent Hill 1 was great it’s the soundtrack for Silent Hill 2 which became the staple for the series and is in my opinion the best game soundtrack ever producded. Here’s the composer of the series Akria Yamaoka playing at Video Games Live from Tokyo.
My final piece of music is simple yet funny, there’s not much I can say about it….except enjoy.
I know I could go more indepth for each piece of music and I know I have left out loads of important pieces down through the years, but I will cover them another day.
Till next time Dear Reader…..