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Swag_Koishi9898
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Finally, we come to the Foehn soundtrack, the main reason why I wanted to feature all this in the first place. Whereas Black Ice 9's style may somewhat resemble Klepacki's, World Beyond's music moves fully into a different genre. The fourth faction's soundtrack consists of orchestral score with rock backing, occasionally leaning toward symphonic metal.

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What truly sets this apart from the previous three parts is its tone; instead of technical, forceful or foreboding, it invokes a mood of determination. The Foehn Revolt is intended to be noble, chivalrous, and more authentically heroic in comparison to the other factions. Lacking aspirations of conquest or pretended unity prevalent elsewhere, they present themselves as the idealistic option, a beacon of hope for the future. Their fighting style emphasizes long-term planning and the circumvention of enemy tactics and expectation. Ultimately, they are still measured by the same standard as the other factions, but it is evident that there is some distinction between it and them.

It's worth noting, here at the end, that I have confined myself to using music from the official OST tracklists. Within the game's campaign, there are additional music tracks utilized from a variety of sources. As always, if anything has sparked interest, it may be worth looking further.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Previous engagements kept me from returning here at my intended time; rest assured I have a post for this week.

After my initial plans temporarily fell through (stay tuned for next week), I thought it would be nice to return to a couple soundtracks that have received expansion since their initial showcases. Last year I featured Cityfire's 30XX, which turned out to be one of my favorite soundtracks of that year. As an early access, release, it was understood that more music would be added as the project progressed. Since then, a stage editor function has been added with accompanying editor themes: calmer arrangements of the associated stage themes. Additional stages have also been added, and there are even some bonus remixes included in the album.

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Shortly after Fall Guys fell out of the mainstream (apparently only temporarily), I attempted to showcase some of its music. I considered the feature somewhat hampered at the time by the lack of sufficient material; the soundtrack was good, but it was also very short. Today, that is no longer the case, as composers Jukio Kallio and Daniel Hagstrom have continued to arrange new tracks for the game with each season. Each new batch is in a unique style characteristic to the accompanying event, though always remaining true to the sound of the originals.

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Earlier this year, we finally got the release of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. I'd been looking forward to this game for some time, having enjoyed the original for its subversive humor; however, I had expected it to be merely an amusing experience, without being too surprising. The final product turned out to be an awing experience, far exceeding my expectations and establishing itself among the most memorable games I've ever played. So of course, I planned to eventually feature it here.

Time may have gotten away from me a bit, but I'm finally making good on that intention. For the most part, the music is intentionally minimal in its intrusiveness, but nonetheless manages to leave an impression. Occasionally the music is pushed to the forefront, retaining the overall style but adjusting the mood. In all situations, styles and intentions, it always seems to be "fitting."

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When I recall Boneworks, I remember a sizable collection of exemplary synthwave covering a variety of moods; when I covered it earlier this year, I was flabbergasted that my attention hadn't been brought to it before, and I continue to consider it an underappreciated soundtrack. Last month, I heard about the associated release Bonelab. When it comes to sequels and followups, my expectations for the music are, by default, something at least equal in quality to the predecessors'. More rare, but also more desirable, is a musical successor that expands and builds upon the standard of the original.

Bonelab continues to contribute synthwave compositions spanning a range of moods, more so than it's predecessor. But more noteworthy is the attempt to integrate other genres into that soundtrack, not merely presented on their own, but hybridized with synthwave to unify them into the collection. The whole OST seems rather experimental; even the more straightforward synthwave pieces come with an unusual twist more often than not. Overall, I consider Bonelab's soundtrack to be a worthy successor to that of Boneworks, and potentially a superior one.

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GNOG.

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What is GNOG? This is one of those games where no one is entirely sure what the theme is, but will nonetheless likely enjoy the experience. By my analysis, GNOG is a music-assembly game; by interacting with a robot, you eventually compile its song, and then it sings to you. I don't know what the intended takeaway is, but I appreciated the way the layers of each track are added on gradually, allowing the listener to distinguish them and better comprehend the track's cohesiveness.

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Less applicable for this last one; I think it's more of a bonus.

 

 

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I was considering a feature for Hiveswap: Act 2, quite sure I'd featured the prequel at some point in the past. However, it isn't present in my records, and I can't seem to find it in the thread manually, so it may be I haven't actually showcased Hiveswap: Act 1 yet. If I have, then this will be redundant; but in case I haven't, this will ensure it's been taken care of.

There's quite a bit of backstory to this game's existence, but I'll leave it to those interested to look into that. My investment, as usually, deals exclusively with the music. This soundtrack was jointly composed by James Roach and Toby Fox, and while it is rather small, it manages to establish a musical identity through its instrumentation and style. Many tracks are characterized by sounds I would describe as "cartoonally alien," but the arrangements themselves seem more focused on setting the mood, which I appreciate. Some pieces are unusually short, but the album release includes some bonus arrangements that expand upon them; I suspect the composers cared quite a bit about the project.

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Edited by Ken Hisuag

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I'd been looking forward to Mago's release for some time, due to the composer being NoteBlock, who is among my favorite artists in VGM. I put off doing a feature for it in expectation of a proper soundtrack release, but I also wanted to get it in before year's end, so I've decided I can put it off no longer.

The game itself is a retro platformer, and as such has a [relatively] retro chiptune soundtrack. Other instruments are occasionally utilized, but the majority of music is pure chiptune, arranged in a variety of genres suiting the context. The composer's style is normally extremely energetic and jumpy, but this project is rather well balanced, from active but stable "overworld" themes to the more intense battle themes, plus event-oriented cutscene tracks and occasional mini-game tracks for an extra dash of variety. Overall, this was well worth the wait for me, and I will continue to await an album release.

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I've seen the Game Awards nominations for "Best Score and Music," and I guess I've got a lot of ground to cover because I haven't heard any of these soundtracks.

In the meantime, another unofficial remix album was arranged for Crypt of the Necrodancer. I still love these projects for the stylistic twist each one presents, and I doubt that will ever change.

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In an unusual case of personal inconvenience, the GotY soundtracks are all very large, and with the bustle of the upcoming holiday I haven't had much time to acquaint myself with them. Time grows short, but I will do what I can. Meanwhile, it's about time I got in my yearly Okami feature, as I proceed through another disc in the soundtrack for the third time. It's been over a year since the last one; the music isn't that much different, but as such it's still just as amazing! This time around there was one track that stood out to me as deviated a bit from the primarily "eastern" style that otherwise characterizes the collection, favoring a more "western" progression. Of course, it may be skewed perception on my part, so I won't point out which one it is; mayhap no one else will notice.

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Edited by Ken Hisuag
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  • 2 weeks later...

I missed my deadline early this week; my intention had been to feature Elden Ring, but I'm having difficulty enjoying the soundtrack, so I decided to switch over to another game that I had similar feelings about but I knew had much better music. It may be obvious why I'm uncomfortable with Cult of the Lamb, but if it isn't I'll only say that I don't appreciate the "pun." Regardless . . .

I was fully expecting this to be a GotY nomination even before giving it a proper listen, and it still surprises me that it didn't get that recognition (more on that in a later feature). Much of the soundtrack is dominated by disconcerting ambient backing, headed by unusual but cohesive instrumentation presenting strong melodies and progression. There seems an artificial folk present, by which I mean it has a folky sound without being familiar enough to me to pinpoint what specific kind of folk it is. Some of the more low-energy tracks remind me of puzzle games.

Overall, it's a difficult soundtrack for me to properly analyze. At the very least, it is creatively unique, and memorable in its own right (i.e. apart from its context).

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I am sick, and it is most inconvenient. I was supposed to be here yesterday, and instead I'm here this evening, still struggling to think straight but unwilling to put this off any longer, because this month of all months I'm on a rather strict schedule. So, here is a feature for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet.

My previous experience with Pokemon music is limited, and the only two soundtracks I've listened through properly are Red & Blue and Sword & Shield. From my experience with the latter, I was aware that there were likely multiple composers for the project, and who did what isn't always readily available information. I say this because there's a lot of contrasting styles in this soundtrack, and it's difficult to characterize them beyond a few specific points. First of all, elements of Spanish folk are intended to be present, as pure the theme of the game. This is most obvious in area themes, where a variety of Spanish-associated instrumentation in utilized. That being said, the compositions themselves do not seem to me to be that heavily influenced stylistically. Secondly, many leitmotifs are present, and it is highly probably that different songs constructed around the same leitmotifs were composed by different people. Most of the time this is in direct relation to the aforementioned area themes, as each area has multiple variations. Thirdly, all the "Team Star" associated tracks stand out as being especially memorable. In contrast to the Spanish folk theme, these are arranged in rock and rave styles, with exemplary progress structures. While these were the highlight of the soundtrack for me, I believe I've made fair coverage in my selection, despite the absence of some otherwise entirely deserving tracks.

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I'm better now, though still recovering, and with no less urgency in keeping up with things. I determined to feature Sonic Frontiers before the year ended, despite its late soundtrack release, and can now present my findings.

This is an unexpectedly massive soundtrack; not content with area and activity themes, the composers arranged unique tracks for every "Cyber Space" challenge, and up to seven different "movements" for each island theme. Each main boss has a unique vocal track to accompany its fight, each miniboss type has a special theme, and then there's the cutscenes and special events! Styles range from reflective orchestral, intensive metal, and a variety of electronic genres, with an occasional one-off jazz piece thrown in.

While I certainly enjoyed the wide selection, at some point I began to wonder if they hadn't overdone it a bit. The main area theme variations didn't tend to vary as much as I'd expect, usually peaking at about movement three. Cyber Space tracks were fun, but very few of them stand out as more than concept pieces. Overall, while I appreciate the effort gone to, I think they may have stretched themselves thinner than necessary, sacrificing memorability for quantity. That being said, quality was maintained, and the tracks that do manage to stand out do so powerfully.

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As usual, I struggled to appreciate the vocal tracks; while I'm Here is undoubtedly the focus track, I was surprised to find the more story-centric Dear Father at the end of the album; I'll include it here as a mark of my differing focus in regards to the comparison.

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When Game of the Year soundtrack nominations were announced, I was somewhat disappointed; I could think of several soundtracks that seemed deserving of the recognition that weren't included, and the only represented option that I'd heard something about before (in the context of its music) was Xenoblade Chronicles 3. However, I hadn't actually heard music from any of them, so I determined to make an effort toward familiarizing myself with some of them, as to be able to make a more informed assessment.

To start with, I had to prioritize, because time was limited (I wanted to be done by year's end). I hadn't heard anything about Metal: Hellsinger or A Plague's Tale: Requiem (I hadn't even known they existed), but I did remember hearing about Innocence back when it released. In what may be irony, it was my extremely limited knowledge of that game that discouraged me from prioritizing the sequel's soundtrack; I'd considered the original's story to be rather pretentious, and I hadn't heard anything about its music, so I decided to forgo it entirely.

Hellsinger, on the other hand, seemed a reasonably sized soundtrack to start with, compared to the much larger soundtracks of the other entries. Unfortunately, it turned out to be almost entirely screamo/death metal, which is basically the only music I don't listen to at all. It wasn't bad quality (I believe it to have been well composed), but I wouldn't have been able to do a proper feature for it.

That left me with the three games I'd actually heard of. I planned to listen through them one at a time and do a feature for each, but for some reason I ended up listening to all three simultaneously with differing levels of engagement according to my initial perceptions. I had high hopes for Xenoblade Chronicles 3, both because I'd heard good things about it from other sources, and because of the association with Yasunori Mitsuda. However, I discovered it to be heavily reliant on leitmotifs, to the point that lack of familiarity with the accompanying story and preceding entries made it impossible to appreciate properly. Unfortunately for me, I lack that familiarity. I'd like to maybe return to this series some day, but it would require quite the time investment.

Elden Ring was an unfortunate circumstance of faulty expectations. The first few tracks in the OST (I would presume the title theme, menu theme and possibly a prologue cutscene theme) are standard VGM, with limited progression but a discernible melody; this set my expectations for the rest of the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the rest of the album's first half was entirely area themes. I respect that, for a game about a dying world, the music for said world should be depressing in nature; however, I was still expecting something recognizable. The area themes lack melody entirely, and have extremely limited progression, occasionally straying into the realm of true ambience. While the second half of the soundtrack seemed more promising, the first half had exhausted my patience for the dark style of the music, and with time growing shorter I chose to give up on it. I have wanted to look into the Dark Souls soundtracks for a while, so hopefully I'll get to that next year.

With all that, we come to the final nomination. I've mentioned before my high regard for the story of God of War (2018), and I was exciting for the release of Ragnarök. I did not, however, expect anything too noteworthy for its soundtrack. Similar with the previous two titles, I had limited familiarity with the foundational entries, in this case the original God of War trilogy, so while I respected and appreciated the soundtrack of (2018), I didn't find it especially memorable. My experience with Ragnarök, on the other hand, has impressed me greatly. While heavily reliant upon ambience (as one would expect), the game employs strong melody and progression in its music. More importantly, its utilization of its leitmotifs is masterful, limited enough to be kept track of, but strong enough to bring cohesiveness to the soundtrack. Of all five nominations, this was the soundtrack that I enjoyed listening to the most; it still wouldn't have been among my first choices, but I'm glad it was brought to my attention.

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We have come to the end of another year, and it is time for the annual OGM roundup. For this [tentatively] final feature of the year, I rank my favorite VGM releases of the period, plus some extras. First up is honorable mentions:

I didn't get around to Infernax this year, and as such cannot technically speak to its quality, but I'm fairly confident that I'll enjoy it greatly when the time comes. As such, I want to ensure others have the heads-up while we're still in its release year. If anyone is interested in checking it out, be warned that (to my knowledge) it's only been posted in three distinct parts, divided according to the three composers; as such, listening to it without first purchasing may be more inconvenient than usual. As uninformed recommendations, I'll list Jason Letourneau's Liquid Town, Oliver Couillard's A Good Day to be Alive, and Jules Conroy's Knowledge is Power.

Tunic got a full feature earlier in the year, and part of me is surprised it didn't have more endurance in recognition (then again, I haven't played it, so what would I know?). The music is generally less intensive then other things of its style, but its atmosphere is perfect, with enough form to remain memorable. I've already presented recommendations for this album, but I'll add Memories of Memories and Ocean Glaze.

That's all my honorable mentions for this year; there are always soundtracks that I hear about but don't get enough experience with to consider them for this, but that is to be expected. Now on to the official ranking:

#5:

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NoteBlock - Mago
I'd been looking forward to this soundtrack for some time; as I've said before, NoteBlock (a.k.a. Evan Goertzen) is among my favorite VGM arrangers, and I had high expectations for a full-sized project from him. These expectations were not disappointed, despite the end result being a bit more stylistic than I expected. On a side note, I'm looking forward to next year's release of Undertale Yellow, the project through which I original discovered this musician.

 

#2:

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Yuuta Ogasawara, Hirokazu Ando, Jun Ishikawa, & Yuki Shimooka - Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Another title I was surprised didn't get more recognition. Granted that Kirby has as lot of history I'm not aware of, but I'm just vaguely familiar enough with some of the past music to still consider this a stand-out release. I listened through this fairly early in the year, and it has stuck with me since.

 

#3:

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River Boy - Cult of the Lamb
I all but announced this being here in the feature earlier this month. Whatever reservations I have about the game, the music deserves recognition. I'm not convinced this theme does it justice (or if it's even the main theme), but I guess that's what the features are for anyway.

 

#2:

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Michael Wyckoff - Bonelab
Early this year, I discovered the Boneworks soundtrack, which was very nearly the most exciting find of the year; I still consider it to be under-appreciated (in as much as I don't see its music receiving the commendation it deserves). Unexpectedly, the (technical) sequel was released this year, and whatever the game's merits may or may not be, I have no complaints with the music. Increased variety without stylistic deficiency made this an easy favorite for the year, very closely contending for my number one.

 

#1:

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Jason Graves - Moss: Book II
A part of me feels guilty for having so many sequels in this years rankings, but ultimately they are included for the improvements they make over their predecessors. This soundtrack is more than the original Moss; not in sound or style, but in depth. I may have no understanding of its intended context, but I nonetheless understand it in its clarity. For that, it is elevated above other options. I don't know which the main theme is, so I'll go with a new track.

 

Funnily enough, this is now the third year in a row where all my favorite soundtrack come from games I haven't played.

To finish off, I wanted into include my personal favorite discovery of the year. Often I don't come across a soundtrack until well after its release, thus disqualifying it from receiving recognition during the roundup despite potentially being a major highlight. I earlier mentioned Boneworks; however, its place was later overtaken by another discovery.

Bonus Feature (#0):

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Frank Klepacki, Black Ice 9, & World Beyond Soundtracks - Command & Conquer: Mental Omega
I am still listening to this mod's associated music, both outsourced and original, and it is firmly established among my favorite soundtracks of all time. Despite dedicating an entire month to featuring it (not to mention this extra), I'll add recommendations for Black Ice 9's Relativity and World Beyond's Alternative Route Advised, which aren't part of the official track listings.

Also, unlike the other features, I've actually played this game, and it is also one of my favorites.

As usual, I'd like to encourage others to provide their own rankings/mention their favorite releases of the year!
The annual record will be posted later in the week. Shalom!

Edited by Ken Hisuag
A week later, switched out #3's track.

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I should have posted here before doing Musical Discoveries. Oh well.

Here is the official OGM feature record for 2022. I would like to offer my thanks to those who shared their interest in various soundtracks this year. Lord willing, we will continue to enjoy this activity for some time to come.

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Features (in order of initial posting):

Iconoclasts – Robin, Preacher, Far Reaches, Moonlight

FNaF World – Battle Theme, 8-Bit Travel 1, Dusting Fields, Stone Cold

Boneworks – Ambient_A, Analog Sunrise, MythOS, Pick It Up (Ima Say Ma Namowa)

Yakuza 0 – Trouble Shooting Star, Try to have some fun for me !!, Oath of Enma, JUDGEMENT -Shinpan-, Opening Theme, Friday Night

Ryū ga Gotoku 0: Chikai no Basho – Bubble

WarGroove – Cheeky Ruckus, Creeping Ivy, Wild Flower, Dancing Crane, Reflection

Deemo II – DGR (piano ver.)

Sharks of Mars: Prologue – Sharks on Mars

Rivals of Aether – Dazzling Dark Future

Typer Shark Deluxe – Main Theme

LEGO Mars Mission – Main Theme

Cave Story (Freeware) – On to Grasstown, Jenka 2, Moonsong, Last Battle

Cave Story 3D (3DS) – Labyrinth Fight (Remastered), Pressure (Remastered), Silence (Remastered), Meltdown (Remastered)

Cave Story (Wii) – Access (New), Safety (New), Living Waterways (New), Running Hell (New)

Cave Story+ (Switch) – Balrog’s Theme (FamiTracks), Mischievous Robot (FamiTracks), Scorching Back (FamiTracks), White (FamiTracks), Gestation (Ridiculon), Tyrant (Ridiculon), Jenka 1 (Ridiculon), The Way Back Home (Ridiculon)

Shin Megami Tensei IV – Main Theme

Guilty Gear Strive – The Kiss of Death, The Disaster of Passion, Out of the Box

Himno – Sleeping Waters, Unturned, Endure

ITORAH – Nahu Fields, Violet Temple, The Forgotten Ruins, Fighting Spirit

Guacamelee! – Desierto Caliente, Canal de las Flores (Spirit World), Temple of Rain, Boss Battle (Chiptune Remix)/El Trio de la Muerte I

Kirby and the Forgotten Land – Running Through the New World, The Battle of Blizzard Bridge, Pitch-Black Horror, Faded Dream of a Psychomeddler, Two Planets Approach the Roche Limit, Ready to Go!

Tunic – The Weight of Rain, The Siege, Ooze Control, Remember to Remember

Subnautica: Below Zero – Arctic Peeper, Twisty Bridges, Phi Robotics, Lily Pads

Everhood – 72 (Everhood Mix), Feisty Flowers, The Final Battle, Barge

Sonic Adventure 2 – This Way Out, Down in the Base

Monster Hunter: Frontier – Javon Dance, The Rumbling Ultramarine Armour, Sanctuary in the Sky, Gigantic Castle of Vicious Sand, The Silhouette's Transformation, The Azure Dragon’s Advent, The Azure Dragon Soars to the Heavens, Storm Preceding the Verge of Death, Imperial Wrath of the Azure Dragon, Frontier G Preview Site Theme

Hollow Knight – Daughter of Hallownest, Truth Beauty and Hatred, The Grimm Troupe

Sonic Mania – Time Trials, Wildstyle Pistolero, Ruby Delusions, Stardust Speedway Act 1

Furi – Love and Madness, 6:24, What We Fight For, Enraged

The Last Ninja – Wastelands, Wilderness, Lower Area Loader, Wastelands Loader

Willow – Sacred Tower Area, Nockmaar Castle 01, Battle Theme, Zhena’s Theme, Zhena & Muzh

Cuphead – Chef Saltbaker, Snow Cult Scuffle, King of Games’ Castle (Rococo Ver.), High-Noon Hoopla

Critadel – Opening[?] Theme

Dead Estate – Welcome to Dead Estate

Sonic Origins – Trailer Theme

Katana ZERO – Rain on Brick, Katana ZERO [Title Theme], Nocturne

Moss: Book II – The Starthing’s Way, The Winter Glass, To Raise an Army, We Remember You, When One Door Shuts

Ys I&II Chronicles – First Step Toward Wars, Feena

Ys I Complete – Tension, Tower of the Shadow of Death

Dance Mat Typing – i & e, Press dOWn, n & b

Zero Deaths – In the Midst, Through the Meme Graveyard, Cloud Jumping, Synth Lasagna

Stray – Slums, Secret Lab, Outlaws, Daybreak

Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Revenge – Bully Kit, Brain Freeze, Defend the Base

Mental Omega – Solara, Chaotic Impulse, Hell March Trilogy

30XX – Mines at Dusk (Echocave Editor), The Upside Drown (Watergrav)

Fall Guys – Future Utobeania, Chimney Bean Bebop

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe – Exploring Stanley, The Infinite Hole, The End is Never the End Again, Following Stanley

Bonelab – Fightfight Fugue, Bone Daddy, Unsolved Sciences, Turn Around, Stargrid

GNOG – FRG-Y, PURP-L, HOM-3, Fanfare

Hiveswap: Act 1 – Filthy Nuclear Bunker, Half-Hartley Manor, That’s How I Beat Snake, Alternative Recipe

Mago – One Small Step for a Mage, A Quiet Town, Crimson Bird, Fly Dragon! Fly!, Wandering Boss, Your Last Supper - GOURMET II, For We are the Questbound!

Okami – Izayoi Shrine, Helping with the Fishing, Seiankyou Commoners' Quarter, Inside the Water Dragon, Shachimaru's Theme

Cult of the Lamb – Darkwood, Work and Worship, Anchordeep, Shamura, Start a Cult

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet – Mesagoza (Walking), East Provence (Riding), Team Star Appears!, Star Barrage!, Making a Sandwich, Battle! Cassiopeia

Sonic Frontiers – Kronos Island: 3rd Mvt, Cyber Space 2-7: Floating in the Blue, Guardian: SPIDER, Cyber Space 4-6: Fog Funk, Cyber Space 1-3: Digital Cave, Titan: SUPREME - I’m Here (Re-Edit), Dear Father

Shadow of the Colossus – Full OST

God of War: Ragnarök – Huldra Brothers, A Son’s Path, Holding On, Vanaheim, God of War Ragnarök [Title Theme], Raeb’s Lament

 

Technicalities (special cases):

Cactus McCoy – Handful of Coins

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty – Argon Reflection, The Future is Bright, The Neon Riverside

Clad in Shadow Vol. 1 – Shadow Dong

Cave Story: Wii Balanced – Mimiga Village, Mischievous Robot

DynamiteManEXE Presents: Cave Story [VRC6] – Hero’s End, Moonsong

DM DOKURO Presents: Cave Story Arranged – Last Cave, Cave Story (Title Mix)

Stone McKnuckle – Spark Mandrill (Mega Man X), Flame Mammoth (Mega Man X), Introduction Stage (Mega Man X)

A Hat in Time: Unreleased Music – Full Steam Ahead, The Abandoned Metro, Hat Kid ~ Traveler of Time

Monster Hunter: Frontier - Shantien Medley

Jahn Davis – Metallic Doppleganger!

The Fastloaders & Ben Daglish – Wastlands Loader

Hyde209 – Bend But Don’t Break

Zeeboon – Quillshroom’s Horrors

Game Music Design – Beneath the Tides (Orchestral Remix)

Lame Genie – The Messenger (Glacial Peak

Morphscape – Cyberteck

Virtual Control – Virtual Control

Infiltrator – Odd Funk, Construct

Rocktronic – Decible, Rocktronic

Viratia – Banished

Awakening of Aggression – Brain Dead

Black Ice 9 – Beyond the Obsidian Sands, Frostburn, Echo, Psychosis

Mindshell – CTOS Calibration, The Last Line of Defense, The Rescue, Remnant of the Distant Future

Crypt of the Necrodancer: Reanimated – A Cold Sweat (3-3 Cold) Reanimated Remix

Blindsight – Bewitched

 

Edited by Ken Hisuag
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I try to make the first feature of the year somehow "fitting" (which is arbitrary, so . . .). This year, I decided to do a proper feature for Beyond Skyrim; I briefly alluded to it following the Elder Scrolls V feature, but without going into significant detail.

For those who don't know, Beyond Skyrim is a massive mod project that seeks to expand The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to include other parts of the series' world, complete with quest lines, area-specific items, and (most importantly for my purposes) music. The project is divided up according to the different areas, so that several teams can divide the work and develop each area as its own mod. As such, rather than there being a single soundtrack for the whole project, each area has its own soundtrack composed by different people. This has already resulted in a high quantity of music, most of which is reminiscent of Jeremy Soule's soundtrack, but which also may vary according to the composers and the theme of each mod.

I'm not sure it's possible for me to qualify the impact dividing up the composing in this manner has had on the collective project. Whether it was intended or not, I see genius in keeping each area's music unique in artist as well as usage; there exists the possibility of signature style becoming characteristic of its accompanying area in a way that would be difficult to simulate from a single team. Ultimately, most of the music has been (and will likely continue to be) patterned off of the standard set by Soule's work. But since those involved are composing original pieces, there is bound to be some stylistic distinction, and I consider that to be a wonderful consequence.

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Edited by Ken Hisuag

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Life has been unexpectedly busy these first weeks of 2023. I'm still here, but also still failing at desired punctuality. Nonetheless, here is this week's feature.

Austin Wintory's Journey is legendary among video game soundtracks, providing the backbone of a game heavily reliant on emotional investment without excessive immersion. Rather than instilling varying emotions according to the context, the album chronicles a unified, continuous journey in phases. By being more vague in the specifics, it achieves a more poignant atmosphere overall.

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My preferences in music favor stronger, more direct progression, but I can still appreciate the musical mastery of projects such as this.

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After one of the busiest weeks I can recall in recent years, I can finally take some time to check how things are going over here.

Looks like a lot. *sigh* Anyway . . .

Darren Korb is a unique composer; while arguably one of the most skilled musicians in the VGM industry, his work isn't usually referenced in the same way other soundtracks are. He uses a hybrid between the "cinematic style" and "dynamic style" (my names, hopefully self-explanatory based on previous explanations), simultaneously crafted to the context and free enough to stand on its own, if less than standard. This means his music is best appreciated as part of the game it's composed for, but is still unique in ways independent of those experiences.

While I believe this uniqueness is fairly evident in all his work, my personal favorite is the soundtrack for Transistor. The additional gimmick for this project was an optional layer of hummed vocals to the instrumentation for most tracks. There are some details of functionality in game, but for my purposes I will only note the comparison and contrast between the "hummed" songs and their default counterparts. Many of these pieces have rather limited progression despite generally having higher energy (they build up a bit, but don't usual reach a climax), but this is compensated by the complexity of the compositions, especially in their instrumentation. What is more interesting is their lack of distinctive melody; despite being the "default" versions, the hum-less tracks sound more like instrumental versions of songs. This becomes especially apparent when the humming is added in, but not because it adds melody; rather, it carries a seeming familiarity with the intended progression of the "song" by becoming a complimentary accompaniment to the non-existent melody. Without completing the song, the additional layer nonetheless completes the experience of the song by simulating familiarity.

At least, that's my attempt at qualifying the unique attributes of this soundtrack. A better explanation may yet be presented.

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I've put off featuring Gris for some time, not because of the music itself, but for its heavily dynamic nature; listened to out of context, it lacks much of the impact its meant to have. Similar considerations refrained my featuring Journey for a while, with the unique factor being that I haven't played Journey, and thus could not myself be aware of its contextual impact. Since I have pushed forward with that feature, I might as well do so with this as well. Tracks like Perseverance, Descent, and Unagi (to say nothing of Gris, Pt. 2) simply do not have the same presentation in their more straightforward form, so I have tried to favor tracks that both listen well and still give an idea of what the soundtrack has to offer.

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Recent tournament round had a strongly ambient piece, and I was reminded of The Longing. Its music was understandably low energy to compliment the theme of waiting, but had enough nuance to avoid becoming monotonous; some pieces may even become nostalgic over repeat listens. There's also a surprising variety (considering the game's size). The game itself is one of my favorites, so it's about time I featured it some way or other.

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